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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

We don't want the P.M. thread to turn into a slightly better version of an Internet comments thread, so we're going to run only a few items this week, and then next week we'll try to build on the discussion by finally running the "what do people want from Trump supporters?" responses from a few weeks back.

More P.M. in the A.M.

P.M. in Currituck, NC, writes: Reading all of the responses directed toward me last week, I fear something has happened that I tried to warn against: groupthink. Most readers here seem to have classified me as "one of them," and no matter what I say in an attempt to assert myself as being an individual, and not as part of a group—something I pointed out when I last wrote in, about how it is important to judge a person on their individual merits rather than a label applied to them—it seems to fall on deaf ears. It really is sad, especially from a group of folks who I know would consider themselves to be enlightened and tolerant. After all, did not groupthink damn all Americans of African descent for several centuries based on something as simple as their skin color?

Of all the comments, I believe that M.S. in Allentown has really touched on something important: the prevalence of elitist microaggressions. That is something I find myself rebelling strongly against; frankly, it can become quite tiring. My knee-jerk response to being confronted by them is to want to dig in even harder, and defend my views all the more. And as M.S. points out, the way forward is to cease using such tactics, and actually listen to what someone else is saying—and, again, treat each person as an individual, not as part of a "tribe" or "group."

I have appreciated D.E.'s kind and non-microaggressive responses to my points. I find D.E. to be considerate and thoughtful, but I fear that D.E., too, has fallen into the groupthink trap. I don't watch Fox News at all, or listen to any of the right wing-nuts. I actually sometimes will play a game with myself where I will put on either Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity and see how long I can "stand it" before I need to turn it off; usually, I can deal with it for about a minute, and that counts the intro remarks made when returning from a commercial break. A few years ago, I was interviewed by a reporter about my thoughts on the Mueller investigation, and I characterized myself as "a centrist who leans to the right." A close friend who was one of my college professors is someone I speak with often, and she has said that "aside from your religious stuff [I am a devout Catholic], we have pretty much the same political views." I would classify my own views to be somewhere between George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan; in other words, nowhere near the realm of the right-wing talkers. But, because of the groupthink mentality present, I'm now "one of "them," and thus all "the lumps from [the] Libs" (as S.S. put it) here fall squarely upon me, when I really don't think my views are that far removed from those others here hold.

By the way, S.S., I almost recommended us meeting at the Meijer in Livonia, since I have a great amount of respect for freshman Representative Peter Meijer, who dared to do the right thing and who voted to impeach Trump. Since I don't live in his district, I do what I can to support him by shopping at Meijer stores—despite being 600 miles away from the nearest one. But Bates' Burgers can work; were you some 75 miles farther south, I would have suggested Tony Packo's.

Oh, one other point—on the topic of which headliner I would want to be associated with going forward (as I also prefer the Beatles over Dylan), I will propose a simple alternative: the Chairman of the Board himself, Francis Albert. I am a devoted listener of Sid Mark's "Sunday With Sinatra," and never miss an installment. Given my somewhat traditional views and actual love for his style of music, I humbly request that (V) and (Z) refer to me as such from this point forward. After all, I do it My Way.

V & Z respond: Wouldn't that make D.E. in Lancaster Dean Martin?

D.H. from Pueblo, CO, writes: First, I would like to thank those in this conversation that have genuinely worked to increase understanding between the left and right.

Living in a purple state, I regularly interact with the left and right. The two sides have been moving further and further apart. I, like many others, have started to fear that this may end in mass bloodshed. While I am relieved to have President Biden in the White House, and that the transition did not get any worse that it did, we are not out of this yet.

Partisans on both sides are becoming stronger and stronger in their beliefs that:

  1. Their side is right.
  2. The other side is irredeemably wrong.
  3. They are justified in their condemnation and hate of the other side.
  4. They are justified doing whatever is necessary to see that their side wins.

While I am unhappy with the Democrats, this is not to push bothsidesism. In my opinion, the right is far more guilty of bad behavior than the left. I cringe when the right criticizes Barack Obama for being "divisive." I find the degree to which Donald Trump has whipped up hate horrifying. I want the Republican party to give—and I think they owe—the U.S. and the world an apology for inflicting Donald Trump upon us.

I also think getting what I want is far less important than following Biden's words of "...[I]t's time to put the anger and harsh rhetoric behind us and come together as a nation." We will not accomplish this by entrenching ourselves in hate for and condemnation of the Republican party. I have to accept that we will probably never receive an apology for Trump, and the Republicans will not admit wrongdoing or try to make amends. It is more important to grit our teeth and maintain a civil conversation than to waste our keyclicks pointlessly shouting on the internet.

Yes, I am asking you to maintain polite conversation with people you despise, no matter how justified you may be in despising them. I am asking you to strive to resolve the conflicts in our society through discussion and understanding not hate and condemnation. The value in this is something I think Europe learned through centuries of bloody war. And the suffering of having to put up with politely talking to people you despise is a small price to pay to avoid another civil war. Oh, and if this does get violent, you may find the right is better at violence than the left.

One bit of advice on how to talk to the other side: Just because you can't talk to some of them doesn't mean you can't talk to any of them. The worst, most crazy, are the most visible on the Internet. When you find someone on the right intractable, try talking to one of the other 70 million Trump voters. You won't be able to talk to all of them. But you can have a meaningful conversation with a meaningful number of them.

I hope this ends well. But however it ends, it won't have ended that way because I was refusing to talk to the other side. Will it be because you refused to talk to the other side?

R.D. in Austin, TX, writes: This past Sunday, D.E. in Lancaster wrote what is, to me, the perfect rebuttal to all conservatives who say one thing but do another by their actions, pointing out to P.M. that you cannot say you oppose those who committed insurrection while still supporting those who encouraged it in the first place.

The piece was so well written, that I used it as a Facebook post, editing out references to other individuals and the last paragraph about being in London. While the majority of my friends are moderate or liberal, more are never Trump conservatives, I do have a small number of my 201 Facebook friends who think Trump is Jesus, though that number is about to be cut by one, a person who is in the virus-hoax anti-mask crowd, who does not know and could care less that my wife just came through a 2 week battle with COVID, still can't taste most food, and is still weaker than normal. How did I not get it? Wearing a mask of course and a bit of luck, since we call a small apartment home.

Thank you for the great letter and know that R.D. in Austin, TX, hopes it breaks through the fever that a few of his friends who remain on the cult train still can't seem to break, even though I'm not hopeful it will cure them.

V & Z respond: Our best wishes for a speedy and full recovery for your wife!

E.R. in Colorado Springs, CO, writes: I'll admit to being in the camp that has enjoyed the back-and-forth discussion between P.M. and D.E. (and others). For the most part I have found it to be productive and thought-provoking reading. I will admit to being a die-hard Trump hater, so it shouldn't be surprising that I tend to agree with most everything expressed by folks on the D.E. (i.e., progressive) side of the debate. However, I have to take issue with a change in tone in this last week's mailbag.

The discussion has taken a turn. It's feeling a lot less like people trying to understand one another via honest exchange and more like retreating to corners and resorting to accusing, criticizing, and preaching. What was expressed originally as a genuine intent to understand the other's viewpoint seems to be devolving into a cesspool of anger, indignation, and convincing. Not quite what one expects in the comments section of most web sites, but headed that way.

Nobody is going to change anyone's mind at this point. But I will offer this. If the folks engaged in this discussion (actively or passively) truly want to understand where the other side is coming from, I would highly recommend the following book: Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. If some of your readers are like me and just cannot grok how decent human beings can believe some of the crazy sh** they do, this book was very helpful. The elephant/rider metaphor he uses is quite useful for aiding understanding of how different value systems operate and how we can use different strategies to improve communication and understanding.

C.W. in Carlsbad, CA, writes: While I am intrinsically curious about how folks in Pennsylbama vote and why, last week's comment section was too much. We're either straying into harassment territory, or have allowed an Internet troll to drive the narrative. I'm still not sure which, but anyway anyhow it's time for the adults in the room to shut this line down.

How about another red flag instead? I hate baseball metaphors. Fight me!

V & Z respond: That last sentence was a real curveball.

W.S. in Norfolk, VA, writes: I am not sure why you felt the letter from M.S. in Allentown didn't deserve to be 1st or 2nd in the list of P.M.-inspired letters. While I agree with many of the points made in the letters that did lead that section, M.S. seems to have a suggestion that is more likely to result in reconciliation (giving others our respect before we think they have earned it). Was it a conscious decision to put the letters from M.S., S.R. and S.S. at the very end?

That being said, I am curious to know the sources of some of M.S.'s statistics, particularly the drug use and jobless percentages. Although even if they are exaggerated, I don't think that negates the main point of M.S.'s letter.

V & Z respond: We try to arrange the letters in some sort of logical order, which often means putting responses in "critical," "neutral" and then "supportive" order. And M.S. did provide links in support of all points raised; we just don't like to overdo it, so we held them.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: To answer your question "So what you're telling us is that you're more popular than Jesus?" Oh good God, no! Again my choice when reenacting "Abbey Road" had more to do with my own comfort and the weather: John is wearing a coat and it was a very cold January morning. Yes, Ringo is wearing a coat as well, but come on, does anyone really want to be Ringo? I mean, there was the Smart Beatle, the Cute Beatle, and the Deep Beatle and then there was Ringo, truly the "Canadian" Beatle.

Of course, when I tried to recreate the Crossing it was the year before that horrible December night, a night that is still a scar across my soul. So looking back, I'm glad I picked John.

Head Scratchers

T.S. in Florissant, MO, writes: You noted that many voters in Florida support Democratic ballot issues, but vote for Republican candidates instead of Democrats who would actually implement those ideas. And yes, they may well be frightened by the s-word (socialism!). This phenomenon has been happening in Missouri for years as well.

With regard to ballot initiatives, Missourians have overwhelmingly voted against right-to-work, in favor of Medicaid expansion, and in favor of "Clean Missouri," which was a ballot initiative for non-partisan redistricting and limitations on campaign finance and "dark money." Then we turn around and elect supermajorities of Republican state legislators who routinely file bills to overturn the clearly expressed will of the people on those issues, and a Republican governor who would most likely sign those "overturn" bills.

We are a bright-red one-party state where our politicians are showboating with the "Second Amendment Preservation Act," even though there are exactly zero people here whose rights to own firearms are truly threatened; as well as bills that would allow drivers to run down protesters in the street. This even though we're in the middle of a pandemic and dead last or near dead last in the nation with regard to providing our citizens with vaccinations. Of course, the virus supposedly isn't real, anyway. All because of the scary s-word. Sigh.

E.W. in New Orleans, LA, writes: If there is one question that has plagued me for months, other than how the good people of Maine could vote for Joe Biden and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), it was how the Democrats failed in North Carolina but not Georgia. I worked as a field organizer for the Biden campaign in Charlotte and we really thought we had it. Popular incumbent Democrat running for Governor, strong Senate challenger (up know), and a ton of money.

A few of my professional friends are more mercenary than I, and work both sides of the aisle. We got to talking after the dust settled and I learned something which may or may not have been decisive, but it seems like a strong possibility. We bent over backwards to mount a healthy, above-board, unconventional, Covid-19 field operation. That meant extensive background checks on workers, no rallies, no vans full of volunteers, extremely-limited socially-distanced voter contact and proper payroll and human resources management. The Republicans, shockingly, did none of this. They held rallies, would hire anyone and everyone, paid in cash at the end of the day, and came into aggressively close contact with campaign workers and voters. From what I hear, this was the same story in Florida, although I cannot corroborate that first-hand like in North Carolina. Either way, I think this goes a long way toward explaining the 3-4% shift between expected and actual vote share. I also think it shamefully stands as another example of Republicans putting winning at all costs above everything.

BidenWatch 2021

L.J. in The Hague, The Netherlands, writes: This week, President Biden laid out his plans to inject sanity and democratic values into America's foreign policy and rebuild diplomatic relations with close allies. I can think of yet another thing he can do to score high points in many capitals across the world: stop sending us your campaign's bundlers and other political friends as ambassadors!

President Obama complimented my country on "punching above its weight" in diplomatic affairs (which he also said about many other countries, unfortunately), but nothing screams "You need us more than we need you" more than appointing someone as ambassador with no experience in government who happens to have bankrolled his presidential campaigns with a million dollars, while we send some of our best career diplomats to D.C. (To be fair, the "real" work at the U.S. Embassy is overseen by a career diplomat from State, serving as deputy.)

As a favor in return, if he were to visit us, we would be thrilled to welcome President Biden as a descendant of the Pilgrim Fathers, who sailed from the Netherlands in 1620. After all, if there turns out to be a link between the Mayflower and Ann Dunham's family, how hard can it be to find one for Joe Biden's Irish-Catholic ancestors, as Scranton, PA, is considerably closer to Massachusetts than Wichita, KS?

V.H. in DuBois, PA, writes: I saw it said that the country as a whole was so starved for presidential behavior that people were ready to embrace it the moment President Biden did something resembling his job. Count me in on that. Of course, I've seen a couple of folks say, "In just two days Biden's lost 50,000 jobs," but you know what? That was already happening before he took command. Give it time, and he might just turn it around.

Also, it's nice to see and hear Dr. Fauci again, and actually have him dominate the conversation, free to say what he knows is happening, and what needs to be done to combat this. After four years of doom, gloom, anger, hatred, lies, conspiracies, and authoritarian aspirations, culminating in what almost could've been the start of the Second American Civil War, and wondering what could happen next, it felt like the anxiety that I've felt for four years just lifted. Is it perfect? Nothing really ever is, but this is a lot closer to perfect than the previous four years. We still have a long way to go, of course, but I'm thinking of one word, one that was used twelve years ago: hope.

A.J. in Baltimore, MD, writes: Republicans prefer the state of the country as it is, which isn't working for the average American but is working fine for their richest and most important supporters. They have no incentive to change anything, which is even doubly true with Biden as president, because he will get more credit for any beneficial changes. The Republicans will continue obstructing and refusing to compromise because they have no incentive to pass any legislation. The Democrats need to give them that incentive.

Thus, Biden and Senate Democrats should not even be considering reducing the size of the stimulus to garner Republican Senator votes. Instead, the Senate should use the reconciliation process to reform the tax code so that income over $5 million is taxed at 91% (which, I should add, was the top tax bracket from 1951 to 1963). Set the capital gains rate at the same number. Close any loopholes possible.

Then the Republicans in the Senate will have eleven months to compromise on bills to reduce that percentage before taxes are due. "I'll make a deal with you. If we get 10 Republicans to vote for Medicare for All, we can kick it down to 85%. Immigration reform will get you 80%. A couple trillion invested in green energy infrastructure will make it 75%."

I think you'd quickly see that Republicans will be much more pliable to compromise in exchange for making that tax rate less bad for the donor class.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: For a good while now, I didn't want the filibuster to go, but I've realized that it only works when the moderate wings of both parties can float back and forth on individual legislation. The filibuster is designed to promote moderation. With Trumpist capture of the Republican Party, the most moderate Republicans are afraid to cross the aisle on anything, so there is no benefit to the filibuster system. Anti-Trumpist capture of the Democratic Party is now almost as bad, as the last few Sunday Mailbags have shown. I propose that the Democrats in the Senate approve a six-month moratorium on the filibuster from April 1 to September 30 of every odd year. As the Texas legislature shows, you can get enough done in that interval to keep the train on the rails. Though it will be no consolation to the Republicans, as long as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) is in office, nothing is going to get through that is too extreme for conservatives, with or without the filibuster. (Can you imagine how many security guards it will take to organize the line of lobbyists outside Manchin's office?) The fact that we got the ACA in 2009 instead of universal single-payer healthcare is proof of that point.

L.E. in Putnam County, NY, writes: While I would not have created a Space Force at this point, I can't agree with H.F. of Pittsburgh's call to uncreate the one we now have. The idea of having one goes back well before Donald Trump, and it's not really so simple as "no other nation has a Space Force," given that there has been a Soviet/Russian "Strategic Missile Force" since 1959 and they have additionally had a Space Force off and on since the 1990s (now part of their Aerospace Force).

What the Space Force does (which is not "fighting battles in outer space" but maintaining and protecting space-based military assets and providing information to all military branches, in addition to operating the GPS system) is not particularly best done by the Air Force, whose basic mission is rather different. Let's see how this service performs compared to past ways of getting its job done before arbitrarily deciding that it shouldn't exist.

A.T. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: Joe Biden already reneged on the $2,000 he promised; now it's $1,400. In a few months, as it keeps dropping and getting pushed further and further back, watch how quickly Georgia will swing back away from the Dems.

Only Democrats are so good at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

V & Z respond: Note that Biden's position is, and has been, that the second round of stimulus checks should have been $2,000, and since only $600 has already been delivered, another $1,400 will be needed.

E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, writes: You overlooked the perfect name for the Biden maternity leave mini-scandal that you described: BabyGate!

TrumpWatch 2021

G.W. in Oxnard, CA, writes: As I understand it, the Trump defense in the impeachment trial will be that the storming of the Capitol building wasn't insurrection, it was righteous indignation at the (alleged) rampant voter fraud and the "stolen" election. Ergo, Trump did nothing wrong in inciting righteous indignation. Republicans in the Senate had planned to acquit Trump on a technicality, but this will put them on the defensive in their next election, particularly those up for reelection in 2022. The Trump defense will make it easy for Democrats to depict Republican senators as undemocratic or even fascist-adjacent. I can imagine ads showing video of the violence and vandalism at the Capitol building and pointing out that Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick was murdered for defending the republic.

S.B. in New Castle, DE, writes: We have the Typhoon Class Submarine, the Invincible Class Starship, and now the Trump Class Whopper.

The latter should either go into our English lexicon or onto Burger King menus!

V & Z respond: Even more motivation for him to eat fast food?

T.C in Stone Mountain, GA, writes: Not counting days where no entry was produced, the last time there was an posting that did not mention Donald Trump was Oct 11, 2015. (At the bottom of the page there are some links to previous items that mention Trump, but the text produced that day did not.) That is (as of Feb. 6, 2021) 1,945 days of Trump (and counting). A great title for a horror film: "1,945 Days Of Donald Trump."

V & Z respond: One day per every 15.4 lies.

Greene Day

J.S. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: I believe the reason the acronym MTG is not being affixed to Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) is very simple. Magic: The Gathering, a collectible card game which has quite the following among us nerds, has been using it since 1993.

V & Z respond: Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), lacking a middle name as he does, has a similar problem.

N.E. in San Mateo, CA, writes: I'm quite glad that Marjorie Taylor Greene isn't being abbreviated MTG, because MtG is a common abbreviation for Magic: the Gathering—more often written than spoken.

I think the argument about length of name may be more on the mark than the plosive letters one. I can think of many abbreviations with multiple plosives, but most of them are for long chemical terms. There may also be something of a whitewashing to AOC's nickname; "Ocasio-Cortez" vs. "Taylor Greene."

D.B. in Mountain View, CA, writes: You omitted the primary reason Greene isn't referred to as "MTG": She's referred to as "Greene," which has two fewer syllables. "Ocasio-Cortez," on the other hand, has six syllables.

Another reason for the appeal of "AOC" is that Ocasio is an uncommon name and it takes cognitive effort to remember it. If her name were Kennedy-Cortez, you'd see that used a lot more often. So the notion that it's because she's Latina isn't entirely wrong.

V & Z respond: And if her name were Cortez Kennedy, she'd be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: I think the real reason why Marjorie Taylor Greene is not known by her initials (nor is Amy Coney Barrett) is because she is not beloved by a large number of people. Consider the examples you cited, to which I'll add a couple: FDR, JFK, LBJ (maybe), AOC, RBG. Simply put, neither is cool enough to be known by their initials.

V & Z respond: We considered that possibility, but nobody uses "AOC" more enthusiastically than The Daily Wire, where the (rather obsessed) staff cranks out multiple hate-articles per week.

S.G. in Denver, CO, writes: Marjorie Taylor Greene, aka Empty G, is actually a Sacha Baron Cohen character who has gone too far.

V & Z respond: Hey! That song did not have a single word about space lasers.

L.T.G. in Bexley, OH, writes: Now that Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q-GA) has been removed from her assignments by an overwhelmingly Democratic majority, no doubt the Republicans will cite this pseudo-precedent in an attempt to oust Reps. Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) et al. on the grounds that they...well, exist.

The problem here is the lack of podunk committees for warehousing members whose idiocy, criminality, or lunacy are so extreme that even the notably tolerant House is fed up. Time was that both houses of Congress were chock-full of committees whose time had come and gone, or whose time never did come. Most of these were special or select committees with short lifespans—but a fair number were gen-u-ine standing committees. Unfortunately, occasional gestures toward efficiency eliminated many of these and consolidated the rest, with the result that there is no congressional equivalent of the New York City school district's rubber room.

So, my proposal is to reinstate a few of these has-been committees for the purpose of sidelining the most repellent members of each body. Going through the list of defunct House committees, these jump out:

  1. Alcoholic Liquor Traffic: A committee whose reason for existence was eliminated by a constitutional amendment.

  2. Pacific Railroad: No constitutional amendment here, but since 1869 its work has been complete. Seems safe.

  3. Ventilation and Acoustics: Seems only fair, considering that much of the need for ventilation comes courtesy of these puzzlewits.

  4. Mileage: 'Nuff said—except that this might not be the ideal committee for Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO).

Restore some or all of these committees, give them zero budgets and committee rooms on Yucca Mountain, and presto! Out of your difficulties at once.

P.B. in Whanganui, New Zealand, writes: I think that the eight don't-impeach-but-strip-Greene-assignments voters are explained by integrity, specifically with locally-relevant reasons:

  • For NY-11, NY-27, NJ-04: Disgust at the 9/11 conspiracy theories

  • For CA-39: Disgust at the Jewish space laser California wildfire conspiracy theories

  • For FL-26, 27: South Florida districts disgusted at the Parkland School crisis-actor conspiracy theories

  • For PA-01: Disgust at anti-semitism among suburban Philly residents of a district with one of America's largest Jewish populations (I had no idea about this one, but this article shows that local Jewish groups had urged their representative to vote "yea")

K.C. in Portland, OR, writes: We need a new term for so-called "conspiracy theories." (Mis)use of the word "theory" here gives them unwarranted legitimacy, as it implies there is some plausible reason to consider believing them, some collection of objective evidence of their potential verity, but there is nothing of the sort. It would be better to call them something like "conspiracy fabrications" or "conspiracy propaganda" to make it clear what they really are.

Cancel Culture

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: Regarding cancel culture, I like the re-frame that Erin Ryan made on the Hysteria podcast from Crooked Media. It isn't "cancel culture," it's "consequence culture". These people can say or do what they want. And businesses don't have to associate with them. They can be barred from committee assignments. They can (and should) be ostracized. This is the consequence of doing and saying stupid things. If they want to complain about being "canceled," perhaps they could sit back and reflect on their words and actions and take some responsibility for them. I'm not holding my breath because these people have no shame.

By the way, for all the whining that the Sen. Josh Hawleys (R-MO) and Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world do about being "cancelled," I sure do see and hear a lot from them. They are hardly being silenced or cancelled. It's just more of the same victimhood from people on the right. Cry me a river.

V & Z respond: Greene is the person who wore a mask complaining about censorship while delivering a speech from the floor of the House on national television. To quote Inigo Montoya: "You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means."

J.P. in Lancaster PA, writes: I read about the My Pillow Guy (MPG) and his whining about "cancel culture." It occurs to me that he and his co-complainers would probably not do business with George Soros and any other liberals about whom they have registered complaints and dispensed invective.

The MPG could avoid the boycotts if he simply did not say in public what he says. There is, of course, freedom of speech. If people find what he says distasteful, they are also free to speak up about it and encourage boycotts of his business. Why shouldn't people refuse to do business with people they find to be dishonorable or offensive and encourage others to do the same? The First Amendment cuts both ways. The MPG could have avoided the boycotts by simply keeping his trap shut. It was his choice. If he can't do the time, he shouldn't do the crime. Next time, perhaps he should think about the potential consequences of his actions before taking them. Whining about his own bad judgment is SAD.

Once again, Trumpsters and the portion of the Republican Party that is in the thrall of the former President display their hypocrisy. Unfortunately, the MPG and his buddies do not seem to care about being hypocrites. It's almost like they wear it as a badge of honor. There is very little, if anything, that is "Grand" about the Republican Party these days.

On Ilhan

J.K. in Short Hills, NJ, writes: Given their response to Ilhan Omar's hateful comments, the Democrats do not own as much of the high ground as you claim. After the initial draft of the House resolution made exclusive mention of anti-semitism, the final version was far broader and did not single out the Congresswoman for her remarks thanks to pressure placed by the Progressive wing on party leadership. For many Jews, this was a major disappointment.

J.M. in Seattle, WA, writes: Unless there are comments I'm unaware of, most of the Ilhan Omar anti-semitism charges were based on a tweet that implied that campaign donations were a significant factor in the United States' support of Israel. Obviously that's a controversial topic and people accused her of dog whistling (and it's possible she was; who really knows?), but calling her a "bigot" and saying the comments were definitively anti-semitic seems a stretch. Her tweet was definitely poorly chosen and I might be naive, but I give her the benefit of the doubt (especially since she did express contrition and appreciation for those who reached out to educate her about the tropes; and because a lot of criticism of Israel, especially by Muslims, is reflexively categorized as anti-semitic despite significant progressive Jewish support of that criticism).

Either way, it's just not comparable to Marjorie Taylor Greene at all and I think your post drastically oversells an already-weak Republican case.


A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: I absolutely love Dave's is addictive! Can't wait for them to come up with 2020 data—probably sometime in August, I'd imagine, with the holdup in Census data drilling down to the levels Dave needs for his program to work properly.

I have done a number of different things with a NC State Senate candidate last year, I even did an article for DemCast about gerrymandering, and did two different maps for North Carolina. One resulted in 11 GOP seats and 2 Democratic seats (I thus achieved what they had been unable to do) and another in which there were 11 Democratic seats and only 2 GOP seats (three guesses which map I liked better). The point of those maps and the article was to demonstrate that it matters who draws the lines, whether a state is a red state or a blue state.

Normally, when I use Dave's site, I follow a few basic rules:

  • I use partisan data in order to try to form as many competitive Districts as possible, because I believe this is the answer to ending hyperpartisanism and gridlock in Washington. I aim for at least half the districts to be "competitive" and for Dave's purposes, that means Districts less than D+10 or R+10 (in other words, in the range of 45-55 percent for either Party).

  • I try to avoid county splits where possible. Where they are unavoidable, due to population concerns, I try to keep communities of interest in the same district. One thing you can't do with Dave's at this point is to split precincts. They can—and do—do this in real life. So you are a bit limited there.

  • I try to make each district as compact and regularly shaped as I can get, with the shortest perimeter (meaning I am going for straight lines, and as few sides as possible).

  • I try to make the population of each District no more or no less that 1,000 persons off the median.

  • I do try to manage at least one majority-minority District for every 6 or 7 districts (doing more than that tends to sabotage the competitiveness). So, a state like Pennsylvania ideally ends up with 3 such Districts, whereas North Carolina could end up with two or three, and a state like New York could end up with four or five. This gets difficult in a place like California, where you often end up with over half the Districts majority-minority no matter what you do!

Anyway, glad to see you gave Dave a shout out...his program is awesome, and it is highly addictive if you are a wonk!

Maybe you should do a contest when the new data comes in for Dave's...who can draw the most competitive state, who can draw the most compact one, who can draw the fairest one, who can draw the most Democratic-gerrymandered or the most GOP-gerrymandered state. I think it would be a ton of know I'd have some entries if you ran such a contest!

V & Z respond: Not a bad idea!

B.B. in St. Louis, MO, writes: I would suggest that your readers who want to play around with gerrymandering try the board game Mapmaker: The Gerrymandering Game, which includes Arnold Schwarzenegger among its fans.

Anyone who doesn't want to purchase a copy can play for free on

J.L. in Paterson, NJ, writes: Your list of states "already maximally gerrymandered for the blue team" includes New York. The 2010 redistricting was done when the Republicans controlled the State Senate, so the map is not a partisan gerrymander. (There was consideration for protecting incumbents of both parties.) With the Democrats now holding the trifecta, a ripe target for gerrymandering would be NY-11, the only New York City district currently represented by a Republican. The district, in Staten Island and Brooklyn, has a PVI of R+3. The three adjacent districts, NY-7, NY-9, and NY-10, are D+38, D+34, and D+26, respectively. It would be easy for a partisan gerrymander to split up NY-11 and leave no NYC district in which the GOP had a chance.

The catch is that New York, like California, has established a bipartisan redistricting commission. (One problem we Democrats have is that progressives are more likely to favor good government over ruthless partisanship.) The legislature must approve or reject the commission's plan, without amendment. If there is a rejection, the commission then gets to try again. Only if the legislature rejects two separate plans may it consider amendments. Furthermore, the reform that created the commission also enshrined in the state constitution the principle of fairness: "Districts shall not be drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents or other particular candidates or political parties." An all-out Democratic gerrymander, of the type routinely engaged in by Republicans where they have the power, might well be overturned in court.


S.T. in Philadelphia, PA, writes: "Pennsylbama"? Please! Every Pennsylvanian knows, the term is Pennsyltucky.

The only Pennsylbama is Pennsylvanians for Obama.

V & Z respond: We use "Pennsylbama" because we think the meaning is easier to infer for non-natives, since the James Carville quote is so famous.

And we thought it would be interesting to solicit geopolitical portmanteaus, whether already in use, or invented. If you have suggestions, send them in, along with a 1-2 sentence explanation of why they make sense. For example "Floridork," because half the voters are Floridians and the other half are relocated New Yorkers, or "Illianada," since the farther north you go, the colder and more liberal it gets. If we get some good responses, we'll run them in next week's mailbag.


J.G.D. in Bellevue, WA, writes: A few words about the alleged plans Canadians have to take over the U.S.: Despite displaying some serious socialist tendencies (free health care for everyone) so close to America, owning in reserve 80,000 barrels of maple syrup (a major threat to the economy of Vermont) and claiming to have within its borders the center of the universe (ask any Torontonian), so long as you do not say Canadian beer sucks at a hockey game north of the border, Americans have nothing to worry aboot, eh!

J.F. in Houston, TX, writes: You wrote: "Warnock will have to stand for reelection in 2022."

I am deeply concerned about the Canadian fifth column right here at Down here south of the 49th parallel, I believe you'll find that we "run for reelection."

54-40 or Fight!

V & Z respond: We wouldn't want to fall out of favour with you, nor to be criticised again, so let us just very politely assure you there is no fifth column, eh.

C.C. in Palo Alto, CA, writes: You wrote "Canada could be the birthplace of Elvis, The Beatles, Aretha Franklin, Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Led Zeppelin, Marvin Gaye, Pink Floyd, Nirvana, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and it still wouldn't make up for Bieber."

But there is one Canadian rocker trump card that pays for all: Neil Young.

V & Z respond: You make a compelling case.

E.H. in Washington, DC, writes: A Canadian invasion through cyberspace? For some reason, over the last couple of weeks I have been having Corner Gas show up a lot on my Amazon Echo front page.

V & Z respond: Soon your Google searches will start to produce Tim Horton's ads, and then all will be lost.

P.S. in Gloucester MA, writes: I fully concur with D.L-O. in North Canaan, CT. Curling is part of the plan for total domination.

I grew up in metro Detroit—which the Canadians think of as the northern suburbs of Windsor, Ontario.

I remember from my childhood 50-60 years ago that CKLW-TV, channel 9, broadcasting from Windsor and readily received in metro Detroit, would televise lengthy curling matches in their entirety. We kids watched not knowing we were being indoctrinated. And—ominously—some years later, erstwhile commercial, independent CKLW-TV became CBET-TV, an outlet for the quasi-governmental Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

I note further that CKLW operated a 50,000 watt clear-channel AM radio station, audible at night across most of the eastern and central US, that played Top 40 hits in the 1960s and 1970s and touted itself as the "Motown Sound"—a clear cultural appropriation if ever there was one.

Insidious. Utterly insidious.

V & Z respond: The curling thing is particularly bad for those who just don't have the stones for it.

B.F. in Chugiak, AK, writes: Donald Trump doesn't remind me of Biff Tannen. He reminds me of Greg Stillson from The Dead Zone.

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: In the moment, I had ruminated that Four Seasons Total Landscaping could just as easily have been Biff's Auto Detailing.

J.B. in Denver, CO, writes: "The Last Crusade" is the best Indy movie, ever. To wit:

  • Lots of Nazis dying
  • The action set pieces
  • The humor: "NO TICKET," "I WAS the next man," "The DOG? You are named AFTER THE DOG? AHAHAHA!," "Dad, they come through the DOOR!"

And it always was—and I'm sure it is to this day up on her cloud—my mom's favorite movie of all time, simply because Sean Connery and Harrison Ford were the only two men that my dad needed to fear having the power to steal her away. What other combination of power(s) could make a woman who was deathly afraid of any and all rodents stay through the scene in the Venetian catacombs?

"Raiders" is good, "Temple of Doom" freaks me out to this day...but not because of the whole odd way of heart surgery that cult had. Not even the monkey brain food. It was the room that they were in that had the spikes and the threat of being crushed.

That fanfic that came out in 2008-ish? Well, it gave us "nuking the fridge" as a "jumping the shark" synonym...

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb06 Saturday Q&A
Feb05 America First Couldn't Last
Feb05 Greene's New Deal
Feb05 Trump Refuses to Testify
Feb05 The Day AFTRA
Feb05 Double Trouble for Fox News
Feb05 Pence Makes His Move
Feb05 Judy, Judy, Judy...
Feb04 Schumer and McConnell Have a Deal
Feb04 Biden Is Willing to Compromise a Little on the Stimulus Checks
Feb04 The Future of the Republican Party Is Here Now
Feb04 Warren Will Join the Senate Finance Committee
Feb04 Ocasio-Cortez Is Threatening to Primary Schumer
Feb04 Senate Won't Vote on Merrick Garland's Nomination
Feb04 Bills about Voting Are All the Rage in State Legislatures
Feb04 You, Too, Can Gerrymander
Feb04 Could Ivanka Trump Beat Marco Rubio in a Primary?
Feb03 The Case of the Two Impeachment Cases
Feb03 Buttigieg and Mayorkas Confirmed
Feb03 Sanders Takes His Best Shot at $15/Hour
Feb03 Schiff Wants to be California AG
Feb03 Biden Has a Mini-Scandal
Feb03 Newsmax Boots Mike Lindell
Feb03 Lin Wood Under Investigation for Illegal Voting
Feb02 Senate Republicans Unveil COVID-19 Relief Plan, Meet with Biden
Feb02 Graham Refuses to Schedule Garland Hearing
Feb02 The GOP Civil War Is Out in the Open
Feb02 Trump Has a New Defense Team
Feb02 Why Trump Lost, According to His Own Pollster
Feb02 Donald Trump, Russian Asset
Feb02 Jockeying for the 2022 Senate Elections Is Well Underway
Feb01 Biden's First Actions Are Popular
Feb01 Republican Senators Offer Biden a "Compromise" on COVID-19 Relief
Feb01 Trump's Impeachment Lawyers Quit
Feb01 Why Did Democrats Win in Georgia and Lose in North Carolina?
Feb01 Trump Raised $255 Million after the Election
Feb01 Democrats Also Have Some Cash in the Bank
Feb01 Beware of the Gerrymander
Feb01 McDaniel Is in a Bind
Feb01 Town of Palm Beach Is Reviewing the Legality of Trump's Living at Mar-a-Lago
Feb01 Democrats Are More Popular Than Republicans in Georgia
Jan31 Sunday Mailbag
Jan30 Saturday Q&A
Jan29 McCarthy Goes to Florida to Kiss the Ring
Jan29 A House Divided against Itself Cannot Stand
Jan29 Senate News, Part I: Jordan Out
Jan29 Senate News, Part II: Rubio May Be Bulletproof
Jan29 Question Answered: It Was Trump
Jan29 Another Question Answered: It Was a Hacky Decision
Jan29 Bird Isn't the Word