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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

After six weeks of starting out with letters on the subject of talking about Donald Trump, we start today with responses on yesterday's lengthy answer about racial violence. You might say that, at least this week, Black is the new orange. The first letter in that section is lengthy, but it's from a popular correspondent who also asked the original question, so we are running it in its entirety.

Also, we got more letters this week than we've ever gotten. Since it was not an especially major news week, that presumably means we hit on an unusually high number of subjects that triggered people's interest, or struck a nerve. That's how it runs sometimes. Anyhow, that is why there is an unusually broad array of subjects.

Anti-Black Violence

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: Last week, so much time was spent discussing "Critical Race Theory" and "Core Competencies" The same week I read that a lot of the 1/6 Insurrectionists are not able to afford their own defense attorneys, so the state is providing them from the District of Columbia. One of those public defense attorneys, Heather Shaner, is asking her defendants to read and watch films so as to better educate themselves about the role of oppressed people. One of her defendants, Anna Morgan Lloyd of Indiana, read "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee," "Schindler's List," and "Just Mercy" as well as watching film versions of the latter two. (As a movie buff, I have to rate Spielberg's "Schindler's List" as one of my favorite films of all time. When I saw it in the theaters, I had braced myself for the atrocities but it was the end of the film with "I could have done more" that let loose a gut wrenching sob as I projectile cried.) Lloyd also watched "Tulsa Burning," a History Channel documentary of the Tulsa Massacre, and "Mudbound," a recent film about life in Mississippi during the Jim Crow era.

In a court filing, Shaner said that Lloyd did this to "learn American History she was not taught in school." Lloyd became one of the first insurrectionists to plead guilty to her actions. In a statement to the judge in her case, Lloyd wrote, "I've lived a sheltered life and truly haven't experienced life the way many have. I don't live a pampered life. My husband and I work hard for everything that we have. My lawyer has given me names of books and movies to help me see what life is like for others in our country. I've learned that even though we live in a wonderful country things still need to improve. People of all colors should feel as safe as I do to walk down the street." Normally, I am leary of courthouse conversions, but Lloyd's words have the first glimmer of the dawn of enlightenment about them. And we wonder how we got the Former Guy as president and why the insurrection occurred? Seems to me that the poor quality of education in this country leads right to those kind of results.

Yesterday, (Z) provided an incredible and horrific illustration of how much I don't know about the history of race relations in this country—and I consider myself much more well-versed in history than the average American. I was beyond shocked at how many horrible bloody events I had never heard of or, if I was peripherally aware, was not cognizant of the entire racial factor. I hope I have vastly overrated my knowledge of American history and the rest of the readers were more well-versed. Here we are as a country arguing about a somewhat arcane historical theory when what we should be discussing is how do we teach our kids better—period. Instead of getting obsessed about who is going to which bathroom, hung up on that Susie has two fathers, and worried about what might offend Little Biff and Muffy's sensibilities, we should be more concerned if they are getting a real education, not pablum. It's become an almost trite cliché, but when we don't know about history we are apt to repeat it. We are doing our children a huge disservice by sanitizing history so some uptight Republican bigot doesn't get their knickers in a twist.

And it's not just with history that our education system is failing so miserably. When I was in college, I took a sex education course. The first day of class, we took a 100-question True or False test. I was horrified that I only got 86 questions right—that is, until I looked around to see that the guys around me only got 8-12 questions right! Remember, we're not talking kindergarten, but college-age kids already sexually active who could only get about 10 out of a hundred questions on sex right. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that knowing the mechanics of sex might be slightly helpful to young adults engaging in sexual activities. But I guess that's forgetting about some Concerned Mother whose sensibilities might be hurt.

One final example, in my high school senior year, we were assigned a play by William Shakespeare, one of the greatest writers in any language and whose plays continue to engage hundreds of years after they were written. What play did my public school assign for us to read? "Two Gentlemen of Verona," at best a minor work. I guess the powerhouse plays like "Hamlet," "Othello," "King Lear," "The Tempest" and "Twelfth Night" were just too provocative for our delicate little minds. Even this lesser work was drained of all its vitality and gusto and taught as this pallid limp thing. No wonder most of the class read the Cliffs Notes.

Our education system is so whitewashed that it focuses on the bland and the guaranteed not to make one think or question. We know more about how to teach and how people learn than we ever have, and yet we actively pursue an approach that promotes and celebrates ignorance. I love the concept of public education and think teachers are essential to our country's survival, but let's stop tying the teachers' hands. Let's let them do what they know and love to do best, inspire and enlighten! The Republicans want to make it worse by forbidding teachers to teach. So let's start teaching alternative facts, since reality doesn't match up with ideology. Yet the Trumpublicans are the ones who scream bloody murder about how the public schools and now universities are practicing indoctrination! How is this good for our country?

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: I read with interest your long response on forgotten incidents of violence against Black people. The fact that most of these have been totally ignored in our nation's schools is a great counter-argument against those now striving to limit teaching of racial topics.

Three, in particular, hit me. The first was the one on draft riots. Growing up in Wisconsin, I always thought of it as a staunch Union state, birthplace of the Republican Party, home of the Iron Brigade, etc. So I was surprised to learn in college about the draft riots, especially in Milwaukee and Port Washington. While I don't know if these led to violence against Black people, they had similarities to the New York riots since they involved recent German immigrants who felt the war had no relevance to them but thought they would end up being drafted to fight it.

The second is the reference to Wilmington. Honestly, I had never heard of this until I moved to North Carolina 24 years ago. It many ways it was even worse than your description, since it was a true insurrection resulting in the overthrow of a freely elected city government under the urging of major state newspapers and state elected officials, plus, of course, the lynching and murder of many Black people and the destruction of numerous Black-owned businesses and homes.

Finally, the note on sundown towns, something I only learned about in the last decade or so, which also involved many towns I knew well growing up. For example, the city I was born in, Fond du Lac, had a large and vibrant rural Black community in the late 19th century which had all but vanished by the early 20th century under the pressure of sundown laws and such, thus leading to a multi-county area where I did not know a single Black person until my junior year in college. It is so easy for people in the North to look down on the "racist" South. But when I moved to Kentucky and then North Carolina, I found vibrant small-town and rural Black communities, something all but non-existent in the Wisconsin in which I grew up. I enjoyed watching mixed-race groups of kids walking to school or to the park, something my friends and I didn't even have the opportunity to experience as children.

S.A. in Austin, TX, writes: Having been born and raised in the Chicago area, with a mother who was born in 1911 and a father who was born in 1909, growing up I heard a great deal about the Chicago race riot of 1919. I'm surprised you didn't include a sentence about that particular event.

V & Z respond: When you teach history, or you write narrative pieces like that one, you learn pretty quickly that if you cover too many examples, you end up overloading the student or the reader. So, regrettable choices have to be made.

P.S. in Gloucester, MA, writes: Reading through the long, chronologically-ordered list of incidents of racial violence against Black communities you posted in response to the question from D.E. in Lancaster, through the lens of my own cultural history as the first-generation American son of Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe, I was struck by how many of those incidents were, in all respects, pogroms. (Some of them, for example Tulsa 1921, really resembled the Nazi "Kristallnacht" more than anything else: survivors of Tulsa 1921 were taken into so-called "protective custody" in an internment camp, much as my father's father was interned in Dachau for two months after being rounded up on Kristallnacht in Vienna.)

I was struck by how many of the victims were never identified and have no memorial.

There are no gravestones to visit for the 16 members of my family murdered by the Nazis—but there is a collective memorial and research institute documenting their existence, Yad va-Shem, in Jerusalem. And there are similar organizations and memorials in several other countries, including in a number of cities in the U.S.

I know that the Equal Justice Initiative has built a museum and memorial in Montgomery, Alabama, to Black victims of lynching—doing much the same work of documenting their existence. It would be good for EJI and other organizations capable of doing so to expand that work to include the victims of other incidents of racial violence against Black communities, across the whole timeline of American history—through to the current-day deaths of Black civilians at the hands of law enforcement. People's eyes glaze over at the onslaught of dates and numbers, but when the events are illustrated by the stories of real individuals, I think there is greater impact. As has been the case with education about the Nazi holocaust, such an approach may win more hearts and minds than "teaching Critical Race Theory" as such, and lay the groundwork for motivating recognition of the systematic economic disparities that exist today.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: Thank you for filling in some more of the willful blindness to the less pleasant aspects of American history, by identifying some of the more awful incidents of racist violence in the United States. It's amazing how little of this is known. My 44-years-ago AP U.S. History course, for example, included the New York Draft Riots, but not their racial dimension. My Black friends have been educating me about this history, and even they are learning much of it for the first time.

Your remark that "It would be easy to make a list just like this for Latinos, or Asians, or Native Americans (as well as Catholics, women, LGBTQ+ folks, etc.)" is all too true and all too sad. Let me specify one of the "etc.": Jews. This story lists 14 prominent incidents of anti-Semitic violence in the US from 1915 to 2018.

C.P in Silver Spring, MD, writes: In yesterday's description of Red Summer you mentioned how "Shell Shock" later became "Post Traumatic Stress Disorder;" George Carlin summed up the significance of that evolution perfectly in two minutes.

A.M. in Eagle Creek, OR, writes: The Q&A regarding whitewashing Black history is truly worth wider circulation, but too lengthy to copy and paste. As an embedded element in the larger column, it's also awkward to link to your page. Could you provide an item-specific link to the summary?

V & Z respond: Here you go: whitewashing.

More on Critical Race Theory

G.T.M. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: Having read the letters on CRT, it occurs to me that "Critical Racial Theory" is a misnomer and that a more correct term would be "Critical Bigotry Theory."

At one time, several other groups were regarded in much the same way as Black Americans were (the Irish, the Jews, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Catholics, the non-majority Protestants, and the Native Americans, to name but seven). Until such time as the culturally induced bigotry against the particular subset of the population was reduced/eliminated, then the members of those groups suffered much the same impediment to socioeconomic upward mobility as is currently the case with people in America who have ancestors that they can trace back to African roots.

Once that bigotry is reduced/eliminated, then the genetic portion of the person's makeup becomes much less of a determinant in how they are treated by society than does their learned behavior pattern. This indicates that it is not any genetic factor on the part of the bigot that creates the bigotry, but rather that it is something that they learn (and which they can unlearn).

Now while it is true that (almost) all societies have some degree of "critical bigotry" in their makeup, what appears to be the "American exceptionalist" factor here is that a very large segment of the American population is intent on both actively denying that there is any such thing in American society and also actively claiming that it wouldn't have any effect whatsoever if it wasn't for the things that were all the fault of the class the society is bigoted against. In short: "It isn't happening and it isn't my fault that it is happening."

C.B. in Fort Wayne, IN, writes: While reading through last week's letters, I felt the need to write a response to two in particular.

First, in response to N.M. in Phoenix, it seems there may be no better example of the type of moderate or liberal that folks like MLK and Malcolm X were suspicious and wary of. Though considering how unhinged their embrace of far-right talking points are, it's perhaps just as likely we're seeing Poe's Law rear its ugly head yet again, so perhaps it's best to ignore N.M.

Meanwhile, R.M.S. in Lebanon seems to mistake liberal ideals with reality. Critical Race Theory is, fundamentally and most usefully, a theoretical lens that helps us to understand the relationship of race to the social, cultural, and legal aspects of society. It is incredibly useful to further our understanding and view the limitations of our current systems and ideas. R.M.S. grossly mischaracterizes this perspective as "teach(ing) that we are all mere avatars of the different ethnic groups we belong to..." In reality, CRT emphasizes the importance of our roles as members of various racial and ethnic groups.

R.M.S. seems to reject the reality that humans are social animals; we and our behavior are deeply impacted by the social norms and institutions around us. Rejecting this reality does not magically make us "individuals who are capable of reasoning with each other on a rational basis as equals." The fact of the matter is that, in reality, we are not equals in society. Denying the inherent inequality does not make it go away. For that reason, R.M.S.'s criticism of the 1619 Project is fundamentally flawed. The Project (which is far from perfect in its own right and certainly should not be used as a standalone curriculum in schools) does not diminish documents such as the Constitution; instead it shines a light on the uncomfortable parts of American history that folks like R.M.S. would like to see swept under the rug.

For my part, I'd much rather see the ugly parts of our society and the uncomfortable parts of our history out in the open. The first step is admitting there's a problem, as they say.

J.S. in Springboro, OH, writes: I hope all your readers, such as N.M in Phoenix, who are "dismayed" that you accept the view that race is a social construct read this with an open mind. If race is not (entirely) a social construct then one must accept that there is a genetic component that can account for some of the cultural differences between the "races" where "race" is generally a proxy for skin color or other physically defining characteristics. However, all the relevant science today points to the conclusion that these characteristics, including skin color, have no more genetic significance than the difference in eye color.

Over the past few years, National Geographic has done several well-researched articles on this, including, "There's No Scientific Basis for Race" which is, unfortunately, behind their pay-wall (we all gotta eat, I guess). In other words, Black or Asian or Indigenous people are really just "people" with specific physical characteristics, and any differences in "culture" have no genetic basis. We really are all just Homo sapiens, and if you struggle to accept this maybe you need to look inward and ask yourself why.

D.M. in Berlin, Germany, writes: N.M. in Phoenix asked you if you support the oh-so-nefarious Antifa and Black Lives Matter. You declined to respond, evidently on the grounds that you see it as a silly waste of your time. Let me waste my time for you.

Antifa is not an organization.

It's a self-label. The closest thing you can do to "join" Antifa is to write "Antifa" on your backpack. (That happens at almost every protest in Europe, and has for over 20 years, probably more like 50 or 60.) There is no leadership, no funding (by oligarchs or by anybody at all), no membership (which also means that nobody can tell you you're not "really" a member if you say you are), no ideology, not even a common goal: writing "Antifa" on your backpack can mean anything from "I'm against fascism" (a.k.a. "I'm for good and against evil") to "if the Nazis get violent, I'm willing to return the violence." The strange abbreviation of "anti-fascist" to "antifa" might be French in origin.

So, when "Antifa goes after small-time businesses," there are three options for what really happened: (1) some random looter happened to have "Antifa" written on their backpack, or was seen in the same general area as someone who had; (2) a Boogaloo Boi wrote "Antifa" on their backpack in order to make people angry at Antifa and trigger the long-desired race war (a few people have, in fact, been arrested for this!); or (3) while there was a protest at one end of the city, random looters looted the other end of the city, figuring all the police would be at the protest.

N.M. further expressed indignation about their inference that "you seem to endorse the idea that race is a social construct." It is a social construct; not in the sense that skin colors don't exist, but in that there are no borders—there is no way to classify people into races (be it 3 races or 66; both have been proposed, and everything in between) without ending up with a large number of "transitional" or "intermediate" people that make up the entire population in large areas. Race is a social construct in that the same person (imagine Colin Powell) can be "Black" in the US, "coloured" in South Africa (where "coloured" and "Black" are two wholly separate categories!), and "white" in Brazil. I'm a biologist, so let me add that race is a social construct in a very important way: skin color doesn't covary with any other trait. Lots of heritable traits show geographic variation in humans, but no two of these maps look the same. Singling out skin color is completely arbitrary from a biological point of view.

N.M. also called CRT "a Marxist neo-racist ideology." I struggle to understand what that might mean. Marxism isn't racist, it's colorblind, with all the advantages and disadvantages that entails. Believing that everything can be reduced to economics, Marxism assumes that racism is nothing but a wedge issue the rich have invented to divide the poor from each other and prevent them from ganging up on the rich. Once you've reached the "classless society," Marxists expect racism to vanish in a puff of smoke, so they believe it's not necessary to do anything against racism specifically. (Sexism and all other discrimination likewise. Oppression by the rich is the root of all evil; solve that, and everything else falls into place, all prejudices just disappear.) Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) held that view all the way to 2015, when Black Lives Matter activists interrupted his stump speech to tell him things weren't that simple, and he listened.

J.K. in Portland, OR, writes: Given the systematic and very real economic inequalities by race in the United States, a concise statement of CRT by Anatole France in 1883 (my translation) captures it in one sound bite: "The law, in its majestic equality, prohibits rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges, begging in the streets, and stealing bread."

G.W. in Avon, CT, writes: C.T. in Lancaster wrote: "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."

Lifeguard whistle is more like it. I get fundraising mail from the Republican Party and their proxies a few times a day. They're all-in on the claim that CRT is being shoved down the throats of poor, innocent grammar school kids and must be stopped if the nation is to endure.

J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: I felt the need to respond to the letter from N.M. in Phoenix, which contains a number of misunderstandings and dubious claims.

Critical race theory, like much of critical theory, like much (all?) of 20th century thought generally, is influenced by Marxism, yes. Even those who oppose the tenets of Marxism can't contest the fact that Karl Marx is one of the most influential and foundational thinkers of modernity. Any advanced curriculum or theory to describe social/economic behavior that does not contend with at least some of Marxist thought on some level would be incomplete at best, deliberately obtuse at worst.

Critical race theory is not "neo-racist" because there is no aspect of critical race theory that posits the inherent inferiority of any other race. Instead, critical race theory argues that white people have tended to be in charge, and that white people have used categories of whiteness, Blackness, etc. as a political, social, and economic tool to maintain power and privilege at the expense of people of color and that this tendency is alive and well today. It doesn't matter that I am not a racist, or that I am a "Democrat to my core," or that I voted for Obama, or that I'm in insurmountable debt and live in a junky one bedroom apartment next to a train track after six years of grad school, I benefit from the color of my skin because the power structure says I do. Any study of U.S. history, economics, and politics that is more than superficial bears this out. I would challenge anyone to point out where this is wrong. The research is too voluminous to account for but I recommend Dr. Nell Irvin Painter's The History of White People, which provides a sweeping overview of the construction of whiteness and its use as a tool of politics and power from the Mediterranean of antiquity to the present day.

This is not to say that white people cannot belong to other oppressed or disadvantaged categories (poor, working class, disabled, queer, trans, etc.), but they do so while also benefiting from their whiteness. I'm sure no critical race theorist would argue otherwise. For example, no matter how broke I may be, I'm statistically far less likely to be killed in an encounter with the police than an equally broke Black person. This is what theorists mean when they say "privilege"—not that being white means every day's a party and that I get to clink glasses with Jeff Bezos on the regular just for being white. However, critical race theory definitionally is not directly concerned with categories other than race (and to some extent, gender) because those other categories have entire fields of study and activism in their own right.

There may be critical race theory scholars and adherents who make—as (Z) notes—strident statements about the behavior of white people generally. If you're making statements about politics and history you're always going to be able to find outliers, exceptions, fringe cases, etc. If scholars needed to account for each of these all of the time they would never be able to formulate a coherent thesis. If you're a white person that doesn't see yourself in the way critical race theory describes white folks, don't feel personally attacked. CRT isn't about you, or me, it's about a system that we benefit from whether we choose to or not.

As to what Dr. King would think, if you think that MLK did not discuss whiteness as a persistent systemic issue, then I'm not sure which MLK you're talking about.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: I'm not one to complain, but I should say "Me Too" to the "raw nerve" post from A.B. of Wendell last week in reference to CRT. I think all of us are more alike than we are different, so I personally advocate for inclusion in lieu of diversity. I also have most of the feelings A.B. described. I am an ordinary white male who came to adulthood in the wake of the civil rights and feminist movements and was buffeted by every wave of activism since then. I am a member of the 31% of Americans that everyone is free to ridicule, blame for their troubles, and label as oppressors. At a critical point in my life, my dream career path was blocked off because there was high competition for those jobs and I was neither female nor a person of color. While I understand that the "system" was actively compensating for lack of diversity, and it didn't need white males to have enough qualified candidates, I was still harmed by that. My demographic is not allowed to complain. I make my peace with all of this by remembering that my gender and race are things that happened to me. I had no control over that, and I should not be blamed for it—just like everyone else. Like A.B., I feel like I have no advocates. I don't expect a sympathetic hearing from most of this audience, but dismissing my feelings would actually prove my point.


C.S. in Meridian, ID, writes: You noted, in relation to the recent Florida bill, that "The state government can't cut the budget for the University of Florida History Department, they can only cut the budget for the overall university. Are they really willing to punish all departments because a few departments are deemed to be in violation of...whatever it is they're violating?"

I would say, yep, absolutely that's a good possibility. Idaho just did that in regards to "supporting" critical race theory and other "social justice" issues.

B.B. in Chipley, FL, writes: In regards to the purposes of the Florida bill requiring surveys of the political beliefs of students and faculty, you wrote: "There can be only two reasons for this exercise..." I can think of a third reason—the inexorable march by conservatives toward totalitarianism. These states use ambiguous laws to keep people in line. If you don't know what behavior is prohibited, but you know the penalty is harsh (i.e., losing your job), then you are more likely to err on the side of caution.

L.R. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: Longtime reader here. I'm a member of Arizona's House Democratic staff (and, incidentally, an expert in Arizona election law who wrote many chapters of the Elections Procedures Manual that governed the last election).

Just wanted to let you know that your coverage of Florida's education bills helped legislate in Arizona today. We got a bananas amendment that mirrored Florida's H.B. 5, and because of your site I was able to lift it up and make sure the right people knew about it. Good work!

V & Z respond: Excellent; thanks for letting us know!

C.C. in Hancock, NH, writes: I think it is both humane and expedient for (Z) to give students an opportunity to resubmit essays that were originally handed in with "Because God willed it so." (Z)'s explanation to the student—that God's will is not a topic that is amenable to evidentiary analysis—is probably the best that can be said to anyone who thinks the way such a student obviously thinks.

But the rest of us are not so blinkered. Most people, theists and atheists alike, understand that we need to offer evidence and argumentation if we want someone to accept our conclusions. Anyone who claims that God has a will, and the ability to make his will manifest in the world, has offered us a coherent, empirical, and falsifiable hypothesis. (There are other conceptions of God that are neither empirical nor falsifiable, but that's not the kind of God on offer here.)

It's not at all hard to imagine the kind of evidence that would support such a hypothesis. A comet appearing on the eve of battle, and the emperor disregarding the advice of court astrologers. Reports of an angel or a demon whispering in the ear of a general, and the general changing his tactics as a result. A giant fist descending from the sky and smashing one of the contending armies. I could go on. Such evidence would need to overcome a strong presumption against miracles, but it is evidence, however weak. I do agree that the mere hypothesis without any support warrants an 'F' or a rewrite, and I ultimately agree that (Z)'s solution is probably the best on pragmatic grounds. But the real reason to steer clear of the divine intervention hypothesis in an historical analysis isn't because it's not empirical. It is because it is empirical and has been falsified.

D.D. in Platte City, MO, writes: Your remark about the politics of professors and students on university campuses made me laugh. I graduated from U.C. Riverside with a dual major in Political Science and Administrative Studies in 1992. One of my professors (sophomore year, I think...) taught a course on Central American politics. The students in the class quickly discovered that our writing assignments received much higher grades if we were sympathetic to the leftist ideology of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua or the FMLN in El Salvador. So naturally, we all became Marxists for an academic quarter. Hopefully, my current employer won't find any of those old term papers!

V & Z respond: Certainly, there are some professors like that. And if you take a class on Central American politics, or lesbian poetry, or labor history, you have a good chance of running into someone who has strong views, is perfectly willing to share them, and expects students to embrace them.

At the start of his U.S. history survey, to make clear that he is not that sort of professor, (Z) tells a story about the professor who taught the same course to him as a student. The final exam question was: "Was the Vietnam War justified; yes or no?" And, as (Z) observes, that seems to suggest that one might adopt three basic arguments: (1) Yes, (2) No, and (3) Yes in some ways, no in others. However, as (Z) observes, the professor who taught that course took their Ph.D. at UC Berkeley in 1970. Anyone who adopted a thesis other than, "The Vietnam War was totally unjustified, and thank God for the heroic hippies who understood that" was going to hear from across campus as their final was hurled into the garbage can.

Anyhow, those folks certainly exist. But (Z) has worked with a lot of professors, and most of them try their very best to play things down the middle.

P.M. in Currituck, NC, writes: I never thought I'd see a former student's name on your site! I taught Shawne Alston during his senior year of high school, and I know I showed this site to his class numerous times.

V & Z respond: It's an interesting feeling for a teacher when that happens. You just hope it's for something good, as opposed to their being arrested for a crime or something.

Down with the GOP (Yeah, You Know Me)

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: What Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) apparently still needs to learn is that Republicans believe there is no upside to supporting any legislation pushed by Democrats, no matter how watered down or cheapened to serve them. With Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as Leader, they know only "no." Then, much like COVID relief, if anything passes, they can claim credit for anything their constituents like and blame Democrats for going it alone on everything else. They played this game to great success in the Obama years and they have no reason to think this strategy won't work again.

And if Democrats haven't figured out this game and if Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) don't understand by now that if nothing gets done, we'll lose again, then shame on them. Democrats must be willing to go it alone, if for no other reason than to actually pass important legislation, especially if the do-nothing Republicans take over Congress in 2022. I'm hoping this whole dance (kabuki theater, if you will) they're doing means that they're willing to reform the filibuster when, inevitably, Republicans block the supposedly "bipartisan" smaller infrastructure plan; then they can use the reconciliation process to pass the rest of the infrastructure plan, including funding for broadband that Manchin's constituents must be desperate for.

M.W.W. in Port Orchard, WA, writes: Regarding your note about soap operas, might I suggest adopting an early Carol Burnett series of skits entitled "As The Stomach Turns." Mine certainly does at Republican shenanigans, lately.

J.M. in Norman, OK, writes: You wrote: "A constitutional amendment granting the District one representative and two senators would also solve the problem, but the Republicans aren't going to go for that."

This brought to my mind a compromise: D.C. remains a federal district at its current size but the Constitution is amended to state that the district shall be entitled to one senator, representatives based on population, electoral votes equal to the count of its senator plus representatives, and some explicit constitutional grants of home rule (I don't have a good idea what this last point would include). The one senator compromise strikes me as a win for Republicans in the long term...ah, who am I kidding, they wouldn't go for that, either.

R.N. in Des Moines, IA, writes: This is about Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), but stay with me here: I was born and raised about six blocks from the Iowa State capitol building. My uncle ran a tavern next to the capital frequented by lobbyists and state senators, and I had the opportunity to work at the state Senate when I was in college. I even worked for Robert D. Ray when I was at Blue Cross of Iowa in the late 80s and early 90s. In short, while I may not have an intimate view of what's happening at the Federal level, I do know something about the personalities of Iowans: They...hate...change!

There's a reason why Steve King was able to stay in office as long as he did. You have certainly pointed out that Iowa is white, but it's also very "home town." I wouldn't say that they are a majority racist as much as a majority ignorant about the rest of the world. They don't hold for what is now modern "political correctness." However, they will stop on the side of the road and help change the tire for anyone, regardless of race, creed, or sexual orientation. They're just nice people. Once they realized King was such a horrific individual, they let him go. However, since he had name recognition, he was able to stay longer than he should. Also, ask yourself how many terms Ray served consecutively. Terry Branstad was termed "Governor for Life" by The Des Moines Register's Donald Kaul when he was with the paper. The only thing that will keep Grassley from running is his death, or if he can talk one of his kids or grandkids into running. If that happens, all they'll have to do is put "Grassley" on a lawn sign and they're in; I don't care what Democrat or Republican you try to run against that name.

You're a Grand Old Flag

J.M. in Norco, CA, writes: In your response to K.A. in Upland, who wrote that they "live in a fairly red area, to the east of blue Los Angeles," allow me to weigh in on my observations from a considerably redder area, only slightly to the east and south of Upland—our hometown, which I (affectionately?) refer to as Tulsa, CA.

I agree that Blue Lives Matter and Confederate battle flags serve as dog whistles (the latter to a greater degree) but let's add the Betsy Ross flag (thirteen stars) and "Don't tread on me" flag to the list.

Now, going beyond dog whistles, the "Trump 2020: f**k your feelings" flags in town are gradually being replaced by "F**k Biden and f**k you for voting for him" flags. Nothing says "family values" and "good neighbor" like that!

J.S. in North Canton, OH, writes: I have to completely disagree with K.A. in Upland. Our flag is not a dog whistle and it shouldn't be partisan. I fly the flag every day. I wouldn't call myself patriotic, but I believe in our country. Flying the flag also doesn't mean that I don't recognize the flaws of our country. I never thought my flag and Biden/Harris sign were incompatible.

K.A. is falling for the culture war that Republicans want. They can't win on the issues, so it's about critical race theory, woke culture and the flag. I don't think that the flag is some sacred thing. Burn it, take a knee during the anthem, or don't. I'm not giving the flag away to the Right and I won't take it from them either. Let's not give this away. They've already taken black and yellow shirts (proud boys), red hats (maga) and the OK hand gesture.

But I do agree with the late John Prine, who was killed by the Trump virus: "Your flag decal won't get you into heaven anymore."

S.B. in New Castle, DE, writes: I completely empathize with K.A. in Upland. I've long felt a great deal of patriotism for the ideals that our Constitution embraces, especially the right to vote, and I served 9 honorable years in the Navy. However, anytime I see our flag flying from trucks and from houses off-holiday, it's a Trump signal, for better or worse. As for me, I put a Pride and trans flag out so there is no question about my idea of freedoms!

A front porch, with potted
plants, and small Pride, U.S., and trans flags in three of the plants

R.H.O. in Portland, ME, writes: In response to K.A. In Upland: I distinctly remember attending a rally of some liberal sort as a young undergrad in Philadelphia in the 90's. To our surprise, one of the invited speakers unfurled an American flag as he took his turn at the lectern. In response to our wide-eyed bewilderment, he simply stated "I came of age in the 1960's. If there's one thing we learned then, it's that the police are much less likely to beat the crap out of you if you're holding an American flag!" We all cheered. I've marched for many liberal causes since then, and never been threatened by law enforcement. It's our flag. I'll be damned if we liberals let someone else co-opt it.

S.L. in Monrovia, CA, writes: Regarding the flying the American flag, you wrote: "...if a person is really concerned, they could add a second flag to the mix. A pride flag, or a Black Lives Matter flag, or AFL-CIO, or possibly even a state flag."

I too have been bothered by the glut of American flags always flying in my neighborhood. Similarly, I have always found the required daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance in public schools to be a little insulting to the students. In 12th grade I made a compromise with my principal to simply stand during the pledge.

While I am a great believer in any country that espouses civil liberties, equality, and knows how to improve itself, I prefer participation over self-praise. I hold with George Bernard Shaw: "Patriotism is a pernicious form of idiocy." My answer for many years has been to fly the U.N. flag at my doorway.

I would add a solar system or galaxy flag, but I find the various attempts at these to be too ugly.

V & Z respond: Dunno, the solar system flag based on the Olympic rings is pretty good. On the other hand, the galaxy flag looks like it should be flying at a Baltimore Ravens game.

C.L. in Boulder, CO, writes: In response to K.A. of Upland, I like to fly my flags on "special" days. Every Election Day or, if it's a Colorado-only election, the Colorado flag goes up. On the Fourth of July and Colorado Day, the U.S. and Colorado flags respectively go up. I'm sad to say that I don't fly the U.S. flag anymore on Flag Day because it's also Donald Trump's birthday, and I don't want people to think that I'm honoring Trump instead of the flag.

Some other days that I have flown the US flag: the day that the election was called for Biden/Harris, and the days that the impeachment hearings started or the votes were taken.

I refuse to concede the flag as a patriotic symbol to only one political party.

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: I live on the "liberal" side of the Cascades, on the Left Coast.

I need to talk for a moment about patriotism. Yes, I am a liberal Democrat, but that does not make me a non-patriot. I swore to defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign or domestic. I swore that oath—when I was inducted, when I was sworn into the city council, and when I was sworn on to the county planning commission—to "uphold and defend the Constitution, the laws and the ordinances thereof, so help me God." I will swear it again and again without reservation. My son and daughter, as well as a brother and some cousins, have taken that oath, as did my father, also several uncles and a couple of aunts. Somewhere back there I have a Medal of Honor recipient from the Civil War and a [Author's last name] that is buried at Andersonville (Confederate Prison) national cemetery. There were [Author's last name]s that served in the Continental Army. I have the flag that draped my father's casket. From a deployment, our daughter brought back a flag that flew on a mission over Iraq. You want to burn the flag to protest something, go ahead. I know many people who fought, and a couple who died to provide you that privilege. You go to the flag and banner store and put your cash on the table and pick out the one you want to torch; I will even give you the match.

There is an American flag at my house, don't even think about touching it, I would hate to clean up the blood afterwards and explain to the police how you were so grievously injured when you tripped. While you are at it, I don't want to see any "Stars and Bars," "Don't Tread on Me," "Thin Blue Line," or "Betsy Ross" flags in my vicinity.

I took an oath to the Constitution and there is only one flag that represents that oath.

The other flag I might recommend to run up the pole under the Red, White, and Blue is the one that says "Tuck Frump," if you get my meaning!

Sorry for the rant, but that touched a nerve.

Ranked-Choice Voting

S.C. in Mountain View, CA, writes: As a long-time advocate for ranked choice voting (RCV), I must take exception to you describing the cooperative campaigning of New York City Mayoral candidates Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia as "gaming the new ranked-choice voting system."

"Gaming the system" is a pejorative phrase often used by opponents of RCV, when in fact it is a benefit of RCV that it encourages positive and even cooperative campaigning, just as it discourages (but does not always eliminate) negative campaigning. (This is in stark contrast to the first-past-the-post system it replaces, where mud-slinging is the norm.) This joint campaigning occurs often with RCV (sometimes successfully, sometimes not), and was even noted by The New York Times during San Francisco's first use of ranked choice voting. I would expect a site such as yours would use a more neutral phrase.

As for the potential delay in reporting the final winner, there are three main factors that determine how soon a winner can be projected after the polls close:

  1. The closeness of the race
  2. The laws governing when votes may be tallied or prepared for tallying
  3. For an RCV contest, when the first and subsequent preliminary RCV tallies are performed

I note that the first two factors apply to all elections, not just RCV elections. In fact, when Vice President Kamala Harris first ran for California Attorney General in 2010 in a simple "vote for one, whoever gets the most votes wins" election, the election was so close that it could not be called election night. It wasn't until three weeks after the election, when enough absentee and provisional ballots had been processed to accurately project the outcome, that her opponent (who, if memory serves, had led on election night, and who traded the lead back and forth with Harris as ballot counting progressed) finally conceded. Harris herself did not declare victory until a week later, after all the counties reported their final vote tallies.

Some in the media are claiming that it is the use of RCV that is delaying the New York City Mayoral results, but that is actually due to the second factor. According to media reports, there are up to 220,000 absentee ballots yet to be counted. This is almost triple the number of votes separating front-runner Eric Adams from current second-place finisher Maya Wiley. So until those ballots begin to be tallied, it is difficult to project the winner.

According to New York State law, absentee ballots postmarked by the day of the election and received up to seven days after the election must be counted. If an irregularity is noticed with the absentee ballot (signature missing or doesn't match the registration record), the voter must be notified and has 7 business days to "cure" the defect. This will delay the availability of final results possibly into mid-July and has nothing to do with RCV.

Of course, the closeness of an RCV election cannot truly be known until the preliminary RCV tallies are conducted. The New York City Board of Elections doesn't plan to conduct a preliminary RCV tally until Tuesday June 29th, so we will have to wait until then to see how close the race really is.

A lesson can be learned from the first use of RCV in Oakland in November 2010. On election night, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters only reported the first choice tallies, preferring to wait until the following Friday to run the first RCV tally, after most of the absentee and provisional ballots had been processed. That meant the story Wednesday morning was that the leading mayoral candidate had a supposedly insurmountable nine point lead (34% to 25%) over his nearest opponent. When the RCV tally was run on Friday, it turned out that he had lost by less than 2% to that opponent (as she had picked up more transferred votes from supporters of eliminated candidates than he had), surprising the media, and helping to fuel an unsuccessful attempt to repeal RCV. Had a provisional RCV tally been run on election night, it would have shown the race to be a lot closer than just a consideration of first choices made it appear.

Fortunately, most of the New York media are not calling Adams' 9-point lead over Wiley "insurmountable," and are waiting for the Board of Elections to conduct that preliminary RCV tally and process the absentee ballots before projecting a winner. But it would have been better if the Board had run a preliminary tally election night.

Two more brief points, if I may. Under the old two-round runoff system, if no mayoral candidate received over 40% of the vote, a runoff election between the top two vote-getters would have been held on July 20th, four weeks after the first election. And then the same rules about absentee ballots would apply, meaning the winner might not have been known until mid-August. Since RCV eliminates the need for a second election, the result will be known sooner than it would have been under the old system.

Finally, I note that the Democratic primary for Manhattan District Attorney is even closer than that for Mayor, with Alvin L. Bragg Jr. having only a four-point election-night lead over Tali Farhadian Weinstein (34% to 30%). As that is a state office, not a New York City office, it is a simple plurality election, not an RCV one. Yet due to the closeness of that race, we won't know the winner until mid-July, at the exact same time that we learn the winner of the Mayoral primary. And that has nothing to do with RCV.

V & Z respond: We ran your letter in full because of your special expertise in a subject that is directly in line with the focus of the site.

M.W. in Louisville, KY, writes: I was disappointed to see that you repeated and did not correct The New York Times' assertion that the mayoral primary vote wasn't counted yet because of ranked-choice voting in Thursday's item "The Day After." The Times has been associating delayed results and RCV for weeks now, frequently just insinuating it by placing a reference to RCV in a sentence immediately following one about the predicted delay, but also (as in the case of the article you linked) completely blaming the delay on RCV without any explanation.

I don't know if the Times' writers just don't understand RCV or are in the bag against it, but I am sure that a computer scientist such as (V) understands that once all the ballots are tallied RCV can be resolved in a matter of seconds.

The delay in the current NYC election results is entirely due to requirements that absentee ballots be given an additional week to arrive and additional time granted for absentee voters to "cure" invalid ballots they may have submitted. The only way that RCV affects this timeline is that the second round of the "instant run-off" cannot begin until all of the absentee ballots have been received and accepted. A large enough win in a traditional first-past-the-post election might not require examination of absentee ballots (and the resulting delay) to determine a winner, although a very close election certainly could.

I would appreciate it if you would challenge the narrative that RCV complicates and delays election results. It is just not true and tends to be pushed by entrenched powers-that-be that are threatened by the opportunities it brings for third parties and alternative candidates.

V & Z respond: Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) or RCV are only "instant" if all the ballots with all the choices are in a single computer somewhere, which is a security nightmare.

R.K., San Francisco, CA, writes: You wrote that if Democrats want RCV to be adopted nationwide, they "are either going to have to abandon their general preference for liberal ballot/curing deadlines, or else the country is going to have to get used to waiting until December to learn who the next president (and senator, and representative, etc.)."

But RCV elections don't have to be run the way New York's is. In San Francisco we don't have to wait for results until a week after the election, because the RCV tallies are released on election night, and every day thereafter at 4 p.m. In most races, the winner is clear on election night or the next day, and almost all ballots (including provisional ballots) are counted within a week of the election. In the last very close election we had (District Attorney in 2019), the winner was clear by Friday and mathematically certain on Saturday, and those delays had more to do with the overwhelming volume of mail ballots arriving on or right after Election Day than anything else. With daily RCV tallies, RCV isn't much of a factor in when an election is called: it depends on how fast the ballots are counted and how close the election is, just like with a first-past-the-post election or a yes-or-no ballot measure.

New York Politics

E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, writes: As you noted, this past Tuesday was an Election Day across the whole state of New York, not just New York City. In my town (a touristy lakeside suburb of Syracuse), there ended up being a hotly contested Republican primary between two candidates for...wait for it...highway superintendent!

Here's a few interesting aspects about this race:

  • I still don't understand why we elect, rather than appoint, a highway superintendent. The superintendent is the person who oversees the department responsible for road maintenance and, most importantly in our region, winter snow removal. I'd love to know why that position needs to be a partisan elected one, especially when there didn't appear to be a Democratic candidate (or at least no primary).

  • When I wrote "hotly contested," I should have written "downright nasty." Supporters of both sides, including one of the candidates' spouses, really lit into each other on a local Facebook group with personal attacks and vitriolic comments directed toward both men and their supporters.

  • Both of these candidates already work for the highway department, so regardless of who won the race, he would have to work with the other!

  • In the end, the race wasn't even close, with one candidate beating the other by a 50% margin. However, our recent school board election, which was also very heated, was decided by just four votes!

  • Finally, these events suggest to me that all politics is neither national nor local. All politics is tribal.

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: This past Tuesday, we held our primaries here in NY. While most of the attention was given to the New York City mayor's race, I should mention there were two upsets here in the upstate part. First, the incumbent mayor of Rochester, NY, Lovely Warren (D), was defeated in her primary 2:1 by her challenger, Councilman Malik Evans (D). He will be the next mayor, since there is no Republican running. West of the Thruway, another incumbent mayor, Byron Brown (D), was narrowly defeated by India Walton (D). She's a socialist. Not the Bernie Sanders type, but more of the Hugo Chávez variety. Brown plans to run a write-in campaign for November. At least, folks will have an easier time spelling his name than with Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) in 2010.

Warren had lots of baggage here in Rochester that cost her big-time. I don't know too much about Buffalo, except that Brown was going for a fifth four-year term and maybe the voters imposed their own version of term limits. There were two other local races here in my county legislature where the incumbent Democrats lost their primaries. One was embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal and the other wasn't liked by his own caucus.

My point is those who would be seeking election next year better take heed of the results from this election cycle. It's possible we could see officeholders, particularly the Democrats, primaried and possibly defeated for their party's nomination. I'm thinking particularly about Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). For Cuomo, his biggest threat is if AG Letitia James (D) runs. I think Schumer is a better position to fend off a challenge since he's done a terrific job as senator, and now him being the Majority Leader brings prestige, and some extra pork, to the Empire State.

So here in New York, we'll see if the trends from this year carry over to the next.

L.E. in Putnam County, NY, writes: Since India Walton won the Democratic primary, how can you say she is "not a Democratic socialist"? However socialist she may be, she is either a registered Democrat or obtained authorization to enter the primary from the Democratic committee under the Wilson Pakula Act. She is endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America. So she appears to be a Democratic Socialist, and (given her willingness to seek office through election) a democratic socialist. If she is a registered Democrat she is a Democratic socialist, and if a registered Socialist a democratic Socialist. The Socialists are not a ballot access party in NY though there is a Facebook page.

V & Z respond: If you can be a democratic socialist and a Democratic candidate for president without being an actual Democrat, as is the case with Bernie Sanders, then surely you can be a socialist, and a Democratic candidate for mayor, without being an actual Democrat.

P.K. in Marshalltown, IA, writes: As we occasionally have Trump-free news days here at, I anxiously await the day when there is a New York mayoral primary-free day. Here in flyover country we care that the New York Yankees are the most evil baseball team on earth and wonder why the New York Islander fans tossed beer projectiles onto the ice after their team's thrilling OT victory Wednesday. We care not a whit about who is running for mayor.

Idaho Politics

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: OK, I gotta take issue with you guys. You cannot know what Ms. Robinson's intentions are here with running for governor of Idaho.

As you well know, I ran in 2020 for NC Senate, as this state's first openly-trans woman ever to run for such office in State history. My candidacy was made all the cooler by the fact that Gray Ellis ran for NC Senate in the same cycle, though in District 20 (I ran in District 18), making him the state's first-in-history openly-trans man to run for such office.

So, here in the land of HB-2 we had both the first openly-trans woman (me) and the first openly trans man (Gray) in our State's history running for our State Senate. Needless to say, Gray and I spoke often. Both of us were "in it to win it." We absolutely wanted and had every intention of winning...though neither of us actually expected to win, we believed it was certainly possible, and we both tried.

Yes, both of us did it, in part, for our community...and to open doors. We were the first in our state. We showed our community that it was possible to do what we were doing, and to try to get a seat at the table for trans folks. Accordingly, we also had to be very careful to not allow ourselves to be in any way baited, because how we conducted ourselves in our respective campaigns was going to reflect not just on us, but on our community, and we knew that. Also, we were going to get held to different standards than everyone else, and we knew that too. People were going to try to make our campaigns about HB-2 and we both had to work hard to convince people otherwise.

Gray ended up with 19 percent in a three-way primary (his two opponents were better known) and I ended up with 26 percent in my two-way primary...better than anyone expected either of us to do (NC is still on the reddish side of purple).

I can guarantee you that Ms. Robinson is most definitely in it to win it, and would like to serve her fellow Idahoans and also, like Gray and myself, privately does not actually expect to win (Idaho is far redder than we are). So, what you said about her is partially correct: she is most definitely doing this, in part, to gain an audience for our community, and to open doors for our Gray and I did. But I don't think it is right of you to torpedo her campaign by casting aspersions claiming that she is not in it to win it.

And, in closing, I will say this: It takes a hell of a lot of guts for even a straight white person to run for office. it takes a hell of a lot to put yourself out there for public scrutiny. Now add to it being trans, and being the first trans in your State's history to run for such office, as Gray and I did, and as Ms. Robinson is doing, not to mention several other trans candidates who have run (and some who even won) like Misty Snow in Utah, Sarah McBride in Delaware, and Danica Roem in Virginia, to name only a few. I think you owe Ms. Robinson an apology here.

V & Z respond: You're right that we should not be speculating as to someone's intentions. And we wouldn't, because it's inappropriate. We wrote that because she was quoted in several stories as saying the purpose of her run is to increase visibility for trans Idahoans.

Legal Matters

E.R. in Irving, TX, writes: I'm no constitutional legal scholar, but in his dissent to Mahanoy Area School District v. B.L., Associate Justice Clarence Thomas references the "150 years of history" where schools "discipline[d] students in circumstances like those presented here" and references McDonald v. Chicago by stating that we should "assess ... the scope of free-speech rights incorporated against the states by looking to what ordinary citizens at the time of the Fourteenth Amendment's ratification would have understood the right to encompass." He further posits that a "universal custom" should be the "well settled" law of the land.

So, in simpler terms, Justice Thomas believes, as an originalist, we should consider this case in the light of what those in the mid-1800s would have considered appropriate, along with what has been viewed as acceptable free-speech suppression by the state for the prior 150 years.

This is a disturbing point of view. Perhaps Justice Thomas should consider that this nation also had a long, multi-generational history of allowing white people to own Black people as chattel property and to deny them equal protection under the law, and this very fact is what led to the passage and ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment.

By his logic, the Fourteenth Amendment shouldn't have been passed because our nation had more than 150 years of treating Black people as second class people, not deserving citizenship. After all, the authors of the Constitution being amended thought that way, and we should respect their contemporary views, right?

G.H. in Chicago, IL, writes: I continue to have issues with your understanding and usage of terms.

For example, there is no such thing as a "non-concurrence concurrence": An opinion that reaches the same decision concurrently by a different line of reasoning is called a "concurring" opinion. It is possible to both join and concur, but Associate Justice Samuel Alito's bloc didn't.

To take another example, while virtually every news source assumes that the ACA was upheld, that's not what happened. Clarence Thomas joined the majority, but also wrote a separate concurring opinion explaining that he believed the Court had "erred twice" before in upholding the Act, but in this case had only held that the plaintiffs lacked standing to challenge it--and he agreed. Standing is a jurisdictional determination. If the Court lacks jurisdiction, then technically the case wasn't even heard. Apart from that determination, there was no decision and no opinion. (With standing, it seems unlikely that the Act could be overturned anyway—that much is true.)

V & Z respond: The relatively limited time available for writing, as well as the need to keep things readable to a general audience, means that we can't always get into semantics at a level that one might see in an academic text (particularly in a footnote). It is also the case that we often use neologisms to explain something in a quick, or amusing, or change-of-pace fashion. When we wrote "non-concurrence concurrence," we meant that the justices were compelled to "agree" because that is how the system is set up, but they didn't really agree. It was not meant as a term of art, but instead as an artful term.

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: The Supreme Court did not rule "that the things students say on their own time, on private social media platforms, cannot be policed by their teachers and principals," as you stated on Thursday. Quite the opposite; that was the Third Circuit's rule, which the Supreme Court rejected. Schools can still regulate off-campus speech such as bullying or threat-making; it's just that Levy's post did not rise to that level of disruption. This is a good explainer.

V & Z respond: You're right. That was the last item of the night, time was running short, and we dashed off that final sentence too quickly.

R.C. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: You gave a great answer to the question from T.B. in Santa Clara's question about why the Chief Justice is separately appointed instead of being the Justice with the most seniority. Another is that this is simply how Congress set it up way back in 1789.

The Constitution says only that there should be a Supreme Court with a "Chief Justice," and that Congress can sort out the details. Congress could have decided that there should be six Supreme Court justices and that the most senior one would serve as chief justice (or that the six could choose a chief justice from their own members each year like the House names a speaker). Instead, Congress decided in the Judiciary Act of 1789 that there should be one chief justice and five associate justices. Later laws increased that to one and eight.

Since "chief justice" and "associate justice" are defined as separate offices, the president must appoint each separately (with advice and consent of the Senate) and everyone remains in their job for life on good behavior. Promotions from associate justice to chief justice have to go through the same advice and consent process as promotions from circuit judge to the Supreme Court.

Congress could in theory change that with a new Judiciary Act if they really wanted to. Though since judges remain in their offices for life, it would only take effect after the current chief justice dies, resigns, or voluntarily accepts the new position.

D.A. in Larkspur, CA, writes: If I remember correctly, originally John Roberts was nominated to replace Sandra Day O'Connor's seat and early in the process Chief Justice William Rehnquist died. George W. Bush decided it would be easier to nominate Roberts for the chief justice spot, nominate a new associate judge (Samuel Alito), thus having just two confirmations instead of promoting one of the existing associate judges to the chief role and having three Senate confirmations.

V & Z respond: Another example supporting our point that external circumstances often play a big role in deciding who gets the big chair.

M.S. in Houston, TX, writes: I am personally thrilled that Rudy Giuliani has been suspended from the Bar. Although he has a right to have his case heard in front of an ethics panel and even a judge, as a person that met him almost 10 years ago and had a very interesting discussion with him, the man we've seen for the last few years is not the man I knew.

The Bar is right to be concerned with his practices and even possibly his mental health. Regardless of what someone may say regarding rights to freedom of speech—which is the right to protest your government without reprisal and not simply say anything you want—it is in the public interest to protect them from bad actors. One admitted to the Bar simply is never not a member of the Bar to the eyes of the public—we cannot separate ourselves into "private citizen" and "lawyer." That is the privilege and the responsibility of those that carry a Bar card.

D.S.A. in Parish, NY, writes: As a retired copy editor who always carried copies of the Constitution and the New York State open meetings law, and have for years been reading various legal documents (Antonin Scalia's writing was terrible near the end), I have never so enjoyed any document like the brilliant 33-page takedown of Rudy Giuliani from the Attorneys Grievance Committee of the 1st Judicial Department of New York. I highly recommend everyone read it.

J.L. in Chicago, IL, writes: I do not have any actual expertise on this but it seems as if proving a secret pardon was issued while Donald Trump was still in office might not be all that hard. Send a copy through the mail so it gets postmarked. Maybe use some sort of seal on the envelope that would not be available to Trump once out of office, in order to reduce concerns about the envelope being opened and resealed (or just mailed unsealed). Send a copy by e-mail, using a government or major third party (e.g., gmail) service on at least one end.

Are any of these absolutely ironclad? No but I would think that they would then put the burden on the government to provide evidence they were not legitimate, especially since there might be some presumption in favor of the defendant if there was ambiguity about whether he/she was actually subject to prosecution.

E.H. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: I was curious about Judge Dabney Friedrich (a Trump appointee) after you mentioned her as one of your mistakes in this week's mailbag and Googled her. Apparently, she dated Brett Kavanaugh in 1998! Small world...

V & Z respond: That story would be even more interesting if the gender we originally assigned to her had been correct.

Religious Matters

M.R. in Acton, MA, writes: I had some thoughts on this paragraph you wrote:

Theology: There are some evangelical denominations that argue that the only path to problem-solving is the one that is laid out in scripture (e.g., prayer and faith in the LORD). Any other path, like, say, CRT, is unnecessary at best, and heretical at worst...

I think you guys are right that this is the public line pushed by many Evangelicals, though their extensive involvement in electoral politics exhibits what I would call hypocrisy. If you trust in prayer to God, then why bother politicians on issues like fighting abortion and trans rights? More importantly, perhaps, I take issue with the claim that the path to problem-solving is what they say it is. Prayer is only sometimes utilized to successfully solve a problem in the Bible. In fact, at the Red Sea, with the Egyptians approaching, Moses cries out to God, Who essentially responds with, "Whaddya want from Me? Tell the Israelites to march forward into the sea!" (Exodus 14:15) Moreover, for many issues that we might call "social problems," scripture is very clear:

  • Don't oppress immigrants (Exodus 23:9; lots of other places)
  • Pay your workers on time (Leviticus 19:13)
  • Let the land rest every seven years (Leviticus 25:4)
  • Reset all real estate deals every fifty years (Leviticus 25:10, [mis]-quoted on the Liberty Bell)
  • Don't oppress your workers, even immigrants (Deuteronomy 24:14-15)

I know that much of this is a theological debate rather than an electoral one. It just frustrates me that reactionary understandings (which I would characterize as misunderstandings) of the Bible often get most of the attention. For many of us, scripture is the motivating factor in our work on behalf of progressive ideals.

A.B. in Lichfield, England, UK, writes: This has to be the topic I least expected to ever find myself writing to you about, but both yourselves and at least one of your letter writers have recently brought up dietary requirements in Leviticus as symbols of Christian hypocrisy; you've done it at least twice in the last couple of weeks, including the item about Catholic bishops rebuking Joe Biden over abortion. I regret to say that it's become just slightly irritating.

I have no doubt that there's a long list of issues where you could justly castigate Christians, both generally and denominationally, over their hypocrisy and their lack of familiarity with the Bible; I wouldn't contest the general point. But—conceding my bias as an [Eastern] Orthodox Christian—those dietary requirements in Leviticus aren't one of them. Acts 15 outlines the event in c. AD 50 that was retrospectively called the Council of Jerusalem. One of the key decisions of the Council was that Gentiles converting to Christianity were not bound by the majority of rules that circumscribed the behavior of Jews. As outlined in both Acts 15:19-20 and the formal letter that forms Acts 15:23-29, in order to "not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God," the only restrictions for Gentile converts were "to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality." So this is the passage that outlines why, as you put it today, "some religious folks claim that the New Testament represents a new covenant with God, and so the old stuff (or, at least, some of it) no longer applies."

Now, as a keen consumer of black pudding (yum), with Acts 15 in mind, I concede I have a problem. Likewise, Biden's predecessor seems to have had an issue on that sexual immorality point. But bacon, eggs, shrimp, and hamburgers appear to be Biblically in the clear, as do a whole range of other restrictions outlined in Leviticus; at least for those Christians who recognize the Council of Jerusalem as outlined in Acts, which I dare say is the overwhelming majority since it includes both Catholic and Orthodox Christians. Why, we don't even need to lop off our foreskins.

P.J. in East Haddam, CT, writes: So a group of powerful men (who, they claim, have given up sex) wants to prevent another powerful man from symbolically eating the body and blood of a third man who, they believe, was the child of a woman who did not have sex with a man, but became pregnant, without her prior consent, because an all-powerful mythological male, to whom she was not married, wished it. They also believe that this male child grew up thinking his real father was a god, that he never married or had sexual relations with a woman, and that he was ultimately tortured and executed by other powerful men, although after dying he was seen alive but then disappeared.

The man to whom they would deny the symbolic ritual of eating the executed man advocates for the right of women to control what happens to their bodies (unlike the mother of the executed man). The original group of powerful men argues that an undeveloped, unborn human fetus has the right to depend upon the body of another human (woman) to survive, although that right does not extend to all other born, developed humans. So to punish the women's advocate, they want to prevent his participation in the eating ritual.

Meanwhile, here in the real world, many people, myself included, are left in disbelief (in more ways than one).

Notes on a Pandemic

O.F. in Boston, MA, writes: The recent "origins" post from P.D. seems to embrace the same COVID-19 reasoning that has been embraced by many Americans, namely that "this virus is so nasty, it must have emerged from a lab."

One attraction of this flawed reasoning, I think, is that many Americans either reject or fail to understand evolution. If all creations come either from God or humans, then either God created SARS-COV-2 or it was human-made (or, at least, human-enabled). But think for a second: Yellow fever, malaria, bubonic plague, measles, smallpox, dengue, etc. were present in ancient times and are believed responsible for a large fraction of all human deaths back then. These diseases are so nasty and insidious that we still struggle to combat many of them, thousands of years after they emerged. How did these diseases arise before the advent of modern science? Evolution through natural selection. It can be hard for people to accept that much of the bad stuff that happens to us remains beyond anyone's control or design, but that's the way it is. (This is not to say that human behavior doesn't influence pandemics in a myriad of ways that have nothing to do with the creation of the pathogen.)

For those interested in thinking about evolution, follow the emergence of SARS-COV-2 variants—whether these changes reflect evolutionary drift (sequences change, but without biological effect) or selection is still pretty unclear, but the virus is evolving in humans as it did (and still does) in bats and whatever other organisms it is propagating in.

M.H. in Murrieta, CA, writes: A virus similar to the COVID virus developed over eons in bats. As a result, bats have developed an immune system that specializes in defending against novel viruses of this type. And the virus has developed novel strains in response to the bats' immune system. This game of two has gone on for eons.

A Scientific American article from 2009 discussed how when microorganisms of different types gather, as in sewage systems, they exchange information and share their new traits with each other. Fantastically complicated DNA strands result from these meetings.

The CDC recently decided that a Chinese social program allowing the poor to raise exotic animals, including pangolins, allowed the COVID virus to develop. To me, this setting plausibly allowed complex viruses of different types to meet and share their traits.

As humanity expands more and more into new locales, disturbing the natural balance by eating new animals that have been fighting off unusual viruses for eons, humanity creates new dangers for itself.

After reading the article mentioned above, I decided that viruses themselves possess the ability to out engineer scientists—and are in themselves extremely dangerous due to their own abilities of sharing traits with each other. It is a very bad idea for us to provide viruses of different types with new opportunities to meet—but we probably do this all the time without giving it much thought.

C.W. in Haymarket, VA, writes: I want to comment on the assertion that the sequence encoding arginine in SARS-COV-2 is "unusual." Arginine is encoded by CGT, CGA, CGG, or CGC; therefore, the only possible difference is in one single nucleotide in the third position of the three letter code. If mutations randomly occur, there is a 25% chance for any one of those choices. What makes one more prevalent than another is the host animal's "codon preference." because each animal might use one of those four choices more frequently, and then that type of animal cell can be more efficient in translating it. So, without knowing the originating host animal, it is impossible to say a particular arginine codon is evidence of human engineering. I have not looked at the details behind this assertion, but perhaps P.D. is basing it on what the preferred codons are in bats? That is just a guess. That assertion seems a little weird to me. And the effect on immune response and being less lethal in Asian populations could seriously be Darwinian selections: A virus that can stealthily replicate in the host for longer has more of an advantage over a virus that is immediately recognized and shut down, and a virus that does not kill the host also has a selective advantage over a virus that kills the host, so if the virus evolves in Asia, then not killing the Asian host would be an advantage.

Just pointing out that those facts are really not great evidence for human engineering.

D.T. in Hillsboro, OR, writes: I'd say it's virtually certain that SARS-COV-2 was not deliberately released by the Chinese government. The reason is that the first outbreak was in the very city that the major Chinese virus lab is in. If they wanted to attack the West with it, there are a few dozen major Western cities it could easily have been released in. If they didn't want to make it too obvious an attack on the West, it could have been released in any of a large number of other Asian cities. Releasing it in the lab's back yard brings too much attention to that lab.

T.C.H. in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, writes: You often publish a death chart that specifically highlights Donald Trump's COVID-19 death projections as being substantially lower than COVID-19 actuals. The bottom row of 800,000 military deaths in the Civil War bookends the high limit of the chart. We have an expression here: "That sounds about white."

The chart has a racial blind spot. The far more staggering historical number that is missing is the total number of deaths from the Indigenous Holocaust here in North America. There is debate on the size of that number but credible scholars have put that number at least one order of magnitude larger and far more likely two orders of magnitude larger, with some estimates at 100,000,000.

Here in Canada we are now reckoning with a very dark part of our own history: residential schools. The church and state forcibly took indigenous children from their families to be "civilized." Most never saw their families again. The last residential school closed in 1997. There were an estimated 139 such schools and, so far in the last month, using grave mapping sound technology, we have found hundreds of children buried in unmarked mass graves beside just two of the schools. As we continue our grim search, we estimate the number of dead indigenous children at the hands of the church and state will be well in the tens of thousands.

While it is also grim that hundreds of thousands of Americans died needlessly because of the reckless incompetence of Donald Trump and his enablers, let's not lose perspective on the mortality flowing from colonialism. As scholar David Stannard pointed out, "this was the worst human holocaust the world has ever witnessed."

I would ask that you respect the indigenous lives lost by including one more row at the bottom of your table:

Colonialism Indigenous Holocaust | 1492 - Present | 10,000,000 to 100,000,000 | Estimated

I'm sorry (but not sorry) if this makes Donald Trump look less grim, but I think you'd agree that the bigger purpose of the table is about keeping things in perspective.

V & Z respond: Yes, we would agree. However, the parameters of that table are: (1) events of limited duration, (2) that caused the deaths of U.S. citizens/residents, (3) in the American era. What happened to the Indigenous Peoples unfolded over a very long time, affected a much broader geographic era, and substantially took place prior to 1776. For that reason, we wrote this companion item that attempts to put COVID-19 into the sort of context you propose.

G.W. in Oxnard, CA, writes: In your answer to C.R. in Kansas City regarding insurance companies possibly refusing to pay hospitalization costs for customers who are not vaccinated against COVID-19, you missed important considerations. The insurance customer can always claim a religious objection to taking a vaccine or claim health reasons for not taking a vaccine. For example, I have a sister who claims to have had adverse side effects to the shingles vaccine, so she won't get a COVID-19 vaccine based on consultation with her doctor.

Also, the insurance customer could falsely claim to have had a vaccine and say they got sick and hospitalized anyway. It may be difficult under most state laws to compel the insurance customer to produce proof of vaccination. Any insurance company that attempted to do as C.R. suggests would be entering politics and the culture wars. The entire insurance industry could make the move together, to minimize the politics, but that would require either government intervention or violation of anti-trust laws.

Going Postal

J.E. in Whidbey Island, WA, writes: I understand that the main subject of this site is elections, but it is disappointing to read that the only significant impact of the current Postmaster General's malfeasance in office is its effect on mail-in voting.

The people depend on the Postal Service for much more than just delivering ballots. The longer DeJoy is in place, the more opportunity he will have to cause further damage by dismantling mail service. The need for his removal is just as urgent now as it was last August.

J.M. in Portland, OR, writes: Looks like we're about to change our law to allow mail-in ballots to be postmarked as late as Election Day and still be counted. Seems like a solution to a problem that didn't exist but with the USPS getting all hinky it's probably a good idea.


S.T. in Philadelphia, PA, writes: "Tucker Carlson, Male Prostitute?" That's really in poor taste. I know it's a Saturday Night Live reference. It's outdated and in poor taste there, too.

Most people who trade sexual intercourse for money (common definition of "prostitute") are victims of trafficking or force, rape or assault, underage exploitation, economic desperation, threats, addiction, or other forms of coercion and pressure. Very few of those folks around the world—male or female—choose the sex trade of their own completely unfettered free will. Being a male in the sex trade does not give the nonvoluntary male sex worker any more agency and choice over the use of his own body than a female in the sex trade has over hers.

Comparing the First-amendment protected activity of leaking insider information to outside news outlets, as well as those news outlets' protected activity of seeking such insider information from anonymous sources, to being a victim (male or female) of sex trafficking insults the reporters and their sources by comparison. However, it also insults those male and female people coerced into sexual slavery around the world.

The Sporting Life

M.W. in Northbrook, IL, writes: You wrote: "The number of Black athletes of any sort who had been embraced by Americans by that time could be counted on one hand, with fingers left over (boxer Joe Louis"

Just wanted to add Jesse Owens.

V & Z respond: Good point. We went back and added him to the list.

C.J. in Redondo Beach, CA, writes: You wrote (and it's pretty much always reported like this in the press) that: "In Robinson's case, there were zero Black athletes participating in any major team sport when he broke baseball's color line in 1947, and the number of Black athletes of any sort who had been embraced by Americans by that time could be counted on one hand, with fingers left over (boxer Joe Louis"

However, Kenny Washington was the first to integrate professional team sports. The NFL wasn't what it is now, but it was definitely around. And he's almost completely forgotten.

He does have a plaque at the LA Memorial Coliseum; that's about his only memorialization.

V & Z respond: (Z) thought about mentioning him and Woody Strode, who were both teammates of Robinson's at UCLA (Strode is also buried very close to Z's grandparents), and who were both signed in 1946. However, neither of them were "embraced" by the broader public, the NFL wasn't really a major team sport in 1946, and due to an injury, Washington played only 6 games before Robinson's debut. For these reasons, (Z) decided not to explore that tangent. That said, you will be happy to learn that Washington also has a plaque in the UCLA Sports Hall of Fame.

F.M. in Hatfield, PA, writes: You wrote that you assume the Catholic Church will issue a statement denying Carl Nassib communion sometime next week. While I have seen prominent individuals suggest denying communion to those who support abortion, I haven't seen nearly as many making the same suggestion for those who are gay. Come to think of it, I have seen none. Do you have any examples I might have missed?

V & Z respond: No, we don't. We meant it as a snarky point, to reiterate what we said in this item the day before about selective enforcement of scripture. And we actually wrote that about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who is in the Joe Biden position in this scenario (supporting the "rule-breaker," but not breaking it himself).

College Rivalries

S.M. in Land o' Lakes, FL, writes: On the subject of college rivalries, I recommend To Hate Like This Is to Be Happy Forever by Will Blythe, which humorously illuminates the UNC-Duke rivalry while also providing much of the "meat" that underlies it. And you are right that, unless you've been part of a historic rivalry like Michigan-Ohio State, Auburn-Alabama, Kentucky-Louisville, et. al, you probably don't get what the big deal is. Even professional rivalries, as heated as they can get, don't engender the passion of those from college, perhaps due to the intimate connection you have with your school and typically do not have with a professional organ-eye-zation, eh?

J.D.M. in Cottonwood Shores, TX, writes: I was going to write a letter about the similarities between the Republican Party and Hezbollah as terrorist organizations. I was going to write a letter about the futility of the Iraq war and how Bernie Sanders was the only one brave enough to speak the truth before that war started. I was going to write a letter about my struggles with the broken medical insurance system in the United States and how it results in horrible average health outcomes. But complaints about your USC jokes compels me instead to defend the joy and bonding that comes from good-natured ribbing. When the rules of the game are properly understood by both sides, it is a quick way to communicate acceptance and even respect that stilted politeness fails to do, since the latter is often not sincere. People who do not understand the rules of the game don't ever seem to understand this point.

Finally, it is important to note that the bulldog up at Yale has no tail... which is the nicest verse of that song!

J.C. in Nashua, NH, writes: Whenever someone says to me something along the lines of "I went to USC"—usually with some pride and expectation of fawning or congratulations—my response is to tell them "I'm sorry," and I do genuinely mean that.

And while UCLA is one of the very best public universities in the nation, has a storied athletic program, and an amazing campus in Los Angeles, I went to UCSB, the actual best school in the world. I'll cheer on my fellow UC against outsiders, of course. But when someone tells me they went to UCLA, I'll think to myself "that just means they would have almost certainly been able to get into UCSB and didn't go," while smiling and nodding.

R.H. in Macungie, PA, writes: Thought you'd get a kick out of this:

The cartoon, by Charles Addams, shows a rowing competition in which there is a regular
boat with one rower speaking to another, and then a deluxe boat that looks like something from Roman times, along with nude women, a person cracking a whip, and what looks to be
Black people playing various instruments, like a harp

It's from 1937, and the caption is "I imagine it's the University of Southern California."

V & Z respond: That's actually more interesting to (Z) as a historian than as a UCLA person. How many things shown in that cartoon would not fly today? The midterm exam in his U.S. history course is a picture analysis (from a choice of six, rotated each semester from among a pool of a hundred or so); he might just add this to the rotation.

A.V. in Cedar Falls, IA, writes: There already is a "Harvard of the Midwest." It is the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. As one of my former professors would postulate: "...unlike that educational feedlot in Iowa City."

Regardless of the authenticity of the first part, the latter is most certainly true (they are not consistently in the top 5 party schools in the nation every year for nothing) and I would wager they could utterly destroy USC in any academic pursuit, assuming the scores were compared golf-style.

In Flux (and Other Matters Sci-Fi)

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: As if I needed another reason to love you guys, you gave me one with your answer on "Which is superior: Dilithium Crystals or Flux Capacitors?" Of course you answered correctly, but you won your way to my heart with the reference to "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's" Orb of Time. Got to love the Prophets! While I love and admire the Original "Star Trek" as well as "Star Trek: The Next Generation," my heart longs to be on Deep Space Nine having a Raktajino with the Sisko, playing Dabo at Quark's and swapping stories with Elim Garak. That would be my vision of heaven!

V & Z respond: Just remember that every story that Garak tells you is true. Especially the lies.

D.B. in Chicago, IL, writes: I believe you're greatly mistaken! Consider that if one were to go back in time, even a second, where would you end up physically? Where is the ground you are standing on now, once you travel to then? As our planet is constantly in motion, in order to put your DeLorean (one must time travel in style, of course) in exactly the same spatial location relative to where you are now on Earth, it must have both extreme calculation ability as well as an ability to move you faster than light to get there instantaneously (88 mph won't cut it)! Maybe it constructs an artificial wormhole, which we know that only the prophets (or wormhole aliens, whichever you prefer) were known to be able to do.

M.K. in Wilmington, DE, writes: With respect, your response in finding the Cochrane-style warp drive superior to the Flux Capacitor overlooks a couple of key dimensions.

For one, warp drive requires antimatter and the flux capacitor only requires ordinary matter to operate (even if you don't have the cold fusion aftermarket accessory, plutonium still isn't antimatter).

For two, warp drive is purpose-designed for space travel, whereas usage for time travel is off-label; using it pretty much requires being outside a planet's atmosphere and traveling faster than light. The flux capacitor has been demonstrated to be effective with any vehicle that can carry it and travel at 88 MPH.

So really, this is a question of scope. If you're operating in space and your payload is the crew of a quasi-military organization (and possibly a humpback whale) then warp drive is your answer. If you're planet-bound and your payload is a up to a family of four (and possibly a dog) then the flux capacitor is the better choice.

Of course, the real answer here is a TT capsule from Gallifrey, which is powered by a captured singularity and, by the virtue of existing in a pocket dimension, is purpose-designed to travel through both space and time. Although the typical payload is a Time Lord/Lady and one to three companions (and possibly a robot dog), the architectural configuration is dynamic and could easily accommodate many more individuals. Just try to get one that isn't a Type 40 Mark I; that was an early model and the controls were a bit flaky.

C.M. in Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, writes: Like all proper Whovians, I'll see your quaint Dilithium crystals and Flux Capacitor and raise you a Type 40 TARDIS.

V & Z respond: Not a Type 102 or 103?

S.S.L. in Norman, OK, writes: I thought your disproportionately nerdy reader-base would appreciate this. I certainly cackled. Blind people's screen-reading technology pronounces "Tshibaka" the same as "Chewbacca." Maybe Trump should start the hashtag #Wookieesforthewin, as he attempts to power Kelly Tshibaka to victory over Lisa Murkowski?

V & Z respond: Dunno; the Star Wars character who reminds us most of Trump was no fan of Wookiees, at least after he had Han Solo encased in carbonite and placed in his lair.


B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: While everyone, I'm sure, appreciates Thursday's Pink Floyd reference, the fan favorite for July is almost certainly last Sunday's "The Maple Leaf Brigade, Eh Company."

A.H. in Brier, WA, writes: I feel that I should offer some support for our neighbors to the north. Throughout the T***p years, when traveling overseas, I often took advantage of my close proximity to declare myself South Canadian. This never failed to evoke expressions of understanding (and sympathy) wherever I traveled.

In the final year before the borders closed down, I had the opportunity to fly into and out of Vancouver on several occasions. My trip on Canada Day 2019 was especially memorable.

I was greeted at the airport by a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (in full regalia), I saw what I assume to be a Canadian citizen successfully check his kayak in for his flight as "oversized luggage," while another was taking a set of moose antlers as carry-on.

I might not be willing to drink Tim Horton's coffee, but I can appreciate Canadians for who they are.

V & Z respond: We understand that if a Canadian is caught without at least one set of moose antlers, they automatically lose their citizenship.

M.C. in Warsaw, IN, writes: I felt that it was my duty to share this so called "meme" I was given earlier this week. I'm afraid it's actually evidence of some kind of invasion plan from our northern neighbors:

The map breaks the U.S. into
10 chunks, each with populations equal to that of Canada. One basically covers Southern California, another New England,
a third Michigan and Ohio, and so forth.

V & Z respond: Certainly looks that way to us.

J.G. in Pristina, Kosovo, writes: Go ahead and bash Canada all you want. But when the Mounties are marching down Pennsylvania Avenue, I guarantee you that they will be greeted as liberators. And I for one, will be happy to collaborate with any puppet government they should establish. Universal healthcare, eh!

J.A. in Austin, TX, writes: I couldn't help pronouncing the last word in the Canadian sign from J.B. in Boise, ID "correctly".


Our future Canadian overlords are kinda particular about that pronunciation. Be sure to practice.

J.V. in Madison WI, writes: Greetings from Madison, Wisconsin—Canada's outpost in the States. School colors the same as the Canadian flag a coincidence? I think not.

Anyhow, in response to the comment from last week's mailbag: George Washington, Jesus Christ and the My Pillow Guy walk into a bar, and they are arguing about where they should spend the night.

George Washington says, "Well, everywhere you go on the east coast you see signs saying George Washington slept here, so obviously I am the expert on accommodations."

The MyPillow Guy replies, "Well, who could be more of an expert at how to sleep than myself, the inventor of the MyPillow?"

Then Jesus Christ puts down three nails on the bar and says, "I'm ok, I got some Romans who will put me up."

V & Z respond: Roughly 2,000 years out, is it now ok to make crucifixion jokes? Or is it still a comedy killer, like the assassination of Franz Ferdinand?

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jun26 Saturday Q&A
Jun25 As the Infrastructure Turns
Jun25 Pelosi Makes It Official...
Jun25 ...As Does the New York Bar
Jun25 DeSantis Cements His Claim to the Trump Lane
Jun25 This Week's 2022 Candidacy News
Jun25 COVID Diaries: The Origin Story
Jun24 We Have a Deal, Part 29
Jun24 Supreme Court Justices Are Earning Their Paychecks
Jun24 The Day After
Jun24 Another Proposal for Fixing the Filibuster
Jun24 Biden Nominates McCain for U.N. Post
Jun24 We Have Our First Redistricting Map...and Our First Redistricting Map Squabble
Jun24 Newsom to Face Recall Election
Jun23 It Ain't Over Til It's Over
Jun23 Pelosi Reportedly Ready to Move Forward with 1/6 Commission
Jun23 Manchin Plays Ball
Jun23 Democratic Super PAC Will Pour $20 Million into Voting Efforts
Jun23 Some States Are Making Voting Easier
Jun23 Democrats Vow to Reach Out to Minority Voters
Jun23 Senate Committee Takes Up D.C. Statehood
Jun23 Labor and Green Groups Urge Biden to Reject Watered-Down Infrastructure Plan
Jun23 Judge Rules Against Protesters in Lafayette Square Case
Jun23 Will the Free Market Make Bernie Sanders Obsolete?
Jun22 Sinema Lays Out Her Filibuster Views in Black and White
Jun22 Polling News, Part I: Adams Remains the Favorite
Jun22 Polling News, Part II: DeSantis for President?
Jun22 Trump's Risky Endorsement Strategy
Jun22 Tucker Carlson, Male Prostitute
Jun22 Big News Times Two from the World of Sports
Jun21 More Democrats Are Yelling "Go, Joe, Go!"
Jun21 Catholic Bishops Vote to Draft a Statement That Will Rebuke Biden
Jun21 Garcia and Yang Gang Up on Adams
Jun21 North Carolina Republicans Want to Throw Out Ballots Arriving after Election Day
Jun21 Georgia Will Soon Purge 100,000 Voters from the Rolls
Jun21 First Hearing Is Scheduled in Smartmatic's Suit against Fox News
Jun21 Trump Endorses in Alaska Senate Race
Jun21 Democrats Are Not Wild about Nikki Fried
Jun21 Poll: Chuck, Time for You to Pack Your Bags and Leave the Senate
Jun20 Sunday Mailbag
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