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Sunday Mailbag

Lots of different stuff today, including VP suggestions for both Donald Trump and Kamala Harris, more suggestions for "most influential artist in American history," and the first round of "most important year in world history" letters. There will be more of each of the latter two next week.

National Politics

M.M. in Atlanta, GA, writes: If I were Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), I would pass a debt ceiling reconciliation bill for $7.8 trillion in additional debt and call it the Donald J. Trump Debt Ceiling Increase Bill.

It seems like it would be tough to derail the narrative from this action as anything other than, "We had to do this to pay off all the debts run up by Trump and the Republicans."

S.D. in Atlanta, GA, writes: Honestly, it's lost on me how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) caved. All the Democrats got was kicking the can down the road 2 months. I feel like, yet again, the Democrats were played. They are a spineless bunch of invertebrates.

M.S. in Hamden, CT, writes: Oh how I wish we had a Mr. Smith-style filibuster right now. Just imagine all the coverage the first talking filibuster in decades would receive, and how clearly that would place the blame for not raising the debt limit where it belongs.

P.S.: eBay has a wonderful selection of vintage telephone books for sale.

B.R. in Malvern, PA, writes: I'm sick and tired of the folks on the far left (and my politics lie between Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-VT) complaining that the Senate-approved bill doesn't go far enough and if we don't get everything we need, we will nuke that. Give Biden the first bill so Dems can say "see we compromised." Second, get $1.5 trillion—that is a lot better than the $0 we will get if we pass nothing. Then hope, somehow, that we can put in some voting rights regulations.

There is an opportunity here. Yes, water the bill down to $1.5 Trillion as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) wants, front-load it so that 80% of it is spent in the next 4 years (close to what we would have wanted). Make him the hero. In exchange, get him—especially since he is striking out on his quest to get a bipartisan voting bill passed—to push through enough of the voting rights bill so that we can roll back the worst of the gerrymandering and voter restrictions for 2022 (or is it too late, now?). Hope to expand our Senate majority to 52 and not lose the House.

And then, then in 2023-24, pass the entire voting rights package, make D.C. a state and pass every green/education/infrastructure bill you want. But take what you can now. Govern. Win 2022. And then win the next 10 years, when you can reset (or even pad/expand) the Supreme Court, take corporate/dark money out of politics, un-gerrymander, win the House and Senate overwhelmingly and go full bore on the environment.

Yes, the money is important, but far, far, far more important is the fight to save our democracy. Win that, and the rest will fall into place...

R.V. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: If the Los Angeles Rams beat the Kansas City Chiefs 48-2, the storyline for a week would be how the Rams destroyed a team who's been in the Super Bowl in back-to-back years.

In the U.S. Senate, when it's 48-2, you would think the 48 senators that support the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill, voting rights, and D.C. statehood would win at the end of the day. Not even close...

The $3.5 trillion bill, voting rights, and D.C. statehood will only happen if King Manchin and Princess Sinema allow it. Being on the 2 side in the NFL, when your opponent has 48, is a disaster. In the Senate, the side with the 2 wins.

Of course, if Democrats can increase their Senate majority by 2-3 in 2022 midterms, then the aforementioned king and princess can go eat cake.

K.M. in Olympia, WA, writes: I realize that while there are real ideological differences going on here, perhaps the Democrats should just let Manchin and Sanders fight it out in a no-holds-barred cage match. There seems to be as much chest slapping, branch shaking, dominance displays going on here as anything else. What else can you expect from a country run by old white guys...

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: Of Matt Wuerker's Manchin/Sinema political projection of the United States (lower 48), you wrote: "It kind of sums up things, although if we had drawn it, we probably would have put Arizona west of Colorado and Kansas." I would add: And New Mexico, which appears to be entirely absent.

J.Z. in Albuquerque, NM, writes: I was dismayed to see that my state had apparently been reattached to Mexico in the first of the maps on Monday's page, but gratified to see it back where it belonged on the COVID map further down. I wish Congress could act so quickly!

V & Z respond: We are reminded of the person from your town who called the U.S. Olympic Committee to buy tickets for the 2004 Summer Olympics. When they gave their address to the customer service representative, they were told that they could only buy Olympic tickets from their own country's Olympic committee.

J.M. in Berkeley, CA, writes: (V) wrote: "Because the Republican base is low-population rural states, its 50 senators currently represent 44% of the national population while the 50 Democratic senators represent 56% of the population. Demographic changes are only going to make this more imbalanced. If this ever gets to 40-60, which it might, combined with the filibuster, it will throw the entire legitimacy of the Senate as a governing body in question. The founders clearly never envisioned anything like this, but it seems we are stuck with it for now."

I would beg to differ that the founders never envisioned anything like this. Indeed, this situation is not terribly different in some ways from the political dynamics becoming increasingly clear at the time the country was establishing itself. The initially non-elected nature of the Senate, the final acceptance of the 3/5ths compromise, and the outsized role of influential (slave-owning) figures such as Jefferson, who fetishized empowered yeoman farmers and disdained the working class rabble in the cities, speak volumes as to how the Senate was designed to be obstructionist and largely undemocratic in nature. Periods in which the Senate has moved quickly to respond to public need (like the mid-20th century), rather than serving as a demi-aristocratic institution that primarily serves to protect the interests of the moneyed class via obstruction, are more anomalies in the broad scope of American history than emblematic of it.

Vice Prognostication

D.T. in Parsonsfield, ME, writes: I would suggest, at the risk of appearing petty, Ivanka Trump as a potential VP pick for the former guy.

Trump would consider her to be loyal since she is family. Trump does operate as a mob boss, with loyalty to the "Family" a number one consideration. He certainly appears to have a soft spot for her. She possesses many of the attributes that most appeal to him about women. She is young, attractive, fashionable, and her intelligence is an afterthought—at least to him.

This would also be a decision which would upset many of the precedents for picking a VP. Trump enjoys carving out new territory.

It's been rumored that she has designs on the presidency, and Trump would love the idea of a Trump dynasty.

I am ignoring any potential objections from fellow Republicans to this choice. When did Trump ever give a rat's tuchus about that?

L.R.H. in Oakland, CA, writes: Don Jr. or Ivanka, because that keeps the presidency, and the grift, all in the family if #45 were to be elected as #47 and to die in office. They are exactly as qualified for high office as he is.

M.E.T. in Garden City, NY, writes: Though loyalty is his primary consideration, we know that The Donald highly values appearance, hates anyone ambitious enough to be a threat, and likes to settle scores.

By those criteria, retired Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT) checks all the boxes. Demonstrably loyal, no ambition for future office, known for being a sharp dresser, and picking him is a thumb in the eye of Mitt Romney.

Meanwhile, a reasonable pick for Kamala Harris' VP would be either of the Castro brothers (for clarity: that means Joaquin or Julián, not Raúl or the late Fidel). They're both quite competent, might cause the GOP to have to invest to protect Texas even though it probably isn't in play, and might shore up the Latino vote that has been slipping away from the Democrats.

K.C. in West Islip, NY, writes: As to whom Vice President Harris should appoint in the (hopefully not going to happen) scenario that she gets elevated to the presidency, I would select former Alabama senator Doug Jones. Up until Joe Biden committed to selecting a woman to run with him, I thought Jones would be a wise choice given that he was obviously never going to win re-election in Alabama, but at the same time did have some gravitas as a man who still managed to win an election as a Democrat in the Deep South, albeit with a little un-anticipated help.

His moderate views could help bridge the gap between your Bernie Sanders and your Kyrsten Sinema (??-AZ) types while also showing Harris to be one who is happy to bring a Southern moderate into the fold. In between JFK and Barack Obama, it should be noted that the Democrats failed to win a single election in which the top of the ticket was a Northerner, yet aside from Jimmy Carter's failed re-election campaign, every presidential candidate from the South ultimately won. Perhaps sending a message to the voters down there that the Party hasn't forgotten that they exist could help re-establish the slight possibility that some Southern states could be in play a few elections down the road.

M.P. in Lund, Sweden, writes: I suggest, on the first day, that then-president Harris make the following phone call:

Hello, senior senator from West Virginia! I have a proposal for you. In upcoming days, you will become one of the most progressive senators of all time and you will be remembered as a hero. You will abolish the fillibuster, then secure $5 trillion in the fight for climate change. You will vote for a bill that sends a national ID card to everyone, you will make Election Day a national holiday, and you will support the admission of two new states: Washington, Douglas Commonwealth and Puerto Rico. After that you will expand the Supreme Court to 12 judges, and then erase this gerrymandering thing. After you have done all that, then you will move into an office in the Eisenhower executive office building...

E.H. in Ossining NY, writes: I nominate Tom Vilsack as Kamala Harris' VP selection in the event Joe Biden departs the Presidency early. As a former governor of Iowa, he's got executive experience and could communicate well to rural Midwestern voters in the swing states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Since he is currently the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, there would be no election needed to replace him, Harris would just need to appoint a replacement for her cabinet.

F.H. in Ithaca, NY, writes: Pat Paulson for VP.

"He's upped his standards, so up yours."

This Week in TrumpWorld

A.M. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: I have seen several mentions of John Eastman on recently. I have known him personally, as he was my Constitutional Law professor at Chapman Law School. He was always a good professor. He knows Constitutional Law very well, he was good at teaching it, he treated the students with respect, and he never let his politics into the classroom.

This is why it is so sad to see him peddling things he obviously knows are unconstitutional. I know his politics have always been on the right. At a symposium at the law school, he defended voter-ID requirements and excluding student IDs from acceptable IDs. But it seems like many others, he has gone off the deep end with Trumpism.

D.R. in Slippery Rock, PA, writes: There is a lesser-known section of the Bankruptcy Code—Section 303 of Title 11 of the United States Code—that provides that if a debtor owes three out of no less than twelve creditors a total of at least $16,750 in non-contingent (fixed amount), undisputed (acknowledged), unsecured (no collateral) debt, then that debtor can be forced into a chapter 7 liquidation or chapter 11 reorganization bankruptcy. In either chapter, a trustee would be appointed to oversee everything. (Normally in a chapter 11, the debtor has what's called "debtor in possession" status, and is in charge of running things without a trustee overseer.) For some reason, there's one guy who immediately springs to mind as an excellent candidate for an involuntary bankruptcy.

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Your item on Trump's colonoscopy pretty much proved him right, which is both remarkable and something to be ashamed of. He was worried people would make jokes, and while usually making fun of Trump is an excellent activity, here it has the byproduct of making a joke out of the procedure, which could discourage people from having it.

I can tell you it's neither a joke nor even an awful experience. It's potentially life-saving, and you're unconscious throughout. The prep (two days of fasting and laxatives) is not fun, but the procedure itself is painless, and there are zero after-effects. And if you're still too upset by the concept of the procedure or the jokes made by thoughtless people, imagine what it would be like to have an ostomy bag for the rest of whatever life cancer allows you to have.

V & Z respond: We likely wouldn't have written anything about it if he had been truthful at the time. And we certainly wouldn't have written anything snarky. The sarcasm comes from his willingness to lie, lie, lie, in order to protect his fragile self-image. Also, you make a rather significant assumption that we are not familiar with the procedure.

C.M. in Hillsboro. OR, writes: I tried and tried, repeatedly sifting through your paragraphs Z, butt could only come up with 13 posterior references... (And you should have used the word "posterior" while you were at it.)

V & Z respond: You didn't tell us which ones you caught, but the two most common misses were the "behind" in the headline, and "can" near the end.

K.S. in Denver, CO, writes: This may seem somewhat anal of me to mention, but from where I sit, I see additional keister references you had near the tail end of your colonoscopy item. Considering that "Trump" has become synonymous with "ass," there were actually 4 more.

E.R. in Irving, TX, writes: Trump had the inside of his colon inspected? And went to Walter Reed for that? That's odd, because there were any number of people in the White House and Congress alike who could have told doctors what they saw if they had just been asked.

The Cold Civil War

J.K. in Silverdale, WA, writes: I will let other contributors to this forum respond to P.M. from Currituck's reaction to gender-related terms heard on NPR and hopefully provide the discourse P.M. is seeking.

As far as the Cold Civil War is concerned, I would like to point out that intent matters. Regarding interactions between those on the left and those on the right, P.M. states that if you "do not realize that you (someone on the left) is acting in ways as well where you are 'firing shots' at them, then you are just as much part of the problem as they are," (emphasis added). I agree that there are those on the left who can be clueless about how their use of language sounds to those on the right, but that should be countered with discourse, which, as this site demonstrates, is available from those on the left. There is a difference between not realizing that the ways you are acting (or things you say) offend others and the escalation of taking glee in "owning the libs" with harmful actions like refusing to wear masks.

I live in an area that has an approximately 60/40 liberal/conservative split. To me, the local bumper stickers I have seen since 2016 are illustrative of how people engage. The most pointed liberal sticker I've seen read "Elect A Clown, Expect A Circus." On the other side, I have seen "Trump 2020: Make Liberals Cry Again!" "This Truck Runs On Liberal Tears!" and "F**k Biden!" Why do these people want to make their fellow American citizens cry? Also, a Biden sticker and a "Resist Hate" sticker is a common combination. I have never seen a Trump sticker paired with a "Resist Hate" sticker.

I appreciate that P.M. contributes to this forum and helps me understand how people on the right feel. I read Ben Bradlee's The Forgotten: How the People of One Pennsylvania County Elected Donald Trump and Changed America when P.M. recommended it, and I frequently intercede when my liberal family and friends make "holier than thou" comments about people on the right. They have been receptive. I hope that P.M. does the same when speaking to people who want to make me cry.

J.M. in Norco, CA, writes: I tried; I told myself to just get my popcorn and sit back and enjoy others' responses to P.M. of Currituck (but currently in Wilkes-Barre, PA). But c'mon, man—you all had such a good time attacking the Capitol on Jan. 6 that now you're going after School Boards, health care workers, and election officials/poll workers... all because someone on NPR said "gender-affirming care is life-saving care," "chestfeeding," and "birthing person/pregnant people?" And you call US snowflakes?

R.S. in San Mateo, CA, writes: I was dumbfounded by the letter from P.M. in Currituck characterizing the left as an equal aggressor in the Cold Civil War. P.M.'s position appears to be that when the right takes concrete, enforceable actions to cause actual harm to humans on the left, such as "passing restrictive abortion laws" (and presumably also imposing voting restrictions, outlawing protective health measures, and literally killing people by convincing them to eschew masks and vaccines), they are justified in doing so because those meanies on the left have been...*gasp*...telling them they're wrong. After all, who ever heard of one social faction disagreeing with another? It's quite revealing that name-calling and word usage are the most heinous examples that P.M. could come up with to represent the unbearable onslaught that the right is enduring in this War of Leftist Aggression. I would hope that P.M. supports the Democrats' proposal for universal pre-K, which might help the next generation of Republicans learn the proportionate response when someone calls you names.

S.M. in Pratt, KS, writes: I read P.M.'s letter last Sunday about the Cold Civil War, and am just left shaking my head. Where to begin?

P.M. claims that liberals are talking down to conservatives, but the only example they provide is one program on NPR. I would really like to ask, does P.M. experience this in real life? I know many conservatives tell me the same thing, that they are being talked down to by liberals. But when I ask where they heard this, it is always through the filter of conservative media. They don't ever seem to hear these things directly. And not one of them can ever relay a time that they were called names by someone in a face-to-face engagement.

I'm reminded when I would listen to Glenn Beck's program sometimes, many years ago. One of his favorite pieces of schtick was to create a situation (X) in his mind, then imagine what the liberal response (Y) would be. Then he would spend the rest of the hour going on and on about how terrible the liberals were because they espoused position Y. I see similarities with P.M. They have imagined what the liberal behavior is, therefore considers themselves to be justified in any behavior to respond to this imaginary behavior.

Because we all would agree that being offended by a radio program (it's a free country, change the station) and trying to make others sick and destroy democracy, are clearly equal and proportional.

A.A. in Branchport, NY, writes: P.M. in Currituck posits in last Sunday's letter that the left is as guilty as the right in the so-called Cold Civil War. I must disagree. I would like to offer some observations of a local nature.

I live in a red county in a red congressional district in upstate New York. There are many Trump 2020 signs and flags flying. Today I saw my first Trump 2024 flag. I'm sure that I will see more. There are also more than a few BIDEN SUCKS flags and signs. All well and good, though the latter are somewhat childish.

The ones that cause me great distress are the Very Large Banners (appear to be 4 ft. x 8 ft.) flown with the wonderful message "F**K BIDEN." They are so ubiquitous that I am treated to at least one sighting a day.

Last week, I had occasion to travel to Lancaster, PA. My route took me through central New York and central Pennsylvania. I saw quite a few of these banners. I saw F**K BIDEN banners on side roads, main roads and limited access highways.

So end my first-person observations. A couple of thoughts:

I don't know and can only guess about the political leanings of the displayers of the repulsive banners. I think it unlikely that such items would be displayed by Democrats/liberals/independents. That seems to leave one cohort. What's their intention displaying such a vile message in such a public manner?

And...has anyone ever seen any similar signage stating CONSERVATIVE POLITICIAN SUCKS or F**K CONSERVATIVE POLITICIAN? I suspect no one has. I certainly have never seen one. If they exist, I'd like to know. If not, perhaps the Cold Civil War analysis should be expanded to discuss why those signs don't exist, but F**K BIDEN banners do.

M.N. in Lake Ann, MI, writes: P.M. in Currituck suggests that "the left" labels others as "bigoted/racist/part of the problem/whatever" if they don't agree with various "politically correct" terms, and that this is proof that the left is as bad as the right in our little Cold Civil War discussion.

I put to P.M. that there is a fundamental difference in the actions on the right and the actions on the left: empathy. Not wearing a mask is potentially harmful, not only to the person not wearing a mask, but to others around them. Using specific terms to refer to specific populations of people (particularly when the populations are driving the language choices) is just showing respect. While some may argue that some terms get unwieldy or generate debate (as evidenced by the letters to this site on language around "women" and "abortion"), what does it hurt to use the terms that the people in question prefer? If your argument is that "it was always this other way before and should never change," well...language has always evolved and will always continue to evolve.

It is important to note that the other difference here is that the left does not use these terms solely to be able to "own the"...whatever the equivalent to "libs" would be for the right, in the way some on the right use not wearing a mask. I don't think that you "must" agree with me, but will admit that I will probably suspect a lack of empathy if you can't at least see my point, even if you don't agree.

For the record, I am always happy to engage in discourse, but my experience has been that folks on the right don't actually want discourse, they want to tell me that I am wrong and that if I don't agree with them I am a socialist or a commie or un-American. So as much as P.M. feels the left won't engage in discourse, I personally feel that argument works both ways.

M.G. in Chicago, IL, writes: Wow. I am sure you are publishing false equivalences in a subconscious effort to expose such, but I have heard P.M's bull from my own family members for the past few years. The analysis/bull they are slinging is what I have termed the 97%er's view. As in, my argumentative relative comes from a community that is 97% white, 1% Asian and has 2 or 3 other token minorities. The 97%ers live in these communities by choice and insulate themselves in many different ways from the rest of America. I believe this leads to their and P.M's way of processing information and explaining the world.

I easily roll my eyes at some of the silly, stupid, moronic and misguided ideas of the left-of-left folks, but the majority of them do not impose themselves upon the rest of the community as the right-of-right folks try to do. What I believe P.M. fails to realize or admit is the right is no longer right of center, but is now to the right of the right of the right of center. For you professor types, they moved a few standard deviations to the right. This is fascist territory....not "fascist light" or "fascist adjacent" but proper fascist.

I am starting to think (V) and (Z) are posting such letters to just get me riled up...

V & Z respond: We do not pick deliberately provocative letters. We do have a strong predilection for letters that give the other side of a viewpoint we expressed, and P.M.'s letter was that.

N.B. in Marathon, TX, writes: P.M. in Currituck asks, "If you don't pump a 12-year-old full of puberty blockers, will they actually die?" Quite possibly. Suicide rates for transgender people are much higher than for cisgender, and lack of access to gender-affirming medical care, along with experiencing discrimination, increases that risk.

P.M. also mentions that the left calls people "racist" if they disagree with the left's views. As a leftist, I have found that I only get called racist, against white people, by people on the right. I am told that I hate America and I should leave. I am told that leaders in the Democratic party perform Satanic rituals and sacrifice babies. I am told there is a vast pedophile ring made up of Democrats and Hollywood elites. This is not proportional to telling someone that it would be preferable to use different words.

The idea that the right passing restrictive abortion laws is backlash to the left's actions is ludicrous. Certainly the right's main focus lately seems to be contrarianism against anything the left is in favor of, as evidenced by the desire to "own the libs" by not getting a vaccine. But right-wing evangelicals made a conscious decision to use abortion as a wedge issue in the late 1970s, as explained in this Guardian article.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: P.M. posits—rather sarcastically—that a 12 year old will not die if not "pumped full of puberty blockers." I suggest P.M. should learn to walk a mile in someone else's moccasins (a failing I've noted quite often among people of that ilk, I might add).

I speak from experience. Puberty blockers were not available to me. I did not die...true enough. But I suffered horribly, and the fact that I could not have the blockers created secondary sex characteristics that were expensive and painful to eradicate, and a constant reminder of my pain.

No, they won't die, but we can ease their suffering and give them a chance at a better life than I had. They won't have to go into adulthood with constant painful reminders and expensive, unwanted secondary sex characteristics that do not match their internal sense of their gender.

Now, I know P.M. has a particular dislike of trans people...that has been clear from their many writings—but how I wish P.M. could experience...just for a week...the pain that was my life prior to the age of 23. If they could know what it felt like to have constant reminders of pain, and unwanted characteristics. In my case, I just got born too soon, and the treatment wasn't available when it would have made a difference for me.

Not a day goes by that I don't wish it had been, and that my life could have been made much easier as a result. But it wasn't. I am happy that those who follow me have the possibility of a better life and an easier path than I did. Just because people like P.M. cannot wrap their brains around the idea that one can be born in one body and have the internal sense/feeling of being the other does not mean that it doesn't happen.

And just because we make people like him a tad uncomfortable, that does not justify failing to ease suffering where we can. Will they die? Probably not...unless, of course, it is by their own hand because they cannot stand the pain anymore. I am a two-time survivor, so again, I know what I am talking about.

P.M. is a shining example of why I left the Catholic Church and would never go back. More of them, in my experience, are like P.M. than those who are like our president.

All Politics Is Local

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: You included a bit schadenfreude section about Idaho billing MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell for the costs of their election audit in two counties. There are two other aspects of this story which you didn't mention and weren't covered in the story you linked, but which I think may be of interest to your readers.

Firstly, note that, as you might have imagined, the numbers about Idaho that Lindell submitted were obviously fabricated and this was immediately obvious to the election officials. He came up with a figure for "flipped votes by hacking" in one county, and applied that percentage to every county in the state. He included a list of IP addresses of hacked voting machines responsible.

The only problem? Seven counties in the state use no voting machines at all, and tabulate every vote by hand in a paper ledger. You may want to consult your staff IT expert about whether paper ledgers have IP addresses.

It is because the claims are so obviously bunk that Idaho is seeking to bill Lindell.

Second, there is this quote: "While I generally agree with Mike Lindell's focus on massive voter fraud in 6-plus key states, his facts regarding Idaho quite miss the mark. Well, completely miss the mark," Bonner County Clerk Mike Rosedale Rosedale said.

The Republicans in deep red Idaho are so in thrall of the Big Lie, that they continue to support it for other states, even while defending the legitimacy of their own local-run Republican-supporting elections. The doublethink in evidence is palpable.

N.A. in Cary, NC, writes: I'd like to point out something about Pat McCrory that many North Carolinians undoubtedly remember: He may be Pat "Bathroom Bill" McCrory outside the state, but his local nickname might as well be "Coal Ash." Prior to serving as governor of NC, he worked for Duke Energy (a.k.a. Duke Power). During his time as governor, he was widely seen as "in the bag" for the utility, with his administration actively hampering efforts by NCDEQ (The Department of Environmental Quality) to regulate coal plants throughout the state. After the Dan River coal ash spill in 2014 (third largest in U.S. history, at the time) his administration gave Duke Power a slap on the wrist and allowed them to pass some of the cleanup costs on to customers in the form of a rate hike.

I don't mean to downplay the unpopularity of the bathroom bill, but for some people in the northern piedmont, Pat McCrory has literally poisoned the well with respect to his future in politics. It may be worth noting that the folks affected by the spill are in a pretty red part of the state, and McCrory lost in a year when Trump and state-level Republicans did just fine in NC. The bathroom bill and national backlash got plenty of attention around here in 2016, but I also remember constant ads tying McCrory to Duke Energy. I wouldn't be surprised to see both of those topics make a comeback if he wins the primary next spring.

S.W. in Raleigh, NC, writes: In your update on the Senate races of 2022, you wrote this regarding the Democratic primary race in NC: "[Cheri[ Beasley announced a Q2 haul of $1.3 million, beating [Erica] Smith's Q1 take of $200K."

I think it would be more instructive to compare Beasley's haul with that of Jeff Jackson, who raised $719k in Q2. Erica Smith only raised $112k during Q2.

It may not seem apparent outside of NC, but as one who lives in the state, the Democratic primary is currently shaping up to be a battle between Beasley and Jackson. Perhaps when the Q3 fundraising numbers are in, we may have a clearer picture, but Smith doesn't appear to be much of a factor at this time. I wouldn't ignore Jackson's appeal among many Democratic voters and would propose giving him and his campaign its due in future coverage.

E.V. in Derry, NH, writes: I wanted to share how the upcoming Congressional battles are already being played out in New Hampshire.

There are already a lot of ads related to the House seat of Chris Pappas (D) and the Senate seat of Maggie Hassan (D). Some are fairly generic, either promoting or scorching the Build Back Better plan. The end of the ads usually urges the viewer to let one the above congresspersons know your approval of or opposition to the plan. They run pretty much each night in the 5:00-to-8:00 p.m. slot on local stations.

However, there are also ads directly praising both Hassan and Pappas and what they have done for New Hampshire, and their support of the Biden agenda. Examples are a veterans' health ad, one vowing that the Senator will preserve voting rights and our freedoms (Live Free or Die!), and another touts clean energy jobs now and how they will protect the climate later.

Interestingly, some ads feature Senator Jeanne Shaheen's (D) work for New Hampshire as well.

The Republican primary for the House seat is filing up, with former senator Scott Brown's wife ready to enter. And Hassan has her eye on Gov. Chris Sununu (R), of course.

So, at least in New Hampshire, the Democratic party is getting a jump start on the 2022 elections.

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: R.T. in Arlington used a law requiring that license plate frames don't cover up the word "Texas" on the license plates as an example of an especially silly law. Now, I have no love for the state government of Texas, but I want to point out that North Carolina has a similar law which I strongly support and don't consider to be silly at all. In order to identify a vehicle from its license plate, police officers need two pieces of information. They need to know the license plate number and the state in which the plate was issued. If the frame covers up the name of the state, it obscures one of the two vital pieces of information.

One might say that the officers should recognize the state by the design of the plate, but with specialty plates there are literally hundreds of plate designs used in the United States. Even the basic plate designs of various states may be distinguishable when the cars are at a stop but the differences may be far from obvious when the vehicle is traveling at 80 mph. Also, there are plenty of duplicate license numbers around. I suspect that every state in the country has a vanity plate that reads "PACKERS." How would you like to be regularly harassed because someone with the same number as yours who regularly violates traffic laws has a wide frame which obscures the name of the state on their plate?

There are plenty of attractive and fun "skinny" license plate frames available in the marketplace, so there is really no reason for anyone to use a frame which obscures any part of the plate, in particular the name of the state.

D.M. in Burnsville, MN, writes: Wouldn't one statement be enough? I count four. Is there some penile insufficiency in operation here?

There is the name of the state, a silhouette of the state,
a Texas Ranger star, and the motto 'Don't mess with Texas' on the Texas state license plate.
Take It To the Bank

P.S. in Plano, TX, writes: I wanted to take a crack at giving at a more in-depth answer to yesterday's question from C.C. in St. Paul, because I really like the question.

First, what would happen is entirely different between "savings accounts" and "stocks." Stocks aren't "withdrawn," they are sold. And, in contrast to a bank deposit, no one is obligated to give you money for your stocks just because you want to close out. So, if everyone tried to sell their stocks simultaneously for market price, the first thing that would happen is that the stock market circuit breakers would trip and the exchanges would shut down. If everyone was still insane when the market reopened, there wouldn't be any problem with there being enough currency for people to cash out, because the stock market would crash to near-zero, and so everyone would be selling their stocks for something like $0.000001 per share. The economy would be fine, because Walmart's business prospects don't materially decline just because a bunch of idiots are trading its stock for 0.001% of what it's worth. All that would happen is that a lot of sellers would make extremely bad trades, and a lot of lucky buyers would get very rich very quickly. And, by the way, I never trade on margin, sell short, place stop-loss orders, or place market-price instead of limit orders, precisely because I know people can do incredibly stupid things, and I don't want to risk suffering financially because of fools.

The more interesting case is cash in banks. I know C.C. said to ignore runs on banks, but what C.C. is asking is "what would happen if there was a run on every bank?" And, what would happen is that every bank would simultaneously be in danger of bankruptcy. The problem with a run on a bank is, fundamentally, that they are obligated to give you your money back when you demand they do so, but they are not allowed to tell someone they lent money to that they have to pay it back sooner than the loan dictates. Normally, a bank can deal with higher-than-expected withdrawals by selling their mortgages to other banks, or to investors in the form of a mortgage-backed security, but if every bank is experiencing a run simultaneously, they won't be able to buy mortgages off each other. And if the stock market is simultaneously tanking, that rules out MBSes as well.

So, what happens? Well, if the government is acting purely reactively, the banks would go bankrupt, and the government, through the FDIC, would step in and pay out the deposits. Where would the government get the cash? The Federal Reserve would print it, but in a way which is close to how the government routinely operates. The Federal Reserve routinely prints money by purchasing something of value, traditionally a Treasury bond, and using that as collateral for printing the Federal Reserve Notes—cash—used to purchase that very thing of value. This makes sense because Federal Reserve notes are nominally debts of the Federal Reserve secured by its assets. In the COVID crisis, the Fed has taken to using corporate bonds as collateral instead of just Treasury bonds. In C.C.'s hypothetical crisis, no doubt the Fed would take ownership of all the mortgages and other assets from the bankrupt banks and use that as collateral, valuing them using some sort of formula instead of the then-insane market value. Whether this would be inflationary would depend on whether people spent all the money they withdrew (yes) or just stuffed it under their mattresses because they suddenly hated banks (no).

All good then, right? Of course not: Now there are no banks. How are people going to borrow money to buy houses or run businesses? Also, everyone's credit cards and debit cards just got canceled. This would plunge the United States, and the world, into a long, deep recession. So, in all likelihood, the government would proactively step in before the banks went bankrupt and make sure that didn't happen—just like it did in 2008. The government would lend the banks the money they needed to pay out the withdrawals. The banks would use their mortgages and other assets as collateral for the loans. The Federal Reserve would use the loans as the collateral for printing the cash used to make the loans. The Federal Reserve would try to figure out whether people had withdrawn their cash to spend it or put it under their mattresses, then would set the terms of the loans they issued to the banks in such a way as to encourage banks to make the appropriate amount of loans given whatever potential inflationary pressures there were from the mass withdrawals.

Term Limits Are So Limiting, Redux

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: I've been reading the fascinating debate about term limits on your site in recent weeks. I'd like to offer my perspective.

As you are well aware, the previous governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo (D), was embroiled in multiple scandals that ultimately led to his resignation in late August. As I have also mentioned here before, there are currently no term limits imposed for executive branch officials here. In fact, since 1982, three men have been each elected to three terms as governor: Andrew Cuomo, his father, Mario (D), and George Pataki (R). Had the younger Cuomo served out the remainder of this term, we would have had three men serve as governor for 36 out of the past 40 years, or 12 years per governor.

Term limits need to be imposed on executive branch officials, period. There comes a time when fatigue sets in on a given person, whether s/he has done a good or bad job in office. That's natural. Seeing the same person over and over again leading a state or nation begins to wear on the public. We begin to ask, "What else new does that person have to offer in terms of leadership? Is the tank getting empty on ideas and vision?"

Let me specifically make my argument using the Andrew Cuomo example. Over time, he appeared to be above everyone else in his leadership style, that it couldn't be questioned. His daily COVID briefings never seemed to end. Every day, he was saying something, even when the pandemic here in New York was under control. That was getting tiring for me and for many who once supported him. Hence, the fatigue setting in. Then came the scandals. Sexual harassment, book deals, nursing home deaths. Every time he was confronted with any of this, Cuomo appeared to brush it off or not take any responsibility. He also said that he would continue to serve as governor until the people voted him out. Had it not been for these scandals that drove him out, I'm pretty sure he would have been elected to a fourth term next year, and maybe a fifth in 2026. He would have been "governor for life," like Richard J. Daley declared himself "mayor for life" in Chicago. We don't have recalls here and this is a sapphire-blue state. Pataki was mainly elected because of fatigue with the elder Cuomo.

Had term limits been imposed before Andrew Cuomo became governor, he would have finished up at the end of 2018. With that, we most likely wouldn't have gone through all these scandals that consumed him and the state this past year. I don't know what the pandemic response would have looked like. Hopefully, it would have been like what actually happened, and nothing we've seen in red states (ahem, Texas and Florida).

As we've seen at the presidential level, term limits work! Every state needs to embrace the example set by George Washington when he voluntarily stepped aside after two terms. He knew that public service was only meant to be temporary, and leadership needs to be refreshed from time to time.

I've already contacted my state assemblywoman and state senator to express my thoughts on term limits and why they need to be imposed here immediately. The recent saga of Andrew Cuomo will hopefully be the catalyst to make it happen.

S.S. in Kansas City, MO, writes: To further your case against term limits, I would add that it's not just a theoretical argument that lobbyists would become even more powerful. We have ample empirical evidence from the many states that have implemented term limits on their legislatures. Sticking to the state I'm most familiar with, I can say that the State of Missouri's term-limits law has been disastrous. Our legislature is full of members that literally have no idea how government works, let alone how to govern. The American Legislative Exchange Council writes most of the significant legislation and our legislators often don't even know what is in the bills. And if you think I'm exaggerating, since term limits were imposed here, there have been several embarrassing examples of gross errors in bills making it into law. Any political reporter in Missouri will tell you the lobbyists essentially run the show in Jeff City.

Pivotal Years in World History, Part I

E.W. in Belton, TX, writes: J.T. in Greensboro suggested that 313 would be the key date to use in a world history class because of the Edict of Milan, turning Christianity into a political force.

There is a major problem with this idea: The Edict didn't really legalize Christianity. The legalization of Christianity first occurred in 259 under the reign of the Emperor Gallienus. What the 'Edict' of Milan did was only to restore property and other rights to Christians in the eastern portion of the Roman Empire, which was governed by Licinius. Constantine had made such a restoration in the territory he controlled several years earlier.

The significance of Gallienus' edict has not been well-explored yet. (It would make for a great dissertation topic.) What we can say is that the major events of the fourth century, like the 'Arian'-Trinitarian debates, were not prompted by any 'legalization' of Christianity. To what extent Christianity was a powerful political force is debatable, although the fourth century was certainly a turbulent period in church-state relations.

I would recommend the work of T.D. Barnes for further study in this area, especially his most recent work, which is Constantine: Dynasty, Religion and Power in the Later Roman Empire.

M.L. in Tiffin, OH, writes: I propose 1120, particularly November 25 with the sinking of the white ship, when the only son and heir of King Henry I of England dies. This set the stage for a succession crisis and the possibility of anarchy in England upon Henry's death in 1135, with a struggle between Matilda (can a woman rule a country?) and Stephen. This led to a deal where Stephen "won" but Matilda's son was named heir, which in turn led to arguably the most influential dynasty in England, the Plantagenets. And from there, the succession crisis of the War of the Roses, Bosworth Field, and eventually the Tudors. All because William was killed on a drunken mess of a sailing ship.

S.H. in Broken Arrow, OK, writes: I would have to argue in favor of 1346, the year that the disease that would become known as the Black Death came calling in Europe. Aside from the resulting population decrease, taking two centuries to recover from the disease was a factor in reducing feudal control over the masses.

J.L.J. in Falls Church, VA, writes: Certainly 1453 and the fall of Constantinople must be up there, as it led Vasco de Gama, Columbus, etc., to search for alternate routes for trade with the Orient.

D.G. in Silver Spring, MD, writes: The most pivotal year in world history was 1917, for it was in that year that the working class overthrew capitalism in Russia and came to power. Hitherto, throughout history visionaries had hoped for a world without exploitation (where the oppressors in whatever guise they appeared—slaveowners, feudal lords, priests, military leaders, landowners, bankers, or industrialists—needed to be replaced by those dedicated to peace and a good life for the exploited classes.) At long last the inexorable chain of governments based on power and greed was broken.

No matter what has happened in the century since 1917—the wars, wrong turns, and the collapse of the socialist system in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe—things can never go back to the way they were prior to the Bolshevik Revolution. The international working class and the oppressed people of the Earth know that if that chain of oppression has been broken before, it can be again.

Artistic Licenses, Part II

A.W. in Lincoln, MA, writes: I was interested to see that you didn't include any photographers in your list of visual artists. If we're limiting ourselves to "fine arts" photography vs. photojournalism, I might be hard pressed to think of anyone, but if you open the door to photojournalists, you have to consider Jacob Riis, Margaret Bouke-White and James Agee at the very least, for shaping Americans' awareness of and political responses to poverty, and Ansel Adams, for awakening people to the beauty of the American West. Which of course brings us to the central point: is journalism an art form, a craft, or something else?

M.K. in Portimão, Portugal, writes: Let me add Hamilton King. His elegant, popular illustrations of the Edwardian American female in advertising, notably for Coca-Cola and Turkish Trophies Cigarettes, defined an era, sold a lot of soda, and a started a (perhaps now un-P.C.) idealized female trope in advertising that lasted for decades.

The American Society of Illustrators holds an annual award for excellence in his memory and his work is held in the Metropolitan Museum.

I.H. in Washington, D.C., writes: You answered the question of who America's most influential artists are. No answer to that question is complete without the name of Viktor Schreckengost. Not only was Schreckengost America's premier industrial designer, he also created the signature objet d'art of the Art Deco period:

Schreckengost works on two pedal 
cars that have a lot of rounded corners, and big whitewall tires, and that look very 1940s

On the design front Schreckengost revolutionized trucks by creating the cab-over-engine design to save space on the roads. He invented the banana seat for the bicycle. His designs for Murray-Ohio were used to produce more than 100 million bicycle and pedal cars. He also created groundbreaking designs for printing presses, indoor fans, and lawn chairs, to name just a few products.

Schreckengost was also on faculty at the Cleveland Institute of Art for more than 50 years and founded its school of industrial design. Two notable students of his later held positions as the chief designer at Ford Motor Co. and the principal designer at Fisher-Price.

Schreckengost enlisted in the U.S. Navy at age 37 to help the Allies and used his design skills to refine the radar used at the Battle of the Bulge and to create prosthetics for wounded U.S. soldiers. He also sculpted "Apocalypse '42," which poked fun at the Axis dictators. The piece belongs to the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

As a fine artist, however, Schreckengost is most famous for designing the Jazz Bowl. There are multiple copies today, and one of them is the collection of the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. The design came about when Elenor Roosevelt, then the first lady of New York, requested a piece to be displayed at Hyde Park. Her husband Franklin was just about to run for president so she requested a copy that could be displayed in Washington, too. Inspired by a trip to New York City and the jazz clubs he visited, Schreckengost created the Jazz Bowl. Today the sgraffito masterpiece is considered the iconic objet d'art of the Art Deco period:

A black cereal-size bowl with a dark 
blue design that suggests the New York skyline

All credit to everyone else on your list, but Viktor Schreckengost belongs at the top.

H.R. in Cudahy, WI, writes: Worthy additions to the list of important American artists might include Milwaukee industrial designer Brooks Stevens, who designed everything from airplanes to major appliances to the Oscar Meyer Wienermobile. Another notable artist, perhaps less known, but special to me because I met him and he was my friend Jason's uncle, would be Chicagoan Art Paul, who was the first art director of Playboy Magazine, and designer of its bunny logo. Jason used to quip that whenever he saw the logo tattooed on some young woman's shoulder, he never found it sexy, as he would always just picture a balding, 85-year-old man.

B.K. in Bath, England, UK, writes: You'll surely get many emails about Edwards Hopper and Gorey now—I hope I'm first. In addition to the universally known "Nighthawks at the Diner," Hopper produced a huge number of other paintings in which the viewer and the subject of the painting are separated by a window, wall, railway line, or other, suggesting the loneliness of and the vastness of the nation he portrayed. Edward Gorey portrayed something else entirely, of course, and to this day nobody is quite sure what.

C.C. in Dallas, TX, writes: "We have met the enemy and he is us." That's Walt Kelly, creator of Pogo and denizen of newspaper op/ed pages long before Doonesbury, whose wordplay is unparalleled. His political cartoons covered environmental, social and governance issues a half century before these became corporate buzzwords. Writing mostly in a time when news was consumed in its paper form made him far more influential in his day than later 20th century political cartoonists. I'll concede that Charles Schulz' vast reach merits consideration, but to me, Schulz was more light entertainment with a message, as opposed to bringing matches and gasoline to the news of the day.

Honorable mention to Chuck Jones.

P.D. in Leamington, ON, Canada, writes: I would like to make a case for Leroy Nieman, who brought Americans to the joy of sport. Through his use of color and simulation of movement he mixed art with sports. Many people who are into sports may feel art is foreign to them, the same can also be said the opposite direction. Nieman, in mixing the two, opened up an appreciation of sport to those involved in art and showed the beauty inherent in sport. It may also have encouraged those in athletics to open their eyes to the joy of painting and art in general.

D.R. in Old Harbor, AK, writes: I would suggest Maya Lin—designer of the Wall, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. It originally was poorly received, but public tastes changed to accept, admire, and revere this symbol:

A segment of the Vietnam Memorial,
which is a large black marble wall with names of the dead inscribed in gold.

A Little Light Bondage

A.M. in Miami Beach, FL, writes: Very glad to see that in your reply to C.P. in Silver Spring, you remembered to include David Niven in your ranked order of Bonds. His portrayal seems closest to the character in Ian Fleming's novels, and was the actor, reportedly, that Fleming wanted in the role.

R.E. in Sarasota, FL, writes: The character was fictional, but the name was not. Ian Fleming appropriated it from an American ornithologist who died in 1989. According to Wikipedia, Ian Fleming wrote to Mr. Bond's wife and told her that "It struck me that this brief, unromantic, Anglo-Saxon and yet very masculine name was just what I needed, and so a second James Bond was born." The obituary in The New York Times, which I remember reading, had a somewhat different version of events in which he actually contacted the ornithologist. According to that obituary, and to Wikipedia, Fleming apparently added "I can only offer your James Bond unlimited use of the name Ian Fleming...Perhaps one day he will discover some particularly horrible species of bird which he would like to christen in an insulting fashion."

R.C. in Des Moines, IA, writes: L.G. in Thornton writes: "So maybe Bond-loving poll responders just wanted a believable character in the role." Seriously? A fictional movie character whose exploits are about 95% unrealistic? Good try, better luck next time.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: RuPaul would be perfect! If you have seen them (the only time I've ever felt this pronoun fits an individual) in an interview out of drag, it is not a stretch to describe them as suave and debonair. It blows my mind to think of a performer that could be their own "Bond Girl". If you wanted to decimate the Republican male base with cardiac arrest, include a scene where James Bond seduces ... wait for it ... a man.


T.H.W. in Marlboro, VT, writes: Your various comments on the rights of the audience to interpret works of art reminded me of a lecture given in my college Shakespeare class long ago. The professor offered a detailed and persuasive case that "Romeo and Juliet" was a commentary and a parody of a notorious English political conflict (I have forgotten all of the details). We were all fascinated and convinced that we now understood what "Romeo and Juliet" was "really about." At the end of the class, our professor revealed that the political events that Shakespeare had so cleverly disguised in the conflict between the Montagues and the Capulets had in fact taken place some dozens of years after Shakespeare's death.

L.E. in Putnam County, NY, writes: I disagree with your efforts to condone misinterpretation of art. I dislike when a work is altered in any way by an adaptation, and believe that all performances a play ever has should strive to be as identical as possible to what was in the mind of the playwright. (James Bond should match Fleming's descriptions as accurately as possible). Comic book "retcons" repulse me.

I realize that misinterpretation has a very successful constituency ("Gone With the Wind" was a very successful film with a leading lady disqualified by the first phrase of the novel). But I remain committed to the "tale told once" and responsibility never to budge from the form.

V & Z respond: But you are making our point. If you prefer the "original" texts, whatever you believe the originals to be, then that is your right as the audience. Our use of "interpretation" was not in the sense of "how the artist handled the material" but instead the sense of "how the audience thinks about the material." In other words, if you think David Niven was the best Bond, or that Bond is a symbol of British colonialism, or that "Casino Royale" is the only "true" Bond film, then the filmmakers have no right to tell you otherwise. It is not the artist's privilege to tell the audience what to take from their work.

E.K. in Brignoles, France, writes: Just a follow-up to your answer to J.M. in Silver Spring: Sometimes the content of a piece of art completely dictates my interpretation. Case in point: Blade Runner. In 1982, Warner Bros. imposed an awful happy ending to an otherwise brilliant movie. At the end of the day, Deckard wasn't a Replicant, Rachael could certainly procreate and they lived a happy life in the mountains (a landscape which, by the way, didn't fit at all with the rest of the movie). End of story. Our beloved Walt Disney could have written it.

But Ridley Scott was very unhappy, and tried several times to correct it (hence the five existing versions) and finally came up in 2007 with a gorgeous, mind-boggling Blade Runner: The Final Cut. This ultimate version, in essence, added one shot and suppressed the Warner-imposed final scene. The movie, then, was completely different to me. The final shot, the final line, the music from Vangelis immediately after the elevator's doors closed, and so on... this is just not the same movie. At all. Is Deckard human? Is he just fantasizing that he is something else than a Replicant? What's the point of trying to escape reality? And Rachael, obviously, is going to die—she just can't avoid her fate, that's the way it is.

My point is: I had no choice but to adhere to Scott's interpretation. A not terrible movie suddenly became an absolute masterpiece, very close to perfection. Just because Ridley Scott altered 4 minutes of his original movie. I didn't love the 1982 version, because of what the studio wanted me to think (not so much, by the way), but I adore and revere the 2007 version, because of what Ridley Scott wants me to think and feel.

More Pedagogy...

C.K. in Kailua, HI, writes: I'd like to give a shout out to J.T. in Greensboro, who wrote: "teaching can't be thought of as a way of just filling students' heads up with facts (what the famous pedagog Paulo Freire calls 'the banking model') but instead provide them with tools and habits of mind to forge their own intellectual trajectories (something like Freire's 'problem posing model')." I was a medical school professor for 30 years, teaching immunology to medical and Ph.D. students, and I am now happily retired. I always taught my students not to focus on memorizing facts. New facts will emerge as discoveries are made, and old facts will be re-interpreted in the light of new knowledge. A student who learns where to find—and how to interpret—newly emerging information in any discipline will become a lifetime learner.

If I may also add my personal experience to the gender stereotype debate (being one of the apparent minority of female readers of, I earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry, while my twin brother earned a Ph.D. in English. And my son (who teaches Human Geography in high school) taught me how to bake sourdough bread.

I.H., Meridian, ID, writes: I couldn't help but chuckle to myself regarding the comments from my academic colleagues J.T. in Greensboro and M.B. in San Antonio bemoaning the limited time they have each semester to cover their subjects of film and music history. Try teaching the history of the universe in a 15-week semester! That requires condensing 13.7 billion years of cosmic history, not to mention a potentially infinite amount of time into the future, into a 1-semester course. On the first day of class each semester, I tell my students that the universe represents the sum total of everything that was, everything that is, and everything that will be, and astronomy is the scientific study of the universe, so this will be the one class they take in college where they'll learn everything there is to know about everything...and we'll do it all in 15 weeks! I usually get a few of them to chuckle when I say that.

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: The comment from my fellow Greensboro resident J.T. that teaching should "provide them with tools and habits of mind to forge their own intellectual trajectories" really rang a bell with me. Many years ago,I had a 4-year career as a high school math teacher, before I decided I'd rather make a decent living than spend my life in debt. Often I was asked by students "when am I ever going to use this?". My answer was always that they probably would never use it. That there is no way a high school can teach students what they will need to know 10, 20, 30 years down the road, not the least since what they'll need likely doesn't even exist yet. However, we can teach you how to think and how to learn.

You may never again have to prove a geometric theorem, but by doing so you are learning how to think logically and how to proceed from a premise to a viable conclusion. You may never use trigonometry, but by learning it now you are developing the skills needed to learn a new and foreign topic which will be valuable in the future when you need to study and learn new things on your own. Finally, when you hear people talking about some complicated device or project and use mathematical terms, even if you no longer recall the details you'll at least understand what they are using in the process of creation instead of just accepting what they are saying from a position of ignorance.

This is what education is truly about and it's clear that's what you are doing with your students.

...and More Petagogy

B.C. in Forest Park, IL, writes: I very much enjoyed the "Petagogy" section of the mailbag on September 26. In these uncertain times, pets are a great source of solace, and seeing them on my favorite political blog (which I have been reading religiously since 2008), is even more comforting, as it demonstrates the omnipresence of our furry companions throughout our collective trials. I understand that your time is finite and "Petagogy" is outside the scope of your site, but you might considering making it a regular (or semi-regular) feature of the Sunday mailbag (in the same vein as Friday's Schadenfreude feature). To that end, I was hoping that my cat could get a (belated) shout-out for her 6th birthday (October 3rd). She is now proudly middle-aged!

But first, I would like to wish Otto a continued recovery and a long, healthy, happy life. I'm definitely a cat person, but I love other people's dogs, and I very much enjoy seeing them when I visit relatives.

Our cat, Rhysati, is named after a character from the Star Wars Expanded Universe (now referred to as "Star Wars Legends"), Flight Officer Rhysati Ynr, an elite X-Wing fighter pilot, call sign Rogue Seven. Our cat has already earned her "ace" status, with over a dozen housefly silhouettes painted on her (metaphorical) fuselage. (We live on the top floor of a mid-rise condominium. so we don't get many bugs.)

She is a real sweetheart who loves tummy rubs, plays fetch, greets us at the door when we come home, and is smart enough to pull off feats similar to Otto's theft of a bag of treats. After I feed her, she often goes to my wife in the other room and acts hungry, sometimes scoring a second dinner.

I propose an Otto/Rhysati presidential ticket. They both have the charm, the smarts, and Rhysati would have the cleanest vice-presidential hiney in American history. Bucket of warm p***? How about backside of zero s***!

Our incorrigible princess:

A very handsome gray cat lounging
in a kitty bed

V & Z respond: Happy birthday, Rhysati! Though Otto wants it understood that if you want to be on the ticket, you must agree you will "fix" the election results if they need fixing. And trust us, he knows all about what "fixed" means.

Notes on a Website

W.F. in Blairs Mills, PA, writes: My (obsessive) daily routine for two decades has been to drink morning coffee while reading electoral-vote. Due to unknown glitches on October 9 (Putin, perhaps?), it was 8 p.m. before I was able to sit down and receive your erudite thoughts. Instead of dark roast beans, I am now emptying a bottle of Bordeaux. What is the differentiated experience between reading your site on coffee versus wine? None. Either way it is absolutely enlightening, and entirely depressing. Cheers. My last glass to you both. Keep the words pouring.

V & Z respond: Good thing we didn't delay any longer. You might have been on to whiskey by then.

K.H. in Albuquerque, NM, writes: 5 billion people without Facebook for a day... meh.

Me without for 6 hours... OMG THE WORLD IS ENDING!

J.M. in New Glasgow, NS, Canada, writes: In the course of rewatching some old episodes of The Fairly OddParents, I happened across the perfect mascot: Norm the Genie. Watch for yourself:

He's beyond snarky, is suspicious of Canada, and abounds in tricky/inventive wordplay (hello Beetles contest). He checks all the boxes and you'd be paying tribute to the late great Norm Macdonald.

As Michael Scott would say, that's a win-win-win situation.


J.M.P in Asheville, NC, writes: You wrote: " can be pretty certain that [Sen. Ted] Cruz [R-TX] isn't actually the Zodiac. After all, the first killings took place...before the Senator was born."

My young adult children introduced me to the "Ted Cruz is the Zodiac Killer" meme five years ago and the absurdity of it is what makes it so much fun. So I was shocked—shocked!—to see you dismiss it so easily. The opportunities for snark are endless and I'm sure your readers would have no shortage of "evidence." So in the spirit of the Zodiac, I leave you with one of his infamous ciphers, which bears a striking resemblance to one of Mr. Cruz's 2016 campaign signs. Coincidence? I think not.

A Ted Cruz 2016 has been cut up 
and reassembled to say 'True Zodiac,' with the 0, 1, and 6 from '2016' serving as the O, I, and A in 'Zodiac.'

V & Z respond: You're right; we were foolish to dismiss the possibility so cavalierly. After all, he was born in Canada, so who knows what he's capable of?

F.S. in Cologne, Germany, writes: On Monday, (Z) wrote: "So, the lawsuit could give them cover to 'surrender' and give his account back to him. Probably a longshot, but you miss 100% of the shots you don't take, as Wayne Gretzky observed." So (Z), apparently for the first time in his life, agrees with something a Canadian said. THE PLOT finally succeeded. What comes next? Will (Z) reveal that he is a fan of the Chicago Bears? Does he think that USC is in every aspect much better than UCLA?

V & Z respond: Gretzky abandoned Canada for California. Clearly, he saw the light, which is worthy of respect. And the Bears and Trojans aren't ALL bad. They both have excellent taste in rivals, for example. So does Canada, for that matter.

M.C.A. in San Francisco, CA, writes: I don't buy Mitch McConnell as Slughorn because, in the end, good old Horace chose to work against the dark side. When has McConnell chosen to work with the other side on anything? In that respect, I see him the Minority Leader as Lucius Malfoy: someone who preserves his self-interest above all else, even if it means abandoning his side when loss seems imminent. Definitely a Slytherin, through and through.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: If Dolores Umbridge could shapeshift, she could be McConnell's alter ego. She's officious, devoted to state power, and bends instantly from legitimate government (Fudge's) to Voldemort's takeover of the Ministry of Magic. Besides, Horace Slughorn is a much nicer person than the minority leader.

V & Z respond: Yes, we wish now we'd gone with her. And don't forget that she also pulled strings to stack the Wizards' Supreme Court with friendly judges.

K.B. in Hartford, CT, writes: Fortunately, I was not sipping my coffee when I read "Sen. Lindsey 'Y.M.C.A.' Graham," or I'd be ordering a new keyboard for my tablet right now.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: "Ooohhh. Ooohhh. Ooohhh. Mr. Kotter, pick me. I know the answer!"

So is the reason you attached Y.M.C.A. to Lindsey Graham because you think he is a real Macho Man? (Silence broken by a repressed snicker which in turn is demolished with a long line of loud guffaws). Seriously, I can't even type that with a straight face. You two kill me!

V & Z respond: We just can't believe his military service was in the Air Force, and not...In the Navy.

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: You wrote: "[B]ut we submit it for your consideration."

Is that an oblique Twilight Zone reference? Do we get Rod Serling and Charles Dickens both in the same day?!?

V & Z respond: Yes, it was. We try to be a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind...

R.R. in Pasadena, CA, writes: You wrote: Both of (Z)'s grandfathers had full heads of hair to their dying days. What does that mean?

It means that (Z) is going to be the envy of the men in his nursing home, and very tired from all the women chasing him!

V & Z respond: What? No escape from that, even then?

M.M. Leonardtown, MD, writes: I believe the largest bill ever minted was the $1 trillion Truman bill. Whereabouts currently unknown, as its last known owner died in 2016.

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