We are going to run the advice for C.S. in Linville and the limericks later this week, when news will be slow, and when some "on the lighter" side content will be apropos. Today, we begin with response to the Kyle Rittenhouse verdict, then follow with one more round on Democratic messaging, and then we go from there.
P.S. in Arlington, TN, writes: I think your take on the Kyle Rittenhouse situation is a bit off. I do agree that Rittenhouse should be going to jail for what he did, but looking at the video, he was clearly being attacked. If someone is attacking you in the manner he was being attacked, you can shoot them to protect yourself according to our laws. The problem is that the laws need to be changed to put teeth into curfew laws. Nobody in any of the videos should have been there. We also need laws that send those involved in vigilante justice to jail for an amount of time equal to the murder charges Rittenhouse faced. Rittenhouse was clearly looking for violence when he inserted himself into the Kenosha situation.
It's clear that this verdict will embolden right-wing gun nuts, as you fear, and therefore some political chess is necessary. Law-abiding gun owners are no more likely to shoot you because of this ruling than they were on Thursday unless you are at a riot where there's some violence going on. The notion that some gun owner is going to randomly shoot you on a bus based on this verdict is absurd.
The real worry behind Rittenhouse's actions is that the next time we see race riots in a city that you'll see "Proud Boys" show up with guns to do what should be done by police and the National Guard. When that happens, there will be retaliation from minority communities that are already struggling with gun violence. The real concern would involve an all-out war in the streets because politicians don't want to let cops or the National Guard do their jobs. It isn't OK for politicians to stand by idly while "protesters" destroy urban communities. Two wrongs don't make a right.
The better solution is to call in the National Guard and allow police to do their jobs to put down riots, which are a completely different animal than peaceful protests. In the meantime, pass legislation on vigilante justice, curfew violation, rioting and laws that put in stiff penalties for Rittenhouse's specific actions. We are a nation of laws and we can't allow the riots or all-out race wars in the streets. I fear if we continue to allow the riots we will see the race wars as right-wing zealots escalate situations.
J.B. in Bend, OR, writes: On Saturday, you paraphrased a reader: "If a person who is armed—at an uprising, while hiking, when getting coffee at Starbucks—feels 'threatened,' then in many/most states, they have near-universal cover for whatever they want to do."
There are a few things wrong with that statement. First, the Wisconsin jury's decision sets zero precedent for the nation as a whole (in fact, as a trial court decision, it sets no legal precedent in Wisconsin). Second, it is highly unlikely that someone who does not feel seriously threatened is going to just start firing. A decision by a Wisconsin jury is not going to cause people across the country to start acting differently. Third, the Wisconsin law that allows the self-defense defense does not give "near-universal cover for whatever [someone] wants to do." The facts are critical to any such situation.
Then, you wrote (perhaps you were still paraphrasing): "The implication here is that the only real way for unarmed Americans to be 100% safe, when put into a position where there is a gun, is to leave." Guess what? I'd do that with or without the Rittenhouse decision or Wisconsin law. If someone brings a gun to a public place, I'm leaving; not because they might claim self-defense and start shooting but because hanging around a stranger sporting a gun for no reason is simply unwise. They've already demonstrated strange behavior by walking into the coffee shop or grocery with a gun, who knows what they will do next? Removing myself from potentially dangerous situations is something I've always done; the Rittenhouse decision/Wisconsin law did not change that.
M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: I'm of the opinion that had Kyle Rittenhouse been Black or Latino, he would not have been found not guilty on all counts. However, as I was not present for the trial or the jury's deliberations, I can only shake my head and sigh.
D.C. in Hofheim, Germany, writes: Regarding your item Saturday on the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse: It would seem to me that another unfortunate lesson of that case is that, if you happen to be armed and encounter another armed person in circumstances that might lead to an altercation, it would behoove you to shoot first and shoot to kill. Two of the people Rittenhouse shot had firearms but apparently were not so readily inclined to use them as he.
R.B. in Concord, NH, writes: Sadly, the Rittenhouse verdict demonstrates why the left must arm, much like the Black Panther Party. Once those on the left show up with their own militias to defend protesters from the right, my guess is the dynamic will change.
See, for example, the Socialist Rifle Association.
C.Z. in Sacramento, CA, writes: An estimated 20,000 attended the Women's March on Sacramento on Jan. 21, 2017. It was believed to be the largest demonstration at the state's Capitol in decades. I attended that march and was elated to see so many people come together in solidarity and peace, and united in their determination that a psychopath would never again be "elected" President. However, now that it has become legal for right-wing nuts to kill us on sight, I will no longer be marching, and I will avoid traveling in any open-carry state. But I will never give up the fight to rescue my country from the right wing fascists who now control it.
Now that we know the rules, that any protest in an "open carry" state is actually a gunfight, those who are not right-wing nuts can be better prepared. To borrow a couple of phrases, "Never bring a skateboard to a gunfight," and "The only thing that scares a white man with a gun is a Black man with a gun." It is now clear that only when those who are politically moderate or left of center and those who are people of color arm themselves in open-carry states, will they be at all safe. Then, maybe gun control will start to sound like a good idea to the right-wing nuts. That's how it happened in California.
California was an open-carry state until 1967, when a dozen armed Black Panthers surrounded the Capitol, in order to protest pending gun-control legislation. They marched up the front steps and into the Capitol to demonstrate their opposition to an anti-gun bill by Oakland Republican Don Mulford. The bill was probably in response to the Black Panthers' "Police Patrols" in Oakland, which they initiated in order to protect their community from what they felt was ongoing police harassment. As the linked article relates:When they arrived, Ronald Reagan, then near the beginning of his eight years as governor, was on the Capitol lawn, hosting a gathering of eighth-graders. As the armed and fearsome-looking Panthers arrived, Reagan was hustled inside...The Black Panthers's action resulted in swift approval of Mulford's bill. Mulford even added a clause barring anyone but law enforcement from bringing a loaded firearm into the Capitol. Reagan quickly signed the bill. He was quoted as saying "There's no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons."
I understand that even the NRA supported the bill.
P.B. in Gainesville, FL, writes: I've always thought that the Second Amendment was the biggest blunder the Founding Parents ever made. As I used to explain to my friends and acquaintances, the First Amendment, properly implemented, should obviate the need for the Second, constructed as it was to ostensibly protect citizens from an unjust government. I feel my view has been generally vindicated by pretty much every other Western Democracy over the past couple of centuries: as far as I know, none have anything like the Second Amendment, and most have very strong weapons restrictions. They also have nothing like the gun violence or death rates we have here.
About 10 years ago (not because of any one event, but by an accumulation of them), it became clear to me that America's love of guns is a form of mass insanity. I know you didn't say this outright, but as you alluded in your item after the travesty of the trial outcome in Wisconsin yesterday, the Second Amendment now acts as a vital threat to the First. The madness is apparent: the Second Amendment has no business in our civic life. It's just plain nuts.
R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: I read a piece from a Second Amendment advocate a while back that said "well-regulated" in the Second Amendment didn't mean that we should be sure to have all kinds of regulations but that, in the vernacular of the time, just meant "in good working order."
I don't actually have any problem with using that definition, because Kyle Rittenhouse and so many other incidents and perpetrators are, I think, very good evidence that the militia is not in good working order. It is appropriate for a militia to be called out to try to keep the peace during civil unrest, but an ad hoc gathering of out-of-state teenagers to do so is not "well-regulated." The Constitution very clearly gives Congress the power to "provide for ... disciplining the militia" and reserves to the states the authority to train the militia "according to the discipline prescribed by Congress." If the so-called conservatives and putative Republicans want to insist that every man be a law enforcement agency unto himself, then it is the duty of Congress to insist that these vigilantes be trained and ready to perform those tasks.
M.L. in Tiffin, OH, writes: So, since Kyle Rittenhouse was justified in the name of self-defense and protecting property, the right has no leg to stand on in the name of martyrdom for Ashli Babbitt, correct?
L.B. in Boise, ID, writes: You wrote: "However, barring some very creative lawyering here, the only federal law that was clearly broken was the one that forbids 'straw man' purchases wherein an adult purchases a gun on behalf of a minor, since the minor is not legally allowed to do so themselves. And that sort of prosecution would likely target the purchaser (Dominick Black) and not Rittenhouse."
There is another law that he probably violated, which the ATF and/or the DOJ could start to prosecute, and which would be a shot across the bow of open carry people in every city around the country. It is the Gun-Free School Zones Act (GFSZA). I believe that as long as they could prove that his gun was loaded that night and that he was within 1,000 feet of a school, then if convicted, he could be federally prohibited from ever possessing a firearm again. Little solace, but it would make it harder for a dangerous killer to be armed.
Hopefully some federal prosecutor reads this website. Maybe someone could clue them into the gun laws in this country.
R.V. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: In right-wing America, vigilante goon Kyle Rittenhouse is seen as a hero because he murdered two people who likely disagreed with him politically. Right-wing pundits and politicians alike are drooling over that wacko...
You know who a real hero is? Paris Hilton. She has gone to Capitol Hill to talk about the abuse she suffered as a teen in boarding school back in the 1990's.
Hilton is someone to admire. Hopefully, she can play a part in helping to get important legislation passed to end abuses at these boarding schools. Paris Hilton's cause is what we should be talking about on a regular basis, not some phony like Kyle Rittenhouse. Rittenhouse belongs in the same category of other macabre people like Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Jeffrey Epstein, etc.
J.T. in Philadelphia, PA, writes: Not what you asked for, but this is what I came up with:
A racist young fellow named Kyle
Did an act so exceedingly vile,
Which he even admitted,
Yet he was acquitted,
Ere his lawyers could vomit more bile.
Democratic Messaging, Part V
S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: If you'll permit me to extend the series on the Democratic Party's messaging into a fifth week: It's been mentioned on this site that the Democrats have a harder legislative problem than the Republicans, since the Democrats are by-and-large interested in increasing the prosperity of as many people as possible, whereas the Republicans are only concerned with themselves and their wealthy donors. The former task is complex and subject to much disagreement, but the latter is largely served by tax cuts and in other respects, the status quo. I submit that this dynamic plays a hand in the Democrats' messaging difficulty. Good governance is complex and frequently counter-intuitive, and so does not lend itself to pithy slogans. Meanwhile, the Republicans can ridicule any policy proposal that requires a college degree to understand, drawing energy from and reinforcing their base's distain for liberal ideas, even when those ideas would be beneficial to said voters.
S.S. in West Hollywood, CA, writes: When it comes to combating the Republican propaganda machine, it seems to me one path for Democrats would be to continuously ask voters:
- In the last 10 years, how often have you and your family been sitting around talking about how CRT, socialism, trans athletes playing high school sports, and billionaires and corporations paying too much in taxes is making your lives more difficult?
- And how often have you and your family been worried about child care, family and sick leave, healthcare, prescription drug costs, climate change, and affordable housing and college?
- And which political party is working to address your concerns and help improve your lives, as we just did with Build Back Better, and which is working to distracting you from them?
Of course, getting Democrats to stay on any message for more than 5 minutes is the real problem.
A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: The Democrats face a number of challenges with respect to their policies, despite their general popularity. Ever since Ronald Reagan demonized government and public service with the bugaboo, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help," Democrats have adopted an apologetic tone for programs that regulate industry and benefit workers, and that's when they weren't complicit in rolling back regulations.
At the same time, they've done little to stop the erosion of private sector unions. Democrats used to be the party of the "working man" but now those workers see both parties as doing more to boost the bottom line of those in C Suite at the expense of those on Main Street. Even now, the Democrats talk of clean energy jobs without talking about what kind of jobs those will be. I imagine coal workers would gladly come out of the mines for good if the jobs they moved into were good union jobs that paid as well and came with the same benefits and job protections. The fact is that Democrats have taken the support of the working class for granted and it will take more than good messaging to win their trust and votes back.
M.M. in Newbury Park, CA, writes: I had trouble sleeping the night after I read Why Do Voters Like Democratic Policies but Dislike Democrats? What I will never understand is why Republicans are the default pick for so many Americans. If the Democrats don't bowl them over by "reaching out" and "speaking directly to them" about "issues they care about," they vote for the Republicans, who apparently don't have to do any of those things.
They will vote for the party that encouraged an insurrection at the United States Capitol because the Democrats want free college and that doesn't interest them. They will vote for the party that continues to chip away at the foundation of democracy by claiming fraud in the 2020 presidential election because someone told them they used the wrong word once and that made them uncomfortable. They will vote for the party that encourages and supports members of Congress that threaten to kill other members of Congress because Democratic senators bickered over the infrastructure bill.
In November of 2022, the Democrats will have a long list of accomplishments on which to run, from a dramatic reduction in child poverty to Universal Pre-K to increased health care to (hopefully) quashing the pandemic. But they're going to lose the House to the party that will do nothing but pass tax cuts for rich people and appoint conservative judges, because some Americans don't want their kids being told that America has a racist history.
M.R. in Kuppenheim, Germany, writes: May I offer a suggestion to every Democrat: Start and finish every time with "Donald Trump is vaccinated"—not counting or replacing "Good evening" and "God bless America," of course. Remember Josh Lyman: "Every question will be about Hoynes—but none of the answers."
Maybe the first crack in the wall.
M.S. in Hamden, CT, writes: I'm sick of the word "mandate!" Could the world just switch to "requirement?" To me, mandate means "you gotta do this," whereas requirement means, "you gotta do this if you wanna do [X]." If a parent tells a stubborn child to clean their room, that's a mandate. (Any resemblance to actual presidents or citizens is purely coincidental.) If a store owner posts a sign that says that all customers must wear a mask, that's a requirement. ("I'll sell you food if you wear a mask. You don't have to. No mask? No food.") Wanna work at this company, get vaccinated. Wanna go to my crowded movie theater, get vaccinated and wear a mask! Mandates are imposed from on high, requirements are agreements between parties. Freedom and all that.
The Buck Stops Here
L.R.H. in Oakland, CA, writes: I'm a Democrat and a Biden supporter. I think he is mostly doing fine, but he is failing to do enough in an area that is crucial for democracy in the United States: federal voting rights legislation. With Republican-dominated states passing laws intended to make voting more difficult and overturning elections easier, Biden and all Democrats in Congress need to pass H.R. 1 (the For the People Act) and S.1 (the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act). The Democrats have the trifecta, but they might not have it for long, and another round of Trump-dominated government, for a decade or more, would be disastrous for the country and the world.
R.R. in Pasadena, CA, writes: I have noted that you keep talking about how bad the economy is, giving a very negative spin to it. The reality is that the economy is still stirred-up due to the pandemic, which is causing issues with the supply chain and some prices to rise, bumping inflation up. At the same time, most indicators are of a robust economy that is trying to push out of the headwinds from the past year of pandemic shocks to it. For example, this Twitter thread documents a roaring jobs market, with around 5 million jobs created since Biden took office—that's likely a record for the first year of any presidency, and more than some presidents' entire terms. And some of that is due to Biden policies pushing stimulus to get the economy going again. Record numbers of people are quitting their jobs and taking new, better ones, pay is going up as workers can demand more pay or benefits, all of which shows a robust economy for workers. Inflation is the big drag, some people are seeing big effects from this (mostly from gas prices), but a lot of this is due to the supply chain issues and will dissipate once that's sorted out (which is happening; the Port of Los Angeles shows 30% fewer containers since Biden pushed on them to start moving faster).
Most people say that their own financial situation is fine while the total economy is horrible... and they say that because they are being told the economy is horrible. That's coming from Republicans and Republican media sources, who really want Biden to fail at any cost, but it's being spread by other media sources, now including you guys. The economy is getting stronger after 20-ish months of extreme turbulence due to COVID-19, and now it's recovering in fits and starts, which isn't a surprise. If we can deal with COVID then things should settle down, though that is slow going (again, Republicans want Biden to fail and are propagandizing vaccination resistance to help that along), but it's happening. If people would just talk about the facts of the economy, instead of declaring it horrible without any evidence it's that awful, then the average person would feel better about it.
R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: I do feel like the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops is heading toward schism though I think they will probably avoid it (at least formally). If they do formally split with Pope Francis, I expect history will remember it as the American Schism, but gosh wouldn't it be great if it came to be called the Really Good Schism?
On the topic of social justice, I disagree with Archbishop José Gomez. Personally, I don't think fighting for social justice distracts from true religion; I think social justice is the truest expression of Christianity there is.
P.N. in Austin, TX, writes: I mean, y'all brought it up...
A.C. in Kittery, ME, writes: Kudos to you, (Z), for the last two sentences of Biden Signs on the Dotted Line...:If Biden wanted a job where you don't have to do anything, and you don't have any accountability, then he shouldn't have run for president. Or, at least, he shouldn't have run for president as a Democrat.
That should be etched on granite stone, and placed somewhere important! You entirely summed up the dynamic of what is expected of a Democratic president as opposed to a Republican president.
M.L. in Colorado City, CO, writes: In response to the question from R.L. in Alameda about how the constituents of the extreme right-wing representatives feel about them: Many, though not enough, in her district feel that Lauren Boebert (R-CO) is an embarrassment and we apologize for unleashing her upon the nation. She had a relatively close win last year against a mediocre Democratic candidate who had run and lost for that seat before. In the new redrawn district, I believe Boebert is now in a much safer position to keep her seat than had the district remained unchanged. In Colorado, unaffiliated voters can vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary. I have been a registered Democrat since I turned 18, though if next year she has a serious primary opponent with half a brain or at the very least a shred of human decency, the prospect of a quick change seems worth considering.
I.S. in Durango, CO, writes: I live in La Plata County, CO. Lauren Boebert won CO-03 51.4% to 45.2%, but her Democratic challenger Diane Mitsch Bush won La Plata County 56.7% to 40.1%. La Plata County last went for the Republican presidential candidate in 2000; registered voters used to be roughly 1/3 Democrats, 1/3 Republicans, and 1/3 unaffiliated, but like the state at large, it's been slowly tipping toward the Democrats. All three of our county commissioners are Democrats now, and our representative to the state legislature is as well.
Out of a desire to know my enemy (and perhaps due to a masochistic streak) I subscribed some time ago to Lauren Boebert's mailing list. From last week's "Boebert Blast":
- A poll: Should Congress Spend $1.2 Trillion on Government Waste Falsely Labeled "Infrastructure?" (How very unbiased! Not!)
- Results of previous poll: "In my last poll, 88% of survey respondents answered that the Second Amendment encompasses the right to carry a firearm outside of your home for self-defense. I am proud to have stood up for your Second Amendment rights by filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court arguing just that. If the Supreme Court rules correctly, we will secure the biggest win for the Second Amendment in over a decade."
- "Defending American Taxpayers": A screed against Biden's disastrous "infrastructure" bill (as she puts it), blaming America-last "Republicans" (again, as she puts it) for voting "to tax drivers on a per-mile basis, decimate American energy by increasing reliance on OPEC, and create red tape for cryptocurrency," which she calls "a down payment on the Green New Deal." She also blamed inflation on "Democrats' irresponsible spending" and accused Biden of not caring about working Americans: "If Biden just spent some time with regular blue-collar folks, he'd know these pie-in-the-sky spending schemes and Green New Deal policies simply don't work for American families trying to pay their bills."
- "Introducing a bill to protect our children": That is, the house companion to Senator Mike Lee's (R-UT) Protecting our Kids from Harmful Research Act, "to prohibit tax dollars from funding life-altering and disabling procedures for minors suffering from gender dysphoria." (In other words, she knows better than transgender kids and wants to protect them from themselves.)
- She was elected to the board of the House Freedom Caucus, "the group that is closest to the people and effectively represents the forgotten men and women of America. When candidates run on conservative principles, they win. But when we legislate conservative policies, the American people win." (This is considered the furthest-right bloc within the House Republican Conference.)
In other words, she is not "whining and complaining about Big Bird and Dr. Seuss," she is serving red meat to the base, appealing to people's pocketbooks, and trotting out standard conservative talking points. She's uncompromising on how Biden is awful and Democrats are socialists, but she's dressing up her more loony ideas in pretty words (like "protecting our children" and "defending our rights"). She earned her seat by primarying Scott Tipton, who was a standard conservative Republican. He voted with the Republicans nearly all of the time, but was not particularly flashy or strident, so I think that's a pretty clear message that there is no longer a lane for moderate Republicans.
CO-03 is probably a lost cause now, after we were sacrificed during the "nonpartisan" redistricting, though we've had Democratic congressional representatives before. But even in previous years it really took a centrist Democrat (like John Salazar, who served from 2004-2011) to win, and unfortunately the centrist candidates have been defeated handily in the primaries by candidates who are easily seen by conservative voters as being liberal and elitist (college professors and marketing executives, as compared to ranchers and entrepreneurs). Our best hope for 2022, State Senator (and rancher) Kerry Donovan, was drawn out of the new CO-03 and has dropped out, but anyway the district has been made much more R-heavy, so I suspect we're stuck with Boebert.
B.C. in Farmingville, NY, writes: I live in NY-01. While Lee Zeldin (R) isn't quite Lauren Boebert, he is about as Trumpy as you get, with his office even sending me official e-mail communication that he didn't trust the election results. There isn't any room for a moderate Republican here, the voters feel the Trumpier the better. Whoever gets the big T's blessing is almost a shoo-in for the Republican nomination.
P.H. in Starke, FL, writes: I live in a small county in central northern Florida. So small that the county seat has a population of only 5,000, and that's the largest town. It's a 50-mile round trip to the supermarket. I get my water supply from a well pump on my 5+ acre property. My effluent goes into an underground septic tank out back of the homestead. The roads are mostly unpaved. Once a week, I take my trash to the local recycling dump, 10 miles away. A year after the last Presidential election, there are still Trump signs everywhere. The median household income is $49,000 and average individual salary in the county is $19,000. Whites make up 85%. Persons with a college degree? 11%. For those who work, the average commute is 28 minutes. People living at or below the poverty line is 18%. People without any form of health insurance is 20%. Trump got 78% of the votes here in 2020.
Thomas Frank wrote What's The Matter With Kansas? 16 years ago. He could have titled it "What's The Matter With Rurality?" People here rarely converse about public policy. They prefer to continue to live the myth of Reagan Rugged Individualism. They get immense satisfaction from being able to fix their own trucks and tractors. They live in the country because they love it that way. Antisocial? Nope. They love helping their neighbors. 96% have a firing implement in the house, but just 0.5% have a passport. 99% have a television. What do they watch? Football. Politics is all tribal here. It's all about the clan, like the Scottish Highlands of the 17th Century. They refuse to draw the distinction between good public policy of the commonwealth and individual prosperity. Hence the unresolved nexus continues.
They took an immediate dislike to Biden, despite having so much in common with him. On the other hand, they adore Trump, with whom they have very little if anything in common. Richard Nixon is reported to have said (paraphrasing) while looking at a portrait of John F. Kennedy, that when they see him they love him for who they wish to be, and when they see me they hate me because it reminds them of who they are. It's all aspirational. Living in the past, or living in the future. Never the present. Eckhart Tolle wrote a couple of books about living in the present, and the empowerment of that, and most people living here don't, and feel disempowered and removed and remote from the body politic. They sulk, and are deeply resentful. They suffer from what I call the second rung syndrome: one up from the bottom rung on the ladder, looking down at the last rung, and seeing the very poor—people of color, single mothers, immigrants—and blaming them. The Reagan notion of Welfare Queens and Young Bucks 40 years later is still a powerfully poisonous opiate. So they vote for a person who acknowledges their personal self-talking pain—never acknowledged to their spouses nor friends, as it's a sign of weakness. But in the safety of a secret ballot, they are free to reach out for the elixir. All economic concerns are put aside, and religion seems to play little part, despite living in the "Bible Belt."
That is probably why people here vote against their true economic interest. Like the man who puts off a colonoscopy, or prostate exam, they fear the outcome of acknowledging the need for help, so ingrained is that notion of Rugged Individualism, and as a result, continue to reach out for the wrong option.
This will take a generation to resolve. Ronald Reagan was elected 40 years ago, and his trickle-down "voodoo economics," as George H. W. Bush described it in 1979, lives on.
D.W. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: I'm an Arizona native in Maricopa County.
Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) does represent a constituency. Joe Arpaio rode the bigot for 24 years, and Gosar's district is way more, uh... emotionally based (?) than my district.
Hate is a winner in Arizona, and making the case that it's all for greed and bad governance is "trumped" by an emotional need to be validated by haters. Gosar delivers...
E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, writes: My morbid curiosity got the better of me, so I finally tracked down and watched the anime video that Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) tweeted out. Here is my reaction.
In all seriousness, in addition to being really offensive, the video is so incredibly stupid that it's amazing that a sitting member of Congress even thought it was worth their time.
Most of the video consists of shots of the border and refugees crossing it, which could even be interpreted as a cruel security state oppressing innocent people. If you hadn't told me that the video had Gosar and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), I might not have known. They clumsily stuck AOC's face (minus hair) on a naked male blond giant. The only part that would be remotely clear to a naive observer is the implied attack on President Biden (Secret Service, take note). Even on its own terms, it's a really ineffective jumbled sh**show that only received notoriety due to the Streisand effect.
My sixth grader probably could have made a better video, but she's a sweet kid who knows enough not to. Too bad we can't say that about a sitting member of Congress.
B.F.E. in Sierra Vista, AZ, writes: Sometimes I really think that we should bring back dueling, That way the proper response to what Gosar did would be an invitation to pistols at dawn.
V & Z respond: Alexander Hamilton would like a word with you...
K.K. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: J.S. in Durham asked a question about voting rights for people being convicted of crimes during the capitol insurrection. While it might be satisfying for many of us to wish they could/would be permanently disenfranchised, I ask everybody to look at the bigger picture here. Receiving a felony conviction has serious consequences, often for a less-than-serious offense. And people convicted of felonies are disproportionately people of color.
When my Asian son came close to being convicted of felony assault based on the lies of a girlfriend during a nasty break-up, my eyes were opened. Had I not had a pastor willing to take a Friday evening phone call while vacationing and had that pastor not known somebody who knew somebody who connected our family to an excellent defense lawyer—a lawyer we had the means to pay—I am certain my son would now carry a felony conviction. We (especially us middle-/upper-middle-class white folks) like to believe that our judicial system is fair and just and certainly some experience it that way. My experience was the opposite, as I realized the fragile and tenuous position we were in (when the charges were read, the female judge's face reacted in horror with a shocked expression and eyebrows lifted).
So, to get to my point: there are a lot of people in the world who have been convicted of felonies and given the lifetime label "felon." Because of that label they cannot get a job or housing, and are unable to vote. If they do get a job, or buy things, they are paying taxes and so to deny them the vote is taxation without representation. Because the laws differ state to state, some are unaware of when or if they can vote. The end result is a large block of Americans, with poor people and people of color overrepresented, who have been effectively disenfranchised from our democracy. I personally feel that once a person has done their time the punishment is over and their voting rights should be restored. Yes, some people I wish couldn't vote will be able to, but there's plenty of those folks out there already.
And don't even get me started on our ambiguity over whether the point of prison time is to punish or rehabilitate. That's several more commentaries!
R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: There's a saying that goes "Measure twice, cut once." Maybe over at the Justice Dept., it's measure three or four times, cut once. In any event, they have followed through on the 1/6 Committee's request to pursue Steve Bannon for criminal contempt.
While some were wondering if AG Merrick Garland would ever act, it should have been obvious that he would leave no stone unturned in investigating Jan. 6 as he promised during his confirmation hearings.
What many may not know is that this Justice Dept., with its army of federal prosecutors, and the FBI to back them up, has been working diligently behind the scenes to build cases against everyone who planned and participated in the insurrection. This takes time, but we are slowly seeing the fruits of their labor. Let's also not forget they work for the President, not Congress. So even if either chamber changes hands in next year's election, Garland and company will keep working until at least Jan. 2025.
Now, it's likely Bannon will still clam up and plead the Fifth even if he's convicted and has to spend some time in jail. That's what MAGA martyrs do (ahem, Roger Stone). But there are others in Trumpworld that don't have the connections, money, or the brazenness that he does. So they tell the likes of Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Liz Cheney (R-WY), and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) to take their subpoenas and shove them, but that won't work when federal agents knock on their door with handcuffs ready and they are hauled off to face a federal judge.
Getting to the bottom of what happened on Jan. 6 wasn't going to be easy and was going to require some patience and time. Remember, the DoJ is not just going against the actual rioters who stormed the Capitol. They are building cases against those who organized and planned the attack. This was definitely not some spontaneous thing.
If this was a sporting contest, we'd be in the early stages and Garland and company have scored first. They are executing their game plan methodically and aren't showing the opposition very much.
Republicans better be very nervous of how this game will be played out. I can see the DoJ earning more victories along the way to the ultimate prize. If I were either House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) or Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), I wouldn't be measuring for new drapes just yet.
Speaking of McConnell, maybe he now regrets not allowing Garland to go through the confirmation process for the Supreme Court back in 2016. Sounds like big-time schadenfreude to me.
A.S.M. in Miami, FL, writes: A fourth dynamic to add to your list regarding word police. Let's call it "Democrats by Proxy": Individuals and groups of people that do bully people about their word choices, and who are clearly comprised of the same constituencies as Democratic party voters, and who evangelize about the same set of other topics as Democrats, so that while they are not strictly speaking "DNC or Democratic Party politicians who are bullying people about word choices," they are "Liberal and likely Democratic party members who are bullying people about word choices." Thus, the opposing team calls them "Democrats," just as E-V.com readers might tar and feather "Republicans" when someone like P.M. from Currituck says something irritating (i.e. P.M. doesn't officially represent the Republican party, but we probably correctly believe many Republicans share P.M.'s views).
A prime example of this from the other day: The Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, Inc. (SFWA, the trade group for professional SF/F authors) recently chose author Mercedes Lackey to receive the group's Grand Master award (i.e. best of the best of science fiction and fantasy writers, joining the likes of Ray Bradbury, Ursula K. Le Guin, et al.), in part, as I understand it, because of her LGBTQ+ inclusiveness in her writing and general LGBTQ+ support. SFWA, as an organization, has in recent years been very active about inclusiveness issues (despite having conservative members who might object). Nonetheless, a brouhaha erupted this week because "stances that Lackey had taken on writing trans characters resurfaced," notably about her past stance on (wait for it...) pronouns. For example, in a Quora reply 4 years ago, she wrote at some length about objections to non-traditional pronouns, concluding, "I have to admit, I personally do not like "their/theirs." It grates on me, because I am 67-damn-years old and I'm stubborn about grammar. Seeing it jars me out of what I am reading, and when I get jarred too often, I throw the book in the trash from across the room."
As part of this brouhaha, SFWA's Board asked all its members what the Board should do, saying, "We recognize that these comments have caused harm to the trans community," "SFWA cannot apologize on Lackey's behalf, but we can acknowledge our contribution to this hurtful situation and stand with those in the trans and nonbinary communities. With that in mind, we asked Lackey if she would make clear her current feelings on these issues," and posted links to a statement by her where she apologized and backpedaled her older remarks.
The appearance here is that SFWA bullied Ms. Lackey into apologizing and backpedaling her views on pronouns in order to keep the Grand Master award. And while SFWA is not in any way affiliated with the Democratic Party, the fact that SFWA has an appearance to many in the writing community these days of being a liberal activist organization, discussing and acting on the same kinds of topics that are associated with liberals and the Democratic party, it's not unreasonable to view them as a kind of proxy for various liberal causes that are shared by many within the Democratic Party.
Republicans do many awful things, orders of magnitude worse in my opinion, but bullying over word choices is one that "the libs" do own. To the extent that this disaffects swing voters from voting for Democratic candidates, it is to their peril. They may ultimately move the Overton Window on select issues, but lose elections and power to achieve other goals. Of course, there is a different peril if Democratic candidates object to any of these kind of Democratic Party-by-proxy behaviors, and lose votes from those fervent about a given matter. Tricky.
J.M. in Seattle, WA, writes: Just wanted to say I really appreciated your response to R.L.D. about word choice. I kind of fit in between: I definitely think language and word choice matter, but I think tone and persuasion matter too. I think there was a push against "tone policing" in progressive spaces for awhile because "you're too mean" has long been a way of silencing uppity women, persons of color, etc., even when their points are valid. I'd even argue that was the theme of your item about how voters like Democratic policies but not Democrats—the idea that more people would go along with the Democrats if they were just nicer about it.
I do think Democrats, and especially progressives, just aren't good at getting their messages out and at aiming to persuade rather than shame and argue. Barack Obama was great at this, and I think Joe Biden can be too. But it is easy to forget that we live in a democracy where the only thing that matters isn't whether you're "right" but rather if you can get 50% plus 1 to agree with you.
J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: Wasn't it just last week that it was heavily insinuated that the only reason you could possibly have to point out that Miriam Adelson was Israeli-born (in a piece about her support for Israeli issues) was that you are antisemites?
And we've had other entire conversations in Sunday comments about language policing on your site. It is quite clearly a real phenomenon among the left-leaning.
P.M. in Currituck, NC, writes: I conversed with a friend after reading the letters addressed to me last week, and I told him that for this site, I seem to be J.R. Ewing—"the man everyone loves to hate." He said, in response, "Who shot P.M.? Nobody. This ain't Texas. You just get lectured."
And that is precisely correct—whenever I write in an opposing viewpoint from the majority here, I get lectured. There has been a consistent discussion of why Republican messaging works better than Democratic messaging, and R.L. in Alameda hit it on the head: Democrats give long-winded bullet points which just lose people, whereas Republicans are concise and to the point. People here shoot metaphorical bullet points at me—and I am a thoughtful, generally reasonable, and intelligent individual who actually reads (and ruminates about) them. The vast majority of people who hold viewpoints similar to mine will not; simple messages work better than complex ones. If Democrats want to up their game, get a better marketing team.
The piece on people liking Democratic policies hit home to me (in more ways than one). I am one of the "cultural traditionalists" described in that piece. Folks like me are reachable by Democrats (on last year's ballot in Currituck, I voted about 50/50 between candidates of the two main parties), if they only drop some ridiculous notions and stop scolding us for using the improper terms, etc. It's nice that some Democratic strategists like Danny Barefoot (who was a student of mine when I was teaching in Virginia; he was a smart kid, and I'm glad he learned something from me) have figured that out.
K.K. in Minneapolis says they have not heard phrases such as "birthing person" or "chest feeding" on any mainstream media. K.K., then, must not consider the supposedly-neutral reporting of Nothing but Politics and Race (NPR) to be "mainstream media," because I personally heard "birthing people" spoken in a completely serious manner on Georgia Public Radio when driving near Toccoa on Thursday, June 10, 2021, which led to my subsequent aghast reaction of "what did I just hear?" And I had an identical response when I heard the same on NPR's 1A while driving around the Wyoming Valley on Friday, Oct. 1, 2021, when they repeatedly used the term "pregnant people." I can cite other examples if you so desire—I am one of only a few dozen people in the world who has been identified as possessing HSAM (or hyperthymesia), and I have almost perfect recall of events in my personal life since September 1991. Thus, I never forget something so ridiculous when I hear it, and can share exactly where and when I was when it was said.
As for inclusive language, I would like to leave the readership with one thought: the left constantly wants to promote diversity. That's fine. But, never forget: the root of the word "diversity" is "to divide." The more you push diversity on people, the more you will serve to divide them. Why don't we, instead, follow the advice of Morgan Freeman and stop constantly pointing out what separates, and instead focus on what unites, us?
History Matters (Robert Moses Edition)
K.C. in West Islip, NY, writes: In the late nineties, as I was wrapping up high school and heading onto college, I worked summers for New York State Parks & Recreation, which of course was largely developed by Robert Moses in the early 20th century during his time as parks commissioner. It's very likely that the man was a huge racist, building his parkway system through minority neighborhoods and making the underpasses far too low for buses to transport folks from the city. While reading the answer about him yesterday, I did recall something else which came up in conversation one day while we were on a lunch break, which upon further research was also postulated by Robert Caro.
Allegedly, Moses had an understanding that Black folks simply wouldn't swim in pools if the water temperature was too low, so to keep them from going to the facilities in white neighborhoods he ordered the pools to be kept just below what was considered acceptable by the comfort standards of the very people he intended to keep out. Whether he was a racist himself in doing that or was making a shrewd decision based on what he believed the people would want is possibly debatable, but he certainly never did anything to help break any barriers either.
V & Z respond: This claim, like the one about the underpasses, has been hotly debated.
M.S. in Westchester, NY, writes: (V) lived in the path of the Cross Bronx Expressway? My husband's grandmother also had to move—to a housing project near Gunn Hill Road. Small world.
F.C. in DeLand, FL, writes: One additional factor left out on the low bridge discussion: Trucks.
The parkways, specifically, were meant for pleasant drives into the countryside. Fighting with trucks for space on the parkway would make the drive far less pleasant. (It is possible that since car ownership was white-heavy, there was also racism in this.) So, bridges were low to keep trucks off the road even if the politicians caved to the trucking industry.
While living in New York, I've driven by the results of a truck ignoring the height of the bridge: lots of curlicue pieces of metal on the side of the road as the bridge acts like a can opener.
Let's Go to the Movies
B.K.J. in San Diego, CA, writes: "The Big Lebowski" is only 43rd on your all time list? Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man!
V & Z respond: Criticism of our list? This aggression will not stand, man.
R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: Ever since the Marketing People (tm) decided to rebrand Raiders of the Lost Ark by adding "Indiana Jones and" to the beginning of the title, I've enjoyed doing the same to other classic movies. The recent movie lists have given me fodder for that activity. Here are some of my favorites:
- Indiana Jones and the Grapes of Wrath
- Indiana Jones and Harold and Maude (too racy for its day, but maybe acceptable now)
- Indiana Jones and the Paths of Glory (perhaps searching for the Spear of Destiny?)
- Indiana Jones and the Big Lebowski
- Indiana Jones and the Black Panther
- Indiana Jones and the Night of the Hunter
- Indiana Jones and the Ruby in Paradise
- Indiana Jones and Them!
- Indiana Jones and the World of Henry Orient
- Indiana Jones and the Man Who Would be King
V & Z respond: Personally, we'd like to see Indiana Jones and the 12 Angry Men.
E.K. in Brignoles, France, writes: I can't wait to see the overall readers' rankings.
But when I read that the #1 was #1 by a mile, I said to myself: "Well, it's a Godfather landslide..."
Time will tell, but I would be very surprised to be wrong.
V & Z respond: You could be right, you could be wrong. Of course, if you want to guarantee that you're right, then make us an offer we can't refuse.
A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: I'm loving the movie lists you've put up and am delighted to see that I haven't seen any of the "honorable mention" movies that readers suggested—can't wait to start working my way through the list!
I was also surprised that readers' top movie was in first place by a mile—wow! So, I can't help but venture a guess. It must be pretty well known, but I also doubt it was on my list. And since your readership skews older, more male, educated, and interested in history and politics, my guess is...Raiders of the Lost Ark.
It could also be one of the Star Wars films, but somehow I don't think so.
Or it could also be The Princess Bride, if the power of suggestion works since that film was mentioned before folks started sending in their lists. (Yes, I'm hedging my bets a little.)
Can't wait to see the results! This was a fun feature.
V & Z respond: Either E.K. in Brignoles is going to be surprised, or you are. Or, maybe both of you. We will tell you that we could have erased half the votes/points the first-place film got, and it STILL would have been in first place.
K.H. in Maryville, TN, writes: Add me to the 90% of the 90-10 split you mentioned! I did not make a submission, but I'm printing all of these postings for future viewing.
D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I wanted to say how much I'm enjoying this series. It is something refreshing after all the doom and gloom of our political world. I was so glad you included The Dead in the honorable mentions, and the remarks from T.M. of Geneseo are dead on! I also have to give a shout out to M.W. of Boston (Black Panther) and B.U. of St Louis (Mad Max: Fury Road) for their great distillations of their choices!
I was surprised that I was unaware of so many of the honorable mentions. I do much better with the actual readers' favorites list, with almost a perfect score of "have seen and approve." (Haven't seen West Side Story). About a decade ago I decided to watch all the Oscar-winning and nominated films that I could. I quickly realized that list wasn't giving me full exposure to the world of films that I wanted, so I added the Golden Globes, Roger Ebert's Greatest Films, the National Film Registry (I nominate films ever year) and the New York Times Greatest Films. So now I will add E-V.com's list to that already insanely huge list!
B.K. in Dallas, TX, writes: The problem with most "news" outlets is that they think they have to entertain us. Sadly, this site seems to be going the same way.
B.N. in Manhattan, KS, writes: I had to accept your invitation to comment on your project of working up a list of your readers' favorite movies. I can't be the only one of your many fans to wonder why? What possible business of E-V.com is the movie business? Sure, you have the unanswerable answer of because! But as you don't need telling, that's no real justification. Making it because it's fun also doesn't help. "Best movies: a list by readers of E-V.com" is a truly wacky left-fieldy notion. And what are you going to end up with when the hurlyburly's done? Nothing more than any other list of movies, of which there are already thousands out there. Predictably it will contain dozens of the usual suspects, those classic warhorses "everyone" knows and thinks are the best movies ever, and then it will contain hundreds of tiny clusters (often singletons) of oddball, offbeat, outlandish titles nominated by film connoisseurs and other eccentric scholars of celluloid (I happen to believe that Ishtar is a truly clever, funny, worthy tribute to all the Hope/Crosby road movies I loved as a kid, but so what? Really, so what?). At best, your labors will yield you a pretty standard vanilla list shot through with chocolate speckles. At worst, you could end up with something as embarrassing as the BBC Music Magazine's recent posting of "The Greatest Composers of All Time" (as selected by a bunch of living composers!) that was so unbalanced (to the point of clinically) as to be panned by its own readership.
In their defense, at least their list, bad as it was, was a list of classical composers and they are a magazine devoted to classical music. E-V.com doesn't have even that going for it. That said, of course I know you'll make your list, because it's fun and you want to and your readers are eager to chip in and so on. That doing it doesn't make any sense doesn't need to cut any ice because you're not known for—no wait, that's not right, you are known for making sense. OK, so just call it caving in to California craving and craziness and enjoy one helluva fling. 'Nuff said.
J.W. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: I've long admired your site, more so now that you referenced the "Darmok" episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation. It contains this extraordinary consideration of language, communication, and culture in a story with action and emotion, all within exceptional performances by Patrick Stewart and Paul Winfield. Thank you, I'll have something to add to my watch list tonight.
P.R. in Arvada, CO, writes: Last week I made a comment calling you both "a couple of guys who think Green Bay is a good football team."
In light of your correction that (V) doesn't follow football I would sincerely like to apologize to him for any offense caused by associating him with the Green Bay Packers. Slandering him like that was not my intention and I honestly feel bad doing that to him.
As for (Z), I would also like to appologize for any hurt I caused. I try to make it a point not to look down on those less fortunate than myself. Especially when they are so painfully unaware that they have problems. As a way to help the suffering, I would like to offer a possible healing technique. Drop football for a period of time and follow a different sport. Try baseball and follow my team, the Pittsburgh Pirates. It should only take a matter of days, but you will quickly come to recognize what it means to be bad at sports. With that realization (Z)'s eyes should be fully open to the train wreck that is commonly known as the Green Bay Packers.
V & Z respond: After a rebuke like that, (Z) could cry himself to sleep. But a better option seems to be to drift off by counting championships. All 13 of them.
E.R. in Irving, TX, writes: S.K. in Bethesda wrote, regarding the Braves vs. the Astros in the World Series: "[I]t was easy to root against the trash-can bangers!"
Here in North Texas, we affectionately refer to the baseball team from Houston as the "Trashtros."
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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Nov20 Rittenhouse Cleared on All Charges
Nov20 The First Female President
Nov20 Saturday Q&A
Nov19 McCarthy Shoots, CBO Scores
Nov19 Could the Senate Actually Avoid another Debt-Ceiling Showdown?
Nov19 One Day after Gosar Vote, He and Other Republicans Are Defiant
Nov19 RNC Chair Pushes Back against Trump, at Least a Little
Nov19 Well, That's Not Very Environmentally Friendly
Nov19 This Week in Schadenfreude
Nov19 Hooray for Hollywood: Readers' Favorite Films (Nos. 40-31)
Nov18 All But Three Republicans Vote in Support of Gosar
Nov18 Meadows Is on the Hot Seat
Nov18 Republicans Are Already Plotting Revenge for Bannon's Subpoena
Nov18 Trump Backs Another Challenger to Representative Who Voted to Impeach Him
Nov18 Why Do Voters Like Democratic Policies but Dislike Democrats?
Nov18 Infrastructure Bill Tries to Reverse Road Racism
Nov18 When Will the Voters Notice the Improved Infrastructure?
Nov18 Trump Blasts Broken Old Crow--Again
Nov18 A Loss in 2022 May Help the Democrats in 2024
Nov18 Another House Democrat Is Retiring
Nov18 Sarah Huckabee Sanders Is a Shoo-in for Governor of Arkansas
Nov18 Trump's Hotel in D.C. Will No Longer Have His Name on It
Nov18 Hooray for Hollywood: Readers' Favorite Films (Nos. 50-41)
Nov17 It's Debt-Ceiling Time... Again
Nov17 It's the Sixth Circuit
Nov17 SCOTUS Is Playing with Fire
Nov17 White House Set to Announce Diplomatic Boycott of 2022 Olympics
Nov17 Gosar Censure Vote Scheduled for Wednesday
Nov17 Speier to Retire
Nov17 Hooray for Hollywood: Readers' Favorite Films (Nos. 60-51)
Nov16 Biden Signs on the Dotted Line...
Nov16 ...And He Really Needs to Win the Lottery
Nov16 Bannon Surrenders, Is Released
Nov16 Welcome to Unpersonhood, Never Trumpers
Nov16 Beto Is In...
Nov16 ...And Leahy Is Out
Nov16 Hooray for Hollywood: Readers' Favorite Films (Honorable Mentions, Part II)
Nov15 United Nations COP26 Climate Summit Ends with a Fizzle
Nov15 Biden's Approval Continues to Sag
Nov15 Administration Members Talk about Inflation
Nov15 Redistricting Has Become Everyman's Game
Nov15 Nationalized Races for Governor Could Hurt Democrats Next Year
Nov15 Cawthorn Is Changing Districts
Nov15 Can A Gay White Man Beat a Straight Black Woman?
Nov15 Catholic Bishops to Meet Today
Nov15 Hooray for Hollywood: Readers' Favorite Films (Honorable Mentions, Part I)
Nov14 Sunday Mailbag
Nov13 A Sleeping Giant Awakens
Nov13 Murkowski Is In...