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Sunday Mailbag

We got a fair number of "who would you like to travel back in history and meet?" e-mails, and a fair number of "possible theme song" e-mails. So, we're going to run some of each of those this week, and some more next week. For the former, we're going to run only responses to our list, next week will be readers' choices. And for the latter, note that we usually remove flattering comments about us from reader e-mails, but with the song e-mails, those comments are often organic to the explanation, and can't really be removed.

Just the Vaxx, Ma'am

B.B. in St. Louis, MO, writes: Government mandates regarding health issues are nothing new. The government can force people with active tuberculosis to quarantine themselves and receive treatment. People with active typhoid are not permitted to engage in food service. I would think that the mantra of "My body, my choice" has to give way to common sense when communicable diseases are involved.

E.R. in Santa Fe, NM, writes: You wrote:

We are the last people to make the anti-vaxxers' arguments for them, but the wearing of safety equipment is temporary, and makes no permanent change to the body. Neither of those things are true of vaccinations.

On the other hand, if you can tell us why it's wrong to force people to get vaccinated, but it's ok to force a woman to carry a fetus she does not want to term (particularly one that is the product of rape or incest), then you are cleverer than we are.

This parenthetical clause "particularly one that is the product of rape or incest" in your reply implies that abortion is only acceptable if the woman did not willingly have sex. The assumption that pregnancy is the price of being sexually active is a form of slut-shaming. How a conception took place should not have anything to do with a woman's control over whether or not she continues a pregnancy. The anti-abortionists have been working to change the narrative for decades. Don't buy into it.

You have frequently shown blind spots about women's rights issues, and then wondered why most of your readership is male.

P.M. in Currituck, NC, writes: I would never presume to be more clever than either of you, but the answer of "why is it wrong?"is simple: because aborting the fetus is murder, and kills someone. That's it. Receiving a vaccine does not (unless you live in Q-Crazy-Conspiracy-Land, and believe it is the "death jab;" which, honestly, is where a lot of anti-vaxxers reside—and good luck ever getting through to any of them).

And before you (or another reader) responds with "the woman has rights, too"—yes, she does, but it is the fault of the child that s/he was conceived in such a manner, and does that child deserve to die because of how that conception occurred? And, if someone answers "yes"to that, then they're perfectly okay with murder, and should just legalize it for all cases.

I have mentioned in previous letters that I am a devout Roman Catholic, and Church social teaching here is quite clear. I will let that be my moral guide, versus some secular academics who believe they have all of the answers, are the self-appointed moral guardians, and who want to impose their values on everyone else.

K.R. in Austin, TX, writes: I'm not one to make arguments for the pro-life crowd, but it's important to at least understand where they're coming from. They start with the premise that a fetus is a baby. If it is a baby, then choosing to terminate a pregnancy is clearly not a medical decision that only affects the person carrying the child. It affects the baby as well. It is very different than getting a vaccine.

If you want to argue that a fetus is not a child, then why does the state of California convict someone of murder for killing a fetus that is more than 8 weeks old against the mother's will. If a fetus is nothing more than some cells, then charging someone with murder in that case would be overkill. Similarly, if a distraught person came to you crying that they miscarried after 2 months of pregnancy, would you respond that it was just a fetus and not a baby? These examples show that even "pro-choice" folks see a fetus as something beyond a medical condition.

V & Z respond: But that is the point. Choosing not to vaccinate also affects other people, which makes it rather inconsistent to say "it's my body, and the government can't tell me what to do with it" in the vaccine condition, and then to turn around and say "a fetus is a life, which means her decision affects more than just her, so of course the government can step in" in the abortion condition.

This Week in TrumpWorld

J.A. in Redwood City, California, writes: Several recent posts predict that our most recent former president is unlikely to toss his hat back in the ring in 2024. I'll offer a contrary view, presenting reasons why he's more likely to run than not:

Yes, it's as bad as that. My only comfort is that I managed to avoid mentioning his name throughout this letter.

J.K. in Dublin, Ireland, writes: I have read the Slate piece you referenced in "A More Respectable Coup" and I have to say I find it very plausible and not to be so easily dismissed. After all, a lot of the commentators who warned about what was likely to happen if Trump lost the election last year were also dismissed as scaremongering. Yet while the transfer of power went ahead, they were vindicated by what occurred right up to the 6th of January.

The fact is American democracy is hanging by a thread and to expect the current Supreme Court to operate as the final defender of the electoral process is naive in the extreme.

Americans need to wake up before it is too late.

V & Z respond: We agree that it is plausible, and hope that was clear. However, we also reiterate that: (1) there are a lot of "known unknowns" and surely some "unknowns unknowns" that would have to break in the Republicans' favor, and (2) No one can possibly know what will happen if a presidential election is stolen in plain view.

C.C. in Hancock, NH, writes: B.B. in Panama City Beach writes: "Once bitten, twice shy. Trump will not take the chance of losing again."

True enough, but given the negative effect the presidency has had on Trump's brand and financial situation—to say nothing of the legal jeopardy it may ultimately place him in—he may also be reluctant to risk winning again.

F.H. in St. Paul, MN, writes: When House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) joked about beating Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) with the Speaker's gavel, I'm absolutely certain that most Americans, both left and right, thought it was a tasteless and mean thing to say. I can't call it a joke, though, because it wasn't. It was a threat.

Around the same time McCarthy uttered those stupid words, a woman in my home town of Shakopee, MN, was decapitated by her boyfriend during an argument, in broad daylight with a machete. It happened at an intersection in front of a many witnesses. This gruesome crime has shaken those in Shakopee and in all of Minnesota.

If McCarthy does become speaker and Pelosi hands over the gavel, they will be a couple of feet apart, just like the poor woman and the monster just before he killed her. That thought sends chills down my spine.

In the end, do I think McCarthy will kill Pelosi? No, but to make a point, I think that instead of handing the gavel to the man who threatened to beat her with it, she should lay it on the podium next to them and step backward to a safe distance. It would embarrass him in front of his colleagues, followers and perhaps the whole world, which would be more painful to him than any rebuke the House would impose on him.

Every second of every day of every month of every year, a woman or girl is abused and/or killed, not only in America but the world over.

It's not a joke.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: With this week's "This Week in Schadenfreude" are you saying that the Republican Party has become a choice of the Ignorant or the Willfully Ignorant?

B.B. in Chipley, FL, writes: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is no English major, so I suspect it was a mangled attempt at Haiku:

Our @SecDef is vaxxed

Arrives with mask AND face shield

Embarrassing theater

V & Z respond: Note that a poem in this style that does not follow the 5-7-5 syllable pattern is more properly called a Senryū.

M.W. in Boston, MA, writes: M.B. in Cleveland writes: "It's taboo [for Democrats and Republicans] to be seen working together. There's plenty of blame to go around for that situation."

This is dead wrong, both-sides-are-just-as-bad-type thinking. Democratic politicians do not get primaried and driven from the party just for reaching across the aisle. In fact, as we've seen, the Democratic caucus contains numerous moderates—Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), etc.—with a fetish for bipartisanship so virulent that it could literally result in the destruction of democracy in the U.S. (by resulting in the failure to pass voting legislation). This, despite the fact the QOP literally put their lives in danger by stoking and supporting the 1/6 insurrection.

Meanwhile, any GOPer who seriously reaches across the aisle, or even acknowledges reality, instantly becomes a pariah. See former representative Justin Amash, Reps. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), and all the retiring Senators. Even Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) is drawing a serious primary challenger.

Hatred of bipartisanship is not a bipartisan problem.

D.A.Y. in Troy, MI, writes: When I tried to explain to a right-wing friend the problem with the Arizona audit, they said Cyber Ninjas was completely transparent because they had all those wideframe fixed shots of the audit floor. I tried to explain to them that you can't see what anyone is doing, and anything taken off the floor is out of sight. I've talked to them since the voting machines had to be junked and the Arizona state Senate was finally told to take a hike on the routers, and they haven't said much on the matter. Instead, they'll retweet things about cancel culture and other whataboutisms and projections.

I think there's no getting through to these people. Personally, I think it's out of fear more than anything. The world is changing, and they're scared of it. Trump was this last gasp of toxic masculinity and racist attitudes. His defeat is their defeat. So they cling to this notion the election was stolen. It must have been stolen. If it was not stolen and he was defeated, and with him the toxic masculinity and racism they have been so used to getting away with. Trump wanted his wall, and he got it. It's between the ears of his supporters which no amount of facts or common sense can pass.

I don't know what to do with them, frankly. I guess we just have to live with them for now.

J.L.J. in San Francisco, CA, writes: A published letter from me, sent some months ago, concerned the deep commitment of my father to the election fallacy, along with his insistence he never watches Fox News, despite almost always parroting the latest Trump/GOP talking point. His watching Fox has been a point of contention for some years, and he always denies ever watching it. I came to the theory that maybe he doesn't (after all, it is such an odd thing to lie about), but perhaps everyone around him does watch it, so the talking points all seep into his brain from those around him.

A letter from D.E. in Lancaster, critical of P.M. in Currituck, has motivated a single observation from me. I visited my father this July, the first time I've been in his home since Donald Trump came onto the scene—it has been a long time. When I turned on his TV, it was already on Fox, and his satellite TV service listed channels in an ordered list of viewing habits, with Fox as number one on the list, followed by OANN (which is particularly notable on account of the fact that when I suggested he must therefore be watching that one, he asserted to me that he had never heard of it). I chose not to address this, as I intended to complete the visit without any political arguments, which I successfully pulled off (I am proud of this achievement).

The conclusion, then, is that every time my father has lit up at my accusing him of watching Fox, he was lying about never watching, much less rarely watching—he is a full-time viewer, not needing any help from the neighbors. I don't want to say that anyone who parrots Fox is lying if they say they are not watching the channel, but this is my own father lying to me for years, and not some stranger on the Internet.

Civics 101

T.M.M. in Odessa, MO, writes: There are several related reasons why states can't switch electoral votes after the election.

First, while Article II, Section 2, Clause 2 gives the states the authority to designate how electors are chosen, Clause 4 gives Congress the ability to designate the day of their choosing.

Second, Congress has exercised the power in Clause 4. Title 3, Section 1 of the U.S. Code requires the states to appoint their electors on the First Tuesday after the First Monday in November—the federal Election Day. While there are some debates about whether this section permits early voting or counting voters that arrive after that date (although mailed on or before that date), this law would almost certainly be cited to challenge any attempt to change the electors after they had been chosen by the voters.

Third, as part of the law governing challenges to the electoral vote count, Title 3, Section 5 of the U.S. Code treats as conclusive any determination made as to who is entitled to the electoral vote of the states made under the laws as it existed prior to the election. So, if one candidate won the electors under the votes as counted and the courts rejected the challenge to that count, this provision (at least on paper) would require Congress to count the electoral votes for that candidate over an alternative slate appointed by the legislature under a law passed after the election.

Of course, that assumes an attempt to change the rules after the election. If states were to change the rules before the election, that would probably be constitutional. While there are some arguments about the constitutionality of moving back to legislatures choosing electors, several states switched back and forth in the early days. Such historical precedent would probably doom any challenge given the "originalist" mindset of the current Supreme Court.

V & Z respond: Just to be clear, Georgia and the other states appear to be thinking about a law that would be passed before the election, and would contain provisions allowing the legislature to "activate" its prerogative to assign EVs after the election. So, the pro-Georgia side would be that the law is not post facto, and the anti-Georgia side would be that the legislature can't make changes after Election Day, even if they've passed a law that says they can.

A.M. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: The real answer to S.J. of Taipei City's question about whether the Fourth Amendment could prevent Donald Trump's tax returns being released is that, per the Supreme Court, a Fourth Amendment violation only happens if there is government intrusion into something where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. To be reasonable, the person must have had an expectation of privacy, and society must expect privacy.

Things that have been held out to the public, or sent to an entity, do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Thus, as Trump's tax returns were filed with the IRS, and shared with his accountants, he has no reasonable expectation of privacy in them, and there can be no Fourth Amendment violation.

Taxing and Spending

D.B. in Queens, NY, writes: You wrote:

A lot of big companies play games with the GILTI accounting rules to reduce or eliminate their corporate taxes. A typical stunt is to create a subsidiary in Ireland, Bermuda, or the Cayman Islands and sell it all the company's patents for $100. Then the subsidiary charges the mother company an arm and a leg for use of the patents, causing it to have no profit—and thus no tax. The subsidiary then makes a fortune, but that is taxed in Ireland, Bermuda, or the Cayman Islands at extremely low rates. The rules could be changed to tax giant corporations on their worldwide profits, regardless of where they were earned, and then to prevent double taxation, to allow credits for actual taxes paid to foreign governments. If, say, Google, didn't actually pay any tax in Bermuda, then it wouldn't get any credit. End of game.

Now that you have written once again about international tax reform, well, as an attorney that specializes in international taxation of corporations, I can't help myself.

I don't think this is quite an accurate depiction of how these rules work. There basically are two anti-deferral rules in the IRC for taxing offshore earnings: Subpart F (let's just refer to this as passive income) and GILTI. To the extent that a U.S. multinational has foreign subsidiaries earning passive income (dividends, rents, royalties, interest etc.) this income is included in the U.S. company's income for the year. There are dozens of exceptions for this, but one thing that is clearly caught by these rules is passive income earned from the United States. So if a U.S. pharmaceutical company transfers a patent outbound and licenses it back to the U.S., the income will almost certainly be taxed in the U.S., resulting in no tax benefit from transferring the asset to a low taxed jurisdiction. It is also incredibly difficult to accomplish the transfer in a tax-free manner, so playing games here is hard. What companies typically do is have the Irish company be part of the R&D team so it really is a co-owner from the beginning. However, if there isn't real substance at that company, when it licenses the property to higher taxed jurisdictions, they won't allow a deduction because they will claim that the company doesn't have the proper support to earn that much. So in reality, you can have a low-taxed Irish company owning a patent and earning income, but you have to manage all parts of the property from Ireland. That's easier with Ireland than, say, Bermuda where you usually don't have a lot of executives living.

The other anti-deferral rule is GILTI. There really aren't ways to play with GILTI accounting. You figure out if your subsidiaries are, on the whole, in a net profit or loss position (using the exact same rules that a U.S. company uses in determining its taxable income). If there is an overall profit, you can reduce that by 10% of the cost of your tangible assets in profit making companies. This income inclusion gets a 50% deduction for the U.S. taxpayer. Since we have a 21% corporate tax rate, the effective tax rate (ETR) on foreign earnings is guaranteed to be about 10.5% (but it's actually higher because you don't get the full benefit of your foreign taxes paid and interest expense works in weird ways here).

Where most proposals are talking about change is to eliminate that 10% reduction for tangible assets, to decrease the deduction for the U.S. taxpayer (looking to make the ETR 21%), and make the foreign tax credit harder to use. There is a lot that is complicated, but in 4 years of experience with these rules, it's hard to muck around with too much.

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: Consider a person who owned 100 shares of AT&T before Judge Green broke it up.

After the breakup, that person owned a few shares of each of the RBOC "Baby Bell" companies. Those companies each paid quarterly dividends, some of which were reinvested in the issuing companies. Each reinvested dividend is at a different purchase price. If that person dies after stepped-up basis is eliminated, what is his estate's basis in each of his RBOC shares? A person who owned 2,000,000 shares of Ma Bell would presumably have accountants and records and such so that calculating the basis would be no problem—but small investors? Charles Schwab doesn't have records going back that far—who does?

Then you come to political realism. Consider a farm that someone bought for $20,000 in 1963 with 60 head of cattle, which were sold over the years. That farm is now worth $500,000. The sale price of those cattle would reduce the basis of the farm, but who has records of cattle sales from 1964? The King Ranch (825,000 acres) has their records—but a farm of 80 acres? Almost none of them would have those records.

The only way this could work would be with a very large exemption for "small operators"—and fat chance getting any farm-state senators to go along with it.

J.L. in Chicago, IL, writes: In the same item, you both criticize dynamic scoring and twice refer positively to increasing spending on IRS enforcement as a potential way to help pay for the infrastructure bill. I do not know if that is technically dynamic scoring, but it certainly is the same concept.

There absolutely is potential to abuse dynamic scoring and there should be rules to constrain that, but of course serious policy analysis should try to account for downstream effects. The real economics sin is to require that we pretend changes in taxes and spending will have no effects.

By the way, I am writing this message on a train I paid $2.50 to board. That sounds like an expense but I have a fair degree of confidence that taking this trip and showing up for work today will be, by far, net positive for my finances. So, I used dynamic scoring and decided to spend the money.

The 1/6 Commission

L.M. in Ottawa, ON, Canada, writes: We are seeing some of the fruits of having Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger on the 1/6 commission (and a lack of Rep. Jim Jordan, R-OH, Jim Banks, R-IN, et al.). While some grandstanding and political theater to play to the base might have been fine for the Democrats on the committee (and any bomb-throwing Republicans, had they made it on), that isn't going to work for Cheney and Kinzinger. The Republican base is not buying what they are selling. Their best bet is to do the hard work and come away with evidence and cold hard facts to break through the current Republican spin on 1/6. Of course the Democrats on the committee will be only too happy join in on that, but Cheney and Kinzinger are just a little bit more motivated. Without Jordan and Banks to gum up the works the commission stands to get a lot of serious work done. It will be interesting to see what a rigorous, no-punches-pulled investigation can turn up, and whether any resulting findings have enough teeth (and enough evidentiary backing) to make it hard for Republicans to spin.


J.P. in Chicago, IL, writes: You wrote: "Ultimately, although there may be plenty of blame to go around, people who lose their homes are mostly going to point the finger at whichever party is in power. And that, as you may have heard, is currently the Democrats."

This is entirely a state-level issue. Nancy Pelosi has zero intention of passing anything, because tenants in blue states aren't behind. Landlords just received an additional direct deposit last week. Non-payers have little excuse and landlords need the tool back in blue states. Residents of red states suffer and will blame governors.

S.S-L. in Norman, OK, writes: I was surprised to read that eviction proceedings usually take a couple of months. I work at a legal nonprofit and spent the last year in the housing unit. In Oklahoma, landlords post a five-day notice to quit, after which they can file a forcible entry and detainer action with the court. Oklahoma law requires FED actions to be heard within ten days of filing. If the FED is granted, the tenant usually has between two and five days to move before the locks are changed. We regularly see something like a notice to quit on the 5th, court on the 12th, and locks are changed on the 14th.

V & Z respond: We were giving a rough national average, with an awareness that Southern states (and Illinois) tend to be pretty landlord-friendly on this front, while big, blue states (except Illinois), where more people live, tend to be pretty tenant-friendly. In California, to take the obvious example, an eviction commonly takes three months or more.

Oh, Canada...

E.C.R. in Helsinki, Finland, writes: You asked readers closer to the U.S. border with Canada for their thoughts on the ongoing border closure. Although I now live even farther from the border than either of you, I used to live just down the road on the east side of Seattle (where Microsoft is located). I can assure you that, from the perspective of Washington State, Canadian tourism is at most nice to have. While it does have a major economic impact in the small towns along the border, it has no significant impact in the big cities and in fact there is just as much cross-border shopping by Washingtonians in Oregon due to the lack of sales tax there.

In contrast, two of the three major B.C. metros are smack against the border and/or across the Strait of Juan de Fuca from Washington State. This shows in stereotypical tourist spending patterns: Canadian tourists tend to dash across and snap up bargain clothes which they try on in their cars literally in the store parking lots so they can claim at the border checkpoint that the clothes are worn and thus not dutiable. U.S. tourists tend to stay in expensive Vancouver or Victoria hotels, partake of High Tea at inflated prices, and generally spend money on touristy things. There is even an expensive high-speed catamaran ferry that runs direct to Victoria from the Seattle harbor.

It is thus in the interest of the B.C. tourism lobby to let in the big-spending techies from Seattle whereas for the converse it's the shopping lobby from a few small border towns who are easily ignored by the governments in both Olympia and that smaller Washington with the dangling initials. Looking across the plains to, say, Manitoba on the one hand, and North Dakota and Minnesota on the other, I imagine that folks in Minneapolis are not very affected by lack of access to Winnipeg. Perhaps Detroit is somehow tremendously economically dependent on Windsor, Ontario, or Buffalo really needs tourism from Fort Erie, but it seems unlikely to me. This is the reality that a smaller country on the periphery must cope with, something that we in Finland are all too familiar with looking back to our experiences in 1939, 1944 and 1991, to say nothing of the Great Northern War.

S.R. in Ottawa, ON, Canada (formerly of Wyomissing, PA, USA), writes: It's not really clear what's going on with the border right now. I crossed it to go visit my family in Pennsylvania last week (an essential reason), and there are currently no precautions or rules in place regarding COVID-19 on the U.S. side of the border. To get back into Canada, however, you need to upload your vaccination documentation to the ArriveCAN app, get a negative COVID test before crossing the border, and then get another test at the border (I crossed at the Thousand Islands Bridge). The same will presumably stand when the border reopens for vaccinated Americans for tourism next week, although with the surge in Delta this may yet change.

There are also rumors that PM Justin Trudeau will ask the new Governor General, Mary Simon, installed last week as Canada's first Indigenous person in that position, for an early election to be held this fall. The Liberals are currently in a good position due to their overall handling of the pandemic (Canada recently became the most vaccinated in the G7, for example) that they must be thinking they have a chance to expand their minority into a majority again, and this may play in some way to their decision to cautiously reopen the border. (For interested readers, I suggest, the Canadian equivalent of FiveThirtyEight). Canada is in a very good position right now—vaccinations are high, internal provincial borders are reopening, flights are ramping up, and the economy seems to be surging as well. We'll see what happens.

L.L. in Windsor, ON, Canada, writes: What baffles me the most about the border situation: Canada is going to allow vaxxed Americans to cross for discretionary travel starting next week (even though we've already fined two Americans $20,000 for falsifying vaccination documents). Meanwhile, the U.S. doesn't want Canadians coming over, as you pointed out.

The baffling part: the vaccination and new case rates. Canada is mostly vaccinated and our new case rates are extremely low (Ontario, the most populous province, is over 80% vaccinated). The U.S. still has an abysmal vaccination rate (in red states) and new infections are running wild.

The policy decisions seem to be exactly the reverse of how they ought to be.

J.B. in Mitchell, ON, Canada, writes: I'm a dual citizen born in Canada and married to my American partner. We got married in 2006 partly to facilitate his moving here to Canada, which he did in October 2007, though we have actually lived in both countries since then, returning to Canada in 2019.

The last time my partner saw his family was at Christmas of 2019. Just last week he missed his 40th high school reunion. And he is likely going to miss a family reunion on August 22nd. His parents are Trump-supporting Republicans, but they did get their vaccines. News about the border doesn't reach the west side of Michigan so his parents are skeptical about the continued border closure. It's almost to the point where they think he's trying to avoid them. But of course his parents would never bother to make a trip to Canada. In their minds, we're a week's drive away up in the Arctic, when it's actually more like a 4½ hour drive. Another reason might be that they don't have passports.

My partner and I both think that allowing people from the U.S. to enter Canada is a big mistake, especially because of the Delta variant and how it's on the rise and how Covid-19 overall is on the rise in the U.S. About a month ago, Ontario finally entered Phase 3, where we can eat in restaurants and work out in gyms again. But everyone still has to wear masks. My partner and I both wear masks at work, as do all of our co-workers. We don't have to wear them if nobody is around our station but most just wear them anyway. Most of our co-workers are also fully vaccinated like we are. The few holdouts are the younger people. I asked one guy why he hasn't gotten it yet. His first response was: "I'm not anti-vaxx or anything. I just want to wait and see..." I can't remember exactly what he's waiting for. It was either to see if there's any long-term side effects or if he really needs it. He's in his early-to-mid twenties, I think. My partner is 58 and I'm 48. We got them as soon as we were able.

K.S. from Harrisburg, PA, writes: ´╗┐Canada just took a major step towards world domination by beating the U.S. Women's National Soccer Team in the Olympic semifinals. What doesn't make sense, though, is that the Canadian who scored the winning goal, Jessie Fleming, spent 4 years on the UCLA soccer team. It appears the Canadian infiltration is deeper than anyone suspected, eh?

V & Z respond: James Naismith, who invented basketball while teaching at a school in Springfield, MA, in 1891 was a Canadian. Clearly, the Nades' "infiltrate American sports" project has been underway for a while. Never say those folks don't play the long game.

G.T.M. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: I have received documentary proof that mounted Canadian Secret Special Forces reconnaissance troops have been spotted well south of the border that the Democrats have maliciously left undefended. As evidence, I offer the attached photo from one of my 'reporters':

A man with an AK-47-type gun, riding a large

Additionally, I have been reliably informed by my World Wide Network of reliable people that those Canadians intend to establish a new regime with the American states as "satellite political subzones" and have already prepared a new flag that emphasizes their domination over America:

A standard U.S. flag, except the star field
has one large, red maple leaf surrounded by 50 small, white maple leafs

All Politics Is Local: Gubernatorial Division

D.R. in Irapuato, Mexico, writes: You wrote about the decision by Govs. Greg Abbott (R-TX) and Ron DeSantis to shift the blame from their disastrous pandemic management to "infected immigrants" and President Biden's administration. You have wondered before what their endgame is here and why they're pursuing this risky approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I think they're doing this for different reasons. In the case of Abbott, I think he wants to prevent any strong right-wing challenger from showing up and defeating him in a primary (as could plausibly happen to Gov. Mike DeWine, R-OH). But that's pretty obvious, of course. The interesting thing is what's going on with DeSantis, and I'd like to make a prediction: I think DeSantis isn't going to run for re-election in 2022.

The Florida governor is going full scorched-earth on the COVID-19 pandemic, blaming everyone but himself for his failures and firing up his base by voicing his opposition to mask and vaccine mandates at a time when taking those measures is the reasonable thing to do. But he doesn't care. It's very likely that as things get worse in the state, many school districts, private businesses, etc. will simply ignore him or sue in court for their right to impose such measures, and that, along with stronger federal action and increasing vaccination rates, will eventually bring the pandemic down. What matters here is that despite all of that, in 2022 DeSantis is very likely to be punished at the ballot box for his decisions if he runs for re-election. If he doesn't, then that changes everything.

If DeSantis doesn't run for re-election, the Democratic Party would likely face a nightmare scenario: two Cuban Americans running for the top two statewide offices in Florida in 2022. On one hand, there's the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). On the other, the Governor's office, which is likely to be contested by Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez (R-FL). Sen. Rubio is no shoo-in for re-election (especially facing a strong opponent in the person of Rep. Val Demings, D-FL) and Nuñez could be defeated (by Rep. Charlie Crist, D-FL), but that's in normal circumstances. What about turnout? I guess it would be correct to assume that their presence on the ticket would increase the Latino turnout for Republican candidates, which would likely affect other races such as the congressional ones in FL-7, FL-13, FL-26 and FL-27, which in turn could affect... wait for it...the control of the U.S. House of Representatives and the future of President Biden's agenda.

Back to DeSantis. Other than getting (undeserved) credit for keeping those offices in Republican hands and avoiding an embarrassing defeat in 2022, there's plenty of upside for him in not running for re-election. Having the whole year of 2023 (and part of his lame-duck year as Governor in 2022) to collect money, travel, deliver speeches and campaign for other candidates is very likely to help him to secure the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. The Trump base already loves him, and by being out of office he can fully focus on his general election pitch to moderate and independent voters.

M.M. in Atlanta, GA, writes: You discussed it as a ploy, but you never bothered to mention that immigrants driving the COVID-19 surge is completely false.

V & Z respond: We described the immigrants as a "red herring," which literally means that they are not relevant to the surge.

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) commented that when people began reading the AG report about his conduct, they will be shocked. Boy, was he right about that.

When this whole ordeal started, I took the position of waiting until a thorough, independent investigation was completed. Now that it has been, I'm definitely shocked. I can also say that after voting for Cuomo three times before, I won't be voting for him ever again. Simply put, he needs to leave office now!

This has been a huge fall from grace for this man. Last year, he was the white knight in shining armor leading the way for my state into the hell of the pandemic. He was a media darling, a superstar in the making, someone in the same league as Dr. Anthony Fauci. Now, he joins a dubious list that includes the likes of O.J. Simpson, Matt Lauer, and Bill Cosby. Men who were once highly admired and could do no wrong, but are now forever cast onto the trash heap of shame.

What happens next is anyone's guess. The state Assembly is wrapping up their impeachment inquiry and are ready to act. Remember, they are also investigating the nursing home and book deal scandals too. Support for Cuomo here in New York is sinking faster than quicksand. He's a man on an island with nobody at his side, not even a Wilson volleyball. Heck, when the titular head of the Democratic party, President Joe Biden, publicly says it's time to go, he's gotta know the jig is up.

The question I keep coming back to is "Why?" Why would he do such a thing and squander all the accolades, goodwill, and political capital he gained while managing the pandemic? Why would he do this knowing he has three daughters of his own and who look up to him? Why didn't anyone, if they were aware of what was going on, intervene and tell him that he had to stop?

I mentioned before there was a growing sense of "Cuomo fatigue" setting in here. While we appreciated the good things he did as governor, like getting the pandemic under control from the start and standing up for equality for every New Yorker, his constant presence apparently fed him the notion that he was all-too-powerful and couldn't be replaced. That his family name and history would inoculate him from any misdeeds. That gave him a sense of entitlement, of being above the laws and rules we all must follow. Haven't we heard this narrative before involving another guy who was born in Queens, just eleven years before Cuomo?

"Cuomo fatigue" was what brought down Andrew's father, Mario, in 1994. People here appreciated the hard work he had put in while governor in the 80's and early 90s. But there comes a time when a change is needed. Despite this, today Mario is viewed as a saint to the point where the replacement for the Tappan Zee Bridge is named after him. Somewhere above, with a tear in his eye and a lump in his throat, he must be asking: "Son, what have you done? How could you have brought shame and disgrace to our name and our state?"

The experiences with both Cuomos, for different reasons, reinforce my strong belief that term limits are absolutely necessary here in New York State. I'm letting my state senator and assemblywoman know where I stand. I don't know if term limits would have prevented Andrew Cuomo from doing what he's alleged to have done, but he would have been out of office after the 2018 elections and we wouldn't be going through this crisis now.

I end here the same way the Governor ended his famous COVID briefings last year. He described us New Yorkers as "New York Tough." The women who raised their voices to bring attention to Cuomo's behavior are indeed tough. The investigators who had to navigate through intense political and media scrutiny are tough. We the citizens of this great state are tough, too. In the past 20 years, we've had to live through 9/11, a governor resigning in disgrace after a prostitution scandal, economic hardships, racial tensions, and of course, a global pandemic that was eating our people alive. We are and will be tough again in the midst of this shocking news this week about our leader and get through it. That's what makes me proud to call myself a lifelong New Yorker.

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: Regarding your answer to J.Z. in Baltimore, I have not heard the theory that the Andrew Cuomo impeachment is about trying to get a state-level pardon for Donald Trump. But I have heard that some Republicans are under the delusion that if Cuomo were impeached, the runner-up from the 2018 election (Republican Marc Molinaro) would become governor. I am not familiar with Marc Molinaro's politics, but I would conjecture that he may be the one on whom these folks are pinning their hopes of a pardon.

That's not at all how it works, of course. If a governor of New York resigns or is impeached and removed, the line of succession is followed, just as if they had died. Which gives me an idea of how California might patch its recall process, presuming there is political will to revise it, but not abolish it: instead of putting replacement candidates in the recall ballot, just go to the line of succession. However, I suspect that while I would consider this an improvement, the type of people who push for recalls would not.

C.P. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Unfortunately, a lot of Gov. Gavin Newsom's (D-CA) financial support is being provided by supporters of the charter school industry. This appears to have influenced some of the governor's recent decisions on the subject. We really need campaign finance reform in this country.

C.E. in San Francisco, CA, writes: I saw these around my neighborhood in San Francisco. If this was funded by out-of-state Republicans, they might want to ask for a refund:

Someone has used chalk and written
on a sidewalk 'Para afuera afuera Gavin out oust recall Newson.' And note that this is a completely accurate transcription.

There were a few others that were all weirdly worded ("Recall oust...") and I don't think any of them spelled "Newsom" correctly.

All Politics Is Local: Non-Gubernatorial Division

M.B. in Cleveland Heights, OH, writes: In your wrap-up of the OH-11 special election, you wondered whether there was significant Republican crossover voting in the Democratic primary. You noted that 93% of the votes were cast in the Democratic primary, while in 2020, Marcia Fudge won with 80% of the vote. Those numbers themselves do not suggest anything nefarious going on—instead, I think it's remarkable that over 5,000 Republicans turned out for a non-competitive special election primary in a district that is hopelessly gerrymandered against them.

However, a breakdown of the voting patterns is instructive. A lot of outside money flowed into the race, much of it from pro-Israel groups and some from Republican groups in support of Shontel Brown (D). And indeed, some of the highest turnout was in communities with large Jewish populations: Beachwood, Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights, and Bratenahl all had over 25% turnout while the overall turnout was 17%. I live in a neighborhood of Cleveland Heights that has a large orthodox Jewish population, and in the last two weeks, Shontel Brown signs sprouted on the front lawns of the same neighbors who sported signs for Laverne Gore (the Republican candidate for the House seat) in 2020.

But is this ratf**king, to mess with the primary of a party that you don't generally support? Or is it a sort of DIY ranked-choice voting? You already know your number one choice is going to be eliminated, so you skip that step and your number two choice gets your vote?

As an aside, my district will now be represented by Sh. Brown in both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate. See if your staff mathematician can determine the odds of that...

V & Z respond: He doesn't work on Saturday nights. Or any other nights. Or days.

D.C. Cuyahoga Falls, OH, writes: In response to the suggestion that the OH-11 outcome in favor of Shontel Brown was the result of rat***king, I can guarantee you that had little if any effect. I live next to the district and am a bit involved with local politics. The attacks on the party and reflexive dismissing of anyone who has any involvement with it as "establishment" is beginning to piss-off many people, including people like me—a Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) supporter. Other than positions on Israel, there are no real policy differences between Brown and Turner. The attack that Brown is "establishment" basically boils down one of two things: (1) she's worked for the party (e.g., her time as Cuyahoga County chair) and (2) she was endorsed by people like Hillary Clinton. However, there is a problem with this thinking, as it's her activism within the party (1), that is the reason for her endorsements (2).

We need a healthy Democratic Party, and reflexively attacking anyone who has any involvement with it (e.g., for the DNC or DCCC) undermines that goal. As a progressive, I would have been fine with Turner—or Brown. Progressives should not reject a candidate simply because party leaders endorse him or her.

M.C. in Oak Ridge, TN, writes: Given the various endorsements in the OH-15 primary, it is interesting that you consider Mike Carey's win over Jeff LaRe, etc. to be a win for the Republican establishment. At least they are relieved it wasn't Ron Hood? The support given to Donald Trump's allies by prominent Republicans, such as Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), leads their party further down into the crass populism that they could have wiped off their boots. If the establishment ever hoped to perform real public service for their constituents and their country, then those wins must taste like ashes, their just desserts for years of spineless appeasement. Though on the other side, the Republican leadership in the U.S. Senate forged their own moral vacuum well before Donald Trump began to dominate so perhaps I am too generous in thinking that there may be any principled regret.

V & Z respond: We were operating with the assumption that the Trump wing of the Party IS the establishment now.

C.B.L., Warwick, RI, writes: Regarding Pennsylvania's Senate race: It might be 4.5 cat years away, but this cat clearly knows who to vote for, and no, it's not painted on, and no, I don't rent her out!

A cat's fur has a pattern that
looks like 'JF'

K.L. in Incline Village, NV, writes: Sadly, I'm not sure if this is something for the comments or more apropos for the schadenfreude feature. I love my state, but we may yet turn red again: "Lyon County commissioners vote to rename justice complex after former President Trump."

Then again, the Reno-Tahoe Airport passenger terminal is named for Democratic former Nevada Senator Howard Cannon.

(V) & (Z)'s Excellent Adventure: Responses to Our List

E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, writes: I'll save you a spot on your list of people you'd like to travel back in time to meet: Sigmund Freud wouldn't be much help in understanding Trump for two reasons. First off, any undergraduate who has passed introductory psychology could "psychoanalyze" and "diagnose" Trump with an Oedipal complex (i.e., overcompensation, castration anxiety, daddy issues) and uncontrollable malignant narcissism. Secondly, in contrast to other evidence-based psychotherapies, classical Freudian psychoanalysis is essentially a pseudoscience, so you're not going to get much scientific insight about Trump beyond that. For more scientific conclusions, I'd recommend Aaron Beck, the founder of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or Marsha Linehan, the creator of Dialectical Behavior Therapy for borderline personality disorder. Fortunately, you will still have a free spot since both are still with us, with Beck just having celebrated his 100th birthday in July!

V & Z respond: We almost added a note that we wouldn't necessarily expect Freud's diagnosis to be correct, merely that it would be fascinating.

S.W. in New York, NY, writes: Here's what Freud would say:

Donald, I understand the origins of your anger. When you went to an all-male military boarding school, you had a secret affair with one of the cadets. You felt so ashamed—how could you ever tell your father your real feelings and sexual inclination? You felt that everyone would be so ashamed and embarrassed of you and that your father would reject you for any leadership role in his company and perhaps disown you from the family. To cover up these homosexual feelings and your sense of shame, you took a very public role in dating blonde, buxom women (the blonde has its origins in your racist feelings of false superiority) and having children with each wife. But you couldn't control and hide your inclination to be attracted to good-looking men, so they continue to hover around you. Your failure as a husband, a parent, and a leader are due to the anger within yourself for not accepting who you are as a person. Over time, you developed an extremely narcissistic personality and one, sadly, without an id.

And now our time is up.

J.M. in Jacksonville, FL, writes: In all likelihood, Jack the Ripper was just another poor Polish-Jewish immigrant from a neighborhood of Polish-Jewish immigrants, with a raging hatred toward women, probably brought on having a horrible childhood with an abusive domineering mother and a meek father.

The most promising suspect was a man named Nathan Kaminski aka David Cohen..."or someone very much like him" according to former FBI criminal profiler John Douglas. The salient point being that Jack the Ripper was a nobody, certainly not royalty or a respected doctor or a Freemason etc.

A.T. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: One thing people always forget about Dr. King was that he was the OG Bernie Sanders. One could say Bernie is the original MartinBro.

Dr. King was a populist who believed in democratic socialism and heavily promoted a poor people's campaign and an Economic Bill of Rights. He advocated unity between the white and Black working and lower-middle classes, and strengthening labor.

In truth, if he had lived, it would have been him, and not Sanders, who ignited the progressive left.

P.C. in Schaumburg, IL, writes: Not a suggestion, but just a comment. In my life I've attended Comic Cons, Dr. Who conventions, I know every episode of "Star Trek" by heart (except "DS9," that was a waste), and wasted countless hours on meaningless discussions about alien civilizations and faster than light travel possibilities. That said, the question about time travel, while defining its parameters, is the single most Nerdiest moment I've experienced. Who wouldda thunk it would be on a site called "Electoral Vote"?

V & Z respond: There is an episode of the show "The Golden Girls" in which they needed to quickly establish that the people at a party were a bunch of nerdy eggheads. And to do that, they zoomed in on a conversation about which historical figures the participants would like to go back and time and meet, and the cheesy eggheaded jokes they were making. So, you might be on to something here. Though we disagree about "DS9."

History Matters

J.A. in Austin, TX, writes: The questions raised by M.K. in London in last week's mailbag were about communist governments, but the comment they were responding to was about socialist governments. From our side of the pond, many would include the U.K., with its socialized medicine, more-generous-than-ours unemployment compensation, and so on to be a socialist government, as those accomplishments are socialist. As far as I know, the U.K. had these socialist accomplishments without the "benefit"of either KGB/Stasi or the regime falling to a popular uprising (unless you count the election of Thatcher et al).

V & Z respond: In fact, the original answer by us was about communism, but was interpreted by reader C.R. in Fayetteville, who writes the next letter, as an attack on socialism.

C.R in Fayetteville, PA, writes: M.A.K in London asks two questions that absolutely deserve a response. Why did socialist countries create the KGB or Stasi and why did said socialist countries fall to popular uprisings?

M.A.K's first question is a pretty simple one to answer. The Soviet Union and the DDR (East Germany) created the KGB and Stasi for the same reason the United States created the FBI, CIA, and NSA. Intelligence agencies are a necessity for any modern nation and that included the Soviet Union and the DDR. Mass surveillance is not unique to the KGB or Stasi, the CIA, FBI, NSA, and the U.S. military have a rich history of spying on the American people. More recently the PATRIOT Act gave U.S. intelligence agencies even more broad power to spy on the American public. The ACLU talks about US intelligence agencies' flagrant violation of American civil liberties in more detail here. In short, the KGB and Stasi's efforts to spy on the Soviet and German people aren't unique to just socialist countries but a reality of all modern nations.

M.A.K's second question is hard to answer because to interact with the question I need to accept the obvious subtext that comes with it. I would even challenge the premise of M.A.K's second question. The Soviets were surrounded on all sides by enemies and existed in a constant state of siege, where all Western capitalist nations spent billions propagandizing against the Soviet Union and trillions on defense and anti-Soviet military programs. To narrow the scope of the question I will only be talking about the fall of the Soviet Union. Their fall cannot be so easily summarized as "failing to prevent their regimes (from) falling to popular revolutions." The Soviet Union was targeted from day one, with almost every major Western nation being openly hostile to them. To spare everyone from a history lesson spanning the entire history of the Soviet Union, counting each abuse from Western capitalist nations, I will instead skip ahead to what put the final nail in the coffin in 1996. The Soviet Union officially dissolved in 1991, but the re-election of Boris Yeltsin in 1996 crushed any chance of a Soviet revival. For this I will once again be quoting Michael Parenti's Blackshirts and Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism: "In 1996, Yeltsin won re-election as president, beating out a serious challenge from a communist rival. His campaign was assisted by teams of U.S. electoral advisors, who used sophisticated polling techniques and focus groups.Yeltsin also benefited from multi-million dollar donations from U.S. sources and a $10 billion aid package from the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. Equally important for victory was the crooked counting of ballots (as cursorily reported in one ABC late evening news story in July 1996)." Saying that the Soviet Union fell due to popular revolutions washes the hands of those who funded and orchestrated its downfall.

It is easy to criticize a nation that has been the target of Western propaganda and hostility for its entire existence without ever critically analyzing the anticommunist messaging being fed to us. To better understand the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc I once again recommend Parenti's book.

H.M. in East Lansing, MI, writes: My mom was born in 1923 and passed in 2012. One thing she always told me was that there were two presidents that she loved to hear on television/radio: Franklin D. Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. And I think that she was right: Those two were the greatest American communicators of the 20th century.

Reagan gets dissed by a lot of the libs who read your site, but at the end of the day he took over a high-inflation economy which was losing the Cold War and turned it into a low-inflation economy which won the Cold War. Things were a lot better when he left office than when he took office.

Similarly, FDR took over a depressed high-unemployment economy and left the country with a low-unemployment economy and the U.S. as the world's true superpower, with 50% of the world's GDP.

Both of them had to cut corners and compromise to achieve their aims, but at the same time I believe that their ends justified their means.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: Your recent item about Joe Biden hitting the vaccine goal of 70 percent about a month late kinda hit a nerve for me. You wrote: "sometimes you gotta aim a little too high." And therein is the raw nerve.

I'd argue that the values and ideals upon which this very nation was founded were high ideals. The difference here is that Biden, in aiming high actually tried to achieve the goal. There is no shame in aiming high, trying to achieve, and falling a little short. It is another thing completely when you aim high, and then gleefully and cheerfully refuse to even try to live up to the ideal that was set.

Even worse, when people hold out those very founding ideals and values as evidence of this nation's "greatness" while at the same time gleefully and cheerfully refusing to live up to them. Refusing to even try to live up to them.

Which brings me to the true subject of today's letter, Josh Hawley (Q-MO), who, as a Senator, pumped a fist in solidarity at white supremacists on 1/6, voted to overturn the election, and voted against any sort of 1/6 commission, suggested that teaching a whitewashed version of history would instill in our youth a sense of patriotism, and would be "making an investment in love" (of country, I assume).

Without even getting into all the individual things that would need to be whitewashed out of history in order to teach a "positive-only" history of this nation, I'd ask: What would be the point? Learning history means learning history...even, and I would argue, especially the uncomfortable bits. Why else learn about history, and its mistakes, if not to avoid repeating them? When you refuse to teach them, you guarantee that they will be repeated, to great harm. How would we in fact achieve a "more perfect union" if we are to not teach about the times we have failed (and there have been many) and exactly what occurred when we did fail?

How would we achieve a more perfect union, and how would we empower people, if we do not teach of the struggles that people fought in order to achieve rights and freedoms not originally given them? How would we inspire those who remain oppressed today to fight the good fight...if not teaching about those past struggles?

Ooops...I think I just answered my own question!

What's in a Name: Indiana Edition

M.C. in Warsaw, IN, writes: E.W. in Skaneateles wrote in asking about renaming the state of Indiana. As a resident of Indiana (who also lived in Indianapolis for a time), I'd like to chime in and say that it would probably be reasonably popular to rename the entire state to Hoosier, but I personally would advocate for renaming our lovely state capital Indianapolis after my favorite of the Indian tribes who lived here, the Kickapoo. I think we can leave off the -polis bit.

V & Z respond: We thought about suggesting the Kickapoo in our answer, and noting the obvious mispronunciations that would take place if Indianapolis became Kickapoopolis.

J.E.S. in Sedona, AZ, writes: Benjamin Harrison is the only President to claim Indiana as his home, so if the State and its largest city were to be renamed in honor of its most prominent public servant, then Benjaminopolis, Harrisonia (HN) might be a fine option. But a better one would be for the State to embrace its second-tier standing as "The Mother of Vice Presidents" and craft a modern identity from its cohort of six warm-piss-bucket minders. I'd personally go for Quaylopolis, Pencesylvania (PN), hewing to the hard right, Christian culture that prevails there. Or, for a more historic pairing with perhaps a bit more gravitas: Colfaxopolis, Fairbanksiana (FB). No need to come up with any options involving Vice Presidents Hendricks or Marshall, of course, since they were Democrats, and that dog don't hunt no more thereabouts.

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: Since going to tech school at Ft. Ben Harrison many years ago, I have always derisively referred to the location as "India no place."

Department of Word Choices

F.W. in Decatur, GA, writes: At the end of your item "GETTR Is GETTING Actual Terrorists," you make a snarky reference to the former guy's presumed small penis, and follow that by using the expression "mouth-breathers" as a synonym for stupid people.

I was a mouth-breather, for purely anatomic reasons, until I could afford corrective surgery in my twenties, and I cringe whenever I see or hear that expression. We mouth-breathers are not stupid, even if we look stupid to you. I can share my academic credentials to prove it, if you like. (From Tulane, not USC!)

Similarly, I am sure that there are vast numbers of people with small penises who are perfectly adequate in their life endeavors and do not particularly feel the need to over-compensate for their anatomy. I can only imagine how sick they must be of hearing this sort of reference.

Now, if you like to make fun of the Donald's spray tan, or whatever that is that lives on top of his head, have at it: those were choices he, and anyone who shares them, made. But maybe you could think twice next time before ridiculing someone for anatomical attributes they have no control over?

V & Z respond: We went back and changed "mouth-breathers" to "Neanderthals," and are just hoping that the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer is not a reader. As to the other bit, we are neither confirming nor denying that it was a penis-length joke. But if it was, it was not aimed at the actual item, but at Trump's tendency to brag about how well equipped he is. As they say, "There are three types of men: growers, showers, and crowers."

D.A. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: I know the term "voodoo economics" is a hallowed piece of the political lexicon since Bush Sr. used it to deride candidate Reagan's economic platform. I've used the term myself in the past. But I think it is an expression that really should be retired. Voodoo is actually a religion with roots in West Africa, and using it as a synonym for "junk" or "superstition" is as unfair and unwise as replacing it with "Catholic economics," "Jewish economics," or "Baptist economics."

Beyond the political lexicon, "voodoo" is deeply a part of the American lexicon, but ultimately is racist, I think. (I know it was used in multiple pop songs in the 50s/60s and used in M*A*S*H in one episode, though in the latter case they used it to mean "magic" in a good sense.)

V & Z respond: We went back and changed this, too.

J.W. in Slingerlands, NY, writes: In the context of a suicide, the word "commit" bothers me as it almost seems like a crime has been committed. Any chance you could start saying "took their own life"? Thanks.

V & Z respond: And this, as well.

A.I. in Honolulu, HI, writes: Are you misusing "ratfu**ing"when describing party members voting in the primary of another party, which is commonly known as "crossover voting"? I think "ratfu**ing"is a more active attempt to sway an election that, for example, uses disinformation (or biased information) to confuse voters.

I did extensive research to prepare this letter by reading the Wikipedia page, so I must be right, but you can check my work anyway. Of course, you may be disappointed to learn that the political use of the term may have been started by USC grads.

There is an interesting note about a journalist saying the unedited term on the radio. She argued that it "has become a term of art in political science and is thus not an obscenity," but FCC officials disagreed.

The term does create a dilemma because it is so evocative and apt, yet so vulgar that a person like me has to open a private browser window to look it up "because kids in house."

Maybe you and your esteemed readers could come up with an FCC-safe-even-for-radio alternative. I might suggest the obvious, "ratfracking" and "ratfreaking"as well as "muskratting" (in reference to the native to Canada species).

V & Z respond: We knew where it came from, which makes sense, given that university's expertise in antisocial behavior. Anyhow, it refers to any form of sabotage, and we would say that trying to stick the other party with the worst possible candidate counts.

P.V. in Kailua, HI, writes: In reply to the letter from R.E.M. in Brooklyn: There is an important reason to make the distinction between "ephebophilia" and "pedophilia." For those who honestly want to change their behavior, the prognosis for ephebophiles via treatment such as cognitive behavioral therapy is actually quite good. The prognosis for pedophiles is dismal.

B.M. in Hamamatsu, Japan, writes: I write in case you or the readers are curious why "kunoichi"—which looks and sounds nothing like "ninja"—came to mean "female ninja" in Japanese.

First, we have the character that represents "woman" (女). How to draw various characters isn't so intuitive, and some get very complex, so there exists a "stroke order" to guide where each movement of the brush/pen starts and stops. For example, woman (女) uses the following overlapping lines, or "strokes", written in this order: く ノ 一

Now, it just so happens that these three strokes as visually similar to three other characters in Japanese:

く: phonetic character for "ku"
ノ: phonetic character for "no"
一: character for the number 1, which is pronounced "ichi"

In other words, the three steps for constructing "woman" (女) read in succession are "kunoichi."

V & Z respond: Interesting! Though you don't know how hard it was to get the html right for this letter.

Department of Errors

K.G. in Seattle, WA, writes: Your item says that ActBlue copied WinRed with the monthly donation checkbox. ActBlue has had this option for years, and it's implemented in a way that's honest and beneficial, rather than a fraudulent dark pattern. I find it beneficial to "subscribe" monthly (like Netflix), rather than to be hounded for one-off donations and constantly be making decisions.

V & Z respond: Thanks for pointing out our error. It would seem that Democrats are clever enough to see that being sneaky just leads to bad PR and refunds (which cost money to process). By contrast, Team Trump just gave back more than $10 million in ill-gotten donations.

An Objectivist Defense

D.C. in Hofheim, Germany, writes: I think both S.M. in Pratt, in their question on Saturday, and you in your response, were being very unfair to Ayn Rand. I saw her once on Johnny Carson, and I read all her novels as a teenager. She was clearly very bright and well-spoken, and her novels were very entertaining, but even at that tender age I could see that they were no model for public policy, since they conveniently ignored most of the more intractable problems of society. But on a personal level, they were more useful. To her, being selfish merely meant acting primarily in your own self-interest, and I'm sure she would have quickly concluded that a rational person acting in their own self-interest would wear a protective mask and seek to be vaccinated and would encourage others to do likewise. I can't imagine she would have had the least sympathy with people whining about their personal freedom or the other silly excuses one hears.

The Measure of a Man

C.H. in Montpelier, VT, writes: As a former long time Cambridge, MA, resident (and alum of both Harvard and MIT) I was jarred by your use of the name "Harvard Bridge," and surprised to learn that it is technically correct. I always heard it called the Mass. Ave. bridge. There are other bridges closer to Harvard, so saying "Harvard Bridge" would be confusing. The bridge connects Boston basically to MIT's front door. The original naming may be forgiven, since the bridge's first construction in 1891 antedates MIT's 1916 move to its current location. But it's been a misnomer for over a century and certainly rankles now.

Could we please at least clarify that Smoot went to MIT, not Harvard.

V & Z respond: This is what happens when the person who writes the base answer, namely (Z), didn't go to MIT, and the person who then added interesting details afterward, namely (V), did.

T.C. in Columbia, MO, writes: Back in the 11th century or so, the Icelandic AlÞing was meeting at Þingvellir and needed to specify a standardized measurement for rope, cloth, etc. There is a church in Þingvellir. The assembled chieftains decided that the official unit of measure would be 1/20 the length of the church's foundation. After that, every chieftain went and cut a rod of the appropriate length and took it back to their settlement. In that regard, you can think of the church (the current one was built, in 1859, on the foundations of the original) as the original Icelandic Bureau of Standards.

V & Z respond: But how many Smoots are there in one Icelandic church foundation?

P.F. in Fairbanks, AK, writes: I tell my students that "km" stands for "kanadian miles."

M.R. in Kuppenheim, Germany, writes: I'm glad you well-behaved colonials still pledge allegiance to the British... errrr, Imperial units. Do you think it could prevent the Canadians from invading the homeland? After all, they would be prone to the same mistakes NASA made with the Mars Climate Orbiter, and maybe run out of gas somewhere in Maryland or Pennsylvania instead of burning down the White House (again).

L.E. in Putnam County, NY, writes: While I yield to none in my zeal for Imperial/US Customary measuring units, one should point out that in actuality, what the bloody (French Revolution) furriners first conceived of as the kilometer was "one ten thousandth of the distance between the North Pole and Equator," but after a detour through wavelengths of orange-red krypton-86 light, they now define it as "one thousand times the distance that light travels in 1/299,792,458 of the time it takes for 9,192,631,770 periods of the radiation corresponding to the transition between the two hyperfine levels of the ground state of the cesium-133 atom." They may change to strontium atoms in the future but I'd rather not play along.

V & Z respond: Too bad there are no Icelandic churches or MIT fraternity brothers in France; that might have made everyone's lives easier.

T.S. in Mansfield, OH , writes: In your reply to T.B in Tallahassee, I am surprised that you did not also reference The Register's Reg Standards Bureau. Their handy-dandy standards converter is found here.

Thus, 60 mph is 0.0009% of the maximum velocity of a sheep in a vacuum, and the weight of the Statue of Liberty is 136.0779 Skateboarding Rhinoceri.

The more you know.

V & Z respond: Yeah, but how useful is it if it cannot express velocities in terms of the airspeed of an unladen swallow, either African or European?

Food Corner

M.G.F. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: You wrote: "And yes, Minnesota is number two in pork. Who knew?"

Who knew? Any visitor to Austin, MN's Spam museum or enjoying Spam curds or a photo on the Spam throne at the Minnesota State Fair might have made a good guess.

A throne-shaped seating area made of cans of

Every state is allowed one form of insanity, right?

A.S. in Black Mountain, NC, writes: J.F. in Sloatsburg has gone and done it. As a native of the Fishtown neighborhood in Philly, I take issue with their formulation of the Philly Cheesesteak. Provolone? Sacrilege! White American cheese or nothing. And don't even think of using Kobe beef.

S.S. in Detroit, MI, writes: Now here's an issue I can sink my teeth into...expatriate P.D. in Leamington, Canada (known to Detroiters exposed to the CBC as "The Tomato Capital of Canada") and M.F. from Leamington, New Zealand, bring up American chocolate, by which I'm understanding them to refer to Hershey's. This has been a long-time pet peeve of mine. (The pet being Farfel, for those who remember) As a child, when I had a hankerin' for a hunka chocolate, it was always a Nestlé's bar, never a Hershey's, that got my hard-won nickel. Now you can't find a Nestlé's bar to save your life, even though plenty of other Nestlé products are readily available.

What sort of dark conspiracy is at work here? Is the mystery chemical ingredient that makes Hershey's chocolate taste bad related to the mass Trump hysteria in America? I leave the reader to draw their own conclusions. Fortunately, we here have Morley's chocolate, even though you have to take a number to get into their stores, especially before Easter. Beware the Kiss of...well, I don't want to get too carried away here.

Theme Songs

I.K. in Queens, NY, writes: I saw your request for an theme song, and while I don't have one that I feel encapsulates the site, I offer up a suggestion for an anti-theme song—one that illustrates everything E-V is not, which is the reason I read this site.

It's obscure! Around 2015, there was an Off-Broadway musical called "Clinton: The Musical." It is satire of Bill's presidency, through the lens of there being two Bill Clintons (one a responsible adult, the other an unfiltered id), written by a couple of Australians. I found it incredibly amusing and quite clever.

Early in the show, there's a number called "The Day After That" about the Whitewater Scandal, and how ridiculous the reporting on that was—the need to fill news cycles by sensationalizing stories you don't understand, and the way anything the Clintons touched suddenly became sinister in the media. While I don't remember the Whitewater Scandal, since I'm barely older than it is, it proved a very pointed commentary on "But her e-mails!"

Anyway, the reason E-V is great is because it doesn't engage in behavior like this—it doesn't sensationalize, or create scandals out of nothing, or stretch news to the breaking point to fill a 24-hour cycle.

R.C. in Eagleville, PA, writes: "In The Summertime" by Mungo Jerry. The song was an original hidden title, it is insanely catchy and has no political or historical references, which is a feature not a bug. A lighthearted theme song would reflect the site's lighthearted approach to serious topics.

D.K. Oceanside, CA, writes: I'd like to suggest "Won't Get Fooled Again" by The Who. A song for today. Just like yesterday...

V & Z respond: But do we have to get on our knees, and beg?

T.B. in Tallahassee, FL, writes: Bastian Baker's "Song for E.V.."

Although a Swiss ice hockey player (and not Canadian!), he sings this song in English. "You said you were mine" is a frequent lyric, and you are my "go to" website every morning.

K.H. in Maryville, TN, writes: For your site overall, "Gimme Some Truth" by the masterful John Lennon. One particular phrase being "I've had enough reading things from neurotic, psychotic, pigheaded politicians..." This is why we are your loyal readers—to get the truth!

For when one has "had it up to here" with (name your peeve—your schadenfreude subjects, racists, bigots, anti-vaxxers, relatives, etc.), "State of the Union (STFU)" by Public Enemy. Warning: These lyrics are not for Grandma's ears (we have only played it safely within the confines of our home)! However, when we are out and about and see evidence of far right stupidity (for example the F**k Biden flags flying from the backs of pickup trucks) we can shake our heads, say to each other "State of the Union", and let the rest play silently in our heads...

G.C. in Alexandria, VA, writes: The Police, "Every Breath You Take."

I consider you somewhat the Political Police. And as one of the song verses says, "I'll be watching you."Keepin' them honest or, at the very least, they can't hide from you for very long.

J.G. in Chantilly, VA, writes: Leonard Cohen's "Democracy."

Perfect compromise. The song is brilliant, it's directly relevant to the blog, it's snarky and best of all: it was written by a Canadian.

A.S.W. in Melrose, MA, writes: I would think "Blame Canada" would be a natural!


B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: Regarding "The (V) & (Z) Picking on Republicans Goodtime Hour.": I would definitely tune in to see that. Can you get a primetime slot?

Also, I read so many, many sites and web pages, yet so seldom see a reference to swizzle sticks. Once again, leads the way for everyone else.

V & Z respond: What others do tomorrow, we were doing yesterday.

R.C. in Newport News, VA, writes: You wrote: "Trump won't touch it with a 10-foot-pole. Or a 2-inch pole, if that's all he's got to work with."

All the 7-foot-Poles were at the Olympics, playing basketball.

J.L.G. in Boston, MA, writes: (V) wrote: "In addition to ISIS postings, there is a lot of white supremacist material on GETTR (e.g., from the Proud Boys), which is not censored. Sean Hannity and Mike Pompeo also post there. But we repeat ourselves," and "Or a 2-inch pole, if that's all he's got to work with."

(V)!? It's great to see (Z)'s snark rubbing off on the Votemaster. Next thing you know we'll be reading about how graduates of Utrecht U. get lost on the way to the Dutch cow-milking championships because they hold the maps on their phones upside down.

V & Z respond: On one hand, your insight in recognizing the style of those jokes is keen. On the other, we are going to have to disappoint you a little. When (V) finishes his days' posts (usually the ones that go up on Monday and Thursday), (Z) goes through and sometimes adds some jokes, in addition to editing. And both of those are in that category.

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