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      •  Unimpeachable
      •  Sunday Mailbag


In a development roughly as unsurprising as Lucy pulling the football away, Donald Trump was acquitted in his second impeachment trial yesterday, by a vote of 57-43.

There were two interesting developments during Saturday's proceedings. The first was that the House impeachment managers had their own "send in the clowns" moment after deciding, at the last minute, that they might like to call witnesses after all. They wanted to, at very least, put Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) on the stand so she could recount details of the shouting phone call that took place between Donald Trump and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) while the insurrection was underway. McCarthy's side of that conversation made it very clear that the then-president refused to do anything to call off the rioters. The blue team also had thoughts of calling Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), and perhaps others who could speak to what Trump knew, when he knew it, and what he did (or did not do) with that information.

Anyhow, Senate Democrats gave the impeachment managers the votes that were needed, but once witnesses had been approved, nobody quite knew what to do next. Further, there was much pressure on the impeachment managers to drop the matter, including from some Democrats. Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE), in particular, warned Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) & Co. that they were at serious risk of losing some Republican votes for conviction, and possibly even some Democratic votes. In the end, an agreement was reached to read a statement from Herrera Beutler into the record, and that was that.

The second interesting development was, of course, the actual vote. In the end, seven Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for conviction. They were the original five who have consistently voted against Trump (Susan Collins, ME; Lisa Murkowski, AK; Mitt Romney, UT; Ben Sasse, NE; and Pat Toomey, PA), plus Bill Cassidy (LA), who turned against The Donald earlier this week, and, in Saturday's biggest surprise, Richard Burr (NC). Burr is retiring, so his apostasy isn't that shocking, but he had given no previous indication of his intent to vote against Trump.

Naturally, the former president is claiming total victory, since that is what he does, and since that is what any politician would do in this situation. He released a statement that reads, in part:

It is a sad commentary on our times that one political party in America is given a free pass to denigrate the rule of law, defame law enforcement, cheer mobs, excuse rioters, and transform justice into a tool of political vengeance, and persecute, blacklist, cancel and suppress all people and viewpoints with whom or which they disagree. I always have, and always will, be a champion for the unwavering rule of law, the heroes of law enforcement, and the right of Americans to peacefully and honorably debate the issues of the day without malice and without hate.

One wonders who wrote that. Certainly not Trump; you can take that to the Deutsche Bank.

In any event, Trump has two rather large problems here, even with the acquittal. The first, as we've noted multiple times, is that he is very likely to be charged criminally for his actions on Jan. 6. And the flimsy defense (in particular the shaky constitutional argument), not to mention the already-in-the-bag jury, will not save him in a federal courtroom. Reportedly, Trump is aware of this particular issue, and is quite worried about it.

We suspect he is less aware of the second problem, namely that his grip on the Republican Party is slipping badly. Indeed, he probably thinks that Saturday's victory is a sign that the GOP remains a wholly owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization. And perhaps that is true, in the short term. But it won't last. To start, seven Republican senators voted against him. Most of the rest sustained him not because they believe he is innocent, but instead because of a (contrived) jurisdictional technicality. Further, the other leader of the Republican Party, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blasted Trump in no uncertain terms on the Senate floor on Saturday. His remarks, in part:

There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day. The people who stormed this building believed they were acting on the wishes and instructions of their President. And their having that belief was a foreseeable consequence of the growing crescendo of false statements, conspiracy theories, and reckless hyperbole which the defeated President kept shouting into the largest megaphone on planet Earth.

The issue is not only the President's intemperate language on January 6th. It is not just his endorsement of remarks in which an associate urged "trial by combat." It was also the entire manufactured atmosphere of looming catastrophe; the increasingly wild myths about a reverse landslide election that was being stolen in some secret coup by our now-President.

McConnell conveniently overlooks his own culpability in not pushing back against "stop the steal" and other lies, but the fact remains that he has now publicly taken sides against Trump. So has Nikki Haley, incidentally.

In addition to losing his command over the GOP pooh-bahs, Trump's grip on the rank-and-file Republicans is in trouble, too. His brand is going to take a hit from all of this, the only question is how big. Further, his seemingly unshakable base cannot help but notice that he threw them under the bus, with his counselors presenting the insurrectionists as a wild, out-of-control mob who bear 100% of the responsibility for what happened. Some of his supporters might also notice that a few hundred of his biggest supporters are going to be spending the next few years as guests at Club Fed while he is off golfing at sunny Mar-a-Lago. That might not seem quite right to them.

So, #45 won the battle, such as it is. But the war is still ongoing, and his position is not dissimilar to that of the denizens of the Alamo on this date in 1836. The whirlwind will soon be reaped. (Z)

Sunday Mailbag

We intended to run some of the "what do you want from Trump voters?" responses this week, but decided to pause that discussion to give a palate cleanser. We'll run some next week, and a few more the week after.

Impeach This

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: I teach a litigation class at a law school and I used Bruce Castor's opening statement as a perfect example of how not to advocate for your client, particularly the part where he invites a criminal indictment against Trump as an alternative to an impeachment conviction. I've been in this business a long time and I've seen a lot of bad lawyering, but this could be the first time Trump may actually be justified in not paying his legal bills.

P.M. in Makhanda, South Africa, writes: That was remarkable. Trump's lawyers managed to increase the number of Republican Senators voting against him. Who knows if they could've pulled off the impossible and gotten him convicted if they kept going.

The Republicans now have a huge problem. The Trump carbuncle is not lanced. He is not barred from office and has a big enough war chest to primary anyone he hates. Absent a sudden implementation of an Australian-style instant runoff voting system, even a modest split in the Republican vote will hand victory to the Democrats. If Trump doesn't choke on his junk food habit before then, 2024 will be...interesting.

D.M. in McLean, Virginia, writes: The votes are in and for the second time Trump has been acquitted. I'm actually satisfied to see this result. Had Trump been convicted, there would have been no choice but for the Republicans to rally around a new candidate. With the acquittal, Trump will spend the next three to four years tearing the party apart on two fronts.

Among his allies, he will keep them guessing will he or won't he leading up to the 2024 nominations. This will keep the entire Trumpist field off balance for at least two years. Among his enemies, he is going to do everything he can to weaken them. Look for more primary challenges from the right to weaken whichever candidate comes out of the knife fights.

My only regret now is that Trump won't have his Twitter account to send tweets of death to every Republican he believes has slighted him. All I have for the Trumpist Republicans now is a wish from an old curse, may you live in interesting times.

T.B. in Waterloo, IA, writes: It's official: the Republican party that I grew up with is dead. RIP GOP.

S.S. in West Hollywood, CA, writes: Am I missing something or are we in the ultimate Catch-22 scenario?

Most Republicans in Congress won't hold Trump accountable, even when it's so obviously the patriotic and moral thing to do, because they're so afraid of the Republican base that still supports Trump.

And the Republican base still supports Trump because so few of their elected leaders will tell them the truth and hold Trump accountable, even when it's so obviously the patriotic and moral thing to do.

J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: Your response to R.W. in Sea Cliff inspired me to adapt Asimov's "Laws of Robotics." I present "The Three Laws of the Republican Senate Caucus":

  1. A Senator may not injure Donald Trump or, through inaction, cause Donald Trump to come to harm.
  2. A Senator must obey orders given to it by Donald Trump, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A Senator must protect its Senate seat, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Certainly, these laws are the only explanation for the acquittal.

P.R. in Fayetteville, NY, writes: I know that one of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's (R-KY) nicknames is the turtle, but after his impeachment maneuverings perhaps McConnell should forever go down in history as "the Weasel."

R.S. in Tonawanda, NY, writes: Breaking news: Scientists discover a Turtle that can tap dance.

C.K. in Union City, CA, writes: I move that we change the map coloring for republicans from red to yellow.

A.T. in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, writes: In my opinion, Trump's acquittal in the second impeachment may not be a bad thing for the Democrats. If he was convicted, some of the anti-Trump people may think the fight is over. They would not be as engaged in the fight against Trump and the GOP anymore. But now that the danger of Trump still remains, they are more likely to stay on to fight another day to make sure Trump and his cronies will not grab back the power. It may help the Democrats to retain the control in Congress and the White House in 2022 and 2024.

K.E. in Newport, RI, writes: I think the Senate Democrats made a huge mistake in not calling any witnesses during the impeachment trial. In the first impeachment trial, the Democrats wanted witnesses to bolster their case. Now, they are no longer under the thumb of Mitch McConnell and had the chance to run the trial as they wanted to. Sure, you could argue it would have slowed down the process while the subpoenas were litigated. But impeachment is a serious matter and it should involve a rigorous investigation.

The Senate should have subpoenaed some of Trump's White House and campaign staff, as well as people like Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) and Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD), who had recently talked to Donald Trump. A charge of incitement requires law enforcement to establish intent to cause imminent violence or a reckless disregard for that potential. Witnesses are necessary to establish the state of mind of a person charged with incitement.

Brad Raffensperger is in possession of an extremely incriminating call recording between Trump and himself. Trump had pressured Raffensperger to illegally add to Trump's vote total in Georgia to allow him to win the state. He could have been called to testify as to how irate and vindictive Trump was in the days before the speech.

Larry Hogan has stated publicly that it took two hours for the Pentagon to authorize Maryland National Guardsmen into Washington DC. Why? Donald Trump was in charge of the Pentagon at that time. Testimony like his could have been used to establish intent.

The House impeachment managers had a responsibility to make a case not only to the Senate but to the American people. They needed to make sure it was abundantly clear to all Americans exactly what happened at the Capitol on January 6 and that there should be consequences. I believe the chances of Trump being arrested in the next 12-24 months are high and Democrats can use their votes to acquit to damage Republicans politically.

G.W. in Oxnard, CA, writes: I thought I'd give this a try and see if it might work:

a screen capture showing the 
actual impeachment vote of 57-43 has been edited with a sharpie to change the vote to 67-33, and thus conviction

D.K. in Oceanside, CA, writes: In the future, such performances by defense attorneys might even be deemed Castor rated.

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: I am surprised no one is discussing the indictment of Stormy Daniels by a Nevada federal grand jury in the wake of her podcast with Michael Cohen, in which she discussed her affair with Donald Trump at his Lake Tahoe property.

The charge is inciting an inch erection.

V & Z respond: D.K. and R.E.M., didn't anyone tell you that puns are the lowest form of humor?

TrumpWatch 2021

S.S. in Detroit, MI, writes: This morning the sun was shining, I just figured out my tax refund, I feel like my government is in reasonably competent hands, and I no longer feel a Malignant Shadow of Impending Doom hanging over me, as it has these last 4 years. I just got my first dose of vaccine. Plus, I qualified for another stimulus check—excellent! While in such a benevolent mood, I thought I would extend my thanks to the essential workers in low-prestige jobs who have made my survival possible, in dangerous conditions, and for mostly low wages. A shout out to PM and his fellow wheelmen for bringing us all the stuff we needed. Thanks also to you EV-ites for thought-provoking commentary and mirth-inducing badinage.

I will now take this opportunity to celebrate the high points and major accomplishments of the 45th president, to wit:

  • He sent me and pretty much everyone I know a couple checks.

  • He named a post office after Aretha Franklin.

  • He commuted the sentence of (former Detroit mayor) Kwame Kilpatrick to the 7 years served. He needed to go to jail, but 28 years was pretty harsh. If he were a white Democrat, I doubt he would have gotten even 7 years. If he was a white Republican, he would have been in line for a cabinet post.

  • He approved the construction of the Gordie Howe International Bridge; (Generously paid for in full by our Canadian neighbours. Perhaps more about their dark motivations in future posts).

  • And yes, Thank you Jeeezus! He actually left. Bye!

If I missed any, I know I can count on my comrades to amend the list.

And the often bizarre impeachment trial is over. Seven Republicans votes is better than I expected. Mitch McConnell's self-serving soliloquy looks like it will generate some soul searching in the GOP. Followed by a frenzy of fratricide. May you live in interesting times!

J.K. in Freehold, NJ , writes: I still keep hearing about the great job Donald Trump did with the economy. Take a look at 2019, though—a year when Trump's economic policies had the time to take full effect, also entirely before COVID-19. The GDP increase was 2.3%, an amount declared to be "carnage" pre-Trump, but somehow the "greatest in history" under Trump? Also, the budget deficit Trump inherited of $500 billion was doubled to $1 trillion in 2019, again, in the "greatest economy in history". I feel that all aspects of the media ( too, perhaps?) have dropped the ball here in the one area I keep hearing was Trump's "greatest" accomplishment.

V & Z respond: We can't speak for others, but our position has consistently been: (1) Presidents in general receive too much credit/blame for the economy; (2) Trump consistently took credit for trends that clearly began under Barack Obama, and that Trump had little to do with; (3) facts 1 and 2 notwithstanding, many voters think Trump delivered a good economy, and that thought is what matters when it comes time to cast ballots.

J.W. in West Chester, PA, writes: As a moderate Republican, I hope that we as a nation can move on. Now that Donald Trump has been acquitted, hopefully both parties can please move on to more pressing priorities like getting more of the vaccine out to Americans. Enough is enough. The Democrats would have been better served to censure the former president, let someone criminally prosecute him, and then invoke the 14th amendment should he have been found guilty. Should they pursue the 14th amendment now it will look like a partisan witch hunt and be a losing issue for them.

Party Shifts

D.E.H. in Denver, CO, writes: I was a registered Republican who changed my voter registration last week. This was the letter I sent to the senior Republican Party leaders this week:

I am writing to you today to urge you to vote a guilty verdict to impeach former President Trump. I am a citizen, a voter and a lifelong Republican voter until last week when I changed my voter registration due to my complete disgust at the Republican Party and the members of it to completely and utterly disregard the oaths you have sworn to uphold the Constitution. As a voter I expect my elected representatives to put country over party. I expect my elected representatives to stand up to tyranny, not to cave to it out of political fear of reprisals from those very tyrants you have sworn to protect the citizens from. We have the luxury of an impeachment trial ONLY because the insurrection was not successful. What signal do you give other than condoning such actions as we saw on January 6th if you vote to acquit? My greatest fear is that the next time, God forbid, that such an insurrection is successful we will not have the luxury to hold such a trial as you are currently conducting. Though I personally align more with traditional conservative policy than liberal policy, such policy is worthless if we lose our country and our democracy. The evidence of guilt is overwhelming, the evidence is damning, the evidence is unequivocal. To vote any vote but guilty is to disregard your sworn duty or it is to suggest that I and my fellow citizens are completely ignorant and would simply move on from this. We are not ignorant, and I will not forget an acquittal for which I remember the rest of my life. My previous votes up and down ballot for "R" will forever be replaced. My children and my grandchildren will be taught that Republicans are the party of insurrectionists who do not honor our constitution or respect its own citizens. I urge you to vote to convict to not only save the party but to show the country and the world we hold those who would seek to destroy our country from within accountable and stand for what is right.

S.P. in Fort Worth, TX, writes: Your item about bank lending drives home yet again why I left the Republican party in 2004. Here we have the Republicans engaged in rule-making that dictates who and under what conditions private institutions can lend. Only this time they are mandating that the loans generally be made if they are economically viable and would in essence force lenders to enter into commercial transactions. In the Republican party that I knew, this kind of government-forced commerce would have been unthinkable. Principles of the free market dictated that if one private sector institution didn't want to lend for whatever reason, companies could find others who would.

These developments are particularly jarring and hypocritical coming from a party that still supposedly champions money and financial transactions as a hallowed and constitutionally protected form of free speech. The cynical observer may increasingly conclude that this economic libertarianism only applies when checks are being written to PACs and foundations.

Say what one wants about modern Democrats, but their preferred tactic of using collective shareholder and customer pressure to shape corporate actions at least keeps with free market principles.

J.N. in Renton, WA, writes: I love that you are so gleeful after the election. I was a strong Democrat, too, leading up to this election. I donated $10,000, 100% to Democrats in the last 10 years.

But I supported Democrats because they were the party that helped out those in need. Now they are the party that hates the rich and I'm done. And I'm in WA-08, which is Kim Schrier's district. I can tell you I'm not voting for her, I'm voting Republican for the first time in my life.

Democrats have two years and they lose the House for sure. People will take the bribe money, but they won't care when it's time to vote in 2022. The people in moderate districts see where this party is headed and it's not towards fiscal moderation or balance. It's towards class warfare. My money is going to Jamie Herrera Beutler in WA-03 and Dan Newhouse in WA-04. These are old school Republicans who hate racism but also hate the class warfare of Reddit users railing against the "perceived" rich, and Democrats who pick 15% of Americans and label them as evil.

Controversial Congresswomen

J.O. in Lynchburg, VA, writes: In your item on Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), you wrote: "As a gun-toting high school dropout who had a child out of wedlock as a teenager and whose mother was on welfare when she was a child, Boebert is a paragon of virtue, as Republicans understand that concept (except maybe for her arrest for underage drinking, disorderly conduct, failure to appear in court, and operating an unsafe motor vehicle)."

It is really wrong to take the first three items and note that she is a "paragon of virtue" since high school actions and (most importantly) her mother's financial standing are not usually disqualifiers for virtue in adults. It isn't helpful to note these rather misogynist improprieties here, especially when she has so many failings as an adult to choose from.

D.C in Myersville, MD, writes: Come on guys. There's plenty to criticize, but that quote's not even coastal-elite, it's just a cheap shot at a (former) teenager.

V & Z respond: You seem to have missed our point, J.O. and D.C. We were not criticizing Boebert here, we were pointing out that Republicans have lamented those things in Democrats and Americans in general (particularly Black ones), but they suddenly cease to be a problem when it's a Republican.

M.F. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: You wrote: "The Republican leadership really doesn't want [Rep. Sean] Maloney [D-NY] to make [Rep. Marjorie Taylor] Greene [R-GA] and her ilk the face of the Republican Party in every swing district".

The Democrats have nothing to do with Greene's rise to "face of the GOP" status. Republicans have done that themselves by voting 95%-5% to tolerate (or in many cases explicitly endorse) her toxic and abusive lies. When asked if she represents their party, they said "yes."

M.L. in San Diego, CA , writes:

Jim Jordan may be rude and mean
But he's not as bad as Marjorie Greene
She got no soul and her mind is gone
She believes in Trump and Q-Anon
For a woman like her there's one solution
She's gotta end up in an institution
For she's caught the virus, has Marjorie Greene
No, not the Covid—but DJT '16

V & Z respond: There once was a conspiracy theorist from Nantucket...

R.W. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Yes, J.M. in Seattle, you are indeed unaware of the extent of Rep. Ilhan Omar's (DFL-MN) antisemitism. Please consider reading this article, which notes that she was voted "Antisemite of the Year" in 2019 and explains why. Spoiler: She has made several antisemitic comments, not just the one you mention; she supports BDS; and she has compared Israelis to Nazis.

The Age of Biden

M.M. in Sheffield, UK, writes: There is an observation I would like to share: Much has been made of Joe Biden's age. Personally, I am not terribly fussed by this. As advances in medical science extend life expectancy, this is unsurprising. Ronald Reagan set the "oldest person to become President" record when I was a child. Donald Trump took that record from him four short years ago. And now Joe Biden takes it from Trump.

What I find more surprising is that Joe Biden is the first U.S. President born as part of the so-called "Silent Generation" (1928-45). Our past four presidents have all been Baby Boomers (1946-64), and the seven before them were from the "Greatest Generation" (1901-27). There was an odd jump between George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, skipping 22 years and—in the process—an entire generation.

I find myself wondering if this sort of thing has happened before, and if it will happen again. The oldest Millennials (1982-99) will reach their 40s during Biden's first term; it wouldn't be too shocking to see the torch pass to a rising Millennial star—someone like Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg—in a few years, bypassing the Generation X cohort entirely. Or, at very least, until some of my fellow Gen Xers are in their late 70s.

Just the Vax, Ma'am

T.B. in St. Paul, MN, writes: This comment is regarding your item "Biden Administration Grapples with COVID-19." You note that 54% of Americans are either on the fence about or saying "no way" to the COVID-19 vaccines. You refer to this group as "anti-vaxxers." I would remark that caution about taking this vaccine is in no way similar to the traditional anti-vaxxer movement. The FDA has only granted Emergency Use Authorizations (EUAs) for the mRNA vaccines, but not full approval. Results so far from the Moderna/NIAID vaccine Phase III trial were just published 9 days ago in The New England Journal of Medicine. The Pfizer trial was published last December. While the trials' analyses are of high quality, the median follow-up reported in that trial so far is only 2 months, which demonstrates acute safety and efficacy of the vaccine, but not chronic safety or efficacy. The Sputnik V vaccine results have been published in The Lancet, and the follow-up in that trial is even shorter. I also have happened to find one mathematical error so far in the Lancet publication of Sputnik V. Notably, these trials excluded the pediatric population, those who have had a Covid-19 infection, those taking immunosuppressants, those who are immunocompromised. Therefore, people in these groups should not receive the vaccine, based on current evidence.

I am a professional biostatistician, who graduated with a Ph.D. from the University of Washington School of Public Health, with 20 years of experience working in HIV, cancer, cardiology, and malaria trials. I would not encourage vaccination for myself or my friends who are in lower risk groups until we have some publications in major medical journals and/or publicly available reports with detailed statistical analysis of safety and efficacy outcomes out to at least 6 months, preferably longer. Since the Moderna/NIH trial enrollment ended last fall, it is not unreasonable to expect this level of evidence in the May/June timeframe. Dr. Anthony Fauci's word that I should get vaccinated is not enough for me to be convinced, nor should it be. Remember that Dr. Fauci, as an academic, is deeply concerned about his reputation and his legacy, and therefore has a vested interest in ensuring that the Moderna/NIH vaccine is seen as successful. That doesn't mean that he is wrong, it just means that he may not be entirely impartial in his assessment of the vaccine's performance. We need to see the hard evidence published, as would be expected for any new therapy or vaccine, especially if hundreds of millions of people will be exposed to it. We also need to remember that the mRNA vaccine technology is entirely novel, and the first time it is being tested is during a global emergency. Traditionally, a novel vaccine technology would require meeting a higher standard of clinical evidence, typically years of data from clinical studies. It is understandable, but not necessarily wise, that we have lowered the bar for this new coronavirus.

D.R. in Yellow Springs, OH, writes: You've mentioned a number of times that the Biden administration doesn't seem to have a plan in place for getting people who are reluctant to accept vaccines to get them. I'd hazard a guess that they've been discussing it informally and they have some good ideas that they haven't made public. But I'd like to share my own ideas on the subject.

The first thing they should do is pay money to everyone who's been vaccinated and to give a check to the newly vaccinated as soon as they get the second shot. Something like $500 would win over a lot of people who are on the fence about this. It won't do a thing for the hardcore anti-vaxxers, but it makes sense to go after the folks on the fence first.

After that, it's time to get more aggressive. Congress would be wise to change the tax code to impose a 5% payroll tax on employees who aren't vaccinated against anything that the federal government has declared to be enough of a public health threat that the federal government will pay for the vaccine. People would only be charged this tax if they had a reasonable chance to avoid it—say, 30 days of availability with appointments needed no more than 72 hours in advance. Then we could add to that a payroll tax that employers would pay, of 10% or so, on all the unvaccinated people, but only if they have more than 50 total employees. Most employers would tell their workers that they need to get the vaccine as a condition of employment. Exempting small businesses from this would make it so it's still possible for people with a religious objection or something similar to avoid the vaccine.

Also, they could impose a tax on landlords who sign new leases or who extend leases to unvaccinated tenants. It's safe to say that most landlords would tell their tenants that they need to get vaccinated to stay there.

This wouldn't get everyone vaccinated. Self-employed people and retired homeowners wouldn't be affected. But it would get the vast majority, and that's enough to build up herd immunity.

Maybe the Biden administration has better ideas, but this is at least one way it could be done.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: I am not a lawyer, but I don't think tying the ability to get a driver's license to having been vaccinated would fly. But you could see airlines, restaurants and other places refuse service to non-vaccinated people. Of course, that means everyone who got vaccinated would need to have some sort of proof, like an ID Card that says they were vaccinated. Then you might see an entire black-market cottage industry open up issuing fake cards.

I really think the best approach will be the suggestion you made about a special tax rebate for having gotten vaccinated...but that only works if the vaccine is in fact available for everyone to get. The way it has been going so far, I am wondering if the vaccine will ever be available for me. Every time I think my turn is coming, another special group is identified and put into line ahead of me, as if those like me with pre-existing conditions don't matter even though we are the ones most likely to die if we get COVID.

I understand and support the prioritization of health care workers. After all, they are exposed every day, and they are the ones we need to treat us if we get sick. But when you start seeing BS like Amazon chiming in that they will help deliver vaccines, but only if their 800,000 employees are prioritized...well, let's just be polite here and say I am about ready to spit nails!

Now, were I Joe Biden, my response would have been: "Okay, Amazon, here is how it will be. I am going to invoke the Defense Production Act. You will help deliver the vaccines for us and your 800,000 employees will be vaccinated...when it is their turn to be vaccinated! How do you like them apples, Amazon?"

As to everyone being able to get vaccinated by July...look, I am a Democrat...but I'll believe it when I finally get a needle in my arm, okay?

A.B. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: I shaved the bottom half of my head into a fauxhawk last September because running around the pharmacy wearing a mask and face shield is freakin hot. I'm a drugstore pharmacist and administered more than 50 flu shots per day last fall in addition to the usual prescription processing. We became quite efficient with immunization workflow. The feds stepped in and decreed that certified technicians be allowed to train to administer COVID-19 vaccinations even if the state board only allows pharmacists to immunize. Tonight I came home from my 12-hour shift where our team administered 66 Covid vaccinations out of 6 Moderna multi-dose vials for 60 scheduled appointments. Not a single patient missed their appointment, and we finished ahead of schedule because people were willing to come in early. This was our first shot allotment and therefore first day administering it.

Meanwhile, you characterized the pharmacy vaccine rollout as a fiasco before our first COVID clinic day had even started. Can you at least give us a chance to get up and running with COVID vaccinations before totally dogging us? Your description doesn't match my lived experience. Today was much easier than last fall's flu season, because my technician could immunize, and thus lighten the load on me, making the whole pharmacy run more smoothly. Stop being so pessimistic. We could be giving many more COVID vaccinations if only we had the supply.

M.W. in Richmond, VA, writes: As a follow-up to your Friday item about the COVID vaccine fiasco unfolding at CVS (and other drug stores), here's on-the-ground report about the botched CVS vaccine rollout in Virginia.

The CVS data is on a different platform than the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) data, so CVS has no access to who did or did not register with VDH. Even though the public announcement was that vaccination appointments could not be made until Thursday Feb. 11, CVS tipped off local health departments that appointments could be made as early as Tuesday Feb. 9. Some (but not all) of the local health departments then tipped off people who had registered with VDH, who snatched up appointments. People also were allowed to make appointments clear across the state. One resident of Henrico County, a Richmond suburb, took a vaccination appointment in Abingdon near the Tennessee border 300 miles away. Despite large numbers of registrations with VDH (63,000 in Richmond and Henrico alone), CVS made appointments for anyone 65 or older whether or not registered with VDH. CVS now says no more appointments will be made until they receive more vaccines the week of Feb. 14-20, but they say they do not know when that will be. CVS could not have rolled this out in a worse possible manner.

M.G. in Montreal, Quebec, writes: (Z) wrote that "it's certainly possible—perhaps even likely—that Canadian saboteurs are behind the American drug stores' woes."

Canadian here and must call BS on that. It's pure conjecture. Look at how West Virginia is leading the pack in the vaccine rollout using a network of independent community pharmacies. And it's paying off big time.

Now on to our woes. We have a wholly incompetent federal (Trudeau) administration that didn't properly negotiate with the vaccine makers. Only the quantity of doses was negotiated and not the timeline of delivery. In other words, Moderna and Pfizer (and others, once approved by Health Canada) will ship us the amount agreed to...eventually. There are members of my family who are north of 70 (including one north of 100) who haven't a clue as to when they'll be getting their first jab. They should have received it weeks ago. And myself, an immunocompromised GenX-er, I'm starting to think it won't be until 2022 for my turn.

Canada is currently 38th in the world in terms of percentage of population vaccinated. Trudeau put on a spectacular clinic in how to over-promise and under-deliver. It's an absolute s**t sandwich and not how a G7 country should be performing.

Best Laws

J.B. in San Francisco, CA, writes: Given the care and precision you have taken with caveats and definitions for other lists (e.g., music), I was surprised by your choice to respond matter-of-factly to the question from F.S. in Cologne with your opinion of a list of 10 "best" laws passed by Congress.

To "be best" (if you'll pardon my co-opting of the phrase), I'm thinking the law in question should have demonstrably benefited a historic proportion of the populace, while also minimizing the often inevitable trade-offs to those that may have been harmed in some way. Many of the laws on your list indeed cross that bar, and for some laws, I admit that may be a challenging calculus to discern. But for sweeping land grabs that codified treating native first peoples as less than human, it is not.

V & Z respond: We meant to write an introductory note to that answer, and then forgot to go back and do it. However, our three organizing principles were: (1) Bills that laid the groundwork for a Constitutional Amendment don't count, since they do not become law solely on Congress' authority; (2) Only one bill from groups of similar, largely contemporaneous bills (like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965); and (3) What happened with the Natives was complicated, and cannot be attributed solely to the various land-grant bills.

J.H. in Seattle, WA, writes: Question: You listed the GI Bill of Rights as the third best law. Yet it was helpful to very few African American GIs, who were systematically barred from using it. This was a big factor in expanding racial inequity in the post-war years. Should this knock the bill down a few rungs?

V & Z respond: A fair point, though the bill is still in effect (with updates), meaning we've had considerably more years of fair implementation than unfair implementation.

J.B. in Hutto, TX, writes: I believe the Morrill Act of 1862 deserves a place on the list of the ten greatest laws passed by Congress. Championed by Senator Justin Morrill of Vermont (one of the most underappreciated of American statesmen), it mandated federal support for the creation of agricultural colleges in every state. The purpose was to allow citizens of all levels access to meaningful higher education. Many of today's most prestigious colleges and universities were created by this system, such as Michigan State, Texas A&M, the University of Arizona, and dozens of others. It was a powerful tool in the creation of a strong American middle class.

W.P. in West Brookfield, MA, writes: Regarding the list of ten best laws passed by Congress, I would have put the passage of the 13th Amendment to eliminate slavery as the absolute #1 best law ever passed by Congress. Slavery was a hideous and barbaric institution that literally tore our country apart. What am I missing here?

C.J. in Hawthorne, CA, writes: As far as ten best laws passed by Congress, one regarding the formation of National Parks should be on there, whether that is the Yosemite Grant of 1864 (the nascent steps toward the idea), the 1872 Act of Dedication creating Yellowstone, or the Organic Act of 1916 which birthed the National Park Service—you can decide. We were the first nation to create national parks and in the years since, that simple germ of an idea has flowered across the globe.

L.R.H. in Oakland, CA, writes: It's a great group of laws you cite, but one thing I noticed is that they all predate 1980, which says nothing good about our ability to get things done.

I would like to propose the following, which together have had an enormous impact on the environment: the Clean Air Act of 1970, the Clean Water Act of 1963, and the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

I'm a second-generation Nixon hater, but I gotta give him credit for signing two of the laws above and for the EPA. I'm not good at ranking things, but these might push the Pacific Railroad Act off the list.

J.M.R. in Chappaqua, NY, writes: Given your own statement that the Homestead Act (and you could probably make a similar argument with the Northwest Ordinance and Pacific Railroad Act) was "at the expense of the natives," I have a hard time seeing it listed. I would suggest replacing it with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

J.Y. in Natick, MA, writes: Another interesting bill is the High Performance Computing Act of 1991, which led to the development of the Mosaic browser and the boom in the public Internet in the 90s.

V & Z respond: Also known as the Gore Bill.

K.C. in Dallas, TX, writes: I would have put the Affordable Care Act of 2010 somewhere in the bottom half of the top 10 list. If a public option had been included, I would have placed it closer to the top of the list.


H.B. in Portland, OR, writes: You came out strongly against electronic voting. I have the opposite opinion, partly because as a military member, my state already allows me to vote electronically—by filling out a ballot online, then if I cannot print and reliably mail it in time, by scanning and e-mailing it. Admittedly, early-stage electronic voting.

I have a strong feeling that future electronic voting will be powered by blockchain technology. Blockchain's public ledger makes it effectively unhackable, as well as making all votes ("transactions") publicly verifiable. I find this far more reliable than trusting ancient voting machines, proprietary software, and stacks of paper ballots which are susceptible to fire, flooding, and theft. I foresee a future transition period where people can choose between voting on a personal device wherever and whenever (during a voting window) they choose, or coming to a polling center to vote on a device there; all powered by blockchain.

D.S. in Palo Alto, CA, writes: I do think there may be a way to use digital signatures, at least as a voter option, to reduce the claims about invalid signatures on mail-in paper ballots. I've been working on a mechanism that I think would work, and will check it with Matt Blaze or somebody. It would be much easier if the use of true digital signatures were more widespread. Unfortunately, the most widespread version requires certificates that cost money.

V & Z respond: They also required a complicated public key infrastructure that doesn't exist and would be difficult to build. In addition, almost nobody but a handful of mathematicians would understand how the system works, which would undermine confidence in voting. After checking with Matt Blaze, please check with David Dill as well.

How About Pennsylbamucky?

T.E.G. in Hector, NY, writes: Maybe I just need to stop reading the Sunday mailbag.

You wrote to S.T. in Philly (and I can't believe I am in full agreement with a likely Eagles fan) that "We use 'Pennsylbama' because we think the meaning is easier to infer for non-natives, since the James Carville quote is so famous," conveniently overlooking: (1) the fact that "Pennsylbama" does not come from James Carville's quote, and (2) the whole substance of the term "Pennsyltucky."

While there are differences between Pennsylvania and Kentucky, "Pennsyltucky" acknowledges numerous long standing similarities and ties between the two states (particularly much of their rural parts):

  • Geographic: Ohio River Valley, Appalachian Plateau and Ridge and Valley regions
  • Economic: subsistence farming, coal industry
  • Agricultural: widespread, mixed-crop agriculture
  • Historic: Ohio River traffic and trade, Cumberland/National Road, ethnic settlement patterns, Union alignment during the Civil War, etc.

Meanwhile, as S.T. attests, the term is and has been widely used by Pennsylvanians. It's usually used in a humorous/self-deprecating way by actual Pennsyltuckians, but at times more snidely by some Philthydelphians or former rustics who moved away and cultivated a disdain for their rural roots. It is likewise well-known throughout the Appalachian region and even has a Wikipedia entry. And I'd take a gander that just about any rural denizen east of the Mississippi, and probably a fair ways beyond, can grasp its aptness regardless of education level, socioeconomic class, or political affiliation.

As to Pennsylbama...ummm, both states are fairly rural? They are both east of the Mississippi River? One has a lot of NRA members and the other is adjacent to another state that does too? They both have four syllables and end in the letter 'a'? Even the Internet is stumped on this one; the term turns up a few random blog entries and the Pennsyltucky Wikipedia entry.

Oh! But a southern celebrity political consultant once disparagingly mentioned the both of them in a sentence, which later became widely misquoted in a way that some 'non-natives' apparently found clever.

Anyone who thinks they are inferring anything meaningful from the phrase 'Pennsylbama' is, to quote my granddaddy, "so clueless they don't even know how oblivious they are."

S.T., late of Philadelphia, PA, writes: Here are my suggested portmanteaus, in response to last week's request:

Puebladelphia (the neighborhood in South Philly where folks from Puebla, Mexico tend to settle in)

Oakladelphians (Philly natives who relocate to Oakland, CA—there are a lot!)

If you get beyond portmanteaus that are solely geographic, you might be living in "Illadelphia," "Killadelphia," or "Chilladelphia," depending on your state of mind and circumstances that day.

If I wanted to be mean, I could talk about Arizombies and Floridummies, but let's not. Instead, we could coin "New-braskans"—people who move from urban states to rural states like Nebraska in search of cheaper housing and more open space.

Sadly, with the rate of infections, I've got no word for the Dakotas but North and South DaCOVID.

T.G. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: Minnekota—the further west you go, the more desolate and red the state becomes.

P.A. in Redwood City, CA, writes: Calibraska, because once you get away from the coast, California is mostly indistinguishable from any state with a farm-based economy.

A.R.S. in West Chester, PA, writes: How about Californication since so many things about the state are fu**ed up!

V & Z respond: A TV show and the Red Hot Chili Peppers already beat you to it.

F.D. in Portland, OR, writes: In certain blue enclaves in Montana, the state is snarkily referred to as Montucky, I believe for its overwhelmingly rural and gun-loving majority. And in Bozeman, which has been overrun by wealthy Californians, the city is often referred to as Boz Angeles.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: "Berkeley East" is Austin, Texas. This goes back 50 years (to when all Texans were Democrats) and refers to their similarity as homes to their namesake state universities and how Austin was/is a bubble of liberal thought in an otherwise conservative state.

What the Fricative?

K.F. in Framingham, MA, writes: As a speech-language pathologist, I took special interest in your analysis of the initials AOC as compared to MTG. You pointed out that AOC is easier to say due to its lack of a plosive letter while MTG includes two. Oddly, you mentioned that the /m/ was one of those plosive sounds, but the manner of the /m/ is nasal, not a plosive. There are plosives (/p/ and /b/) that share the same place (bilabial) as the /m/, but the /m/ is not a plosive. You are correct that the velar /g/ sound is indeed a plosive, but when articulating the letters in the initials, the /g/ is actually an alveolar fricative (like "j"). So the only true plosive in the initials MTG is the /t/, as that is the one sound that requires a full vocal stop. The initials AOC are still easier because they contain no plosives. When examining the full names, AOC's name includes at least 4 plosive sounds and Greene's name includes just two, so it makes sense that saying Greene's full name would be easier to say than AOC's full name. That said, sooner or later it won't matter, as hopefully Greene is either tossed out or voted out next time.

As for certain presidents being known for their initials, that has always fascinated me, too. What's in a name, right? Eisenhower had a particularly long name, but I don't think anyone called him DDE, though they did like "Ike," so that worked out fine. LBJ didn't have the longest or most complicated name, yet he is often known by his initials. I also doubt we will come to know President Joe Biden as JRB or a possible President Kamala Harris as KDH, but you never know. Yet if Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) ever ascends to the Oval Office, AJK would have a nice ring to it, especially as all three letters rhyme with one another.

V & Z respond: We ran that answer by an expert, but there was (ironically) some miscommunication about the letters, and so we went back and cleaned it up. As you agree, the basic point that AOC is easier to say than MTG stands, we just gave MTG one more plosive than she was entitled to. As to Johnson, the problem is that his name is so generic that it has to have the first name appended. And 'Roosevelt,' 'Lyndon Johnson,' 'Kennedy,' and 'Eisenhower' were all very difficult to squeeze into headlines, hence the initials.

Presidential Pets

F.L. in Denton, TX, writes: I'm surprised the list of White House pets did not include Rebecca Raccoon.

She was a gift to the Coolidge family from Mississippi, intended to be on the menu for Thanksgiving dinner! Fortunately, she was given a pardon.

M.S. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: I loved your piece on presidential pets, but since I wrote a children's book, Who Named Their Pony Macaroni? Poems about White House Pets, I feel I must correct one thing. If, by "rock star," you mean celebrity, then Bill Clinton's Socks wasn't the first. Harding's Airedale Laddie Boy. was. He was painted, photographed, and featured at many events and he sat in his own chair at cabinet meetings. When Harding, a former newspaperman, died, newsboys collected 19,134 pennies that were melted down and sculpted into a statue of the dog.

As far as "writing books" goes, George H.W. Bush's Millie did that before Socks.

B.C. in Edina, MN, writes: I think the ranking might be missing a presidential pet. You wrote that Bill Clinton's "Socks" was the first "rock star" pet, but I disagree.

Gerald Ford had a golden retriever named "Liberty," and my 15 year old self wrote a letter to him (the dog). The White House sent back the attached photo. Ford also auto-penned it, so there's that, but I totally appreciated it for the dog, since I wrote to the dog, not to the President:

A photo of Gerald Ford in the
Oval Office, Liberty the dog on the floor with a paw print in black and Ford's signature in blue

How many "paw-tographed" photos are there of Truman's dog, I ask?

About the Site

S.M. in Maple Plain, MN, writes: A very quick note to say I never thought I would find myself wishing that my favorite political blog had a breaking news feature!

V & Z respond: On election days we do!

J.L. in Paterson, NJ, writes: I appreciate your being willing to pat yourselves on the back to give the readers an insight into the site's workings. I agree that you demonstrate an impressive breadth of knowledge. In addition, however, some credit should be given to the community of readers that you have created over the years. MikeBradyGate is just one example.

V & Z respond: Excellent point.


F.F. in Shanghai, China, writes: I'm surprised that more people aren't aware of the creeping Canadian infiltration of the "Great American pastime," major league baseball. Not only did the people of Montreal get the first foreign MLB franchise (the Montreal Expos) but at one time Canada had two teams (Montreal Expos, Toronto Blue Jays) when many important states (Hawaii, Oregon, Iowa, Virginia, etc.) had none at all.

I will also note that the national flag of Canada is red and white. It doesn't take much looking to find out that the team colors of many important major league teams are also red and white. It looks like creeping Canadianism has infected teams such as the Cincinnati Reds, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the Philadelphia Phillies, not to mention numerous minor league teams.

Finally, we should consider what has happened to the Montreal Expos. In perhaps the epitome of false-flag gambits, they left their northern home and moved to our nation's capital, Washington DC! They now call themselves the "Nationals," of all things! Only the truly gullible will be fooled.

The next thing you know they will be claiming that some Canadian guy invented the telephone!

V & Z respond: Or that a Canadian invented basketball.

D.H. in Lisbon Falls, ME, writes: The Super Bowl performance by The Weeknd (nee Abel Tesfaye) was clearly another attempt by Canada to attack our American senses. It was obvious that the Canadian singer, using red-suited warriors with bandages on their faces during their confused dance sequence was playing homage to the 1838 Battle of Caribou.

Alas, he left out the black bears to further abuse us.

V & Z respond: And to think that people believe "exit, pursued by a bear" is only a stage direction in Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale."

K.H. in Ypsilanti, MI, writes: As a Michigander, I typically choose a Labatt or Molson's over the offerings from BudMillCoor on the infrequent occasions I'm in the mood for a light lager (not to be confused with a light beer). However, after twice being suckered by Alexander Keith's "IPA" (sic) on separate trips across the border, I can empathize with those who might yell "Canadian beer sucks!" at hockey games, regardless of J.G.D. in Bellevue's warnings.

J.R.K. in Lake Forest Park, WA, writes: I suspect you are familiar with this volume, but thought perhaps some of your readers might like to know of it:

A book entitled 'The War of 1812 against the United States; heroes of a great Canadian victory

V & Z respond: Propaganda! Or, should we say, Propagand-eh?

M.O. in Copenhagen, Denmark, writes: It's not only the U.S. The Canadians seem to have world domination in their sights; we Danes have been fighting back their attempted invasions for the last 35+ years.

J.F. in Jersey Village, TX, writes: You wrote: "We wouldn't want to fall out of favour with you, nor to be criticised again."

About 15 years ago, I was sitting in a conference room with the brain trust of the Human Genome Sequencing Center of Baylor College of Medicine reviewing some slides prepared for an NIH site visit, and saw the word "colour" used. Although I would normally have called it out, I looked around the room and observed that of the two dozen persons in the room, only perhaps 4 had "learnt" the correct way to spell "color," the rest hailing from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., India, and China.

I love this world. It's great to be allowed to talk to the rest of it again.

J.E. in Bellevue, WA, writes: You wrote that you lack a crystal ball. But I've encountered this page on your site several times. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say you don't have a working one?

A screen capture of the
crystal ball that we show if someone tries to visit a day's posting that hasn't been written yet

J.F. in Sloatsburg, NY, writes: You do have a crystal ball! It just always seems to be down every time I try to get tomorrow's news today!

If you wish to contact us, please use one of these addresses. For the first two, please include your initials and city.

To download a poster about the site to hang up, please click here.

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb13 The Defense Rests
Feb13 Saturday Q&A
Feb12 Send in the Clowns
Feb12 What's Next for the Republicans?
Feb12 It Will Be a Taxing Year for Trump
Feb12 Former Republican Officials Consider Forming Center-Right Party
Feb12 Biden Administration Grapples with COVID-19
Feb12 Biden Administration Also Grapples with Clemency
Feb12 Diplomatic Unity?
Feb11 The Impeachment of Donald J. Trump, A Tragedy in Three Acts
Feb11 Atlanta DA Has Opened a Criminal Investigation of Trump's Call to Raffensperger
Feb11 Senate Judiciary Committee Will Hold a Hearing on Merrick Garland Feb. 22-23
Feb11 Poll: Huge Majority Wants COVID-19 Relief Bill to Pass
Feb11 Biden Can Now Find Out What Trump Said to Putin
Feb11 Republicans See Themselves as the Party of the Working Class
Feb11 How the Republicans Plan to Win Back the House
Feb11 Nearly 140,000 Voters Left the Republican Party in January
Feb11 "Trump in Heels" Frustrates Virginia Republicans
Feb11 Politics Makes for Strange Bedfellows
Feb10 There's a Right Way and a Wrong Way...
Feb10 Lessons Learned
Feb10 Good News, Bad News for Fans of a $15/hour Minimum Wage
Feb10 Biden's Getting His Cabinet, Slowly but Surely
Feb10 Democrats Focus on the Suburbs
Feb10 Presidents' Best Friends
Feb10 About Those 1980s Movies...
Feb09 Deja Vu All Over Again
Feb09 Parscale Suggests Trump Run as Martyr in 2024
Feb09 Raffensperger's Office Launches Investigation into Trump Phone Call
Feb09 No DeJoy in Mudville (at Least, Not Yet)
Feb09 Red-colored Sharks Are Circling Newsom
Feb09 Fetterman Throws His (Sizable) Hat into the Ring
Feb09 Rep. Ron Wright Succumbs to COVID-19
Feb08 Key Questions about Trump's Trial
Feb08 The Trial Could Be a Public Relations Disaster for the Republicans
Feb08 No More Dog Whistles
Feb08 Biden Doesn't Think the $15/hr Minimum Wage Will Be Allowed in the COVID Bill
Feb08 Trump Won't Get Intelligence Briefings
Feb08 Fox Is Worried
Feb08 "You Probably Haven't Heard of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson"
Feb08 Report: Shelby Won't Run in 2022
Feb08 Boebert Has Three Democratic Opponents Already
Feb08 Judge Says Tenney Won
Feb08 What Is the Defense Production Act?
Feb07 Sunday Mailbag
Feb06 Saturday Q&A
Feb05 America First Couldn't Last
Feb05 Greene's New Deal
Feb05 Trump Refuses to Testify
Feb05 The Day AFTRA