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Sunday Mailbag

The events at Mar-a-Lago were the story of the week, of course, so we got quite a few comments on that subject. But we have other stuff as well, including additional installments in the series on inclusive teaching and the great American novel.

The Search of Mar-a-Lago

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I would like to suggest two other possible motives for Donald Trump to steal the classified documents.

The first one I call the "Mount Everest" excuse. We've all told a small child not to do something only to watch them turn right around and do the very thing you warned them not to do. I have also known some adults, usually with little id control, and lacking in intellectual and emotional maturity, and most of whom at one time or another run afoul of the law, who make it a point doing the thing they are told not to do. It's often a compulsion. All of those descriptions could easily be applied to Trump. I think it is possible that he stole the documents because they simply were there and someone warmed him not to, and no one tells Baby what they can or can't do!

The second possibility I call "But Mom, you let Barack do it!" excuse. I have always had the suspicion that, unlike most of the Republican politicians and pundits who seem to spout their spin and their lies with a wink and a nod as if to say "You're not really being fooled by this, are you?", that Donald Trump actually believes completely the BS and nonsense he flings. Trump and a few of the right wing parasites like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Sarah Palin and most of the rubes who make up the base lack the intellectual curiosity or flexibility to see that the Fiji Mermaid is really just a fish tail sewed on to a dead monkey. In other words, Trump believes the story that Barack Obama stole 300,000 documents during his time in office, no matter how many times the National Archives explains that they have complete possession of these materials and have just moved them to a safe location in Chicago in anticipation of the opening of the Obama Presidential Library, which the archives will run despite the name on the building implying otherwise, Trump will always refuse to believe any differently because "First Thing In" has to be the Gospel Truth. Although I suspect Trump might not be familiar with the words, he holds obtuseness and belligerence as singular virtues. Add to this Trump's pathological obsession to one-up Obama in everything he did. Then, of course, like a whiny ten year old he is going to sulk and say, "What he can do, I can do better."

Now, while both scenarios are possible, notice I never said they were probables. I still feel that selling the documents to the highest bidder has about a 95% probability of being the motivation and the other four scenarios carve up the remaining 5%. Yet it should be noted that all five scenarios show a willful intent of his part, which of course is a key ingredient of him running afoul of the three crimes for which he is being investigated. Ironically, the fiction that might let him escape prosecution is the one too awful for him to admit to: that he, The Donald, The Great and The Powerful, accidentally scooped them up while in a hurry after his seditious plans crashed and burned in January 2021. Although by this point, being able to say it was all an accident stretches credulity to beyond the breaking point, what with his rotating lists of excuses and the multiple times the Feds requested the documents back. And if any of the more serious documents were found in his secret personal safe... well, then I would say his goose is well and thoroughly cooked. But then the greasy Treasonweasel has wiggled his way out of tighter spots before, to my utter dismay. Still, hope springs eternal that I will someday live to see him perp walked off to the slammer where he belongs for his treason, his depravity and his avarice!

R.C. in North Hollywood, CA, writes: It occurs to me that there might be another reason why Trump held on to the classified documents: He knew that they could be used to generate a scandal would fire up his base. Maybe Trump saw that holding on to classified documents would eventually bring investigators to his house, and he would be in the position to play the victim and drum up support from his followers. It may sound crazy to think that a politician would actually want a scandal, but in the world of Trump, that seems to be how it is. We might not think he's capable of this kind of three-dimensional chess, but he certainly has surprised us before.

E.S. in Maine, NY, writes: John Bolton said: "People were nervous enough about his lack of concern for classification matters that the briefers typically said, 'Well, we need to take it back.' He'd usually give it back—but sometimes he wouldn't give it back."

If you have a classified document, and that daily briefing is at a extremely high level, and someone else keeps part of it, you have to record that somehow. So the Feds almost certainly know exactly what Donny kept from those, and probably other, documents. I would bet this is why they knew they did not have all the documents.

M.B. in Washington, DC, writes: Who packed up the boxes of documents? This is something I also have been thinking about this week and I don't believe your answer to J.I. in San Francisco covers it! Certainly boxes could have been packed or moved by people who had no idea of their contents, but there have been several detailed accounts given this week of how SCIFs work—under guard at all times; nobody can take in phone, computer, camera, smart watch, etc. and items cannot be removed. Probably a few people, like the National Security Advisor or maybe the president, would have authority to remove something briefly under certain circumstances, but there surely would be some kind of tracking log and the item would have to be signed out and signed back in. All this suggests to me that one or more people are involved in this with Trump. If the recovered docs from Mar-a-Lago are originals (should be easy to determine), then somebody involved in securing them knows they were removed and not brought back. If they are copies, then somebody knows they were removed and returned, and probably somebody else made the copies—I can't see Trump running the copier himself; he'd be that guy in the office who always makes the copier jam. So someone else probably knows that a lot of copies of TS-eyes-only docs were made at some point. Sure hope the DoJ is looking into this!

J.E. in Whidbey Island, WA, writes: Here's the part of documentgate that's still worrying me. The documents recently retrieved by the FBI from Mar-a-Lago were there, under Donald Trump's control, for more than 18 months. That would have been ample time for him to have had copies made (photocopies, digitized scans, or both) and squirreled away in other locations, beyond the reach of the recent search warrant. Or worse, he may already have leaked some of them to other parties.

While the DoJ's actions may have yielded enough evidence to indict him, there seems to be very low probability that the secrets within those documents have been effectively contained. I'm certainly not sleeping any better.

E.L. in Dallas, TX, writes: I just wanted to state one of my biggest concerns about the information that Trump possessed at Mar-a-Lago. The "leaks" seem to point to their being information about weapons, and particularly nuclear weapons. There is no specificity as to the country. This brings me to believe that it quite possibly is information on Israel's nuclear weapons. This would have tremendous value to both Russia, Saudi Arabia, and the other Middle Eastern countries.

Israel has been notoriously ambiguous about their nuclear program, and information on the type and number of weapons they posses would be valuable information for any opponent of Israel.

J.A.W. in San Francisco, CA, writes: Your answer to R.N. in Baltimore about TFG being barred from future office under 18 U.S. Code 2071 initially made sense to me. However, a counterpoint is offered by Constitutional Law Professor Laurence Tribe, who stated in a tweet: "18 USC 2071's text disqualifying anyone guilty of violating it from holding public office is NOT a forbidden addition of 'qualifications' to those of Art II but a DISQUALIFICATION, just as if Congress disqualified anyone who'd been convicted of treason."

Tribe cited an informative article by another law professor writing just the opposite: "Can Trump be disqualified from running for president?" Brought forward was the case of Eugene Debs running for president from prison, and an opinion from an attorney general that the worst-case outcome for the Hillary Clinton e-mail dust-up should not create a bar. As a practical matter, any test case would go to the Supreme Court, and we know a bit about how they think these days.

T.M.M. in Odessa, MO, writes: Yesterday, B.H. in Seattle asked whether law enforcement could use evidence of other crimes if they were found during the search of Mar-a-Lago. With some exceptions, the answer is generally "yes" under what lawyers call the "plain view" doctrine.

Simplified, the plain view doctrine allows the police to seize items that appear to be evidence of a crime if they discover it while in a place where they have a right to be or while conducting a proper search, even if the police were not authorized to look for that specific evidence. To give an example, in a child sex case, the police may have information that the suspect took nude photographs of the victim. The police would get a search warrant to search the computer for any visual images of the victim. Such a search requires the police to open all video images to determine if they are an image of the victim. But such a search may also uncover child pornography showing other children. And because law enforcement had the right to look at all images on the computer and the illegal nature of these items was apparent upon view, law enforcement is allowed to use those other images as the basis for a child pornography charge. On the other hand, if the search warrant was to search a large garage for stolen cars, such a warrant would not allow the police to go through toolboxes in the garage because cars will not be found in toolboxes. Thus, if the police found cocaine in a toolbox, they would not be allowed to use it

In this case, the warrant allowed the FBI to search various locations within Mar-a-Lago for documents. Because documents can be rather small and easy to conceal, a search warrant for documents basically allows a very thorough search of the premises. So, if the FBI found a memo to TFG laying out the plan for January 6 but noting that several of the proposed options violated federal law, but TFG decided to move forward with them anyway, that document would be admissible to prove that TFG conspired to violate those laws. (Of course, the odds that such a clear smoking gun exists and was not flushed by TFG, are thin and none.)

L.B. in Savannah, GA, writes: The capitalization of Words in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution isn't random or for emphasis; it follows the Rule that Nouns are always capitalized. Trump's use of Capital Letters, on the Other hand, is Random and oFTeN inCoHerEnT.

M.Y. in San Jose, CA, writes: When comparing Hillary Clinton's actions with Donald Trump's, you wrote:

To start with, once the problem with the e-mails came to light, Clinton voluntarily surrendered all work product (a little over 30,000 e-mails). She withheld another 30,000 that were deemed personal. No investigator has claimed that the personal e-mails were misclassified or misrepresented, so barring any new information, Clinton shared everything she was required to share.

I think your description is an exceedingly charitable one, and although my expectation is that Trump's crimes will prove to be far more egregious than Clinton's actions, I think we as a country shouldn't downplay Clinton's actions either.

Clinton's information may have been mishandled, but that original mishandling was not the issue I consider to be the most pertinent. Instead, I focus on the actions of Clinton and her team after she had been served a subpoena on March 4, 2015. You said Clinton "withheld" 30,000 documents, but I think a more accurate verb is "destroyed." "Deleted" is more appropriate than "withheld," but "deleted" inadequately describes the action, as forensically recovering deleted e-mails is trivial. Instead of merely "withholding" the documents, or even "deleting" the documents, after receiving the subpoena she began destroying the documents beyond the capability of forensic examination. Her staff repeatedly overwrote the documents with random bits of data so that the data could never be retrieved. An analogous action by Trump would have been if, after the FBI seized some initial boxes of documents weeks or months ago, Trump then assembled a team and rented an incinerator to irrevocably destroy an additional twelve boxes of documents. If Trump said the incinerated documents were all personal documents, I doubt many DoJ officials would publicly proclaim the documents were misclassified.

Of the material that was handed over by Clinton under subpoena (so, the non-incinerated portion) the evidence does show that classified information was mishandled. I expect Clinton did not have nefarious intent, and I suspect Trump did, but that is purely my own speculation. Most concerning to me, though, is that we will never know the content of all the e-mails that the Clinton team willfully destroyed. Rather than prove any innocence, she instead destroyed all evidence and then declared innocence, while simultaneously falsely claiming she was not under a subpoena. Perhaps the evidence she destroyed contained non-State-Department information. Perhaps it did; the subpoena limited the scope of documents to those related to Libya/Benghazi, not to all State Department related information. Perhaps the destroyed evidence contained classified information. Perhaps it did not. Perhaps it 30,000 "happy birthday" e-mails. Perhaps it was 30,000 gifs that all say "I hate Mondays." Perhaps it was 30,000 emails foreshadowing her very real plan to assist Donald Trump in his bid to win the Republican Presidential Primary.

Of course, some of the evidence that Clinton destroyed had copies, and not all of those copies were destroyed. E-mails can be stored on both the sender's and receiver's device, and some of those recipients did not systematically destroy their devices. That is how a few investigators know the content of some of the e-mails that Clinton destroyed, and that is how we know that several dozen of those e-mails, at a minimum, did not contain gifs. But I must remind everyone that if Clinton hadn't destroyed her e-mails, there would not have been an announcement from the FBI on October 28, 2016, that copies of the destroyed evidence had been recovered. And as an aside, in the interest of consistency, we should start terming the events of October 28 "The Clinton Surprise," or alternatively, start characterizing the Watergate/Nixon investigation as 'The Mark Felt Surprise."

Let's hold everyone to the same standard—both Trump and Clinton mishandled documents for their own purposes. Investigators found evidence of mishandling for both. I personally expect Trump's transgressions have been far more egregious, as we expect he willfully 'withheld' top secret/compartmentalized information about nuclear weapons. I absolutely acknowledge that both were in the wrong, and in an ironic twist, Clinton's mishandling of sensitive data was at least partially responsible for giving Trump the opportunity to repeat some of the same crimes.

V & Z respond: You're right. Thanks for cleaning that up for us.

J.K. in New Berlin, WI, writes: Lock him up! Lock him up! Lock him up!

E.R. in Irving, TX, writes: I couldn't help myself. His words, not mine:

A Star Wars-style crawl
that reads: 'Episode 45: The Fall of Trump. These are dark times for our Nation, as my beautiful home Mar-A-Lago in Palm
Beach, Florida is under siege, raided and occupied by a large group of FBI agents. Nothing like this has ever happened
to a President of the...


J.B. in Hutto, TX, writes: Whatever his polling numbers say, I think any dispassionate observer has to admit that Joe Biden has compiled a remarkable record of achievement in the year-and-a-half since he entered the White House. He has pushed a truly astounding amount of important legislation through Congress: the COVID-19 relief bill, the infrastructure bill, the first significant gun control bill in a generation, the semiconductor bill, legislation to help veterans exposed to burn pits, and now the expansive legislation to combat climate change, reduce the cost of prescription drugs, and reduce the deficit at the same time. Some of these bills, it should be pointed out, were passed with significant Republican support. He has rallied NATO, and indeed the entire free world, against the Russian invasion of Ukraine and is close to securing the entry of Sweden and Finland into the alliance. On his watch, Osama bin Laden's successor as Al-Qaeda leader has been killed. He has made a record number of judicial appointments to federal circuit and district courts, as well as the placing the first Black woman onto the Supreme Court.

Does anyone seriously think that Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would have been able to achieve anything remotely comparable to this had he somehow managed to get himself into the White House?

T.B. in Mauldin, SC, writes: For purposes of discussing the upcoming election with family and friends, I thought it would be helpful to find a website to look up a congressperson and get a list showing how they voted on important issues. Upon searching for such a site, I found that while many members of congress have a voting record page on their official .gov website, their office decides how many (if any) and which votes to include.

The most complete site I found was Vote Smart which, although a little slow and finicky, provides information on a set of national key votes for all members. In addition to votes, it also offers a bio, political positions, ratings, speeches, and funding, as well as similar information for state-level politicians.

Ballotpedia also provides a great deal of useful information for voters, but the key votes information is not as complete as on Vote Smart. You and many readers are probably already aware of these informative sites, but in case some readers aren't, I thought it was worth sharing them. And I for one would be happy to hear of other suggestions for where to find this sort of information on candidates. If anything can save us from the damage that has been and is being done by misinformation, then surely it is good information.

V & Z respond: If other readers have suggestions, we will be happy to run them.

C.Z. in Sacramento, CA, writes: If Matt Gaetz were a "confident heterosexual" male, he wouldn't need to try to intimidate women who are marching to protect abortion rights by ridiculing their appearance. He insinuates that women whom he considers unattractive can't have sex or get raped. Frat Boy Gaytz obviously hates and fears women, so he seeks to control them, just like his mentor The Dumpy Don, and DD's son, The Doper Don. That's also probably why Frat Boy Gaytz only has sex with little girls. and even then, he has to pay them for it. Perhaps he needs some "manliness training."

As Olivia Julianna brilliantly demonstrated, we women won't be intimidated into relinquishing the rights that we have had for 50 years. So I will be wearing this at the next abortion rights march, and using the type of language that Frat Boy Gaytz understands:

A Handmaid's Tale-style
dress and head covering with an attached sign that says 'F*ck yourself Matt Gaetz, because no woman will.'

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: Your influence spreads? From a Max Boot editorial in The Washington Post:

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Whackadoodle)

I think he may be an reader.

V & Z respond: Nah. readers know that Newton is R-LaLaLand.

All Politics Is Local

V.L. in Honolulu, HI, writes: Thank you for commenting on the Hawaii Primary. You know a lot more about Hawaii politics than I would have assumed. One key race you failed to mention, though, is Kim Coco Iwamoto's (D) challenge to Speaker Scott Saiki's (D) seat in District 25. The last time she ran against him two years ago, she came within 157 votes of unseating him and changing the political landscape in Hawaii. She has a real shot at beating him this time, so his lobbyist friends are out in full force blasting out ads in support of him. Although he's been in politics for decades, many of these ads mention things like him going against the status quo (he IS the status quo), and things like he's just getting started (wow, it only took a few decades in power to get started).

I'm hopeful that on Monday, you may add the good news that Kim Coco toppled Scott Saiki from power. This would lead to a power struggle to replace him as Speaker of the state House.

P.N. in Austin, TX, writes: With the primary in Hawaii this weekend, I thought I'd share a little family history. My uncle, George Simson, ran for the Hawaii state House in the Makiki-Manoa district back in 1972. Neil Abercrombie was his campaign manager, a favor my uncle later returned multiple times. My uncle lost in the primary. While visiting my mom recently, she showed me a campaign cookbook:

A cookbook that provides
recipes for campaigns, explaining that things need to be very adaptable to crowd size, available equipment, available
ingredients, etc. The page shown uses pancakes as an example of an ideal campaign food for crowds.

It's not quite clear if this was handed out to prospective voters, or to campaign volunteers, although I suspect the latter. It's an interesting look into how campaigns were run 50 years ago.

R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: I found this interesting. The Wyoming primary is just a few days away, and suddenly I'm starting to see ads against Trump-endorsed Harriet Hageman. But not from the Cheney campaign; her ads have always been pro-Cheney, not anti anyone else. No, these are coming from "True MAGA Conservative" Anthony Bouchard and Conservatives for a Strong America. I think the best he can hope for is to split the MAGA vote, which would probably give the nomination to Cheney. There was a move in the legislature last year to provide for run-offs in the primary, specifically to prevent her from eking out a victory this way, but it didn't pass, in part because it would have been contrary to the state constitution. It'll be interesting to see what happens.

J.P.R. in Westminster, CO, writes: I appreciate you giving Beto O'Rourke a mention at the end of the piece on John Fetterman. Beto had a rally in Cleburne, TX, this week, a neighboring town/county to where my mom currently lives. She and some friends very excitedly went to go see him, and texted us a picture:

O'Rourke stands among a large crowd, holding a microphone

There was standing room only, and of course there were hecklers. But Beto apparently dispatched with them fairly adeptly, and did so (at least ostensibly) by inviting them into the conversation. When I went to go visit a few weeks ago, Beto had just the day before passed through one of the little rural towns I go through on my way, knocking on doors in the considerable summer heat. My mom (and sister) are under no delusions that his challenges are formidable—what will he be able to accomplish with that legislature unless enough more Democrats get elected with him? But, say what you will about what he was even thinking in the 2020 election, if he loses (again) in 2022—it won't be because he didn't show up.

D.A.Y. Troy, MI, writes: Last weekend, Rep. Peter Meijer (R-MI), fresh off his primary defeat, said the Democrats will regret their ratf**cking campaign this year. I know people are worried about what if these unhinged candidates win. However, particularly when it comes to the House, I see nothing to lose as a Democrat.

Meijer is a very conservative representative. The only thing that makes him "moderate" is he voted to impeach Donald Trump for committing a very impeachable offense. Had he been reelected, he would vote for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to be speaker, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) to take over the Judiciary Committee, as well as the other uniquely unqualified candidates to chair the committees the Republicans always put in charge because their agenda for the past half century is to render the government inoperable. Functionally, there is no significant difference between him being in congress or John Gibbs. So, with a now Democratic-leaning district, running against the green politician with extremist views is an easier task than a big-name veteran. And, if Gibbs does win, not much will change aside from him being more blatant.

This goes for the House as a whole, where the damage they could do would be limited by the Senate (which is looking more and more to remain in Democratic control) and President Biden. The governors, secretaries of states, and attorneys general are more concerning as they will likely have Republican legislatures behind them to wreak havoc on the state level. However, again, the "moderate" Republicans will not be all that different.

As cliché as it is say, this midterm is the most important election of our generation. Everything is literally on the line, depending on who wins. If the Democrats need to make some hits below the belt, they need to do it. The Republican Party as a whole has become so extreme in its politics (cannot really say "policies," because they have none) that their victory will be bad no matter the candidate, so why not try to get the more beatable one?

J.E. in West Hollywood, CA, writes: If the Democrats really spent millions to defeat Peter Meijer, who voted to impeach Trump, in the hopes that a Trumpy candidate would be easier to defeat in November, that seems mighty short-sighted. Democratic leadership is sending the message to all Republicans in Congress: If you vote with us, we not only won't have your back, we will actively work to primary you. Who would want to work with the blue team after that?

S.M. in Pratt, KS, writes: I wanted to take a few days to digest the results of the failed Value Them Both constitutional amendment here in Kansas. Sometimes, things become clearer after some time has passed and the initial emotions wear off. I have decided that there are two big take-aways from this vote.

  1. Our "representatives" are completely out of step with the constituents they are supposed to represent. As you know, the amendment passed in the legislature by a two-thirds majority. Then it loses the election by 18 points. But this is to be expected. Generations of aggressive gerrymandering have reduced moderates and liberals to an afterthought in the legislature. Throw in 40 years of the Koch brothers treating the state as their own personal political plaything and this is what you get.

  2. It's time to put this whole "Democrats and/or liberals need to learn to talk to rural America" B.S. to bed. When Laura Kelly (D) won the governor's race 4 years ago, she only carried 9 of the 105 counties in Kansas. But they were 9 of the 10 largest. It was enough for her to win a reasonably comfortable victory. In the vote last Tuesday, the anti-abortion forces carried 86 counties to only 19 for the "no" voters. They got curb-stomped. It's time for Democrats to spend their energies on the areas where their voters live. Concentrate on turnout, and they'll win. Going after voters in places that nobody lives is wasting money.

Just my two thoughts on the issues exposed by this vote.

G.L. in Memphis, TN, writes: There is a real question how current events will shape election results. Memphis has settled this question locally. Tennessee is 60% Republican, 40% Democratic as a state, but Memphis is the reverse of that. In our local election August 4, every Republican-affiliated candidate (Mayor, DA, and even judges) was booted. Republicans no longer have a meaningful role in our local government.

My impression is that Trumpism contributed to this, but Roe played the deciding role in eliminating Republican officeholders. Our DA was Republican. In a broadcast debate, she was asked what the "R" next to her name meant. She said, "That means nothing." Her challenger's response about what his "D" meant was, "That means CHANGE."

I believe that Joe Biden's alleged unpopularity is actually a commentary on how there has been a lack of meaningful change. Making America Great Again by repealing Roe is definitely not the change voters were looking for.

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: You have mentioned that Doug Mastriano was at the capitol on January 6th, and also visited the Cyber Ninjas recount in Arizona, as evidence that he is an election denier. Well, Mastriano was also the organizer of the faux Senate hearing held at Gettysburg. Since then he also has been spearheading the movement in the Pennsylvania state Senate to decertify the state's electors post facto.

Some candidates pay lip service to Trump's narrative and say things along the lines of "there were aspects of the election that were suspicious and we need to do better to ensure people can have trust in their elections." Some people drink the Kool-Aid and stake their careers on the big lie. Mastriano is in the latter camp. He doesn't just believe it, he's at the cutting edge of architecting the lie.

Voting Third Party

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: R.J. in Seattle writes: "[W]hen it comes to third parties, this same website labels Ralph Nader and Jill Stein as 'spoilers who handed the White House to a member of the red team.' You seem to ignore the fact that we use the electoral vote system in these elections, and you offer zero proof that voting for a third party candidate 'switched' any state from one party to another."

I write to introduce R.J. to actual facts and math. Now, of course, if you vote in Massachusetts or Oklahoma, you can vote for any whackadoodle for president, and it won't make a difference. The electoral votes in the former will go to the Democrat, no matter what, and in the latter to the Republican. However, in Florida in 2000, George W. Bush beat Al Gore by 537 votes, while 97,488 morons voted for Ralph Nader, giving the presidency to Bush. New Hampshire, too: GWB won by 7,211 votes with 22,198 cretins voting for Nader. Winning either state would have given Gore the presidency. You like the Iraq War? John Roberts? Samuel Alito? Congratulations, imbeciles, that's what you voted for.

In 2016, Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes, while 51,463 mental defectives voted for Jill Stein. Trump won Pennsylvania by 44,292 votes, while 49,941 idiots voted for Stein. In Wisconsin, Trump won by 22,748, and 31,072 coproheads voted for Stein. The Stein votes were votes that elected Donald Trump. If they'd voted for Clinton in those three states, she would have won. Normally, I'd say that people that stupid get what they deserve, but it's not fair to take the rest of us down with them.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: To R.J. in Seattle, I reply: Nader. New Hampshire. 2000.

Nader got 22,198 votes in New Hampshire. George W. Bush beat Al Gore by 7,211 votes in New Hampshire. If one-third of the Granite Staters who "lived free" with Nader had voted for Gore instead, Gore would have carried the state. If Gore had carried New Hampshire, he would have won 270 electoral votes. And become President. Florida or not.

I deeply admire much of what Ralph Nader has done in his life, but I will never forgive him for 2000.

M.B. in Windsor, CT, writes: R.J. in Seattle says there's no proof that third party votes are spoilers.

Here's some. As reported by Tara Golshan of Vox, "The final totals revealed that, in fact, Stein's total voters exceeded Trump's margin of victory. In other words, if every Stein voter had voted for Clinton instead, she could have won Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and the presidency."

Exit polls (which are more than a little unreliable) suggested it was not that clear-cut, but the factual data is pretty clear.

I'm 100% in favor of ranked-choice voting of the simplest, most easily implemented variety.

D.C. in Kent, OH, writes: I agree with your assessments of Andrew Yang and his effort to create a third party. That said, your site has only briefly (in, like, one sentence) mentioned the reason why we will always have only two viable political parties in the U.S., which is our "winner-take-all" single-member district electoral system. There is no confusion as to the cause of our two-party system among political scientists, such as myself. It's something we discuss in Government 101.

Yang's Forward Party will certainly fail—no matter how wisely its disciples tailor a message or even if the majority of Americans are sick of the two major parties. On the bright side (for those interested in a multi-party system), Lee Drutman (rock star political scientist), has a new book titled Breaking the Two-Party Doom Loop: The Case for Multiparty Democracy in America and has discussed the recent movement toward proportional representation on podcasts like Vox's "The Weeds."


B.J.L. in Ann Arbor, MI, writes: I know what with coverage about TFG wetting his pants tied to indictments, clogged commodes, defaced documents, depositions, revenge, and continued grafting being de rigueur now, people may be a bit distracted from events abroad. However, I do want to point out for readers some of the news on the Ukraine front. I have kind of a side interest in maps, and it's intriguing to see what's happening and how the tides might turn on the failed Russian occupation. As all of this western military hardware has been streaming into western Ukraine, it appears that Ukrainians are setting their sights on scaring the bejesus out of Russian occupants who have relocated to Crimea.

The increasing range of Ukrainian missiles and, I assume, drones means that they are bombing targets near the Kerch bridge, the key road linkage between Russia and Crimea. Blow up the bridge and folks in Crimea are stuck driving north through the war zone for vacation. Videos on social media are popping up showing the eastbound lanes from Crimea are jammed, I assume with Russian settlers concerned about getting stuck and getting out while the bridge still exists.

It'll be fascinating to watch the slow methodical approach the Ukrainians are taking to the Russians, which should help to destabilize other occupied territory like Kherson and Mariupol.

Fossil Fuels

R.C. in Des Moines, IA, writes: You wrote: "Gas prices are psychologically crucial since when people buy a full tank of gas, they can easily compare it to last time they did that." I submit that the greater psychological effect is people driving by gas stations and their prominent price boards. Most people probably drive by a dozen or more gas stations every day and seeing those high prices over and over probably has a deeper effect than a weekly fill-up.

D.H. in Boulder, CO, writes: You responded to A. A. in Branchport thusly:

V & Z respond: Did you know there are people who have modified their trucks so they can blast hybrid vehicles with a plume of coal smoke?

Sadly, I know that all too well. As an avid cyclist on the semi-rural roads outside of Boulder, I am frequently passed by pickup trucks. A favorite salute that I have often received from them is to blast a big dark cloud of diesel smoke as they pass me (often closer than they have to). The more "macho" the truck, the more likely the blast. It's known as "Rolling Coal" and I'm sure that the action clearly articulates their disdain for the fact that I am enjoying a peaceful, non-polluting, outdoor activity. The question for me is why they would feel this way? What does my bike represent to them to engender such violent hostility? As an aside, do you suppose that a single truck driver willing to perform that hateful act would be a reader of this blog?

V & Z respond: If we are certain of anything, it is this: No reader of this blog would do something like that.


R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: You're very much on the nose that Houston figured out that if they quit pandering to the voters and focused on doing things that have proven to work they could make serious progress toward ending homelessness. The Housing First approach is that thing that has proven to work and Houston really is knocking it out of the park.

If you want to see for yourself, the Department of Housing and Urban Development publishes the System Performance Measures (SPMs) they use to keep track of the progress communities make each year. It's in Excel format and includes the statistics on 6 different metrics going back to FY 2015. (No community has yet met the criteria for Measure 6 to apply, so that's why it's not included in the spreadsheet.) Houston has been increasing the number of people housed each year, decreasing the number of people who need shelter and transitional housing every year, but the real kicker is the decrease in the people newly entering homelessness every year. Many communities across the country are seeing good results from using the Housing First model, but it's hard to show progress when your community kicks people out at twice the rate you're housing them, which is the typical ratio. Preventing homelessness is about the availability of affordable housing and that's just not a priority in most communities I'm aware of. People would rather criminalize homelessness than contemplate having poor people living nearby. Until we can get past this as a society, homelessness is going to be with us and we'll be lucky to simply maintain. I should note that the spreadsheet uses a lot of abbreviations and shorthand that are obvious to those of us who have been doing this work, but might be cryptic to the layperson. The HUD Exchange does have resources to help explain the SPMs if one would like to search for them.

Not too long ago, some housing advocacy e-mail list I'm on encouraged me to contact my senators and representative, and I got a reply from Senator John Barrasso (R-WY). He (or his form letter) said he'll keep my feedback in mind but went on to say that the key was encouraging job growth in the private sector by getting the federal government out of the way. Considering that previous years of record job growth didn't really move the needle and that some of the most booming state economies are also some of the worst for homeless populations, I'm skeptical, but I offered to consult with his staff to review the numbers and see if we can come up with something to help push to the next plateau. Since collecting and analyzing data on populations experiencing homelessness is my day job and has been for over a decade, I hope he'll take me up on it.

J.M.R. in Chappaqua, NY, writes: I am the director of a homeless shelter in the Bronx and had read the New York Times article about Houston's successes several weeks ago when it was printed. What I would like to point out is that many cities have adopted housing first approaches at this point, as research and real-world experience have proven that it is a much more effective way of reducing homelessness. I would also add that it is a more humane approach; to expect a person experiencing one of the most profound levels of crisis imaginable in our country to jump through many figurative hoops is both unreasonable and cruel. As you correctly noted, when someone is already drowning, it's not the time to teach them to swim. Along these lines, many cities have approached the issue of substance misuse by homeless individuals (which is extremely common among those who have long-term histories of homelessness) utilizing a harm reduction approach instead of requiring abstinence prior to working with them to find housing. Research has consistently shown this to be a more effective approach, so long as services to assist with reducing substance misuse are available and consistently offered.

So why has Houston had relative success when other cities utilizing a housing first approach have continued to struggle? From my perspective, it's the presence of other, challenging systemic issues. The Times points out that the various agencies in Houston began to communicate and cooperate better with one another. Meanwhile, in New York City, the Department of Homeless Services facilitates a process that is confusing, needlessly bureaucratic, and poorly organized. Agencies that actually run homeless services often spend too much time trying to navigate this process, despite being better informed regarding what actually works or does not work when it comes to assisting homeless individuals to become housed. Changes in the mayoral administration reflecting how each mayor thinks the problem of homelessness should be approached does not help (Mayor Eric Adams, for example, is focused on getting homeless people off the subways due to their visibility but does not seem to have much of an idea of what approaches will effectively engage these folks into helpful services). Another major issue is the lack of supported housing for those who need significant help and support for challenges with mental health, substance misuse, or various forms of disability. This scarcity leads to either very long stays in homeless shelters (possibly a year or more) or individuals being housed with too few supports. The latter is a very unfortunate state of affairs, as those who are housed without the right assistance often end up on the street again within months or, in some (too many) cases, die a short period after moving into an apartment. I applaud the city of Houston and hope that other cities like New York and San Francisco (which has notoriously struggled the past few years) can learn from their example.

V & Z respond: Thanks to both of you for sharing your expertise, and for the good work you're doing.

Inclusive Teaching, Part III

J.O. in Freehold, NJ, writes: I'm a 7th/8th grade social studies teacher in New Jersey and wanted to add my two cents about how to create a classroom that's inclusive of ideas and cultures. I have only three years of experience in education, but I teach in a school that has a pretty diverse student body, and so promoting cultural acceptance and appreciation is a key tenet of our school, and something that's crucial to me and my classroom atmosphere.

I would agree with (Z)'s assessment that it's key to make it known on day one that class is an open forum and that different ideas are to be accepted. However, I think that there needs to be a set of boundaries established, where students (whether they're 12 and 13, like mine, or 18-22 year old college students) understand the nuance required to voice their opinions without offending others in the room. Students should be encouraged to advocate for themselves and voice their beliefs, but not if it will make other students feel uncomfortable. Providing a private outlet, as (Z) suggested, is a good way to go about this; it provides the student an opportunity to speak their mind while allowing the educator to screen their ideas before being made public.

I'd also caution against false equivalencies in the name of "fairness." I recall in my first year of teaching (2019-20), I was talking with my then-6th graders about the first impeachment of President Trump. In looking for a variety of perspectives on the issue, I felt that none of the right-wing talking points were credible, and that providing these would be a disservice to the class. To better explain my point, I showed the class this clip from John Oliver about the "fair" way news networks often discuss climate science.

To sum up, providing an open forum is key, but there need to be boundaries. Allowing students to help create these rules is a useful tool, as they take on greater ownership and accountability. In addition, stay away from trying to present non-valid arguments as such.

J.M. in Seattle, WA, writes: Regarding the question about how to make an inclusive classroom, one of my biggest rules has been "don't let my own beliefs and politics harm my students." I grew up in Tennessee surrounded by evangelical Republicans, and it was very hard to have teachers/administrators directly or indirectly say things that made me feel bad about being liberal or nonreligious. So I vowed that when I became a teacher, I would do it differently. I give all my students the benefit of the doubt and genuinely want them to all feel welcome to come and learn in my classroom (I'm heavily influenced by Carl Rogers' idea of "unconditional positive regard.") I also try not to have strong attachments to the specific things they learn, insomuch as I try to teach both sides of issues genuinely even if I strongly agree with only one.

Overall, it's gone well—by trusting and respecting my students, they trust and respect me, and we can have deep conversations where they take risks they wouldn't elsewhere. I'm not perfect, but what success I do have teaching I absolutely attribute to this attitude and approach.

T.B. in Leon County, FL, writes: I was once an Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, a program developed by volunteers nearly 50 years ago to teach prisoners listening skills and to support participants to learn how to be transformed by active listening (my paraphrase of the purpose).

Today, AVP is used in numerous contexts, not just in prisons and jails (e.g., a spin-off organization in Rwanda has helped hundreds of thousands [millions?] of people toward healing from their civil war induced trauma). Classroom activities that encourage effective listening of peers, helping a group of students develop community, will tend to help individuals, whatever their background, feel heard and included. Although most obviously useful in groups of 10 to 30, I've seen exercises work with a group of 200. A lecturer using "listening tools" will tend to help students feel safe, too.

The Great American Novel, Part III: The Great Gatsby

M.B. in Granby, MA, writes: As an English teacher for the last 30 years, I've changed and seen a lot change. I grew up in the tradition of New Criticism and novels were judged on how well they were constructed. There was a canon, mostly made up of white men. Those days are done. My students don't read books outside of school. At all. Many admit they haven't even read a book since 5th grade. Our culture is now too fragmented to get behind a single novel.

From a purely artistic standpoint, I think The Great Gatsby is an almost perfect novel. Fitzgerald's style is beautiful. His understanding of America and the past is sublime. He even ties Gatsby's dreams about Daisy to Platonic idealism. Does it speak to the 21st century? I don't think so. I'm not sure anything can. Although 1984 comes close.

One of the great American novels, though perhaps not the greatest, is Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. The construction is brilliant. Symbolic and allusive. Steeped in Black culture and the situation of Black folks in the mid-20th century. I'm not sure it's better than Beloved, but it's very different. For the 21st century reader, there's probably more in Invisible Man than there is The Great Gatsby.

M.B. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: Ultimately, The Great Gatsby presents America's most uncomfortable and unassailable truths: that God is money, that we are all adherents to the religion of capitalism via the American Dream, and that it's simultaneously beautiful and pathetic. I've taught the book to honors 11th graders at least 60 times over the past 20 years—taking an interest in it convincingly enough that my partner bought me a copy of the ridiculously titled original print 'Trimalchio' last year for Christmas—and have found it to be the single most enduring classic in American literature.

A classroom aide in my 9th grade class once asked to borrow a copy and was disappointed after reading it because she didn't understand why Gatsby was so enamored with Daisy, considering how terrible a person she is. But you don't even have to open the book to see that it isn't a love story, even though many teach it as one. The disembodied visage on Cugat's garish book jacket is alluring but despondent, despite overlooking a lurid Jazz Age-ish scene below. Open the cover and the 'gold hat' reference in the epigram obviously paints Daisy as a symbol of money. After all, what two things in life will men do anything to obtain? These images are echoed by the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg—a defunct advertisement for an eye doctor overlooking the Valley of Ashes (Queens)—which George Wilson later mistakes for the eyes of God. Later in the novel, Gatsby even remarks that Daisy's voice is "full of money" and admits that the poorer version of himself took her virginity only because "he had no real right to touch her hand." And although Fitzgerald never overcame his own obsession with the American aristocracy (probably why he went as "F. Scott," as he was a distant cousin of Francis Scott Key), and the story mirrors his own infatuation with Southern belles, including his wife Zelda, the book is clearly an indictment of this social class, which in every way has defined America, from slaveholders to the Roosevelts, Kennedys and Bushes.

And yet Fitzgerald manages to get the reader to admire Gatsby, much like we strangely admire Tony Soprano and Walter White. Gatz transformed into Gatsby just like Drumpf transformed into Trump.

The novel lacks diversity and is told from the perspective of privilege. But I devote almost a month to the book and spend a fair bit of time outside of the text, discussing concepts like distorting the American Dream, wealth inequality, old money's condescension to new money, the "lost generation," and sexist character archetypes. It engages students in a way that other great American novels fail to do anymore. They don't get the subtle satire of Twain because it's been eclipsed by The Simpsons, SNL and Family Guy (I still love them all). The Grapes of Wrath only garners sympathy because the characters are white. The sardonic apathy of Holden Caulfield pales in comparison to just watching Kurt Cobain unplugged.

At the end of the book, narrator Nick Carraway encounters the ultra-wealthy Tom Buchanan, who is responsible for two deaths but has faced no consequences. Nick initially declines to shake his hand but after Tom manages to dodge responsibility and make himself out to be the victim, Nick shakes it because he realizes he's basically talking to a child. I teach in a fairly Trumpy suburban school district, but I still ask my classes, rhetorically, who this might remind them of?

Money trumps religion in this country, even if it takes money using a bowling pin to bludgeon its enemy to death. We get the leaders we deserve, and Gatsby gets to the roots of it.

L.W. in Nashville, TN, writes: To me, there is not one single great American novel—that's too much to ask any one book to bear. My personal opinion has always been that there are three great American novels: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. These three novels all address uniquely American themes. All three have first-person narrators, which I think fits in with the American idea of individuality, even if their reliability is questionable to varying degrees. All three narrators are searching for something beyond their lives to date and express dissatisfaction with the current status quo. Each book captures America at a significant point in its history: Huckleberry Finn during the pre-Civil War days of slavery, Gatsby during the pre-Depression 1920s, and Catcher post-World War II. Huckleberry Finn shows the inhumanity and immorality of the slave system, as well as the small-mindedness of many people in rural America; Gatsby deals with the materialism and shallowness of the American Dream; and Catcher is about the search for identity and values in the post-war United States. There are certainly other important American novels, but these three in my opinion, taken together, are the three that best capture America in all its complexity.

M.B. in Overland Park, KS, writes: While I think that the majority of academics that I know would consider the other Twain novel the apex of the list, namely The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and followed by Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, I've always tried to find ways to disagree with them, or to dislodge these two with some new book that would bring debate back into what it means to capture the spirit of Americanism. Despite my efforts, I've always failed thus far. To Kill a Mockingbird is usually the one that I toy with being a contender for the top three that might one day dislodge one of the others. It's a great, well crafted story with an American message and great characters, but it's not Huck Finn by a long stretch. Truth be told, Finn and Gatsby are simply masterpieces, and I agree that Twain is still likely the best author we've had in our short history. That all being said, I do believe that your choice of Tom Sawyer is pretty much the only other contender for the top slots.

Finn was probably the right book to top the list in the late 1960s and 1970s, and even into the early 1990s. In that time period, we (as a collective nation) were still fairly certain that racism was on the wane, that the individual had risen ascendant, and that people's religious leaders were fairly ethical (with a few notable TV evangelistic exceptions), and that the average person knew when their more gullible kin were being hoodwinked by them. I think you could see Finn as the driving force toward an American that was reaching for its better side. We saw the rugged individualism of Finn, examined his relationship with equality and slavery framed through his love for Jim, celebrated his rejection of the establishment that couldn't break from the darker sides of the past. This was, in essence, where America was heading... at least we thought it was.

Huckleberry Finn has been #1, deservedly so. Even though the top two seem to be immovable, the possibility of a shift in placement may be in order. I hadn't really re-evaluated my thinking on the top spot in a number of years. There's been turmoil aplenty to keep our minds busy of late, and I'm honestly glad to have your question move my mind into motion and reconsider my previously held opinions in light of where we were and where we find ourselves in America today.

I believe one could arguably make the case for Gatsby to take over the number one spot. Our seemingly endless shallowness, worship of the rich and celebrity, and the plight of Nick Carraway to do anything but hold them in contempt is essentially more relevant to today. Especially as we, as a nation, have either decided to revert to our racist past, worship the property gospel preacher, or to tolerate the oppression of anyone that isn't a white, Christian, and non-recent immigrant. We seem to have reverted to the types of people that Finn would have wanted nothing to do with. We've abandoned the road that Finn showed us. Tom Buchanan has become who we truly aspire to be, or to admire (at the very least) in America. The sham of tolerance that persisted from the mid-1960s through the 1990s is completely removed. I know that many urban dwelling folks would disagree with all of this, but let's face it... The media knows what the heartland thinks, and it's full-on Trumpism. Only those city-states that float in the seas of red stand for those "Finn" values anymore. The typical American, as most red-staters would call "Real American," really does hold sway here. Whether the coastal folks or the large metro-dwellers like it or not, they've defined what America is. They define the average or the mean of where we stand as a culture. And the lessons they need to learn, and the perspectives they need to acquire to conquer the issues that harbor that dark instinct that we're witnessing from the "Real American" today aren't going to be found in Huck Finn. They're in Gatsby.

Notes on Freudenfreude

F.S. in Cologne, Germany, writes: Honestly, neither I nor any of the people I asked have ever heard the word "Freudenfreude" before. So I guess this word was invented in the English-speaking world. I like this word, perhaps I will use it in the future.

R.H. in Darmstadt, Germany, writes: I very much like the name "This week in Freudenfreude", but as a native speaker of German, I am sorry to tell you that such a word simply doesn't exist. One should never be too sure about knowing their own language, so I also checked the Duden (the German traditional encyclopedia), the German Wikipedia and other places. No trace of such a word. Also, when you type it into a search engine, you get few results and they are all in English.

But I beg you, please continue to use it. It is such a nice coining of a word, it is clear what it is supposed to mean and somehow it should have existed all the time! I hope some day it will find its way into the German language. At least I will use it from now on.

M.G. in Chicago, IL, writes: If I had know that only 800 or so votes would be needed to decide the name of the new feature, I would have headed over to the Chicago cemeteries and gathered the needed votes.

P.R. in Saco, ME, writes: I loved your item about Nichelle Nichols. Brought a tear to my eye. Seems like science fiction has always been much more progressive about putting women into non-traditional roles and treating them with much more respect for their brains and assertiveness.

Two quick examples are the 1951 film, The Thing from Another World and the 1954 film, THEM! In the former, Margaret Sheridan played the head scientist's secretary, but is the one who comes up with the idea of how to kill the monster (as well as being very assertive in her relationship) and Joan Weldon plays a tough assertive scientist who stands up to and overcomes the macho FBI character played by James Arness.

Both of these characters were way ahead of their time.

D.B. in Deer Park, NY, writes: The picture D.E. in Lancaster sent of Nichelle Nichols being greeted by all the other Star Trek cast members who are no longer with us was beautiful. Although it did make me wonder if William Shatner will be received much in the same way Ty Cobb was in Field of Dreams.

Gallimaufry: Wordle Edition

B.G. in White River Junction, VT, writes: Responding to E.M. in Milwaukee, there are a few other Wordle knockoffs that I have quite enjoyed.

Globle and Worldle are excellent tests of geography that are likely catnip to many readers of this site. The former has you guess a country by giving its proximity to your previous guesses; the latter gives you a silhouette and also distances from your previous guesses.

While not similar to Wordle particularly, Wikitrivia is a fun walk through history, inviting you to place events on a timeline relative to other events.

And for film nerds out there, there are these:

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: I loved finding out about Quordle from your site! But as a result, I found something else...a friend turned me onto this...

Sedecordle involves sixteen Wordles all done at the same time. You get 21 guesses. I have solved several of them, but never with fewer than 20 guesses. Usually, I need all 21—and I do not always solve. One good thing about Sedecordle, is you needn't wait any time at all to try again, you can order up a new one at any time.

The thing a lot of people won't realize, at least initially, with Sedecordle: You get only five total wrong guesses, so you need to keep getting words right. So, it is essential that the first couple of guesses turn you onto a correct answer or two—which hopefully then lead to more correct answers.

J.L. in Paterson, NJ, writes: Anyone who enjoys Wordle and Quordle might want to go up another notch to Octordle (thirteen guesses to find eight words). The site has many more variants.

At one point I, like (Z), was using RENTS as a first guess for Wordle (and other rdles). My girlfriend pointed out to me, however, that the lexicon doesn't seem to include any words made by adding an S to a four-letter word like RENT. The terminal S is uncommon, found only in words like ALIAS. I switched my guess to STERN, followed by AUDIO and LYMPH. Alternatively, I may go with SMART-HONEY-GUILD or FLITE-SONAR-DUCHY, either of which, like the TIRED-MOANS-LUCKY list of E.M. in Milwaukee, has the advantage of seeking a terminal Y. (Scrabble players take note that FLITE, meaning "scold" in some UK dialects, is also in Zyzzyva.)

A.A. in Austin, TX, writes: I'm a daily Wordle player with a 100% score. I only use one opening word: TEARS. This serves me well, as does my background as an old-school English teacher who understands letter combinations.

I'll also point out to E.M. that their opening words do not include all vowels as they stated; there is no 'Y' in any of the guesses. Certainly 'Y can be a consonant, but it can also be a vowel, and a quite helpful vowel when it appears. Modern thought is that 'W' can also be a vowel, but then, as I stated, I'm old-school.

I.H. in Jakarta, Indonesia, writes: My 3 standard guesses are AUDIO (4 vowels), RENTS (5th vowel plus 4 common consonants), and LYMPH (Y as 6th "vowel", plus other consonants). I rarely get less than 2 characters with those 3 guesses.

H.R. in Jamaica Plain, MA, writes: I use STARE, MOULD and either FINCH or PINCH, but sometimes change it up with MOUND and FILCH (a variation my daughter suggested). I actually looked up letter frequencies to come up with these, and then moved P up, because F's frequency is based on a lot of small words. I also vary my second word, based on how many vowels hit in the first word, so if both A and E hit, I might go with PINCH second. And I sometimes try to guess in 2 or 3, depending on what I already know.

I actually think using K, which is lower frequency is a mistake, because words with "CK" are eliminated if C is eliminated and if C is in the word, then you can consider K with it for the fourth guess. Similarly, it is pretty obvious when you need to use Y after the first three guesses.

For a while, I was also playing Antiwordle, but I had a problem with their ads and stopped. In case people don't know, the idea of Antiwordle is to avoid guessing the word for as many guesses as possible (but you can't use any letters that are eliminated). It's a completely different mindset, and therefore a nice contrast.

P.S. My average guess is between 3 and 4, but closer to 4. I have more 3's than 5's and more 6's than 2"s.

T.B. in Santa Clara, CA , writes: E.M. in Milwaukee and (Z) both let on that they don't play Wordle in hard mode (one of the settings); that mode forces the player to use all previously known letters, and in the right spot, if also revealed. It eliminates the ability to figure out all the letters first.

I'm proud to say that I'm 168 of 170 on hard mode. Give it a try.

Having said that, I do use the "figure out the letters first" strategy on Quordle, Octordle, and Sedecordle (when I play it), just not on Wordle.

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