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      •  Saturday Q&A

Saturday Q&A

When you wish upon a star/makes no difference who you are/anything your heart desires/will come to you. In this case, that means answers to a bunch of Disney-related questions.

Current Events

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, asks: With the current brouhaha between Florida and Disney World, is there a similar arrangement between California and Disneyland?

V & Z answer: When Walt Disney was deciding where to build Disneyland, he narrowed it down to three options: Pomona, Burbank, and Anaheim. And he chose Anaheim because it had the cheapest land, and he guessed that city government would be the easiest one to push around. He was probably right about that, and to this day, Disneyland has certain privileges, some of them negotiated by Walt himself. For example, they pay very low rates for electricity.

However, Disney did not secure total control over the area around Disneyland. As a result, there are some kinda grungy restaurants and hotels in the vicinity, and the streets aren't always clean, and there are some homeless people, and the traffic flow is sub-optimal (the primary street leading into the park, Harbor Blvd., is often jammed).

With Disney World, the company decided not to make the same mistake, and took great care to establish much firmer control over its environs. Note that Walt Disney was not heavily involved in that process, though; while he was aware of plans for a second park and had a role in the early planning, he died in 1966, while things were still on the drawing board, and before the "nuts and bolts" began to be worked out. The park opened in 1971.

L.E. in Santa Barbara, CA, asks: After reading your very informative analysis of Mickey vs. Squeaky, and then reading others' questions, a question popped into my mind.

Wouldn't the actions that the Florida legislature and governor amount to a "taking" of personal property, were they to actually execute their legislation down the road? If the property loses its utility and thus its value, couldn't the landowners—who are, apparently, individual Disney executives—sue for compensation as an eminent domain taking? And wouldn't that be a hugely expensive hit to the residents of Florida?

V & Z answer: This is an extremely specialized area of the law, and so not really the province of two fellows who aren't even lawyers, much less lawyers in the correct, highly specific, practice area. That said, we think this particular cause of action would be a tough sell if Disney got it before a judge. The state of Florida granted Disney special status. Clearly, that special status, once granted, is not perpetual—the documents that Disney management signed make that clear. And so, the state of Florida is certainly within its rights to take that special status away.

That said, the manner in which the legislature took it away was... problematic. It's pretty clearly discriminatory, and does not adhere to the guidelines laid out in the aforementioned documents that were signed 50 years ago. If it becomes necessary, Disney's legal team will focus on blocking the new law from taking effect, probably winning easily, and certainly tying things up in court until well after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is out of office. They are not likely to let things take their course and then sue for damages.

P.L. in Denver, CO, asks: If I am understanding correctly, by eliminating the special district status, Florida will need to pick up lots of services that Disney currently manages and pays for. I have to believe the quality of the services will diminish quite a bit, which in the end will affect the Disney World experience. Am I wrong?

V & Z answer: You're not wrong, but Disney would still maintain total control over the actual parks, of course, and Disney also owns most of the land in the vicinity. So, the company would still have much room to impose its will on the area. Meanwhile, Florida would have to start servicing more than $1 billion in bonds, and would have to assume annual expenses in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

In short, Disney would be hurt a little bit, and Florida would be hurt a lot. Disney knows this, and Ron DeSantis knows this, too. So, Disney may stand back and let the Governor perform his political theater, but they are surely thinking that this will ultimately go nowhere, and that their special status will magically be renewed before the June 2023 cutoff. And if the Floridians seem like they are really going to stick to their guns, then Disney will start to deploy the many resources and options at its disposal. And while DeSantis may have been clever enough to graduate Harvard and to get himself elected governor of the nation's third most populous state, he's no match for the combined brainpower of Disney's board, executive team, and legal department. Especially the legal department.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, asks: This might be outside your theme park but what could the Disney Corporation do to clap back at DeSantis and the Florida Republicans? I have long heard this expression that one doesn't "F with the Mouse" because while it might take time, the Mouse always wins.

V & Z answer: Truth be told, Disney is so connected to the halls of power, we would not be surprised if they've already reached an agreement that Ron DeSantis will be able to throw his temper tantrum and collect his "own the libs" headlines, and then—once he's been reelected—a bill renewing Disney's special status will be passed by the legislature. Seems like the kind of thing that might be done, say, over a holiday weekend, when nobody is paying attention. It's true that the legislature is not in session then, but DeSantis could summon them back.

But if we're wrong, and possibly even if we're right, the first thing that Disney will do is mount a PR campaign, aided by helpful media outlets. They've actually already started this; there has been a fair bit of coverage this week of the situation, and of the significant legal problems with what Florida is trying to do. See, for example, this Miami Herald story headlined: "Disney's special district tells investors state can't dissolve it without paying debt."

Eventually, if it is deemed necessary, Disney will start to flex its financial muscle. It will funnel money to political opponents of DeSantis and his Republican allies, and may even launch an anti-DeSantis ad campaign during election season. Meanwhile, there is some sizable number of Disney jobs that either could, or could not, be based in Florida. Obviously, people who work at Disney World itself—janitors, ticket takers, ride operators, etc.—have to be based there. But the 2,000 employees of Disney Imagineering that were scheduled to be relocated to the Sunshine State? That doesn't have to happen. In fact, our guess is that move will be canceled even if Florida renews Disney's special status.

Further, as we've already alluded to, Disney will deploy its vast legal team to do battle with Florida. If DeSantis is not frightened by that thought, well, he should be. There is no corporation in the world that is more litigious than Disney is, given their need to protect their intellectual property (among other things). When it comes to their willingness to file a lawsuit, they make the Donald Trump legal approach look cautious and restrained. That means the company has near-limitless amounts of really, really good legal talent. Oh, and they clearly have the stronger legal case here. If this actually goes to court, it will be like taking candy from a baby. Well, OK, a 43-year-old who sounds like a baby.

Finally, we don't think it's impossible that Disney—which is always thinking long term—will start to plan its Florida exit strategy. Yes, the Sunshine State and its weather have served Disney World well. And it's none too easy to pack up Space Mountain or Pirates of the Caribbean. Still, the politics of Florida have proven unpredictable and problematic, and global warming could make Orlando less-than-ideal within a decade or two. The point of Disney World was, to a greater or lesser extent, to serve potential vacationers east of the Mississippi. There must be other locations that have good airport access, reliable weather, available land, etc.

D.P. in Oakland, CA, asks: I haven't seen any second guessing of Ukraine's decision to unilaterally give up its nukes back whenever. Would it have changed Russia's ability to threaten with its nukes? What is the lesson for others who may be under pressure to give up their nukes—Iran, for example?

V & Z answer: As a practical matter, it doesn't matter all that much if Ukraine is nuclear or not. If Russia actually deploys nuclear warheads, they are all-but-certain to get a nuclear response, even if it doesn't come directly from Ukraine. Indeed, it's the nukes that are keeping this as a proxy war rather than a direct war. If Putin does go there, then the gloves will be off, and he will immediately face the full, combined might of NATO.

That said, there's little question Ukraine's position would be at least a bit stronger if they still had their nukes. They'd have a seat at the table, rather than having to sit and watch the big boys argue back and forth. So, any other nation that is considering giving up their nuclear arsenal would have to be crazy to actually do so after seeing what's happened in the last few months.

T.H. in LaQuinta, CA, asks: If Vladimir Putin does attend the G-20 summit in Indonesia this fall, what are the chances he could be arrested there to face international trial as a war criminal?

V & Z answer: This is extremely unlikely.

First of all, it's not like Putin will be walking around all by himself. He'll be accompanied by a substantial security detail, and that security detail is never going to be far from his side.

Second, arresting Putin would, in effect, make it open season on the leaders of the NATO nations. For example, maybe someone like Xi Jinping uses the incident as pretext for arresting Joe Biden the next time Biden is in China for a meeting.

Third, arresting Putin would guarantee that no vulnerable leader would ever be willing to meet with the United States or the other NATO countries again. Ali Khamenei of Iran, for example, or Hibatullah Akhundzada of Afghanistan, would never participate in anything related to diplomacy if they believed they could be arrested and put on trial.

Fourth, and finally, lopping the head off the snake like that could have unexpected repercussions. Yes, Putin would be out of power, but it would destabilize Russia. Can NATO be sure that Putin would not be succeeded by someone even more unhinged? Or, perhaps, that Russia would not dissolve into a bunch of feudal-type domains, each with its own warlord (and its own nuclear arsenal)? The United States does not have a great track record when it comes to deposing foreign leaders.

D.M. in Manhattan, NY, asks: I'm reading about Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's (R-GA) interview with Church Militant (aired this week) where she opines that the Catholic church is run by Satan and that aiding immigrants runs counter to the teachings of Jesus. The second part reflects the congresswoman's profound ignorance of the teachings of Christ—particularly the Beatitudes (Matthew 5: 3-12).

I'm curious: This story ran on MSNBC, Slate, Salon, Newsweek and other media, yet has not been touched by The New York Times, The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal. Are these larger outlets fearful of inciting anti-Catholic violence? Were they given orders to keep quiet? Your thoughts?

V & Z answer: We can't speak for those outlets, since we were not at their budget meetings (when each day's coverage is discussed). However, we can speak for ourselves, and we suspect that our reasons for ignoring the story are probably similar to those of the Times or the Post.

It's not a secret at this point that Greene is not especially bright, and that she's a bigot who thinks the Bible says whatever it is she wants it to say. So, when she issues forth with yet another stupid, bigoted rant that she claims is supported by scripture, it's not telling us one damn thing we do not already know. We're squarely in dog-bites-man territory.

Meanwhile, Greene's whole brand is throwing bombs and getting headlines and pleasing the base with how she's speaking truth to power, or owning the libs, or whatever. So, giving attention to whatever idiotic thing she's said this week is not only not instructive, it actually helps her to keep spreading her bile.

If we saw anything newsworthy or otherwise significant in this story, we would have loved to write it up because, snark-wise, it would be like shooting fish in a barrel. But there's just nothing there. Greene may be a member of Congress, but she has virtually no influence, and outside of her job, she's not especially different from any of a million whack jobs on Twitter, or 8kun, or reddit.

M.G. in Stow, MA, asks: A CNN article said that White House chief of staff Mark Meadows' text logs "show Meadows communicating with multiple Fox personalities, as well as a number of journalists from other organizations." Is this normal for the White House chief of staff to be in direct contact with the press via texts?

V & Z answer: We're not all that deep into the era in which text communication, particularly among people of the appropriate age to be White House Chief of Staff, has been common. So, one cannot really generalize, since we'd be talking about a choice made by half a dozen holders of that office, at most.

That said, the White House has staff responsible for communicating with the media. Appropriately enough, they are called the White House Office of Communications. It is plausible that some particularly notable media members have a direct means of communicating with the Chief of Staff, so as to be able to quickly confirm various details of coverage. For example, it wouldn't shock us if Maggie Haberman has the means to text Ron Klain, so as to make sure she understood a particular statement or decision by Joe Biden before she writes it up for the next day's New York Times.

However, for media members to be in such regular contact with the Chief of Staff, and for those media members to presume to offer policy suggestions, and to provide advice on how to overturn an election? That is far outside the norm, regardless of the medium by which it takes place. We won't say it's unprecedented, as it was somewhat common 100 or 150 years ago for politicians to have unusually cozy relationships with friendly media members (for example, Louis Howe and Franklin D. Roosevelt, or Charles A. Dana and Abraham Lincoln). However, this is not consistent with the ethical standards of either modern politics or modern journalism. Further, even back in the day, these folks did not try to hide their relationship with the White House. Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, etc. did, and while going on TV every night and pretending to give a "fair and balanced" assessment of the issues of the day.

C.D. in Chattanooga, TN, asks: Many times in the past, you've made the salient point that Republican leaders only viewed abortion as a useful cudgel to drive voters to the polls. That's clearly no longer true at the state level; they're actively working to end it.

What happened to cause this shift? Did decades of railing against it create a generation of genuine believers, who've now grown up and gotten themselves elected to office?

V & Z answer: We think you probably have the right of it. Part of it may also be that the latest anti-abortion laws (at least, the first group of them) were meant to be performative but, due to random chance or to changes in the composition of the judiciary, they weren't struck down, which in turn gave momentum to the zealots.


P.S. in Arlington, TN, asks: Listening to a CNN panel today, the big discussion was the midterms and why Democrats are likely to lose. The discussion seemed to lean towards the narrative that liberal programs supported by progressives like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)—the Green New Deal, single-payer health care, student loan forgiveness, etc.—haven't been passed and that "voters" will make them pay because of it.

My question is this... Who exactly do progressives think these "voters" are? In my view, the biggest problem is inflation, and part of that problem is that the government has done too much. Passing massive, underfunded expenditures that raise my taxes and inflate the cost of things doesn't help my family. Currently, I'm a union worker in negotiations with my company. Every month of massive inflation without a new contract and without new pay rates hurts my family. When Democrats make base-oriented comments like this, are they implying that they need a base-only strategy or do they really value my vote?

Donald Trump got a smaller percentage of the vote than Mitt Romney in both elections. He won in 2016 because voters such as myself voted for Gary Johnson. He lost in 2020 because former Republicans such as myself voted for Biden. If Democrats think I might not turn out because they didn't pass these massive expenditures they're delusional.

V & Z answer: First of all, we would caution against paying attention to "talking heads" programming on any network. These folks don't speak for anyone but themselves in most cases, and they have to fill time, even if they don't actually have much to say. Further, because they are often notable former politicians, they are stuck in the political mindset of 10-20 years ago. So their analysis, such as it is, is often out of date.

As to your main question, it's better to have something to run on than nothing to run on, generally speaking. But those who think that passing big-time legislation is a panacea that cures all ills might want to examine, for example, the 2018 midterm elections. Following on the heels of their big tax cut in 2017, the Republicans lost 41 seats in the House (and 7 governorships). And those who think that passing big-time progressive legislation is a panacea that cures all ills might want to examine, for example, the 2010 midterm elections. Following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the Democrats lost 6 seats in the Senate and 63 seats in the House (and 6 governorships).

J.E. in Brooklyn, NY, asks: This seems like a rhetorical question to me, though I don't think I've ever heard it formally posited: Are conservatives more easily manipulated than liberals?

Political strategists basically have one job to do—motivate voters to the polls. These strategists are quite smart. But Republican strategists just seem to be better at it. Are the Frank Luntzes of the world that much smarter than the James Carvilles? Or do they just have an easier job?

Republican strategists wake up in the morning asking questions like, "How can we get people who live in trailer parks up in arms over the Estate Tax?" Answer: "Call it the Death Tax." And BINGO, people driving around with bald tires are rushing to the polls.

"How can we motivate conservative parents to the polls?" Answer: "Tell them their kids are being groomed by pedophile educators to become gender nonconforming. And while we're at it, let's dust off an academic theory that's been an obscure part of legal curricula for 50 years, and twist it to manipulate parents into thinking that while they're hard at work putting food on the table, their children are being indoctrinated into hating themselves."

And then there's social media. QAnon. Pizzagate. Microchips. Insurrection. Conservative voters just seem so easy to manipulate. And I don't really think it's a secret. It must be why Putin had his way with them in 2016 and didn't bother that much with the libs.

V & Z answer: There is some amount of scholarship, in several different disciplines, that indicates that some sizable minority of the American populace is primarily motivated by fear and/or anger (two emotions that are not as different from one another as they might seem). Studies of other countries reach a similar conclusion.

This sizable minority is about 35% of the population, give or take a few percentage points. And since it's pretty easy to pander to fear and/or anger, this segment of the population is very reachable and very easy to rouse to action. The devil's bargain in that, however, is that the other two-thirds of the population are largely not going to buy what you're selling. So, you're either going to have to hope that you can persuade some additional segment to swallow hard and climb on board for other reasons, or you're going to need the other side to do poorly when it comes to rallying the non-fearful/angry part of the populace.

C.W. in Carlsbad, CA, asks: I know people are saying the midterms are going to be tough. But I'm having a rough time digesting these Morning Consult polls. Now mind you, the numbers for California look pretty much on the mark—Gov. Gavin Newsom's (D-CA) marks are within a couple of points of the final recall vote count. But I'm having trouble believing Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) and Ron DeSantis are sharing approval ratings roughly similar to Newsom. Those two, in addition to being national embarrassments, seem intent on killing off their citizens. How can this not be noticed?

I have other questions, but the one I really want to ask is: Do you have any uncertainty data to apply to these poll numbers?

V & Z answer: The uncertainty numbers were different for each state, depending on how many respondents there were, but they were all 3 to 5 points, which is pretty standard for political polls.

In any event, the more surprising numbers are why we said we were glad to see that Morning Consult has apparently committed to regular updates again. A wonky number can happen once, quite easily, but they don't usually happen for multiple months in a row. It's also possible that some of the more recent actions by Abbott (the truck inspections) or DeSantis (the Disney fiasco) haven't worked their way into the numbers yet.

In short, let's wait for next month's numbers and see what they say before reaching any conclusions.

A.J. in Baltimore, MD, asks: Is there research on how well-correlated approval ratings are with election results, whether they are more or less correlated in specific situations, and whether they have become less correlated in these particularly polarized times? Just thinking anecdotally, I have never been polled on the question of whether I approve of any politician, but if I were, I might say I disapproved of Joe Biden's performance in office because I don't think he has been effective enough at selling his plans to the American people or to the Senate. That doesn't mean I would vote for any Republican over him, especially if he was up against Donald Trump again. By contrast, I might say I approve of Gov. Larry Hogan's (R-MD) performance because I think he handled the pandemic well and otherwise has been fine, but I still voted for a Democrat over him when I had the chance to do so. Are approval poll respondents generally approaching these questions differently than I've described?

V & Z answer: Presidential approval ratings have been studied, and there is a statistically significant correlation between those and presidential election results. However, this only applies to approval ratings close to election (3 months or less). And it could very well be that when people are asked in February "Do you approve of X?," they answer the question, but when they are asked in September "Do you approve of X?," the question they actually answer is "Are you going to vote for X?"

In any event, there hasn't been much study of approval ratings vs. election success for other political offices, in part since other offices weren't polled much until recently. And there hasn't been much study of presidential approval ratings vs. midterm election results, in part because there aren't that many midterm elections, and so the sample size is small (unless you want to argue that the 1966 midterms are somehow relevant 50 years later). It's also possible, as you suggest, that we are in an entirely different political milieu, and old rules no longer apply. And finally, as you also point out, "I approve of X" does not always mean "I'm voting for X," and, perhaps more importantly, "I don't approve of X" does not always mean "I'm voting against X," especially in a time when people often disapprove strongly of both candidates.

For all of these reasons, it's probably best not to put too much stock in approval ratings, especially right now. They are data, and some data is better than none, so we'll certainly keep writing about them. But we wouldn't want to, for example, bet real money based on what the approval numbers tell us.

T.V. in Moorpark, CA, asks: Despite the fact that there is no evidence at all, Donald Trump continues to claim that the 2020 election was stolen. Because of the Big Lie, election workers have been physically threatened, millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on fake audits and laws have been passed to restrict access to voting. I personally have lost sleep worrying about the damage to our democracy. My alcohol consumption has reaching the level where my position as the staff mathematician for a popular political website may be in jeopardy. In short, the Big Lie is causing real harm to real people. I know Dominion has sued Fox News and others for defamation, but why hasn't someone filed a class-action lawsuit against Trump or sought an injunction to stop him from repeating the Big Lie?

V & Z answer: Donald Trump is entitled, by the terms of the First Amendment, to spend the rest of his life claiming that he won the election, if that is what he wants to do. So, there will be no injunction or court order.

As to a lawsuit, you would need a plaintiff who could prove specific, quantifiable damages, and who could demonstrate those damages were directly caused by Trump's words and actions. You could argue that all Americans have been harmed by Trump, but it would be difficult to quantify those damages or to pin them solely on Trump. And you could argue that, say, Trump is responsible for a poll worker being assaulted by a MAGA fan. But could you prove that it was Trump's words that did it, and not Rudy Giuliani's or Rep. Matt Gaetz's (R-FL) or Tucker Carlson's? Not easy to do.

Dominion may well be able to overcome these hurdles, because they can prove their business was hurt by false claims, and they can show exactly who was primarily responsible for spreading those false claims. All of the key elements of the case are much clearer than they would be in a case against Trump.

J.B. in Hutto, TX, asks: As I read more about the deranged efforts of Trump and Co. to hold onto power after the 2020 election, it seems to me that they were missing something blindingly obvious. For the sake of argument, let's say that on January 6, Mike Pence had refused to certify the electoral votes of Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania, and the state legislatures of those states had substituted new slates of electors that cast their votes for Trump? Wouldn't the result have simply been massive civil unrest from one end of America to the other, with riots in the streets and enormous demonstrations shutting down cities until Trump agreed to concede? Wouldn't we have seen Joe Biden, the state governments of blue states, and much of the federal government itself, refuse to acknowledge the legitimacy of Trump's "win"? In other words, did Trump and his allies seriously expect the American people to simply shrug their shoulders and allow Trump to serve out a second term, when it would have been crystal clear that he had been defeated by the voters?

V & Z answer: (Z) agrees entirely with you. And once he has time to resume the slow-moving coup series, he will be making this exact point in greater detail.

S.C. in Mountain View, CA, asks: I am slowly catching up on viewing The Lincoln Project's short YouTube videos (anything less than 2 minutes; I find them entertaining) and came across one from a month ago announcing "The Union" at Given how The Lincoln Project seems to just raise money for itself, I was wondering if their "The Union" project was a similar scam.

I did look at their list of partners. While I recognize the two California partners listed as legitimate organizations, I didn't recognize any of the national partners listed. The lack of what I consider good government groups (Common Cause, League of Women Voters, ACLU, etc.) on that list made me skeptical. Is this just another way for them to collect e-mail addresses, or are they really going to connect people with "causes, campaigns, and candidates"?

V & Z answer: Like you, we are concerned about the list of partners—it's somewhat random, and it's not clear what "partner" means. In addition, we are concerned about the lack of a clear mission statement. And finally, we are concerned that at the bottom it makes clear that this is just a sidebar to the Lincoln Project. To us, it certainly looks like an attempt at rebranding, given that the actual Lincoln Project has been hurt badly by stories about grift and sexual misconduct.

Anyhow, that's three strikes, and last time we checked, three strikes means you're out. So, we wouldn't give any money or time to these folks.

L.C. in Douglas, MI, asks: I have been impressed by Mitch Landrieu in recent interviews. He's been tasked by Joe Biden to visit every state in the union to help them allocate, coordinate, and procure funding from the recent Federal Infrastructure Law. Mitch is affable, positively minded, and has a bit of that New Orleans charm or charisma that would sell well in a political campaign. He also wouldn't have any negative "DC baggage." How about a Landreau-Buttigieg Democratic ticket in 2024?

V & Z answer: It's not impossible. Running for president is such a big and expensive proposition that it's not plausible to come from "nowhere" to "successful bid" in just a couple of years. But Landrieu has name recognition and a political network, so he wouldn't be coming from nowhere. And recall that at this point in the cycle in 1974, Jimmy Carter was not on anyone's radar as a serious candidate. The same is true of Bill Clinton in 1990 and Donald Trump in 2014, among other examples. The point is: If Joe Biden does not run again, we should not assume that the eventual candidate is one of the current "frontrunners." Maybe it will be, but maybe it won't.

S.B. in Hood River, OR, asks: Betsy Johnson is running as an Independent for the Oregon Governorship. How do you see it affecting the race?

V & Z answer: We don't. First, people don't generally like to waste their votes on candidates who cannot win. Second, inasmuch as she is a former Democrat running as a centrist, we don't see why she would be expected to take considerably more votes from one party than the other; she will theoretically get some centrist Democrats, but also some Republicans who would rather vote for a centrist than a nut. Third, there's been some polling of the race with her in it, and the polling gives "generic Democrat" a roughly 10-point lead over "generic Republican," even with Johnson claiming a chunk of the vote (between 10% and 12%).


R.C. in Des Moines, IA, asks: What do you think of George Will's suggestion that Senators should be constitutionally barred from the presidency?

V & Z answer: For those who did not read, and do not want to read, the piece, Will holds out Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) as an exemplar of what's wrong with the Senate, and says that barring senators from running for president would curtail stupid "look at me" stunts and would make the upper chamber run much better. A bonus would be a reduced risk of a political grandstander being elected president.

So, what do we think? We think it's a silly proposal, and we presume it's a case of Will tossing out some food for thought since he has to crank out multiple columns per week, as opposed to making a serious argument. Presumably Will has noticed that there are also plenty of "look at me" governors and members of the House, right? He has probably also noticed that there are plenty of "look at me" senators who are pursuing goals other than the presidency, right?

Note also that banning senators would have deprived the U.S. of John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Barack Obama, among others, who each did some pretty good things for the country. Meanwhile that would have created more opportunities for the Jimmy Carters, George W. Bushes, and Donald Trumps of the world. Is that really a good trade-off?

D.E. in Austin, TX, asks: Why is seniority a thing in the Senate? It's not in the Constitution. If the Senate renews its rules every 2 years, why don't the newer senators simply say no to seniority power in those rules? I mean, why should a state have less or more power in legislation based on how many terms the person they elect has been seated? On average, experience probably helps, but not always.

V & Z answer: Seniority doesn't play a role in that many aspects of Senate governance, mostly just committee assignments and office space. And you've gotta have some basis for making these decisions; what alternative is superior to seniority (and could get 50+ votes)? Do big states deserve more influence? Coastal states? States with more military bases? States with large minority populations? Border states?

As to changing the rules, the senators tend to be pretty conservative about that. Further, we would guess that at any given time, there are right around 50 senators who are pretty darn happy that the longer-serving senators have an advantage over the shorter-serving senators.

L.B. in Savannah, GA, asks: With House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) offending the Trumpist wing of the party, what happens if the GOP wins a House majority, but can't agree on a Speaker? Do the top two contenders alternate, like Naftali Bennett and Benny Gantz alternating the Prime Ministership in Israel? Does Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stay on as Speaker until a new one is chosen? Or can the House function without a Speaker? Watching the inevitable chaos may be the only good part of having to live with a GOP majority. My favorite would be for the top two to hold the post as a duumvirate; the puns alone will be worth it.

V & Z answer: Pelosi's term ends when the current session does; she cannot regain the gavel without being voted Speaker again.

So, the House has to actually pick a Speaker. And they can't change the rules, or do anything else, until they do pick a Speaker. Further, the Constitution allows for one Speaker, not many, so a duumvirate probably isn't legal. That means that while it may mean weeks of gridlock, the majority faction is going to have to figure it out somehow.

A.S. in Black Mountain, NC, asks: The criteria for someone to be eligible to become the President are clear and defined. The Speaker of the House's are not and anyone can be elected to the position. What happens if the President and Vice President become incapacitated and the Speaker's qualifications (foreign born, for instance) do not comply with the criteria needed to be President? This does not seem too far fetched to actually occur.

V & Z answer: If the line of succession kicks in, then any office that is vacant or is occupied by someone who is ineligible to the presidency is skipped. If you look at the current line of succession, for example, you will see that there are only 16 people in it because should-be #15 Jennifer Granholm and should-be #18 Alejandro Mayorkas are excluded, as having been born in Canada and Cuba, respectively, makes them ineligible. If it was up to us, of course, it wouldn't be this way. There's nothing wrong with having been born in Cuba.


B.C.B. in Madison, SD, asks: In reference to the question by J.M.A. in Round Hill, I've always been intrigued by the pronunciation of Arkansas vs. Kansas. Any reason for the difference?

V & Z answer: As with so many things, you can blame the French.

Those states are both named after the tribes that once resided there; the Quapaw (known as the Akansa in Algonquin) and the Kansa. Arkansas is close to Louisiana, a.k.a. the central portion of New France, and so the French pronunciation of that name became the dominant one. Kansas is not nearly as close to Louisiana, and it is close to Indiana and Ohio, where English colonists lived in substantial numbers. So, the English pronunciation of that name became the dominant one. French speakers do not generally pronounce the 's' at the ends of words, while English-speakers do.

D.C. in Brentwood, CA, asks: According to Wikipedia, Tucker Carlson was born in San Francisco and worked for CNN, PBS and MSNBC until 2009, when he started at Fox, and that he was a Democrat until 2020. This leads to several questions: (1) Is this information correct?, (2) Really?, (3) Was he (meant to be) a token liberal on Fox for a decade?, (4) What happened to him? (5) Can he be fixed?

V & Z answer: Some folks in the media really did go from being far-left to being far-right. The obvious example is Michael Savage, who used to write books with titles like Earth Medicine—Earth Foods: Plant Remedies, Drugs, and Natural Foods of the North American Indians under his real name, Michael Weiner. Then, he concluded that the counterculture was wrong and the hippies were dopes, and switched to books written under his stage name, with titles like The Savage Nation: Saving America from the Liberal Assault on Our Borders, Language, and Culture.

That said, some right-wing media types are clearly playing a character. It doesn't behoove them to admit it, so it's hard to be certain which of them are true believers and which of them are just playing to the crowd. For what it's worth, we always had the sense that the man Rush Limbaugh was fairly different from the character Rush Limbaugh. Not to say he was a closet liberal, but that he knew that a lot of what he was saying was more like a dramatic soliloquy than an actual expression of political thought.

Given Carlson's evolution, he comes off as another person who is basically playing a character. He figured out where the money and fame are, and so that is where he went. Again, we don't think he's a closet liberal, but when he decides what to say on his program each night, his choices have nothing to do with "here's what I believe" or "here's an important idea I have that I want to share" and everything to do with "here is what is calculated to generate the biggest reaction from the audience."

P.L. in Denver, CO, asks: There is a lot of speculation regarding Elon Musk's purchase of Twitter. The specific concern is that it will become an even greater toxic dump of false info, slander, misogyny, etc.

My question: The EU seems to be much more inclined to stamp out at least some of this bad behavior than our inept and divided congress.

Will the EU save all of us on social media?

V & Z answer: It's not too hard to set things up so that a particular platform works one way in one country and a different way in a different country. This is already done by some platforms to, for example, satisfy the demands of the Chinese government. So, the EU may save itself, but its rules are not likely to extend to the United States.

M.M. in Plano, TX, asks: Would it be technically feasible for Twitter to determine the Internet protocol address of a poster and publish it with each of his or her posts?

Could Twitter determine whether a poster who calls himself "Pete from Peoria" is really Pyotr from Petrograd and publish it on each of his posts?

V & Z answer: Yes, Twitter could determine the IP address of every poster. However, it is possible to falsify an IP address, so the address Twitter found could be a fake one. Also, if the poster used a VPN (Virtual Private Network), the address Twitter would see is the VPN's servers, not the sender's. That address could be anywhere in the world. People often use VPNs to trick some server into thinking the user is somewhere where the user is not (e.g., because the server doesn't want people in country X to view certain content, typically for copyright reasons, or possibly to avoid sales tax).

In principle, Twitter, Facebook, etc., could require every user to upload a scan of some government issued ID (driver's license, passport, etc.) when opening an account. Then Twitter could check with the issuer to see if the name and number are valid (which would require changes to the privacy laws to allow the issuer to cooperate). The law could even require this. Once the user was verified, the true name of the account owner could be published along with the posting.

Doing this would also eliminate all bots and make it easier to sue people who posted something libelous. Needless to say, requiring people to register their true identities to open or maintain an account would not be popular with some people, especially people who post hateful or illegal material. Twitter is a private company and is free to insist that it knows who its customers are. Banks, airlines, and some other businesses already insist on knowing who their customers are. There is plenty of precedent for companies to demand ID or refuse to serve you.

D.M.C. in Seoul, South Korea, asks: I was curious what's wrong with Linus Torvalds such that someone thinks he should have gotten an F in the write-ins? It's been a while since I used it (unless you count Android), but Linux seemed like a perfectly fine operating system.

V & Z answer: This is undoubtedly a reference to a discussion that Torvalds and the Votemaster had on Usenet about the best way to build an operating system. That discussion reached a wide enough audience that it has its own Wikipedia article: Tanenbaum-Torvalds debate.

J.E. in San Jose, CA, asks: (V) mentioned that Kamala Harris's being in California has been "screwing up traffic in the vicinity of (Z)'s residence." But doesn't (Z) live in Southern California? How could he possibly tell?

V & Z answer: First, (Z) actually added that bit while editing, having just returned home after dealing with the aforementioned traffic. And Harris' residence, at least while in California, is the home owned by her husband before their marriage. It is located in Brentwood, about 1.5 miles north of (Z)'s residence.

Perhaps (Z) has mentioned this on the blog before, and perhaps not, but on Fourth of July last year, the hours and hours of fireworks were upsetting the dachshunds. And he was keeping an eye on the house of a friend up in Brentwood, who lives about half a mile from the VP. So, he put the dogs in the car, with hopes that turning the radio up so they could not hear the fireworks, and then driving around for a while, would calm them down. And failing that, the plan was to relocate to the house in Brentwood, in hopes it would not be as loud. So, he spent 30 minutes or so aimlessly driving the streets of Brentwood, just trying to kill time in hopes the dogs' blood pressure would drop a bit.

The problem was that (Z) did not realize Harris was in residence that day, and that as he drove around, he passed the Secret Service lookout 4-5 times in half an hour. It's just a couple of agents sitting in a black car, but at night they weren't really visible. Anyhow, the USSS found this driving pattern suspicious and concerning, so they pulled him over. Fortunately, they found the (true) story plausible, since it is unlikely a potential assassin would bring along a couple of dachshunds for the ride. So, they let (Z) go pretty quickly.

R.D.K. in Ebensee am Traunsee, Austria, asks: On your website I have often seen your URL abbreviated to, perhaps only in comments and questions, not necessarily by (V) or (Z) themselves, although I can't be sure.

However, the domain appears to belong to someone not related to you or, so I think this is misleading.

Have you ever thought of buying the domain, especially since the current owners don't seem to be using it for much of anything useful?

V & Z answer: It is usually (Z) who does that, for purposes of consistency, while editing people's letters and questions. And (Z) has indeed considered making an offer on the domain, but: (1) the fellow who owns it appears to be Norwegian, and so there might be a language barrier, and (2) anytime you try to buy a domain name like this, the person tends to decide they're sitting on the cure for cancer, and they price things commensurately. So, we may give it a shot someday, but it's on the back burner for now. We have many other things that are higher on the list.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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