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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

The 1/6 anniversary, and Joe Biden's speech about it, were the big news of the week, so we will start there.

Government of the People, by the People, for the People... Shall Not Perish From the Earth

P.B. in Gainesville, FL, writes: I, for one, was absolutely thrilled with President Biden's speech on Thursday. Several times during his address, I yelled at my radio, "Finally! Someone is calling out that abominable former POTUS for what he is." And ruder variations on that theme. It was the first time in many years that I had heard a prominent Democrat speak with such passion, determination, and sheer rhetorical power.

The question, however, is whether Democrats have declared their campaign strategy for 2022, and can maintain that outrage for the whole year. If so, it might be just enough to regain enthusiasm for the ticket across the country, raise Democratic turnout, and provide a surprising exception to the rule that the President's party does poorly in the first off-year election of his term. On the other hand, as many of us have despaired on so many occasions, Democrats are traditionally terrible at messaging, and I'm dubious they can actually pull this off for the next 10 months. But hey, it's a glimmer of hope, for now.

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: I'm an independent, but have voted for Republicans before in national elections: both Bushes, Dole, and McCain. These days, however, I can't in good conscience vote for a party that grovels toward an egotistical maniac. I won't vote for people who put loyalty, or fear, of one man above the values which Americans have fought and died for since our founding. If a Republican today wants my vote, they must publicly state they denounce Trump entirely and accept the will of the people, no matter what that may be.

If I were the Democrats, I would to continue to call out those who deny or diminish the causes and effects of Jan. 6. This is just as important as the pandemic and the economy. The Trumpers must be exposed for who they truly are. Damn the consequences. It's not a stretch to say we are seeing fascism rear its ugly head here in America. That's been going on for about a decade now. We saw this movie less than a century ago. I hope and pray we've learned those lessons and are prepared to do whatever is legally necessary to prevent the sequel from occurring.

D.S. in Querétaro City, QE, Mexico, writes: In your item Biden Comes Out Firing, you noted that Biden asked how it is that Trump and his followers question the validity of the presidential vote, while blithely accepting the validity of the down-ticket votes. I've heard this argument before, I think from you guys, and you note it with approval in the piece. But it seems like a very weak argument to me.

If I were a nefarious character (let's just imagine), and I wanted to fix a presidential election, of course I wouldn't tamper with the down-ticket elections. That would require a much bigger operation on my part and open me up to more chances of being discovered. Since I'm imagining myself as a real nefarious character (and not a movie villain) I want to fix the election in a way that will give me the biggest result with the least amount of manipulation. So, I'd fix the top of the ticket and let the rest of the races fall where they may. This seems like Election Manipulation 101 to me.

V & Z respond: Except that the claim is not that there was ballot tampering, it's that there were large numbers of fraudulent Democratic ballots cast and/or that Republican ballots were undercounted.

National Politics

K.S. in Lafayette, IN, writes: I am one of your seemingly mythical under-twenty readers. Currently, I am 18 years of age. I came across your site when I was 15 years old and was looking for some interesting political blogs for the 2018 midterms, though my interest in politics began when I was 12, for reasons I still can't ascertain. Since then, I have been reading every single day and I continue to enjoy your witty humor mixed in with in-depth analysis of the issues of the day. That being said, I am one of the also-mythical teenage conservatives (and also one of the fabled minority teenage conservative crowd), so I can't say that I necessarily agree with everything that is said; however, it is important that we all continue to listen to the other side, as there are many things that I don't agree with conservatives about, either.

As regards the 2020 election, I feel that while Joe Biden was the best candidate to take on perhaps one of the worst presidents in history, he never really stood for anything on his own other than being the anti-Trump candidate. As we have seen, many voters hoped for a return to normalcy that is no longer possible in the post-Trump era of politics (or maybe not the post-Trump era, if The Donald decides to return for a rematch in '24). In short, I am concerned about American democracy and believe that the Democrats ignore the Republican attempts to subvert democracy at their own peril. While I disagree with the Democrats on many policy issues, it has become clear that they are the only party willing to govern within a democratic framework.

R.V.G. in Bainbridge Island, WA, writes: It seems to me that a more logical (and cynical) reason for Republicans to want to reform the Electoral Count Act is that next time around it will be a Democrat—Kamala Harris—who will be counting the electoral votes. They do not want her to be able to do anything when—as they are already planning for—they get some Republican-dominated state legislatures to substitute electors of their own in place of those chosen by the voters of their states.

K.W. in Providence, RI, writes: In your response to P.S. in Riverside, you wrote: "You should understand, first of all, that any tycoon, corporation, or lobbyist worth their salt plays both sides of the aisle. Democrats get plenty of corporate dollars, even if Republicans get more." You are, of course absolutely correct.

However, there is such a noticeable lean by some corporations that fund managers have come up with indices and ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds) that investors can pour money into depending on their political leanings: MAGA and DEMZ. I don't think I need to say which leans R and which leans D. I'll begin and end by saying this is not investment advice. Nor will I opine on their relative performance. I will, however, quote from MAGA's prospectus:

The index uses an objective, rules-based methodology to track the performance of companies whose employees and political action committees are highly supportive of Republican candidates for election to the United States Congress, the Vice Presidency, or the Presidency ("Candidates") and party-affiliated federal committees or groups that are subject to federal campaign contribution limits.

Currently, the MAGA ETF holds a basket of 137 companies, based on their contributions during the last 2-year election cycle, and will be reevaluated and reconstituted in June 2023, following the 2022 elections.

Again, not investment advice, but I used their index of 137 equities to kick out a half-dozen from my portfolio. Too bad, since they made me some nice money, but I just don't want to invest in companies betting against American democracy, or, as P.S pointed out, against the U.S. market.

DEMZ methodology and index is, of course, completely different. Interested investors should check DEMZ's prospectus.

Again, this is not investment advice. I am not invested in either ETF.

S.S-L. in Norman, OK, writes: Regarding Twitter's ban on the account of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), you wrote "the idea that a private media company gets to decide who gets to speak in public, as it were, and who doesn't, is somewhat scary." Two days earlier, regarding the First Amendment, you wrote: "The courts have made clear that for the government to take any action, a threat must be real and it must be imminent."

The danger stemming from spreading COVID misinformation for political gain seems both real and imminent. The parties involved and the physicality of the threats might be different, but death is death. The test seems satisfied to me.

Election Chicanery

T.M.M. in Odessa, MO, writes: You responded to the question from J.G. in New York about how Jody Hice, if he becomes Georgia Secretary of State, could go about changing the results to favor Donald Trump.

The simple answer is that, unless the legislature changes the law further, he can't.

The initial decisions on which people can cast votes are made by local election authorities and/or precinct judges. Once the ballot goes into the mix, it is impossible to pull that ballot out. So further review is really possible only if a person is not allowed to vote and their provisional ballot or absentee ballot is set to the side for further review.

That further review is then made by the local election authority. Again, whatever ballots are then accepted go into the mix and can't be distinguished from each other.

After the local election authorities have completed their review, they certify the final numbers from their county to the state election authority (and under the recent changes to the Georgia law, whoever is Secretary of State would not be on the state board). But all that the State Board does is add up the totals from all of the counties. Potentially (and an expert on Georgia law would have to answer this), the Georgia State Board could decide some previously disqualified voters should have their ballot counted or that the entire election is so tainted that a new vote is needed.

At some point in the process, it is possible for the losing candidate to go to court to have the courts review the decisions that all of these executive branch officials are making. If the losing candidate is asking for additional votes to be counted, that is the easier of the two options. If the losing candidate can show that, under Georgia law, additional ballots should have been counted, the courts can order that those ballots be counted. What is harder for the court is if the claim is that ballots were counted that should not have been counted. In that circumstance, the courts are really limited to ordering a new election (which does not fit well with the timelines on choosing federal electors).

But for the question, it is important to note that the Secretary of State in Georgia has no role in this process. His only role is to sign the certificate of electors after the State Board certifies the results. And if he refuses to do so, a court can order him to sign it and throw him in jail for contempt of court until he does.

In short, the change in Georgia law to punish the current Secretary of State for doing his job actually reduces the importance of the Secretary of State in the counting process. The significance of the Secretary of State will be more in the regulations and guidance that come from that office prior to the election.

E.F. in Baltimore, MD, writes: J.G. in New York asked about how one would go about "finding" votes. I particularly liked the line about the crate marked "Emergency Fake GOP Ballots." Break glass in case of democracy?

But that's nearer the truth than J.G. thinks. I'm sure your staff historian is familiar with the "Landslide Lyndon Box 13" story. During his 1948 senatorial campaign, Lyndon B. Johnson's people "found" a ballot box with just enough votes to put him ahead, days after the election. Amazingly enough, all 202 ballots inside had been filled out for LBJ, using the same pen, in the same handwriting, in alphabetical order. Imagine the odds!

And your apocryphal story about the tombstones has also been attributed to LBJ.

H.B. in State College, PA, writes: Regarding your answer about the dead having as much right to vote as anyone else: In New Orleans and environs, people are often buried above ground. The reason? To make it easier for them to get to the polls.

Making the Sausage

D.G. in Marrickville, NSW, Australia, writes: I think M.M. in San Diego is under the wrong impression about our democracy sausage tradition. We have compulsory voting in Australia (if you're registered to vote, you face a fine for failing to show up at the polling station). As such, the Parents and Carers Committees of the various schools that are used as polling stations use that captive market to raise money. That's why only about a third of the polling stations have them—the other two-thirds are town halls or places of worship.

It's not a partisan way to get people to the polls, and we party activists are usually standing elsewhere in our mono-colored t-shirts handing out how-to-vote cards. I think that's why it's so enduring here in Australia, and why it would be difficult to implement in a country without compulsory voting (or preferential voting—what you call ranked-choice voting). If it becomes partisan it will be attacked by the Red Canine News Channel as trying to bribe voters, and certain state legislatures would pass laws against them (as they already have about giving bottles of water to voters).

That said, we didn't have them for our local government elections two months ago, and it remains to be seen whether we'll have them for our upcoming federal election. I think the reason for that is obvious, as we've all been living it for the past 2 years.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: You're no doubt right about boba because: (1) when Boba Milk Corner opened in my neighborhood a few years ago, I had to look up "boba," and (2) as a tea snob (only PG Tips or Typhoo, please), I gag at the thought of tapioca in anything but pudding. So yes, bubble tea makes perfect sense for our open, curious, adventurous 18-29s.

V & Z respond: Note that the tapioca pearls are flavorless, and are there only to provide texture.

T.B. in Tallahassee, FL, writes: I'm over 30 (and a few other decadal numbers). What's boba tea? (I want to be encouraged to vote, too!) From the inter-tubby thingy, courtesy of the wiki-whats-a-ma-job, I learn:

Bubble tea (also known as pearl milk tea, bubble milk tea, tapioca milk tea, or boba tea or boba; ...) is a tea-based drink that originated in Taiwan in the early 1980s. It most commonly consists of tea accompanied by chewy tapioca balls ("boba" or "pearls"), but it can be made with other toppings as well.

Bubble tea has many varieties and flavors, but the two most popular varieties are black pearl milk tea and green pearl milk tea ("pearl" signifies the tapioca balls at the bottom).

V & Z respond: That's definitely it. We would observe that the drink's being unfamiliar to the over-30 crowd would seem to affirm that we chose pretty well when asked for something that is specifically popular with the kiddies.

R.L. in Glendale, CA, writes: Not sure the intent in mentioning Aussies' "democracy sausage," but there may have been a parallel in the U.S.

Years ago (say, the 1980s), Trader Joe's would offer a reward to voters: Present your voter stub and get an item (if I recall correctly, it was a chocolate bar costing about $1 back then).

Then someone took this to the government, asserting that Trader Joe's was buying votes. It was not that Trader Joe's was paying for any candidate or proposition, but was discouraging non-voting, which was argued as a valid political choice. As one of you probably knows, Trader Joe's no longer offers anything for voter stubs (and under new digital machines, I do not believe there are stubs).

V & Z respond: Many voting machines still do produce stubs. And we suspect the folks that opposed this program knew full well that the people likely to know about/take advantage of an offer from Trader Joe's are going to be overwhelmingly Democratic.

E.M. In Poughkeepsie, NY, writes: We vote at my wife's church, and the ladies there have figured out that it's a great time to sell apple pies to those passing through. And what's more American than apple pie? (Well, maybe hot dogs on white bread, but that seems to have been taken over by the Aussies.)

P.L. in Denver, CO, writes: Given the size of the U.S. and the distinct regional differences, I would suggest that the U.S. would require different foods instead of just one "democracy sausage." For example, maybe in Louisiana you have beignets. In Colorado, maybe breakfast burritos. New York could be bagels, etc.

E.G.G-C. in Syracuse, NY, writes: I would "lure" Latino voters with churros (filled with manjar).

F.B. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Starbucks?

All Politics Is Local

J.L.O. in Pensacola, FL, writes: You have asked for those in Rep. Matt Gaetz's (R-FL) district to write in and provide some insight into his popularity here. Bear in mind I am simplifying greatly. The first thing to know is that Gaetz's district is loosely divided into distinct eastern and western portions.The western portion, around Pensacola, is conservative but also diverse in several axes, cosmopolitan, and just plain weird (voluminous examples upon request). The eastern portion has a mix of military bases (including Eglin, largest in the country), very rural areas (Holt), and rich vacation homes (famously, Mike Huckabee's in Destin) that gravitate towards the most conservative elements of Florida Republicanism. Gaetz is a creature of the eastern portion. His father, Don Gaetz, is a local businessman who was Superintendent of Schools in Okaloosa County and eventually President of the Florida Senate. It might be possible to beat Gaetz The Younger in the western part of the district, but he runs up such a lopsided vote tally in the eastern portion that it does not matter.

For district-wide races it is a certainty that a Republican will win ever since the Clinton-era flip of all the Southern Democrats to the GOP. As long as Gaetz wins primaries he is safe. His two predecessors in the seat are instructive: Joe Scarborough (of MSNBC fame) was a flashy newcomer who got away from his handlers and became unpredictable to the Party. Jeff Miller was happy to toe the Party line but was also the dullest politician imaginable. Certain elements in the local Party hoped that perhaps Gaetz would combine the charisma of Joe with the loyalty of Miller. However, the deciding factor in his first primary win, and all subsequent runs, was his father. Don Gaetz and local beer distributor Lewis Bear III are the most powerful people in the Northwest Florida Republican Party and they let it be known that Don's son was bound for Great Things. He started by serving three terms in the Florida House and was on his way to his dad's seat in the Senate (dad was term-limited) when Miller retired. In a crowded primary he managed about a third of the vote and from that point on his re-election is on autopilot.

I am pretty certain that Don saw his son going on to the U.S. Senate or even higher, which no longer appears to be in the cards. However, I have heard multiple prominent Republicans in town state that they support Matt mainly out of respect for his father. By all accounts Don Gaetz is an honorable and personable man, although I personally find his dedicated brand of extremely-small-government conservatism (as evidenced by his years as Superintendent of Schools) to be ultimately destructive. Based on campaign records, the moneyed interests in northwest Florida, regardless of their perceived political leanings, have also lined up behind Matt because of the power dynamic.

The average voter here does not really have much of an opinion of Matt Gaetz. Even before his recent notoriety he did fewer town halls than Miller and most of those were in the eastern part of his district. The average voter also does not care about the internal maneuverings of the local Republican Party. The Party exerts its power nonetheless. Chris Dosev, an otherwise decent ideological fit for the area, was not only crushed by Gaetz in the primaries but when he ran for Florida House versus Gaetz ally Alex Andrade, the Party spent resources to crush him again to drive home the point that Matt was sacrosanct. I would strongly suggest that anyone looking to change the politics of Northwest Florida should ignore the shiny object that is Matt Gaetz and focus on more local races that will shift the local ecosystem over time.

V & Z respond: Thanks for the excellent analysis!

L.R.H. in Oakland, CA, writes: You have answered questions about the value of voters consciously relocating to influence elections, a process that might be occurring naturally in Texas. (I myself have four lefty friends who've moved there for work in the last few years!) I recently discovered that the Libertarian Party got there first. The radio show This American Life covered this in the 2003 episode "Regime Change." The Libertarian Party's current plan can be seen at their website, Free State Project.

God, Scrod, and Harvard Yard

T.H. in Newark, NJ, writes: I agree with much of what (Z) wrote in describing the differences between UCLA and Harvard. But I wonder about the last point: "if you're an undergrad at Harvard, you are going to get a lot of courses from visiting instructors or, increasingly, postdocs."

My experience in Cambridge is 40 years old, and things might have changed. But the word on the street 40 years ago was exactly the same: "Oh, there are lots of famous professors there but undergraduates never see them." It wasn't true. The recently late E.O. Wilson taught the introductory biology course. Leonard Nash taught intro chemistry. James Q. Wilson taught an undergraduate course on bureaucracy. Stephen Jay Gould taught several undergraduate geology courses. John Rawls, Martha Nussbaum and Stanley Cavell taught undergraduate philosophy. And on and on. Michael Sandel teaches undergrads now.

I only had two courses not primarily taught by "real" professors—introductory calculus and introductory economics. In the latter, 1,000 undergraduates were taught primarily in small sections by graduate students with occasional lectures by Nobel laureate types like John Kenneth Galbraith and Otto Eckstein.

The econ department put a lot of effort into that intro course, and it was one of the best courses I ever took, grad student teacher or no. Introductory calculus... not so much.

Of course, some of the famous scholars put very little effort into teaching. But some of them were outstanding, deeply committed, and inspirational educators.

I'm no Harvard apologist—there are plenty of things wrong with that institution. But if one's goal was to be taught by the stars in a particular field, even as an undergraduate, that goal was pretty easy to achieve.

V & Z respond: The trend has been a topic of much discussion in the academic community, in particular in the Chronicle of Higher Education, for about 5-10 years. So there has certainly been a change from 30-40 years ago.

B.P. in Pensacola, FL, writes: As the parent of a third-year undergraduate at Harvard, I wanted to comment on some aspects of your answer to the question by C.P. in Silver Spring. Some (but not all) of your response seems to rely on historical anecdotes rather than reflecting the current reality.

On the issue of admissions, while there is certainly a benefit to being a legacy, Harvard is also very aggressively pursuing diversity across a host of fronts. While my son is neither a legacy nor viewed as "diverse," the more recent statistics on admissions clearly reflect this emphasis, and this has accelerated since the COVID pandemic prompted a switch to a "test optional" admissions process.

On the issue of academics and the frequently heard charge of "grade inflation," it is important to consider the student body. Given the typical academic qualifications of a Harvard undergraduate, how do you think they would be performing academically at any college? If you took the typical Harvard undergraduate and dropped them into any other analogous program at any school, they would likely be at or near the top of their class. But the academics at Harvard are also quite challenging. For example, after my son's first semester of organic chemistry last year, he compared his syllabus to a high school friend's who attends one of the top five public universities in the country—and he noted that his class had completed everything on the other syllabus in about eight or nine weeks but his class kept going further into the subject. The second semester left the other school's syllabus far behind.

The suggested lack of contact (in class or outside of it) with actual professors is also often overstated. Typically, the professor will conduct the lecture portions of the class (that will meet 2-3 times weekly), but additionally each class is typically broken into smaller groups (called "sections") that meet two or three times weekly for more individualized attention with highly competent "teaching fellows," which is a real benefit to gaining understanding of the material. And all professors have office hours where they are available to students, and typically are also quite responsive to e-mail. That said, there's not a lot of hand-holding at Harvard either. The expectation is that students who are bright enough to get into the school are likewise bright enough to figure things out or figure out how to access the help that is readily available.

Finally, Harvard is far less "cutthroat" than some of the other Ivies or peer schools (as reported by my son, who has friends at other schools). A great number of the assignments are intended to force collaboration and minimize competition. Some departments have imposed curved grading, but this is not as prevalent as at other comparable institutions.

History Matters

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: You wrote: "Prohibition is not that important (it only lasted a decade, after all)."


It put unimaginable amounts of money in the hands of some of the worst people on the planet while undermining popular support for the law. If not for the Volstead Act, very few people outside of New York City would have any idea who "the Five Families" are, and Francis Ford Coppola's career would have started on a different shoe.

Speaking of those wise guys, a generation ago, SDNY, under one Rudolph Giuliani, famously decapitated La Cosa Nostra in NYC. Power abhors a vacuum, so LCN's loss was a gain for (guess who?): The Russian Mafia!

Just a coincidence, I'm sure. No way Rudy was working for the Russians back then... is there?

V & Z respond: Fair enough, but that was meant as a relative judgment, not an absolute one. Industrialization, imperialism, women's suffrage, the New Deal, World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, etc. also had profound effects, particularly when you get into second- and third-degree consequences (i.e., [A] led to [B] which led to [C] which led to [D]). There's only so much time, and only so much student attention span, and the consequences of these other events, movements, and eras are of greater import than the consequences of Prohibition.

S.S. in West Hollywood, CA, writes: Your answer about history being written by the loser reminded me of a friend from France recounting how he has never met a German who says their family were members of the Nazi Party and supporters of Hitler. Apparently, every German he has ever met comes from a family that fought in the German resistance during World War II.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: Your delicately worded comments on Arthur Wergs Mitchell, Ralph Bunche, and Thurgood Marshall reminded me of two things. A few months ago, I watched some American Experience biographical episodes on PBS. I was struck by the light complexion of Joe Louis and Jesse Owens, and wondered if that played a factor in them being embraced by the broad American public of the 1930s.

Then, I flashed back to an old Saturday Night Live skit with Garrett Morris and Julian Bond that was shocking back when it aired in 1977 because it laid bare another facet of racism. In it, the lighter-skinned Bond casually asserted his superiority over the darker-skinned Morris. I was able to find the transcript, but not the video, surprising considering all the trivia that is on YouTube. Read into that what you will.

V & Z respond: Two things. First, back in the days where enslaved people were being sold, marketing an individual as "yellow" was code for "part-white," which was a selling point. That evolved into the phrase "high yellow," used in particular by members of the Black community to describe the higher status accorded to lighter-skinned Black folks. It was a somewhat neutral term for a long time, but became a negative after the Civil Rights Movement, hence the SNL satire. Second, someone working for NBC, probably an intern, has gone through and made certain that nearly all race-centered sketches from the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s were scrubbed from the Internet. At least "Word Association" is still available.

Civil War Movies

S.B. in Hood River, OR, writes: While I don't tend to think of it as a Civil War movie, good call on Wild Wild West's awfulness. This film was the greatest disappointment of my filmgoing history. I was (and still am) a huge fan of the TV series. The movie script was just plain dreadful. The last half hour is watchable, but then you have to slog through the preceding painful content to get to it. The main issue is the writers couldn't decide what kind of movie they wanted to make. There was very little humor in the series, but the movie kept going for cheap laughs. And who decided it was a good idea to have James West and Artemus Gordon dislike each other for most of the film? Would love to see the material handled properly but doubt that will ever happen. Box office bombs almost never get a sequel.

M.U. in Seattle, WA, writes: I couldn't agree more about ranking Gangs of New York among the worst of Civil War movies, if not of all movies. It was awful! It's one of only three movies I've ever walked out in the middle of. Funnily enough, though, it's the only movie I have walked out of that other people walked out of before me. It's as if all attendees were in a particular malaise and some managed to make it out alive while others, I assumed, suffered a certain paralysis—there is always something going on to watch, but what, really, is completely a mystery. Fellow readers, do not attempt to watch this film—it's that bad.

A.B. in Richmond, VA, writes: The worst Civil War film I've seen is Field of Lost Shoes (2014). The only good thing about it is Nick Schager's review in The Village Voice.

V & Z respond: If the "bad" list had gone to six, that would have been the next entry.

J.M. in Ann Arbor, MI, writes: I thought The Outlaw Josey Wales was a really good Civil War-adjacent movie.

V & Z respond: And if the "good" list had gone to 11 (or, really, 12), then that would have been the next entry.

B.W. in Storrs, CT, writes: You mentioned that there is a yet-to-be-released third revenge film by Quentin Tarantino. I would say that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is that film. It is a counterfactual take on an actual historical event—just as the other two are—and provides a happier ending that upends the narrative and provides a satisfying revenge element to alter what really happened. I always saw the film in terms of the previous two.

V & Z respond: Note that we said "as-yet-unknown," not necessarily "yet-to-be-released." The theory that Once Upon a Time in Hollywood is the third film has been out there since the movie came out. However, Tarantino hasn't confirmed or denied that.

D.R. in Slippery Rock, PA, writes: You wrote that Cold Mountain was subject to the "constraints" of Hollywood storytelling. Actually, it is Homer's storytelling.

So was O Brother, Where Art Thou, three years earlier. A good story.

V & Z respond: Actually, it's constrained by both. We were specifically thinking of the opening scenes of the movie when we wrote that. In reality, Black soldiers got crushed at the Battle of the Crater, due to poor planning and logistics. In the movie, the filmmakers decided that showing what actually happened might be taken as a slight against Black soldiers, and so for that scene white actors were used.

Music Men

R.S., San Mateo, CA, writes: In response to C.S. in Linville's pending parenthood, A.H. in Newberg wrote: "Listen to Harry Chapin's 'The Cat's in the Cradle' if you need advice." I hope that was meant to say "advice of what not to do". That is a beautiful song about a busy workaholic father who doesn't have time for his child, misses out on all of the childhood milestones, and then later in life laments that his grown son, in turn, has no time for his own family ("my boy was just like me"). If C.S. is going to study that song's lyrics, please do the opposite.

V & Z respond: We assumed A.H. was referring to the point of the song, which is "Don't do this."

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: Given your love for pop culture references, I'm surprised you didn't mention that Keisha Lance Bottoms's father was no other than the soul singer Major Lance, best known for his hit "Um, Um, Um, Um, Um, Um." I still find myself humming that one from time to time, not least because a song whose lyric is mostly humming makes for a very hummable tune!

T.J.R. in Metuchen, NJ, writes: Two sneaky attacks by Canadians on the American listening public, in 1973. They are the same song, just different versions:

And you thought "Disco Duck" was bad...

V & Z respond: Pretty corny, yes, but Ronald Reagan was a big fan...


P.K. in Marshalltown, IA, writes: You forgot this Bobby Hill, Andy Renko's partner on Hill Street Blues:

The character Bobby Hill,
who is wearing a police sergeant's uniform

S.A. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Perhaps people were prescient about the name Donald. In 1946, the year the former president was born, it was the 13th most popular boy's name. It was a freefall after that. By 1950, it had fallen to 14th, 1960 19th, 1970 30th, 1980 51st, 1990 82nd and it had fallen off the top 100 boys names by 1992, never to return.

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: (Z) wrote: "...resulting in very non-football scores like 106-3, 98-0, and 121-7."

Clearly, (Z) did not go to my high school, where scores like these were routine, except in reverse. Even the "mercy rule," whereupon the clock would run continuously after the score deficit exceeded 49 points, could only do so much.

V & Z respond: From your high school to the defense of the Detroit Lions.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan08 Saturday Q&A
Jan07 Biden Comes Out Firing
Jan07 Menendez Jr. Is In...
Jan07 ...and Kristof Is Out (at Least for Now)
Jan07 Looking Forward: The Readers Predict 2022, Part II: Donald Trump's Family and Supporters
Jan07 This Week in Schadenfreude
Jan07 Foreign Elections to Watch
Jan06 The 1/6 Committee: A Status Report
Jan06 Garland Speaks
Jan06 Fixing the Electoral Count Act Won't Be Easy, But...
Jan06 Gerrymandering: The Early Returns Are In
Jan06 The Dominoes Fall Quickly
Jan06 Looking Backward: How Did The Readers Do?, Part II: Donald Trump's Family and Supporters
Jan05 A Strange Sort of Anniversary
Jan05 Meanwhile, the 1/6 Committee Is Chugging Along
Jan05 One Million Infections
Jan05 Rep. Brenda Lawrence Is Democratic Retiree #25
Jan05 Today's News You Already Knew: Elder Won't Run for Governor Again
Jan05 Looking Forward: The Readers Predict 2022, Part I: Donald Trump
Jan04 Republican Infighting Is Getting More Noticeable
Jan04 Letitia James Wants to Chat with the Trump Kids
Jan04 Schumer Preparing to Throw Down the Filibuster Gauntlet
Jan04 Bobby Rush to Announce Retirement...
Jan04 ...And Devin Nunes Makes It Official
Jan04 Why Did Keisha Lance Bottoms Quit?
Jan04 Looking Backward: How Did The Readers Do?, Part I: Donald Trump
Jan03 Trump Will Give a Speech on Jan. 6 Claiming that He Won the 2020 Election
Jan03 Kerik Gives Documents to (and Withholds Documents from) the Select Committee
Jan03 One-Third of Americans Are OK with Violence against the Government
Jan03 Will Biden Be Primaried in 2024?
Jan03 Twitter Suspends Marjorie Taylor Greene's Personal Account
Jan03 At Least Five House Races Will Feature Two Incumbents
Jan03 Pundit Predictions for 2022, Part II
Jan03 New Manhattan D.A. Takes over Trump Case
Jan03 Trump-Appointed FDIC Chair Resigns
Jan03 Why Are Democracies Foundering?
Jan03 The Netherlands Has a Government
Jan02 Sunday Mailbag
Jan01 Happy New Year!
Jan01 Saturday Q&A
Dec31 The Slow-Moving Coup, Part IV: Six Crises, Vol. III
Dec31 Virginia Has Its Maps
Dec31 Trump's Transactional Endorsements
Dec31 How Will the History Books Remember 2021?
Dec31 Looking Forward: We Predict 2022
Dec31 Got to Admit, It's Getting Better, Part IV
Dec31 A December to Rhymember (the Conclusion)
Dec30 The Slow-Moving Coup, Part III: Six Crises, Vol. II
Dec30 Michigan Has Its Maps
Dec30 Winfrey Damns Oz with Faint Praise