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Happy Easter! May you experience renewal, or else get lots of candy, or both, as is apropos for your particular commemoration of the holiday.

Sunday Mailbag

To our surprise, the answers we wrote yesterday about genocide and whataboutism did not produce a single angry e-mail. They did produce some thoughtful responses, and some very kind messages, some of which appear below. We also got quite a few messages about Joe Biden's approval numbers (and what the problem is), such that we'll run some this week and some more next week. We are also going to wait to see if more of our Mexican readers would like to weigh in on the recent referendum or on AMLO in particular. So, if you have comments on those two subjects, in particular, please do send them along.

The War in Ukraine

F.C. in DeLand, FL, writes: It's nice to say that we shouldn't give Ukraine offensive weapons so that they don't use them to attack Russia. However, if Ukraine is to retake eastern Ukraine and Crimea from Russia, those same "offensive" weapons are essential.

So a decision to deny Ukraine offensive weapons is a decision to let Russia keep those territories they've already taken.

D.M. in Berlin, Germany, writes: The goal of the sanctions is not to get Russia's ordinary taxpayers to start a revolution. (When have sanctions ever had that effect?) It isn't to get the oligarchs or the security apparatus to stage a coup either; they depend on Putin more than he depends on them. The goal is to end the war directly—by bankrupting Russia so Russia becomes unable to continue the war no matter what Putin or anyone wants. World War I ended when Germany simply ran out of supplies for the military; it had not lost some sort of decisive battle, the soldiers were still in the trenches the day they were told it was all over.

Russia is pretty far along on the path to bankruptcy. It has already defaulted on foreign debt. The ruble has recovered on paper but is not freely convertible anymore; the sanction-proofing done before the war, including 630 to 640 gigabucks in foreign currencies and 2.3 kilotonnes of gold, have turned out to be largely useless. Germany is working hard on becoming independent from Russian oil, and less hard but still noticeably on becoming independent from Russian natural gas. Russia's only tank manufacturer, Uralvagonzavod, had to stop producing tanks a few weeks ago because it depends on imported parts that it can't get anymore. I really don't think the war is going to drag on for years. Sanctions will probably shut it down this year, maybe just a few weeks from now.

Also, I have read the infamous RIA Novosti article, parts of it in the original language. It really does say that Nazis make up the majority of the Ukrainian population (that's one of the things I checked in the original). The very fact that it was published by RIA Novosti and not immediately deleted (like the victory proclamation of February 26th or the claim that 9861 Russian soldiers had died a few weeks later) means that Putin personally wants people to read it; that's how the big media work in Russia nowadays.

The article does not call for killing millions of Ukrainians, so it does not call for genocide in the strictest sense. It does call for a long list of drastic, often violent measures to brainwash tens of millions of people for decades in order to erase the very concept of being Ukrainian. This is similar to the indigenous boarding schools Canada (among others) used to have. The rarely used term "ethnocide" has been coined for such erasures of cultures without intentional mass murder, and definitely applies to what the article calls for and describes in detail.

R.M.S. in Lebanon, CT, writes: President Biden was 100% correct this week when he said that Russia is conducting a genocide by trying to make it impossible for Ukrainians to be Ukrainian. I don't understand why the White House staff keeps walking back his statements about the war, because he has been honest and direct in his observations of the situation. The Russian government not only wants to destroy an independent Ukrainian state, they are now openly speaking about eliminating Ukrainian people. The Washington Post published an excellent article this week discussing how the Kremlin has become even more ruthless and bloodthirsty in describing Ukrainians.

A Russian military analyst is calling for prison camps to punish Ukrainians who have opposed the invasion, and a Russian parliamentarian said it would take 30-40 years to "re-educate" Ukrainians. Margarita Simonyan, the head of Russia's state-owned media organizations, said of Ukrainians: "It's no accident we call them Nazis. What makes you a Nazi is your bestial nature, your bestial hatred and your bestial willingness to tear out the eyes of children on the basis of nationality." Simonyan is not a random nutcase on the Internet; she is a high-ranking media official whose job is to push the Kremlin's official message to the Russian public and beyond. She is describing the Ukrainians as "bestial," which means "animalistic" or "inhuman." I am of partial Ukrainian descent, and I can assure all readers that I am 100% homo sapiens, and am willing to take a DNA test to prove it. The Russian government is trying to dehumanize the entire Ukrainian population, which is extremely alarming, unscientific, and has historical precedent as a pretext for human rights violations.

If the rest of Europe is not disturbed and alarmed by this increasingly menacing messaging, they should be. Two dictators from the European continent, Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin, used dehumanizing language as a justification for mass murder and incarceration. Hitler described Jews, Romani, and other minority groups as subhuman. Stalin dehumanized political dissidents, business owners, and people with high levels of education.

I wrote to you in February, saying I believed there would be a bloodbath in Ukraine if Russia invades. It seems like this is becoming even more likely. Ukraine has about 41 million citizens and Russia would probably have to kill or imprison well over 6 million people in order to stamp out Ukrainian culture, which seems to be their ultimate goal. Russia does possess weapons of mass destruction, which makes that a frightening possibility.

A.T. in Quincy, IL, writes: I'm not going to dive into a long-winded discussion of what word most adequately describes Russia's apparent actions in its campaign against Ukraine, but I just thought of a relatively recent term which I don't recall having encountered as much the last few years: "ethnic cleansing."

As I said, I don't want to try to defend my proposal to any great degree, in part because I really need to stop procrastinating on my taxes, but there is at least one item I've recently heard, over and above the rather frequent attacks on civilian populations and public spaces, and that is the apparent efforts to remove (read: kidnap) Ukrainian children to Russia, presumably for "adoption," and whatever else. I'll say right now, I have nothing beyond what amounts to second- or third-hand accounts of these activities taking place, but if they are, then, yes, I could easily be persuaded to describe such efforts as "ethnic cleansing." But I'm not an expert in such matters.

Maybe that is a bit long-winded, after all. In any case, that's my $0.02, for what it's worth.


B.W. in Suwanee, GA, writes: After reading your item on the whole "defund the police" movement, I was reminded of a story I recently read in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

I was delighted when Joe Biden came out against the whole "defund the police" mantra. What my county is doing with the mental health units is the right thing to do and is exactly what the Democrats need to focus on, as far as police funding goes, in my humble opinion.

J.V.W. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: You wrote: "There is a good reason that Democrats are running from "defund the police" rather than running on it: There was a referendum on reforming the police in Minneapolis and it lost."

Just to clarify, Minneapolis never voted on whether or not to defund the police or even reform the police. They voted on creating a department of public safety that would contain the police, along with removing language from the city charter that requires a fixed number of officers per capita. Opponents of the referendum did paint it as a referendum on defunding the police, and it did fail, possibly because of that messaging, but the reality of the actual vote was more tame than reforming or defunding the police. It would have been a step where Minneapolis could have reduced police staffing/funding, but it failed, and gives even more reason why Democrats should be falling over themselves to throw money at the police, since even the possibility of a debate about how much funding/staffing the police should have was a loser in Minneapolis.

E.F. in Baltimore, MD, writes: As far as saving oil is concerned, ethanol is a mirage. The way that we grow corn in this country, heavy on the fertilizer and mechanized equipment, not to mention the oil powering the distillation, uses nearly as much oil as is saved by the ethanol that is produced. Then, factor in the highly toxic additives needed to keep the ethanol from ruining engines never designed to burn it. It's an ecological disaster.

When Bob Dole pushed the original corn ethanol subsidy through Congress, it was a payoff to Kansas farmers and Archer Daniels Midland, masquerading as a way to save energy. Nothing has changed.

S.C. in Mountain View, CA, writes: While a work of fiction, I highly recommend the book Still Alice to gain some understanding of what cognitive decline looks like from the standpoint of the person experiencing it.

S.P. in Foster, RI, writes: You suggest Rep. Pramilla Jayapal (D-WA) as a potential progressive Democratic candidate for president. On the one hand, I give your credit for having suggested a genuine progressive this time around. However, given that she was born in India and came to the U.S.A. at age 16, would she actually be legally eligible to serve as POTUS?

V & Z respond: Oops. No, she would not; we didn't think to confirm her eligibility. In her place, we would suggest Rep. Katie Porter (D-CA), and is the Deputy Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (in other words, #2 to Jayapal).

M.D.K. in Portland, OR, writes: Please tell G.S. in Spokane that I want to buy their "Good Ol' Putin" graphic on a bumper sticker and/or a t-shirt.

There are platforms that will produce such materials, like,, and If G.S. finds a way to realize the idea, I hope readers will hear about it.

V & Z respond: Yes, if we became aware of it, we would pass it along.

WWWJ (What's Wrong with Joe)?, Part I

J.K. in Silverdale, WA, writes: In response to B.C. in Farmingville wondering about Joe Biden's low approval ratings, and the more general question of why folks seem to vote against their own self-interest, I submit my latest half-baked theory based on Harry Harlow's experiments with rhesus monkeys. In one version of Harlow's experiments, rhesus infants were given two surrogate mothers: a wire mother offering food and a cloth mother offering no nourishment. The monkeys preferred clinging to the cloth mother and would only visit the wire mother for food.

Applied to politics, are Democrats like a wire mother and Republicans like a cloth mother? Democrats seem to offer policies to provide "nourishment," a social safety net for physical needs such as school lunch programs, healthcare, WIC and TANF, and social security. Republicans, on the other hand, offer rhetoric that gives their base comfort. They give a feeling of belonging and identity. As (V) & (Z) described yesterday, this is often based on amplifying the "otherness" of out groups, whether they are immigrants, "welfare queens," or anyone who isn't white, Christian, hetero, cisgendered and, most importantly, Republican. Recently, GOP politicians have even touted the infrastructure bill they voted against while bashing Democrats for their reckless ideas, much like the monkeys feeding from the wire mother only to immediately return to the comfort of the cloth mother.

Perhaps this framework could help to explain the discrepancy in polls. A wide swath of policies Democrats push get high approval ratings, from healthcare and infrastructure to handling the invasion of Ukraine. However, Biden and Democrats get little to no credit for enacting them. Perhaps many voters are seeking not the "nourishment" of policy but the "comfort" of identity and belonging. In response to the more extreme forms of identity expression on the right, like Charlottesville, Biden has said, "This is not who we are." After all the tumult of the Trump years, pandemic, January 6, and now war, perhaps Biden and Democrats need to articulate a clear answer to this question: "As Americans, who are we?"

J.S. in York, PA, writes: I write this in response to the question from B.C. in Farmingville.

I have come to think of the "Economy" as separate from GDP. I think of the Economy as basically whatever the prevailing narrative thinks it is. I have also begun to believe that some of the recent talk about a recession may hasten it's occurrence. If people see news reports, or even just headlines, that say we are possibly entering a recession soon, it might lead to small changes in people's behaviors, which might then create a bit of a domino effect. We have been hammered lately in news blurbs about inflation and how bad it is, which causes one to look and notice every price increase.

And the price increases have been fairly drastic and noticeable. This is made worse by the stealth inflation we have seen in unit prices over the last 15 years or so (anyone remember 64-ounce orange juice or ice cream, or 5 pounds of sugar? They shrunk the size to keep the price). I work in grocery retail and price increases have been really common, which leads to reports of prices increasing, which leads to people noticing more, which leads to people buying less, and so on and so forth. And there is a real pain to increased pricing. There are families for whom that extra 15 dollars at the grocery store means something else they can't do, so the cost is whatever they lose out on.

As a side note, while I see copious amounts of right-wing hammering on inflation, I see little done at state level in states to deal with it. All I have seen of late is generally culture wars stuff. Am I missing something? States are often the incubators of new ideas, and if culture wars is all they have, what would a GOP answer to inflation really be?

S.K. in Chappaqua, NY, writes: Polls that report percentages of respondents disapproving rarely, if ever, distinguish between the two sides of an issue. In this particular case, those disapproving of what Biden has done are aggregated ("lumped") with those who disapprove of what he has failed to do. As in so many other cases, if you infer voting preferences from percentages of those disapproving, you completely ignore that the likelihood that those who disapprove because some individual is insufficiently extreme in working for the respondent's preferences is certainly not going to vote for that individual's opponent, who disfavors the respondent's preferences altogether.

G.M. (somwehere in) OH, writes: When talking to Republicans and other right-wing people, I have found that they will believe right-wing media over their own lying eyes and bank statements. If Fox Propaganda Network says everything is bad because of the liberals, about 30-40% of Republicans will just accept that a absolute fact despite any and all evidence to the contrary. If you mention that the U.S. essentially has full employment and businesses everywhere will hire anyone who breathes, they counter with Biden had destroyed all our jobs and we have massive unemployment because of Mexican immigrants.

P.S.: Please don't publish my town; I volunteered to work the polls as a Democrat and got death threats. I'll keep volunteering but don't need extra death threats.

V & Z respond: We included your P.S. because we thought it was... instructive.

Republican Strategery

J.A. in Redwood City, CA, writes: Regarding the inquiry from C.P. in Silver Spring about the Republican party's long-term strategy, I am reminded of the modern-day political maxim that Democrats expend their political capital to enact legislation, while Republicans enact legislation to increase their political power.

Also, in your answer to the question from K.F. in Framingham, you wrote that Kevin McCarthy is currently downplaying the likelihood of Joe Biden being impeached by Republicans purely for political purposes. However, I don't find his statement to be particularly reassuring. It's no secret that McCarthy's spine often goes missing, and so I wouldn't expect him to push back against a future Republican House majority, whose members decide on their own that they want payback from the Democrats for impeaching Donald Trump. In fact, I can easily imagine that McCarthy changing his mind to support impeachment may become an essential pre-condition for his colleagues to elect him as the House's next Speaker.

Oh, and if a PB&J burger doesn't float your boat, there's always squid pizza. Mangia Tutto!

D.R. in St. Paul, MN, writes: In your response to C.P. in Silver Spring, you did not list what is (to me) the most likely GOP plan: destroying democracy. Once the Republican Party gets into power, they are likely to change the voting rules to make it so they always win the election, no matter what the total number of people in the polity (city, state, nation) want. If they successfully make it that only Republicans can vote, then they don't need to worry about a target to vote against. This clearly seems to be their long-term target. This can be a very effective way of staying in power (e.g., Jim Crow-era Southern states, which had a long run of effective one-party rule maintained by preventing the totality from voting). They've told us that this is their plan. When the supervillain is monologuing, believe them. They are already starting to implement it.

E.W. (also) in Silver Spring, MD, writes: In response to C.P. in Silver Spring, I would say, the GOP has no choice right now. Their boomer and evangelical base demands their ideal candidates, and nothing short of it; note the outcry over Donald Trump's endorsement of Mehmet Oz. So if they stray from what the base wants, they risk an utter collapse of their most loyal voters. At the same time, the Party struggles to moderate much, even with their moderate governors in left-leaning states. Our own governor's vetoes this past week, which he had to know were going to be overridden, as every one was, shows that even moderating on things like family medical leave is likely a bridge too far when trying to hold together enough of the base, even for moderates.

L.V.A. in Idaho Falls, ID, writes: In the last two weeks' mailbags, several of your correspondents illustrated (unintentionally) why the Republican party has had a non-zero chance of winning federal (and many state) elections since World War II. Many Democratic voters vote for the best candidate, while their Republican counterparts vote for the Republican candidate.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: It totally makes sense that the GOP is in love with Vladimir Putin. Slowly but surely, the GOP-led states are taking more and more control over people's lives. I guess they are no longer the party of small government. Florida (or Texas, Alabama, South Dakota, Oklahoma, etc) SSR anybody?


B.H. in Westborough, MA, writes: In your response to J.L. in Los Angeles, you articulate what so many of us are incredibly frustrated by: The projectionism shown every single day by the Republicans and their followers. Trouble is, your retort can't be boiled down to a sound bite, and can't harness and cause action on the rage the base feels about getting screwed by the very people who are feeding them these talking points. I continue to be in awe of the Republicans' ability to capitalize on this anger and to redirect it against the very people who would be more likely to help them.

B.B. in Dothan, AL, writes: It appears to me that Republicans have morphed the whataboutism rhetorical device into what I call "preemptive whataboutism." In other words, any kind of illegal, immoral, or unethical behavior can be wholly justified and defeated simply by accusing Democrats of doing (or having done) the same thing.

It seems to be fairly effective, especially among low information voters; it muddies the water by making it seem that everyone is doing the same thing.

It's also effective with conservative voters who are preternaturally disposed to agree with any and all Republican talking points and arguments. These voters then believe that Democrats are the ones behaving badly, which justifies similar countermeasures. For example:

P.W. in Springwater, NY, writes: First of all, thank you. I'm beyond frustrated with the overabundance of "whataboutism," and cherry picking an impolitic phrase from a longer statement, just to have a (false) talking point. Yes, this happens on both sides of the aisle, but far right has elevated this to an art form. For me, exhibit #1 in the demonizing rhetoric wars is the number of crude signs and statements about Joe Biden, from bumper stickers and banners to chanting "Let's Go, Brandon." And I do feel the press is going overboard in the coverage of this administration. They were definitely hard on Trump, and it seems they want to be equally critical of Biden, just to appear unbiased.

But what the original question really showed, sadly, is how badly divided this nation has become. The idea of listening to the other side seems so quaint. No one wants to hear the other side, much less compromise for the sake of getting anything accomplished. For many in politics, the way to the top is to scrape the bottom of the barrel. For this, I blame supposed "leaders" who really only want to cater to our basest instincts. The only response to white supremacist, antisemitic, misogynistic, or other similar persons or groups is to call them out for what they are—unAmerican. The only response to the likes of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Josh Hawley (R-MO), and Tom Cotton (R-AR), not to mention the clown car Republicans in the House, is to ask if they have any "sense of decency" left. Sadly, Joseph Welch is long gone, along with any sense of our being "one country, indivisible" with a yet unrealized promise of "liberty and justice for all."

Hey, but I'm a Boomer. If voting to elect reasonable candidates and volunteering for/donating to their campaigns doesn't work, I can just die off and leave the mess to those younger than me. At least I hope the country lasts that long. What a depressing, sad sentiment.

M.B. in Menlo Park, CA, writes: Your response to the question from J.L. in Los Angeles regarding whataboutism appeared to be the longest response in the history of your blog. Was it the longest? Interestingly, given the topic, your response wasn't any longer than it needed to be.

V & Z respond: That answer was 2,158 words, which is pretty long. However, the longest answer ever is actually this one, running down lesser known examples of anti-Black racism, which clocked in at 2,999 words.

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: You wrote: "This reader (well, probably a former reader now) not only perceives the pieces we write (and the letters we run) as having a political slant, they've also decided that they represent an attack on conservatives/Republicans/everyone to the right of Karl Marx."

Are you new here (the Internet)? The only two ways this person will ever become a "former reader" are if the website stops publishing or if this person stops reading anything at all online.

For these types, the nastiness is a feature, not a bug. They read your site (or some of it; probably not a large portion) in order to feel good about themselves for their superior perspicacity—and to get the chance to be nasty to "the enemy"—which is everyone except "everyone to the right of Karl Marx."

V & Z respond: You may be right. We do have some readers who hate-read, and then send us regular e-mails about how horrible we are.

S.S-L. in Norman, OK, writes: Many of your readers, myself included, decided at some point to put you on blast for what we took to be imprecise language, an uninformed perspective, or some other personal bugaboo that made our hackles raise. First of all, I think I speak on behalf of everyone here when I say thank you for giving us the space to have our little meltdowns without holding them against us in the future. Second, because I genuinely don't think it's been said enough: You are very, very appreciated.

V & Z respond: Thanks so much! Nobody's perfect, including us, and we appreciate being kept on our toes. We should also point out that we get many, many positive e-mails, like this one. As to the nasty e-mails, well, if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. If those message were really and truly bothersome, well, there's nothing that says we have to make it so easy to find our e-mail addresses.

D.B.G. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: You gents, in your elocution, set the bar for those who aspire to be our political leaders. Bravo. I can only dream that those wankers and hucksters who preen for their moment in the cable spotlight might actually take their jobs and their constituents as seriously as you do your side gig.

V & Z respond: And thanks to you, as well! We don't normally publish laudatory letters, but since we talked about the nasty ones yesterday, we thought we should show the other side.

All Politics Is Local

I.K. in Queens, NY, writes: On the topic of Gov. Kathy Hochul's (D-NY) drama this week... it is not a good look.

In my experience, New Yorkers tend to be much more forgiving of abrasive personalities than financial mismanagement. (Exhibit A: Andrew Cuomo's election margins.) And Hochul is earning a distinctive whiff of financial corruption around her; first there was the absurdly expensive Buffalo Bills stadium that we the taxpayers are paying for, and now there's all the fraud allegations against her chosen governing partner.

Downstate in New York City, Hochul's biggest selling point is the Interborough Express train line she is proposing—we are so starved for investment in our public transit system, we can forgive any multitude of sins in exchange for the trains running on time. But the MTA is already infamous for financial corruption and for making billions of dollars vanish into the ether. So if Hochul's one silver bullet to win over city New Yorkers is tainted by suspicions of what it'll cost us, that is bad news for her.

As you often write, you can't beat someone with no one, and I'm sure everyone from Cuomo to Tish James is kicking themselves for not attempting to challenge her in the primary. Her two credible opponents are Rep. Tom Suozzi (the moderate alternative) and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams (the progressive). New York has a big moderate lean among Democrats, but Suozzi is just kind of a nonentity, and time is running out for him to make an impression.

Williams, however, seems to be more of a threat than most progressives—he gave Hochul a run for her money 53-47 in the 2018 lieutenant governor primary, at the same time that progressive challengers were trounced by 30+ points in the gubernatorial and AG primary. I think his candidacy just went from "long shot" to "decent chance for the Democratic nomination."

In the general election, I still think New York's deep blue hue would carry Hochul against any clown that ends up with the Republican nomination. But if Williams is the nominee... then it may not be such a slam dunk. He is very progressive, and a black man from NYC. So, he may still be favored to win, but many New Yorkers would be in for a stressful few months wondering if he will.

D.A. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: You wrote: "It's really and truly frightening how far Florida—which, remember, is a purple state that's only about 50.5% Republican—has gone down the road toward authoritarianism. Gerrymandering is enough of an insult to democracy, as it is. But to give that power to one man, primarily because he threw several temper tantrums and refused to play nice?"

Yeah, I totally get that, having lived under the reign of King Andrew I of New York.

S.R. in Ottawa, ON, Canada, writes: I don't understand why everyone acts like Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is an untouchable shoo-in for re-election. He won by the slimmest of margins in 2018—about 30,000 votes out of over 8 million cast, or about 0.4% above his rival, and under 50% of the vote. He then governed like a right-wing maniac power-drunk on a landslide mandate. His brash style, over-reaching, and obvious pandering must have turned off some voters that he can't afford to lose.

M.G. in Iowa City, IA, writes: Your analysis of the Iowa Senate race is partly wrong. You are correct that Iowa is now red, and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) is almost certain to win. But you are very wrong about this: "First, they need a very solid candidate. And they had one, in Abby Finkenauer (D), who represented Iowa in the House."

I don't know what standard on Earth the DSCC could have used to determine that Abby F. would be a strong candidate. If they really believed that, it helps explain why the DSCC has been such a miserable failure as an organization.

I hate to be too simple, but I'm also pretty sure it's right. This is Iowa. An old white man will always have a better chance than a young woman.

But it's not just that.

Finkenauer "represented Iowa in the House" for one term, then lost handily to an inexperienced newbie. I live in Eastern Iowa. I watched both her congressional campaigns. She is not a solid candidate. She is mostly unknown outside her district, was not very popular in her district, and does not excite anyone. She is having trouble getting on the ballot because she made no attempt to build a statewide organization.

I'm 46 and never lived anywhere but Iowa. Adm. Mike Franken (ret.; D) may be mostly unknown, but there is zero chance that Finkenauer is a stronger general election candidate than he is.

D.C. in Delray Beach, FL, writes: When former Iowa congresswoman Abby Finkenauer started her campaign to take on Chuck Grassley, I thought she might have a decent chance if she ran a good race. So I sent in a modest donation early on.

Having run for office myself (with a decent success rate), I know that one of the early tasks is making sure you qualify for the ballot. I always made sure I had at least 20% more than the required signatures. When I needed to collect checks to run as a Clean Elections candidate in Maine, I brought in 20% more checks than the minimum. I met personally with town clerks to make sure my paperwork was good. There were always problems with a few signatures and registrations, so I wanted to be safe.

The Iowa requirements include gathering at least 100 signatures in 19 different counties. Finkenauer's campaign appears to have been tripped up by three incomplete entries in two counties and a couple of vigilant Republican local chairs. Surely bringing in at least 120 signatures per county would have been prudent.

All week long I have been deluged by e-mails from Abby's campaign blaming the Republicans for her current status of being kicked off the ballot and asking, by the way, for more money. But surely this is really sloppy work by her campaign. And the DSCC should be watching the work of these campaigns to make sure there aren't embarrassments like this. She is wasting my contribution on legal fees she has incurred unnecessarily. No, I am not sending more.

More importantly, Democrats know there are new voter suppression rules across the country. Let this be a lesson about not being out-organized nor committing self-inflicted wounds.

V & Z respond: As you presumably know, she was reinstated after you sent this message. Nonetheless, your point is still well taken.

V.S. in Oak Bluffs, Martha's Vineyard, MA, writes: A two-vote difference was decisive in my hometown election for select board. Never think your vote doesn't count.

Breathe, Breathe in the Air

S.K. in Chicago, IL, writes: In response the the suggestion from D.A. in Edinburgh of having masked and unmasked flights with a refundable surcharge, as someone who has worked for years in the revenue and inventory management side of a major airline, I can assure you the chances that an airline would implement the suggestion is precisely zero. Introducing products like paid extra legroom seats and the like take years of planning, pricing, and IT work to integrate into the Global Distribution Systems (GDS) that power the industry and would be the same with mask/unmasked flight sections. No airline would see the revenue potential in making that investment and it wouldn't be on the market until 2024 at best. Additionally, it would add another layer of inventory management seat allocations—do you set the percentage of masked seats higher on Chicago to Orlando than Denver to Las Vegas? And finally, the airlines would never want to have a new liability on its books of refundable mask-wearing deposits, not to mention the position flight attendants would be in to tell someone they're going to keep their $250 deposit. In short, never ever, ever, ever going to happen.

Also, the air onboard planes in flight is not as recirculated as the public perceives. Generally speaking, half of the air that comes out of the vents above you is brand-new air from the outside (called bleed air since it's diverted from the engine intake after being heated and pressurized). As the math works out, a typical passenger plane's entire atmosphere is completely refreshed with new air from the outside about once every 3-5 minutes.

M.S. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: "Masked and unmasked" was proposed back at the start of the pandemic, with grocery stores having masked and unmasked hours or days. The problem with both is that it erases the health needs of the flight crew (or store staff), who surely don't want to be exposed to the plague rats who refuse to wear masks.

Legal Matters

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Further to your response to M.G. in Indianapolis, a court in California or New York likely would have to enforce a Texas money judgment for assisting an abortion under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Constitution. Of course, the Texas law would have to have been held constitutional. Moreover, for a judgment to be worth anything, the debtor would have to have assets in the state; otherwise, the judgment would be irrelevant because there would be nothing to satisfy it. (I note also that criminal statutes are not enforceable in the other state's courts, and there would be some interesting litigation if a state sought to extradite someone so it could prosecute them for having or facilitating an abortion.)

Actually, the best method for ensuring enforcement of state civil and criminal anti-abortion statutes would be federal legislation, a Fugitive Pregnant Women Act modeled on the Fugitive Slave Act, requiring, under the Supremacy Clause, all state and local law enforcement to hunt down, capture and return fugitives who had or facilitated abortions in or connected with a state with abortion bans or bounties. Bounty hunters could be employed, too, just as they were before the Civil War. Such a law (just wait for the Republican federal trifecta in 2025) would serve as a condign resonance between how enslavers viewed Black people in 1850 and how Republicans view women today.

J.L. in Paterson, NJ, writes: Concerning Dominion's suits about the Big Lie, you're correct that final resolution won't come soon (although interim revelations from discovery could have political impact).

You also wrote: "Or maybe the damage sustained by Dominion will be great enough to force it into bankruptcy and end the suits." Actually, bankruptcy probably wouldn't end the suits. A bankruptcy proceeding involves marshaling the debtor's assets. With the suits ongoing, Dominion has a gain contingency, which is an asset, even if its value is unknown and might be zero. A possible arrangement would be: Dominion's right to recover in the suits is assigned to a new corporation, "Dominion Holdings" (or the like), along with some cash for litigation expenses. Creditors of the former Dominion receive shares in Dominion Holdings. That way, even if there's not enough cash in Dominion's till to pay its creditors in full, they have at least a chance of getting paid later. The bankruptcy judge would decide whether the probability of success in the lawsuits is high enough to justify continuing to pursue them.

R.B. in Fairfax, VA, writes: So, you extremist ultra-woke leftist agitators have done it again! I refer, of course, to your blatantly biased and ignorant response to J.H. in Racine, in which you stated that Ketanji Brown Jackson is confirmed to "a seat" on the Supreme Court, not to "Stephen Breyer's seat."

Just kidding with the rhetoric, of course, but you were technically incorrect. If you read the official Congressional record of her nomination, you will see that she was nominated and confirmed "to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, vice Stephen G. Breyer, retiring." So she can only fill Breyer's seat, not any other. Indeed, you will find that the same is true of all other nominations to courts, commissions, boards, etc. consisting of more than one member that require Senate confirmation; the candidate is nominated to fill a specific seat, not to the court/agency in general.

V & Z respond: We almost included a picture of a Supreme Court nominating document, namely the one for James Clark McReynolds, to note that the name of the departing occupant is indeed specified. However, the Congressional Research Service says this is just there to keep things clear, and isn't legally binding.

History Matters

D.R. in Old Harbor, AK, writes: Here is another comparison.

Jimmy Carter was the first elected president after the horrors of the Vietnam War and the shame of Watergate plunged the national regard and respect for the office of the presidency to the pits.

Joe Biden was the first elected president after the horrors, crimes, and deceit of the Trump presidency divided our nation and plunged the national regard for the office of the presidency to the pits.

G.H. in Chicago, IL, writes: Positive reassessment of Jimmy Carter's presidency, undoubtedly influenced by positive perceptions of his post-presidency, is either a function of dissociative amnesia or not having been alive at the time—or being in political hibernation.

It was mainly those who were about where you are on the spectrum, politically, who became most disgusted with Carter. Adlai Stevenson III (D-IL) wasn't an obstructionist or a socialist: I don't think you could equate him with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). His complaint was that Carter didn't give him enough to support. He contemplated a third-party campaign or challenging Carter in the primaries.

Carter was helped by circumstances beyond his control: his eventual challenger in the 1980 primaries, Ted Kennedy (D-MA), was defeated by the rallying of support for the president in the early stages of the Iran hostage crisis. By the time of the convention, most of the delegates had already been selected under conditions that were no longer relevant. Ronald Reagan, whose conservatism made him unelectable 4 years earlier, was suddenly viable.

To say that Carter struggled with Congress is charitable. He was every bit as tactless as Donald Trump. Declaring that our tax codes were a "disgrace to the human race" was not likely to obtain major revision by its authors on the Ways and Means Committee. There was also the complaint that the liaisons he had working for him didn't know the first thing about moving a bill. It wasn't that nobody wanted to work with him—he just didn't make it easy. He asked for the resignation of his entire cabinet!

Whether you think he was decent depends on whether you ever ran against him. He had the FEC looking into Ted Kennedy's campaign for violations; he tried to keep John Anderson off the ballot in as many states as possible and succeeded in keeping him out of the debates. (For the record, I never supported Anderson. He was understood to be a threat to Carter from the moment he withdrew from the Republican primaries to run as an independent. He was never perceived as a threat to Reagan.)

Liberal support for Carter in 1976 required suppression or imaginative interpretations of his position on Vietnam and Lt William Calley. By 1979, they were no longer making excuses for him.

D.C. in Brentwood, CA, writes: As someone who grew up in the 80s and 90s, and was heavily influenced by The Simpsons, I believed that Jimmy Carter was history's greatest monster, and it was a long time before I realized that was satire:

Screen capture of a Jimmy Carter statue from 
the show 'The Simpsons'

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: For many years in my Modern China ("Mao to Now") history elective, I assigned Iris Chang's book The Rape of Nanking. One day, early into those reading assignments, a senior came into my office, visibly upset, book in hand. I invited her to sit down. She was angry—red-faced, shaking angry. Finally, she said, "Why has no one ever told me about this before? I'm 18 years old and I've never heard this, ever. Why does no one talk about this?"

J.E.K. in Wayne, PA, writes: I could comment on a thousand of your topics, but I think now might be a good time to comment on the ongoing question of "What is a world war?". You wrote: "Heck, the gap between the First and Second World Wars was just 18 years (1919-37), and nobody would blend those two together as one."

Perhaps you are right that no one would blend them together, but perhaps they should. There is a reasonable argument that World War I and World War II were motivated by similar historical precedents:

Key implication: Industrialization, the Great Depression, World War II and the Cold War helped set the stage for Pax-Americana. Pax-Americana is at an end; in addition to the recent relative economic decline of the United States, the generation of post-war "enlightened" American leaders has passed away, and the camaraderie of the trenches has given way to a generation of politicians/people who view each other as the enemy. One could argue that the Ukrainian War is much like World War I. It represents the true beginning of the end of Pax-Americana, and possibly the beginning of World War III. I hope I am wrong, but the drivers of power vacuums, nationalism, and new global technology (computers and internet) at best make the world a much more unstable place with a greater potential for mass destruction, which has characterized previous world wars.

J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: My sleeper pick for "Is it a world war?" is the Roman-Sasanian wars of the 4th century, in which you may well have had battles where soldiers born in what is today France (and possibly Great Britain) fought soldiers who were potentially drawn from what is today Pakistan (and possibly the Caucasus) fighting over land in what is today Iraq.

Which is just kind of impressive, even if it isn't a world war. Imagine being recruited into a Gaulish legion and walking all the way to Persia to lay siege to Ctesiphon for emperor Julian in a time when a great portion of your countrymen were only dimly aware of the world 20 miles beyond your hometown.

M.C. in Newton, MA, writes: You wrote: After all, [President Biden] has the CIA, and all we have are two nosy dachshunds.

But I have to point out that the CIA was no more successful at getting rid of Castro than dachshunds were, despite historical evidence that the CIA tried a lot harder.

V & Z respond: Wait. You haven't heard of the Bay of Wieners?


J.G. in El Cerrito, CA, writes: You have often made reference to the tales of Sherlock Holmes to explain your reasoning when answering questions, with a sense of fondness for the series that is compelling to otherwise uninitiated readers like myself. As a result, even though I have never read or seen any of the books or films, I am now familiar with the concept of "the dog who didn't bark," and know that the character popularized the truth that "one should not theorize before obtaining data." While I don't think you have ever mentioned it on this site, the idea that "the best place to hide something is out in plain sight" is another aphorism along these lines. I have no idea if Doyle ever put that line into Sherlock Holmes' mouth or not, but according to the Internet, Edgar Allen Poe first popularized it with his detective character C. Auguste Dupin in the "Purloined Letter." And since this character became the blueprint of sorts for Sherlock Holmes, I suppose it's possible that Holmes quoted it at some point? You'll have to tell me.

Your explanation of why you took a weekend off from publishing this site a few weeks ago - after you forgot to bring your keyboard to Las Vegas - brought this principle, and your fondness for Sherlock Holmes, to mind. Might you be laying out a riddle for us to solve? You are fond of planting easter-eggs in your posts for readers to find after all. At first your description of failed attempts to obtain a replacement keyboard from the hotel, to use the hotel business center, or to buy one at Target or Staples all seemed straightforward. But after that, as you yourself wrote, "is where things get a little bit strange." To quote you:

As chance would have it, during the several hours of keyboard searching, there was a string of robberies at the hotel where (Z) was staying (the Rio), and they happened on the floor where (Z) was staying (the 13th). It is not clear how many rooms were hit, since the hotel isn't exactly volunteering that information, but (Z) spoke to half a dozen others who were victimized. All he spoke to were asleep while their rooms were burgled, and many of them lost thousands of dollars. In (Z)'s case, only a few hundred dollars worth of electronics were taken (in fact, the least valuable devices in the room; clearly these thieves were not Rhodes Scholars). And they were taken while he wasn't present. However, had he remembered his keyboard, he would not only have been present in the room when it was raided, he would have been wide awake. Had the thieves been armed, and confronted with someone in a position to identify them and/or sound the alarm? Could have turned... unpleasant. So, the only "bad news" those missing posts indicate is a forgotten keyboard.

Might you be protesting too much? A simpler explanation, more likely to be correct according to Occam's razor, might run as follows: (Z) goes to Vegas for the weekend, and forgets his keyboard. Knowing how many people are waiting for his morning edition, he strikes out in search of a replacement. After failing to locate one through standard methods, he resorts to breaking into the rooms up and down his hallway at the Rio (using a master-key swiped from the night manager who had let him into the business center, perhaps). In the process, he becomes tempted by the valuables he encounters, and begins to pocket the expensive items he finds along the way (illicit compensation, perhaps, for a bad night in the casino?).

Already known by the manager to be looking for electronics at an odd hour, and about to be recognized by thousands of regular readers to be missing in action for a critical time period, he reports the loss of several (nonessential only) items from his own room to divert attention from himself during the police investigation. And then, in the pièce de résistance, he publishes an account of narrowly avoiding an encounter with the purported robber on his blog for all the world to see. After all, who would suspect the thief might publicly admit to being at the scene of the crime at the right time, alone, and with a known motive to steal electronics? You've thus hidden right out in plain sight. Nicely done!

Did I solve the riddle? I hate to think that writing this would blow your cover, but then again, maybe it'd just bolster your scheme.

Jesting aside, I'm glad you are OK. I appreciate your site, and have often worried that the effort to produce and moderate so much content every day might lead y'all to burnout. Take as many breaks as you need, no questions asked!

V & Z respond: We'll tell you what Occam's Razor actually says. It says that if (Z) was going to go into thievery, he'd pick a much better hotel than the Rio in which to do it.

That said, as (Z) pointed out to the friend he was traveling with, and as a few readers noted via e-mail, there are indeed some interesting clues in the narrative: able to get past locked doors, present at the Rio late at night, not likely to engender suspicion if seen there at that time, able to keep very, very quiet? Is it not clear that (Z) was robbed by silent magician and Rio headliner Teller?

D.H. in Waterloo, ON, Canada, writes: Well done. After all recent word-play posts (and letters), you managed to sneak in a reference to the murder of a crow.

S.H. in Baton Rouge, LA, writes: I'm a longtime reader (since 2004 when I was still an active-duty Marine stationed at Camp Lejeune, NC), but this is my first-time commenting. So, what motivated me to do so after all these years? It was another reader's comment on the Barr vs. Junior matchup. R.G.N. in Seattle wrote: "Donald Jr. has a perfect track record as a complete waste of oxygen and isn't worth the powder to blow him apart."

R.G.N., I saw what you did there. Well played, sir or madame. Well played, indeed!

V & Z respond: The readers do have a nose for lines like that. It really seems to crack them up.

C.P. in Silver Spring, MD, writes: Between this comment regarding Missouri Senate candidate Lucas Kunce and old balls and this comment remarking about the size of's crystal balls, I wonder if we should ask Sigmund Freud what he would make of the Electoral Vote vocabulary choices.

V & Z respond: You know what Freud said. "Sometimes a cigar is just a euphemism for 'penis.'"

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