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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

Between the usual e-mail generated by the week's posts, and the solicitation about worst immigrants and the one about foods that could be named after politicians, we got a lot of messages this week. A lot. So, we are going to run the foods named after politicians next week. That means if you have ideas, you can still send them along.

The Chauvin Verdict

P.M. in Currituck, NC, writes: In the coverage of the Derek Chauvin trial, I think a supremely important topic is being completely missed (though a topic that has been addressed on this site before).

All of the coverage seems to be from the perspective of "the police vs. black citizens," and my college-professor friend sent me a message on Thursday with those exact words about the shooting in nearby Elizabeth City. I submit that is a wrong premise, and in order to work on the problem, we need to address the proper issue.

The root issue is the militarization of the police and a move away from the sense of the community policeman. Police departments nationwide have been the recipient of copious amounts of surplus Pentagon hardware. That, combined with a good chunk of officers being veterans who served in either Afghanistan or Iraq, have led to this viewpoint that criminals are the "enemy," and as such, they must be dispatched with extreme prejudice. This, combined with inherent racism prevalent among many, leads to the issues we are seeing in the news seemingly every day—and, the creation of this fallacious "police vs. black citizens" narrative.

This issue can be addressed successfully—it was done in Camden, NJ. If the cops are members of the community, and they are consistently interacting with members of the community, then when something happens there is that communal sense, and things are less likely to escalate in a really bad way. The people in the area actually know the police as individuals, and not some random guy in a flak vest who shows up and shoots someone. Likewise, a policeman will be less likely to instantly shoot someone with whom they have some familiarity.

What bothers me is that with the media's constant fixation on race, they are missing this point. I listened pretty consistently to my bugaboo NPR this past week, and heard nary a word about this issue, as they focused instead (of course) constantly on the racial issues. It would seem an outfit such as they should be able to analyze root causes, but they are so blinded by their race fixation that they can't get past that. And that is sad—as there is no corresponding intellectual viewpoint on the right; all you get from Hannity and Carlson is shouting and stupidity. In order to advance, the core issues must be discussed, and people in the media must be able to look past their own prejudices.

S.T. in Philadelphia, PA, writes: Yesterday's Q&A had a question about officer-involved shootings and officers hurt and killed by guns. In addition to the resources you cited, the Gun Violence Archive keeps running tallies. For 2021: Officers killed (18), officers killed or injured (99), suspects killed (410), suspects shot but not killed (292).

T.B. in Christchurch, New Zealand, writes: I was shocked by your comment on Saturday: "As to police officers killed, Officer Down tends to be on top of that. They don't always have details, but they report that 17 officers have died in 2021 due to gunfire, 7 due to vehicular assault, 2 due to stabbings, 3 due to other forms of assault. That's a total of 29. It's not clear that all took place during attempted arrests, but surely most of them did."

29 so far this year! Police officer deaths in most countries are so rare they are big news. For example in the U.K., we can't compare 2021 because there has not been a single police officer death this year, there were a total of 1 for each of the two prior years, and to get to the 29 the U.S. has from the first four months of the year we would have to include all deaths since December 2000. That is more than 20 years vs. 4 months. From the Officer Down site, if we add together just the gunfire deaths in the last two full years (2019 and 2020) we get 100 shooting deaths in the U.S. compared to one shooting death in the U.K. Correcting for the factor of 5 in the population, it seems a police officer is around 20 times as likely to get shot on the job in the US. Note that the U.S. has around 120 guns/100 people and the UK has around 5/100, perhaps the problem is not entirely with policing, maybe gun control plays a big part too.

P.S.: I didn't try to compare with my country, New Zealand. With our 5 million population we've had just five police deaths so far this century.

D.K. in Oceanside, CA, writes: I keep thinking how the whole George Floyd tragedy started with George Floyd paying a cashier with a counterfeit twenty. That could happen to anyone. It once happened to me.

In the early 2000's, I made my deposits for the week on a Friday and got some cash back in twenties. Saturday, I went with a friend to Kmart. I saw something I liked and paid with one of those twenties. The cashier looked at the bill and looked at me. She said, "This is fake." I said, "What?!" snatched it from her hand, looked at it, and gave her another twenty. It was an obvious fake printed on a copier. I hadn't looked at the bills from the bank. Who does? I took it back to the bank on Monday and made a stink. They first said that once money leaves the bank, it's mine not theirs. I said if I get a defective product from a store I can exchange it. There were people in the bank. I got a little louder. A call was made and I got a real twenty. The thing is, I could have been arrested at Kmart. Unlike George Floyd, I was a middle aged white woman and police were not called.

Media Coverage

M.A. in Austin, TX, writes: In response to the question from K.G. in Phoenix, about the coverage of mass shootings under Democratic vs. Republican presidents, there is another plausible explanation why this disparity could be perceived.

The media has only so much time and "print" space for covering the news. There was a perception of Obama as "no drama" and that his administration was relatively low on/free from scandals. Contrast that to the 24/7 "Trump show." This may have led to more time/space being allocated to covering other things, including shootings, during the Obama years.

J.M. in Portland, OR, writes: In your factors determining coverage of mass shootings I think you overlooked the determining factor in all shooting coverage: "Was an attractive white person involved?"

M.R. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: You wrote: "In the 1990s, there was a conscious effort to reduce coverage of celebrity suicides, and that seems to have caused a reduction in suicide rates overall."

I have been working for a few years as a crisis counselor for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (a.k.a. Suicide Hotline) and my understanding is that the organization asks that news organizations not sensationalize celebrity suicides and, specifically, to not talk about the method of suicide, show pictures or describe the method in any way. I am not a spokesperson for them and this is simply my personal understanding of their messaging.

As I understand the research, when a suicide method is heavily discussed in the media then there is a bump in suicides in general and specifically those done with the method described. As these findings were made, news organizations were asked to focus less on the method of death and more on the person. This is also in line with what the family and probably the person wanted. Over the years this message seems to have sunk in with news agencies. Even with little focus on the suicide or the method we still see a large increase in calls whenever a celebrity kills themselves and the callers are often thinking about using the same method. Related to call volume, all the crisis call centers in the country were overwhelmed with calls on election night 2016, as many rape victims, domestic violence victims, people of color, and those in the LGBTQ community were triggered by the election results.

People go on the spectrum of suicidal to non-suicidal and, at certain points in the process, it doesn't take much to push people from thought into action and a news story repeated many times could do this.

Now when I see that a young celebrity died and no cause of death is given, I have to search to find that it is a suicide and search even more to see what the method was.

Regarding mass gun shootings, I have never heard of copycat gun shootings and have not seen any research showing that someone who is on the edge of perpetrating a mass shooting, sees enough news stories, is at greater risk of going over the edge and following through with a shooting. Partly there are fewer data points, but also gun shootings seem to be very personal in their choices of target (their own family, bullying peers, ethnic or racial gathering, gay nightclub, etc.) and their method seems to be based on what is available or what they think is most effective. The triggers are also often very personal and based on a recent event in their life (lost promotion, divorce, news of their bad behavior going public, charges, etc.) rather than ideas filtering through society. I have never heard of a mass shooter writing or talking about how they modeled their actions on a specific event. I have talked to many people considering committing homicide and the motivations seem pretty personal.

In short, I see no anecdotes or research showing a causation or even a correlation between news of mass shootings and subsequent mass shootings. I say there are fewer data points than with suicides but there were still 417 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2019 so there is plenty of data to work with over the decades. Also, without news about mass shootings, it would be very hard for people to be aware of this large societal issue.

D.C. Statehood

A.J. in Rockville, MD, writes: In your response to K.V. in Hartland, you gave several reasons why D.C. residents would object to becoming part of Maryland. You neglected to mention the other part of the equation—Marylanders. This idea has come up several times over the previous 30+ years I've lived here, and literally every time that I can recall, the overwhelming response from my fellow Terps is, "Thanks, but no."—and that was before there was a viable chance at D.C. statehood. The silence on the subject of retrocession from Governor Larry Hogan (R) speaks volumes—he knows it will never happen, and doesn't want to risk his popularity with the overwhelmingly Democratic voting base by chasing a strawman.

While Republican/rural/exurban representation is nowhere near strong enough to countermand the Democrats if they were to throw their support behind retrocession, the Democratic power structure in the House of Delegates is roughly balanced between "downstate" (Montgomery/Prince George's Counties) and "Baltimore" (City and County), 47 to 40, 78 of which are Democrats. In other words, more than half of the 141 delegates are Democrats from these four counties. The breakdown in the State Senate is even starker (17 D downstate, 9 D Baltimore area, 63% of the 47 total).

Adding what would be the fourth-largest county in the state, almost all of whom are: (1) Democrats, (2) politically active, and (3) city-dwellers, will vastly change the demographics, tax base, and service needs of the state, in ways that are untenable to internal Democratic politics. Baltimore politicians will never go for having a larger city brought into the state (609,000 to 692,000), as that would dilute the funding for their own service needs. Montgomery and Prince George's suburbanites who have fought for decades for services that are attuned to their needs (e.g., school funding), instead of "sending money to Baltimore," will never vote for ceding that power back.

Think of it this way—adding D.C. to Maryland is the rough equivalent of adding a city of 9.4 million people to the state of New York, in one fell swoop. Remember, too, that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) represents a congressional district that covers the southern counties that would potentially lose the most political power of all under retrocession, while the alternative grants his party two new Senators.

Does anyone think that would ever happen?

J.B. in Washington, DC, writes: I've lived in D.C. for 30 years. The argument that opposition to D.C. statehood is racist is not just wrong but distracts from the real issue. Opposition may have been primarily racist at one point, but D.C. is no longer a majority-Black city, and we would not necessarily elect Black senators or representatives. No, Republican opposition to D.C. statehood is based exclusively on our voting patterns. They think that 700,000 American citizens, regardless of our color or ethnicity, don't deserve voting rights or representation if it would mean two more Democratic senators and one more Democratic representative in the House. Heaven forbid we should balance or dilute even slightly the already disproportionate representation and power of the Republican Party in this country. Many Republicans have even come right out and said this out loud. But if D.C. residents were voting 98% Republican rather than 98% Democratic, you can bet your life that the Republicans would be moving heaven and earth to get us statehood, regardless of our racial makeup.

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: Larry Lessig released a thought experiment about the District. He suggested carving out the federal buildings and then constructing three hundred new states from the residential areas.

Of course, he was exaggerating to make a point—which was that this idea is not a lot different from the Republicans carving six States out of the Nebraska Territory, or two from the Dakota Territory.

By the year 2040, 70% of us will live in 15 States, with 30% of the Senators, and 30% of us will live in the other 35 states and have 70% of the Senators. This is not just, it is not justifiable, and it is not sustainable. The 15 big states will have most of the people, almost all of the manufacturing, and most of the money.

The Constitution does say that no State can be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate without its consent—which should mean they could sell a Senate seat, should they so choose. Wonder what Montana could get for one of its Senators, on eBay?

G.W. in Oxnard, CA, writes: You wrote: "The bill calls for the new state to go by the ungainly name of 'State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth.' That would mean two states would be called 'Washington.' The intention is to honor abolitionist Frederick Douglass, but simply calling the state "Douglass" would be a lot simpler."

It was always rare for anyone to use the full name "Rhode Island and Providence Plantations," though that was the official name of Rhode Island for many years. There is a city in California that has always had the name "San Buenaventura" since its founding in Spanish colonial times, and that remains the official name today. The first post office in San Buenaventura was a small building, so they just painted "Ventura" on the building. The name stuck and everyone calls the city "Ventura" and it is shown as "Ventura" on all the maps. The point being, regardless of the official name, the name people will actually use will be "Douglass."

V & Z respond: There's an even better California example than Ventura. The full name of the City of Los Angeles is El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Àngeles.

K.K. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: I am a fan of D.C. statehood and have been pondering the name. I grew up in Washington State and lived most of my adulthood in Minnesota. As a teen I was amused by the fact that the first choice in naming my home state was Columbia but it was changed to Washington to avoid confusion between the state and the District of Columbia. This irony became increasingly clear after moving to Minnesota, when any time I said I was going to Washington I would need to clarify which one. Even after clarifying more than once, a friend of my son's still asked him to bring back a souvenir from the capital of the U.S. It is not lost on me that the new state would continue to be Washington, DC, with the "D" and "C" representing different words. Would the title Washington be deleted, then, from the District of Columbia area? I can envision an entire sit-com based on having a state of Washington; a state of Washington, D.C.; and the capital of the country also Washington, D.C.

G.B. in Manchester, England, UK, writes: In your response to S.W. in Raleigh, NC, about the governmental structure of a potential new Douglass Commonwealth, you mentioned that Rhode Island and Connecticut are states with no county governments. It's also worth pointing out that Hawaii has no city governments; it only has the state government and four county governments.

In regards to letting metropolitan areas form their own states, it's worth pointing out that the United Kingdom has a lot of unitary authorities that are small- or medium-sized cities or regions around cities, such as Blackpool, Nottingham, and York. The creation of these unitary authorities, which are similar to counties like Lancashire or Nottinghamshire, is generally non-controversial. On the other hand, the creation of unitary authorities does not have any effect on the national parliament, and they do not have the same capacity to create new laws like individual states in the United States do.

B.B. in Chipley, FL, writes: Another possible consequence of D.C. becoming a state is that it could replace South Carolina as one of the first states in the presidential primary process. It would be even smaller and even more diverse.

V & Z respond: And it would be easier for most candidates to campaign in, since they're already there.

S.R. in Ottawa, Canada, writes: I spent an unhealthy amount of time lurking around the Fox News, Breitbart, and OAN articles reporting the House's vote on D.C. statehood. The comments I read range from the constitutionally, geographically, and functionally illiterate to the downright racist. I offer this list as a mix of the humorous and depressing, but also to show the evil and stupidity those of us on the side of D.C. statehood, voting rights, and democracy more generally face (in no particular order, quotes as faithful as possible):

  1. "We should make Canada a state to counter it!" (that's not gonna pan out, and as an American living in Canada I can say there is no desire at all for that here).

  2. "Give D.C. back to Delaware instead!" (to be fair, some said it should be "split down the middle" between MD and VA).

  3. "Founders never wanted more than fifty states!" (what visionaries they were!).

  4. "Trump was right! If the Democrats 'get away with this' they'll add Porto Rico (sic) next!" (if only the Democrats had campaigned on these issues).

  5. "If D.C. becomes a state, the capital should be moved to the CO, TX, OK border region!" (will the people of Boise City, DC give up their representation?).

  6. "Who is Douglas (sic)?? You can't name a state after a person!1!!!" (that's why my home state of Pennsylvania was named after the tennis balls instead).

  7. "It would just be another blue welfare state!" (don't worry, we're just getting into the really racist ones).

  8. "It's ridiculous to have a plurality black (sic) state!" (they didn't cite where in the Constitution we find this prohibition).

  9. "Marion Barry!" (Jason Ravnsborg! Luke Simons! Eric Greitens!)

  10. "They don't need a state because they already have Liberia!" (Yep, and this comment had quite a few up-votes).

Hopefully the Senate moves forward with D.C. statehood, Puerto Rico statehood, and H.R. 1. Keeping the filibuster is much less valuable for the Democrats than it is the Republicans, mainly because as the "conservative" party the GOP doesn't actually want to pass a lot of bills, they just need to play defense, and the filibuster helps the defense (conservatives) far more than the offense (liberals, progressives) regardless of who controls the chamber.

State Splitting

D.R. in Yellow Springs, OH, writes: In answers to S.W. of Raleigh and J.T. of Greensboro, you dismissed the idea that new states might be admitted by carving up existing states. I respectfully disagree.

You note that, for example, "Texans are proud of being Texans and not North Texans or East Texans." That is true, but remember that the U.S. Constitution doesn't require a referendum for admission of a new state. If it's being formed out of an existing state or states, it just requires "the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress."

Splitting up Texas into multiple states would hurt the pride of Texas legislators somewhat, but nowhere near as much as Texas Republicans would be hurt by a Texas Legislature with Democratic majorities in both chambers, heavily influenced by newcomers working in high-tech jobs in Austin and Houston. If they concluded that Democrats were likely to take control of the state Legislature in the next several years, Republicans would swallow their pride and agree to split Houston, Austin and San Antonio off into a new state dominated by Democrats and split up the rest of the state into several new states dominated by Republicans.

Of course, this would require Congress to have Republican majorities in both chambers and Texas (or some other large state) to have a Republican-controlled legislature in danger of losing control to the Democrats. They'd come up with some excuse to justify it—in the case of Texas, they'd say the geographic size of the state and its population are so large as to make governing it impractical. I have no doubt that Republicans in Georgia or Arizona could come up with some creative excuse to sell a split, as well, but they might not even bother. I haven't seen Georgia Republicans bother to explain why it should be a crime to give water to voters waiting in line for hours.

It's possible that Democrats will foresee this and head it off at the pass by splitting up existing states they control. For example, New York State could be split into one state for Manhattan and Staten Island, one state for the Long Island counties and two or three more for the remainder of the metro area. Each of these states would be virtually certain to elect two Democrats to the U.S. Senate. Vast swaths of rural, conservative upstate New York could become one state. They'd justify this with the resentment many upstate New Yorkers have for having state politics dominated by New York City and its suburbs, plus the fact that people in the NYC metro area have far less influence in the U.S. Senate than people in low-population states. Repeat this a few times in other states and the GOP loses the structural advantage it has in the Senate and the Electoral College.

I think it's less likely for Democrats to do this, since Democrats are pretty leery of doing things that are technically legal but break political norms. But when you say there's "zero chance" of Congress allowing large cities other than D.C. to break off of their states, I'd say you're wrong. It's unlikely, but not zero.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: Did you all know that Texas has the right to split into as many as five states...without any Congressional approval? It's true...and very unlikely to actually happen, for reasons described in this article.

Also, at one time in the 1970s, when I was a child living in Chicago, there was talk about splitting off Chicago, Cook County, and possibly other counties now considered part of the Chi-town area (including Will County, Lake County, McHenry County and Kane County)...and possibly a couple of counties in Indiana, into a new state called New Illinois.

Of course it never happened, and this was at a time when Illinois was in fact a red state (Illinois did not vote blue until 1992). The new state initiative was actually an outgrowth of the existing tension between Chicago and...Springfield, the state capital (this same tension, by the way, is responsible for the nickname "The Windy City"—it has nothing to do with weather...and everything to do with early politicians despising "those damn windbags from Chicago.")

A legitimate argument could be made to split off New York City from the rest of the state, and making a state out of it. The five boroughs of NYC are, themselves, independent counties in the State of New York and, were this done, it is possible that Staten Island would be a very red part of an otherwise blue new state. But in order to make this have geographical sense, one would need to include Long Island (Nassau and Suffolk Counties) and Suffolk is a fairly purple area, actually.

On the other hand, Los Angeles County, by itself, has the population of my entire state of North Carolina (the ninth most-populous state in the nation). Additionally, out of 58 Counties in California, 9 Counties have a population over 1 million: San Diego, Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Sacramento, Contra Costa, Alameda, and the aforementioned Los Angeles County....and Fresno County is right on the edge of a million, at some 985,000.

It does make for some interesting conversation and speculation.

M.C. in Oak Ridge, TN, writes: On carving red states into pieces to gain more senators, you mention state identity as an obstacle. Maybe that could be overcome more easily in Tennessee, also rather red, given that it comes conveniently pre-sliced into three similarly sized Grand Divisions that are even recognized in its constitution.

New York State of Mind (or, Scenes from an Italian Restaurant)

N.E.H. in Rochester, NY, writes: J.E., Boone, NC asked about the SALT tax. I'd like to provide a few examples of what it means for "average" citizens in New York State.

Rochester, NY, is a pretty small city. There are hardly any traffic jams, and cost of living is low. Well, except for the dreaded New York taxes (property and income).

My neighbor's house is a cute, 1950s raised ranch with 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and 1400 sq. ft. on 0.4 acre in a pretty decent school district. It's assessed at $122,000 and they pay $5,500 in property taxes. One of my coworkers has a 1930s Arts and Crafts style home in a well-to-do neighborhood. It's 3 bedrooms, 1.5 baths, and 2000 sq. ft. on 0.2 acre in a really good school district. It's assessed at $235,000 and they pay $10,000 in property taxes. Another coworker has a beautiful 1920s home on a wooded lot. It's 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, and 1700 sq. ft. on 0.8 acres in a good school district. It's assessed at $218,000 and they also pay $10,000 in property taxes. These assessed values are pretty close to sale prices, except prices are a bit higher now due to the dearth of homes on the market.

For my two coworkers, SALT means they can deduct their property taxes, but not their income taxes from their gross incomes, in order to pay less federal tax. The idea is that you shouldn't have to pay income tax on money you're already paying out as taxes. I can tell you none of these three families have incomes anywhere close to $400,000! But both of my coworkers (and their spouses) now have to pay federal tax on the money they paid for state income tax (whatever that is), thanks to SALT.

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: A recent poll here in New York showed Gov. Andrew Cuomo's (D-NY) approval rating slipping of late. However, a majority still do not want him to resign from office. The latest scandal he's facing involves allegedly using taxpayer money to help write his book about his handling of the COVID-19 crisis here in NY. This is the third current scandal along with sexual harassment and nursing homes.

On the GOP front, Rep. John Katko of the 24th district is mulling a possible run for governor next year. As I've mentioned before, considering a run and actually taking the plunge are two different things. Look at Rep. Tom Reed (R) from the 23rd district. He had thoughts of running himself before getting enmeshed in a sexual harassment scandal of his own. Now, he'll be leaving politics entirely next year.

Should Katko go ahead and make a run, it's possible he could win. He's a former federal prosecutor and has been elected in a district that has voted Democratic in the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections. He was one of only 10 GOP House members who voted for the second Trump impeachment. But he would first need to survive a primary that includes Long Island native Rep. Lee Zeldin, a staunch Trump defender.

Trumpism here in sapphire-blue New York won't work. For any Republican to win here, they must be moderate enough to keep most of the base happy while peeling off considerable independent and Democratic support. A potential Katko/Zeldin primary would be nasty, pitting upstate vs. downstate and traditional GOP vs. Trumpish GOP. In short, this would ensure a Democratic victory in the general, even if a weakened Cuomo is the candidate.

It's still early, as we're 18 months away from the election. A lot can happen in that time. But right now I'd say Cuomo is hanging on and could end up having the one thing that eluded his late dad, Mario: a fourth term.

Senatorial and Sartorial

E.M. in Portland, OR, writes: I read your item on Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), and I think you mis-called the senator's attention-grabbing ploy. You wrote: "the picture is very tacky and below the dignity of her high office."

I have heard it said that upon passage of the ACA back in the Halcyon days of 2010, then-Vice President Joe Biden was apparently picked up on a hot mic dubbing the law "a big f***ing deal." Meanwhile, the now-former President Donald Trump was recently said to have dubbed Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) a "stupid son of a b**ch" at a gathering of Republican Party grandees (to the titillation of those in attendance). I think that one of these remarks is generally regarded as a signifier of earthy good humor and endearing disregard for formality, while the other is indeed beneath the dignity of, well, something, if not the modern day GOP. Sinema's statement is far more like the former than the latter. I'd also note that the two men made these comments while in public, acting as representatives of their party, not at home on the Internet acting as a representative of themselves, before their own followers.

Secondly, this message is clearly laser targeted at the urbane, pragmatic, well-to-do millennials that I suspect Sinema relied on in her razor-thin finish in the 2018 election. This more moderate sect loathes the GOP of Donald Trump but is also wary about the implacable and sharp-edged partisans on their left flank, seeing them as a persistent threat to the most precarious of majorities in congress. But, as we have now been made aware, being of a more centrist bent doesn't diminish one's passion for outlandish accessories in the slightest. Incidentally, it also does not diminish the potential for someone to be a member of the politically diverse LGBTQ community, which I think was another layer of the message here. If you squint a bit, you might even say the color contrast between the dark berry flavored beverage with the pink hat even alludes to the pink and blue flag of bisexual pride.

Cryptic and amorphous though it may be, I think most young (25-40 year old) adult voters in the Senator's camp will find it quite groovy, and that Sinema will be at the forefront of their checkbooks when the 2024 election rolls around. I say, as one infamous Florida senator once said twice in a row "Let's dispense with the illusion that Kyrsten Sinema doesn't know what she's doing. She knows exactly what she's doing."

B.S. in Raleigh, NC, writes: As a millennial, I can't help but feel like your take on Kyrsten Sinema's Instagram post is...rather off the mark. By a country mile, to borrow a phrase from the older generations. Describing her picture as tacky says a lot more about your personal views of how a Senator should look and behave than it does about her. Is she sitting in her congressional office? Or even in her office in Arizona? Is she acting in an official capacity as a Senator in any way? No. In fact, it looks like she's enjoying some sangria in a casual setting and if it hadn't been brought on your site, I wouldn't think anything of this picture at all.

This is kind of exactly the sort of thing my generation is disgusted by from older generations. And there's more than a little irony in the fact that my response to someone complaining about the "correctness" of this post is exactly the same message they claim she's saying. It's Instagram, guys. C'mon...

L.E. in Putnam County, NY, writes: Yours is the first article on Fetterman that I've seen that doesn't portray him as on the left of the party...he's a Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) supporter beyond that gonzo biker image, which puts off those preferring more conservative looks. Even the Politico article you link refers to progressivism as his main characteristic in its subtitle, and goes on to say how "the GOP could make Fetterman look like a far-left freak" and says he is "running as a left-leaning Democrat." My impression has been that someone like Rep. Conor Lamb (D-PA) would go over better with the non-Bernie-Bro wing of the Party and with the middle-of-the-road voters.

A matter of perspective?

V & Z respond: But that was our point, that Fetterman defies easy categorization. Which could be a good thing for him, or a bad thing.

M.G. in Littleton, CO, writes: Hey guys, lots of people have tattoos these days. Lots of fellows shave their heads. Perhaps your own children have a bit of body art? Comparing Fetterman to a Hells Angel (aggressive, violent, lawless, etc.) is a bit of a reach and actually was quite offensive to me and many young people who wonder why old codgers continue to make such a big deal of people who appear "different." And what's the point of focusing on his height? Can we expect more features on the physical anomalies of senators? Shortest senator in history? Darkest skin?

Maybe get out into the world a bit and learn that categorizing people by their appearance is quite out of style. Or if you insist on repeating this, let's feature some candidates in expensive suits and ties, and headline the featured article: "Bernie Madoff in the Senate?"

Your writing reminds me of articles I've seen that make light of the appearance of some transsexual people. Fetterman's an accomplished politician, not a "giant with tattoos".

I'm pretty disappointed.

V & Z respond: Fetterman very consciously cultivates a rebel, not-your-usual-politician image. That is entirely relevant to a discussion of his candidacy.

D.K. in Oceanside, CA, writes: John Fetterman might do better with suburban women than you would think. He is well educated, and if he has a little charm to go with the bad-boy look, well...remember the old song verse, "Ladies love outlaws like babies love stray dogs..." It is a secret ballot after all, and significant others need never know.

He Will Rock You

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: Regarding all this talk about Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's possible run for President—Have we learned absolutely nothing in the past four years? In 2016, the nation lost its collective mind and elected a con-man, grifter and marginal "entertainer" to the office of President and what a wonderful state he left our country in when he was run out of office. Let's try to ignore Tantrum Von Clownbaby's ignorant, racist, and authoritative nature, if that's possible. One of the main reasons why Treasonweasel lost the election is because of the incompetent way he ran the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. His unwillingness to listen to medical experts and instead swallow every quack's nonsense remedies was appalling. Have we so quickly forgotten bleach, light inside the body, blood plasma, Remdesivir and Hydroxychloroquine? Then there was his dismal understanding of how government runs because of his overinflated ego and severe lack of curiosity. Remember when the media had to tell him about the Defense Production Act to get new ventilators built? A politician would know these things (unless they have an R after their name). And those are just the frosting on the crap pie that Cadet Bone Spurs left us. We dodged a big bullet with Herr Twitler in office during COVID-19 and we might not be so lucky with the next crisis-meets-celebrity "entertainer" turned fauxtician.

Additionally, there is the disturbing fact that all the politically "successful" celebrity "entertainers" (Ronald Reagan, Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Orange Julius and now possibly The Rock) all have the same dreary traits: all are overly macho; all were featured in low-brow entertainments and all are from the world of sports. Ok, Ronnie played a football hero and Sir Tiny Hands merely guest starred in the WWE, but you get the point. Maybe we as a nation need to realize that these guys might play good leaders (well, not in the Screaming Carrot Demon's case) but in reality they aren't. We can do better! As I say, if you need brain surgery, would you want an actor playing a neurosurgeon or an actual neurosurgeon? Then why are we so adverse to letting the folks who know where the levers of power lie, how to bring about legislation, how to form alliances, the secrets of diplomacy and on and on do what they know best? It's that old quote: "Stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results." I can't speak to The Rock's political viewpoints, because they are not known. For all I know he could be so far left he makes Bernie Sanders look like Pat Buchanan, but somehow I doubt it. Probably like Ronnie, Jesse, Arnie and Donnie, The Rock's political views are superficially formed and rely on gut instinct instead of knowledge. That has all the makings of another disaster.

And if those arguments don't convince you to jump off The Rock Bandwagon then this definitely will. But warning, once you see this video, you will not be able to un-see it and I fear you might be scarred for life. And yes, it is much more traumatizing in 3-D.

Now imagine President The Rock doing that for the State of the Union. I rest my case.

D.J.M. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: So the Russians used Trump to infiltrate the U.S. government and now the Canadians have The Rock. Keeping him in the Canadian Football League just long enough to inject a healthy dose of maple syrup has ensured that The Rock will first merge the XFL and the CFL, become elected president, and then...

V & Z respond: Uh, oh. Who knew that "the people" in "the people's elbow" were Canadians?


B.B. in Bangor, ME, writes: As an environmentalist who ranked Jo Jorgensen first in November (Maine uses RCV), I thought a response to R.T. and J.D.M.'s comments on government provision of roads was warranted.

Recently, progressives have (correctly) been complaining about suburbs, and their interaction with the education system. Suburbs are racially and economically exclusive, depriving millions of children of an adequate education; they drive up the cost of housing; they cause traffic congestion, waste people's lives in commutes, and isolate their residents from their neighbors and communities; they are of necessity much more carbon-intensive than higher-density housing; they replace fertile cropland and unmarred wilderness with monotonous asphalt and ornamental grass, the maintenance of which pollutes and wastes fresh water; and they increase obesity by being unwalkable.

But suburbs, and the problems they cause, are due to government policies which have encouraged them by effectively subsidizing the costs they create. Roads are an excellent example: local governments fund roads with property taxes. Property owners who do not own cars, or who choose to drive less, are forced by law to pay the same as those who choose to drive more. The effect of this is a massive subsidy for drivers and driving, which, combined with the lack of individual incentive to stop contributing to congestion, leads to much more than the optimal amount of driving, with all the deaths, pollution, and general waste that causes. And all that driving is used as evidence that people want and need to drive, causing governments to double down on road construction and maintenance, at taxpayer expense.

In practice, of course, J.D.M.'s hypothetical of a toll booth on every street corner would hold up traffic worse than traffic jams do. Still, with modern technology, an efficient system in which individual drivers are made to pay exactly what they add to the costs of road repair and traffic congestion is not hard to imagine. In such a regime, the market might well lead to the conclusion that cars are not actually the most cost-effective means to transport people in high-density and medium-density areas, and regulated trolley monopolies, subway systems, and long-distance passenger rail would be able to turn a profit without subsidies. That was the case historically before governments in the 1940s-50s, under the influences of car companies, construction companies, fear of atomic war, and racial prejudice, decided that suburbs and highways were the way of the future and that they should be subsidized.

The fundamental problem with government provision of anything is that it causes overuse of it, both by reducing the individual incentive not to overuse it, and because those who benefit from it economically will lobby for its expansion (the latter is the reason for our ludicrously excessive "defense" spending). This is why direct redistribution of wealth is actually better than regulations and programs to provide specific goods and services: give people a UBI, and they can buy their own food, housing, child care, and transportation with it, at the best price available, and won't need welfare programs which provide those things.

M.Y. in San Jose, CA, writes: Society needs to transition to EV's. Air pollution caused in large part by combustion engines is the source of millions of deaths worldwide annually. Even noise pollution alone causes loss of life on the same order of magnitude as COVID-19. And even though transitioning to an electric vehicle infrastructure will hamper our ability to quickly shut down coal power plants, the enormous benefits in air and noise pollution that electric vehicles offer is worth this difficulty. We must accelerate to a fossil-fuel-free world.

It is therefore very disturbing to find that many people want to tax light-duty electric vehicles so we can continue subsidizing the fleet of trucks that destroy our roads and pump massive amounts of pollutants into our air (which, in the medium-duty truck space, is often done quite deliberately and is often done for the entertainment value of pumping carcinogens into other people's lungs).

To scope the problem—in the United States, we pay over $180 billion annually for our road infrastructure. Roughly one fourth of that amount—$46 billion—is paid for by motor fuel tax revenue. Since damage to roads occurs at a rate corresponding to the fourth power of weight, a truck hauling freight damages our roads roughly 9,600 times more quickly than a car does. A quick analysis shows that trucks are doing 99% of the damage to our roads while paying for 35% of the cost.

In addition, using our highways to haul freight emits nearly four kilograms of CO2—about 8.5 pounds—for every mile traveled, a rate 727% that of railroad freight and 986% that of water-based freight.

Instead of subsidizing the massive climate disruption and loss of life caused by diesel transportation, we should require the freight industry to maintain total revenues of transportation fuel tax—i.e., as gasoline taxes decline, increase diesel taxes to match. If gasoline sales dwindle to zero, we could maintain revenues with a tax on diesel at about $1 per gallon, which is still much less than that of many other developed countries. If, instead of merely maintaining revenue, we were to eliminate all road-maintenance subsidies, and require the freight industry to fully pay for the damage caused to our nation's roads, diesel should be taxed at about $4 per gallon. I will not attempt to extend this analysis to account for the additional one trillion pounds of CO2 emitted per year from diesel used in the United States alone.

Although the next decades will provide a light-duty fleet worldwide, for the foreseeable future freight will continue to be hauled with fossil fuels. Let's eliminate our subsidies to freight transportation and accelerate our transition to a pollution-free world.

E.B. in Seattle, WA, writes: I own an electric vehicle, so I can comment on a few of the taxation ideas. A tax on charging stations isn't likely to be effective, since many (most?) people charge their EVs at home. Adding a tax on electricity used at a home also won't help all that much in cases like mine where the homeowner has installed solar panels, and is generating much of their own power.

There are a couple of easy ways to tax electric vehicles as the gas tax fades out. Washington takes the approach of adding a $150 fee to the registration fee for EVs and some hybrids. That's a pretty blunt instrument, but it's easy to administer. A slightly more elegant approach would be to charge registrations based on annual mileage driven. As long as there's an emissions-check-like verification of the odometer, this should nominally be acceptable. The most technically accurate approach would be to charge registration fees based on vehicle curb weight. You could even adjust the fees so that a Honda Fit pays less than a Hummer.

Of course, there is an equity issue here of paying the entire tax up front rather than incrementally at each fillup. That might be a dealbreaker for some people. Of course, we could also accept that the gas tax is going the way of the dodo and raise other taxes to compensate.

Speaking of taxes, if Joe Manchin doesn't want to raise the corporate income tax beyond 25%, the Democrats should raise capital gains taxes to compensate. That has a few nice benefits: mostly hitting the wealthy and simultaneously closing the loophole where Warren Buffett pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. That should be a pretty easy sell in West Virginia. A small tax on stock transactions wouldn't hurt my feelings, either.


J.C. in Binan, Laguna, Philippines, writes: I feel like there are some things missing from your analysis of evangelicals:

  • Until relatively recently, "evangelical" meant something specific theologically, and many people who are in that group or on the edge of it may still be using the older definition, which would then skew the statistics of self-identification—but they wouldn't "clearly qualify" as evangelical if they are using the older definition that they grew up with.

  • There are also I think a large group of ex-evangelicals, mostly younger folks, who are no longer considering themselves evangelical because they reject the beliefs of evangelicals. These people are likely to no longer vote Republican.

  • This one is a big one: White Evangelicals are not Black Evangelicals. Although there are more white evangelicals, I fear your data lumps them all together. I've heard about 75% of white evangelicals go Republican. And very few Black evangelicals do so.

  • You yourself have reported that Latinos didn't break as much to the Democrats as expected, as they aren't monolithic. There are many evangelical Latinos. As older evangelicals die and are replaced by new immigrants, there is nothing to stop Latino evangelicals from supporting more conservative ideas that are in line with the GOP.

M.Y. in Windcrest, TX, writes: Reasons why evangelical affinity with the GOP is bewildering to me (as one who holds evangelical theology):

  • We have a history of intellectualism. The great universities of Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries were founded on a Christian worldview. Many great minds throughout history held to the faith. Yet much of modern evangelicalism eschews intellectualism.

  • In a similar vein, much of modern science was launched based on the idea that God is a God of order and his creation is real, rational, and can be studied. This is in contrast to other worldviews that posit God as arbitrary, or matter as unimportant, unpredictable, or even nonexistent. Yet many evangelicals deny much of science.

  • The Bible asks us to show justice and compassion to the poor and immigrants. The modern GOP...doesn't exactly do that. Evangelicals justify it by saying it should be a personal choice, not forced by the government. To be fair, there is a case for that, but I still see too much justification why it doesn't need to be done.

  • Christianity is based on what we believe, with very good reason, to be true. But the modern GOP thinking is based on conspiracies with no factual or rational basis, and evangelicals have largely been sucked in to it.

In all this, we are betraying our own faith heritage. I want to do what I can to move the needle, and I'd love to hear ideas for doing that.

And yes, the Democrats have significant issues too from a Christian perspective; that's why I'm a member of the American Solidarity Party and not a Democrat.

Corrections Department

C.T. in Carrollton, TX, writes: As a loyal daily reader of your site since 2004, I usually take your word as gospel. I'm a Texan who lives in Dallas. Yesterday, you gave a response to a question about big cities that Trump won in which you said that Trump came within a point of winning Dallas (and Houston). Biden won Dallas County by 32 points, and Dallas County has been a liberal bastion in Texas since at least 2008. If Biden won the county by 32 points I would venture to say he won the actual city by somewhere around 40 points. In no way did he barely win Dallas by 1 point.

V & Z respond: We should have added a note about that. Because of the way congressional districts are set up, and because of the different ways in which cities are set up, when political commentators talk about a president or senator "winning" a "city," the "city" in that formulation actually refers to "metro area." That is much more plausible to calculate from polling results, and makes certain that urban areas that are largely one city divided into boroughs (like Los Angeles) are compared on an apples-to-apples basis to those that are a large city surrounded by smaller towns (like Dallas).

CityLab tends to take the lead in this; their 2020 numbers are here.

D.A. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: I disagree with your interpretation of the Washington Post chart of domestic terror incidents. It is true that Donald Trump presided over the greatest number of domestic terror incidents in a 4-year period. But according the chart, these incidents first spiked in 2015 and 2016, the last two years of the Obama administration. Then over the 4 years of Trump, the incident average was only slightly higher than those last two years. And if we look at 2021 so far, it seems that (extrapolating w/o any seasonal adjustment admittedly), 2021 is on track to meet this unhappy "new normal."

Now, I despise and loathe the former president as much as the next sentient being on planet Earth, but—looking at just this data—it seems that something happened in 2015. Now, I know we're not supposed to ask questions on Sunday, but if I'm right then there are a lot of questions. What triggered the doubling in 2015 that became sustained apparently? Was the Trump candidacy/presidency the cause of this or a correlated result of the underlying cause?

P.S. in Marion, IA, writes: In your Thursday item on national trends, your rolling averages looked at Senate votes. But in 2018, California accounted for a massive distortion of the Senate vote totals, since the only votes that could be counted were the 11 million votes cast for one Democratic candidate or the other. This throws the rolling average for 2018 and 2020 out of whack. If there were a Democrat and a Republican up (as there had been in previous elections), it's fair to assume it would have been a 4 million vote margin in favor of Feinstein (or whatever Democrat), not an 11 million to 0. That would change the numbers quite a bit.

V & Z respond: We meant to add a note about that and forgot. We looked at that as carefully as we could, in the time available, and it is clear that if California did not have jungle-style primaries, the result there would have been less lopsided than it was, but would have been much more lopsided than the last Democrat vs. Republican U.S. Senate contest (in 2012). Ultimately, any adjustment would have just been an arbitrary guess. But again, we did mean to add a note.

B.R.D. in Columbus, OH, writes: Just pointing out this item from Taegan Goddard regarding the high fundraising numbers for GOP firebrands during the 1st quarter. Those numbers may not be nearly as high as they seem:

ProPublica: "Two of the leading Republican firebrands in Congress touted big fundraising hauls as a show of grassroots support for their high-profile stands against accepting the 2020 election results." "But new financial disclosures show that Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) relied on an e-mail marketing vendor that takes as much as 80 cents on the dollar. That means their headline-grabbing numbers were more the product of expensively soliciting hardcore Republicans than an organic groundswell of far-reaching support."

J.S. in Springboro, OH, writes: F.S. from Cologne deploys an oft-repeated theory that voters morph into conservatives as they age. I think belief in this mother-of-all-political-old-wives-tales is one of the factors that keeps the Republican party from serious introspection. They believe that time itself will mint more Republican votes. Using only two elections to support that theory is not sound, especially when one of those includes the first Black president and the other, Cheetos Jesus.

Fortunately, there is recent research going on in this area and the results are not promising for the Republican Party. In short, when voters do change, they do tend to become more conservative. However, this doesn't really happen all that often, and voting patterns tend to remain stable throughout life. In other words, very few of those 18-35 year old BLM, defund the police, and Green New Deal supporting voters are going to turn into gun-toting, immigrant-hating, Confederate-flag-carrying insurrectionists.

Complaints Department

C.D. in Jacksonville, FL, writes: I understand that your commentary is yours and the analysis contained within does and should reflect your take. Also, I can tolerate, sometimes even enjoy, your snarky style. However, statements such as, "While all the other Republicans instinctively voted against a Democratic woman of color (and called her a 'radical' to boot)..." is a bridge too far.

Stating that every Republican Senator is a racist and a misogynist is neither true nor does it advance any kind of rational discussion about an issue. That, and your statement is not supported by the facts. Secretary Marcia Fudge was confirmed by a vote of 66-34, and Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield was confirmed by a vote of 78-20. I don't have your vast resources to employ teams of statisticians, so I can only assume that there were some affirmative Republican votes here. Still, assumptions can be dangerous, so just in case, Ambassador Katherine Tai was confirmed on a vote of 98-0. A vote against an individual woman of color is not a vote against all women of color. If that were true, the thirteen senators who voted against Secretary Condoleezza Rice could be painted as misogynistic racists with your same broad brush.

V & Z respond: Fair enough, but note that "radical" is often something of a dog whistle. Go and try to find a case where a Republican voted against a white male nominee, and said the reason was that he was a "radical." It won't be easy to come up with one.

Worst Immigrants

A.M. in Olympia, WA, writes: I believe you missed the mark by designating Meyer Lansky as your top dog. Lansky had one conviction on his record, namely illegal gambling. Same as Dean Martin. Lansky was a financial mastermind, albeit with less-than-lawful activities. He was not a violent sort, and even (unsuccessfully) tried to save Benjamin Siegel from his fatal hit. To place him in the ranks with Albert Anastasia (and in your case, even higher), is an injustice.

G.W. in Boca Raton, FL, writes: I think I would have chosen Charles "Lucky" Luciano over Meyer Lansky. I think founding the Commission and giving the Mafia a more corporate-like structure to be more significant than Meyer Lansky's "contribution." Further, Luciano was also connected with the Irish and Jewish mobs in addition to the Italian, Lansky had a longer career, but for number 1 on the list, I think Luciano's contribution outweighs the length of Lansky's career.

Incidentally, 20 years ago or so, in the course of my work, I had to review Meyer Lansky's death certificate. It amused me then and still does his occupation was "Investor" and his business was "investments."

T.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: That list of "worst immigrants" is interesting, I'd say. Quite a difference between various serial murderers along with Edward Teller and Arthur Rudolph.

First I'll object to your inclusion of Teller and Rudolph. Teller is listed partially because he was mean to Robert Oppenheimer—I doubt that Oppenheimer would have put Teller on the list of worst U.S. immigrants. And the H-bomb was going to get invented with or without Teller, as evidenced by the Soviet version, which came contemporaneously. I'm not an admirer of Teller and he was a warmonger (along with plenty of native U.S. warmongers) but he doesn't belong on the 10 worst list.

Rudolph, I won't argue his actions in Nazi Germany, but his service to the U.S. as an immigrant was inarguable and sincere. He deserves at least the mention that when he became an old man and no longer useful to his adopted country he was hounded and run out. If you are going after the German rocket scientists (which is problematic because I think your list should be only for bad things done after immigration to the U.S.), you probably should have put Wernher von Braun on the list, who was likely saved from Rudolph's fate by conveniently dying in 1977. Unlike Teller and the H-bomb, without von Braun there would not have been a German V-2 program with its thousands of deaths inside and outside Germany.

In the place of those two I'll nominate two others who did more damage to the U.S. and thousands of victims in other countries:

Anna Chennault, for her participation in Nixon's traitorous sabotage of the 1968 Vietnam peace talks, which possibly led to the extension by years of the U.S. participation in the war with thousands more U.S. casualties and who knows how many Vietnamese victims.

Henry Kissinger, for his various encouragements of right wing, authoritarian governments in Central America in their killings and other atrocities.

B.D. in Cocoa, FL, writes: Ayn Rand and Edward Teller do not belong on a list of thieves, assassins, serial killers, and Nazis.

Rand was just a capitalist whose writings have found an audience in loony, libertarian politicians. She was not a proponent of libertarianism herself.

Teller might have been a terrible colleague, but that hardly makes him distinctive enough for a list of 10 worst immigrants. Also, his work on our nuclear deterrence has actually prevented millions of deaths. When's the last time a large-scale war killed 70+ million people? We continue to maintain and enhance our nuclear weapons because the threat of these weapons constrains the behavior of adversarial countries and saves lives. Even in the deadliest war, where the atomic bomb was put to use, the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved millions of lives.

M.B.T. in Bay Village, OH, writes: I love it that you picked Ayn Rand for your list. I'm sure you considered Captain Heinrich ("Henry") Wirz and Charles ("Lucky") Luciano and left them off on purpose, but these two popped into my head right away.

C.W.M. in Monroe, WA, writes: If you include Ayn Rand as a major negative influence on America, surely you must also include Rupert Murdoch?

After all, FAUX Noise is heavily populated by FAUX Randroids...

T.G. in Daleyville, WI, writes: How could you miss Rupert Effing Murdoch, who has been the driving force in the devolution of American politics for 30 years? He and Limbaugh turned the Republican party into the feral, writhing, cornered wildebeest that it is currently. He ought to get at least a participation award for that feat.

V & Z respond to C.W.M. and T.G.: You're right, Murdoch was an oversight.

M.A.K. in London, England, UK, writes: As an alternative to Arthur Rudolph, may I suggest fellow Operation Paperclip beneficiary Hubertus Strughold?

He almost certainly had a key part in human experimentation at Dachau, and his institute definitely conducted other human experimentation in Berlin. Unlike Rudolph, he died a U.S. citizen with his public reputation mostly intact, and major awards in his field of space medicine were named after him as recently as 2012 and 2013.

S.B. in Hood River, OR, writes: I am curious as to why you consider Arthur Rudolph to be more reprehensible than Wernher von Braun. The latter seemed to have simply had much better PR. After all, von Braun also took advantage of slave labor at Peenemunde, he clearly knew about it, and as a result more people died making the V2 rockets than were killed by the rockets themselves.

V & Z respond: We narrowed it down to Rudolph and von Braun, and decided that von Braun's arrest by the Nazis meant he was slightly less connected to the war machine than Rudolph.

K.F.K. in Akron, OH, writes: Just in the interests of diversity, you have a very deserving Nazi war criminal and you have representation from East Asia, West Asia, and Europe. How about a particularly awful war criminal from Africa? I would like to nominate the infamous Jucontee Thomas Woewiyu, who oversaw the National Patriotic Front of Liberia's forces that engaged in massacres, rape, and conscription of child soldiers—to the tune of tens of thousands of offenses—during the civil war there in the 1990s.

V & Z respond: An appropriate addition; we did not realize he had effectively gotten asylum in the United States.

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: The Tsarnaev brothers (Chechens from Kyrgyzstan) perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombing. The elder brother was the mastermind. They were bad immigrants, worthy of consideration on a bad immigrant list.

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Ted Cruz (Canada). Do I need to explain this?

P.F. in Las Vegas, NV, writes: For the worst immigrants in U.S. history, you've overlooked Melania Trump. Her renovation of the Rose Garden in the middle of a pandemic was emblematic of her "I really don't care" attitude.

J.A. in Middelkerke, Belgium, writes: Regarding your list of the 10 worst immigrants, I don't see how the United States annexing the place where he was born makes Felipe Espinosa an immigrant.

V & Z respond: The lack of birth certificates before the 20th century, and the propensity for territory to change hands, made for some judgment calls. However, Espinosa was born in either Veracruz or New Mexico as a Mexican citizen. His crimes took place in Colorado when it was an American territory. We therefore decided he qualified as an immigrant.

D.A. in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK, writes: I can't remember the technical term for when fandoms cross each other's paths, but the fact that you quoted the highly talented John Rogers in your mention of Ayn Rand certainly made me smile. Rogers has some incredibly witty blog posts about politics, such as The Crazification Factor and I Miss Republicans.

What I found interesting is that I seem to remember discovering John Rogers' blog around the same time I found Electoral I'm not saying the two are related but it's not impossible they were 17 years ago. I think the 17 years ago part is the most worrying part. Do you have that time machine you spoke near at hand to borrow?

Beware that, as talented as Rogers is, he was educated in French-speaking Canada (which I suspect is the worst part of Canada, though I can't prove it). While as a Scot, I have no fear of Canada, I know some in the lower 48 seem to believe they are a threat.

V & Z respond: First of all, they are ALL the worst part of Canada. Second, we knew about Rogers' background, but the quote was a good one and, heck, even a broken clock is right twice a day. Eh.

B.T. in Bogalusa, LA , writes: I would have included Justin Bieber (Canada) for crimes against music.

M.G. in Chicago, IL, writes: Amazed all 10 slots were not taken by Canadians...

V & Z respond: We had to exclude Mapes, or the list would have extended to at least 100 entries.

What's In a Name?

M.C.A. in San Franscisco, CA, writes: Since this is becoming an ongoing feature, I thought I'd add my 2 cents.

My wife's former coworker once had a dentist with the name of Les Plack. (Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony). Makes me wonder if there's also a dentist out there with the name of Flossmoore.

Also, years ago, I worked in retail and had to assist a man with an...unusual first name. I had to call credit services to get an authorization for his purchase. The exchange went something like this:

Me: Hi, I need a credit authorization.
Credit Services: OK, what's the customer's first name?
Me: Semen, spelled S-E-M-E-N.
CS: (long, pause)
CS: Come again?
(insert laugh track here).

V & Z respond: That's a fairly common given name in some Eastern European nations. The famous Hollywood Forever Cemetery has a curious melange of celebrity, Eastern European, and Jewish burials (with some overlap between those three groups). Not far from the graves of Johnny Ramone, Mickey Rooney, and Mel Blanc is the grave of a fellow whose name was Semen Yaakov.

J.M. in San Jose, CA, writes: To bring current events into the name game, one of the witnesses for the State in the George Floyd trial is named Doctor Smock. He is one and he wears one.

B.R., Portland, OR, writes: In my medical career, I have known physicians named Dr. Needle and Dr. Doctor (wonder if he had a choice of career?).

V & Z respond: We would be willing to bet that a thousand people have gone up to Dr. Doctor and said: "Give me the news (I got a bad case of loving you)."

S.S. in San Francisco, CA, writes: My proctologist is Dr. Jonathan Terdiman.

V & Z respond: What a shi**y name.

H.B. in Halifax, NS, Canada (Watch out, we're coming!), writes: Just to keep the name game going a little longer, in my hometown there was a Doctor Nurse (male) and a podiatrist called Doctor Foote. And there were two dentists: Dr. Precious and Dr. Lovely.

D.K. in Chicago, IL, writes: In the 1970s and 1980s, one of the big jokes in Catholic circles was that the Archbishop of Manila, Phillipines was Cardinal Sin.

P.B. in Gainesville, FL, writes: There is a well-known professor of Astrophysics at Arizona State University named Sumner Starrfield. I have often wondered if he took strolls on a July evening, and what he thought about while gazing skywards?

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: For want of an apostrophe, the sale was lost:

A display of Napoleon's Hat pastries reads 'Napoleonshat'

C.G. from Vancouver, BC, writes: I went to high school with a guy named Peter Wacker. As soon as we graduated he changed his surname to a name from another branch of his family.

V & Z respond: Unfortunately, that branch's surname was "Puller."

D.B. in Bowie, MD, writes: My mother had a friend of rather large size whose name was Mrs. Fullenwider.

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: I had a student named Alexandra Khan. But her nickname was Lexie. Lexie Khan.

V & Z respond: Did she marry Richard Shenary?


B.H. in Greenbelt, MD, writes: In regard to the question about Democrats choosing senators as Vice-Presidential candidates—a message which was clearly delayed for many months—I can only express surprise that Louis DeJoy is now slowing down e-mail delivery as well as snail mail.

C.L. in Durham, England, UK, writes: So Mike Pence looks like a gnome. Does that make him a gnomosexual?

V & Z respond: There's a lotta truth in some jokes, we daresay.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: So the Canadian takeover begins: A Canadian railroad seeks to outbid its rival to acquire Kansas City Southern.

V & Z respond: As they say, first it's Kansas City, and then it's...Wichita.

T.K. in Warsaw, IN, writes: Last week, you titled a section "Choose, but choose wisely." I immediately thought of "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade," where the Grail Knight says this regarding the final challenge: choosing the real Grail from many false ones.

As a fan of the Indiana Jones series (well, the first three movies in the series) I wondered if this was intentional, and if (V) or (Z) are likewise fans. If so, do you agree a good further Indy film could be "Indiana Jones and the Scourge of Canada?"

V & Z respond: That was deliberate, and was the work of (Z), who is a fan, and who wondered if anyone would catch the reference. As to the next film, the rumor has been that Dr. Jones will raise the lost Kingdom of Atlantis from the ocean floor. But sending Canada in the opposite direction would also make for a fine film.

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