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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

We warned you yesterday that abortion was going to dominate this week's mailbag. And that was before we asked for reasons that a person 50+ might want to keep abortion legal, which generated an avalanche of responses.

Legal Matters: Abortion

P.G. in Berkeley, CA, writes: Abortion. Should it be legal? Is it moral? Should the government regulate it? These questions are horrible questions. I personally know half a dozen women that have had abortions, going back to the 1960s, when it was illegal even in California. It seems very likely to me that I actually know many more women that have had abortions but of course it's a totally private matter. In every case that I know the reasons were deeply personal and were based on the very basic principle of personal autonomy. In other words, it's none of anyone else's business. No comment necessary from anyone, please. Not a public matter. In brief, to any branch of government—STFU. No one knows why people do what they do or decide how they do it. Certainly not those clowns on the Supreme Court. Just STFU. If they had any decency they would rule that the entire conversation about abortion was not a judicial matter at all. Or they could go back to Leviticus and try to ban masturbating.

What I really want to add is that two of the members of the Court have such an obvious insensitivity to women's mental health that it seems entirely weird that they get to vote. Of course I refer to Brother Clarence and Brother Brett. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) is deeply concerned.

K.S. in West Lafayette, IN, writes: Gov. Tate Reeves (R-MS) recently said in an interview on NBC that the newly-passed abortion laws in Mississippi are more liberal than those in many European nations, a sentiment echoed by many other Republicans.

Putting aside the somewhat false nature of that statement, I find it confusing that the GOP can invoke international precedent in a domestic case. When the Democrats attempted to compare British common law (by which the Constitution was inspired) and precedent in that nation for impeaching former officials during Trump's second impeachment, the GOP said it was not appropriate for other nations' laws and customs to be taken into consideration. I may be anti-abortion, but this clear hypocrisy must be addressed.

R.S. in Boston, MA, writes: At his confirmation hearings in 2005, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. questioned the use of foreign law in U.S. constitutional cases, saying it was bound to be selective:

"In foreign law, you can find anything you want," he said. "Looking at foreign law for support is like looking out over a crowd and picking out your friends."

And then, there is this this week:

CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERTS: ... I'd like to focus on the 15-week ban because that's not a dramatic departure from viability. It is the standard that the vast majority of other countries have. When you get to the viability standard, we share that standard with the People's Republic of China and North Korea. And I don't think you have to be in favor of looking to international law to set our constitutional standards to be concerned if those are your—share that particular time period. [sic]

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: If Justice Clarence Thomas wants to know where in the Constitution the right to an abortion is addressed, then I direct him to the Ninth Amendment, which clearly says that rights not enumerated in the Constitution are retained by the people, and the rights retained by the people are not limited to those enumerated.

Last time I checked, women were still regarded as people in this country.

T.B. in Alva, OK, writes: You noted that it was remarkable that Justice Amy Coney Barrett would casually dismiss the burden that women bear in the latter months of a pregnancy. Were you being deliberately ironic? She is precisely the person on the court that can make that remark. She has done this five times, and she can dismiss the notion that the difficulties that come with a pregnancy justify taking a baby's life. She is forcing everyone to reconsider their assumptions. Hooray for Justice Coney Barrett!

This is very probably necessary for the nation's stability. I was born mid-twentieth-century and I have never seen this country so bitterly divided. It is better for the states to be disparate and stable than for either side to be forced to honor federal laws they despise.

M.B. in Menlo Park, CA, writes: At Wednesday's oral argument in Dobbs, Justice Brett Kavanaugh suggested that the Supreme Court should be "scrupulously neutral" on abortion. He reasoned that the Court should "leave it to the states" and not "pick sides," implying that the Court should overrule Roe and Casey. If Dobbs overrules those precedents, would subsequent events such as the following permit the Court to stay "scrupulously neutral"?

  • Several states outlaw the use of abortion-inducing medications (as Texas already has) and make it a crime to provide them by mail. Texas indicts an out-of-state medication provider who mailed the drugs to a Texas patient. The provider's blue-state governor refuses to extradite the provider, and Texas sues. Texas eventually tries and convicts the provider in absentia. The U.S. Government sues Texas, claiming the mail restrictions violate the Commerce Clause.

  • Some states go even further: They make it a crime for their residents to travel to another state to get an abortion, and a crime for the out-of-state clinic to perform such abortions. More trials and convictions, at least some in absentia. The U.S. Government sues again, claiming violations of the right to travel.

When the appeals in these cases reach the Supreme Court, exactly what does the Court do to remain "scrupulously neutral"?

E.D. in Tempe, AZ, writes: Regarding your discussion of Justices Kavanaugh, Barrett, Thomas, and Samuel Alito, who want to (apparently) roll back Federal abortion law to pre-Roe, maybe it's time to stop calling them Conservatives, and instead label them what they clearly are now: Regressives.

L.T. in Washington, DC, writes: You wrote:

It is very important to note that even if Roe is completely repealed, abortion will not be illegal in the United States. We will just return to the pre-1973 situation in which it is up to the states to decide. All the states controlled by the Democrats will continue to allow it and almost all the states controlled by the Republicans will ban it.

That's a pretty myopic view. If Roe is overturned, a future Republican Congress (possibly a year away) and a future Republican President (possibly three years away) could pass a federal law outlawing abortion. There will be no Supreme Court ruling that such a law would be unconstitutional, and the Supremacy Clause would ensure that federal laws trump (no pun intended) state laws. Given the state of Republican politics, do you think this is unlikely?

AARP: Abortions and Retired People

J.A. in Redwood City, California, writes: F.S. in Cologne asked: "Why should men and women over 50 care about abortion rights?"

To (V) and (Z)'s answer raising the "slippery slope" consequences of that issue, I'll expand upon a matter that they alluded to, in their answers to other questions from D.E. in Lancaster and from D.H. in Austin. In a word: Religion. If the primary basis for a legislative ban on abortions stems from the religious beliefs of one religious group (in this case, evangelicals), then state legislatures may gain further precedent upon which to base other religion-favoring laws. For example, one could imagine new regulations either permitting or restricting participation in the political process, which use religion as yet another justification for racial discrimination. Or, the further expansion of "religious liberties" into matters of public health.

And speaking of public policy, here are two more reasons why people (of any age, really) should care about abortion, beyond what (V) and (Z) wrote. Interestingly enough, both of these reasons touch on topics that are near and dear to many people in the U.S. who otherwise identify as conservatives.

First up is taxes. All children, wanted or not, cost money. As has been widely noted, women who can afford to travel to a state that allows abortions will always be able to get one. But poor women will not. And few of them will be able to afford raising an unwanted child without public assistance. (Private charities are helpful, true, but they cannot cover the majority of costs.) As a result, more unwanted babies in your state means more of your taxes will have to be spent on public assistance for those children. In effect (and trying not to oversimplify this too much), every child born to a poor woman means more money from your pocket will have to be diverted to entitlement programs that you, over age 50, are no longer eligible for.

Another reason to care about women's access to abortion: families. Conservatives of all ages bemoan the continuing breakdown of the family unit. Already, the vast majority of women who seek to terminate a pregnancy are unwed. Preventing more of those women from obtaining an abortion will mean that the number of children who grow up in "broken homes" will be even greater than it is now. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that, "children born after unintended conceptions are very likely to live apart from one or both of their parents, usually their father." Moreover, "the absence of a father ... is associated with negative outcomes in children when they grow up."

And finally, there is a broader conversation to be had (which neither political party seems ready to address in recent years) about the role that overpopulation plays in climate change. More people means more consumption of finite resources, especially in ways that contribute to global warming. Abortion will never be the primary means to reduce overpopulation, but it should be a part—even a small one—of a multi-faceted solution to reduce the impact of people on the planet. Bans on abortion will just make it more difficult to effectively address and remedy this problem, whenever politicians finally decide to get serious about it.

G.W. in Oxnard, CA, writes: There are too many humans as it is, and if every fetus conceived is to come to term, the implications for the economy and the environment are dire. Much of the prosperity of the U.S. over the 48 years since Roe v. Wade is directly connected to the limited growth in the human population. I'm in my sixties and in a very blue state and if the SCOTUS strikes down Roe it will have no effect on abortion law in my state, but I will still be affected by the consequences in the red states. The red states will experience increases in poverty, welfare, food stamps, etc. and will pass those costs on to the federal government and my taxes as they have always done before. The red state economies will suffer severely from the explosion in human population and the economy of the whole country will suffer. Environmental effects of the increased human population are not confined to the red states. Pollution and global warming gases in red states have implications for those of us in blue states. As an old man, I may not live to see the likely ecological catastrophe scientists predict, but if abortion is banned or severely restricted in much of the country it greatly increases the probability that I will live to see an ecological catastrophe.

Back-alley abortions are on the rise as restrictions have tightened and will be common again if abortion is banned and many girls and women will be harmed and many will die. These so-called "pro-life" people only care about the lives of fetuses, but even as an old man I feel an obligation to care about the lives of girls and women of childbearing age.

B.W. in West Hartford, CT, writes: The first thing that came into my mind was that I need to care because I have a daughter.

J.L. in Chicago, IL, writes: Both my wife and I are over 50 but our kids (not to mention any number of other younger people we care about) are still very much of the age where they could become or cause someone else to become pregnant. Admittedly, they live in Illinois, which is highly unlikely to seriously restrict abortion, and have parents willing and able to assist them if they did need to travel for access. But, still...

And although I have no intention of joining this group, it is hardly unheard of for men over 50 to care a lot about access to abortion when they knock up their much younger paramours. I would hardly be shocked if the president who put the three likely decisive justices on the Supreme Court is among them.

G.W. in Avon, CT, writes: One fairly obvious reason is that women don't magically become infertile at 50—the oldest woman known to have an unassisted pregnancy was nearly 60—and men are fertile far longer than that. Unwanted and potentially dangerous pregnancies absolutely remain on the table at 50.

R.S. in San Mateo, CA, writes: When teens or young adults have unwanted babies and are unprepared to care for them, it often falls to their parents or grandparents to take on the social or financial responsibility for the child. That often directly impacts people over 50.

B.T. in Franklin, NH, writes: The question from F.S in Cologne reminds me of a situation I encountered in college: The school required all freshmen to live on campus, which was incredibly unpopular with the freshmen. However, no one listens to freshmen. Once freshmen became upperclassmen and were more likely to have the ear of the administration, they had moved on to other concerns so the issues with the policy were never addressed.

Abortion access mostly affects younger people who don't yet have much power and who represent a small portion of the population (many of whom are too young to vote). People who are out of the typical abortion-seeking age-range are the people best poised to protect or destroy abortion rights. If you don't engage on the issue, then you're just handing the issue over to other 50+ folks, not the younger people who are affected. Perhaps think of this through a time warp: Now that you have more power, you can stick up for the person you were when you were potentially affected but didn't yet have power.

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Why should older adults care about abortion rights? I would say this issue is fundamentally about two things:

  1. The role of government and how intrusive it can be in someone's private life; and
  2. Equality meets misogyny

The right of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children is grounded in the Fourteenth Amendment's right to privacy that the Court has found guarantees rights such as the right to birth control (Griswold), right to be free from state intrusion into consensual sexual relations (Lawrence v. Texas) and other, similar cases. If the Court finds there is no such right, our personal lives can be subject to politicians' religious or discriminatory aims. This impacts all of us no matter what our age. If women are just conscripts that the state can legally force to reproduce, what else can the state force us to do? Will we have to check in after 50 and get a card that says we're postmenopausal so the state doesn't have to track our menstrual cycles anymore? Think that's far-fetched? Ask Scott Lloyd, Donald Trump's director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, who required staff to track its female detainees' menstrual cycles on a spreadsheet and denied a woman the right to get an abortion when he learned she was pregnant.

The current Court, meanwhile, continues to demonstrate its disdain for women. For me, the most telling questions that reveal their true motives came from Justices Amy Coney Barrett and Brett Kavanaugh. In a truly astounding suggestion, Barrett said that because women can use safe haven laws (which allow people to drop infants at fire stations or other public places), that solves the problem of an unexpected or unwanted pregnancy. Setting aside the disregard of maternal morbidity or life-threatening pregnancies, the callousness of that remark to both child and mother shows that she doesn't care one whit about what happens to either one as long as the woman is forced by the state to carry that pregnancy to term. Similarly, Kavanaugh doesn't believe women are protected by the Constitution and that the states can enact whatever regulations they want as soon as that egg is fertilized.

These views should alarm all Americans as they show that, despite the Constitution's guarantee of equality, these Justices believe that right is malleable depending on the Court's make-up.

E.H. in New York City, NY, writes: Speaking as a aged-50+, post-menopausal person-with-a-uterus (Hi, P.M. in Currituck!), my concern about reproductive rights is not centered on my individual anatomy or its current level of functionality. My concern starts with my two children (also equipped with uteri). Many of us post-50 folks do have kids, and thinking about the world our children must navigate as they pursue education, build careers, and enter into/exit from personal relationships hits us personally as well. I think about my mother, who, in the late 1970s, found out she was pregnant with a third child at a time in her life when her marriage was faltering. She had just reentered the workforce after taking 10 years out to stay at home with her first two children. She could not imagine keeping her job during/after a pregnancy and could not imagine being the primary breadwinner as a single mom to three kids, one of them an infant. She chose to abort (my father knew and agreed with the choice, but it was 100% her decision). I am overwhelmed—horrified, really—to be now facing a world in which my two daughters will have less freedom than my mother did 50 years ago. I pray neither is ever faced with an unwanted pregnancy and no choice in how to handle it; something I never, ever would have imagined possible when I chose to bring them into the world two decades ago.

I share that story because your question seems to imply that caring about abortion is necessarily rooted in immediate personal factors. I think this is a false assumption. Aside from my children, my concern (my despair?) at the cultural shift we are witnessing is that it appears to be inevitably poised to diminish American women's political, social, and economic power through the stripping of their personal reproductive determinism. The evidence indicates that: "Women who cannot access abortion when needed are three times more likely to be unemployed and four times more likely to have a household income below the federal poverty level." I'd argue that giving individual women control over their procreation benefits all of society, because allowing women to decide when/if they want to have children also allows them to decide when they want to invest fully in their educations, when they want to drive hard in their careers, when they want to run for office, and so on. Of course, some pregnant persons and chest-feeding baby-progenitors are able to simultaneously stay in school, advance in their workplaces, and/or be the Prime Minister of New Zealand. But an awful lot don't or can't and, frankly, it's not our business to tell them they must. Our country will be less competitive, less innovative, and less powerful if half our population is held back from full participation on their own terms. That ought to worry all women, regardless of age, and most men, too. (On the other hand, I can see why the "traditional family" crowd is jazzed, as it lines up nicely with their doctrine of wifely submission.)

A.C. in Kingston, MA, writes: For me, personally, as a woman of childbearing age with two sisters and two daughters, the idea of abortion being outlawed is scary. My own children were both wanted and planned, and are the best part of my life. I love being a mom. I had difficult labors and births but very easy pregnancies, and short of a "mom belly" have suffered no long-term physical effects from my pregnancies. But pregnancy itself was still permanently life-altering, and recovery from giving birth took months. I am absolutely disgusted by Amy Coney Barrett's flippant suggestion to just carry to term and give the baby up for adoption. Like older folks, pregnant people (with apologies to P.M. in Currituck) don't live in a vacuum. Coworkers, extended family, friends, neighbors... all will have strong opinions about anyone who gives up an unwanted child for adoption.

The stereotype of an abortion patient is a young woman in her teens or early twenties who's just not ready to be a mother. The right seizes and expands upon this myth by asserting that with the right support (usually in the form of Christian homes for unwed mothers, or more child-friendly policies at colleges), such women could keep their babies. But the Guttmacher Institute reports that the majority of women who get abortions (59%) already have children. So add to the above list of people who'd judge a woman who gave a child up for adoption the woman's existing kids, who'd have questions about where the new baby went. And that's to say nothing of the unwanted baby itself. Adoption is traumatic for adoptees.

E.J. in Woodstock, GA, writes: So while this does fall under the umbrella of "public policy," I think it's worth noting separately. Anti-choice activists are fond of asking how many intellects that might rival Albert Einstein's were aborted and thus never given the opportunity to attend universities and further the state of some art. It seems to me highly intellectually dishonest not to ask the inverse. Stephen Jay Gould has some related thoughts. People who become pregnant while in high school or college and are unable to obtain an abortion are overwhelmingly more likely not to complete their current educational pursuit, not to pursue additional education beyond their current pursuit, and not to pursue the types of careers they might otherwise. It thus seems to me that as a matter of public policy readily available and safe abortions are liable not only to help reduce harm (not just the criminal activity you reference, but the inevitable back alley abortions prohibition invites), but to further the public interest by supporting individuals in fully developing their talents.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: I preface this by telling all readers who do not already know: I am a transgender woman. As such, I have been chemically sterile since the age of 24, and physically so since the age of 31. Thus, the pro-choice/pro-life issue wasn't one I gave a lot of thought to at the time. I guess then you could say I was lukewarm for pro-choice, because why not? Besides, the enemy of my enemy is my friend, right?

As I got more involved in activism, mostly for transgender rights, I began to be exposed to other activists, among them, those who felt as passionately about pro-choice as I did about transgender rights. And in listening to them, their stories, and their arguments, I came to see the entire issue in a new way...and saw a parallel between them and myself.

These days, I am strongly pro-choice, because I see it as a body sovereignty issue. Literally—the right to decide what does or does not happen with your own body. You see the parallel?

So, for those like F.S. in Cologne, I would suggest thinking about parallel rights that perhaps they would like to preserve. Not to mention, every one of us has women in their lives that they care for: mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, aunts, cousins, friends, co-workers, etc. You should care about those issues because you would like to preserve their rights.

But for me, the main argument still is body sovereignty. I do not believe the government has any business telling me what I can or cannot do with my own body, and I also see no reason why sanctions should be permitted against people who do things with their bodies that others don't agree with. I have thus come around on the issue of cannabis legalization, which I was previously opposed to. Similarly, those with tattoos have often been discriminated against, too. I neither have nor want any tats, but I see no reason why they should not be able to have them if they want.

In the end, my body is mine. Your body is yours. You should have no right to say what I may do with my body—unless it harms you objectively—and the reverse is true for me. I should have no say over others' decisions.

B.B. in Panama City Beach, FL, writes: Perhaps it's a form of "public policy" and/or "don't be a jerk," but the argument could be made that restricting abortions is a form of racism/discrimination. The reason is that restrictions largely impact poor people and there are many more people of color among the less wealthy. Thus, the effect of restrictions is to disproportionately impact people of color—and that's the very definition of discriminatory practices/policies. So, even if one is not a person of color, it is morally wrong to support discriminatory state practices.

Legal Matters: Other

D.A.Y. in Troy, MI, writes: On Tuesday, the latest school shooting happened in the same county I live in. Four students are dead and a half dozen more were injured, as well as a teacher. Threats of copycat attacks have caused school closings across the counties and two more students in the area facing charges: one for bringing a gun to school and another for threatening to do the same and then posting it on social media.

The shooter faces two dozen charges and will be charged as an adult. However, his parents have also been charged with one count of involuntary manslaughter for each student killed. Just hours before the shooting, the parents were called in when a teacher found a disturbing note by the student featuring gun violence and fatalistic language. They were told he needed to start counseling within 48 hours, which the parents resisted. They also decided against taking him home, which allowed him to return to class.

On top of that, the parents bought the gun as a Christmas present for him, and that night he posted pictures on social media, calling it "his new beauty." He was also caught looking up ammunition in class after his mother had warned him to be careful, saying : "Just don't get caught." The mother had sent an open letter to candidate Donald Trump in 2016 thanking him for his support of the Second Amendment as she never knows when a client could have "bad intentions" towards her.

I believe charging the parents in this case is the right decision. They had a chance to prevent this by not buying the shooter the gun (which he can't even legally possess in public) or by taking him home and seeking professional help instead of just letting him go back to class. However, it shouldn't take this extreme a degree of negligence for parents to be held responsible when their inaction leads to their child turning to violence. I see this as part of people confusing freedom with an abdication of responsibility. People don't believe they should be responsible for their offensive speech. People don't believe they should be responsible with their firearms. It is the responsibility of those around them to just live with the consequences. I'm here to say that's unacceptable.

When the parents are brought to trial, they need to be made an example of. Their son killed and maimed those people, but they had chance after chance to stop it and refused to, right up to the terrible event. Maybe if they go to jail, parents will do a better job of locking up their guns and taking a more active role in their children's mental and behavioral health. Because kids not feeling safe in school is an unacceptable concession for the sake for the Second Amendment. The right to live (the first unalienable right, according to the Declaration of Independence) should take precedence over the right to have the capacity to kill.

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: You wrote that Sidney Powell might be filing bankruptcy soon, and indeed she might.

However, she has a problem, namely 11 U.S. Code 523(a)6, which says debts "for willful and malicious injury by the debtor to another entity or to the property of another entity" cannot be discharged.

Unlike Powell, I'm not a Texas lawyer and I don't play one on TV, but she said what she said, and siccing the lunatics on people for just trying to do their jobs looks like it was intentional and it was certainly harmful.

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: With the events leading up to and including the 1/6 attack on Congress, in the absence of a smoking gun that Trump and/or his senior minions planned or directed the violence, it's going to be very hard to convict Trump and the Willard "conspirators." If all that can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt is conspiring to come up with a legal strategy to overturn an election, that is not criminal because the goal is not criminal sedition or insurrection, but simply seeking absurd relief in court. That's a civil wrong, addressable only by sanctions and civil penalties.

So, Congress and the Department of Justice are reduced to the "Alger Hiss" approach. Recall that Hiss was convicted not of espionage (the statute of limitations had expired), but perjury. Congress and, I hope, a federal grand jury, have to set it up to subpoena the Willard conspirators and hope they commit criminal contempt or perjury. Again, absent a smoking gun/John Dean-type witness, I doubt we'll see any other kind of criminal prosecutions of the masterminds of the coup attempt.

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: D.W. in Westport was upset that folks were quietly pressuring Justice Stephen Breyer to retire now, so as to avoid what happened when Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away last year.

There are valid arguments to be made on both sides of the coin. The Democrats don't want to risk potentially seeing Breyer's seat filled by another conservative, but Breyer looks fit and capable of doing his job at 83.

Sadly, the Supreme Court, and the federal judiciary as a whole, have been the new political battleground for years now. I recently looked up Senate confirmation votes of President Biden's judicial nominees. They have mainly fallen along party lines. Interestingly though, both Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have voted to confirm them. The days when we saw polar opposites like Antonin Scalia and RBG receive 90+ votes from the Senate are definitely over.

I'll offer this prediction about Justice Breyer. He really loves being on the Court and doesn't want to go. However, he doesn't want the same fate as was befallen on RBG. The Senate is a coin flip, come next year's elections. It's pretty clear by now that should the Turtle get his old job back, he will put the screws to Biden just as it was done with Obama. Former longtime Senate colleagues be damned. Breyer will announce his retirement sometime next spring and leave once Biden's nominee has been confirmed. He will then have a pleasant life after the Court and stay active for another decade or so.

National Politics

H.R. in Jamaica Plain, MA, writes: I have to disagree with D.E. in Austin, who says "the racism level is absent" in the Rittenhouse case. This is a profound misunderstanding of how racism operates through white privilege.

Rittenhouse's defense and acquittal are stark examples of white privilege. If Rittenhouse had been Black, he wouldn't have been encouraged by the police, and probably would have been arrested for walking around with a rifle on the streets of Kenosha. If Rittenhouse had been Black, he would have been found guilty, if he had even gone to trial. If Rittenhouse had been Black, he would have joined the many other young Black men imprisoned in this country, victims of the school-to-prison pipeline and the carceral system described so well by Michelle Alexander in The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. White privilege wasn't able to save the McMichaels and Bryan from conviction in the Arbery case, but it definitely emboldened them to commit the murder in the first place and it kept them from being held accountable for many months afterwards. The parallels, as (V) and (Z) noted in the original piece that D.E. is commenting on, are abundantly clear.

E.K. in Brignoles, France, writes: I know it won't be useful in any way to comment this, and I get that it's part of their "we gotta own the libs" game/business (except that I'm not a "lib," and I'm not even American). However I'm truly shocked by what I just saw on Twitter:

I don't want to sound patronizing, or judgmental (we have our own cross to bear here with Éric Zemmour and his fanatics), but seriously: A U.S. Representative, proudly posting that thing four days after a(nother) shooting that left four teenagers dead? To say that it's disgusting would be a huge understatement. It unfortunately shows the worst face of your country, a part of your culture that I will never understand, and that some "human beings" are beyond any kind of redemption.

I'm sorry, this is not constructive at all, but I'm physically revulsed. I guess they've won...

P.Y. in Upper Nyack, NY, writes: You wrote that, after the 1990 census, 16 new Black representatives, including Carrie Meek, joined the house through the Attorney General's use of the Voting Rights Act. I was interested to learn that the AG was none other than William Barr!

Prior to 1990, the Democrats often "cracked" Black Democratic communities in order to elect more white Democrats. Bill Barr was able to cashier 25 white Democrats in the 1992 elections in exchange for 16 Black Democratic districts—a net pickup of 9 GOP seats in a year when the Democrats won the White House.

As they say, politics makes for strange bedfellows.

The Florida legislature's original map would have given three of the four seats the state was gaining that year to the Democrats (with zero of those Democrats being Black). But the new map created three majority-Black districts in exchange for Republicans gaining three of the four new seats instead.

This seems to me an interesting confluence of several things on our minds this year.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Florida did not allow Black people to attend graduate school until after 1960, but we weren't a racist country and mustn't try to tell American teenagers we were/are.

K.C. in Portland, OR, writes: Regarding Obstruction Is Their Business, and Business is Good, I found the two developments this posting portends heartening:

  1. Starting to seriously consider what could arguably be the standard null hypothesis with highly placed politicians whose actions "don't make sense," namely corruption.

  2. Advancing beyond slipping in obscure Beatles references and branching out into obscure references to far more listenable bands like Megadeth.

J.C. in General Trias, Cavite, Philippines, writes: Thank you so much for mentioning that the virus doesn't stop at national borders and in order to protect Americans, the Biden administration needs to be doing a lot more to share the vaccine wealth. I really appreciate that. I would add that it also needs to be done to protect Americans overseas. We are subject to the will and abilities of the countries we live in. If they have enough vaccine, we can get it; if they don't, we can't. And we are Americans, too.

T.P. in Monmouth, OR, writes: I keep seeing the Biden administration getting blamed for increased gasoline prices without mention of the fact that on April 2, 2020, Trump phoned Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and demanded that OPEC cut production, threatening to pull troops out of Saudi Arabia if they did not. And 10 days later OPEC cut production by 10 percent. Did that have nothing to do with the price of gasoline?

V & Z respond: We certainly think it did.

All Politics Is Local

D.M. in Atlanta, GA, writes: I've lived in Atlanta since 1997, and if you're curious for some additional color commentary on why Felicia Moore's (D) support fell off 40% in the runoff election, I believe it has to do with racial politics intermixed with the Buckhead city movement. Atlanta is a great city, but there is serious de facto segregation in that a plurality of white residents live up north, and traditional Black Atlanta lives in the southern part of the city.

Activist Bill White's goal is to have the Buckhead district secede from Atlanta, claiming that crime is the motivating factor (everyone here knows it's good old-fashioned racism in disguise). That movement would be disastrous for the city and the state, and there's no plan for where the kids in that district (over 50,000 of them) would go to school, or really any semblance of a plan. Moore was pro-Buckhead city and that probably doomed her the most.

There was also a slew of Republican groups sending out texts tying Moore to Trump. I'm not sure why they thought that would help. Atlanta hasn't had a Republican mayor since ever, and any Republican that has gotten close ran as an independent, even though they were Republicans (looking at you, Mary Norwood).

I could probably write sixteen more paragraphs about the nuances, but I think the few that voted caught on to which way the wind was blowing, and even though Moore got 40% in the general, the supporters of the other candidates all coalesced around Mayor-elect Andre Dickens (D), who did a great job of identifying himself second time around.

V & Z respond: Are you sure the Moore-Trump texts weren't ratfu**ing?

M.D. in Portland, ME, writes: My husband and I have been faithful readers of your site for many years now. This is the first time either one of us has written in. We read your item about Dr. Mehmet Oz, who we agree is an unmitigated charlatan. However, your description of homeopathy truly bothered us. Dr. Oz is one of the highly visible people who give homeopathy a bad name by his quackery.

In reality, homeopathy works very similarly to vaccines: one ingests substances that your body is reacting to, and your body is then able to tolerate them. Sometimes it is a substance that your body is lacking. It does seem to defy logic, but you can read the book Impossible Cure: The Promise of Homeopathy and learn more.

In my own life, I used homeopathy as a complementary medicine when traditional Western medicine could not get at the problem without many undesirable side effects. I used it successfully to become pregnant with my second child, even though at the time I had little faith that swallowing tiny pellets would solve serious fertility issues. I also have used it for occasional anxiety and depression, and to help physical injuries heal faster.

There are many DOs and chiropractors that give those professions a bad name by endorsing ridiculous medical treatments and theories, which is too bad because there are many in those areas of practice who do very good work. The same is true of Dr. Oz endorsing homeopathy. He gives it a bad name. We hope you don't add to this issue.

M.D. in the Poconos, PA, writes: With all the nutjob Republicans in Pennsylvania, one would think they could find more actual Pennsylvania grifters to run for Senate instead of importing them from elsewhere. I know nothing about Carla Sands other than that she must be rich, as she has been inundating our Scranton-area TV channels with endless commercials on how she will fight for "former president Trump" (oops) and will "defeat all the socialists like Nancy Pelosi and AOC who actually run the country." If only that were true. Not sure how she will fight them since if she wins she'd be in the Senate and they are in the House. Nothing at all on what her qualifications are to run for the Senate. Not that reality or qualifications have much to do with GOP politics any more.

R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: Since I've been staying away from all my neighbors (both because I'm not that gregarious and also because I'm in one of the highest COVID-risk counties in the nation [Crook]), I don't have a good feel for Rep. Liz Cheney's (R-WY) chances in the primary, but there are people who are very mad at her for her anti-Trump ways. I feel like her best bet is the Trumpers splitting the vote and therefore winning with a plurality. A 40% chance to win doesn't feel implausible to me. We'll see.

D.S. in Newark, OH, writes: Recently, I had a conversation with my daughter about the results of our local city council elections. My daughter is a 10-year Marine Corps veteran, mom, gun owner, Democrat, and a paramedic/firefighter with our local fire department. Many of her male counterparts are Republicans (according to my daughter), mostly because of abortion and immigration. During the recent city council elections, the Republicans increased their majority from 8-2 to 10-0, defeating two Democratic incumbents in wards where the Republicans did not even field candidates in the last election (2017).

Are the Republican firefighters happy? No, they are extremely upset. They have upcoming contract negotiations with the city, and the Republicans in this area are very anti-union. The firefighters' most ardent advocate—a two-term Democratic incumbent who happens to be a pro-choice gay Black man—was defeated in his reelection bid. The election was decided by a little over 500 voters in a city of 50,000 people with 30,000 registered voters.

I have lived in my current home for a little over 20 years and only once has a Democratic candidate knocked on my door asking for my vote. Democrats can't win if they do not show up. I agree with most people who believe the Democrats have a messaging problem and feel that all Democrats running for office should be required to listen to Barbara Jordan's 1976 keynote address to the Democratic Convention. The message in this speech is timeless and extremely relevant in today's political climate. But even if you have a great message, you can't win if you don't show up, and showing up requires you to knock on doors and talk to voters, not just have a Facebook page. This is how the Republicans flipped these seats—they knocked on doors and talked to voters.

H.R. in Jamaica Plain, MA, writes: I thought it might be interesting to share my very localized reaction to redistricting in my part of Boston. I have little insight into what factors caused the 13 precincts in my Boston Ward to be distributed across four different state house districts, other than the publicly proclaimed goal of creating more majority-minority districts, but I feel the impact on the political life of our Ward will be profoundly negative.

Boston has 22 Wards, which are used to organize a lot of electoral work, as each Ward has its own elected group of Democratic Party members who represent that Ward within the Party (and are elected every four years during the presidential primary). I am a member of my Ward's Democratic Party Committee and I've served in this capacity (in two different Boston Wards) over most of the past 15 years. Among other activities, the Ward Committee organizes candidate forums to inform its residents and often endorses candidates. Having four different state reps is going to greatly complicate that process. Also, our two existing state reps are very attentive to the work of the Ward Committee, regularly attending monthly meetings and reporting on what is happening in the legislature. Having four reps will weaken those ties. Splitting the reps across more wards will also burden the reps.

I currently have both a state rep. and state senator who are women of color. With my new districts, my state rep and state senator are likely to both be white men, and the majority of my new state Senate district is outside of Boston, including communities with very different interests from the city. In both cases, I'm losing representation that leans progressive and matches my own political views. When the proposed new districts were announced, there was less than a week to comment before they were finalized and that was during the rather busy pre-election time in Boston this past fall. While my precinct has one of the highest turnout rates in the city, I fear this new political alignment will dilute our voices at the polls. Whether intentional or not, it appears that the redistricting committee has split the alliance of white progressives and voters of color, at least in my part of the city.

This Week in TrumpWorld

K.C. in West Islip, NY, writes: J.F. in Fort Worth questioned whether Trumpists and QAnon adherists (I'm sure not all Trumpists are QAnoners, but all QAnoners are obviously Trumpists) would accept the death of their Dear Leader or believe it was merely a hoax akin to those of Elvis death deniers, etc.

While your response talked about death conspiracies, and I must say I chuckled a bit when I tried to put some mental imagery to Weird Al Yankovic offing Trump by blunt force trauma caused by an accordion strike to the head. I think that the obvious response from his supporters would be to say it was OK because, of course, three days later he'll be resurrected.

B.C. in Farmingville, NY, writes: There is a near-100% chance that the Republicans in the House nominate Donald Trump as Speaker. He could actually win, too. It falls right in to the hands of the conspiracy theorists that see it as the next logical step in the process to get him back in the Oval Office. Worse yet, it gives him legitimate airtime and opportunity to try to pass some downright wacky legislation.

R.H.M. in North Haven, CT, writes: I have a prediction regarding Trump 2024.

Donald Trump will run for President in 2024. However, he will announce that he doesn't intend to participate in a primary, and that the GOP should just anoint him as their nominee. While some states will be happy to cancel their primaries, most will not, leading him to threaten to leave the Party and run as a third party (MAGA) candidate if they don't accede to his demands. If he wins the nomination in spite of not participating in the primary process, all is well in Trumpland, and it will be another close election. If he does not win, then whether or not he decides to run as a third-party candidate, the fissure this creates will break the Republican Party.

C.F. in Nashua, NH, writes: I wrote, right after the election, that Donald Trump is guaranteed to run for president in 2024. Watching his actions since then, this still seems to be the case.

The argument that he wouldn't run because he might "lose" is ridiculous. He and his minions are 100% certain he won but was cheated, so he hasn't lost yet. Also, I think the odds of him being seated as president in 2024 are better than even.

The big lesson Republicans have learned from 2021 is that there are no consequences to anti-democratic behavior for any elected politician. So, Trump can win in any of these ways:

  1. Majority of popular and electoral votes (depends on effectiveness of right-wing propaganda)
  2. Majority of electoral votes (depends on Democratic voter turnout)
  3. Enough Republican state governments give electoral votes to Trump because of "fraud".
  4. A House with a 20-to-40 Republican majority installs Trump because of "fraud".

As president, he already showed how he can and will abuse the office, and even if he is not installed as president, he gets another 4 years of grift until he runs again, as there is no evidence that his disciples will ever weaken their support.

(If #3 or #4 happens, the Supreme Court is unlikely to weigh in. As we have seen from most of their decisions on democracy, they are now just another political branch, thanks to the Republicans. Of course, we also know if they can install Trump with a decision, they will weigh in like they did in 2000.)

B.B. in Chipley, FL, writes: As I wrote back in August: "Once bitten, twice shy." When Donald Trump ran the first time, his ego was not on the line, because he wasn't running to win, he was running for the grift. Now that motivation is gone, and the only reason to run is to try to win. But, since he's already lost once, he won't be willing to experience that humiliation ever again. Besides, what is there to gain even from winning the election? He's already been president, so, as Mae West famously asked, "Why bother?"

E.H. Washington, DC, writes: I have to believe that there is a number 6 in "Murder Was (Almost) the Case." It's got to be adultery. (But it's OK, since it's allowed by his followers.)

V & Z respond: Perhaps, though for the record, we were going for a Monty Python reference.

J.M. in Norco, CA, writes: In "Let the Conspiracies Begin," you wrote:

[I]t becomes clear that Donald Trump wasn't nearly as consequential as he seemed. All of this Omicron-variant blather is happening without his input. He obviously wasn't leading on the pandemic-denial and anti-masking stuff, he was kowtowing to the only position acceptable to his base. The same looks to be true when it comes to racism, Islamophobia, anti-immigrant sentiment, and a host of other issues. He may have shown that politicians can get away with turning dog whistles into dog bullhorns, but the extent to which he actually influenced his base—beyond persuading some of them to turn angry words into violent actions—appears to be very limited. They made him; he didn't make them.

And that, right there, is the real danger in all of this. Countless words have been written and spoken over the past five years about the "threat to our democracy," but I've long thought that the world had, perhaps, grown too complex and sophisticated for democratic rule; maybe democracy is literally outdated. Worse is what we are seeing now—the triumph of the ignorant! That they chose the most juvenile, cruel, bigoted, selfish, and willfully ignorant among them to "lead" is no surprise. This time, by good fortune, their selected "leader" is notoriously incompetent. But next time?

S.C-M. in Tucson, AZ, writes: Did the GOP base enable Trump? I think the growing evidence suggests this is in fact the case. Certainly, the GOP has been lacking any sort of coherent policy for many years. The only policy they seem to be good at is tax cuts for the very wealthy. Donald Trump's 2016 election success terrified the so-called establishment GOP. That election showed them to only way to win was to appeal to the activist and increasingly deranged and conspiracy-driven base. Trump was a perfect match for their voters.

Ironically, the GOP estblishment created that base over many years by cultivating the hysteria. They thought they could control their own base and continue giving out massive tax cuts to benefit their donors. I think they would have preferred to do this with a Jeb Bush at the helm rather than a Trump. The spectacular failure of Jeb and others in the GOP primary in 2016 showed they had lost control of their own voters.

V & Z respond: Don't you mean "Jeb!"?

N.E. in San Mateo, CA, writes: You wrote: "Personally, we are hoping that if there is another variant, WHO labels it SARS-CoV-2 TedCruz."

If Cruz were to get a pathogen named after him, it would surely have to be a variety of Clostridium difficile, an intestinal bacteria from which infection can lead to a distinctively foul smell (and often more serious consequences).

R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: Back when I was a kid, there were bullies on the schoolbus. My parents told me to just ignore them and they'll stop, the theory being that they were just looking for attention and by giving them the attention they wanted I was rewarding their behavior. But my experience was that by giving them no attention at all, they would just try harder. The key, I think, is giving them a kind of attention that they don't like. What exactly that might be for the Lauren Boeberts and Paul Gosars of the world I don't know, but the martyrdom of censure and loss of committee assignments doesn't seem to be working.

Skipping the Greek letters nu and xi to avoid name confusion makes perfect sense to me coming from the organization that insists on treating their abbreviation as an initialism (W-H-O) even though it's a perfectly good acronym (WHO), because they don't want to be confused with that other Who, famous for pinball wizardry.

V & Z respond: You sure it's not to avoid all the "Do you play first base?" jokes?

E.F. in Baltimore, MD, writes: It makes perfect sense that the rightwing blogosphere would think that Omicron was a Democratic plot to distract us from Ghislaine Maxwell's trial, seeing as how they already believed that Bill Clinton was Jeffrey Epstein's best buddy, and that Donald Trump had absolutely no connection to him. Never mind all those pictures, and that video of Trump praising Epstein as "a great guy who really loves very young, beautiful women."

On second thought, this makes Omicron sound more like a GOP plot.

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: You wrote: "There's not much value in declaring a strike when nobody is actually working anyhow. It would be like the staff of the Trump White House had called a strike."

Thank you.

J.B. in Long Beach, CA, writes: My son wanted to try an experiment. So, he put on a MAGA hat and Trump shirt. He was laughed at, spit on, threatened with violence, and generally ridiculed. Then he left the house.

Weird Science

A.L. in Highland Park, NJ, writes: K.H. in Orlando writes that John Bardeen made greater contributions to physics than Albert Einstein. I reread this letter and I cannot find any hint of irony in it. Let's be clear, this opinion would get laughed at in any physics department anywhere. I once sat at the same lunch table as Bill Bardeen, son of John and director of theoretical physics at Fermilab (it was an accident, as I was new to the lab and didn't know theorists had their own table). I don't think even Bill would go along with this.

Einstein won the 1921 Nobel Prize for the Photoelectric Effect. We teach this to second year undergrads; it's their gateway to Quantum Mechanics. He did not win a prize for Special Relativity, which we also teach to second/third years (first as simple sticks and clocks, then in more detail as the electromagnetic stress tensor). It blows their minds. He also did not win a prize for General Relativity (a.k.a. gravity), which we teach to advanced graduate students. It changes how one looks at the universe. The marriage of Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity is the ultimate goal, the holy grail, the prize above all prizes. Einstein was working on this to his last days, and we (Bardeen-philes included) are still at it.

John Bardeen is highly regarded, especially here in New Jersey, and we do teach the basics of transistors and superconductivity in electives. But to compare these to the foundational principles of modern physics is beyond ridiculous.

P.S.: If you simply go by Nobel Prizes then Henry Kissinger (1 prize) did more for world peace than Mohandas Gandhi (0 prizes).

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: The whole theoretical vs. applied/experimental physics debate is pretty annoying, but a man who spent his entire career working in solid state labs building things and engineering departments, as John Bardeen did, can't be "the finest theoretician of the 20th century" as K.H. in Orlando puts it. No knock against Bardeen's work, but a theoretician works with ideas and mathematical models, not silicon and germanium.

Einstein built the entire theory of special relativity out of a Gedankenexperiment about counterfactual near-speed-of-light spaceships looking out their windows at light beams. The rest was pure logic.

BCS theory was a brilliant bit of theory-crafting, but it can't take the crown from Einstein. And in hindsight, Einstein's contributions should have been worth at least five Nobel prizes: four for the annus mirabilis discoveries of the Photoelectric Effect, Brownian motion, Special Relativity, and mass-energy equivalence of 1905; and the fifth for General Relativity. Each of them dwarfs Bardeen's discoveries in theoretical importance, if not in application.

I don't disagree that the persona of Einstein has taken on some mythological proportions and that his view in popular culture as a genius beyond all other humans is out of step with reality. But to displace him specifically as a theoretician by Bardeen is beyond the pale.

P.R. in Saco, ME, writes: The answer about people using words or phrases without knowing their origins provoked me to point out that this also applies to professional fields. Specifically Asperger's Syndrome, a label invented by the psychiatrist Lorna Wing in a paper published in Psychological Medicine in 1981. It wasn't until 1994 that the APA, in its new edition of the DSM-IV, caused the diagnosis to become widely used (i.e., "billable"). The origins of the term were largely lost and unknown to most of the mental health community for years.

Hans Asperger, originally thought to be a pioneer in helping children with autism, was instrumental in the killing of at least 800 children. He found that some of them were intelligent and they were spared being assigned to the Nazi euthanasia programs. He was an advocate for purification of the Aryan race. In the DSM-V, the label was changed to Social Pragmatic Communication Disorder (a far better description than "Autistic Spectrum Disorder, Level I.")

A lot of clinicians, educators and parents still use the term Asperger's Syndrome. Rolls off the tongue as easily as shipping children to Vienna's Am Spiegelgrund clinic.

I don't use "Asperger's Syndrome" anymore in my clinical practice.

Hooray for Hollywood

A.M. in Olympia, WA, writes: Not one mention of the classic movie Deep Throat. Disappointing. Probably safe to assume your readers think the film sucks.

V & Z respond: Or it made them gag.

C.B. in Beavercreek, OH, writes: Challenge accepted!

Indiana Jones and Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back

M.S. in Livingston, NJ, writes:

Indiana Jones Saving Private Ryan
Indiana Jones and The Little Mermaid
Indiana Jones and Anna and the King of Siam

D.E. in Fairfax, VA, writes: Assuming grammatical tweaks are permitted, the obvious choice for is:

Indiana Jones and Mr. Smith Go to Washington

T.B. in Tallahassee, FL, writes: I've never seen an Indiana Jones film ... but I'm using this opportunity as a way to include a few of my favorite films (and a couple I've never seen):

Indiana Jones and War and Peace
Indiana Jones and a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World
Oh, God! Indiana Jones

D.S. in Palo Alto, CA, writes:

Indiana Jones and a Thousand Clowns

A.J. in Palmer, MA, writes:

Indiana Jones and Tuesdays with Morrie

S.R in Robbinsville, NJ, writes: Off the top of my head:

Indiana Jones and the Curse of the Pink Panther
Indiana Jones and a Hard Day's Night
Indiana Jones and Abbott and Costello meet the Invisible Man
Indiana Jones and King Kong vs. Godzilla

M.B. in San Antonio, TX, writes:

Indiana Jones and Mississippi Masala
Indiana Jones and Nevada Smith
Indiana Jones and Tennessee Johnson

C.K.S. in Berkeley, CA, writes: This isn't actually a correction, because I don't know for sure, but I'm linguistically curious, having studied modern Greek and lived in Athens for a few years. What you and other letter writers are saying would be pronounced 'mu' and 'nu,' the Greeks would pronounce 'mee' and 'nee." This touches on my fascination with the transcribing of Greek letter 'ypsilon'. This capitalization of this letter is Y, but its lower case is u. it is pronounced in Greek as 'ee.' There is no letter 'u' in Greek; to get the sound of 'u,' you have to combine the letters omicron and ypsilon, which looks like 'ou' (and would be 'OY' in caps).

I don't know the story behind this, but I suspect it might have some parallels to the 'barbarian' story. Greeks actually don't have a letter for the 'b' sound either, they have to combine their letters 'mee' and 'pi.' This is because they apparently did not make such sounds in their language, and had to find a way to transcribe it when they were confronted with uncouth interlopers from the north, hence the genesis of the term barbarian (essentially meaning 'one of those uncouth interlopers from the north who keep making that sound we Greeks don't speak').

V & Z respond: As chance would have it, (Z) has a friend whose specialty is ancient Greece, and so he speaks ancient Greek, modern Greek, and English fluently (among other languages). He says that modern Greeks do indeed pronounce 'mu' and 'nu' as 'mee' and 'nee,' but that the English pronunciation, and also the ancient Greek pronunciation, is 'moo' and 'noo.'

D.L. in Uslar, Germany, writes: Your response to B.E. in Chico about Dr. Oz's show and the Equal Time Rule reminded me that the rule twice intersected with Star Trek. In 1973, George Takei ran for the Los Angeles City Council. Whichever independent station in the L.A. market was running Star Trek reruns opted not to air the show during the campaign. In addition, KNBC chose to air the brand-new Star Trek: The Animated Series in a different order than that chosen by the network in order not to air episodes with Sulu in them until after the election. Apparently, his opponents felt that his badly animated image and mellifluous voice saying "Phasers locked" or "Warp 1, Captain" constituted an unfair advantage.

Takei ran for State Assembly in 1980, but dropped out when his opponent made an equal time complaint about Star Trek reruns. He decided that was too much of a hit to his career for a chance at moving into politics.

T.C. in Stone Mountain, GA, writes: You are behind the times. According to my chocolate Advent calendar, today is December 23rd.

V & Z respond: Yeah, that may have happened once or twice with the Advent calendars that (Z) got from his grandmother, too.

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: You commented about an "aging polka star." So, I had to throw in my two cents worth:

My parents grew up in Minnesota dairy-farm country, among hardheaded, obstinate Germans, Scandihoovians, and Polacks. I am not trying to be disparaging, that is how my farmer relatives described themselves. Per their telling, every town had some small dance hall/fraternal organization and on Saturday night the beer flowed, the music played, and the dancing went on until the wee hours. My mother came to Oregon to work in the shipyards. My father enjoyed a delightful tour of northern Europe as a combat engineer. When he wasn't blowing up obstacles or building "Bailey Bridges," he was driving trucks for the Red Ball Express. The army seemed to like those Midwestern farm boys; when something broke in the field they would fix it in place and have your back with an M-1 while they were doing it. Looooong before I heard of Bob Dylan, or Peter Paul and Mary, or Arlo Guthrie, or The Grateful Dead, I was inundated with Whoopee John, Frank Yankovic (not weird Al), and Spike Jones. There seems to be some affinity between Polka music and beer; I am not sure what it is, but maybe that is why I prefer Oregon Kraft Brewed IPAs and Hefeweizen over that watered down "light" grocery store stuff that is phuqing close to water. But the point of this story is don't denigrate Polka music (or any other genre, for that matter).

V & Z respond: For what it's worth, we were thinking of Gus Polinski, the "Polka King of the Midwest."

G.R. in Clive, IA, writes: You wrote: "That actually puts [the Packers] at a disadvantage compared to the Tom Brady-era Patriots, who started every season with a free 6-0 record."

Ouch. As a Bills fan, I can tell you it only hurts because it's true.

K.B. in Kenmore, WA, writes: I'm sure other have pointed it out but to respond to your comment "the Tom Brady-era Patriots, who started every season with a free 6-0 record" is pretty bad knowledge. Brady notoriously struggled against the Dolphins and had a worse record against the AFC East than he did the rest of the league. Comments like your "6-0" one are typical regurgitation from the likes of Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd, and are the sports equivalent of getting all your political news from Dan Bongino.

V & Z respond: For the record, Tom Brady is 87-23 against the AFC East in his career, for a winning percentage of .791. That translates to a 5-1 record, on average, every six times he plays those teams. He is 185-62 against the rest of the league, for a winning percentage of .748. Oh, and he's 24-12 (.667) against the Dolphins in his career.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Dec04 Saturday Q&A
Dec03 Surprise! Crisis Averted!
Dec03 Republicans Stand for Nothing
Dec03 Murder Was (Almost) the Case
Dec03 Predictions: Trump Won't Run Again
Dec03 This Week in Schadenfreude
Dec03 Talkin' 'bout Baseball
Dec03 A December to Rhymember (Parts 1-2)
Dec02 A Triple Play
Dec02 It's Not a Good Time to be on Team Trump
Dec02 Abrams Is In...
Dec02 ...and Baker Is Out
Dec02 McCormick Wants to Head to Washington...
Dec02 ...While Peter DeFazio Is Going to Leave
Dec02 It's a Lockout
Dec01 Today's the Day
Dec01 Appeals Court Appears to Be Ready to Reject Trump's Lawsuit
Dec01 Meadows Is Said to Be Cooperating with the Committee
Dec01 Trump Is Trying to Place Allies in Key Positions in Advance of 2024
Dec01 Trump Helps NRCC Raise $17 Million at One Dinner
Dec01 Out of the Frying Pan, into the Fire in Pennsylvania
Dec01 Republicans Now Want to Support Anti-Vaxxers Financially
Dec01 Greece Imposes a 100-Euro Fine on Unvaccinated Seniors
Dec01 Atlanta Has a New Mayor
Nov30 Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar--meet Lauren Boebert
Nov30 Democrats Have Quite the To-Do List
Nov30 Obstruction Is Their Business, and Business Is Good
Nov30 Let the Conspiracies Begin
Nov30 Florida Republicans Embrace Their Inner Elbridge Gerry
Nov30 McConaughey Is Out
Nov30 Carrie Meek, 1926-2021
Nov29 Sunday in Virusland
Nov29 A New Milestone Is Here
Nov29 Is Trumpism Contagious?
Nov29 Michael Cohen: Allen Weisselberg Is Not the Key to Prosecuting Trump
Nov29 Ketanji Brown Jackson Is on the Panel Reviewing Subpoena Case
Nov29 Six Is Much More than Five
Nov29 Beto O'Rourke Is Hit By Fundraising Scams
Nov29 Will the Select Committee Leave One Stone Unturned?
Nov29 The Lincoln Project Is on the Rocks
Nov28 Sunday Mailbag
Nov27 Saturday Q&A
Nov26 Republican Gerrymanders Have Locked in Control of Key State Legislatures
Nov26 Maybe the State Courts Could Save Democracy
Nov26 One of Biden's Nominations Is Opposed--by Democrats
Nov26 Greene Introduces a Bill to Honor Rittenhouse
Nov26 Maybe the Democrats Can Find a Senate Candidate in Missouri after All
Nov26 This Week in Schadenfreude
Nov26 Hooray for Hollywood: Readers' Favorite Films (Nos. 10-1)
Nov26 And Now for Something Completely Different...