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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

As promised, we will run some of the answers to R.T's query today, but only a few, so as to not overdo it. There were some very good responses, so we'll run some more next week, and perhaps again the week thereafter.

What Do You Want from Trump Supporters, Part I

F.L. in Denton, TX, writes: I've read with great interest about how each side doesn't listen and we need to have unity, etc. Okay, let's have unity but, to achieve that, there have to be some rules.

A few years ago, I reunited (through social media) with a friend I hadn't seen since 1987. As people do, we've both evolved. Currently, I'm in the camp of Liz Warren and he admires Ron Paul—not polar opposites, but you get the picture. We have some very lengthy discussions on a lot of the big hot-button issues, but we have rules about said discussions. They were never written down; we just understood them as decent adults:

  1. It's not an argument; it's a discussion.
  2. No name-calling or ad hominems. Well, as friends, there is some good-natured ribbing, but...
  3. No interrupting; wait your turn.
  4. Use your indoor voice.
  5. Keep the f*^%ing vulgarity to a minimum.
  6. No lying to make a point. As a corollary...
  7. (a) Be prepared to back up any evidence you provide. That said, sometimes the onus probandi becomes a side argument.
  8. Admit it if you were mistaken on a fact or can't provide substantial evidence.
  9. Be able to define your terms, e.g., "socialism," "racism," "rights," "privileges"...
  10. Agree to disagree, but agree on what you're disagreeing about.

And, yes, we've both conceded points on some issues, so the needles have moved.

However, when I engage in conversation with those outside my circle, the moment the rules are broken, the conversation will suddenly switch to the local sports team. You want unity? Fine. Talk like an adult, not an adolescent bully.

F.S. in Cologne, Germany, writes: R.T. in Arlington, TX, asked "What do you want members of Trumpish tribes to do?" and "Are we asking all Americans to act against self-interest, or only those from the other tribes?" I would never ask an American to act against self-interest, but I ask all Trump supporters (especially his working-class voters): "What exactly did Trump do during his presidency to make your life better, and how exactly did his actions make your life better?" I haven't seen a satisfying answer. During the campaign of 2020, Trump didn't talk about his accomplishments; I guess that there aren't many actions by Trump during his presidency that made the life of his supporters better. So, in my opinion, Trump supporters should ask themselves if it's really in their self-interest to vote for him.

On the other hand, the majority of voters (at least 60%, in my opinion) seem to agree with Democrats on most issues (for example taxes, abortion, the welfare state, gun control, health care policy and immigration). So Democrats should carefully analyze why only 51% voted for Joe Biden. This should be a major concern for them.

C.M. in Frisco, TX, writes: My short answer is: I want them to think! And, I'd like them to consider how doing the right thing (e.g., caring about the environment and social justice) is ultimately better for them and their children in the long term.

We can go on and on about how Tumpish tribes have come to their views as P.M. in Currituck has outlined, but in my view—and the primary reason I'm writing—is that actions must have consequences and polite society has become too polite. So while I don't think non-Trumpers are in a position to tell Trumpers what actions they should take, I think non-Trumpers can consider some actions they can take. We can't change the world by complaining on social media about what Trumpers say and do, but we also can't stand idly by when antisocial behavior is exhibited in front of us.

E.J. Dionne wrote a book called Stand Up Fight Back: Republican Toughs, Democratic Wimps, and the New Politics of Revenge. The "Republican Toughs and Democratic Wimps" resonated with me when I first read it and it just seems to grow truer every day. It describes the tribes we're in today. It also explains why people who don't actually care about abortion, aren't actually devoutly religious, or (as it turns out in the last few weeks) don't actually believe in democracy can support someone such as Trump. The things that they say they stand for are viewed no differently than the colors and logos of one's favorite sports team. These people are just fans. Many people in the Trumpish tribe are just mean and rude and they don't care what people think. They love it when Trump exhibits this behavior and gives them cover to do the same. Just have a look at the large number of people wearing a shirt or flying a flag that read, "Trump 2020: F*** your Feelings." How anti-social does one have to be to proudly display this message?

These folks don't care (or maybe even don't understand) when they're called hypocrites. But I do think we need to try to tactfully tell people when they are being rude, racist, etc. I'm sure many of these Trumpish people would also hold a door open for someone carrying a load, so they're not rude or anti-social across the board.

I.B. in Allen, TX, writes: For starters, they should start wearing masks and practice social distancing. Basically, follow scientific guidelines.

C.S. in Newport, South Wales, UK, writes: In my view, the answer is nothing. By all means continue to vote for your favorite candidate, say what you think (but within the law, and accept others do the same), and if you want to continue to give your money to your Dear Leader, do so. But the criminal behavior has to stop. No more storming of state capitols, no shooting of peaceful demonstrators, no intimidating of journalists, no brandishing of weapons, no fantasizing of violence (esp. of raping women).

My big beef is with enablers like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) anyway, who do not believe in any of the Trumpish tribes' thinking, but enable it and egg it on because it helps them to gain/keep power and money. Unfortunately, I can't think of anything effective to do about them. Maybe other readers have ideas how to solve the issue of the hypocritical enablers in actionable terms? Because that's what politics should be about!

J.B.S. in Chapel Hill, NC, writes: At a minimum, I want you to reduce your carbon footprint, so life on earth can continue, to treat all humans equally (under the law and otherwise) regardless of the color of their skin, and to stop obsessing about other people's sexual preferences, as (with a few exceptions to protect the vulnerable) they are none of your business.

TrumpWatch 2021

J.S. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: There is absolutely no way Donald Trump backs another candidate for the Republican nomination in 2024. He will never admit his influence is waning, or ever think that any other person could do a better job than himself. I can't even imagine him backing one of his kids. His NPD won't allow it.

C.R. in Canton, OH, writes: The Kinzinger letter falls under "You just can't make this stuff up."

M.M. in Sheffield, UK, writes: You wrote: "The first [poll], from ABC/Ipsos, reveals that 58% of Americans think Trump should have been convicted at the end of the trial."

This strikes me as an excellent (if rare) case of representative democracy working. The poll says that 58% of Americans think Trump should have been convicted, and 57% of his jurors voted to do precisely that.

L.B. in Friendswood, TX, writes: You wrote: "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."

I object to comparing Trump to the defenders of the Alamo. Yes, I know that one of the reasons for the Texas Revolution against Mexico was to protect slavery, which Mexico had outlawed. However, there was widespread opposition to Santa Anna's conservative, centralized government in several Mexican states. Trump is much more similar to Santa Anna than to the Texans in the Alamo.

The defenders of the Alamo were buying time for Texas to declare its independence from Mexico and write a constitution for the new republic. The 13-day siege (Feb. 23-Mar. 6) also gave Sam Houston time to gather more volunteers and train them for battle, resulting in the defeat of Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto (April 21, 1836).

If Trump is equated to the "denizens of the Alamo," then his supporters would be akin to Houston's army, which won the final battle. I certainly hope that Trump's supporters are not victorious in the end.

B.J. in Boston, MA, writes: In the civil wrongful death suit for the police officer in the Jan. 6 insurrection, Trump's evidence that he was not responsible will be that he got acquitted by the Senate for that. When the plaintiff brings up Mitch McConnell's statement that Trump was guilty and simply could not be tried by Senate, Trump's lawyers will call for a mistrial or find some other weaselly objection. Those motions and appeals will take years and years to work through the system.

Some similar B.S. will occur for all his criminal trials.

Trump will probably die of old age before he is ever criminally convicted or found civilly responsible for anything.

J.M. in Laguna Beach, CA, writes: I'm a PI attorney. I sue government entities occasionally. When I go after the VA for medical malpractice I have to file a tort claim. When that is denied I can file a federal lawsuit against the VA. If Brian Sicknick's family wants to sue Donald Trump, I believe they would need to file a federal tort claim first. After it was denied, they could file a lawsuit but they wouldn't be entitled to a jury trial as all federal tort claims are decided by a judge not a jury.

H.S.W. in Ardmore, PA, writes: You've occasionally speculated about the possibility of Donald Trump fleeing the United States to avoid prosecution. I'll leave it to others to evaluate the likelihood of that. However, you've occasionally added comments about how Trump might choose the United Arab Emirates as his place of refuge, including in your answer to yesterday's question from D.H. in Austin.

I've spent my entire professional career (nearly 30 years) either living in or working with the UAE, and while I do not speak for the government of that country nor have any inside information, I cannot imagine that the UAE would want to take that hot potato. The UAE government is small-c conservative (by that, I mean it is extremely cautious in its decision-making); values its relationship with the United States; is engaged in long-term initiatives to strengthen the rule of law within the country; and generally dislikes confrontations, especially confrontations that have the potential for embarrassing outcomes. The US-UAE relationship was undeniably very close during the Trump Administration, but it was also close under George W. Bush, and under Barack Obama, and will remain close under Joe Biden. It is true that the UAE has allowed other ousted world leaders to take up residency and live quietly out of the public spotlight, but there is no precedent for accepting anybody with the stature of an American president or with the publicity-seeking personality of Donald Trump. The UAE leadership is smart enough to know that sheltering Donald Trump from the American justice system would create a political firestorm in the U.S.; would roil US-UAE relations and has the potential to create enormous embarrassment for everybody involved. Gambling is illegal in the UAE, so I won't place a wager, but I would guess that if Trump came knocking, the UAE government would quietly suggest that he seek asylum somewhere else.

T.B.S.S. in Silver Spring, MD, writes: I remain skeptical that Donald Trump wrote his own statement trashing Mitch McConnell—and not only because he opted for B-plus adjectives like "dour" and "unsmiling" instead of something more thudding and juvenile about the Minority Leader's appearance. The uncertain authorship made me snicker even more pointedly at this passage in the same paragraph: "Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Making America Great Again and our policy of America First."

Seriously, what the holy hell does that even mean? It reads like the product of a Mad Libs entry that started out as, "Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse [CAMPAIGN SLOGAN] and our policy of [CAMPAIGN SLOGAN]." It's no more coherent than a sentence that reads, "Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Yes We Can and our policy of I Like Ike," or "Where necessary and appropriate, I will back primary rivals who espouse Jeb Can Fix It! and our policy of Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too."

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: "That makes sense, since The Donald (and many of his followers) are pure id(iots)."

Fixed that for you.

J.K. in Freehold, NJ, writes: I feel I must respond to your response to my comment that the overall media has dropped the ball on the "Trump great economy" fallacy. I fully agree with your oft-stated position that the president only has limited effect on the economy and Trump's economic result was basically a continuation of the Obama economic trends. My problem is that these, however true, are generalities and not hard facts, which is always the Trump approach to "defining" things. What should be more widely broadcasted are the hard facts of the 2019 2.3% GDP increase and the doubling of the budget deficit Trump inherited, all during his self-declared "greatest economy in history."

Rush Hour

J.M. in Norman, OK, writes: My first introduction to politics was listening to Rush Limbaugh in the car during middle school. I read both The Way Things Ought to Be and See, I Told You So (I also read and was delighted by Dan Quayle's Standing Firm during this period, so feel free to judge). The thing that struck me about Limbaugh's writing and his show was that he made what appeared to be simple, straightforward arguments. Say "if A then B," make A seem obvious, and there you go.

I was fortunate to have several teachers in both high school and college who were excellent at getting us students to re-examine what appeared obvious and I learned to find the holes, qualifications and circumstances in what had seemed like simple logic. More importantly, I learned that I had to figure out my own core values and having done so, I realized that whatever the quality of Limbaugh's logic, his axioms had nothing to do with the world I valued or hoped for.

P.M. in Currituck, NC, writes: I am not a fan of Rush Limbaugh, as I have said in previous postings. Although some of his conservative ideas do resonate with me, I find most of what he said to be downright deplorable, if not outright wrong. As an example, I once heard him say "America has nothing to apologize for to anyone in the world." I'm sure the Vietnamese people would think would any of a myriad of Native American groups. I have (futilely) argued with die-hard Rush "dittoheads" about points like this, but they have chosen to remain willfully ignorant.

One thing Limbaugh did hate was out-of-control political correctness, something he voiced on several occasions. And that is one of the things that resonates with me. The recent trend toward capitalizing "Black" when referring to that specific group of people is an example. If someone does not adopt that style, they're somehow wrong, or borderline racist. Limbaugh would point out many subtle things such as this and how they are important to creating perceptions in society—and, on that topic, he was absolutely correct. Related, a point he would often make is how others (especially in the media) set the narrative, and everyone else needed to follow along with that—and failure to do so would be at their own peril of being labeled "racist," "bigoted," etc.

That kind of thing resonates with folks like me. As I said, though, I am not a Limbaugh fan. I will not at all miss him—unlike how I do miss William F. Buckley, Jr. Like or hate his political views, Buckley's "Firing Line" was an intellectually-minded program where any viewer could truly learn something—which in many ways is the polar opposite of Rush Limbaugh. Oh, I lament how the media landscape today is absolutely bereft of any true intellectual discussions!

V & Z respond: Are you saying that this site is not part of the media landscape, or that we are not intellectual? Or both?

D.R. in Slippery Rock, PA, writes: Years ago I was driving and listening to Rush Limbaugh's show. A man who spoke with a "Black" accent was asking a question. Limbaugh told him, "Take the bone out of your nose." That is an exact quote.

J.P. in Kansas City, KS, writes: I'm responding to your statements about Rush (and not the band; it's a shame as they were a great band). But about that guy who helped to shape the modern conservative into a group of people who seem to have some really mean spirits to them.

You stated that you didn't really know where his heart was at. And that's true. None of us can completely know where another truly is in their soul. But being married four times does tend to assist in telling us a lot about where he was. It's a pretty good guess that he was a toxic person off the air.

Maybe he was just really unlucky in love. But it just doesn't appear that way. Maybe it took not one, but two marriages in order to not be so reactionary. And to be more selective with a partner. But I'm a gambling man. And I don't like those odds on that bet.

We can never know. But we can make a very educated guess as to who and to what he really was. Maybe he just became subject to his own tripe after spewing it for so long. I doubt it. But I've been incorrect before. And it'll probably end up happening again.

It's a shame that Rush the band didn't have much of an impact on Rush the man. "And the men who hold high places..." I should take my own advice as well. I'm going to go and listen to "Roll the Bones" to see if they have any insight for me and my intense draw to games of chance.

K.M. in Jacksonville, FL, writes: In response to M.C. in Santa Clara, words are meaningless compared to actions. It's like when people tell you what a wonderful patriot or Christian they are. You shouldn't have to tell me. I'll figure it out by your actions. Rush Limbaugh made fun of people for no damn good reason other than to get at best a cheap laugh from his audience. He also was more than happy to tell us what liberals were thinking without any of them actually ever saying "I hate America."

D.H. in Lisbon Falls, ME, writes: I will let Mark Twain speak for me on the passing of Rush Limbaugh:

A picture of Mark Twain in a rocking chair, 
accompanied by the quote 'I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure.'

T.V. in Kansas City, MO, writes: My mother always said, "If you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything." This, with respect to the late Rush Limbaugh...





Thank you.

S.W. in San Jose, CA, writes: You should never say bad things about the dead, only good.

Rush Limbaugh is dead.


¿Cuomo Estas?

B.C. in Farmingville, NY, writes: In regards to your answer about New York politics, I don't think I quite have my finger on the pulse either, as it's a state with many moving pieces. However, I get the feeling Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) is wildly unpopular on both sides of the aisle. Even before COVID-19, most liberals I know did not like him, yet he won big every time. Teachers, state workers, and my other Democratic friends (and, of course, all Republicans) despise the man. A quote from a local TV station says it all: "Whoever wins the Democratic primary wins the governorship." There has been a big push on the left-of-Cuomo front to get out the vote and awareness of this fact. I think he is in trouble in 2022.

S.O.F. in Jersey City, NJ, writes: In regards to Andrew Cuomo's issues, as a long time off-and-on New York/North New Jersey resident, and due to the fact that I have a wife who works in nursing homes, I felt I'd offer my two cents. In regards to the accusation that he "cooked the books" on nursing home deaths, you have to realize how the standard operating procedure on reporting deaths works. When you get sick at a nursing home, you get sent to the hospital. If you die at the hospital, you get counted at the hospital (how it's always been done). So the idea that they were shuffling deaths over to hospitals intentionally is not accurate, they were following the SOP. As another example, if you get sick at a restaurant and then die at a hospital, they don't assign your death to Denny's. The insinuation that he hid death numbers is also not accurate, as counting deaths among hospitals instead of nursing homes doesn't leave anyone uncounted.

That said, what we really needed to know was how people were affected in nursing homes and he avoided that. Still, not illegal. You are essentially expecting them to bypass the SOP for counting deaths at a time when they are trying desperately to keep hospital beds open, manage the lockdown, and minimize the death toll during the initial outbreak when no one knew what was going on. This would expect the administration to invent a new way of bookkeeping for deaths that accurately portray the number of people killed by COVID at a nursing home. Considering public health officials devote their careers to this kind of thing, I don't think this was a reasonable thing to expect to happen on the fly.

There is the issue of him delaying the release of certain data that would have elaborated on the toll COVID-19 had on nursing home residents, but, keep in mind, the Trump administration, at the time, was conducting a fishing expedition against blue state governors in order to pass the buck. Cuomo's administration can easily make the case, and I'm sure they will, that because there was a federal investigation, making this information public would have had legal implications. It is also cute that the people making an issue out of the policy to place COVID-19 patients at nursing homes are also the same people that thought we should let old people die to save the economy. And, spoiler alert, a lot of governors adopted a similar policy, in large part due to the CDC's guidelines. New Jersey had the same policy. I am guessing the only reason we are hearing this "scandal" about Cuomo and not Gov. Phil Murphy (D-NJ) is because the media loves "downfall porn" more than anything else right now, and Cuomo taking a faceplant is big news.

As to the political climate in New York, you are right, this story plays very differently in rural and suburban areas than in NYC and among Republicans. It's interesting that the rhetoric on conservative media since last Spring was that Cuomo is killing nursing home residents. A year out, you have conservatives and NYC progressives glued to their TV sets watching Fox News, which is...informative.

D.D. in Somers, NY, writes: I'm from New York and the people I know, me included, that like Andrew Cuomo, still like him and believe this whole thing is to discredit him. There are plenty of conservatives who can't stand him for various reasons and this just gives them more ammunition. There are plenty of liberals who can't stand him and this just gives them more ammunition. But for the 58 percent of people like me, we feel he is getting a raw deal and no one else could have led us through COVID-19 like he did. I don't think it will hurt him.

M.S. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: As a Brooklyn resident, I see Andrew Cuomo as neither great nor awful. He has some Democratic bona fides. But he does have the Trumpian tendency to think he is smarter than everyone else—for example, his shutting down the subway a few years back during a snowstorm. His constant fighting with NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio (D) makes neither one look good. It seems like Cuomo is always looking for an opportunity to cut DeBlasio off at the knees (or another body part). And he enjoys having emergency powers a little too much. But the nursing home thing is bad, and he knows it's bad, otherwise why the cover-up? Cuomo has been around for a while now...perhaps too long. Now that New York is clearly a blue state, perhaps it's time to see another Democrat in charge.

I.K. in Queens, NY, writes: The bottom line is that Andrew Cuomo will only be harmed if an establishment Democrat primaries him.

Here is New York's electorate in a nutshell: Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1. Within the Democrats, moderates outnumber progressives 2-to-1. So while that leaves establishment Democrats with 40 to 45 percent of the vote, as long as we have partisan primaries followed by D-vs-R general elections, moderate Democrats will be the ones to win statewide.

Cuomo will not be threatened by a challenge from the left; AOC would not be that much scarier than Cynthia Nixon was in 2018 (Cuomo dispatched her 66%-34%). But if there were a credible moderate alternative offered in the primary—and AG Tish James is the obvious choice—I think Cuomo would be unseated.

Brave Senators

D.L. in Wynnewood, PA, writes: I disagree with your assessment that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) took a great deal of risk (7/10 on your scale) when she voted to convict Trump.

True, she is the only Republican Senator up for election in 2022 out of the seven GOP Senators who voted to convict. However, in 2022 Alaska will be using a new electoral system. The primary will be an open primary with the top four candidates advancing to the general election. Even if she was primaried by someone on the far right or Trumpist wing of the Republican Party, she would surely keep enough mainstream Republican support to remain in the top four. She would not have to compete again as a write-in candidate and have to use Rebuses like the one below to remind voters how to write her name, since her name would actually be on the general election ballot:

Mur plus a picture of a cow plus a picture of a ski

The general election in 2022 will be an instant-runoff ranked-choice voting system similar to that already used in Maine. This would seem to favor a moderate Republican, which most Alaskans would find tolerable even if she is not their first choice.

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: You discussed the seven Republican senators who bucked their party to vote not to acquit Trump. I've seen some include Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) as an eighth "brave" senator. Since he is senator from a state with 70% support for Trump, he might've done as much or more damage to his own reelection prospects as those seven Republicans.

Pain Perdue

M.D. in San Tan Valley, AZ, writes: I enjoyed your item about David Perdue possibly running again for Senate in Georgia in 2022. You are right in mentioning that he will face Doug Collins along with six other Republicans in a primary that will end in a costly bloodbath. However, I was surprised though that you didn't mention the fact that even if he wins the primary, defeating Senator Raphael Warnock (D-GA) will be much tougher, as Stacey Abrams more than likely will also be running for Governor again and that her being on the ballot alone, with her major influence on turning Georgia purple in 2020, will give Warnock a huge advantage of winning a full term and basically ending Perdue's political career.

M.H. in Gainesville, GA, writes: You wrote: "Finally, Ossoff was the weaker of the two Democratic candidates in 2020, and Perdue still couldn't topple him. Facing the much stronger Warnock will be tougher."

I live in Georgia and from my perspective on the ground, it wasn't necessarily that Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) was the weaker of the two Democratic candidates—it was that his opponent Kelly Loeffler was by far the weaker of the two Republican candidates. Again, that's my personal and mostly anecdotal observation, but my feeling is that most of the approximately 1% difference in vote totals between Warnock and Ossoff can be explained by the relative weakness of Loeffler as a candidate. If you switched the races to Warnock/Perdue and Ossoff/Loefller, I think you'd have seen roughly the same 1% difference but in Ossoff's favor.

I would personally say that Ossoff and Warnock were about equally strong as candidates, but if you held a gun to my head and forced me to say which was perceived as stronger overall within the state, I'd actually pick Ossoff. He carried a lot of name recognition from his unsuccessful House (GA-6) run against Karen Handel in 2017. Nearly knocking off a well-known Republican candidate in an R+8 district gave him a sort of Beto-in-2018 stature before Beto O'Rourke made it cool.

Anyway, just my two cents. Keep up the good work, and I'm glad that Georgia won't be the center of the American political universe for the next little many advertisements, yuck.

E.C.R. in Helsinki, Finland , writes: You wrote: "In 2022 he [Perdue] would be facing an incumbent Black senator in a state that is 33% Black. Assuming that Warnock gets pretty much all of the Black vote, Perdue would need almost three-quarters of the white vote."

If 33%/67% was the breakdown of the Georgia electorate, Perdue's chances would be good but you are neglecting the Asian (2.5%) and Latino (5%) voters who made the difference both on Jan. 5 and also last November. Although not monolithic, the Latinos are 67% Mexican and Puerto Rican so Georgia is very different from Florida as regards its Latino voters. In fact, Cubans are in the single digits as a fraction of Georgia's Latino voting population. The closer Perdue hugs Trump, the more he will alienate the overwhelming majority of Georgia's Latino voters.

Of the remaining 60% white voters, Perdue will need to get the votes of 5 out of 6, which will be a tall order. But Purdue could well win with an assist from the state legislature. Look for Georgia Republicans to try everything to restrict the franchise in order to suppress minority votes. It's my prediction that across much of the nation the next DWB ("driving while Black") will be VWM (voting while minority). It worked in the 1880s and will be tried again.


S.S. in West Hollywood, CA, writes: I'm an American Jew who keeps hearing how anti-Semitic Rep. Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN) is, mostly from the right-wing media. So I was interested in the article submitted by a reader last Sunday claiming to prove it. It did not prove it. It was the same right-wing talking points, taking comments out of context and purposely confusing Palestinian support and criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. It's not. That's like claiming my support of BLM makes me racist and anti-American, as some in the right-wing media have also claimed.

I mostly agree with Omar about Israel's treatment of the Palestinian people and appreciate that someone in Congress is advocating for them. I will concede that she sometimes could use a little more tact, though that could be said for many members of Congress. However, members who aren't female and Muslim don't seem to have to worry about having every word spoken weaponized against them. Similar attacks against Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) confirm this.

A.P. in Bloomington, IN, writes: You have printed some comments lately about Ilhan Omar's comments about Israel and antisemitism. They need to be augmented.

Israel is a country, not a religion. It does not represent all Jews, nor does it contain all Jews. As a Jew, I find it perplexing that some people think that to criticize Israel is to be antisemitic. Criticism of Israel is aimed at its national policies, which I think sometimes ignore the history of Jewish people. I have had Jews in Jerusalem suggest that the best solution to the Arab problem is to kill them all. We all know whose solution to the Jewish problem this was. Today I learn that Israel is debating the question of allowing vaccines to enter the occupied territories. This is obviously a radical position in relation to human rights.

To criticize Israel is not to be anti-Semitic. It is to recognize that Israel is a country with policies that may be objectionable. I do not think that it is anti-Catholic to criticize Poland or Italy, both very Catholic countries. I think it is part of the discourse of finding a more perfect world that more closely follows the declarations of human rights that nations should aspire to, which were in part created because of what was done to Jews over the last thousand or more years.

Complaint Department

M.G. in Montréal, Quebec, Canada, writes: In the item on Joe Biden's CNN town hall, I found it odd that (Z) failed to mention that the President blew off and minimized China's genocides. Isn't this something worth scrutinizing in more detail, since foreign affairs is something the President has basically full authority over?

On a similar note, our national clown Trudeau has taken the same line with China. Seems to me that Democrats/Liberals are rather scared of China and prefer to do a Neville Chamberlain routine.

E.W. in Ann Arbor, MI, writes: In response to (Z)'s piece on T.J. Ducklo, calling his actions (and the actions or inactions of Jen Psaki or Kate Bedingfield) an "unforced error" on the part of the Biden Administration may be a bit of a rush to judgment. I have become very cynical over the past 4 years, as many of us have. But while it is true that President Biden said that this type of behavior wouldn't be tolerated, I wonder if there is a little bit of humanity at play here as well. In December, Ducklo (who is 32 years old) announced on Twitter that he has Stage IV lung cancer and is still undergoing treatment for it. Despite that, survival rates are among the worst of any type of cancer. Is it at least possible the Administration was allowing Ducklo to make sure his post-White House life was arranged to ensure continuation of his therapy and his health care insurance? Or am I being too naive?

A.C. in Zenia, CA, writes: I'm a regular reader since 2004. And every six months or so you just say something outrageous that makes my blood boil.

This week, you wrote: "Some Democrats want to make it like a Christmas tree and hang all kinds of pretty ornaments not related to the underlying object on it, like a $15/hr minimum wage and more."

Do you guys go hungry? Ever? Do you know what it feels like to watch your child not have breakfast, even though you are working two or three low wage jobs? Why is racial prejudice and insensitivity unacceptable in polite society but classism okay? It's equally if not more pernicious. I know what you are going to say: that giving people the basic human dignity of mere survival isn't about "coronavirus recovery." But you've read enough news stories to know that's not the case. Poverty was already endemic before the virus hit, and as a result of the virus, underlying health conditions suffered by the poor made them much more likely to die if they got infected. Millions have been plunged into poverty who were not there before the pandemic. From a strict economic perspective, giving people who have nothing a bit of something will pump millions of dollars into the economy. The owners of Walmart can certainly afford it, so it's not going to "cost jobs" in any broad way, especially if small businesses get the help that's already in the package. And, it's a guaranteed winning issue for the Democrats, which isn't just a Machiavellian statement. If the Republicans get back into power, we're gonna have another pandemic, you can count on it. It's not a Christmas tree ornament.

V & Z respond: Our point was not that the $15/hour minimum wage is trivial or a bad idea, it was merely that the Democrats would clearly be using "the budget" as cover to pass something that is not really about the budget.

L.K. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: I've written to you gents about this before, so now I'll try to take a different tack.

I've always been somewhat annoyed when you refer to President Biden as "Uncle Joe." First, it is a cheap shot (as is "Sleepy Joe") that connotes a disrespect to a man who did nothing to warrant this derision. At least not yet. Even worse, it simply repeats a nickname given by those who do have scorn for President.

Worse still, is your use of "The Donald." First, it was Ivana Trumps's cuddly nickname when referring to her husband. And cuddly or warm is not how this POS should be remembered.

If my plea falls on deaf ears, please at least refer to the disaster with a descriptive name that accurately describes him as the monster he truly is. Perhaps Der Fury? Or just plain Trump.

L.M. in Laramie, WY, writes: I grimaced at (Z)'s offhand reference in his piece on Nikki Haley, comparing part-time Trumpers to being "sort of like a virgin." Middle aged white guys who would like their site to appeal to more women should not trade in flip sexual stereotypes created and maintained by the worst of the patriarchy.

That Don Trump rejected Haley's attempt to make nice and kiss his ring once again shows that Haley too needs to avoid stereotypical behavior that supports the worst of the patriarchy. She needs to figure out a way for voters to see her, in the words of the philosopher Madonna, "like the very first time."

V & Z respond: For what it is worth, that was also a TV reference, specifically to an episode of M*A*S*H, but we ended up not including it in the list because we decided it was a little too obscure.

Fixing Reparations

M.S. in Knoxville, TN, writes: Some thoughts on your item about Black reparations: It would be a mistake to tie Black reparations solely to slavery and to attempt to pay reparations only to descendants of slaves. In addition to the roughly 250 years of forced labor without pay of slavery, subsequent oppression, legal segregation, and discrimination (de jure and de facto) have produced intractable generational Black poverty (also called the wealth gap) which was born in the involuntary servitude of slavery and came of age in decades of lynchings and segregation by law. It survives in a hardened silo of racial prejudice.

The median net worth of a Black family in 2016 was $17,150, compared to a median net worth of a white family of $171,000—nearly ten times more, and the comparative wealth of the black family is falling. Black people who have successful backgrounds and work histories nonetheless do not have the same life results that white people do. Black families making $100,000 typically live in the kinds of neighborhoods inhabited by white families making $30,000. Black families are 40% less likely than white families to own their homes. The jobless rate is higher. 24% fewer Black families than white families have money in the stock market. Even with Social Security benefits, Black families have 46% of the retirement wealth of white families.

It is more important to break through this wealth gap in a nation which accepts racial equity than it is to try to get money to descendants of slaves. Local efforts to acknowledge, atone for, and address these problems have started in communities like Asheville, NC; Knoxville, TN; Evanston, IL; Kansas City, MO; Charlottesville, VA; and Providence, RI.

In addition to the greater importance of addressing generational Black poverty as compared to getting money to descendants of slaves, attempting to achieve the latter would create a bureaucratic nightmare, in which panels would need to be impaneled to review documentary evidence of alleged ancestry. Imagine "This is Crazy Rudy. I can get you your reparations check. Call 1-800-867-5309 today." Addressing the problem of Black poverty is difficult enough.

S.M. in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, writes: You missed the other argument about reparations—namely, the ethics of forcing people who had nothing to do with slavery to contribute to reparations. While I appreciate that tax dollars are often used on items or for purposes that a person does not agree with (and this has been upheld by numerous decisions), using the tax dollars of citizens who arrived in the country years or decades after the Civil War ended seems to be something else entirely.

This is especially true of people who arrived as refugees or having escaped oppressive regimes of their own—some of which might make slavery look like a preferable option (Cambodia comes to mind, for instance).

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: I appreciate your items on reparations and college loan forgiveness because they are the first I've seen to address the thorny equity questions in all of this. I really think all of us Americans need to let go of racial grudge-holding in every direction. Every possible solution you proposed could have been restated as "Poor" rather than "Black" and would do as much good for Black Americans in the end, without excluding deserving people of other races or reinforcing racial grudge-holding. Restating the issue in this way also resolves the worst of the economic equity (justice?) questions, like bankrolling a business start-up by a kid with many blessings the same as a start-up by one with few blessings.

For my fellow readers: I am not using the phrase "grudge-holding" as a PC alternative to "discrimination." Grudge-holding in my view is a resentful condition of the heart and many people hold racial grudges even when they have not been personally discriminated against or taken a discriminatory action against another. If you want to call grudge-holding "racism," fair enough, as long as you acknowledge that every racial group has plenty of members that hold grudges against other groups.

Bad Laws

T.G.M. in Youngstown, OH, writes: In the list of bad laws, you missed the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.

V & Z respond: While odious, the law was ultimately ineffectual. The Kansas-Nebraska Act clearly had a much greater impact.

D.H. in State College, PA, writes: The Comstock Act (1873). "An Act for the Suppression of Trade in, and Circulation of, Obscene Literature and Articles of Immoral Use."

S.T. in Philadelphia, PA, writes: One law that should make the top 10 worst is the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

C.L.C. in Petaluma, CA, writes: The Mann Act (1910) is significantly worse than you wrote.

Most prostitutes enter the trade voluntarily. They chose to do the work. The degree of enthusiasm varies from "I can earn six figures just for sex!" to "I only do this terrible work because it is the only job allowing me to make rent." Enslaved women, after the 13th Amendment (slaveowners routinely took money for letting people have sex with their slaves) are almost nonexistent.

In the late 1990s, Sweden considered decriminalizing prostitution. What was a prude to do? The prudes dusted off the same lies about human trafficking that lead to the Mann Act. This was successful. It is known as the Swedish Model and has metastasized to many other countries like the cancer it is.

Polaris, a group of prudes wanting to ban prostitution in the U.S., even came up with the ridiculous claim that 400,000 children are trafficked around the U.S. annually. If so, the FBI is very incompetent, because it manages to rescue less than a thousand of these children annually (and almost none from these alleged traffickers, but instead mostly from PaedoMoms, women who are so addicted to substances that they let strangers molest their children for money and drugs).

The Mann Act definitely belongs in the top 10, and I would personally bump it up to the top 5.

T.B. in Bay Shore, NY, writes: In my opinion, we still feel the effects of the Volstead Act (1919), as it accelerated the rise of syndicated crime in a way that we will never be able to fully diminish, despite the passage of RICO and other anti-criminal bills.

H.F. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: With the repeal of Prohibition there were suddenly lots of alcohol enforcement agents with nothing to do. Congress created a solution with the Marijuana Tax Act (1937). This eventually grew to an army of drug enforcement agents, overcrowded jails, and broken families.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I have to say that I was shocked to see that you didn't include what became known as "Don't ask, don't tell" (DADT; 1993) as one of the worst laws ever passed by Congress. It has to rank up there with the inclusion of slavery in our Constitution, the Japanese Internment, and the Indian Removal Act as manifestations of institutionalized discrimination and hatred. From its inception, DADT was hated by both sides of the argument. It was the worst example of President Clinton's belief in triangulation, and one of the reasons why I hold such a dim view of his presidency. General Colin Powell, who helped craft this disastrous policy, would go on to disavow it less than 20 years later. The policy exposed the hypocritical nature of its enforcement as studies showed that during times of military need, i.e. upcoming conflicts, that discharges decreased. The rationale for the law was often based on shower and bathroom fears (often expressed by those who it might be said were engaging in "wishful thinking"), rooted in sheer ignorance and homophobia. The law cost the American taxpayers untold hundreds of millions of dollars in the relatively short time it was law, not to mention the incalculable loss of knowledge and skills that the military jettisoned when it needed them most. Who is to say that, given how many Arabic language translators were discharged because of DADT, some important communique from terrorists was allowed to slip through without being flagged during the crucial years leading up to 9/11 and afterwards. Then there was the fact that the law put gay military personnel in an untenable position of not being allowed to express their sexual orientation versus the Code of Military Conduct, which forbids lying.

As a young gay male growing up in one of the biggest military towns in the nation, the Norfolk/Virginia Beach/Hampton Roads area, I saw the insidious nature that this disastrous law had. Even after the passage of DADT, the military, especially the Navy, continued to employ undercover officers to coerce young military same sex members to have sex, and who would blackmail nonmilitary gay men to reveal names of those sexual partners that were in the military, all under the guise of fighting vice—remember that sodomy remained a criminal offense in Virginia for many years after DADT was passed. Even in regards to the confines of DADT, some in the military would encourage officers to get around the law by using fellow soldiers to force confessions from those the officer suspected. The whole thing was a shameful disaster from its homophobic inception to its inglorious death.

I also had the honor of knowing Lt. Tracey Thorne, a person more deserving of the Presidential Medal of Freedom than a certain newly dead bag of putrid air, along with so many other brave gay military members who challenged DADT (Doug W., I am thinking of you!). Lt. Thorne was the true epitome of an American hero. He made his decision not to bring himself "fame." In fact, he was at that time a person who wanted the opposite of fame. Instead, he chose his path because he saw the moral incongruity that DADT and the Code of Military Conduct forced on him as a honorable ethical person. Tracey also had to endure the lectures to seek psychiatric help from, of all people, Strom Thurmond, a renowned racist who fathered a child when he was 15-16 with a black girl in his family's employment—the very last person anyone would want to be wagging their finger at how you live your life. Afterwards Tracey used his experiences to propel himself into the study of law. As Tracey Thorne-Begland, he became a prosecutor and then Chief Deputy Commonwealths Attorney for Richmond, VA. In 2012, he was nominated to fill a judicial vacancy on a Virginia state district court. Even then the unfairness of DADT haunted him in that the Republicans used the fact that he lied for many years about his sexual orientation while serving in the military as a reason to not confirm his nomination. After his rejection by the Virginia House of Delegates, the Richmond Circuit Court Judges stepped in and appointed him a 30 day temporary judgeship. The next session of the House of Delegates approved his appointment but it should be noted that all of the 28 votes against his appointment came from Republicans.

V & Z respond: Note that DADT was actually a presidential directive, and not a law passed by Congress, though it is true it was an interpretation of language included in the previous year's defense budget authorization.

M.C. in Jacksonville, FL, writes: I'm not sure if this falls into the top 10, but it's for sure an honorable mention. The Defense of Marriage Act (1996), signed by Bill Clinton, made it so that the government of the U.S. wouldn't recognize same-sex unions in any state, even if that state had legalized them. This led to another 20 years of anti-gay rhetoric and may have even cost John Kerry the 2004 election!

R.M. in Lomita, CA, writes: I would argue that the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (1999) deserves a place on your list.

S.T. in Glen Rock, NJ, writes: One could argue the 2002 Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq was 'worse' than the Gulf of Tonkin resolution.

The Iraq War has had massive costs in terms of blood that is still being shed today, and enormous costs to the United States' international reputation. It is also a clear "failure of the elites" (not the only one), and so part of the reason we ended up with Donald Trump and QAnon. The Vietnam war was a huge tragedy but could have some strategic justification (e.g., North Vietnam was indeed supported by Maoist China and the Soviet Union). The Iraq War was a "war of choice," justified on lies (or, at best, shoddy intelligence), that was poorly executed. The U.S. did somewhat recover from Vietnam, and Vietnam itself has been a better story the past decade as well. It is too soon to say that the damage from the Iraq War and its aftermath has been contained.

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: While the 1994 Crime Bill is indeed a monstrosity, a worse mark on Joe Biden's record is the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention and Consumer Protection Act (BAPCPA) of 2005.

BAPCPA addressed a problem that did not exist and it disadvantaged 50% of the population for the sole benefit of the credit card issuers who wrote it. MBNA and Citibank wrote the bill, but it has Biden's name on it.

Other Historical Matters

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, N.Y., writes: John Quincy Adams was a good man and a terrific ex-President, but although he was on the winning side in the Amistad case, he most certainly didn't win it. Indeed, the Supreme Court reports (which at the time summarized the arguments of counsel) noted: "It was the purpose of the reporter to insert the able and interesting argument of Mr. Adams, for the African appellees; and the publication of the 'reports' has been postponed in the hope of obtaining it, prepared by himself. It has not been received. As many of the points presented by Mr. Adams, in the discussion of the cause, were not considered by the court essential to its decision: and were not taken notice of in the opinion of the court, delivered by Mr. Justice STORY, the necessary omission of the argument is submitted to with less regret."

Roger Baldwin, a successful, middle-aged abolitionist lawyer, won the case (and 3 years later became governor of Connecticut). Spielberg's film was very entertaining, but he took numerous licenses with the facts and the characters. No one should rely on the film for accuracy.

E.V. in Derry, NH, writes: A followup to your comment about John Quincy Adams yesterday. I recently finished the biography of Adams by James Traub. The 500-plus pages were not too many during my COVID-19 reading time. The book gave me a lot of new details about the time between the founding of the U.S. and the final run up to the Civil War. My takeaways:

  • Traub often uses the issue of slavery to illustrate Adams' time as a Representative. Adams kept the question alive, at first mostly as a parliamentary point of order—the right to petition. But with time, he took an increasingly anti-slavery position on moral grounds. A good example of an evolving understanding of an issue.

  • He had an amazing capacity for work on a huge range of interests in a day that all research and writing was literally hands-on. His physical strength and endurance were remarkable too.

  • His education was embedded in the classics and in Christian thinking. Maybe that is now not considered the most enlightened education, but it gave him a foundation of reason and justice. In short, he was a man of deep and critical thinking. Something we can use more of today!

  • He had an old New England sense of being right, and could be quite inflexible. Perhaps that helped him be committed to the rule of law. It also led him to go against political trends and even his own party's wishes. He advocated policies he thought were foremost for the good of the country, both in domestic and foreign affairs. Again, worthy guidelines for today.

A true servant of his country.

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: You wrote: "We are reminded of a line that may first have been uttered by FDR about Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza García: 'He's a son-of-a-bitch, but at least he's our son-of-a-bitch.'"

I always thought that line was from General Eisenhower referring to General Patton.

V & Z respond: Almost every good line, especially in politics, is attributed to at least a dozen people (one of whom is usually Winston Churchill).

J.B. in Lincoln, NE, writes: In response to M.M. in Sheffield, more than one decade in U.S. history has failed to produce a chief executive. The 1810s, 1930s, and 1950s have yet to produce a U.S. President. While still possible in theory to have a President born in the 30s, the 50s are more likely, though with each presidential election cycle it becomes less of a possibility. The current President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House were born in 1940.

V & Z respond: Well, in any case, we definitely don't like the 1810s' chances.

G.R. in Tarzana, CA, writes: Regarding J.M. in Nova Scotia's obvious Canadian attempt to undermine our belief in the integrity of "most" of our Presidents, your answer was that we may have to go back to Benjamin Harrison to find one that has completely clean hands, with the caveat that policy towards Native Americans could disqualify him. I believe you were close but chose the wrong family member. I think anyone would be hard pressed to find anything that William Henry Harrison could have done during his time in office that would be considered a war crime or in fact, even questionable on any level, with the exception of Inaugural Day dress and speech considerations.

Astronomy Domine

D.B. in Mountain View, CA, writes: I note that you danced by J.C.'s in Binan's question about Pluto without answering it.

The question was "don't you think there was something fishy about the vote to demote Pluto?", and your response was, "No. A true planet has enough gravity to clear its orbit." But the reason a true planet has enough gravity to clear its orbit is because that's the definition voted on by the International Astronomers Union in 2006, which demoted Pluto to a dwarf planet—that is to say, the vote which J.C. was asking about.

The answer is: maybe, though in my opinion probably not. Planetary scientists hate this definition, and by and large ignore it. They argue, led by Alan Stern (the principal scientist for the New Horizons mission to Pluto), that science isn't determined by voting, that the voters were mostly astronomers who study stars, galaxies, black holes, etc., not by planetary scientists, and that it's a flawed definition. There was also a rumor that the vote was motivated by anti-American feeling.

Last week just happens to have been the I ♥ Pluto Festival, and if you want you can hear Alan Stern going on about this question at great, if somewhat biased, length.

I.H. in Meridian, ID, writes: As a fellow Ph.D. astronomer, I must take exception to the term "true" planets in your response to J.C. Such terminology implies that the dwarf planets are "false" or "fake." I prefer the term "major" planet to describe those 8 worlds in our solar system as it describes them properly in relation to the dwarf planets and avoids the emotional baggage associated with calling Pluto a "fake" planet. I have been using this wording for over a decade when teaching my introductory astronomy course.

Also, to avoid the inevitable responses about small objects sharing the orbits of major planets, it should be noted that the major planets have cleared their orbits of other similarly-sized objects (i.e. there isn't another planet the size of Earth that shares the same orbit as the Earth). In contrast, there are several objects that share a similar orbit with Pluto that are similar in size to Pluto.

V & Z respond: Sounds like dwarf news, to us.

F.M. in Hatfield, PA, writes: You said Pluto isn't a planet in part because it has not cleared its orbit. Technically, neither has Earth (e.g., Lagrange points). So, should we be demoted as well?

V & Z respond: Well, demoting Earth would also mean, on some level, demoting Canada. So it's certainly worth considering.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: Ok, I am a Pluto enthusiast, and one who absolutely refuses to accept the demotion of Pluto. I have several reasons for it, some sentimental, some not.

Number one, for purely personal reasons. The discoverer of Pluto, Clyde Tombaugh, was a Unitarian Universalist like I am, and helped to found the UU Church of Las Cruces, New Mexico. Through an aunt and uncle, I have connections to Las Cruces, so there is the personal bias aspect. Which, of course, has nothing to do with whether or not Pluto should be a planet. Except, as I said, personal bias.

Now, the more practical reasons. The mnemonic for memorizing the planets no longer works without Pluto ("My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pies"). Besides which, Pluto, when discovered, was designated as a planet. If they wanted to later classify other new-found trans-Neptunian (Kuiper Belt) objects as "dwarf planets" or "planetesimals" or whatever...fine. But Pluto was designated a planet, and I believe it should keep that status. And, by the way, Pluto has five moons! They are Charon, Styx, Nix, Hydra, and Kerberos.

And now for the best reason to consider keeping Pluto as a planet...Interplanet Janet told us all as kids that there were nine planets, and as far as I am concerned there are nine planets! Forget the fact that Pluto is weird (and it is). For one thing, its orbit is not in a plane with the other eight planets, but here's another: Pluto is not always a trans-Neptunian object, and arguably not a Kuiper Belt object during its entire orbit. You may be aware there is a period in Pluto's orbit in which it is in fact closer to the sun than Neptune.

Now, if they want to consider actual full-time Kuiper Belt bodies as "dwarf planets" or whatever, I'm okay with that, but I don't think it is justified in Pluto's case. Just call me a Pluto enthusiast! Truthfully, too as I am very much a non-conformist myself, there is a special place in my heart for Pluto...which, as I have shown, is in its own way also very non-conformist!

I probably did not make a good enough argument for Neil deGrasse Tyson, but it works for me.

V & Z respond: My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nachos?

Serious Jeopardy!

B.G. in Kalamazoo, MI, writes: Quick correction on "Jeopardy!": They're looking for something from their potential contestants at audition, but I'm pretty sure it's not the kind of energy they look for on, say, "The Price is Right."

I was anything but boisterous, and they took me!

I know they're screening for people who can actually play the game. Not as in skill/strategy but as in "doesn't freeze up, calls the next clue when they get something right, etc." The impression I took away was that every once in a while they got a definite yes, there were a fair number of definite nos (for stopping-the-game reasons), and for everyone else, it was random whether people got selected or not.

V & Z respond: All (Z) knows is that the casting folks kept saying "More energy!" to everyone at his audition. Next time he'll just have to take three hits on the crystal meth pipe rather than just two.

C.B. in Lakeville, MN, writes: After trying on and off for more than 20 years, I finally passed the written test and got a "Jeopardy!" audition in August 2019. As (Z) knows, after that, one is in the contestant pool for 18 months, and my 18 months is up in a few days. Oh, well. Since then, I've written a webpage with which one can play along with Jeopardy!. Use the left mouse button on a clue to rotate among visited (gray), correct (green), incorrect (red), and not visited (background blue). Right click to change the value of the clue. The various facets of your score are kept. There's a place at the bottom where you can enter the actual contestants' final scores to see how you stacked up.


J.M. in San Jose, CA, writes: Having just finished reading yesterday's Q&A, I am submitting a guess as to the word you were asked to integrate into your posts this week, before you do it. I think it was given away "Jeopardy!" style; built in clues. The questioner mentioned the impeachment being in the rearview mirror and you let it be known that the word has 12 letters. My guess is "insurrection."

T.B. in Wiscasset, ME, writes: I will be watching for the word "M**********R." And I didn't even have to count the number of characters before I made that guess.

V & Z respond: The word is not a swear word, nor is it a word that would appear in the normal course of blog writing. In fact, the word has only appeared twice in the entire history of the site, and those were in a letter published in the mailbag, and not from us. It's a word that would generally be out of place, like "aluminum siding" is in "Leap of Faith." Oh, and the first day it could possibly appear is tomorrow.

F.H.E. in Geneva, Switzerland, writes: Thank you for reminding your readers of the importance of branding and the power of alliteration, which to my utter shock no politician beside Donald Trump seems to fully grasp. "Moscow Mitch" should have been hammered, not merely uttered once.

I'd like to propose the following: "Cancun Cruz" with both alliteration and pun, and the body blow to offer Beto: "Ted Fled on a Cancun Cruz."

H.S in Lake Forest, CA, writes: Inspired by your attempts at Ted Cruz late night jokes, here is my entry: Whose house is this, baby? It's not a house, it's a mansion! Whose mansion is this? Ted's! Where is Ted? Ted fled, baby, Ted fled!

V & Z respond: Anyone who does not follow the reference should probably watch this brief clip.

J.R. in Atlanta, GA, writes: As a J.R., I can't help but feel threatened by the last line of your last item from Wednesday. I don't even live in Texas!

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: We would have been impressed by all your clever TV cultural references Wednesday had we not been completely bowled over by your Vivien Sheriff hat reference. A little more of that we may have to find a lower brow web site to follow.

V & Z respond: We generally dine on Beluga and Cristal while writing the site, and sometimes those things put ideas into our heads.

M.C. in Friendship, ME, writes: My wife, a Canadian, suggests another prong of the covert invasion, eh? Singers, to wit: Eydie Gorm-eh, Mel Torm-eh, Robert Goul-eh, Anne Murr-eh There may be more—who knows—maybe Jimmy Buff-eh is secretly Canadian!

P.S.: The hand-made pin was purchased at the Winnipeg Folk Festival way long ago:

A heart-shaped cloisonne pin with 'eh' on it

V & Z respond: Well, Buffet WAS wasting away in Margarit-eh-ville, as we understand it.

C.L. in Durham, UK, writes: J.F. in Jersey Village wrote: "...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."

Say, whose language is it?

V & Z respond: Our copy of Microsoft Word advises us that we speak "English." It also offers us the opportunity to switch to an obscure, and apparently lesser, version of the language called "UK English."

D.C. in Kansas City, MO, writes: I liked the Tommy Tutone reference. I don't know how old the two of you are, but with all the 1980's references, we have to be around the same age (I'm 55). Or you're just huge fans of the 1980's.

Short Tommy Tutone story for you. I worked for Cigna in Nashville during the 1990's. The lead singer (Tommy Heath) was a contract IT worker for us and installed Outlook on my desktop computer somewhere around 1993-95. I tried to engage him in conversation regarding his time in Tommy Tutone but all he wanted to talk about was his new jazz recording. He ended up moving to Seattle and worked for Microsoft.

S.T. in Philadelphia, PA, writes: Philthydelphia? You must be mistaken. Thanks to the good people at the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and the COVID-19 community vaccination program, I think the word you are looking for is "Philahealthier."

In fact, even those who have not yet come to Philly can still get Philahealthier, by signing up at your state and county departments of public health (helpfully compiled here) and completing your COVID-19 vaccine interest form, to get your notice once it's your turn.

Go Iggles!

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb20 Saturday Q&A
Feb19 Ted Fled
Feb19 It Ain't Easy Being Prez
Feb19 Shadow Boxing
Feb19 Poll: It's Still Trump's Party
Feb19 Trump to Haley: Pound Sand
Feb19 Ivanka Is Out
Feb19 Video Killed the Radio Star
Feb18 Rush Limbaugh Is Dead
Feb18 How to Turn Bad News into Good News, Texas Style: Lie
Feb18 Manchin Is a Byrder
Feb18 Biden Does Not Support Forgiving $50,000 in Student Loans
Feb18 Democrats May Turn Marjorie Taylor Greene into a Boogeywoman
Feb18 Traffic at Far-Right News Sites Spiked in 2020
Feb18 Forty Acres and a Mule, Revisited
Feb17 The Kid's in the Hall
Feb17 Trump Slams McConnell
Feb17 Movin' on Up?
Feb17 Insurrection Panel Getting Closer to Reality
Feb17 Trump Sued for Inciting Insurrection
Feb17 Giuliani Sidelined
Feb17 The Downside to Schadenfreude
Feb16 Battle Lines Are Forming
Feb16 The Lincoln Project Is Dying
Feb16 One Born Every Minute
Feb16 Don't Call Us, We'll Call You
Feb16 An Unforced Error for the Biden Administration
Feb16 Nevada Getting out of the Caucus Business, into the "Going Second" Business
Feb16 Perdue May Take Another Bite at the Peach
Feb15 Takeaway Time
Feb15 How Brave Were the Anti-Trump Seven?
Feb15 Poll: Americans Believe Trump Was Responsible for the Capitol Riot
Feb15 But Will the Senate Vote Even Be an Issue in 2022?
Feb15 Some in Congress Want a Bipartisan Commission to Examine the Riot
Feb15 McConnell Is Now Leading a Fractured Republican Party
Feb15 Trump Is Coming Out of Hibernation
Feb15 Are the Democrats Powerless Now?
Feb15 Trump's Business Partners Are Squeezing Him
Feb14 Unimpeachable
Feb14 Sunday Mailbag
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