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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

We'll start with one last group of comments on politically mixed relationships, and then we'll move on to the letters about Critical Race Theory (CRT) that everyone surely knew were coming.

Mixed Relationships (Part III)

M.U. in Seattle, WA, writes: I'm surprised no one has brought up the most politically and ideologically mixed marriage in the whole country, that of James Carville and Mary Matalin. If anyone is unfamiliar with either of these two, go ahead and take a look at their Wikipedia entries. Both have worked as strategists and worked intimately under presidential campaigns and administrations and have been loyal partisans—James for the Democrats and Mary for the Republicans. They have a hard-and-fast rule, which is they simply never talk politics; it's just not done in their household. And if you're dubious about how that actually works, I implore you to watch this video of them being interviewed; it's hard to not see how much in love they are and how much they adore each other:

V & Z respond: Their relationship was also the basis for the 1994 Michael Keaton-Geena Davis film "Speechless." As chance would have it, (Z) was an extra in that movie.

C.S. in New York City, NY, writes: Richard Brookheiser (editor at National Review) and Jeanne Safer (liberal psychologist) are almost 180 degrees from each other, politically. Married going on 40 years, I think.

This article shines some light on their relationship, while this one addresses the specific question that was asked: "I'm a liberal therapist who has been married to a conservative editor for 40 years. Here are my 8 tips for having political fights without ruining your relationships."

They have made it work!

K.J. in Nottingham, England, UK, writes: A perspective from this side of the pond: My wife and I are both left-leaning and agree on most things political, but each of us committed to our chosen party many years ago so we are in different political parties here in the UK—Labour and the Liberal Democrats. We don't normally put up election posters but when the Brexit referendum came along in 2016 our parties were, at least officially, on the same side of the argument so we thought it might amuse the neighbors if we put up two posters, one from each party:

Two signs taped to the window that
is inset into a front door; the top one is red and white and has the name of the Labour Party along with 'Vote Remain - 23 June'
while the bottom one is yellow, white and black and says 'Vote Remain - 23rd June'

W.D. in Houston, TX, writes: M.G. in Chicago wrote: "When our significant other is a conservative....move on to a new relationship! The sex cannot be that good."

Agree to disagree. As the 21-year husband of a woman who is my ideological opposite, I am pleased to confirm that the sex definitely can be that good.

And while we're on the topic, this is a microcosm of my broader opinion regarding my fellow American citizens. There is always something each of us shares in common with someone else that can unite rather than divide. I get that this is a minority opinion among the commenters on this site (or anyone under 35), but failure to adopt this position will ultimately doom not just our current society but any future society in which you hope to participate. There is always something to dislike about others. There's always something to disagree on. No one society can be comprised of identical ideological clones. The quest for ideological purity will always leave you disappointed. And the sex will also probably be boring...

D.B. in Keedysville, MD, writes: I have been involved in a once-a-month activity with a group of people for over a decade. Occasionally, politics would come up, and things could get heated (I was probably a big part of that, but when someone denies that, say, four hundred years of state-supported discrimination had any significant impact on outcomes for Black folks, I am simply unable to—and actually, will proudly never be willing to—keep from raising the intensity of the discussion, even though I'm a European-American, aka a Caucasian). But, this eventually resulted in a shared agreement to refrain from bringing up such issues, because we all clearly cared about being able to continue our activity, and we could all see that allowing the strife was a significant risk to its continuation. So, yay for that result for us.

But, in general, I would offer this: there are basically three ways to deal with such problems in relationships, and all three ways start with clearly stating what you want, or—put another way—identifying the change you're requesting. The three choices are, then: (1) you receive the change you've requested (to an acceptable degree, in your opinion), (2) you accommodate yourself to the apparent fact that you will not be getting the change you've requested, or (3) you leave the relationship. That's it! Those are your choices. What you must not do is continue to stay in a relationship where you are not getting what you want, and you have not accommodated yourself to that scenario, but instead keep complaining about it, because that amounts to Practicing Being Unhappy. And, the problem with Practicing Being Unhappy is that if you do it long enough, you might get good at it!

D.S. in New York City, NY, writes: I'm afraid I don't have a constructive, heart warming story to share. I was in a mixed relationship for a few years that included the 2016 election. Early on, we tried to pretend that our political views weren't important to who we were as people, or to what we were to one another. But we were lying to ourselves and to each other. On my part, I couldn't look at her without thinking "she pulled the lever for Donald Trump!," and that she supported voter suppression, the border wall, children in cages, birtherism, the various Hillary-centric conspiracy theories and all the rest. She probably had a similar set of issues with me and my beliefs. We wound up hating one another and eventually broke up. My only regret is that we didn't do it sooner—we could have saved ourselves a lot of really ugly conversations. Maybe it can work if you really don't care much about this stuff, or if you're really good at compartmentalizing. Another alternative would be to cut off your Internet, certainly never read, don't listen to the radio, and don't watch TV or look at newspapers. Maybe a cabin somewhere deep in the forest? Someone should ask the Conways how they do it.

Critical Race Theory...

E.V. in Austin, TX, writes: I wonder if the conservative resistance to CRT might arise, in part, from how some of the tenets are communicated in an unnecessarily confusing or provocative way. For example, "race is a social construct": I understand that to mean that race does not constitute a good k-means clustering of human genetic diversity, which (I assume?) is not especially controversial even among conservatives. But it's also easy (especially if one is not in a charitable mindset) to read that tenet as making far stronger claims, such as "there is zero correlation between a person's race and their genome" or "race has no hereditary basis," and to conclude, "there the liberals go again, making up crazy theories that defy common sense in service to their ideology."

V & Z respond: It is definitely the case that some academics choose particularly strident phrasing for their ideas, and/or particularly strident interpretations of those ideas. They flatter themselves that they are speaking truth to power, though this approach often results in preaching only to the choir and (possibly intentionally) enraging people who disagree with them.

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: Watching John King covering CRT on CNN, they showed clips of several GOP leaders (Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Ted Cruz (R-TX), the usual suspects) railing against the threat to our people and our republic that CRT represents. Clearly, they were defining "Critical Race Theory" as what I would call "the history of the United States," and the truth about Davy Crockett at the Alamo be damned.

V & Z respond: Yes, we hope we've been very clear in our view that (1) there are legitimate criticisms to be made of CRT, and (2) there are Republican criticisms that claim to be about CRT, but those two lists have little in common.

C.T. in Lancaster, CA, writes: Thank you for your detailed discussion of CRT. I am a school board member in Southern California in an elementary school district. We're being accused of implementing critical race theory curriculum under the guise of equity training for staff. I think it is important, as you noted, that CRT is not a curriculum and certainly not something implemented in an elementary school social studies curriculum; or even junior high or high school. It is the next dog whistle, though.

J.C. in Binan, Laguna, Philippines, writes: I also went to college in Southern California, graduated in '93, and also never heard of CRT until about a year ago. However, every tenet that you mentioned was part of the general milieu of Occidental College, and I have generally accepted those ideas as true for decades now.

G.T.M. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: Thanks for an explanation that I can actually use for those who don't understand CRT.

However, when you wrote "Finally, some of it is pretty provocative, even by Ivory Tower standards. The obvious one, which would even leave many professional scholars howling, is the assertion that seemingly pro-people-of-color legal advancements are really pro-white legal advancements." I had to stop and ponder a bit.

Then it struck me that "pro-white legal advancements" could be viewed in business terms, whereby a smaller loss is seen as an acceptable alternative to going broke immediately (well, sold to the small shareholders as such, in any event, while also giving the larger shareholders time to liquidate profitably).

If you look at it that way, then (as an example) the Magna Carta or the Bill of Rights (1689) could be seen as "pro-monarch" in that the alternatives were one heck of a lot worse from the monarch's point of view.

R.S. in Milan, OH, writes: I appreciated the response to the first question in this week's Q&A, and would like to offer a few additional thoughts building on it. I think Brown v. Board of Education is a useful example from which to discuss institutional racism, white privilege, etc. because it is one example of the broader process of integration. Integration tends to be represented rather uncritically as a progressive process. The various forms and types of racial integration that have occurred, and particularly those that occurred from the 1940s to the 1960s, have their elements worth celebrating as progress toward racial equality, but the forms they typically took tended to reinforce white privilege and consolidate white power—exactly to the point in tenet 3 from Delgado and Stefancic.

I'll use the integration of major league baseball as an example, since it's the one about which I am most knowledgeable. I imagine most if not all of us know the story of Jackie Robinson integrating major league baseball in 1947. He is, rather rightfully I think, celebrated for what he did and what he went through. However, the process by which integration occurred was one that consolidated white ownership of professional baseball. Within fifteen years, the Negro Leagues, which were viable Black-owned businesses and central parts of Black communities, were gone. It wasn't until 1976 that we saw the first Black manager in major league baseball (Frank Robinson), and to this day, there have only been a handful of Black general managers (Dave Stewart is perhaps the most well known), and no major-league club is primarily Black-owned (Magic Johnson and Derek Jeter have small ownership stakes in the Dodgers and Marlins, respectively).

Theoretically, Major League Baseball could have integrated differently. Within 15 years of integrating, Major League Baseball expansion had begun. They could have invited some Negro League teams to join the major leagues, thus preserving the commercial interests of folks such as Effa Manley and integrating ownership while also integrating on the playing field. Pragmatically, that would have been an even harder sell to white audiences in the 1940s/1950s than having Black players on the field (and it likely didn't occur or warrant more than a passing thought to folks such as Branch Rickey, who signed Jackie Robinson for the Brooklyn Dodgers and whose interests in integrating were financial as well as—and perhaps even more than—social and political). So, integration didn't happen that way, and thus, even as Major League Baseball integration challenged racism in some ways, it reinforced racism and white privilege as well.

If anyone is interested in further reading, I'd recommend Beyond the Shadow of the Senators: The Untold Story of the Homestead Grays and the Integration of Baseball by Brad Snyder.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: Oh, boy, did you guys hit a raw nerve with this: "and [some Americans] are really aggravated by the notion that their struggles are unworthy of support and sympathy while the struggles of people of color are worthy."

As a transgender woman, who feels under attack every day in this country, I am very aggravated by those who claim that because I am white, everything ought to be fine for me...they are dismissing the discrimination I have faced! And I am equally aggravated by the fact that race gets so much attention...while my community gets so little. Intersectionality is another of those "buzzwords" that really irritate me, because I see it as an excuse to support and lift up only a small segment of an oppressed group, rather than the whole group. For example, I sometimes hear "Trans Lives Matter," but always it is Youth Trans Matter and Black Trans Matter. Well, as a fifty year old white trans, where does that leave me? With no support or love or help of any kind! Look, I don't want anyone to misunderstand...I don't want to take away from anyone else, but damn it, I want to matter too! I want my life to matter as much as that really asking for so much after dealing with thirty years of garbage in my own life, as I have? Oh, you guys seriously hit a raw nerve here; I totally resonated to that entire were totally describing my feelings there!

N.M. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: As a long time reader for years, I was dismayed to see your latest perspective on Critical Race Theory and Whiteness. I voted for Obama twice, Hillary in 2016 and President Biden in 2020. I am a Democrat to my core.

You purport to be academics; and yet you seem to endorse the idea that race is a social construct. Also, you said quite a bit about CRT, and somehow missed that it's a Marxist neo-racist ideology. Martin Luther King Jr. is rolling in his grave and likely would be disgusted by the supremacists we see in Antifa and Proud Boys today. Speaking of which: I haven't noticed you condemn Antifa yet, a well-known terrorist organization likely funded at the behest of oligarchs, which is why Antifa goes after small-time businesses and not Starbucks or Amazon.

Do you condemn or support Antifa and Black Lives Matter? And if you do support them, why do you support the economic murder they have done to people of color in Chicago, Seattle, D.C. and elsewhere?

P.M. in Albany, CA, writes: From your account of Critical Race Theory (CRT), one would get the impression that it is simply an academic approach to understanding history, law, and sociology, and that it aggrieves many white Americans because they don't like to hear what CRT says about our society and their place in it. But there is more to the backlash than that. As Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic write in the book that you cite, "Unlike some academic disciplines, critical race theory contains an activist dimension. It tries not only to understand our social situation but to change it, setting out not only how society organizes itself along racial lines and hierarchies but to transform it for the better."

For instance, they reject "color blindness," because "if racism is embedded in our thought processes and social structures as deeply as many critics believe, then the 'ordinary business' of society—the routines, practices, and institutions that we rely on to do the world's work—will keep minorities in subordinate positions. Only aggressive, color-conscious efforts to change the way things are will do much to ameliorate misery."

It's one thing to tell white folks that they are privileged because of their race, but to have governments and other institutions classify people by race and then use that classification to give preferential treatment to members of some racial groups over others, as CRT advocates—you can always expect resistance to that.

I do recommend reading Delgado and Stefancic's book from start to finish in order to learn what the fuss is about. CRT relies on "the power of stories," and I find the stories in this book to be full of stereotypes. Even its scholarship in the authors' field of expertise is questionable, such as with their suggestions that the defendant in Plessy v. Ferguson was the railroad on which Plessy was a passenger (it wasn't), or that national-origin immigration quotas before 1965 applied to immigrants from Latin America (they didn't). I'm not even an expert on these topics, but what other errors would an actual expert find?

R.M.S. in Lebanon, CT, writes: I read your description on Critical Race Theory and I don't think your description was as thorough as it needs to be. I have an education in legal studies and I am well-acquainted with these ideas. I believe in multiculturalism and value diversity. I also believe contributions from different demographics have been crucial to the United States, but I do not support Critical Race Theory. It is much more radical than you describe and it goes well beyond analyzing how the law affects different ethnic groups in the country. CRT is ultimately about dismissing foundational American principles of liberalism and individualism and reframing the United States as a society based on zero-sum group identity struggle. The book (Z) cited in the Q&A Saturday openly acknowledges this: "Unlike traditional civil rights, which stresses incrementalism and step-by-step progress, critical race theory questions the very foundations of the liberal order, including equality theory, legal reasoning, Enlightenment rationalism, and neutral principles of constitutional law."

In other words, the theory is illiberal because it dispenses with the idea that we are all individuals who are capable of reasoning with each other on a rational basis as equals. Instead, it teaches that we are all mere avatars of the different ethnic groups we belong to, which are either oppressors (whites) or the oppressed (non-whites).

Another contributor recently wrote in criticizing the 1619 Project and this is exactly what the project attempts to do. It is based in Critical Race Theory. It glosses over the Constitution and Declaration of Independence which are viewed by most American historians as the foundations of the country. It insists that the real founding of the country was in 1619 because white supremacy, not liberal democracy, is the core principle of the United States.

And there is no question that these teachings have permeated into many parts of the education system. If large percentages of the country grow up believing there is no such thing as rational thought—only "black thinking" and "white thinking," and that our founding documents are all lies meant to perpetuate white supremacy, and that no progress has been made on racial issues because the foundations of the country are irredeemably racist, then this will undermine the foundations of a democratic society.

Ultimately, I think the best solution is for Americans to view and judge each other as individuals rather than as representations of social constructs. This is how I was raised. I identify as an LGBTQ+ person but I have never viewed myself as a representative of anyone else.

...And Other Teaching Matters

R.H. in Chicago, IL, writes: My suggestion to Democrats in states that have banned the teaching of CRT: propose legislation to ban the teaching of the Lost Cause.

V & Z respond: It's certainly true that if red states had their way, CRT would be Gone with the Wind.

K.C. in West Islip, NY, writes: R.T. from Arlington asked about conservative hatred of Common Core as though it was only conservatives who hate it. I lean most decidedly to the left, but as an educator I can assure the reader that I, and many of my colleagues, are not fans of the Common Core because it's nonsense.

I teach science, which makes it somewhat unusual that I am also extremely bad at math. I don't have problems with general math but once you start incorporating variables into the equation or ask me to do log functions I get hopelessly confused. It's a non-issue for me because in my specific subject we don't have to do anything beyond simple four function math which I have seen students getting worse and worse at over the years. They resort to using calculators to solve problems as simple as ten divided by two. One day I noticed a student doing a multiplication problem by hand using some absurd looking method I'd never seen before. It was the way Common Core teaches it, the so called "new math." I asked the student what he was doing and he went to the board to explain this most unusual method to me. Eventually it turned into a challenge—we would both multiply two three digit numbers and see who got the correct answer first. I had finished mine and checked it before this student had even completed drawing a grid around his numbers and he still got it wrong anyway.

Common Core is hated in large part because it makes no sense. There's no worldly reason to complicate something as simple as basic multiplication, and despite the argument that it would help students with more difficult concepts later on down the road, there's no evidence that it actually does so.

As far as conservative blowback on CRT, I think that's self-explanatory. Conservatives hate anything that runs contrary to their extremely narrow world view. Their argument about schools indoctrinating is utter garbage because unless a child is encouraged to ask questions and receives honest, thorough answers to them then all learning—good or bad—is indoctrination. Parents who home school their children to keep them from being indoctrinated by the big bad liberal public school system are simply indoctrinating them with conservative ideologies instead. I can only hope, however, that at the very least they're not teaching them new math because that would ultimately destroy whatever sliver of hope those poor children have.

V & Z respond: You would have to look long and hard to find an academic who dislikes Common Core, rubrics, standards, learning outcomes, and other things that treat learning as a one-size-fits-all exercise more than (Z) does. We focused on the conservatives' dislike because that was what we were asked about, and because it comes from a very different place, in our view, than the educators' dislike.

F.L. in Denton, TX, writes: I am a certified teacher (in two countries) of no small experience. When I read your item about Florida allowing one or two minutes of "silent prayer or meditation," I thought I might lend my experience.

Personally, I see nothing wrong—constitutionally speaking—with having a minute or two of "silent meditation" in state-funded schools. What I do see as wrong is that each minute of class time is golden and should have the students on-task; they are free to pray or meditate on their own time.

And isn't the GOP supposed to be against unnecessary regulations?

P.S. in Plano, TX, writes: Just FYI, minute-of-silence laws have been battle-tested in other states and found constitutional by federal appellate courts. Given how often they've been upheld, I don't think it's fair to call them an "end run around the rules" at this point. Texas has had a minute-of-silence law since, it appears from my brief research, 2003. It was in effect when I was in high school.

I think the courts are right to uphold these. I was an atheist then, but I didn't find the minute of silence offensive in any way. Sometimes, I would get out my papers and use the time to study for an upcoming quiz in first period, or review my notes for another class. Sometimes, I would take out my planner and see how much homework I had. Sometimes, I would just sit, space out, and relax, which was probably better for my physical and mental health than I then appreciated.

Some of the other students prayed. I was fine with that; why should I have been offended by what other people around me were silently doing in a completely non-distracting way? It was a minute free from distractions at the start of a busy day, and my teenage atheist self didn't only tolerate that, but actually liked it.

D.B. in Winston-Salem, NC, writes: I graduated from Reynolds High School, Winston-Salem, NC, in 1963. Every morning at 8:29, the bell rang and everyone was supposed to pray for a minute. At 8:30, a second bell rang and the day started.

As a Christian and an American, I participated but I wasn't fooled. Whenever the occasion arose, during the day, I said a silent prayer. No one could stop me. And during the Prayer Minute, I was unmoving (per regulation), but they couldn't make me pray. Just like they couldn't stop me at 12:22.

I continue to be befuddled by these mandatory "silent" times. Didn't Jesus say, in the Book of Matthew:

And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

This, then, is how you should pray: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name..."

I don't need to be "seen of men." No one does.

C.C. in Saint Paul, MN, writes: You wrote: "It is also not so easy to get students these days to do the reading for a course, even if they will lose points by not doing it."

Even worse than that, I'll bet they also won't get off your damn lawn.

V & Z respond: Well, (Z)'s office IS directly above the quad, and it's not easy to get work done during lunch hour...

In Theory...

D.R. in Charlotte, NC, writes: The idea of the Big Lie or that Trump will be reinstated or elected Speaker of the House are not conspiracy theories. They are fantasies, pure and simple. The word "theories" has been corrupted, as theories are things that have a chance of becoming true. Let's stop calling this nonsense "theories" and instead call them by what they actually are: conspiracy fantasies.

D.B. in Winston-Salem, NC, writes: Reading your item "American Racism, Past and Present," I was reminded again of the overloading of the term "theory." In science, the highest level of a scientific statement is a theory. One can consider the Theory of Special Relativity, the Theory of Gravitation, the Theory of "Evolution by Natural Selection," or the Theory of Continental Drift. Even if an idea is at first rejected or ridiculed, a good (current) scientific theory has been tested and shown to be internally consistent and useful for the time being. The throw-away phrase "that's just a theory" does not refer to a scientific theory. It uses the term "theory" as an alternative to "fact" in the conversational, informal sense. These two ideas, so radically different, should be kept carefully distinct.

V & Z respond: Some "theories" are indeed pretty solid. See, for example, the theory of gravitation as described in the Encylopedia Britannica.

L.V.A. in Idaho Falls, ID, writes: I cringed when I read your words in the Q&A: "[H]istory is not some immutable set of truths, like the laws of thermodynamics or the periodic table..." Numerous times in my life I have encountered this kind of thinking. There is no "immutable set of truths." The laws of thermodynamics and the periodic table are no more than models that best explain observations. If observations are better explained by a better model/theory, then the current theory will be adapted or replaced. It's a little thing called the "scientific method."

Perhaps the next time you try to establish that historians do not occupy ivory towers, you should not place physicists and chemists in them.

V & Z respond: When you crank out 10,000 words in a few hours, sometimes those words are not as artful as they could have been. In retrospect, the word "consensus" would have been better, in the sense that "with the three laws of thermodynamics or the periodic table, the student's job is to understand a single, largely consensus view of the subject. Not so with history."

The Mystery Manchine (Jinkies!)

L.V.A. in Idaho Falls, ID, writes: Of late there has been an excessive expenditure of both neurons and pixels by various pundits to divine the meaning of the words and actions of one Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). The answer is simple: He will say and do anything and everything necessary to maintain his "power broker" position in the Senate. If he does too much for the Chuck Schumer cabal, he threatens his standing with his constituency and hastens the time when the Democrats no longer need him. If he supports Team Turtle too much, he risks Schumer, et al., giving up on him. Lean too far in either direction and it all comes crashing down. In physics, we call this an "unstable equilibrium."

B.S. in Olmsted Falls, OH, writes: You wrote: "[Manchin's] resistance to change seems to have less to do with the folks back home and more to do with the folks writing checks." Well...water makes things wet, too! And just to reiterate the obvious, the vast majority of elected congressmen/women are bought and paid for by mega-corporations and the ruling elite—way before the flock can even vote for said individuals' names on a ballot. Sans hyperbole, this form of corruption is the bedrock of our "democracy"—I believe the proper term is "kleptocracy." So many fictional narratives are bandied about weaving epic tales over the struggle to pass this Senate bill, and the fight for this voting act, and the suppression of this voter bloc, etc., but does it really matter who even votes anymore? If "Representatives" don't represent the electorate, what are you truly voting for? Until vast sums of light and dark money are removed from the campaign/election process, this sick mirage will endure ad nauseam, and W.V. Joe and his ilk will continue taking that bank home down that ol' country road.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: Manchin = Quisling

R.M. in Port Matilda, PA, writes: All of this theater from Joe Manchin (D-Republican) makes sense if he is planning to run for governor. In 2012, he won re-election 60%-36% (according to the rock-solid and never wrong Wikipedia). In 2018 (a very good Democratic year) he won 49%-46%. That is quite a difference in 6 years. In 2012, West Virginia was, by then, a pretty hard-core Republican state, not giving any counties to President Obama. Maybe the memory of the late, great Sen. Robert Byrd was still fresh in the minds of voters. But Byrd has been dead for over 10 years and his memory is fading.

Plus, with 2024 being a presidential year, Manchin is toast as a Democrat. The 2020 Presidential election had Donald Trump up 68% to 29%. Ticket-splitting between presidential and Senate races is a rarity these days in swing states, there is no way there are enough ticket splitters in West Virginia to save Manchin in 2024. If he runs as a Democrat, he's done, over, kaput (you heard it here first!). The only state in the combined elections of 2016 and 2020 elections that split its presidential/Senate vote was Maine (seriously Maine, what is the matter with you? You ok? I am very "concerned.") No amount of respect for Manchin or nostalgia for Byrd (to whatever extent it still exists) will save him. His only choices for a future in West Virginia politics are to make it official and become a Republican and hope for the best in the primary, or stake out a position in the very conservative Democratic lane and hope he can find enough ticket splitters who are willing to cross over in a governor's race.

S.H. in Sutherlin, OR, writes: I must comment on the item from J.W. in West Chester in last Sunday's mailbag. Whoa, Nellie! To defend Joe Manchin and his position on the filibuster, one would have to believe that we were living in the old age of politics. That is to say, a time where compromise was possible and where the Republicans were interested in governing. That ship has sailed, as we all are witness to, and reality says that all the Republicans want to do is say "no" to anything that Biden and the Democrats want to accomplish. To think otherwise is to stick one's head in the sand amid political denialism. While the filibuster may have been a useful tool in its day, in order to be viable both political parties have to really be vested in a decent political outcome. That is no longer the case, with one party being completely non-compliant in governance. My hope is that J.W. and others who still believe in the worth of the filibuster in this political environment will see the folly of their argument. It's time to re-write the rules of the Senate and get on with it.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: Responding to J.W. from West Chester and others who are afraid to break the filibuster: I've been actively watching politics since 1979, when I was a mere 12-year-old spring chicken tracking the Iran Hostage Crisis with my parents. I am so tired of Democrats being afraid to proudly and loudly promote their very-popular agenda and policy proposals. And I am tired of Democrats being afraid of what might happen if they take certain actions.

The argument that I keep hearing is that, if we end the filibuster now, the Republicans will someday be back in the majority and we will regret it as they push through their policies. Here are my counter-arguments:

  • Republicans care about two things right now: judges and cutting taxes. The filibuster applies to neither of these because they have already changed the rules to suit their needs.

  • Republicans had a trifecta for 2 years and didn't kill the filibuster. See above for the reason why. They don't need to.

  • I'm more afraid of what may happen if we don't kill the filibuster. Republicans will lock in minority rule through gerrymandering, voter suppression and further stacking of the courts. Democrats will never again attain power and our democracy will fail.

By the way, the Democratic agenda is not highly partisan, as J.W. contends. It is highly popular. Polling indicates that our priorities are favored by 60-70% of the American public. They are even more popular when not attached to a politician with a 'D' after their name, which speaks to the branding issue that (V) & (Z) wrote about a few weeks ago.

Finally, I'll note that, in the right place and time, proudly campaigning on a progressive agenda works. Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff (both D-GA) campaigned on progressive policies in Georgia and won! Jaime Harrison, if you are reading this, please tell your candidates to stop being afraid of the Democratic agenda. This stuff is popular and wins elections. If we can convince Jyrsten Manchinema that delivering for the American people just might help Democrats hold onto power long enough to balance the scales, then I won't need to tell my grandchildren someday about the democracy that I grew up in only to watch it die due to an arcane, hard-to-understand Senate rule.

Whither the Republicans?

P.C. in Austin, TX, writes: You wrote: "We continue to be mystified, incidentally, by the Republican stance here."

I am not. It's campaign theater. You answered it yourself, just below that: "[T]he three most important things to voters are, in order, (1) results, (2) results, and (3) results."

Trying to show their voters that the Democrats are unwilling to "compromise" is their goal. They know and expect to fail in "negotiations." But they can feign that they tried in earnest. The results they seek are to stymie Democratic initiatives at every turn, and those are the results their voters want and expect.

Getting something, anything, for their constituents, or for the country is not their ultimate goal. Their ultimate goal is reelection. They are focused entirely on 2022 and 2024, and hope nothing gets done between now and then. Gridlock is the best they can hope for until they regain the majority. (Then, watch them kill the filibuster and start installing judges and justices while they are still being sworn in.)

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: You wrote that you are mystified by the Republicans' stance toward the infrastructure bill. I don't think it's that big of a mystery. It's simple politics. We've seen lots of polling saying that partisans, especially on the Republican side, value ideological purity over compromise. These politicians know that if they are seen to vote for Biden's bill that they only 60% hate, they could be primaried. If they vote against a bill that they 100% hate, then they can run on their purity, and use the 100% hated law that their constituents will be fired up about as a cudgel against their opponent.

The politician's first job is not to govern. It is to secure reelection.

R.C. in Newport News, VA, writes: The Republican stance on the infrastructure bill fits in with their general philosophy:

"Meet me in the middle," says the unjust man.
You take a step forward; he steps back.
"Meet me in the middle," says the unjust man.

D.C. in San Luis, CO, writes: In regard to the item "Keeping Trumpism Alive: Immigration," there's a thought that's been swirling in my head ever since Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) announced he was going to engage in his own border wall effort. I believed it was long-established that states have no authority to enforce or engage in any kind of international or border issues, as the Constitution specifically grants the federal government sole jurisdiction. This was already put to the test and established somewhat recently in Arizona with former Maricopa County Sheriff (and near-miss inmate) Joe Arpaio, when he lost all his cases regarding his ability to enforce immigration in a manner of his own personal choosing, and was eventually found to be criminal in his disregard for sole federal jurisdiction. As such, I've been quite surprised I've not seen any headlines to this effect, or heard any of our nationally elected Democrats or the Justice Department making any statements in support of this fact. Unless, of course, they're simply being politic and not wanting to give oxygen to the BS, or have concluded it'll burn itself out before actual action is taken.

I believe it's even further complicated when one considers states working in tandem on international issues, especially a state like Florida working with Texas and Arizona. This seems to be set up to fail on every possible front. State authorities have no jurisdiction outside of their own states, just for starters, and thus this could all be shut down in a hurry via lawsuit directly to the Supreme Court, as it has original jurisdiction over interstate matters. And beyond that, Florida would surely be proven to have no standing in a suit, since Florida cannot possibly be able to prove they are harmed by what happens at the border with Mexico hundreds or thousands of miles away. Recent rulings seem to establish even Trump-appointed justices know this, and would likely shut it down.

This just all seems to be playing with fire with such an obvious disregard of the law. Unlike with Trump, I do not think we can say that these governors or their chorus/enablers honestly believe what they are attempting to do is legal. I also feel this kind of interaction among states to circumvent the Constitution in an organized fashion could be interpreted as insurrection, as it is creating a sort of quasi-succession in that several states would be formally unifying to subvert the tenets of the Constitution in direct defiance of the government, especially if they defy any potential court orders to cease.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: Many years ago, when I was a young and inexperienced lawyer working for the Department of Justice, I and an equally inexperienced colleague found out that a major TV network had aired a segment that was highly relevant to a civil case we were working on. We really, really wanted to see it, but the program had already aired. This was before the days when everything ever filmed could be found in some corner of YouTube.

So we called the network and politely asked if we could borrow a videotape of the show. We were told: "not without a subpoena." So we drafted up a subpoena. We figured it was a no-brainer. After all, we weren't asking for any sources or inside access; we just wanted to watch a TV program that had already been beamed out to any household that happened to tune in.

We were called into the boss's office within minutes. Turns out there is (or was)—rather appropriately—a strict DOJ policy limiting subpoenas to news organizations and requiring very high-level approval. Neither of us knew about the policy, and we had violated it. Luckily, we were able to simply withdraw the subpoena with no harm done. We never did get to watch the show.

Point is, it is inconceivable that some random Assistant U.S. Attorney or trial attorney in a DOJ headquarters component could possibly subpoena phone records of sitting members of Congress without seeking and obtaining high-level approval. At least from the U.S. Attorney (if in a district) or the Assistant Attorney General (if at main DOJ). And it is inconceivable that either of those political appointees would have authorized such subpoenas without getting approval from the AG or at least the DAG (who would know to go to the AG).

So if the top dog says "I didn't know about this" there are only a few possible inferences: (1) The top dog is lying; or (2) The top dog or a near-to-the-top dog deliberately arranged things so the top dog could deny it (what prosecutors call "willful ignorance"); or (3) The staff lawyer who did it was so poorly managed and supervised that, with or without a wink, that lawyer was able to do things without getting the high-level approval that any competent staff lawyer, supervisor or senior political appointee would have known was needed.

M.G.F. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: I chose not to respond to the comments from J.E. of West Hollywood, expecting, correctly, that numerous others would do so. However there is one additional aspect to J.E.'s preferred phrasing that has not been addressed.

J.E. suggests that the Republican abortion policy is best described as "protection of unborn fetuses." This is simply untrue. Protection of unborn fetuses inherently requires ensuring the provision of prenatal healthcare and workplace accommodations to all pregnant women—both policies opposed by the majority of Republicans. Though I note with appreciation that J.E.'s phrasing accurately declines to claim that the GOP cares about protecting the child after birth.

Your original choice of "more government regulation of women's reproductive lives" was much more accurate, as the proposals from the GOP extend beyond opposition to abortion, but do not include a widespread respect for "human life".


C.L. in Fairbanks, AK, writes: With all due respect, (V) and (Z), I would say your response to the question from B.C. in Walpole about the Catholic Church's obsession with abortion did not do justice to a basic aspect of this issue.

People who are strongly opposed to abortion—e.g., members of the Catholic religious hierarchy (who, as you correctly point out, are entirely male), and many Catholics both male and female, who are raised to respect their religious authorities, and many Protestant fundamentalists (evangelicals)—are most-clearly understood by recognizing that their primary underlying preoccupation is not with preserving the lives of unborn fetuses.

Rather, their primary concern is with returning women to "being barefoot and pregnant" and men to "being in the driver's seat."

If the primary concern of anti-abortion single-issue voters in the U.S. were with preserving human life, they would form organizations to prevent gun deaths. They do not. And they would organize to improve traffic safety. They do not. And they would demonstrate against U.S. involvement in foreigh wars, which always involve deaths of many innocent children and adult civilians. They do not.

The preoccupation with abortion as the sole issue that matters to "single-issue voters" is consistent with one of the primary underlying purposes of organized religion, in a broad sense. That is, maintenance of male patriarchy and the continued subjugation of women. Their focus on anti-abortion as "the only issue that matters" is an expression of alarm caused by their correct perception that women are increasingly gaining political and economic power as people in their own right who are not controlled by men. And that is the reason anti-abortionists are also opposed to birth control, which is key to female autonomy and freedom.

M.A.H. in Akron, PA, writes: I'm probably 20 years B.C.'s junior since, if I had gotten a master's degree, I would have been finishing it around 20 years ago.

I was raised in a household that leaned to the fundamentalist side of the evangelical spectrum, but as time went on, I, too, have wondered what caused abortion to become the rallying cry for conservative Christians. (I even wrote a letter to the local paper and blogged about it, two things most people wouldn't do!)

This isn't usually the sort of question one wonders about unless you are a devout Christian, but one who moved away from conservative American Christianity so you are no longer swimming in the water.

After thinking about this for several years and listening to historians like Kevin M. Kruse, I think it all comes down to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Or, more simply, the desire to identify something that is clearly "the other" as sinful.

Politically conservative religious groups took a while to adapt to the ramifications of the Civil Rights Act (the LDS church didn't allow Black people into the temple or priesthood until 1978), but once they did, they seem to have replaced the religious embrace of segregation with the religious embrace of "abortion issues," "gay issues," or, more recently, "gender issues."

The Southern Baptists were still "supportive of abortion rights at the institutional level" in 1973 (as the Baptist Press recently wrote), so the Civil Rights Act didn't immediately turn politically conservative religious people into pro-life advocates, but it put the wheels of change in motion.

J.A. in Henderson, NV, writes: It seems to me that the Catholic bishops may be against abortion because it limits the number of children they can molest. I understand this is a snarky, mean-spirited and unfair statement to make regarding these (so-called) holy men but so too is their debate to deny communion to people who support choice (like me).

A.L. in Cambridge, MA, writes: Though our country rightly allows freedom to worship, how are we still having conversations about if one can discriminate based on your religious beliefs? What's next? What if my religion requires that I own slaves or that I must punch ginger babies in the face? Who cares what anyone's religion allows or requires? I thought we had separation of church and state so that we don't have to think about thousands of different religious beliefs. Civil law is separate from the many different religious laws/rules/ideals. The fact that these matters keep making it to the Supreme Court is a big win for the religious zealots, in my opinion.


M.C.A. in San Francisco, CA, writes: In response to the question from O.Z.H. in Dubai about alternate history, you wrote: "Giving the freedmen and women a bunch of land, and land taken from white people no less, would likely have been a bridge too far."

Substitute "Jews" for "freedmen and women" and "Palestinians" for "white people" and you pretty much have described the problem in the Middle East.

E.S. in Coral Gables, FL, writes: The assertion that Israel is somehow an "apartheid" state is an assault both on the English language and the memory of the actual victims of the actual former South African apartheid. Of the five jurisdictions carved out of the post-World War I Palestine Mandate, three have no Jewish inhabitants: Gaza, ruled by Hamas; the Palestinian Authority, ruled by Mahmoud Abbas; and Jordan. The other two jurisdictions, pre-1967 Israel and Oslo Area C, have Jewish majorities and Arab minorities. Arabs in pre-1967 Israel are citizens, professionals (including judges, members of Parliament, a healthy fraction of the medical profession, and now members of the Government). Area C has not been "annexed," and so continues to be governed by military law, but that applies to the Jewish inhabitants as well as the Arabs. There is national and religious conflict in Israel, but calling the situation "apartheid" simply leads to demonization of Israel and a counter-reaction by Israelis, not a productive step toward resolution or even management of the conflict. Mansour Abbas, no relation to Mahmoud Abbas, is showing all Israelis a better path forward by focusing on the shared interests rather than irreconcilable cultural and ideological differences, an approach we might learn from in the United States.

P.M. in Albany, CA, writes: Your item "Israeli Parliament Approves New Government" refers to outgoing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's "nasty speech attacking the new coalition," but fails to mention the parts that ought to be of most interest to your readers who follow American politics. The good people at Rev have posted a video of the whole 35-minute speech with real-time English translation and a transcript. The highlight:

And from all the differences, of which there are many, between us and the incoming government, this is the most important and fateful difference for the future of the state of Israel. An Israeli prime minister must be able to say no to the president of the United States on matters that endanger our existence, and to back this up with massive work in Congress, in the Senate, and in public opinion, into the greatest democracy, which is the United States. That is what I did in 2015, when I spoke in the U.S. Congress despite the fierce opposition of the President of the United States. Who will do this now? Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who attacked my speech in Congress? Because most members of the government-designate support the nuclear agreement. Doesn't matter what they say here, they do not want to and they are not capable of standing up to the United States.

D.K. in Oceanside, CA, writes: I'm going to be real here. Yes, it is good news that Obamacare prevailed at the Supreme Court. That means that, in actuality, maybe half of the country will get real, usable, medical care. Without Obamacare, I would guess maybe 20%. I'm well aware that many of us are getting Medicare and large numbers of people get Medicaid.

First Medicare. Part A covers hospitalization and you do not get money taken out of Social Security for it. You have to sign up for part B when you are 65 and the payment for that gets taken out your Social Security. If you are unfortunate enough to be unable to sign up at 65, say because your business has been decimated by the "Great Recession," you will pay a 10% penalty for every year past your 65th birthday that you did not sign up. This penalty is for life. Additionally, when there is no COLA (Social Security cost of living increase) or a tiny COLA, any increase in Medicare will be taken out of your SS payment. Those who sign up at 65 are "held harmless" and only pay extra if they get a COLA that covers the increase.

On to part D, and all you younger folk listen up: Part D is for the drug plan. It is not a large payment, and you may think to yourself; "I have no conditions. I take no drugs at all, and if I need it, I'll sign up later." Wrong. You cannot sign up for an advantage plan without part D. Say you decide after 10 or 12 years that you want an advantage plan and try to sign up for part D. That is going to cost you 2% more for every month since your 65th birthday that you have not had Part D. So now you can only have regular Medicare. That means that you pay 20% of any medical care you get. If anything catastrophic should happen, it will cost you your home. You may be a very healthy person who has only used Medicare to pay for eye surgery in all the years that you have been paying for it. You could have paid for that yourself, actually, from savings. You may conclude that you are paying for other people's care, and would not be able to get expensive medical care yourself. You might decide to end part B. Everyone will die someday and hospice care in your home is covered by Part A.

When you call to end part B, the person you speak to will make a heroic effort to try to talk you into the "free" plan. That would be a Medicare/Medicaid plan, Medicaid would cover your premiums and all medical costs. You won't even get statements. At the end of your life they will sell your house to pay for whatever they decide that you owe them. I, for one, have other plans for my house.

I also have a little experience with Medicaid through a person who was very dear to me. I will call him Carl. Carl was feeling poorly and was getting swelling in his legs and abdomen. He went to the clinic. Medicaid (called MediCal here) only works through chosen clinics. No other doctor will take MediCal patients. Carl was examined, had blood work done, and had a scan of his abdomen. He was told that he had a prostate problem. He was sure that he did not and refused medication. His condition got so bad that he went to a hospital emergency room. They would not treat him, but gave him a referral to be given to the clinic to see an outside doctor. The clinic was not happy. They gave him an appointment with a prostate surgeon forty miles away and three months in the future. He never saw that doctor because he had a heart attack. It seems that his heart was twice normal size and he had a leaky valve. He spent a week in the hospital and got an actual heart doctor at a nearby medical group. However, he never saw the doctor. He got a different doctor's assistant on each visit, because the actual doctor did not actually see MediCal patients. The swelling continued despite diet and medication. He developed severe abdominal pain. They told him abdominal pain was not a heart symptom and prescribed stronger diuretics. One morning the pain was so severe that he had to be taken by ambulance to emergency. The abdominal swelling was blood. The next afternoon he died of stage 4 liver cancer.

Yes, this is anecdotal, but I am very sure that there are a great many anecdotes like this one. The answer is universal, single-payer health care. It won't happen, because of what I'll call the "Congressional/Medicorp Complex." But thank you for letting me vent.


R.L.D. in Austin, TX, writes: S.S-L. in Norman asked for horizon broadening, so here's my contribution. When people experiencing homelessness say they are "homeless by choice," they almost never mean that they woke up one day and decided the rat race wasn't for them and that they'd rather give up things like privacy, physical security, and protection from the elements than continue to pay rent and utilities. Usually it means they refuse to jump through the ridiculous hoops certain service providers require before they will deign to provide any assistance, like swearing off alcohol/drugs, giving up pets or relationships, professing a new religion, etc. Sometimes it is a coping mechanism: It is a lot easier to live with difficulties in my life if they are a result of choices that I have made than if I am a victim of forces greater than myself. And while it is sometimes the case that mental health problems or chemical dependencies led to loss of their housing, most people in homeless situations don't suffer from either, and some only developed problems after they lost housing.

B.H. in Fulton, GA, writes: Many people, and perhaps most, have figured out that commenting directly on the bodies of others is not ok. Certainly not all, though. Further, there are a great many people who still don't see any problem with making indirect, snotty "fat" or "thin" remarks, like "[Athlete name] moves more slowly than the fat man at the circus" or "[Politician's] logic was so thin it might have been confused with Twiggy." Can you imagine anyone at any major media outlet today making those sorts of remarks, except with an ethnic or religious group in place of the fat man/Twiggy?

History Matters

E. W-H. in New London, CT, writes: Yesterday, in response to B.B. from Panama City, you wrote that you could not think of any good that came out of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. There seems to be one clear good: Americans have learned more about Islam. In addition, just as Vietnam persuaded the U.S. to change its approach to the Cold War, so these two conflicts have shown us that conquering and occupying predominantly Muslim nations is not an effective approach to the "war on terrorism."

V & Z respond: Too bad the U.S. couldn't learn that from the first Iraq War. Or from the Soviets' experience in Afghanistan. Or from the disastrous king-making in Iran. Or...

J.L. in Chicago, IL, writes: While there certainly is a lot to criticize about the Afghanistan war, I was a bit surprised that you could not find any good in it at all. At least two possibilities occur to me:

  1. If asked in the fall of 2001 whether you thought the U.S. would suffer a terrorist attack of similar or greater magnitude in the next five years—let alone 20 (hopefully not jinxing the next three months)—I think you would have been in the distinct minority if you said "no." In addition to being just, disrupting Al Qaeda in Afghanistan was part of (clearly not all of) an effort to delay and reduce such attacks. Also, it seems important for deterring others that the U.S. showed that an attack on the level of 9/11 would trigger not just a "cost of doing business" response but a massive one. The level of success was a surprise. Clearly, there were a lot of other things that affected the last two decades and no one can know the counterfactual if any of them were different, but it seems like a stretch to write off the war entirely in avoiding a world where we would now regard 9/11 like we do the 1993 World Trade Center bombing—a smaller incident preceding the "real" attack(s). Even with all that has gone wrong in that war, are you really confident that the U.S. and the world are not better today than if we had not fought it at all?

  2. The human rights abuses of the Taliban, especially against women, were truly awful. Even in a world where there are more abuses than can be addressed vigorously, it is arguable that the U.S. and its allies should have intervened with force before 9/11 simply on that basis. I am not saying life in Afghanistan got great or that the abuses may not return. But there has been a serious block of time when the Taliban has been unable to implement its program, at least on the previous scale. That has real value.

V & Z respond: In that answer, we actually wanted to borrow Dwight D. Eisenhower's quote about the contributions Richard Nixon made to his administration: "If you give me a week, I might think of one." In other words, there's no doubt that a case can be made for the positive outcomes of nearly any war, but in the case of Iraq/Afghanistan (particularly Iraq), one has to think extra-hard, including about the possibility that the same goals might well have been achieved in other, less costly ways.

R.G.E. in Mukilteo, WA, writes: Your response to O.Z.H. in Dubai last week, about a hypothetical Al Gore presidency, included some speculation with little plausible reasoning behind it. The Al Qaeda plan to attack somewhere in the United States was already underway and several hijackers were already in the country before the presidential inauguration in January of 2001. At that point, it would have required commercial airlines to have better onboard security or to apprehend the hijackers before the event. Unless there was a campaign to better share information between the CIA, FBI, and other agencies that Gore would have emphasized completing in his first few months, it's unlikely enough of them would have been captured to prevent all of those simultaneous attacks. Even if there was a change in regulations that happened immediately after Al Gore took office that required secure cabin doors, it could not have been implemented widely across the nation's aircraft before the event.

Working forward from an assumption that the 9/11 attacks would likely have happened with Al Gore as President, the next events would be dramatically different. What would happen in Afghanistan is very hard to tell. In the immediate aftermath, all of Congress would have supported our military removing the Taliban. I think long-term partnering with Afghan military and civil authorities would be less likely to have bipartisan support and we wouldn't have maintained the large military presence there. There would have been no campaign by a Gore White House to invade Iraq. Saddam Hussein likely passes his dictatorship to one of his sons, continuing their legacy of atrocities. There are no Iraq war casualties, including 4,491 Americans and 318 Coalition Partners killed.

Politically, I think that the public's support for the president would wane in the same way it did for George H. W. Bush. John McCain should have been able to win as a combat veteran, needed to repair the nation's defense infrastructure after twelve years of Democrats, who allowed one of the greatest attacks in our lifetimes.

V & Z respond: So, Al Gore has an unsuccessful first (and only) term, paving the way for the election of John McCain? Seems we've read that somewhere before...

A.K. in Alexandria, VA, writes: If Abraham Lincoln had lived and persuaded Congress to pass a 40-acres-and-a-mule legislation, land given to former slaves need not have come from former slave owners. The 1862 Homestead Act could have been modified to give former slaves land without some of the requirements of the Act, or the government could have helped former slaves move to those areas, etc. If this had happened, Nebraska and other Midwest states would now have a much larger percentage of Black citizens, possibly drastically changing the current political calculus.

V & Z respond: Fair enough, but recall that the formerly enslaved people were experts in growing crops in the climates of the American South, and not those of the Midwest. That is not a trivial difference.


J.L. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: I just found out how Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) knew that global warming was being caused by a change in the Earth's orbit. Fortunately, the Superfriends are here to save us:

C.L.C. in Petaluma, CA, writes: D.K. in Gloucester, suggested that we can launch spacecraft and use them as a gravitational tug for changing the orbit of Earth. This would work, but is more work than is necessary. We already have gazillions of asteroids. We tweak their orbits so that they cycle between Earth and Jupiter. We could transfer orbital energy between Jupiter and Earth.

V & Z respond: Now THAT is Yankee ingenuity in action.

J.F. in Ft. Worth, TX, writes: I approve of your use of the words "wend," "wrangle," and especially "wangle" in this week's items. These are great words that aren't used often enough.

V & Z respond: We did not realize how frequently we had dipped into the final pages of the dictionary.

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: I stand in awe. If you had asked me to use "George Washington," "Jesus Christ," and "the MyPillow guy" in a single coherent sentence, I couldn't have done it. I don't know anyone who could. But you did. We who are about to die laughing salute you.

V & Z respond: George Washington, Jesus Christ, and the MyPillow guy walk into a bar...

D.K. in Iowa City, IA, writes: I have read your blog for a long time and value it a great deal. However, it is usually long and I suspect many people may not have time to read it all every day. Maybe you should have an executive summary at the top each day. The posting on June 18, for example, was 12 pages long in my Word. And it was not one of your longest.

V & Z respond: Actually, it was one of the longest, at around 8,000 words (not counting the weekend posts, which tend to run 8,000-12,000). In any event, writing executive summaries would require extra time, and time is already scarce. However, the headlines and—usually—the first paragraphs serve that same function.

J.B. in Boise, ID, writes: I'm not sure where in Canada this was taken but they are getting more brazen by the day:

A marquee on a Canadian business
reads 'One day Canada will take over the world then you'll all be sorry'

V & Z respond: And, of course, as someone whose home state borders Canada, it's up to you to be on the lookout for when the invasion commences. In fact, what are you doing indoors, reading this? The Maple Leaf Brigade, Eh Company, could be approaching at this very moment.

C.C. Los Analgess, CA, writes: I is so sick of you guys posting derogtorey jabs at my elmo matter, the presteegous Universitee of Southern Calfornia! I got a full ride from the skool and passed with flying colers, #2 in my class. In my suppository of nowlidge bequeefed to me by USC, while I wuld guess that most of these jokes go over the heds of those with lesser learnedness, I see all of them cleerly, and do NOT appreecate them.

You will be heering from my rich wite mom's lawyers shortlee about yur defecation of my beloved USC.

V & Z respond: We had to add the state to C.C.'s location. It is not clear if they forgot the 'CA' or they just didn't know how to spell it.

R.L.D. in Austin, TX, writes: On college rivalries: I got my degree from Black Hills State University, known as "The Harvard of the West" by all of us who had the joy and privilege of studying history under Dr. David B. Miller. South Dakota is a small state, and west of the Missouri River there were only two state-supported institutes of higher learning, so our main rival was the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City. Or, as Dr. Miller called them, "That trade school down the road." It was also suggested that it might be appropriate to rename the trade school the Southern Hills Institute of Technology.

V & Z respond: For those who think the proposed name change is meant to create a "Harvard of the West"/"MIT of the West" dynamic, we suggest you consider what acronym would be formed by the new name. In any event, we've gotten a few not-so-happy e-mails about making USC jokes. In (Z)'s experience, USC/UCLA students/faculty understand it's all in good fun, not unlike the dozens. Indeed, he's been to multiple USC graduations to see friends receive their degrees, and none were UCLA-joke free. Perhaps one has to attend a school with a rivalry to fully appreciate the dynamic.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun19 Saturday Q&A
Jun18 SCOTUS Takes Center Stage
Jun18 McConnell Promptly Shuts Manchin Down
Jun18 American Racism, Past and Present
Jun18 Keeping Trumpism Alive, Part I: Immigration
Jun18 Keeping Trumpism Alive, Part II: Trump for Speaker
Jun17 Biden and Putin Met and Nothing Happened
Jun17 Manchin Is Open to a Mini-H.R. 1 Bill
Jun17 Schumer Is Following Two Paths on Infrastructure at the Same Time
Jun17 DSCC Will Spend $10 Million to Protect the Vote
Jun17 Mayors Have Had It
Jun17 Trump Is Struggling to Clear the Field in Senate Primaries
Jun17 Dept. of Justice Will Focus on Domestic Terrorism
Jun17 Biden Will Double Number of Black Women on Appeals Courts
Jun16 Bipartisan Bill Has One Foot in the Grave (and the Other on a Banana Peel)
Jun16 1/6 Realities Diverge in Congress
Jun16 Surprise! White House Pressured DoJ to Help Overturn Election
Jun16 Many Things Are Coming Up Roses for Progressives
Jun16 There's Good News and There's Bad News on the COVID-19 Front
Jun16 Florida Does an End Run around the Rules
Jun16 Kushner Signs Book Deal
Jun15 VP I Is Going to Be a Tougher Challenge than QE II Was
Jun15 Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal Is in Trouble
Jun15 Supreme Court News, Part I: The Calm Before the Storm
Jun15 Supreme Court News, Part II: McConnell Admits What Everyone Already Knew
Jun15 This Week's 2022 Candidacy News
Jun15 Virginia Governor's Race Could Be a Barnburner
Jun15 Adams Looks to Be in the Catbird Seat
Jun14 Biden Doesn't Stomp Out of G7 Meeting
Jun14 McConnell Tries to Exploit Biden's Weakness
Jun14 Collins Clarifies How the Gang of 10 Will and Will Not Pay for Its Infrastructure Bill
Jun14 The States Are Proving Manchin Wrong
Jun14 Justice Dept. Is Going to Look at Barr's Spying on Democrats...and Republicans
Jun14 Nevada Is Helping Iowa Stay First
Jun14 Republicans Are Complaining about 2024 Debates Already
Jun14 Israeli Parliament Approves New Government
Jun13 Sunday Mailbag
Jun12 Saturday Q&A
Jun11 We Have a Deal...Or Maybe Not
Jun11 FBI Is Not Investigating Trump's Role in Insurrection
Jun11 Senate Confirms First-Ever Muslim Judge
Jun11 Omar Ruffles More Feathers
Jun11 Sinema, Boebert May Be Playing with Fire
Jun11 A Possible Answer to the Manchin Mystery
Jun11 Dumbest Member of Congress Unwisely Opens His Mouth
Jun11 California Democrats Move the Goalposts a Bit
Jun11 About Those Vaccine Incentives...
Jun10 Biden Goes to Europe
Jun10 Gang of 10 Wants to Do Infrastructure without Raising Taxes
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