Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Sunday Mailbag

The three most common subjects in the mailbag this week were the railroad situation, sedition and soccer. We assume the letters editor for The New York Times would have the same exact list. Right?

Railroaded

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: ´╗┐Thank you for J.G.'s thorough explanation of the plight of railway workers. I had no idea that they were stuck in 19th century labor practices. I have written to both the Biden administration and to Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) urging them to amend the 1926 Rail Labor Act to bring modern working conditions to this vital workforce.

Something lost on railroad management that every farmer used to know: One does not overwork and underfeed one's livestock, otherwise one will have no farm. American workers should be treated better than farm animals!



A.N. in Memphis, TN, writes: The contribution from the railroad union leader was among the most valuable things I've seen on the site since 2004. Thank you for publishing it.



S.J.G in Bainbridge Island, WA, writes: My grandfather left the farm in Minnesota before the turn of the last century and moved to the Seattle area. His first two jobs were working at Port Blakely Mill on Bainbridge Island, and then working as a longshoreman on the Seattle waterfront. When he ran into a former coworker who had moved on to working for Great Northern Railway, that friend suggested he apply for work with the Railway, but told my grandfather that if he applied for work there he should tell them he had just arrived in the northwest, fresh off the farm. The railroad didn't hire anyone who had any history of working where there was union activity. My grandfather took his advice and went to work for Great Northern, working his way up to being a locomotive engineer. When he was in his late 50's he slipped on ice, braced his fall with his hands and developed a blood clot and it caused a stroke. He survived but, after 30+ years working for the railroad, his working life was over.

Whenever an employee of Great Northern was a recipient of any sort of disciplinary action, the employee would be fired, then immediately re-hired. All their time on the job was erased and, for the sake of their benefits, they started from scratch. When my grandmother went to the Great Northern office to inquire about my grandfather's pension, the employee who looked up that information expressed shock, because my grandfather actually did qualify for a pension... of $50 a month. My grandfather was the exception because he had never had any disciplinary action in all his years of employment. Because the locomotive engineers' union was weak, my grandfather had joined the railroad firemens' union instead, which also paid him $50 a month. $100 a month during the Depression allowed them to live well and send my father and his brother to college.

In the last few weeks, it has been an eye-opener to me to find out how poorly railroad workers today are still treated. Sick leave is at least 75 years past due.



P.S. in Arlington TN, writes: The Railway Labor Act has been sticking it to workers for a very long time, but it is possible to have "stand-bys on call." As a member of ALPA—a pilot's union under the Railway Labor Act—we've managed to negotiate for "Reserve" as a part of every pilot union that I'm aware of. As a matter of fact, I start Reserve tomorrow night.

Reserve allows for paid sick leave and makes sure that flights are covered. As a pilot, I could get in a car wreck tomorrow and guess what? I won't be flying your airplane no matter what the work rules state. I could get COVID. I could have a stroke. Having pilots on reserve means flights are covered. Period.

Having paid sick leave for railway workers would clearly benefit workers and management. Hopefully Congress wakes up and realizes that.



T.G. in Fort Worth, TX, writes: I was not at all surprised by the signing of the bill stopping the railroad strike. As I look around the parking lot at work and see all of the MAGA stickers and other indicators of the union members' voting preferences these days, one has to wonder why they would expect anything different. They have left the Democrats and voted for the other side and their demographic is a key element to voting Trump into power in the first place. Now they are surprised they have lost any support. Who are they going to turn to now? The Republicans certainly won't help them. It was an easy calculation for Joe Biden to sign this into law. Those he upset the most by signing are already not voting for him.



A.F. in Scott County, IA, writes: You wrote: "As a general rule, strange as it may seem, the American public is quite hostile to organized labor."

For 30 years I have been saying that Ronald Reagan made it fashionable to bash labor.



M.O. in Deerfield, MA, writes: I found J.G.'s writeup to be, expectedly but unfortunately, very narrowly shaped to express facts only supportive of J.G's viewpoint. The report repeatedly talks about the four unions rejecting the contract and who they represent, but leaves out the eight unions that approved. Who do they represent? Why did they approve? I'm definitely interested in knowing more granular details such as: How many unions have to approve to get it accepted? How many members are represented by the approving side? How many by the disapproving side?

And here's the real question: Does anyone in railroading think the Republicans will be better for the unions' fortune? (If they do, I have some property in Florida to sell them.) That's something to truly think about when thinking about those political fortunes and if it's a good idea to try and hold them hostage.

If the railroad unions are such tireless advocates, why is the region of the country dominated by the central rail hub traffic so red? If the rail (or any other) union wants to see real change that helps them, then working on getting larger Democratic majorities is what is required. H.R. 149 won't even be offered, never mind have a chance at passing, in the next 2 years.

And don't get me wrong, I'm on the railroad unions' side here. My son almost went into railroad work (he's ended up being a trucker instead) and a good friend of mine lost the lower half of his right leg in an on-the-job railroad accident. Hard work now to get those Democratic majorities, and improved Democratic representation down ballot, will pay huge dividends for those unions when this contract expires.



D.A.Y. in Troy, MI, writes: In response to J.G. in Chicago, I have this to say:

I was raised in a union household. My father was in the U.A.W. and I am where I was because of the benefits they negotiated with General Motors. I likely have my hearing because of the health benefits as just an example. I say this because I want to make clear this comes from someone who believes unions, collective bargaining, and the power it gives to the American worker are something to fight for.

Yet, J.G.'s comments on Friday irritated me. It oozes of the bitterness that has been choking the life of the American middle class since before I was born.

We need to be frank here. President Biden and the Democrats in Congress did not make this decision lightly. This goes against everything Biden stands for. Yet it is what he, as the President of the United States, has to do for the good of the American people. A rail strike would be like America suffering catastrophic heart failure. J.G. even points out some of the early effects would be to water purification and energy as we enter winter. I thought we threw the former guy out because we wanted someone who would make the hard decisions for the good of the people even if it was politically inconvenient.

So, J.G. and the rail workers should not be mad at Biden and the Democrats in Congress. They also all voted (sans Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV) to give them the same 7 days of paid sick leave afforded to all federal employees and contractors.

If they should be angry at anyone, maybe they should vent their frustrations towards the people of Maine who once again allowed themselves be gaslit by Sen. Susan "Concerned" Collins (R, who did not vote for the sick leave by the way) or the other states that voted for Republican senators in 2020 despite being swing states. Booting Collins and another Republican would have given the Democrats 52 seats and the ability to ignore Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) in ending the filibuster and other agenda items. Then the paid sick leave would have passed (even with Manchin's "no" vote).

Blaming Biden for this would be like blaming someone for not helping you off the cliff because they are paralyzed and can't move. If we want more, we need more Democrats.

Politics

J.M. in Albany, NY, writes: I find it interesting how so many pundits (even data-informed and historically-savvy ones such as yourselves) have failed to recognize that many of the failures by Democrats this cycle (and beyond) are—like those of the Republicans—due to "candidate quality" issues. In the case of Democrats, it isn't generally due to them nominating some extremist clown who is unqualified for office, but nominating people who are perceived to appeal to some thin sliver of swing voters but utterly fail to energize the Democratic base.

The most extreme examples of this to be found are in Florida, which is now being called a "red state" despite the fact that the actual voting population of the state is still closely divided between the parties. Charlie Crist (D) failed to garner any momentum or significant Democratic support because he is barely a Democrat, and so the Democratic Party's base mostly stayed home out of lack of enthusiasm.

The same goes for Val Demings (D), whose campaign emphasized her centrist "appeal" as a tough-on-crime Black cop—a status that does not impress most of the Democratic Party's base, who were out in the streets by the millions barely two years ago in outrage at police unaccountability, racial profiling/systemic prejudice, and the deeply negative effects of "tough on crime" policies over the last half century. To imagine that Black support would coalesce around her simply because of her race is as "dumb" as the Republican assumptions around conservative candidates from marginalized groups you mentioned earlier in the same daily report.

If the Democratic Party is going to effectively compete in purple states, they are going to have to focus on candidates who can turn out their base, not laser-focus on picking up a few swing voters that only make a difference when both parties' bases are fired up and voting.



B.T. in Bonifay, FL, writes: Since we will have a divided Congress for the next 2 years here are some of the ideas for consumer issues I had that Democrats could pursue that might resonate also with Republicans and where good bills might put the GOP in a corner to vote against:

  1. Rural Internet Access: Internet access is practically a required utility, and major portions of the country barely have access, or the availability is monopolized and price-gouged. A bill to increase high-speed Internet for rural areas would be an infrastructure bill that would be hard to vote against.

  2. Consumer Protection: Why aren't Democrats holding hearings and dragging the energy sector CEOs in to explain high gas prices? Why can't farmers repair their own tractors? Even going and investigating the pandemic PPP loans program. These consumer protection issues resonate with the entire country and could force the GOP to engage or face the wrath of the their own supporters.

  3. Business Corruption and Monopoly Policies: Everyone can tell that the business sector of the nation is full of corruption and grift. Isn't it time to re-evaluate our policies on corporate monopolies and pseudo-monopolies to bring competition, innovation and efficiency back to the business sector? Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA) frequently goes viral when she puts CEOs on the spot, and makes them admit they raise prices for no purpose, engage in unfair trade practices and take lavish golden parachutes. Couldn't Democrats hold hearings about corporate abuses of the public the same way the GOP held hearing about the abuses of the IRS?


T.J.R. in Metuchen, NJ, writes: I am a bit perturbed by your description of Peter Thiel as a "billionaire German immigrant" The billionaire part is relevant to the story. But I don't see what is relevant to him being a German immigrant. I would also object to George Soros being described (in an article about his political donations) as a Hungarian immigrant. To my ears, that says "other" or "not American" and therefore "bad." I'm not saying it is not objectively true (though, since Thiel was 1 year old when his family immigrated, it would be fairer to say his family immigrated) and in a biographical article on him, it would be relevant. But not in this context.

I want to add that I think that Thiel is an enormously reprehensible character because of his political beliefs and how he chooses to act on them. Not because he was born in (then) West Germany, or because he's gay or because he's white or because he is a male.

V & Z respond: These days, Thiel is a xenophobe and a nationalist. Our point was that he's something of a hypocrite. It is at least conceivable that he got some of his political ideas from his parents.



M.A. in Montreal, QC, Canada, writes: The item "Do You Want to Have a Beer with Ron DeSantis?" included this quote about the governor: "Media consultant Rick Wilson says he is 'a strange no-eye-contact oddball.'"

It was near impossible for me to look strangers in the eyes up until my mid-twenties. I'm a functional person and I've resolved that since, but no doubt it came off as odd to those who noticed. The media consultant's shallow comment actually makes me sympathize with DeSantis.



A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: Do You Want to Have a Beer with Ron DeSantis?

Only if I can pour a pint of Bud (or Coors, or Miller) Light over his pointy little head. I would never waste an Oregon Craft Brewed IPA on the odious little a**!

All Politics Is Local: Georgia

A.H. in Midland, GA, writes: I live in Georgia and have been living through 6 straight months of advertising hell. I once wondered if people were being hyperbolic about how annoyingly ubiquitous political ads can be in swing states like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Having now lived through three election cycles in one of the hottest swing states, I can confidently say that I would not wish this hell upon my worst enemies.

Anyway, on to the real purpose of this comment. First off, I do not watch television. My family has a cable box, but I don't have one in my room. So, in that regard, it is a small mercy that I am not inundated with even more political advertisements. Of course, since we live in the information age, I get a healthy dose of political advertisements when I watch videos on YouTube or shows on a streaming app.

In regard to Sen. Raphael Warnock (D-GA), the ad that I've seen the most over the past month mostly has him walking a cute little dog (I think a beagle) while talking to the camera and asking why Herschel Walker (R) hasn't bothered to actually tell Georgians what he'll do in the Senate, even though every other state has finished voting. The second most common one, I'll get to later. It's interesting.

For Walker (at least I think it's from the Walker campaign), the ad that I've seen the most of over the past week stars our illustrious governor, Brian Kemp (R-GA), and claims that Walker stands for Georgians and won't be a rubber stamp for Joe Biden (featuring a scary black-and-white image of Warnock and Biden tapping elbows).

Going back to Warnock, the previous most common ad featured Republican voters who couldn't bring themselves to vote for Walker. They spoke to his lack of qualifications and his history of lying. One voter was an older woman who said she was proud to have voted for Brian Kemp.

(Z) wrote that Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan (R-GA) couldn't bring himself to vote for either candidate and posited that Duncan's reticence may portend slightly depressed turnout from Republican voters. This made me wonder if the ad featuring Kemp's full-throated support for Walker prompted the Warnock campaign to adjust their ad strategy.



F.C. in DeLand, FL, writes: For Thanksgiving this year, my family met up in Hilton Head, SC. If you look at a map, you'll notice that Hilton Head is very near Savannah, which meant I got to watch the political ads. Luckily, most of my time was with my family, not watching television.

However I have to say that there was one ad that ran on Thanksgiving itself that was surprisingly non-confrontational. Raphael Warnock had a "be thankful" ad, which was a refreshing change of pace.

For some reason, the vast majority of ads I saw were Warnock ads. I don't know if the Savannah market wasn't worth spending money on for Walker, if the shows I was watching weren't good shows for Walker, if Walker didn't have the money, or if my sample was too small. But it meant that I saw mostly Warnock attack ads on Walker.



R.S. in Savannah, GA, writes: I spent 2 hours in line, not a single Walker/MAGA voter in sight. Same south of here. This is not neck and neck. This is not "tied." Maga world has learned the trick of flooding the zone with junk rent-a-polls to skew the polling average. Y'all in the polling business have to figure out a solution for this chicanery. Raphael Warnock is destroying Herschel Walker at the ballot box. Get that last seat out of the "tied" category!



D.S. in Dunwoody, GA, writes: I live in DeKalb County, which broke for the Democrats by quite a bit in the midterms.

Enthusiasm here is high with early voting lines every day this week when I drive by the library.

I don't see any evidence that Democrats are sitting this runoff out.



B.W. in Suwanee, GA, writes: Just finished early voting for the runoff here in Georgia. I don't recall exactly what day or time I voted in the midterms but it paled in comparison to the turnout I saw today. There was no line to vote in the midterms and today it took me almost an hour and that was getting there at around 1:00 p.m. in the hopes of missing the lunch crowd. Oh, and again, no armed poll watchers!



D.C. in South Elgin, IL, writes: If the awful happens, and Raphael Warnock loses the runoff election to the Werewolf of Athens, you will need to retire your trope of "you cannot beat somebody, with nobody."

All Politics Is Local: Other States

S.C-M. in Scottsdale, AZ, writes: I was a Kyrsten Sinema supporter in 2018. I can no longer be that due mainly to her attention-seeking antics as well as her scuttling important legislation. If Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) called me for financial support tomorrow, I would gladly open my not very thick wallet.

She has always been a flashy showboat with some peculiar fashion choices. She is very intelligent, but I think she misread the Arizona electorate very badly given the results of the 2022 election where the Democrats are likely to take the trifecta [Ed: triplex] and keep a contested Senate seat. I really think she thought Arizona was more red-purple than blue-purple and she positioned herself to thread that needle. If the Democrats had lost the trifecta and the Senate seat, her strategy would have been seen as brilliant.

She has really irritated and turned off a lot of Democrats without picking up the support of many moderate independent and Republican voters. Recent polls show this to be the case. She does have some time to right the ship and maybe being less of a swing vote in the Senate if Raphael Warnock wins in Georgia may help her fend off a primary challenger.

One point in her favor is she has consistently voted for federal judges which, in these times, is quite important, but not a particularly compelling issue to base an entire campaign on.



L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: The Hill article you linked to said that Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) won two races for the Senate by "very narrow margins." Well, she won in 2012 51.4% to 45.9% over the popular four-term governor Tommy Thompson, and then won in 2018 55.4% to 44.6%. I realize it's a very good bet that the staff mathematician is indisposed, but as an actuary I can take up the banner and report that those translate to 5.5% and 10.8% margins. While The Hill may consider those to be very narrow margins, I do not!

Sedition! Sedition!

K.E. in Newport, RI, writes: The prosecution of the Oath Keepers is by far the most important case of the 1/6 investigation to this point, and not only for the reasons you noted. There are other dimensions to the case that merit attention. The case will have a profound impact on efforts to fight extremism in U.S. institutions and it will put Republicans on the defensive going forward.

First of all, it is not commonly known that the Oath Keepers recruit heavily from ex-law enforcement and military. Research indicates that hundreds of police and military members have joined the ranks of the Oath Keepers. I wrote to you shortly after 1/6 saying I thought some of the police present were sympathizers of the insurrection because they engaged in tactics that go against police training (such as turning your back to people with weapons). Most of the officers did the best they could and acted admirably, but I feel they would have been much more aggressive if the attackers had been 3,000 Pakistani jihadists.

The case must be a wake-up call to the Biden Administration that there is a problem with extremism in law enforcement and the armed services. I believe over the next 2 years they will escalate efforts to root out people with seditionist beliefs in these institutions. However, they need to also do a lot more to offer veterans and retired police social support to prevent them falling under the sway of militias. Many times, retirees are looking for a new identity to replace the strong group identity provided in the armed forces and police forces. Militia groups exploit their quest for identity and recruit them into their group.

Another important dimension to the case is the political aspect. For over a year, Republicans have tried to downplay the insurrection, saying it was simply a protest that got out of control and the offenses were minor. For instance, on Fox, commentator Laura Ingraham said that since there were no charges for sedition or insurrection, Democrats were hyping the seriousness of the attack. However, a jury disagreed last week, and said yes, there was a seditious conspiracy. So the GOP is going to shift its talking points now that events have contradicted them. I believe the Republicans will have a much harder time going forward trying to downplay the insurrection.



A.S. in Lenora Hills, CA, writes: Occasionally I look at Fox to see how they're covering a story as compared to the sites I regularly read. We already know that Fox likes to provide a distorted reality, but today was a particularly striking example. The first jury conviction of seditious conspiracy for January 6 was an above-the-fold story on CNN, The Washington Post, The New York Times, and even The Wall Street Journal, but Fox had nothing. Not just lack of headlines—no story anywhere on the site. Even searching their site for the topic, the most recent related story is from a week ago.



M.K. in Sacramento, CA, writes: I came across this chilling description of life with Stewart Rhodes as recounted by his eldest son in the BBC and thought it would be of interest to your readers. For anyone who has had the misfortune to closely encounter anyone like Rhodes, much of the article will be grimly familiar. I wish his son and other family members peace and healing.



D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: Thanks for getting "Tradition!" stuck in my head! "Fiddler on the Roof" was one of my favorite films as a kid. So it was fun to watch the linked clip (and it reminds me that I really need to rewatch the entire film soon). While Tevye might not approve, I had fun singing "Sedition! Sedition! The Oath Keepers! The Proud Boys! Sedition!"

But now that I think about it, didn't Randy Rainbow already do this? Ah well, as I always say, "procure" from the best!

V & Z respond: Yes, he did. And you would not believe how many people wrote in to remind us of that fact. Either he has a very large audience, or else his audience overlaps a lot with ours.



J.B. in Arlington, VA, writes: You wrote, "...they took significant and potentially violent steps to try to overturn a presidential election... So, where was his "quick reaction force" as it awaited orders to deploy? Why, at a Comfort Inn in Arlington, VA, of course. Presumably they took their meals at a Cracker Barrel, and had a fleet of Subarus ready to carry them into battle."

A few things:

  1. It was not "potentially violent." It was actually violent. The definition of seditious conspiracy requires violence, so that is now a fact proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

  2. There are no Cracker Barrels in Arlington. We have diverse and interesting local dining options. They must have brought MREs.

  3. Subaru has a dedicated following among progressives. The convicted felon describes himself as descended from GM auto workers, so I would assume they drive 80/90's Chevy's from the era when U.S. carmakers' business models consisted of jingoistic advertising and xenophobic lobbying rather than quality manufacturing.

I would hasten to add that one should not judge all Yale law graduates or GM auto workers harshly, as most of them are good people.

V & Z respond: As with Randy Rainbow, we also got a large number of e-mails on the Subarus bit. For what it is worth, that was based on the last line of this Saturday Night Live skit.

This Week in Trumpworld

P.V. in Kailua, HI, writes: In your response to D.T. in San Jose, you wrote: "But really, the best option for [Ron] DeSantis (or any other non-Trump Republican nominee) would be to try to find a way to make Trump a part of the team." You mention an offer of a Federal pardon, money, or patronage job as possibilities for ensuring this outcome. I would bet real money against any of those things happening. An agreement of this type would require that Trump keep his mouth shut about any number of topics and take a backseat to the nominee. That is just never going to happen. Trump is addicted to being the center of attention. That addiction will outweigh love of money and power. It will outweigh fear of prison. Even if Trump were to agree to such a deal, any Republican savvy enough to have a shot at getting nominated is also savvy enough to know that Trump is not to be trusted. I can't think of anything the party could do that would guarantee he toes the line.

You also write, "So, if he makes it to the primaries, and he's not winning, he's very likely to launch a third-party bid." Though I might not bet real money against this, I think it's unlikely. Running as an independent would take a lot of logistical work and he is fundamentally lazy and disorganized. I expect that as soon as someone else officially declares their candidacy, Trump will begin talking about how the RINOs and Democrats are conspiring to steal the nomination from him. If he loses, he will claim that he is a victim of cheating and declare victory anyway. This has been his strategy since the 2016 Iowa caucus.

DeSantis may be at the height of his power now, but it's not going to be enough to overcome Trump. In my opinion, the best option for DeSantis (or any other non-Trump aspiring Republican nominee) is to only run after Trump ceases to be the de facto head of the Republican Party. That means waiting until Trump is dead or seriously incapacitated by illness. Even if he is incarcerated, he will still find a way to command the hardcore MAGA forces that make up a significant percentage of Republicans. For the time being, the party is stuck with Trump and so is everyone else.

In general, the future is uncertain but Trump is absolutely predictable. Trump will be the nominee or he will burn the Republican Party to the ground. Saying this brings me no joy. Whatever the specifics of the situation, as long as Trump can communicate his desires to his supporters, U.S. politics will continue to be poisonous. We can hope that things won't become worse than they already are—but that's a bet I wouldn't take.



J.D. in Rohnert Park, CA, writes: Even before Donald Trump's 2016 election, I consulted a few psychology books (including the DSM-V) to understand the mental arc of a grandiose sociopath. I predicted that as Trump ran up against the limits of his power, he would decompensate into paranoid delusions, and that's what I believe is happening now. Why isn't anybody saying outright that he is increasingly mentally ill, enveloped by his own dying delusions of grandeur and omnipotence?

V & Z respond: And you sent this to us BEFORE he called for the Constitution to be canceled.



R.M.S. in Lebanon, CT, writes: Following up on my question from yesterday, I wanted to share this great clip from The Jimmy Kimmel Show:



I feel it perfectly captures the hyperactive paranoia driving Mike Lindell's activism. I think it also accurately depicts how much disdain right-wing nationalists, particularly Christian nationalists, have for their fellow countrymen. Yes, Lindell really did say he has enough proof to justify imprisoning 300 million Americans. You have to wonder why people who claim to be patriotic and wrap themselves in the American flag view so many people in this country as criminals. If they really like the country, why do they have such a negative opinion about so many of its people? Why do they presume people are guilty of crimes instead of giving them a presumption of innocence as we are supposed to? I think it's scary and also a bit sad that he thinks this way.



G.W. in Oxnard, CA, writes: In the item "Trump Dined with Holocaust Denier Nick Fuentes Last Week," you wrote about Trump dining with antisemites, a white supremacist, and a bigot. I fail to see the issue. Every dinner Trump has been at has included an antisemite, a white supremacist, and a bigot. There is rarely a competition for the worst person at the table when Trump is in attendance.

V & Z respond: In other words, to paraphrase John F. Kennedy, the Fuentes-Ye dinner was the greatest concentration of bigotry ever seen at Mar-a-Lago, except for when Donald Trump dines alone.

A Gay December

H.R. in Jamaica Plain, MA, writes: I thought I'd send some further insights on the history of same-sex marriage, from the prospective of a lesbian who has been together with her partner since 1986. The issue first burst onto the national stage when the Supreme Court of Hawaii ruled that same-sex marriage was probably legal under the Hawaiian constitution in 1993 (Baehr vs. Lewin). Three Hawaiian couples had sued to obtain marriage licenses and the Hawaiian Supreme Court ruled that it was likely discriminatory (on the basis of sex) not to provide these couples with licenses and sent the case back to a lower court for trial. At the time, I can remember an interesting analysis (predating the Gallup study you mentioned) that showed that opposition to same-sex marriage across the country was very age-related, with support growing the younger the cohort was. As further evidence, it was pointed out that on the Hawaiian Supreme Court that made the 1993 ruling, the two justices who wrote the opinion were 52 and 46 years old and a third justice who wrote a concurring opinion (resulting in a majority) was 55. In discussions of this case and other same-sex marriage cases within the LGBTQ+ community, it was clear that rather than being unthinkable, it was only a matter of time until the majority of Americans would support this right. However, the immediate reaction to the ruling was the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and numerous states who amended their constitutions, including Hawaii, to exclude same-sex marriage.

My partner and I were part of a large movement of lesbians choosing to have children that started in the 1980s. Our children were born in 1987 and 1991 and we knew dozens of other lesbian-headed families in our community having children around the same time. A movement of gay men choosing to have children followed. While I have only anecdotal evidence, I've long believed that these families becoming more and more common in schools and communities across the country also helped to normalize families headed by same-sex couples and helped to grow support for same-sex marriage. One thing that became clear to me very early on was that having a child, for me, meant being "out" everywhere. When our first child was only a few weeks old, while shopping in a Sears, a lady who was oohing over the baby was surprised when my partner came up with the stroller, prompting the lady to ask "Whose baby is it?" I replied, "both of ours" as we walked away, because I didn't want to ever communicate to our child that there was anything "wrong" or "secret" about having two mothers.

From that point on, we found ourselves explaining about our family, in positive terms, in many different settings. At the same time, it was clear, over and over, that our rights, and those of our children, were in possible jeopardy due to our lack of legality. Shortly after the same-sex marriage ruling in Hawaii, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that unmarried-second-parent adoption was legal in Massachusetts (Adoption of Tammy). This case allowed my partner and I to establish a legal parental relationship with both of our children and lowered our legal jeopardy quite a bit. Ten years later, we were able to legally marry in Massachusetts after a ruling by the Supreme Judicial Court (Goodridge vs. Dept. of Public Health) that was pretty similar to the Hawaii ruing from 10 years earlier and after six months of contentious debate in the Massachusetts legislature about whether to amend the state constitution that resulted in no legislative action. However, we were still considered to be unmarried by the federal government, due to DOMA. Among other things, this meant that we filed taxes jointly in Massachusetts, but separately for U.S. taxes. That changed in 2013 with the United States vs. Windsor Supreme Court ruling striking down DOMA's lack of federal recognition of same-sex marriages. We are happy to have lived long enough to see the Respect for Marriage Act pass the Senate this week.

I hope these details will be of interest to your readers. One thing I'm wondering about is which other political issues have the age-related pattern that same-sex marriage had back in the early 1990s. What issues of today might be solved just by the inevitable dying off of older folks? At 73, I probably won't live long enough to find out, but I'd be interested in what the age-cohort data might reveal about this question.

History Matters

R.D.T. in Fresno, CA, writes: The mention, by R.H. in Santa Ana, of General Dan Sickles and his presence at the White House when Mary Todd Lincoln's sister, who had lost her Confederate general husband in battle, triggered a memory. I thought the name was familiar, and indeed I had heard of Gen. Sickles.

Only 4 years earlier, Congressman Sickles had murdered his wife's lover, Philip Barton Key, son of the composer of "The Star-Spangled Banner," and had been acquitted at trial. The general's complaint about Mrs. Lincoln's "disloyal" sister seemed rather out of place considering his earlier behavior, and I have to compliment the President on having no worries about telling off his guest.

V & Z respond: Sickles was a notorious character/sleazeball. That murder case is also well known as the first time a defendant escaped a murder charge based on a defense of temporary insanity.



D.H. Lisbon Falls, ME, writes: History loves to attack James G. Blaine. Yet, an important aspect of Blaine's record that should not be overlooked was his commitment to civil rights. A traditional Lincoln Republican from the beginning, he strongly supported Republican efforts to protect the rights of Black Southerners, helping pass the Enforcement Acts during the Grant presidency that fought Democrat KKK terrorists. When President Hayes pushed for lenient measures, Blaine resisted and would oppose efforts by Democrats to weaken the Enforcement Acts the Republican-led Congress had passed.

In numerous ways, Blaine is reminiscent of Hillary Clinton. He was a highly influential figure in his party and rose to be a senator, he faced a candidate with personal scandal, the highest post he got in the federal government was Secretary of State, and ethics issues regarding his correspondence resulted in his defeat.



L.E. in Putnam County, NY, writes: However well Theodore Roosevelt's and Franklin Delano Roosevelt's branches of the family got along, they are both genealogically junior (descended from younger brothers of the ancestor) to the branch that is now in the tow-truck business.



M.F. in Oakville, ON, Canada, writes: It is perhaps worth noting that the Royal Visit of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939 was also the first visit of a reigning monarch anywhere beyond Europe, and the visit to the U.S. was preceded by a tour across Canada. I'd suggest, therefore, that the 1939 visit was as much about improved transportation and communications infrastructure as it was about warm relations between the U.S. and the British Empire.

And knowing your taste for the absurd, I thought you would be amused by the CBC Radio commentary transcript of when the King and Queen arrived in Winnipeg, Manitoba and were greeted by Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, along with Winnipeg Mayor John Queen and his wife:

Mr. King is now shaking hands with the King and introducing Mr. Queen to the King and Queen and then Mrs Queen to the Queen and King. They are now proceeding up the steps to the well-decorated City Hall, the King and Mr. King together and the Queen being escorted by Mr. Queen. The King has now stopped and said something to Mrs. Queen and goes to Mrs. Queen and the Queen and Mr. King and the Queen laughed jovially. The King leaves Mr. King and goes to Mrs. Queen, and the Queen and Mr. King follow behind...

V & Z respond: Roger, Roger. What's our vector, Victor?

It's All Catholic to Me

P.M. in Edenton, NC, writes: One individual you did not mention in your response to B.P. in Pensacola is Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano. While I do not know if Nick Fuentes "uses" him in any way, I would not be at all surprised. Viganò has been a persistent headache not only to Pope Francis, but also to many mainstream Catholics. He is much a Trumpist as a (still-)consecrated Catholic bishop can be, and dabbles in any number of conspiracy fantasies, from COVID-19 topics to "the deep state is out to get Trump" to the New World Order and the Great Reset, among many others—and, additionally, Viganò has strongly suggested that both the mainstream Roman Catholic Church and Pope Francis may not be legitimate.

My spiritual director, a retired Monsignor who was ordained in 1975, has had to contend with all kind of wackadoodle questions from decent and well-intentioned parishioners about the Church which have originated from Viganò's statements, and published by one of his main cheerleaders, LifeSiteNews. As the readership knows, I am a very devout Catholic who was a serious candidate for priesthood formation in the seminary, and I consider Viganò's rhetoric and websites such as LifeSiteNews to be far more dangerous to both the Church and society at large than any sedevacantist (or similar) sect, as this type of extremism is still (for now) within the structure of the (largely sane) Roman Catholic Church culture, and were it to achieve prominence, it could cause a serious issue for freedom all over the world.



D.C. in Portland, OR, writes: Your brief review of the various spin-offs from Catholicism reminded of this classic scene from The Life of Brian:



Soccer...

F.L. in Denton, TX, writes: To P.L. in Groningen: Congratulations to the Oranje. The U.S. should have sent the U.S. women's team in with fake mustaches. You wouldn't have stood a chance!

The thing is, male athletes in the U.S. go where the money is, and as pointed out, that would be (American) football, baseball, basketball, hockey, and tennis (in my view, golfers are not athletes). And yes, soccer is slowly growing—by some estimates, at 2% per year. But when you're at 5% market share, and the other sports are also growing, you're losing ground.

Soccer just doesn't get the air time. Except (and this is where politics comes in)...

Title IX passed in '72 (under Richard Nixon). It ruled that, basically, for every university athletic scholarship dollar given to a male, one has to be given to a female. Of course, we have an enormous pool of talent to draw from and soccer is quite popular with the girls, especially with stars like Mia Hamm, Megan Rapinoe, and (my granddaughter's fave) Alex Morgan as role models. Also, the USWNT recently reached a settlement for equal pay. So, yeah... politics.

Oh, and best of luck against Argentina.



R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: I agree with your answer to the question from P.L. in Groningen about the popularity of soccer in America. And I have a few more thoughts.

I'm 55 and recall a time when there was no MLS or NWSL and soccer could not be found on American TV. And then FIFA did the unthinkable, staging the 1994 World Cup in the U.S. It had the intended effect of igniting interest. I attended the Switzerland-Colombia match in the Pontiac Silverdome. This match was significant for two reasons. It was the first-ever FIFA sanctioned soccer game staged indoors. Somehow they grew grass under the dome and kept it alive for a couple of weeks. The other item of significance was that Switzerland won the match 1-0 on an own-goal and the Colombian defender who put the ball into his own net was subsequently assassinated upon returning home. It's a sad story but one that highlighted how seriously people around the world take their fútbol.

But I digress (because I like these stories). Since 1994, there has been an explosion in youth soccer. A very high percentage of Gen Z and younger Millennials participated in youth soccer (including all three of my kids). It's an inexpensive sport with little barrier to entry. All you need is a pair of cleats and a ball. Fast forwarding to today, there is a large percentage of the American population who are fluent in and interested in soccer because they played the game as kids. The best leagues are in Europe so the games are in the morning or afternoon in the States. So following the top league in professional soccer doesn't get in the way of also following American sports due to the time difference. I know many people who have favorite European teams that they follow (my son is a West Ham fan). They might watch soccer in the morning, football in the afternoon, and basketball or hockey at night. And the MLS offers a local team to visit for live matches. (I like to think of the MLS to be equivalent to professional European hockey; it's where the second tier of talent comes to play).

Soccer will likely remain fifth behind baseball, football, basketball and hockey in terms of team sports in the U.S. What differs between now and my youth is the notion of 5 big team-sport leagues in America. In my day, it was only 4.



J.S. in York, PA, writes: Having watched my son's soccer playing, I find myself enjoying the World Cup this year. I found the end of the U.S./Iran match quite captivating. However, I would love to introduce soccer to the concept of the clock having a start/stop switch. They have discovered this button in basketball, football (sometimes), and hockey... come on, guys, you can do it!



M.P. in San Francisco, CA, writes: In regards to your list of reasons why soccer will never catch on as a top-tier sport in the U.S., I would add another reason, and that is the way ties are broken in soccer games. In a typical soccer game, a 0-0 final result is acceptable, whereas U.S. sports fans want clearly defined winners no matter what. At the tournament level in soccer, ties are broken with a penalty shootout, which reduces the outcome of the entire game to a series of five goal kicks. To this American spectator, the penalty shootout makes the previous 90 minutes of play seem rather pointless, as if it would have been easier to have staged the shootout from the get-go and saved everyone's time and trouble.



P.A. in Columbus, OH, writes: I feel compelled to point out that soccer is, among my age bracket [twentysomethings], the third most popular spectator sport after basketball and football, and among younger Zoomers challenges football for second place in urban and coastal areas, and is likely the most popular sport to play by some distance.

Track youth participation. Track the spending in MLS. Track eyeballs on Premier League, Champions League, and top-level national team matches. All point to soccer sharing the title with basketball as this century's sporting obsessions.

(Z) usually nails these cultural trends, but this one feels like a miss. The game might not be an instant match with American sporting legacy tastes, but it is simply an irresistible global juggernaut at this point.



J.E. in New York City, NY, writes: You mentioned a number of reasons why soccer (aka fútbol) might not have caught on here in the U.S., but let me offer some other dynamics at play.

First, I don't think it's quite correct to call soccer a niche sport. I work in a school in New York City, and the population of kids who come from countries with a soccer tradition is rather high (interestingly, many of these kids are from the Dominican Republic and I was rather surprised to find how many were not interested in baseball, given the stature of the sport there, but are interested in soccer or basketball).

In any case, what I notice here anecdotally is that soccer is quite popular among children of immigrants, especially those from outside Europe, and that may mean that in the future, soccer could gain some ground. While most Americans associate soccer with the middle and upper middle class, the fact is there is quite a following among working-class schools, at least in New York City.

That said, there is not that following for US-based teams, which I think is partly because of the very association soccer has with suburban schools. Certainly when I was in junior high school some 40 years ago, soccer was very much a private school activity, or for public schools in wealthy suburbs. That has changed, but the marketing for U.S. soccer teams hasn't, as far as I can tell.

I don't think that soccer replacing any of the big four is imminent, though I suspect that a decade from now it may be a bigger deal than it is currently. It would require that MLS focus a lot of marketing on, for example, working-class communities. It would require that colleges and universities invest in it, and cities to make bigger investments in open space. I don't see any of those things happening but I could be really wrong; maybe there's a lot behind the scenes that I have missed.

...And Hockey

L.M. in Tampa, FL, writes: I'm writing to correct something in your item about Pat Maroon. Fact is, according to the NHL's website, he's not 6 feet, and 238 lbs, he's 6'3" and 234 lbs.

Here are my credentials: I'm an immigrant from Montréal, Canada, now a U.S. citizen, living in Tampa. I am a former fan of the Montréal Canadiens, but a fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning since I moved here in 1997.

(Evidently, you can take the boy out of the country, but... you can't take the hockey fan out of the boy.)

Pat Maroon is what we used to call "un boeuf," when I lived back in Montréal. That's literally "a beef," but it means a great big strong player who will protect your star players from aggressive intimidation, if it becomes necessary. He does that job very effectively, and even adds a little bit to offense. No-one is asking him to be a scorer. He's a good defensive forward. Not only that, given how he handled the insult about his weight, he's a class act.



J.R. in Boston, MA, writes: I had a comment about your item on Jack Edwards today. I'm a big Bruins fan and am very familiar with him. I don't think he's a right-wing Trumper. I agree with you that the "body shaming"comments regarding Pat Maroon were out of place, but Edwards is definitely not right wing—he's a union supporter, and has made strong statements against Alex Jones. I'm not sure if you're a hockey fan, but Maroon is part of a dying breed: the enforcer type. His penalty minutes far exceed his point production, and he has had some nasty fouls in the past against Bruins players. I think that was he source of Edwards' negative comments about Maroon.

V & Z respond: That was written at the very end of a long night (and a long day), and was clearly off the mark. Several readers wrote in to tell us.

Be the Change You Want to Be?

E.W. in Silver Spring, MD, writes: A few months ago there were a series of comments about how politics had become so extremely stressful that people wanted or needed to take a break. In the wake of the election I went looking for a book that was optimistic about What I found was Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman, and towards the beginning of the book, was this paragraph:

I was raised to believe that the news is good for your development. That as an engaged citizen it's your duty to read the paper and watch the evening news. That the more we follow the news, the better informed we are and the healthier our democracy. This is still the story many parents tell their kids, but scientists are reaching very different conclusions. The news, according to many dozens of studies, is a mental health hazard.


M.C. in Friendship, ME, writes: T.S. in Memphis wrote: "There's a song I've sung at church, 'Let There Be Peace on Earth,' and the next line was 'and let it begin with me.'"

An old friend in Tucson, AZ told me this story, when I was in high school:

When I was a young man, I set out to save the world. After a while I realized that it was too big a job for one person and I decided to focus on saving my country. Eventually I saw that even that was too much for me and that I should concentrate on saving my state. Time passed and I saw that I couldn't save my state all by myself; saving my town was the best I could handle. In time it became evident that saving my town was beyond my abilities so I decided to just work on my family. Now I'm old enough to see that I can't even save my family. But if I can save myself, maybe I can save the world.
Gallimaufry

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: Thanks for Rhymember! I'm doing my best to contribute. Currently working on an epic poem—think "Paradise Lost"—about the life of Roger Stone, and a poem about 1/6 inspired by Coleridge's "Kublai Khan": I wake up from an opium-induced dream and I have forgotten how the story ends. I intend to do a sonnet on Alex Jones, but I haven't been able to decide whether the form will be Petrarchan, Spenserian, or Shakespearean. I've got an idea that I haven't fleshed out yet: the Proud Boys, as told by T.S. Eliot, à la "The Wasteland."

V & Z respond: It all sounds very Rhymemorable.



R.J.J. in San Francisco, CA, writes: The boosters of ECJHS, home of the Fighting Standard Deviants, want you to know that our Polling Club was chuffed for the reference on Nov. 29. They say their first poll is in the field and they are waiting for the results on "Elon Musk: Threat or Menace?"

Remember the Standard Deviants' cheer: "Seven Sigma! Seven Sigma! We're out there! Goooooooo Deviants!"



S.C. in Mountain View, CA, writes: So the Harvard-grad-student father of P.S. in Gloucester referred to MIT as "the trade school down the river"?

We engineers referred to Harvard as "that liberal arts college up the river." As one of the cleaner verses in "We Are The Engineers" goes:

A Harvard lad in robes was clad and set to graduate.
A pompous gleaming spectacle he was upon that date.
But not a quarter hour after he got his degree,
he was serving fries to engineers from good old MIT!


I.H. in Meridian, ID, writes: As an MIT grad (Class of '86; Course VIII & XII...; (V) understands what that means), I feel I must respond to the disparaging remarks from P.S. in Gloucester. I have always referred to that other institution located in Cambridge, as "that little school upchuck river." Whenever I've been sick to my stomach, I've euphemistically said that "I went to Harvard this morning."



J.E.M., Seattle, WA, writes: As someone with a B.S. in meteorology, I'd be happy to take on the staff meteorologist role. Please ignore that the degree was nearly 30 years ago and I've never actually been a meteorologist in any professional capacity.

My bar tab would be really small, though.

V & Z respond: Can you rock like a hurricane?



S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: On the staff dachshunds doing their jobs well: I didn't know there were lots of small burrowing animals in L.A.

V & Z respond: There aren't any, which is why the job of the staff dachshunds is to take naps and eat treats. They are quite good at it, despite not having a single day of schooling.



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