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      •  Saturday Q&A

Saturday Q&A

Guess whose name only appears in one question today?

Q: I'm seeing news where the United States expects a glut of vaccine as early as mid-May. What is the likelihood the U.S. ramps up its sharing of the vaccine with other countries? Which countries would be the most beneficial, morally or politically? M.C., Simsbury, CT

A: Since the U.S. is already sharing, despite not yet having quite enough vaccine to fill American demand, then surely it will share even more once it has an excess. And the main beneficiaries, at least at the start, will be the current beneficiaries: Mexico and Canada. They are close allies, there are many Americans with personal and/or familial ties to those countries, and helping them to control COVID-19 also helps the U.S. control COVID-19 since viruses do not stop when they reach national borders. Central America won't be far behind, for many of the same reasons.

Once the U.S. expands beyond North America, the next obvious target is Africa. Those nations need the assistance, they are willing to accept the help, they have much sympathy in the United States, and they have high-profile folks (e.g., Bill Gates) lobbying on their behalf. South America is a possibility, but the country with far and away the worst problem is Brazil. The relationship between President Jair Bolsonaro and the U.S. is chilly and, besides, he's insisting that Brazil doesn't need any help, and that they've already developed their own vaccine. We shall see.

Q: You wrote: "However, it's not easy to separate those kids who have legitimate medical or religious needs for exceptions..." My question is, what do you see as a "legitimate religious" reason? C.F., Nashua, NH

A: Let us begin by noting that none of the world's 50 largest religions outright prohibit vaccination. However, there are many religions that are not centrally organized, and that do not have someone like the Pope, who has the final word on church doctrine. That means that adherents of many religions have some amount of leeway in reaching their own conclusions about what is, and is not, acceptable.

With that preface, there are two circumstances we can think of where someone might have legitimate religious reasons to resist vaccination. The first is that members of religions that teach healing through faith (as opposed to medical intervention) could plausibly object to inoculation. Those denominations include the Jehovah's Witnesses, Christian Scientists, Dutch Reformed Church, and the General Assembly and Church of the First Born.

The second is members of religions who might object to some component of the vaccine itself. For example, some vaccines (though not the COVID vaccines) contain pork byproducts, which could be a deal-breaker for some adherents of Judaism and Islam. Similarly, there is concern among some Catholics: that the Johnson & Johnson vaccine was developed with stem cells that came from aborted fetuses.

Again, most members of these religions will accept vaccination. But it's possible some members could reach a different conclusion on faith-based grounds.

Q: I'm a little bit confused about the mechanics of the filibuster. Specifically, how will eliminating or reforming it will help Joe Biden and Democrats pass their agenda? Let's say Republicans filibuster S. 1 or H.R. 1 (whichever comes to vote in the Senate) and—after a week of watching Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), et al., talk until they drop to the floor—finally no more Republicans are willing/able to stand for the filibuster, so cloture is invoked, and the bill comes to vote. Doesn't the bill still need 60 votes to pass? Given all the hubbub about the filibuster in recent weeks, I feel like I must be missing something. A.C., Columbus, OH

A: You are indeed missing something. Virtually all business in the Senate, including the passage of legislation, requires only a simple majority. However, one of the rare things that requires something more than a simple majority is invoking cloture, which requires 60 votes. If McConnell & Co. were required to talk, talk, talk and the Democrats were willing to wait, wait, wait, then there would be no need to invoke cloture—the filibuster would just end once the Republicans ran out of gas. At that point, the bill would come up for a vote, and only 51 votes (at the moment, all the Democrats, plus the two independents, plus VP Kamala Harris as tiebreaker) would be needed for passage.

Q: Why are Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) such obstacles to both filibuster reform and voting-rights legislation? He won his last election 50% to 46%, that's only a 4% margin. She barely won her last election by an even closer margin, 50% to 48%.

Without filibuster reform there is no voting rights legislation. Without voting rights legislation, West Virginia and Arizona will pass voting restrictions making it more difficult for Democratic-leaning voters to vote and to get their votes counted. That would likely leave both Sens. Manchin and Sinema unable to win their next elections and wishing they had done everything possible to get voting rights legislation passed.

So, what are they thinking? Is this all political theater or are they just incredibly shortsighted?
S.S., West Hollywood, CA

Q: The moderate faction of the Democrats in the Senate seems to be led by Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. I fully understand Manchin's position here, as he is from deep red West Virginia. But why has Sinema turned out to be so centrist as a Senator? Arizona is much more purple than, say, Montana or perhaps even Georgia, and she isn't up for reelection until 2024. It hardly seems a deep ideological belief, as you once described her as a "flaming liberal." R.O., Ede, The Netherlands

A: Let us start with the note that the two senators obviously know their constituents better than we ever could, and so there may be method to their madness that we cannot or do not see. It's also possible that they are just angling for some juicy pork in exchange for their votes.

That said, there is little question that Manchin's and Sinema's opponents will, for the rest of their careers, try to paint them as radicals, socialists, close allies of AOC, etc. And so, there is some value in high-profile "disagreements" between them and the rest of the Party. The Senators can point to those as evidence that they don't take marching orders from Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) or Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Sinema has the additional problem that she's not a 100% comfortable fit for her state, at least not yet. Arizona has consistently preferred to elect straight, white, (mostly) Republican men to the Senate. She is the first woman to be elected (Martha McSally was appointed), and the first LGBTQ individual. She is also the first Democrat without a military background to be elected since 1934. And, as you note, she was once quite lefty. Add it all up, and she has to work a bit harder than her junior colleague Mark Kelly (white, straight, male veteran) to establish her centrist bona fides.

As to voting restrictions, Manchin isn't likely to be affected by those, since he already won election with a voter ID law in place. As to Sinema, she's smart and surely knows that she'd be in trouble if Arizona is able to cut back on minority voting. So, don't be surprised to see her "reluctantly decide" that she has no choice but to support filibuster reform.

Q: You often emphasize that to do a talking filibuster you have to remain standing. How would Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) filibuster a bill if she wanted to? And what would stop, say, an 89-year-old Iowa male from using a wheelchair to save his legs? Or, perhaps, a 41-year-old Missourian with a doctor's note? C.G., London, UK

A: Congress has to play by the same American Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements that everyone else does. That means that they have to make reasonable accommodation, such that people with documented disabilities are afforded the same ability to do their jobs as everyone else.

So, if Duckworth needs to sit, she would be allowed to sit. And if a fellow from Iowa or one from Missouri could find a doctor to confirm that they would need to be able to sit, too, then they would be granted the same concession. That said, the standing/sitting is not the hard part. It's other parts, like the lack of bathroom breaks or the need to talk continuously. And since everyone would (presumably) be forbidden bathroom breaks, a doctor's note wouldn't help, since the folks with disabilities would be receiving the same accommodations (or, more precisely, lack of accommodations) as everyone else.

It is also worth noting that if a senator who insists on special accommodations is not granted them, their filibuster is ended, and a bill is passed into law, then that senator is perfectly free to sue under the ADA. But that doesn't reverse the fact that the bill has become law.

Q: Do any states or other countries include the filibuster in their legislative system? If so, do those states or countries find it to be useful? It seems like the filibuster is counter to how the Founders set up our democracy, and a majority of Senators would never have allowed it to happen in the first place. B.F., Phoenix, AZ

A: We're going to start here with a bonus trivia question. Earlier this week, we listed the five longest filibusters in U.S. history (all by men) and noted that women are somewhat less likely to filibuster. The question is: Among female members of Congress, who delivered the longest filibuster? The responsible person is not obscure, and yet the odds of guessing correctly (if you don't already know the answer) are very poor. The answer appears at the bottom of the Q&A.

Anyhow, in answer to your question, the filibuster does exist in 14 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Maine, Missouri, Nebraska, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Vermont) and it also exists in many parliamentary systems (including the U.K., India, Canada, France, and South Korea). However, almost without exception, it is a talking filibuster.

A talking filibuster is not always a waste of time; it has enough teeth to be useful for certain purposes:

  • To make passage of a bill painful enough in order to gain some concessions
  • To make a statement, either to the country at large or to voters back home
  • To rally public opposition to a bill and possibly cause (some) supporters to rethink their votes
  • To slow down the overall productivity of a legislative chamber
  • To waste time until a session ends, or a vacation arrives, or some other deadline is reached

None of these things is going to stop a truly determined majority from passing their topmost legislative priorities. But a filibuster could have an effect on less important bills, or those whose support is tenuous. And that seems an apropos balance—the minority shouldn't be able to kill the majority's entire political program, but should be able to influence the lower-priority items.

Q: You noted that Donald Trump had a Republican-controlled Congress for his first two years, and also that he was consistently fast and loose with the executive orders. It's all a blur now, but I'm trying to ascertain if he truly had more power, or did more damage, in the first half of his presidency than his second. In hindsight, did the 2018 midterms ultimately impede his progress? P.G., Arlington VA

A: Despite the Republicans losing control of the House, the 2018 midterms did not impede Donald Trump. First of all, he never had the patience for legislative sausage-making, and was always more inclined to do things that could be accomplished quickly and with him getting 100% of the credit (i.e., executive orders). Further, the House Republicam conference was so divided that they couldn't get much passed anyhow. They really only agreed on cutting taxes, and guess what? That's the one major bill they passed.

After the midterms, the Republicans still held the Senate, and so the approving of judges could continue apace. Meanwhile, Trump no longer had to worry about angry voters, and he had two years of getting away with everything under his belt, which served to persuade him that...well, he could get away with anything. The rawest exercises of Trumpian power—taking money from the military to build the border wall, the phone call to Ukraine, the phone calls to Georgia (the state, not the country), egging the insurrectionists on—mostly took place in the latter half of his term.

Q: It seems to me that time has naturalized a lot of political concepts and constructs that are fundamentally not natural, and are not ensconced in the Constitution. Examples I can think of include: nine Supreme Court justices, 435 representatives, the filibuster, and the many powers ceded to the executive branch via ongoing "national emergencies." All of these things have created substantial problems and tend to be bad for democracy, but the narrative around these things has made it taboo, or at least a political hot potato, to suggest any changes to them as though they were eternal.

My question is: Are there any other concepts/ideas currently handcuffing democracy that we tend to think of as natural or constitutionally mandated but that are actually the product of chance, historical contingency, or political machination?
J.T., Greensboro, NC

A: Since the Constitution is relatively short, and relatively vague on many points, circumstances are ripe for tradition and custom to take on disproportional importance. There are lots of answers to your question; we'll limit ourselves to five notable ones:

  1. Statehood: For a long time, it was understood that when a piece of land acquired by the U.S. attracted enough residents, it would become a state. And so, in the 19th century, the country admitted an average of nearly three states (2.8 to be precise) every decade. However, once the U.S. became an empire in 1898, and started to acquire territories where the residents were mostly brown people, "statehood" became a precious jewel to be bestowed only infrequently, and turned into a giant political football. In the 20th century, there was an average of just one new state every 20 years. Further, there have only been two new states in the last 100 years, and none in the last 60.

  2. SCOTUS: The enormous power of the Supreme Court, and in particular its authority to strike down laws, is a product of tradition (and John Marshall's fiat). The fellows who wrote the Constitution certainly seem to have intended the judicial branch to be the junior partner among "equals," and yet it has arguably become the senior partner, since many of its decisions cannot practically be countermanded by the other two branches. Further, they clearly intended judicial authority to be more broadly dispersed than it actually is.

  3. Guns: Americans love their guns, and have for centuries, and so we largely pretend that the first part of the 2nd Amendment ("A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State") isn't there, and we allow nearly anyone to have nearly any gun they want.

  4. Senate Majority Leader: That job didn't even exist until about 100 years ago. There is certainly no constitutional basis for one person to have near-dictatorial power over the upper chamber and, in many circumstances, over nearly the entire federal government.

  5. Concessions: Again about 100 or so years ago, defeated politicians began (graciously) conceding defeat once the election results were in. The custom so fully took hold that most Americans view it as essential, and possibly even legally required (it's not). The downside is that any politician who claims "it's not over," and refuses to concede, gains some legitimacy for their claims, no matter how outrageous or unfounded they may be. Not that we have any specific recent presidents in mind.

Q: Do S. 1 and H.R. 1 contain any fraud prevention measures? I'd think that it would be useful to counter the obvious Republican argument "Of course we'd like everybody to vote, but unfortunately all the fraud committed by these ruthless Democrats forces us to implement strong measures" by "We totally agree that ballot fraud has to be kept the non-issue that it is now, and our bill ensures this by XYZ." In addition, a federal standard for election integrity measures would allow states to keep precautions reasonable (e.g., asking a voter to sign their absentee ballot envelope seems reasonable, additionally requiring the signatures of their parents, grandparents and pastor, not so much). J.K., Seoul, South Korea

A: You can't solve a problem that doesn't truly exist. The type of voter fraud that Republicans carp about (vast numbers of phony ballots cast for Democratic candidates) is a fantasy, a figment of their imaginations. And taking steps to "address" the alleged problem would serve only to legitimize the notion that a problem actually exists.

That said, H.R. 1 and S. 1 would both standardize procedures for registering voters, for providing them with the opportunity to vote, for counting ballots, etc. And, as you infer, this is how Democrats would respond to questions about fraud: "Standardizing things can only serve to make our already-secure elections even more so."

Q: I really would like to know if there have ever been any documented instances of large numbers of dead people voting? And as a larger question, have any elections ever been flipped because of fraud or corruption? D.S.R., Phoenix, AZ

A: Yes, there have been, but in the semi-distant to distant past, before there was a quick way to verify voters' registration at the polling place, and at a time when "dirty tricks" were accepted in many places (particularly the South, the Midwest and in big cities) as just a part of the game.

Famously, Lyndon B. Johnson lost his first U.S. Senate race (in 1941) due to hundreds of fraudulent votes cast for his opponent. Learning his lesson, Johnson then won his second U.S. Senate race due to hundreds of fraudulent votes cast for him. There was a popular joke, perhaps a bit too much on point, about two LBJ campaign volunteers visiting a cemetery to write down the names of Johnson "voters." The first man lingered over one grave for a long time, struggling to read the name upon it. The second man said: "If you can't read it, then move on!" The first man responded: "Hey. This guy has as much right to vote as anyone in this cemetery!"

That's just one famous example (or, technically, two), but there are many, many others. Again, however, such fraud is no longer tolerated, and no longer practical. The age of the political boss, and the machine, is past.

Q: You wrote: "...the most popular governors in the country: Charlie Baker (R-MA), Phil Scott (R-VT), and Larry Hogan (R-MD)." I am hoping you meant Republican Governors, because none of those make my personal list. If it included all governors, I would hope Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) would make the list. Either way, I'm curious how you built this list. C.K., Ann Arbor, MI

A: Morning Consult, until fairly recently, produced monthly approval ratings for all 50 governors. Scott, Baker, and Hogan were consistently at the top. In fact, if you follow the link, you'll see that in their final rating (before Morning Consult decided it was too expensive to keep going), all of the Top 10 were Republicans.

How to explain that? We can think of a few possible explanations:

  1. Republicans just make better governors
  2. Democrats are harder on Democratic governors than Republicans are on Republican governors
  3. Democrats are more likely to give a Republican credit than Republicans are to give a Democrat credit
  4. There's some methodological problem with Morning Consult's model (though their numbers tend to track with those of other pollsters)

We think it's probably some mix of #2 and #3, but you may find some other thesis (ours or yours) more compelling.

Q: "DC Statehood is illegal" is becoming a talking point for right-wing social media personalities. I am guessing it is only a matter of time before this is picked up by Fox News. What is this argument about and does it have any real merit at all? S.F., Livonia, MI

A: It is currently a melange of arguments, and the right-wing folks don't seem to have settled on which one they want to run with.

One argument is that the Constitution requires that the capital be its own district, and that it cannot be part of a state, so that it is not subject to the authority of any state government. Fair enough, but the current plan would be to split the capital into two pieces, a new state and the remaining capital. So, the Constitutional requirement would be fulfilled.

A second argument, a variant of the first, is that yes, the capital would be split off and would technically remain independent, but it would get electricity, trash collection, road maintenance, etc. from the 51st state, and so would de facto be dependent, thus violating the spirit of the Constitution. This seems tenuous to us, since the federal government could easily provide these functions, if it so chose. Further, where does the capital get, say, beef or computers or petroleum right now? We don't recall seeing any cattle ranches, electronics manufacturing facilities, or oil derricks in the District.

There is also an argument that while the Constitution does not specify a minimum size for the capital district, it does prescribe a maximum size of 10 miles square, which implies a "somewhat sizable" minimum size. And a capital sliced off from the current federal district would be smaller than that implied minimum size. This seems like grasping at straws to us.

A fourth assertion is that Maryland still has legal claim over the land it ceded to form the District, and would need to approve D.C. statehood, which it has never indicated it will do. This also seems very dubious to us. First of all, we do not recall reading that, for example, the state of Louisiana got veto power over the other states created from the Louisiana Purchase. Second, do we really believe that deep-blue Maryland would stand in the way?

Maybe the reason that the "D.C. statehood is illegal" folks have not settled on an argument is that they are all kind of stinkers. The fact is that Congress has conferred statehood 37 times before, consistent with the authority granted them by the Constitution, and has frequently carved states out from other states.

Q: Regarding the question today about there being 541 electoral votes if the District of Columbia becomes a state—wouldn't that be 540? If DC becomes a new state, two new senators would be created but the House seat will come from one of the existing 435. 102 plus 435 equals 537. Plus three via the 23rd amendment equals 540. J.A., Forest, VA

A: They do not reapportion seats immediately following statehood, because it's not very kind (or very legal) to say "Guess what, Rep. Smith? Your district has just been erased, so pack up your office and get the hell out of here." Anytime a new state has been added since 1929 (when 435 was set as the number of seats in the House), they expand the 435 as needed until the next reapportionment.

Q: Do you see Sarah Palin waging a primary battle against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) for Alaska's Republican Senate nomination next year? R.H.D., Webster, NY

A: Well, Alaska's new system means there won't be primaries, per se. If Palin were to enter the jungle-style race, she would hope to finish in the top four in the first round of voting, and then to triumph in the general election, which will be done via ranked-choice voting.

That said, we doubt Palin will enter the race. Her political star has fallen very far; despite being right in line with the modern GOP, she's not on right-wing media anymore, she's not asked to speak at events like CPAC, and she's not campaigning for other Republicans. Her website has basically turned into a sad little blog for the guy who runs it for her (and who may or may not be getting paid to do so), her multiple reality TV shows have been canceled, her Internet radio project Mama Grizzly Radio has collapsed, and she's now on Cameo doing personalized video messages for anyone who ponies up the two hundred bucks.

Beyond that, Palin doesn't seem to be all that interested in doing the work of campaigning or governing, does she? She quit the last two political posts that she held (Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Governor of Alaska), and she never put in the time to get up to speed on things during the 2008 presidential election. Being a senator is a tough job, and it takes a long time in the Senate to get any real power or notoriety.

Q: You wrote: "Biden said it is his 'intention' to run for reelection in 2024. Maybe he will, maybe he won't, and maybe he just doesn't know yet. However, he has to be leaning in that direction, at least officially, or else he will become an instant lame duck."

I'm curious about the phrase "lame duck" in this context. I thought "lame duck" referred to an outgoing president in the period between the election and inauguration of a new president. If "lame duck" refers to a president not seeking re-election, are all second term presidents automatically lame ducks? Was James K. Polk (who pledged to serve only one term and didn't run for re-election) considered a lame duck during his term?
R.W., Churchville, PA

A: Some use "lame duck" to refer to a politician for whom the end of their term is imminent, but others (including us) use it more broadly to mean anyone who has already established a clear end date for their time in office. Someone is undoubtedly lame duckier at the start of their last month in office than they are at the start of their last year, but the basic dynamic is still there: When other people know you're exiting the stage, they are freer to push back against you, to disregard you, and to hold out for the next person (possibly someone from a different political party).

If Biden were to make clear he won't stand for reelection, then he'd have far less control over the members of his party (who would no longer need to worry about second-term patronage), a lot of his thunder would be stolen by Democrats jockeying to replace him, and foreign leaders would be less accommodating.

And yes, we would say Polk was a lame duck for his whole term, though it was less of a handicap back then.

Q: Why do you often refer to political dramas with no discernible policy outcome as "kabuki theater"? The analogy must be obscure to nearly all of your readership. And even after reading the Wikipedia article on this classical Japanese artform, I am no more enlightened. J.G., Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

A: That is because in the most traditional form of kabuki, the outcome is known to the audience before the play begins, the characters are stock types who are already familiar and understood before they take the stage, and the whole point is simply to witness how this particular production executes the script. Put another way, it is ritual more than it is actual drama.

Q: In the context of your items on the Israeli elections, what does it mean to "form a government"? Presumably the administrative apparatus of Israel is still functioning—people can get passports, the military operates, etc.

Does it mean that no new legislation can be passed? Does it mean that the various ministries are being run by careerists rather than by political appointees, and that there can be no substantive policy changes in the meantime?

How much difference does it actually make to most Israeli citizens? It seems like it cannot be too much, as they seem to have been "without a government" for quite a long time.
D.K., Stony Brook, NY

A: To form a government means to establish a fully functional leadership team that is vested with all governmental powers.

What Israel has right now, and has had for most of the last two years, is known as a caretaker government. Largely speaking, it is allowed to keep conducting necessary everyday business (with politicians serving as ministers), but it cannot conduct any "new" business. For example, if Israel were attacked, then the caretaker government could (and would) stage a defense. However, it would not be allowed to, for example, commission a space force, because that would be "new" business.

The lack of a full, functioning government does affect Israeli citizens. For example, the nation hasn't adopted a new budget since 2018. That means they are compelled to spend money in the ways that made sense in 2018. Imagine if that was the case in the U.S.; there would be no COVID payments, no extended unemployment, no PPP, etc.

Q: I enjoyed your response to L.A. from Washington, DC. I was aware of some of those center-right news sources, but several of them were new to me. I am a Democrat, and consider myself to be in the center left section of the spectrum. Aside from your website (which I thoroughly enjoy and recommend to others), I find myself drawn to articles from The Washington Post and The New York Times. What other sources from the center-left would you recommend? I'd like to stay balanced! S.K., Fort Collins, CO

A: The Times and the Post are a great place to start. They're the two best center-left papers in the nation, and may be the two best papers in the nation overall.

Some other recommendations:

  • Slate: They have a fair bit of stuff that is far left. And they have a fair bit of stuff that is silly fluff. But they also have several regular writers who are center-left and are excellent. Mark Joseph Stern is a crackerjack legal analyst. So is Dahlia Lithwick. Ben Mathis-Lilley usually has interesting ideas. William Saletan writes a lot of thoughtful analyses. Jim Newell is great.

  • Heather Cox Richardson: She's a Civil War historian turned political blogger. That's almost invariably a formula for total, utter, awe-inspiring brilliance.

  • The Guardian (UK): Their news coverage is good and is fair, and they have a lot of good op-ed writers.

  • ProPublica: Their focus is investigative reporting, and they do it well.

  • CNBC: Many of our recommendations last week were finance-oriented; CNBC is the left-leaning answer to The Economist or The Wall Street Journal.

  • LawFare: They focus on national security and, as you probably guessed from their name, legal issues.

  • SCOTUSblog: They are pretty centrist, actually, but their legal coverage (Supreme Court, obviously) is a good complement to LawFare's legal coverage.

If folks have other suggestions, we will run some of them tomorrow.

Q: I noted your Wednesday claim that the obviously very problematic racist statements you gave as examples would get (Z) fired. If this is not too intrusive to ask, does he have tenure? If so, would these sorts of statements, offensive as they are, be sufficient to override that, especially if made in any way plausibly connected to teaching, doing research, or publishing? Even absent tenure, would not either a general commitment to academic freedom or the 1st Amendment (I think I recall he teaches at a state university) provide some protection against automatic firing?

Don't get me wrong. I do not approve of the statements, but these principles exist for a reason at universities and it is not to protect the right to root for the school's football team. It pretty much has to be to protect people's ability to discuss controversial—to the point of offensive—points of view. I guess I am a little troubled if these would be—absent context or past history—firing offenses.
J.L., Chicago, IL

A: (Z) does not have tenure, per se, but he has something similar that affords a similar level of job protection. That said, tenure or no, there are two reasons that a professor can be fired: (1) for cause, or (2) if the university runs out of money to pay them. Tenure (or some version of it) will not save you if you forget to wear your pants to class, or you offer to sell a grade for money, or if you walk into a class and say you're tired of teaching non-white students.

If there was some reason for saying overtly offensive things in class then no, that is not a firable offense. (Z), for example, regularly reads a passage from Mein Kampf as part of his lecture on World War II. But if there is no justification, then overtly bigoted statements would create a hostile classroom environment, would interfere with the mission of the university, would open the university up to legal action, and would absolutely get a professor fired. It is possible to say some fairly "out there" stuff in the name of academic freedom, but there are also lines that cannot be crossed, and everyone knows that.

Q: Part of the appeal of your site is the personality in your tone. But although we know a good amount about you professionally (e.g., Z has taught at two public universities), we know quite a bit less about the men behind the curtain.

An old test in politics is whether you'd like to have a beer with someone. What are V's and Z's favorite beers?
M.H., Los Angeles CA

A: Unfortunately, neither of us much cares for alcohol, so we don't drink beer. However, we hate to disappoint, so we will tell you that (Z) is something of a connoisseur of root beers, and has tried at least 200 different types. His favorite one of those is Hank's.

ANSWER TO THE TRIVIA QUESTION ABOVE: The longest filibuster by a female member of Congress was 8 hours, 7 minutes by...Nancy Pelosi, who was trying (unsuccessfully) to derail a budget bill until then-Speaker Paul Ryan agreed to bring a DACA bill up for consideration. Normally, there are no filibusters in the House, because members' speaking time is strictly limited. But the leadership is not subject to those limits, so they actually can filibuster.

In any event, the fact that most people don't know that filibusters in the House are technically possible, and don't know about Pelosi's maneuvering, speaks to the considerably more limited efficacy, and frequency, of talking filibusters versus the current non-talking filibuster the Senate has.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar26 Biden Faces the Music
Mar26 Republicans Are Losing the Filibuster Debate
Mar26 Cheney 1, Trump Jr. 0
Mar26 Old Presidents Never Die--They Just Fade Away
Mar26 Pelosi Flexes Her California Muscle
Mar26 COVID Diaries: The Return
Mar26 Bye-Bye, Bibi?
Mar25 Harris Gets a Job
Mar25 So Does Rachel Levine
Mar25 Senate Begins Advancing S. 1
Mar25 Manchin Will Support a $3-Trillion Infrastructure Bill If Democrats Raise Corporate Taxes
Mar25 Trump Wants to Build a Huge Dark-Money Machine
Mar25 Missouri Senate Race Heats Up
Mar25 Newsom Picks New AG for California
Mar25 A Look at the 2022 Gubernatorial Races
Mar25 Republican Governors Miss Trump
Mar24 Gun Control Kabuki Theater, Part 168
Mar24 Hirono, Duckworth Want (and Get) More Asians in the Biden Administration
Mar24 Here Come De Judge(s)
Mar24 The Significance of Johnson
Mar24 Poll: Newsom Appears to Be Safe
Mar24 Israeli Gridlock Likely to Continue
Mar23 Team Biden Prepares to Move on to Bigger (and Better?) Things
Mar23 Biden's Cabinet Is Complete
Mar23 The Significance of Warnock
Mar23 Two Candidates Toss Their Hats into the Ring...
Mar23 ...And Two Candidates Remove Theirs
Mar23 Sidney Powell Tries to Save Herself
Mar23 Israel Will Try Again Today
Mar22 Republican Attorneys General Are Suing Biden for...Everything
Mar22 Why McConnell Really Fears Abolishing the Filibuster
Mar22 Durbin Doubles Down on Filibuster Reform
Mar22 Weisselberg's ex-Daughter-in-law Is Talking to Vance
Mar22 Report: Trump Will Start a New Social Media Platform
Mar22 Trump Force One Is Grounded
Mar22 Grassley and Johnson's Indecision Is Freezing Key Senate Races
Mar22 Former North Carolina Justice Will Run for Burr's Senate Seat
Mar22 Dead Congressman's Widow Is Elected to Replace Him
Mar21 Sunday Mailbag
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