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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

Our items on the Dutch elections got a lot of feedback, so we shall lead with that.

Going Dutch

K.T. in Oslo, Norway, writes: Congratulations on your excellent cherry-picking in Monday's item on proportional election systems. You did a great showcase of the most clunky and complicated version (the Dutch system), and a rundown of the top three struggle-to-get-a-government-together nations (Belgium, Italy and Israel). Perhaps you would condescend to one day balance this out with an item on some of the simpler systems, or mention that most proportional-election nations have an up-and-running government going within a couple of weeks after the election?

Your contrasting of the coalition governments that usually result from these systems with the American approach is peculiar. The horse-trading involved in forming such a government tends to result in each member party getting their way on the item(s) they care the most about, so if you vote for, say, the local animal rights party, and they make it into a coalition government, you are very likely to see some legislation promoting animal welfare pass. In a system like the one in the U.S., these kinds of minority views are less likely to prevail, as the system favors a vote-for-the-lesser-evil approach.

For your bemoaning that a government needs 50%+1 support in Parliament to survive; given the last decades of regular gridlock in the U.S., you really need 50%+1 two times and even then the government may not be able to do anything. It seems better to give up immediately and try a new configuration than to take the U.S. approach and sit inactive waiting for the next election.

For more, I very much recommend for other readers the Wikipedia article on proportional systems (and related pages), they are very good.

V & Z respond: We wrote about the Dutch elections because they took place this week and because one of us lives in the Netherlands and so knows the subject well. There was no cherry picking.

J.K. in Heidelberg, Germany, writes: Your article about the elections in the Netherlands and the disadvantages of proportional representation seems to me to be a little bit biased. The Netherlands are probably not a good example for this system. But there are countries in which it is working very well. In Germany and Austria, there is a minimum percentage of 5 or 4 percent of the votes that a party has to get to be able to win seats. This prevents very small parties from winning seats, and hence, the number of parties that are represented is limited. Both countries have quite stable governments (both on federal and state levels).

And, you did not mention the advantages of proportional representation: In proportional representation, all votes are relevant. There are no safe districts in which a lot of votes have no effect (because they went to losing candidates or gave the winner a much larger margin than the one vote they would need to win the district). If I lived in such a district, I would not feel that my vote really matters. In addition, it is not possible to gerrymander districts. We have districts in Germany, but their shapes are not much discussed, because they do not influence the number of seats a party wins, only which candidates from a party win a seat. It is not possible to win the election for a party by committing crimes against geography.

In Germany, nearly all parties are able to work together in a government if they are forced to do so by an election result that does not allow for their favorite coalition. Nobody wants to work with the AfD (a populist right party), and some parties do not want to work with the Left party ("DIE LINKE," which originated from the governing SED of the socialist GDR). But any pair of the more centrist parties (CDU/CSU, SPD, FDP, Green Party) is part of a coalition in some German government if we look at the federal and the 16 state governments. DIE LINKE is only in coalitions with the SPD and the Green Party.

We do have some issues here (some complex rules have the effect that the parliament can get quite large, and the governing parties agreed on a bad way to fix this), but I am very happy with proportional representation.

B.N. in Bangor, ME, writes: After you posted the Dutch election results, I spent a little time examining other possible coalition arrangements. A left-wing coalition doesn't seem to work: D66+GL+SP+PvDA+PvdD+DENK+>50+VOLT, which are all the parties which tend that way, is only 40.4%. A moderate right-wing coalition doesn't either: VVD+CDA+CU+SGP+JA21 works out to 39.7%.

To me, the above result demonstrates the advantages of the Dutch system. This may not always be the case, but the only plausible government seems to be a centrist one, in about the same ideological position as the voters. In contrast, the American system's ideological position switches from "median Democrat" to "median Republican" every few years, which is unrepresentative at either extreme and causes uncertainty and instability that are bad for business and cause waste of government resources. The "smokeless room" seems to actually be good for both vox populi and good governance.

Further, the VVD and their ilk are effectively shut out of power, as they should be given their small minority of the voters and how out of step they are with the rest. Had the Dutch used the U.S. system, the PVV members would have voted in the VVD's primaries, got a bunch of their crazy and/or bigoted people nominated, and forced the other VVD members to choose between voting for said crazy bigots or handing the election to the far left.

L.J. in The Hague, Netherlands, writes: I think the main advantage of the Dutch system of proportional representation is not that you can vote for a (ridiculous) number of parties, but that basically all votes are of equal value. No battleground states here, the entire country is a battleground (as it should be).

Personally, I would not characterize D66 as a party for leftish intellectuals, as I do not consider their politicians to be either leftish or intellectual (more like socially liberal and elitist). But I guess I am not neutral here.

H.D. in Baltimore, MD, writes: I have been reading with interest your overview of the Dutch electoral system. I follow European politics and consider myself reasonably well informed on such matters. However, I do have to object to your description of the VVD (People's Party of Freedom and Democracy) as "far to the left" of the U.S. Democratic Party. Calling the Democratic Party "right wing" in comparison to European parties is a common trope, and is simply not true. Yes, this may have been the case many years ago when there were still Southern segregationists parked there, but that has long since changed. The Democrats are now indistinguishable from any center-left or social democratic party in Europe, with the possible exception of the British Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn. Under Corbyn, the Labourites attempted to return to their socialist roots, with disastrous results.

I would also argue that the VVD is to the right of the Democrats on economic matters, and its liberal positions on social matters are quite consistent with what Democrats have been supporting for years. The only exception is euthanasia, which is arguably not a left or right wing position and is unique to Dutch politics. I would also like to point out that traditionally most parties in Europe have been statist in comparison to those in the U.S., regardless of how they place themselves on the political spectrum. Indeed, sometimes it's hard to distinguish the far-right from the far-left, as is the case in France where the National Front pushes an economic agenda that any Marxist would approve of. No, one of the real distinguishing features of American politics is the extremism of the Republican Party. And I guess that's our cross to bear.

L.S. in Utrecht, Netherlands, writes: Apparently it takes a foreigner (albeit a long time resident of the Netherlands) to do that for which us Dutchies are too wishy-washy: to correctly identify FvD as a bunch of neo-fascists. Thanks.

B.F.E. in Sierra Vista, AZ, writes: I found your items on the Netherlands political parties to be very interesting. On a whim I followed the link you provided to discover which political party I would belong to. The page has an English option and using the StemWijzer webpage (which also has an English option), I answered their 30 questions.

Apparently the best fit for me is the "Proud of the Netherlands" (Trots op Nederland) Party, which currently holds no seats in the Netherland's Senate or House of Representatives but does hold several seats at the local and provincial level. The party is described as "right-wing and conservative-liberal" on their Wiki page. The closest major political party to me that you profiled is the VVD. In U.S. terms, I guess that would be either a very conservative Democrat or a very liberal Republican. I supported Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), so I suppose that fits.

As a point of interest, whenever I take those online political leaning tests for U.S. political parties, they invariably classify me as a libertarian.

C.A. in Tucson, AZ, writes: Just wanted to maybe give you a chuckle. I went to the website to find how I should vote if in the Netherlands. Here is the result: BIJ1 (80%), SP (77%), NIDA (77%). Do I have any hope of getting any seats?

V & Z respond: So you are a feminist, left-wing Muslim? Is that you, Rep. Omar?

D.R. in Dublin, Ireland, writes: Thanks for the Dutch election coverage. I did one of those pick a party tests and horrified to find out I got PPV as my choice at 83%, followed CDA, Code Orange, and then D66, which is linked to my Irish party in Europe. I was getting worried as a middle-of-the-road slightly-left Irish voter, I must be very right-wing in Holland!

M.U. in Seattle, WA, writes: I enjoyed your item on political parties in the Netherlands and how majorities are formed (or attempted to) in parliamentary systems. I would tell your readers that if they're interested in delving more into the subject, there is a great show called "Borgen" that is available on Netflix. It's a Danish show that revolves around the very topics you wrote of. It's highly entertaining and I learned quite a lot of how parliaments and their cabinets work. It's fascinating to see how all of the political parties navigate each other and play off each other in such a system. I am an absolute political junkie—to the point of obsession (I know, I know)—so this show really did it for me. I watched it dubbed in English, but if subtitles are your thing, then more power to ya!

E.K. in Brignoles, Frances, writes: Here in France, we have what could be seen as the worst of both the Dutch and American systems.

There's no proportional representation in the National Assembly (except in 1986, because François Mitterrand wanted to divide the right and let the National Front win several dozens of seats—which it did). If a given party wants a ruling majority in the National Assembly, it has to win a majority of 289 circonscriptions on 577 seats (like in the U.S. or in the U.K).

If a candidate doesn't get 50% of the vote in their circonscription, then there's a runoff the next Sunday (or 14 days later, for the presidential election only).

There's been a lot of gerrymandering, especially in 1987, thanks to then-Ministry of the Interior Charles Pasqua (a member of the right), despite the proportional system imposed by Mitterrand before the 1986 elections.

And also, absolutely no early-voting, or mail-in ballots: you have to physically vote in a specific precinct, and no other, between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. (6 p.m. in the small towns, 8 p.m. in big cities like Paris or Marseille). And it's 7 p.m., not 7:01 p.m. There's only one exception: one can give what is called a procuration to someone else, because they're absent or sick, but that someone can only have one procuration. In my experience, the vote by procuration is usually between 0.1% and 0.5% of the total vote.

Further, we only have paper ballots. If the turnout is 60%, each precinct has to open approximately 600 envelopes and read the names out loud as quickly as possible after the precinct is closed. It usually takes two hours (except, once again, in sometimes dysfunctional big cities like Marseille, where it can take four hours), and everything is centralized by the Ministry of the Interior.

For what it's worth, however, I like this system. I have made a point, going on 20 years now, to walk to my precinct around 10 in the morning. I've never missed a single vote.

There's some controversy about the absence of proportional representation (especially from the National Rally—formerly known as the National Front—and other small parties) in any election except that for the European Parliament, but we tried it during the Fourth Republic, and it was a total disaster because, just like in Israel or in Belgium, no party has ever got 50% of the vote. We had many, many coalitions that lasted a few months only, sometimes days only. Governments dropped like flies.

The fact that France is a democracy, I think, is not really in dispute, except for the usual bunch of extremists. The electoral system works. Fraud is basically nonexistent. I'm not aware of any election where we had to wait after midnight before knowing the winner. So, I strongly support this system. I don't want any proportional representation. You want to rule the country (or the city, or the département, or the region, for that matter)? Well, just get a majority.

B.S. in Hafnarfjordur, Iceland, writes: It was interesting to see my favorite source of condensed "inside baseball" news of American politics take on the pros and cons of proportional representation. Like most Europeans, I have not participated in any other sort of electoral system. My mindset as a voter is that I choose the party that I feel comes the closest to representing my views but I have absolutely no expectation that this party is going to rule alone. I know very well that I am just one voter in a pluralistic society and that compromises will need to be made to form a coalition. I don't really see that as a flaw of this system, per se, although in extreme cases it may lead to dysfunction as has happened in Belgium and Israel. There are mechanisms that can be implemented to prevent that without sacrificing the basic principle of proportionality. I think it is a good thing that this system tends to temper extreme politics and reduce the wild swings that happen in American politics when power changes hands between opposing parties.

It is interesting that there is no other country on the planet that has chosen to model its way of governance on the United States' combination of a presidential system with this weird Electoral College thing and a first-past-the-post electoral method for the legislature. It is a system that feels like it was purposefully designed to maximize the chance of minority rule and gridlock. The flaws of proportional representation pale in comparison.

B.H. in Westborough, MA, writes: Freakonomics has a great podcast on the United States' party system, a.k.a. a duopoly.

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: Thanks for the enlightenment, but no thanks for that particular option. As much as I oppose the Republican goals and the Democratic infighting, I'm with Winston Churchill: "Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others."

WSJD? (What Should Joe Do)?

D.C. in Brentwood, CA, writes: While I don't dispute that Donald Trump's motivation for killing the Trans-Pacific Partnership was not good, his killing the agreement is one of few things he did that I supported.

Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) was a terrible idea—countries yielding sovereignty to companies. In addition, from the philosophically democratic point of view, the secrecy of the negotiation—where lobbyists helped craft the agreement, while civil society groups had almost no access, and even legislators from negotiating parties had to keep the content secret—voided the whole agreement's legitimacy in my eye. It's also worth noting that the U.S. didn't start off as a party to the agreement; it was already being developed when the U.S. barged in and took over.

B.R.D. in Columbus, OH, writes: I keep wondering if Jon Huntsman might not be tapped for an ambassadorship, maybe even to China. I don't know how his health is, but he's the kind of moderate, knowledgeable, competent, and hardworking Republican who might be particularly good in that job. He's done it before! He would also give Joe Biden a bipartisan notch in his belt.

I also wonder about the heroic individuals who testified in the first impeachment trial: Fiona Hill, Marie Yovanovitch, Alexander Vindman, etc. Might they return to the State Department, become ambassadors, or end up in intelligence? They all have a lot of knowledge, institutional memory, and commitment to the country to offer—I do hope the Biden administration taps them for service in some way.

C.L. in Boulder, CO, writes: Instead of the U.S. and other liberal democracies participating in the Beijing 2022 Olympics, why not have Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) reprise the 2002 Utah Olympics as an alternative venue? Having nations pick which Olympics to attend could be awkward but telling. The International Olympic Committee would probably dig in its heels and only count the Beijing Games, but all results would come with an asterisk. U.S. athletes would get to compete, and many world leaders could send a message to China.

A Day without Don Dawns

J.F. in Fort Worth, TX, writes: It was indeed refreshing to finally see a Trump-free news day on your site. It only took 94 days from the time my original question was posted and 1,983 days from the date of your last Trump-free news day.

Hold on. You didn't specifically avoid mentioning Trump just to get your first Trump-free day, did you?

V & Z respond: As we also noted yesterday, it happened organically. If we were willing to cook the books like that, we would have done it in February, so as to make our prediction 100% correct.

G.Z. in Walnut Creek, CA, writes: Did I just read a full posting that did not mention the former President! Wow. I read it once and realized at the end how normal it all felt. Wonderful!

K.H. in Maryville, MO, writes: You did it! Now let's take bets on the first Manchin-free day.

D.D. in Platte City, MO, writes: I was so excited to see this milestone on Tuesday! Here's to hundreds more postings that do not mention the Voldemort of former presidents!

E.H. in Dublin, Ireland, writes: So the day finally arrived. I hope they become more frequent and less remarkable as time goes on.

In the meanwhile, here's a Trump-ometer, a plot which tracks mentions of the name over the past few years. What struck me was how inactive he was before the midterms in 2018:

Trump generally got 20-60
mentions per day, with spikes around the 2016 and 2020 elections and Ukrainegate; Hillary Clinton usually got 10-30
per day, before largely disappearing after the 2016 election; Joe Biden was rarely mentioned until the middle of last
year, now he averages 10-30 in most days, though he remains consistently behind Trump

R.L. in Tucson, AZ, writes: Congratulations, Tuesday was the day. For the first time in a very long time, "Trump" did not appear in the body of a posting. Here's a summary of all occurrences of "that word" since Jan. 1, 2019:

Month 2019 2020 2021
January 1,642 829 1,457
February 1,177 839 1,037
March 1,331 806 555
April 1,173 964  
May 1,335 1,346  
June 1,181 1,433  
July 1,277 1,538  
August 1,278 1,532  
September 1,005 1,611  
October 1,106 1,673  
November 1,168 1,681  
December 908 1,080  
Total 14,581 15,332 3,049

Any word containing "trump" (case not significant) was counted. For example, "Trumpism" was counted. Only the body of the posting was searched, so the text starting after "Today's Headlines" and before the final links.

T.C. in Denver, CO, writes: P.R. in Saco wrote: "Obviously, you set the standards for your own site, but I'm afraid I won't consider it a You-Know-Who-free day until his orange puss disappears from that banner at the top. Please, oh please? I am so sick of looking at him."

If P.R. doesn't want to see You-Know-Who on the top banner of the page every day, don't forget there is a mobile-friendly version of the page sans Trump. Living on Mountain Time, it is often the first thing I read in the morning, before I even put in my contact lenses.

Another Day without Don Dawns

I.M.O. in Norman, OK, writes: Another Trump-free day on Friday. It's almost as though it were springtime in America...oh, it is! And what's that glorious orange thing I see? It's not Trump, it's the sun! "Here comes the sun, do-do-do-do...and I say, it's all right."

V & Z respond: That ice is slowly melting. It seems like years since it's been clear.

D.R. in Kensington, MD, writes: Wow! Two times in one week without a mention of our 45th president. Cancel culture?

V & Z respond: Maybe we can get Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to complain on the floor of the Senate.

M.C. in Dayton, OH, writes: While noting that your first day not mentioning the name of the previous President was on Monday, I am impressed with the writing skills needed to comment on insurrectionists, sanctioning of lawyers for fake voting irregularity lawsuits, ambassadorial appointments, vaccination numbers and concessions not gotten from Russia, all without mentioning the name of a certain past President.

V & Z respond: Just to be clear, the post unfolded like that organically. We did not deliberately write around his name.

A.B. in Lichfield, UK, writes: Earlier this week I sent you a snarky e-mail of the "is something or someone missing?" variety when you had your first Trump-free day in years. I'm sure many of your regular readers did likewise.

But your second Trump-free day on Friday might actually be more significant. Having a single day without mentioning the 45th President might be seen as a one-off. Two in the space of a week is a rather more reliable indicator that the former president's influence—and his associated media profile—is fading. "Trumpism," if it's right to give a name to a movement that was always singularly lacking in coherent ideology other than hero-worship for the leader (not that this has stopped a lot of would-be autocrats, mind), will likely linger on for longer; but I'm increasingly quietly confident that the United States might be able to consign Donald J. Trump the individual to the dustbin of history rather sooner than might have seemed likely this past 6th of January.

V & Z respond: Don't get your hopes up. The various criminal and civil cases currently in progress are likely to bring him back from oblivion.

Traffic Jams

P.J.W. in Madisonville, KY, writes: You wrote "We also doubt that Donald Trump had that much of a positive (or negative) impact on our traffic over the last four years."

I became a regular reader of yours precisely because of my anxiety about Donald Trump's presidency. I was not a heavy consumer of political news before 2016, but after that election I knew I had to be better informed. My path to you is a direct result of my search for analysis. Now, with Joe Biden in office, I've slowed down on my other sources—but I continue to read you guys every day.

V & Z respond: Glad to have you (still) on board!

L.E. in Santa Barbara, CA, writes: Since the last two Saturday Q&As have touched on the topic of site traffic to your website, I thought I would provide you with some information that may or may not be accounted for in your data gathering.

Since President Biden's inauguration, I have changed my reading patterns. I still read every one of your blogs, but I now read in batches. In other words, I am often reading two or three days at a time. I refer to this as "binge reading," as opposed to my previous "doom scrolling" first thing in the morning during the prior Republican administration's governance nightmare.

My spouse, on the other hand, continues to read your blog every morning (although we both sometimes skip the Sunday comments section).

Additionally, I'm not sure how you count "unique visitors," but my spouse and I always read using different devices having the same IP address. We don't normally invoke our VPN while at home on our iPads and iPhones, since our router is secure and we never use those for banking, shopping, other sensitive logins, etc. But we often start and stop our reading, so our visits to your site may or may not overlap during the day. However, if we look at your site from our desktop computer, the VPN is always running, so there will be various IP addresses; and if we are out and about, our VPNs are invoked on all of our mobile devices.

Thus, if you use the IP addresses to determine unique visitors, you might be counting only one hit when, in fact, there are two of us reading. However, my understanding is that the "magic" that is used by websites to count "unique hits" has changed over time, so perhaps the IP address it not the metric you use to count your readership.

I wanted you to know we still read your site without fail, even though my pattern, in particular, has changed.

V & Z respond: Glad to have both of you (still) on board as well!

L.V.A. in Idaho Falls, ID, writes: In your recent discussions of the exhaustive and painful verbosity of legislation you have overlooked the 800-pound-gorilla in the room. Your Sunday postings have become quite lengthy. Perhaps you should limit readers "comments" to 100,000 words. How many times have we heard from our writing teachers/professors that if you can't say it in 500 words, is it worth saying? Please be merciful to those of us in the demographic whose life expectancy is under 100 years.

V & Z respond: We try to keep it as economical as we can. We have specifically made an effort, however, to divide things up into smaller chunks (most sections are 3-4 letters or less, or else are a series of one-liners), with the idea that readers can choose what interests them and skip what doesn't.


P.J.K. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: The letter from J.L.J. in San Francisco sent chills down my spine. J.L.J. recounted a conversation with their father showing the brainwashing effects of right-wing media, concluding, "I share this in the hopes he's an outlier and not representative of something larger." Hauntingly, I've experienced everything J.L.J. described with my mother, a Trump voter who denies voting for him (to me). She also denies watching Fox News; why, "CNN told her" Antifa was responsible for the BLM protests, just like "KYW" (local news radio) said she had to vote for John McCain. When challenged on conservative propaganda, she also defaults to "I'm just asking questions."

The dissonance in mangled conspiracy theories is present too. Obama was a "terrorist and socialist who wants to eliminate Social Security." When I point out a socialist would not eliminate Social Security, the response is [white noise]. Or Hillary was corrupt "because she wouldn't give her friend in Benghazi money," but if I note that corrupt people generally do give their friends money...[white noise]. A Christmas phone call was a chance to chant "shrimp on a treadmill," a years-old GOP taunt about how the real waste of government spending is scientific research—both what I do for a living, and the way we understand the natural world and its potential impact on our lives (maybe not so wasteful, given this pandemic?)

The parallels between my mom and J.L.J.'s dad are so striking, it isn't coincidence. This is a mass psy-op perpetrated by the political right, and the victims refuse to recognize their indoctrination even at a cost of abandoning reality and their own families. Step 1 in deprogramming is to remove a loved one from the cult, but you can't separate someone from a media ecosystem that permeates every device 24/7, so what can we do?

V & Z respond: If anyone has suggestions, we will run some of them next Sunday


M.C. in Friendship, ME, writes: S.M. in Acton wrote about stepping back and working locally. Reminded me of something an old friend (Bob Kimmel, founder of the Stone Poneys with Linda Ronstadt) said when I was in high school: "When I was a young man, I set out to save the world. After a while I saw that it was too big a job for me so I determined to save my country. When I realized that saving my country was beyond my capabilities, I figured it would be good for me to save my state. But that was too much and I soon saw that it would be best for me to work on saving my town. When it became apparent that I couldn't save my town, I set about saving my family. Now I realize that I can't even save my family and I should devote my attentions to saving myself. If I can save myself, I can save the world."

S.C. in Mountain View, CA, writes: I want to add to the response of S.M. in Acton. My political activity has been informed by three quotations. The first, from Margaret Mead, is "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

The second is the beginning of a much longer statement by Mahatma Gandhi: "Whatever you do in life will be insignificant but it is very important that you do it..."

Finally, in the immortal words of Scoop Nisker: "If you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own."

In other words, don't let your (perceived) inability to "do anything about the vast majority of the political news available" to you stop you from doing something.

I also agree with S.M. that it's best to start local. One organization I would highly recommend is the League of Women Voters; they even have a local League in Norman. Despite their name, the League is welcoming of all genders (at the first LWVUS National Convention I ever attended, a League member from Texas handed me a button that said "LWV: Not for women only" that I wore proudly). I don't know what S.M.'s gender is, but female or not, they should give the League a try.


E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, writes: I'd like to respond directly to comments by P.M. from Currituck alleging bias at National Public Radio (NPR). This is something my Trump-loving brother-in-law has also presented to me as somehow an indisputable fact while he was telling me he gets all his news from a random political YouTuber. Perhaps because I lean toward the progressive end of the spectrum on most things, I just don't see how NPR's news coverage is especially partisan. I also think there is a big difference between decisions about what to cover (i.e., politics, racial justice, climate change) versus how and whether opinions get presented as facts. I find NPR's coverage to be quite extensive and think that they focus on politics, race, and climate change because those are important issues right now, but they also cover "culture wars" stories as well. I'd like to know exactly what, from P.M.'s conservative perspective, is missing in NPR's coverage.

As for whether opinions creep in, I find that NPR will often interview politicians, commentators, and experts from across the political spectrum and that I can often predict exactly what these people will say in advance just based on their stated political ideology. However, what I like best about NPR's coverage is that once the NPR hosts move on from the partisan interviewee, they will have one of their in-house commentators to weigh in, usually with a highly insightful "cut-through-the-spin" analysis.

My challenge to P.M., who states that "literally every story [NPR runs] now has some political- or race-related issue baked in [and] is dripping with opinion" is this: find me a story where: (1) politics, race, or climate change really isn't germane to the story but has been shoehorned in, and/or (2) the story is actually "dripping with opinion." If it is "literally" every story, then it shouldn't be hard. It is important to distinguish between "simply covering stories I don't want to hear or think about" from so-called "liberal bias."

T.B.S.S. in Silver Spring, MD, writes: Last week, P.M. in Currituck wrote of NPR, "Literally every story they run now has some political- or race-related issue baked in, is dripping with opinion, and is why I refer to it now as 'Nothing but Politics and Race.'"

I can't claim to be an indifferent observer when it comes to how the media cover politics and race, but I do want to unpack that statement—especially as it comes from P.M., whom I appreciate for past good-faith efforts to engage in conversation here.

Many years ago, when I was in journalism school, a professor described a notion that's stuck with me; namely, that even the coldest pursuit of objectivity accompanies a basic understanding of right and wrong that no one would think to challenge. A reporter isn't "objective," for example, about whether committing serious crimes is good or bad; it's understood that you wouldn't couch tragedy in the watery language of "sources allege that [some atrocity or other] has produced unfavorable outcomes." In fact, doing so can create the opposite effect, implying tacit approval of murders, fires, floods, Chicago Bears victories, Canada, and so on. But the ideas populating that understanding of right and wrong shift constantly and vary widely depending on any individual's perspective.

Donald Trump's candidacy and subsequent presidency heightened a challenge for newsrooms that view objectivity as an ideal: Many new and unexpected controversies were rendered partisan by his involvement. In any remotely mainstream 21st-century media outlet, outright racism needn't (and, in fact, mustn't) be handled in a neutral manner—which has forced the media to trip over their own shoelaces trying to cover Muslim bans, toddlers in cages, "sh**hole countries," "the Chinese virus," and the "sons of bitches" who knelt in prayer before NFL games in ways that don't seem opinionated or partisan. Many of Trump's statements and policies reset the boundaries of partisanship, making it appear that (V) and (Z) and NPR and others have come to hold polarizing opinions, even if they've merely stood still (and I'm not suggesting that they have, or that it's even possible to do so).

This phenomenon dovetails with another crisis the media face: expanding their demographic reach to include younger and more diverse audiences. These audiences absolutely do care about the intersection of race and politics, and are often deeply animated—and/or affected directly, in an existential sort of way—by hate crimes, the threat of police violence, legislation targeting LGBTQ+ folks, and so on. You can't attract and retain this audience, to say nothing of attracting and retaining a diverse staff, if you're attempting to remain neutral about Americans' rights to live without fear of persecution.

To put it in colder, more capitalistic terms: As with any business, the media must adapt or die—and adapting in this case means listening to the needs and demands of the audience they'll need in order to survive. The free market in action!

C.L. in Durham, UK, writes: If one person says it is raining and another person says it is dry, it is not the job of a journalist to report them both. It is the job of a journalist to look out of the window and report what is true.

J.K. in Silverdale, WA, writes: I wish to thank P.M. in Currituck for sharing their opinion of NPR. I have heard similar comments from family, and I appreciate hearing different perspectives, which is why I listen to...NPR.

This is how I think about it as one person of minimal color: My entire life, the vast majority of everything I have listened to, watched and read has been from the point of view of males with a skin tone like mine. By no means do I consider this point of view without value. However, it does mean that I have blind spots, and in recent years NPR has helped to make me aware of my obliviousness.

I am genuinely curious as to why people find stories with "some political- or race-related issue baked in" to be "unlistenable." The few times I have attempted to ask people who look like me why they find such stories objectionable, it seems that they hear things very differently than I do. The responses I get sound defensive to me, with raised voices and talk of "accusations" against "good people." I find this odd as all people are capable of both good and harm, with most of us hoping to do more of the former than the latter. People have judgmental thoughts towards others, whether based on race, class, size, age, gender, etc. Without awareness and examination, such thoughts can lead to words, actions, and policies that do harm. Personally, I applaud NPR for sharing perspectives and history that were previously missing from major outlets, giving all listeners the opportunity to reflect regardless of their demographics. As I recently heard in this NPR conversation, "It's not just white people against everybody else. We're all racist. Brown people are racist."

I get that issues of race can make people uncomfortable, and this is why I do not tell others that they have white privilege. Instead, I give examples of what I consider to be my white privilege, like this one: Sometimes when listening to NPR, I hear stories of racial injustice, disparity, or violence that make me feel distressed, or sad, or angry. But then I turn off the radio and move on with my day. I am certain to suffer hardships, but not because of the color of my skin. The racial injustice I hear about on the radio affects me as a story, but it's not my life.

As for this site, I'm not entirely certain what P.M. considers "left-wing cheerleading." Is it coverage of politics and race? Or perhaps that the gents of the alphabet's end frequently post comments from the transgender community? Since I have had little interaction with this community, I welcome reading these comments, just as I welcome P.M.'s comments about how people who are more conservative than I am view the world. So please, P.M., don't go away.

J.W. in Newton, MA, writes: I agree with some of your readers that your tone became more left-leaning in the Trump years. But leave it to P.M. in Currituck to start from this reasonable premise and leap into the void. Anyone who imagines that NPR is "basically the left-wing version of Hannity" doesn't understand what it means to be left-wing and more importantly, is quite unmoored from objective reality. Like any news outlet, NPR has been wrong, and they certainly count as center-left. In contrast, Sean Hannity is a professional liar. Among many examples of foul behavior, he supported the false conspiracy theory used to justify an attempted violent overthrow of the U.S. government.

F.S. in Cologne, Germany, writes: Last week P.M in Currituck wrote that (V) and (Z) were once slightly to the left, but are now far left. Similar comments were published during the last year. Most (if not all) of these comments weren't very specific. So I encourage P.M. and others to write comments that explain in detail why you think that (V) and (Z) are now far left. Perhaps (V) and (Z) can start a new segment in the Sunday mailbag in which conservative critics can write about this issue in detail.

V & Z respond: We will run some of those letters if we get them.

Center-Right Sources

T.A.S. in West Hartford, CT, writes: L.A. in Washington, DC, asked for good center-right news sources. One worth considering is The Week, which is a news aggregator that tries to be centrist, but leans a little right. It has a U.S. edition, although I believe the company is British.

M.H. Seattle, WA, writes: You won't get their full coverage, but The Economist does have podcasts that are free to access. Same is true for The Wall Street Journal, but I haven't enjoyed their coverage as much.

D.G. in Merrickville, NSW, Australia, writes: I object to your claim that The Wall Street Journal is "owned by an Aussie." The nonagenarian owner of that newspaper (as well as far too many other newspapers and television networks across the globe, including here) has not been a citizen of Australia for 35 years. He is an American.

You can also have Mel Gibson.

V & Z respond: American, Australian, doesn't matter...just as long as he's not Canadian.

E.R. in Colorado Springs, CO, writes: In response to the item from L.A., there is a site that seems tailor-made for them (and other like-minded readers): Media Bias/Fact Check. This site has evaluated thousands of media sources and rated them along two major dimensions: (1) left/right bias and (2) degree of factual reporting. You can look up any source and see the ratings and rationale. You can even sort by a category (e.g., "Right-Center Bias") and see the complete list of media sources binned into that category.

One can always quibble with their methodology, and none of it should be taken as gospel, of course. But it is a useful resource. For what it's worth, they rate firmly in the "Left Bias" category, which is a bit more left than I think is accurate. On the other hand, they regard The Hill as being less biased than you do, which I think is actually more accurate. Regardless, your mileage may vary.

V & Z respond: We pass this along, but we will also note that we do not care for that site. Their definition of "bias" is both flabby and poorly defined and their "analyses" appear to be extremely cursory and written with great haste. Their assessment of us, for example, appears to be based on single item from three years ago that was the fifth item on that day's page. That's like judging a Shakespeare play solely based on the stage directions for Act III, Scene i.

M.U. in Seattle, WA, writes: Has L.A. heard of Jonah Goldberg? He definitely has points and thoughts and opinions, though as a left-leaning liberal he rarely upsets me with anything he says; he is one of the few on the right that I deeply respect.

D.C. Statehood

M.M. in Newbury Park, CA, writes: Let me see if I have this correct. Why I find this so fascinating, I will never know.

Currently: 100 senators + 435 representatives + 3 for DC = 538 electoral votes (270 to win)

If DC and Puerto Rico are both added as states: 104 senators + 441 representatives (435 + 1 for DC and 5 for PR) = 548 electoral votes (275 to win)

Once the 23rd amendment is repealed: 104 senators + 441 representatives = 545 electoral votes (273 to win)

After 2030 redistricting: 104 senators + 435 representatives = 539 electoral votes (270 to win)

V & Z respond: Correct. The only thing we can add is that if D.C. statehood is somehow achieved very rapidly, it could plausibly be included in the current round of redistricting.

D.R. in Yellow Springs, OH, writes: Thanks for answering the question from M.L. in Franklin about statehood for Washington, D.C.

As far as I can tell, everything you wrote was accurate, but I'd like to point out some things you left out. First, the bill that passed the House in 2020 to grant statehood gave the state the name of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth. (I would have preferred just "Douglass Commonwealth" for the state name and Washington as the city name to avoid confusion with Washington State, but they didn't consult me.)

More importantly, though, the bill provided for an expedited procedure to repeal the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution. It would waive some of the normal rules Congress has for considering a motion, requiring a quick vote without amendments. That wouldn't do anything for state legislatures, which would be free to ignore the matter. But if Congress were to pass a law saying that the federal district's three electors would be chosen by the presidential candidate who won the most popular votes nationwide, I suspect Republican-controlled state legislatures would pass it almost immediately.

So although I agree with the reasons you gave for why the 23rd Amendment would be repealed quickly, there is one more that's pretty compelling.

J.A. in Middelkerke, Belgium, writes: You wrote that you expect the 23rd Amendment to be repealed.

I disagree. As you noted, either of the most logical (and defensible) methods of selecting electors—a local vote or awarding them to the national winner—would tend to favor Democrats. Why would the Democrats give that up? Ah, you may say, Democrats aren't that McConnavellian, they would bow to the small-d democratic logic of the situation. Except Democrats have a ready-made bunker to fall back upon: namely, the unfairness of the Electoral College, which discriminates against city-dwellers and minorities of most stripes while also violating the principle of "one person, one vote."

I really don't see enough Democrats getting onboard to actively jump all the hurdles for a repeal amendment. They don't even have to do anything, they can just McTurtle their way out of it.

California Recalls

C.Z. in Sacramento, CA, writes: If the Creepublicans can't overturn an election by force (Jan. 6, 2021), they'll do it by enlisting their wealthy friends to finance a recall election of a Democratic Governor (California, 2003 and 2021).

As an employee of one of the largest state agencies in California, I had a front row seat to the circus that was the 2003 recall "election" of California's governor Gray Davis, which featured several has-been actors and a has-been porn star as potential candidates to replace Democratic centrist Davis. I was part of a small unit that was charged with introducing one of our agency's bi-monthly Division meetings one week before the "election." I suggested that we enliven our meeting by setting up the auditorium to look like a polling place and have our staff dress as some of the more colorful candidates. Despite being a female, I impersonated "Ahnold" (Schwarzenegger) by wearing over my regular clothes a beach t-shirt with a muscle-bound weight-lifter painted on the front and back, and wearing a mask of Ahnold's face, printed off the Internet. I greeted the staff with "We are here to PUMP you UP" (per Hans and Franz on "Saturday Night Live"). My male supervisor, who actually did look like a weight-lifter, impersonated the porn star. His beach t-shirt featured a star-spangled bikini-clad body, and he wore a blond wig. Another staff member impersonated Ariana Huffington. Everyone laughed, but even though we were careful to make fun equally of both parties, we were reprimanded for violation of the Hatch Act and ordered to destroy the video one of the staff had made of the meeting. However, we all felt that it had been worth it, and it became famous (or infamous) throughout our division. It certainly kept everyone awake during the meeting, which was our main objective.

The first thing Ahnold (aka The Governator) did after winning the farcical recall election was to require every state department to order all of their employees to drop their work in order to participate in a mass photo-op with him in front of each of their buildings. That's how we learned that Ahnold is only 5'7" without his cowboy boots. Hardly any of us employees participated in the photo at our EDD headquarters on Capitol Mall, but when the photo was published, it was hilarious to see that our tallest employee, the 6'7" head of our IT branch, had stood directly behind Ahnold! The next thing Ahnold did was to attack our state nurse's union, or in his words "Yah, I kicked dehr ahsses!"

As in the current recall drive to overturn the election of Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA), the Republicons took advantage of an economic disaster which was completely out of the Governor's control, and blamed him for it all. In 2021 it's the COVID crisis and in 2003, it was the 2001-2002 "electricity crisis," a "crisis" wholly manufactured by Texas Republican-leaning companies like Duke Energy and Enron. They conspired to defraud California consumers by driving up electricity prices over 800%. That recall was financed by multi-millionaire Republican Darrell Issa. He had made his dough on car alarms, after having been convicted of several auto thefts himself, and thought he could buy the world's 5th largest economy for the bargain price of $1.6 million. When Issa realized that he couldn't beat Schwarzenegger in the recall, he went on to buy a seat in Congress.

Grift, corruption, lies, sexism, racism, co-opting democracy...the Creepublicons never change.

C.P. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: With the recall election looking like it would happen, there seems to be more urgency in having Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) retire. While it may be unlikely, the recall of Gray Davis and the election of Trump have shown that Murphy's law also applies to politics. The damage of the GOP's recall being successful would be significantly compounded if Feinstein could not finish her term, and a Republican got to appoint her successor.

Watch Your Language

T.F. in Banks, OR, writes: "People of color" locks non-white and non-Black people into a framework that disrespects everyone else. In particular, people who like to use the phrase "people of color" are OK with referring to Chinese and Japanese people as "yellow," and are ignorant of anti-Chinese, anti-Japanese, and anti-East Asian racism.

S.S-L. in Norman, OK, writes: In response to L.A. from Belmont: Please be very careful with generalizations about any group, particularly disabled people/PWD. The linguistic conventions among various groups of disabled people vary wildly. Blind people and Deaf people, for instance, virtually always prefer identity-first language rather than person-first language. The rationale is that person-first establishes non-disability as the norm. If some people are "people" and other people are "people with disabilities," the underlying assumption is that regular people are able-bodied. This functions completely differently with regards to mental illness, orthopedic disabilities, etc. Just please be mindful that person-first language is seen as hugely offensive by many disabled people/people with disabilities.

Similarly, though not directly to L.A.'s point, don't assume we're "impaired" just because our bodies don't do what your bodies do. And heaven help you if you try to erase our disabilities by calling us something like "differently abled." For those who are interested, I strongly recommend looking into the SayTheWord movement.

N.E.H. in Rochester, NY, writes: When it comes to person-first language, I see that a lot of people are advocating for that, and it may be appropriate in many circumstances. One circumstance where using person-first language is not appropriate or helpful is the autism community. The majority of autistic people prefer identity-first language (rather than be identified as "people with autism") because autism is a fundamental part of their identity and not separate. This language is also preferred in the Blind and Deaf communities, and most people within those communities prefer to be referred to as a blind person or deaf person instead of a person with deafness or a person with blindness. Those that tend to advocate for person-first language are not actually members of these communities. You can read more here and here.

I think it's important to ask people within the specific communities which language they prefer—identity first or person first. And I understand this may be changing and evolving in Black and brown communities. Even within the autism community there are people who prefer person first. It's very similar to what we are advocating for the grandparent of the non-binary grandchild: ask and use what they prefer. Personally, I am both hard-of-hearing and autistic, and prefer identity-first language.

P.S. in Gloucester, MA, writes: Most autistic people prefer identity-first rather than person-first language. More than 20 years ago, Jim Sinclair, one of the pioneers of the autistic self-advocacy movement, succinctly summed up the reasons why.

20+ years later, unfortunately, a lot of autistic people still get lectured by non-autistic parents and professionals who've been thoroughly trained to use person-first language about why the way they want to refer to themselves and to be referred to by others is wrong.

The best solution is what we saw in so many of the wonderful responses to S.S. from Detroit's inquiry about how to address and refer to non-binary people: ask how they would like to be addressed and referred to.

S.S. in Detroit, MI, writes: Thank you to all who wrote in with good advice concerning my NB grandchild. We have settled on "they" as the pronoun of choice. They doesn't buy into the "patriarchal ideals or binary norms." I'm still trying to deal with verb/plurality disagreement! This is a 13 year old I hope I'm still around to know they as an adult; I think they are some kind of genius.

As I was reading the "trumpster/trumpeter" debate, I was thinking of throwing my favored "MAGAT" terminology into the pot...but was shamed by the unanticipated accolades I was getting for wanting to do right by my grandchild, so I will penitently propose that, in similar fashion, we roll with 46 on this one, and call them "Americans" and hope to win them over by providing good government that addresses their needs. We can exert our pressure by spending our money in ways that deliver to corporations the message that we are watching who they are supporting, then votingvotingvoting.

A.H. in Newberg wrote "I am also an unreconstructed hippie, and a grouchy old curmudgeon." I have to ask, what was it that gave me away?

With that out of the way, who's heard a good Canadian joke lately?

History Matters

P.V. in Kailua, HI, writes: K.B., in Nashville, asked why was it that Republicans wanted statehood for Hawai'i, which is now the bluest state in the union. A short history:

In 1893, the Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown by a group of predominately white businessmen and politicians. They believed—and then demonstrated—that Hawai'i was not capable of defending itself in a world of rampant imperialism (also lookin' at you, Japan). One can argue about whether they were motivated mainly by what was best for the people of Hawai'i or what was best for their own interests. One can also argue about the legality of the coup, as President Grover Cleveland did when he refused to annex Hawai'i.

After annexation (Grover Cleveland out; William McKinley in) the single post-monarchy pre-territorial political party, the American Union Party, became the Republican Party. With the support of "The Big Five" sugar producers, Republicans dominated politics in Hawai'i through the 1940s. However, the outcome of the Massie Trial in 1932 led to the beginnings of a seismic shift in public sentiment against the local power structure. After the war, John Burns (who was a police officer during the Massie Trial) formed a multi-racial coalition which organized labor strikes among sugar plantation workers. This group was ultimately responsible for the "Democratic Revolution of 1954" where the Democratic party took control of the territorial legislature for the first time.

The local Democratic party strongly supported statehood. National Republicans should have seen the writing on the wall. In 1959, incumbent territorial governor William Quinn (R) defeated John Burns (D) by 4,139 votes to become the first governor of the State of Hawai'i. Three years later, Burns soundly defeated Quinn with the support of the unions and Japanese-American veterans. Hawai'i has been reliably Democratic ever since.

In short, Democratic workers and non-whites booted rich Republican businessmen out of power in Hawai'i. It is not surprising that Republicans fear a minority-majority electorate, or as we call it here—the majority. I highly recommend David E. Stannard's book Honor Killing: Race, Rape, and Clarence Darrow's Spectacular Last Case to anyone who is interested in the social history of Hawai'i or just looking for a good true-crime story.

R.W. in San Francisco, CA, writes: James Gordon Bennett, Jr., was far more substantial than you gave him credit for. Bennett Jr. sent Stanley to Africa to find Livingstone, which made history and also boosted Bennett's Herald. Then Bennett Jr. arranged to have a U.S. Navy expedition sent to the North Pole in 1879, and that made history, too.

F.L. in Denton, TX, writes: Just as an aside to your piece on James Gordon Bennett, he is the source for a mild expletive used in the U.K., as frequently demonstrated by the character "Del Boy" in the seminal sitcom "Only Fools and Horses."

Presumably—much like "Judas Priest!" is an alternative for "Jesus Christ!"—it is an alternative to "Cor, Blimey!", which is short for "God, blind me!" I am well acquainted with a Cockney (born in Whitechapel) and even though he is an atheist, he prefers "Gordon Bennett!" to "Cor, blimey!".

V & Z respond: Note that it is the aforementioned Bennett Jr. who inspired the mild expletive, not his father Bennett Sr.

D.R. in Norwalk, CT, writes: Your likening Tucker Carlson to P.T. Barnum does a great disservice to Barnum. He was indeed a showman who tried and innovated many ways to get and keep people's attention, while having those same people pay for the privilege. And to be sure, many of his ideas of "entertainment" would be horrifying to a modern 2021 audience and culture. But he was smart and forward-thinking for his time. As an entrepreneur, mayor, Connecticut legislator, urban developer, community benefactor, philanthropist, abolitionist, and author, Barnum was committed to the intellectual and cultural development of the City of Bridgeport, CT, and assisted in ushering in an epoch of unprecedented industrial growth in Connecticut and on the American landscape. His forward thinking benefits Southern Connecticut even today, as he realized how important water resources would be to the future growth of the region. The land he purchased and the reservoirs he built continue to serve hundreds of thousands of area residents.

Tucker Carlson doesn't come close in accomplishment or intellect.

T.B. of Tallahassee, FL, writes: You wrote: "We know of no cases of people of color being elected to public office before the adoption of the 15th Amendment."

Wentworth Cheswell was elected Constable of Newmarket, NH, in 1768. Wikipedia says he was annually (every year but 1788) elected to various offices in Newmarket until his death in 1817, so to whatever date you ascribe the founding of the United States (Declaration of Independence in 1776, Treaty of Paris in 1783, or the Constitution enacted in 1789), he was elected that year to public office. Although in census records he was "white," he was one-quarter Black by genealogical reckoning. His grandfather, apparently, was the first Black person to own property in (colonial) New Hampshire. Black Past offers some information about other electoral firsts for African Americans, including other pre-1870 elections.

Because your comment concerned pre-1870 people of color (not just African Americans) elected to public office in the United States, I'd like to suggest that there were many communities in the territories of the American Southwest, starting with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and including Texas annexation in 1845 and California and New Mexico Territories starting around 1846, with elected positions filled with what we would today call persons of color. For example, José Manuel Gallegos (who did not speak English) became, in 1853, the first elected Hispanic American to represent New Mexico in the U.S. Congress (as a Territorial Delegate).

V & Z respond: Note, however, that the question was specifically about people who were elected without being able to vote for themselves. Under New Hampshire law, Cheswell had the franchise as a property owner. And under U.S. law, Gallegos had the franchise as someone who was regarded as white.

What's In a Name? (Continued)

C.S. in Madison, WI, writes: I'll bet you can guess what the R. stands for?

The nameplate on a door reads 'R. Loveless'

V & Z respond: The same thing it stood for in Mr. Nixon's name?

J.L.H. in Los Altos, CA, writes: In 1966, when I entered college, every freshman/woman was given a "Look Book" with names, phone numbers and photos of all incoming freshmen/women to help us meet each other (this was before privacy concerns). One picture stood out: a beautiful girl named Loveday Conquest. We thought it was fake, but no, she was real and was truly beautiful.

I shared a class with her, but asking her how her parents picked that name would have been more awkward than even your LGBTQ questions!

S.S. in Mesa, AZ, writes: Here in Arizona we have a local politician who ran for office twice as a Republican and lost, even though Arizona was a red state at the time.

A sign for political candidate
Frank Schmuck

V & Z respond: We are reminded of the old line: "Winners never quit, and quitters never win, but if you never win and you never quit, you're a schmuck."

J.E. in Sacramento, CA, writes: My contribution for, uh, impressive names: A urologist by the name of Dr. Dick Blatter. Don't believe me? Here is his website. He's listed as Richard there, but went by Dick in residency. A fine member of the Michigan State University Stream Team.

T.W., Murfreesboro, TN writes: This photo was taken near Orangeburg, South Carolina in 2006. Google shows no political experience, but it appears Virgin, Sr. is a judge.

A billboard for an attorney named Virgin Johnson Jr.

V & Z respond: We can't speak for Junior but, given that he had at least one kid, Senior's name was clearly a misnomer.


J.M.R. in Chappaqua, NY, writes: While I appreciate (V)'s overall grasp on the English language, I have to point out that his new word alert for "vaccinee" is fake news, as Merriam-Webster says its first use was 1889. Perhaps this was unintentional, but I will only be reading Newsmax coverage from now on. Good day, sirs!

R.E.M in Brooklyn, NY, writes: W.S. in Austin proposes that "Nixon" be rhymed with "picks on" and "tricks on." S.A.S., a schwa-stickler (sorry) in Seattle, proposes it be rhymed with "fix in" and "licks in." I don't know if these reflect regional pronunciation differences, but the obviously correct rhyme ends in "un," not "on" or "in." Nixon's own campaign slogan, "Nixon's the One," demonstrates this: "Nixun's the wun." So there's "one," "sun" and "son," that are the only rhymes I can think of off the top of my head. I think that demonstrates (Z)'s original point that not a whole lot rhymes with the 37th President's surname.

V & Z respond: "Vaccinee" may not be a new word, but we're pretty sure "schwa-stickler" is.

P.M. in Currituck, NC, writes: I need to say it: Operation Warp Speed was the most awesome name ever for a government program. I was highly disappointed when it was announced by the Biden Administration that the name would be dropped, for understandable reasons.

However, something occurred to me. The Trump years were chaotic. Operation Warp Speed happened under Trump. And a lot of Trump people are into Q. There seems to be a lot of Star Trek-related stuff associated with the Trump administration (including the logo for the Space Force).

Star Trek began as a series about the adventures of Captain James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner, who is Canadian.

Coincidence? I think not...we all know the Canadians are playing the long game. We really dodged a bullet last November.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Even the Washington Post has taken notice of undue Canadian influence: "U.S. politics has too many Canadian pundits."

V & Z respond: Too many? So, more than zero?

S.R. in Ottawa, Canada, writes: You metaphorically compared Trump to Godzilla. As someone who has spent a good portion of my academic career in the burgeoning field of monster studies (see, for example, my book Japan's Green Monsters), I must ask you to cease and desist. This is a grave disservice to the Japanese monster. Godzilla is misunderstood, and after being awakened and irradiated by American nuclear testing, he at least had a legitimate gripe (although by targeting Tokyo he chose the wrong victim). This is something that the silver-spoon-from-birth, manufactured-grievances Trump can never claim. Later, perhaps recognizing the error of his ways, Godzilla turned into a defender of Japan and became a nascent environmentalist. Donald Trump lacks any of the empathy, self-awareness, sense of humor, or ability to change found in Godzilla. Also, Godzilla is at the very least powerful and potent—Trump is the opposite.

V & Z respond: Ottawa, hm? Note from the link above that the American media is now on to you folks.

Beacon the Bernedoodle in Walpole, ME, writes: I take umbrage and wish to protest in the strongest possible terms your use of my image and likeness without my express bark. You shall not escape the wrath of my lawsuit. Unless you send treats. I love treats! Any treats! I'll do anything for treats!

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar20 Saturday Q&A
Mar19 Vlad Is Mad
Mar19 100,000,000 and Counting
Mar19 Today's Appointments News
Mar19 Senators Gang Up
Mar19 What Insurrection?
Mar19 Untruth and Consequences
Mar19 Keep It Up, Joe!
Mar18 Poll: Voters Love the New COVID-19 Relief Law
Mar18 ... But Florida GOP Politicians Are Fighting over It
Mar18 House Republicans Are Also at Each Other's Throats
Mar18 Republican State AGs Already Planning to Sue over the COVID-19 Relief Law
Mar18 Biden Will Finally Hold a News Conference
Mar18 Redistricting Is Complicated
Mar18 Biden Will Soon Learn Where the Buck Stops
Mar18 Senate Approves Katherine Tai for USTR 98-0...
Mar18 ...and Isabel Guzman for SBA Administrator 81-17
Mar18 In the Netherlands, the Voters Have Spoken, Now What?
Mar17 Russians, Iranians Tried to Interfere with 2020 Election
Mar17 Governors in Trouble, Part I: Gavin Newsom
Mar17 Governors in Trouble, Part II: Andrew Cuomo
Mar17 Filibuster Theater: Biden and McConnell
Mar17 The Five Types of Republicans
Mar17 Ohio Senate Race Likely to Feature a "Hillbilly"
Mar17 It's Hard to Stand out in Today's GOP
Mar17 They Were Trump Before Trump, Part IV: James Gordon Bennett
Mar16 Biden's Headaches, Part I: The Border
Mar16 Biden's Headaches, Part II: The Budget
Mar16 Biden's Headaches, Part III: The Winter Olympics
Mar16 Haaland Is Confirmed
Mar16 Democrats Now Waging Full-Frontal Assault on the Filibuster
Mar16 Iowa Voters: Grassley Must Go!
Mar16 Booker May Challenge Paul in Kentucky
Mar15 Trump Is Adrift
Mar15 Trump Will Be Discovered
Mar15 Where's Joe?
Mar15 Stacey Abrams Wants to Exempt Election Bills from the Filibuster
Mar15 Treasury Won't Have to Borrow $1.86 Trillion to Fund the Relief Bill
Mar15 Jay Ashcroft Won't Run for the Senate
Mar15 McConnell Is Already Looking for Senate Candidates
Mar15 First House Retirement is Announced
Mar15 Suppose You Could Vote for a Party Where Everyone Agreed with You?
Mar14 Sunday Mailbag
Mar13 Saturday Q&A
Mar12 Biden Addresses the Nation
Mar12 Watchdog Group Wants 13 GOP Representatives Investigated
Mar12 The Gubernatorial Jockeying Is Well Underway
Mar12 Donald Who?
Mar12 Newsmax What?
Mar12 Sex; Explosions; Meghan, Duchess of Sussex; and the Big Problem with Donald Trump