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Sunday Mailbag

This mailbag is all over the place. As a preview, of sorts, we'll note that we should have realized that our observation about the rarity of three prepositions in a row would be taken as a call to arms.

Legal Matters: The Insurrection

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Andrew Weissman is right on in his assessment of the strategy prosecutors should be taking. But if the hub is the effort to overturn the election, the main orchestrator of that effort is still often portrayed as someone other than Trump. There are so many stories about various bad people who managed to sneak into Trump's orbit and influence him to do bad things. In these scenarios, Trump is an empty, naive vessel into which these nefarious elements can pour their criminal enterprises. That narrative is absolutely false. Trump is the hub—no one else. He knew he couldn't stay in power without help, so he sought out the most corrupt and malign cast of characters he could find. That's why he picked Bill Barr as AG, because he thought that would guarantee him a DOJ that would do his bidding—and why he was so furious when Barr actually drew a line somewhere. (Better late than never, I guess.)

Trump started planning this even before the election. In the summer of 2020, while states were working hard to ensure safe elections during a pandemic, Trump was already claiming that the election was rigged, even before a single vote had been cast. The 2020 election was not only the most secure election in history, it was also the most successful. More people voted than ever before—during a pandemic. The expansion of voting by mail expanded the franchise for millions. That's what we should be talking about—not Trump's false claims. So, a major spoke in his plan was to undermine the integrity of our elections.

Trump's failed coup attempt was not the result of some bad advice—it was a systematic, multi-pronged conspiracy (as that term is used legally) orchestrated by Trump and culminating in the Jan. 6 insurrection. AG Merrick Garland and the Department of Justice can't pretend otherwise.

M.B. in Granby, MA, writes: Andrew Weissman is intelligent, experienced, and presentable, but he shows symptoms of pundititis. This common, but underdiagnosed condition—manifested the inflammation of the punditissimus—causes a pundit's opinions to swell far beyond his knowledge of an issue.

The spokes are there and have been for many months, but larger media outlets have not always noticed them. And pundits like Andrew Weissman don't closely examine the available public information.

Blogger Marcy Wheeler brings the kinds of receipts that Weissman has never bothered to look at. Using the dates of warrants and their statuses, for example, she persuasively argues that the DOJ was investigating the fake elector plot—one of the "spokes" Weissman says the DOJ ignored—over a year ago.

People tend to forget that the media reports are incomplete, imperfect transmissions of information. Reporters don't collect all available information. There is far more than they can process. They don't always realize what the information means. Pundits are usually more imperfect.

Merrick Garland may be making mistakes. It's hard to say when whomever says whatever and their résumé means more than actual evidence. One of the reasons I read you guys is that you work very hard to preserve your epistemic humility. I don't think Andrew Weissman does.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: If I could fly around the Earth really fast like Superman and turn back the clock, I'd go back to the day that President Biden chose Vice President Kamala Harris as his running mate, and tell him about the state of the Justice Department in the summer or 2022. I would implore him to leave Merrick Garland on the D.C. Circuit Court bench, appoint Kamala Harris as his Attorney General, and find another woman to be his running mate. Her talents are being wasted at Number One Observatory Circle and the DoJ needs a prosecutor in charge rather than a judge.

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: You wrote that the DoJ wouldn't drop prosecution of Donald Trump in exchange for him not running, because it would not be enforceable and because it would send a bad political message. In addition, the Department of Justice is supposed to ignore politics and care only about fair application of the law. While DoJ may have been overtly political under some recent administrations, Joe Biden has made noises about restoring its reputation, and Merrick Garland, every time he speaks, says he will follow the law where it leads, and no one is above the law. Dropping prosecution for political reasons is entirely contrary to the entire principle. Garland may not be 100% immune to politics, but this would be beyond the pale.

R.E.M. in Amsterdam, Netherlands (on vacation from Brooklyn, NY), writes: Regarding the Secret Service text deletions, the issue is murkier than simply the Secret Service being in the bag for Trump and spoliating evidence to help him. The charge is being brought by DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, himself a controversial Trump appointee who blocked investigations into the Secret Service regarding its activities in connection with the George Floyd protests and the clearing of Lafayette in the summer of 2020 so Trump could hold a Bible upside-down outside a church. Indeed, Cuffari is under investigation by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (the Watchers who watch the Watchmen, as it were). So it's not clear here who is really trying to carry Trump's water and how, or whether either or both the Inspector General and the Secret Service are simply incompetent, rather than corrupt. But I'm convinced there is more to this than we have so far seen.

G.B. in Dallas, TX, writes: Assuming that the Jan. 6 Committee can get access to the device used, "reconstructing" the deleted text messages might not be so difficult. Deleting files on a computer (or texts from a phone) is like erasing a chapter from the table of contents in a book. The content is still there, but the space is marked as available for the system to use as needed. It's possible that the missing texts haven't been overridden and data recovery software could get to them.

V & Z respond: We are assuming that if the U.S.S.S. wanted the messages to be unrecoverable, they have the skills to make that happen. Also, the official excuse/story suggests the devices were reformatted, which complicates recovery considerably.

Legal Matters: Abortion

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: When you start talking about the Federal Tort Claims Act, you're in my wheelhouse.

Historically, the federal government could not be sued for torts committed by its employees and agents, because under common law as inherited from England "the King could do no wrong"—even if we didn't believe in kings any more. The Federal Tort Claims Act fixed that, abrogating the government's sovereign immunity for torts committed by government employees in the scope of their employment, but only to the extent that the statute allows.

It's true that in the law prevents the government employees from being sued, substituting the government as defendant (not plaintiff) instead of the allegedly wrongfully-behaving employee. And we should want it that way—imagine if every federal employee had to worry about being personally sued for making a mistake on the job. The government would be more paralyzed than it is, and no one could afford the liability insurance they'd have to carry in order to take a federal job. (There are exceptions for things like civil rights violations, which the Supreme Court keeps whittling down.)

But the government still can't be sued for what the Supremes did in Dobbs. First, there's a huge exception to the Federal Tort Claims Act: the government can't be sued for harm caused by an employee's act, even a negligent act, if the employee was carrying out a "discretionary function." So if a doctor at an under-resourced VA hospital makes a medical mistake, the government can be sued for the doctor's malpractice, but not for the Secretary of Veterans' Affairs decision to deprive the hospital of adequate resources. Second, federal judges, prosecutors and their staffs are absolutely immune for actions they take in their official capacities. And that too is how it should be. Imagine if a judge who sentenced someone to probation could be sued if the criminal then victimized someone else.

So we're out of luck on suing the government for the bad consequences of Dobbs.

G.A. in Berkeley, CA, writes: Prosecutors in Republican states will try to use women's cell phone data and social media to help convict those who have obtained abortifacients or who have traveled out of state to have an abortion. But a woman in need of an abortion can avoid this problem by having a friend, relative, or partner—especially one who is male—obtain necessary information and appointments, perhaps pseudonymously; and provide the information to her orally. So far, at least, states can't criminalize on-line searches, and even Republican prosecutors can't lawfully seize and search everyone's electronic devices without probable cause and a warrant.

Moreover, people in "free states" can continue to provide information, transportation, and other services to help women who need abortions. Article IV, Section II, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution says that "A person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime." But in the absence of an applicable federal statute such as the Fugitive Slave Acts, and where there has been no "flight" from "justice" in a Republican state, there would be no basis for a court to force a free state to extradite its own citizen for acting lawfully in the free state. Indeed, Colorado's secretary of state, who has authority under state law, said recently with respect to abortion rights that her office would "not extradite anyone for a criminal violation of another state's laws." This should now be the militant position of all free states.

J.P. in Cranford, NJ, writes: I read with interest the story of the Texas woman who tried to avoid a ticket for driving by herself in an HOV lane by pointing out that the Dobbs decision by the Supreme Court declared her unborn child a person and so she was not alone.

I wonder if an argument can be made that, based on the decision, everyone is really 9 months older than their birthday suggests. Which would mean that anyone who is 17 and 3 months old based on their birth date as of Election Day should be eligible to vote as they are really 18. And given that young voters tend to be more aligned to Democrats, this could provide the extra push needed to keep the house in the blue column.

Decisions do have consequences!

S.Z. in New Haven, CT, writes: K.H. in San Jose writes: "I don't understand why people are saying that the Dobbs outcome was 6-3. By originalist reckoning, the number of persons deciding in favor of it was only 5⅗."

When I told this to my wife, she pointed out that an originalist would never count a woman on the court. While women were counted in the first census, they were excluded from even arguing cases before the Supreme Court until 1879.

So, an originalist count of the Dobbs decision would be 4⅗ to 1, counting Justice Thomas as ⅗ of a person and excluding the votes of Justices Sotomayor, Kagan, and Barrett. If the case was re-visited in the coming session, with Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson replacing Justice Stephen Breyer, it would be a shut-out: 4⅗ to nil.

Legal Matters: Other Stuff

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: Regarding Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and his "wing man" Joel Greenberg, when a person flips on Federal charges, first they proffer—tell the government what they can give in exchange for leniency.

If the government likes what they hear and a deal is reached, the defendant has his "Queen For A Day" interview at which he tells anything he knows, safe in the knowledge that nothing he says that day can be used against him.

He then pleads guilty, with his sentencing postponed until after he testifies against his co-conspirator (or the co-conspirator pleads guilty, or dies, or becomes otherwise unavailable for prosecution).

Greenberg has already done all this—but he's been giving "actionable information" about one or more other people, so his sentencing has been postponed.

And now his sentencing is scheduled, before he has testified against his co-conspirator(s).

Only two explanations seem at all likely for that: Either he has decided he's not going to testify, in which case the plea deal is scrapped and he proceeds to sentencing without credit for having cooperated, or they caught him in a lie—go straight to sentencing without credit for cooperation plus one or more charges for having lied to the Feds.

I.M. in Pleasanton, CA, writes: Regarding "Musk Makes His Cold Feet Official," it may cost Elon Musk considerably more than $1 Billion to walk away from the Twitter deal. The breakup fee only applies when there is an outside reason that prevents the deal from closing. This does not cover the cold feet of an eccentric billionaire who proposed the deal on a whim, only to realize he is vastly overpaying because of the slide in tech stocks.. Musk is on the hook for the entire $44 Billion deal. Twitter is going to sue to force the sale. This issue is discussed at length on the Pivot podcast, with the recent episode summarized here.


K.C.W. in Providence, RI, writes: I was on the phone with my 91-year-old aunt last night, as I am regularly, and she voiced an opinion I've never heard from her before, one that Gen X kids forward, who came of voting age with St. Ronnie Ray-gun, have known for a while: Kids today are not going to grow up in the same world she grew up in. Pretty much a direct quote: "We got out of the Depression and it was upwards from there. I just don't see that in the future."

Some of this has to do with her impending mortality. Suffering from recurrent colon cancer, it is unlikely that she will live another 18 months. Some of this has to do with seeing the lives of her nieces and nephews; grand-nieces and grand-nephews; who have not benefited as she did, and some of whom have suffered. Some has to do with her dissatisfaction with Joe Biden (which I somewhat share, but for different reasons). I think the tipping point has been recent SCOTUS decisions regarding abortion and guns.

Pre-Roe, my aunt had an abortion that left her without the possibility of children. Post-Roe, her niece, my sister, had a legal abortion. Had she not had that abortion, I cannot imagine her life today, but her life and career would be by any measure absurdly successful (in the 1%). My father, by the way, turned against Republicans for this very reason, not long after Evangelicals captured the Republican Party with St. Ronnie.

My aunt's husband collected and illegally carried handguns, which she was vehemently opposed to. He had over 150 handguns when he died a couple of years ago. Despite this, she's been a reliable Republican voter. Forever. Yes, she voted for Donald Trump the first time (though it was really an anti-Hillary vote, and boy was that a barn-burner of a phone call), but not the second time. She's probably moderately to the right of a "moderate" Republican, as far as I can tell. Not an Evangelical by any definition. Only one data point and anecdotes don't equal evidence, but Republicans should be worried. Not only is their most reliable base dying off, they are turning against them.

R.V. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: I truly believe with all my heart the main reason Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) continually fu**s his party over because to him, it is more important to be liked by his fellow GOP senators than to pass important legislation.

For Manchin, nothing is more important than having Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) or Sen John Thune (R-SD) put their arm around him and say "How ya doin, buddy?" Senate Republicans were probably scared of climate legislation passing, so they went and begged Manchin to sink it. Notice how Manchin never brings Republicans on board with anything, he just goes to the press and tanks Democratic pieces of legislation. He probably never even attempts to compromise; Republicans just say "Jump!" and he replies "How high?"

J.Q. in Cambridge, MA, writes: You wrote: "[F]at cats get only one vote, just like everyone else."

Maybe so, but they also decide who gets onto the ballot.

V & Z respond: Fair point.

Climate Change

J.O. in Columbia, MD, writes: P.M. in Edenton writes: "I also want to ask: Why is climate change always bad? Is there not a good side at all? M.M. cited some scientists who suggested that Siberia will be like Colorado in 300 years. Siberia is almost uninhabitable at present; would not its climate changing to something like Colorado's be a good thing?"

This particular trope reappears every so often in the climate change debate and I'm sorry to see it rearing its ugly head again.

If the planet has warmed enough so Siberia is comfortable, well, the rest of the planet is warmer also. If Siberia is the new Colorado, is Colorado...the new Arizona or Sonora? Places like Phoenix and Las Cruces are already extremely hot in the summer, what happens to life there? What is life like in Houston, Argentina and Brazil? Does the Middle East turn into Death Valley? If we could make Siberia nicer without affecting anything else, then yes, I'd be in favor... but warming up the planet and turning the tropics dangerously hot or even uninhabitable seems like a poor trade for "Irkutsk is nice this time of year."

I'm ignoring the questions about changing rainfall patterns, major changes to the gulf stream, flooding from rising sea levels, mass extinctions, impact to food production and transport.

D.K. in Glenside, PA, writes: I have been reading since 2004, when my favorite history professor turned our class on to your site. (Incidentally, he is the reason I switched my major to history, a decision I have never looked back on. Also, he held a contest for us to correctly predict the outcome of the 2004 Presidential election, mostly by using your site, and I got every state correct... except Ohio, but, I digress).

I have never written in until now, because although no one would know who I am, I am very shy and do not like to make public pronouncements (I have absolutely zero online presence). So, although I disagree with approximately 100% of P.M. in Edenton's opinions, I respect their right to express them, and welcome the engagement that it produces.

However: The comment posted in last Sunday's mailbag is beyond the pale. I am sure you will get many responses much the same as mine, so I will keep this as brief as possible.

P.M identifies as a Christian—this is my understanding based on past letters, and I apologize if I am in error. But to the question of "Why so much alarmism?," I would ask them to provide an explanation and reasoning for the lack of concern to the residents of Bahamas, Seychelles, Comoros, Vanuatu, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, French Polynesia, etc., etc., etc.—and all of the millions of others who will lose not only their homes, but their homelands, their countries, and their culture as a result of climate change. "Move them all to Siberia," I suppose you may say? Would you yourself be willingly forced to relocate to a land tens of thousands of miles away from your home, due to the short-sighted political priorities that you had absolutely no say in, made by strangers in other countries? I think I know your answer.

And so I come back to (what I presume to be) your Christian faith, and how much charity plays a role in that, and I ask you how much you will be donating to the fund that I am sure you will be anxious to start—that which will provide monies for the relocation of millions of people (the vast majority against their will) to a more hospitable foreign country, based on your indifference to a changing climate? I'm sure that the native Samoan will be very pleased to be living in northern Russia—even if it seems like Colorado. No brown-skinned person has ever had a problem being moved around like that without their consent.

Finally...Siberia? Russia? OK, yeah, that sounds like a great place for people concerned with democracy and human rights to be moving to right now.

M.G. in Boulder, CO, writes: I was interested in last Sunday's discussion of climate change and reader responses to that issue. While I agree that there aren't too many things that untrained individuals can do, there are two things we CAN do: (1) we can refuse to give up, and (2) we can find ways to contribute to solutions. There are undoubtedly people in universities and research centers around the globe working on solutions, and there are others working individually who will be happy to have support.

One of the individual workers who can inspire all of us was Wangari Muta Maathai. Born to poor parents in Kenya, she showed academic promise early. At 20, she received a scholarship to Mount St. Scholastica College in Atchison, KS, where she studied biology. She moved to the University of Pittsburgh for her Masters, and to the University College of Nairobi for a Ph.D. in veterinary anatomy. While studying in Nairobi, she married Mwangi Mathai and produced a son. Her daughter was born in 1971, the same year as she received her final degree. She became the first woman senior lecturer, first woman head of the Department of Veterinary Anatomy, and first woman associate professor at Nairobi, all by 1976. During this time her second son was born and her husband elected to Parliament.

Maathai became interested in environmental work as a way to deal with unemployment (her husband had campaigned on a promise to reduce unemployment) and was a member of several volunteer organizations. At the same time, her department was asked to work on a solution to a tick-borne disease affecting Kenyan cattle. Tick collecting took her all over Kenya, where she saw too much land with "no trees, no grass, the earth itself was blowing away. I asked myself, 'What do we need?' and the answer came to me: trees." (She may have been recalling the windbreaks in post-Dust Bowl Kansas.) By some strange coincidence, one of her women's organizations decided to take on a tree-planting project soon afterwards. A local nursery agreed to provide all the saplings they needed for free. (Later the nursery would have to go back on its promise.)

Her Green Belt Movement would eventually mobilize volunteers—mostly women—to plant over a million trees. Maathai became internationally known as "the Tree Lady of Kenya." As her reputation grew, her marriage failed. The Mathais separated in 1977 and divorced in 1979, her husband stating that Wangari was "too strong for a woman" and "could not be controlled." He wanted her to stop using his name—in reply, she changed hers to Maathai. The land around her house became a tree plantation. "A neighbor would ask, 'Wangari, what are you doing with all those trees?' I would explain and she would say, 'Wangari, give me some of those trees.'" Green Belt results: Hungry children were welcome to pick and eat fruit from Green Belt trees, villagers could again grow their traditional crops in the shade-cooled soil, dead trees and branches provided firewood for cooking healthier food, people grew stronger and more hopeful, men left the bars to dig wells and care for crops, and domestic violence was reduced.

Asked about her most important accomplishment, she rather surprisingly replied, "Civic education." Her organizations brought representative villagers to Nairobi for conferences in which participants learned how they could make decisions and changes—that they were not powerless. They returned home to teach what they had learned.

(V) and (Z) have pointed out that a leader needs both charisma and leadership skills. Maathai had both. I met her at a conference where she was our keynote speaker. To hear her tell her story, she happened to be at a place and time where a group made a good decision, and then at another place where the same thing happened, and then... She was very generous with giving others credit. At the conference, she attended the talks and asked speakers questions rather than giving her opinion on their topics. She knew that participants would like to be able to say, "Wangari Maathai asked me..." instead of "Wangari Maathai told me..." My thought was, "She'll have her Nobel if no one kills her first." (She had already been beaten unconscious twice for political actions.)

Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. Her memoir Unbowed was described by The Washington Post as "... uplifting proof of the power of perseverance—and of the power of principled, passionate people to change their countries and inspire the world."

Of course, not all of us will be able to make huge visible changes in the world. But we can make changes in our lives, neighborhoods, classrooms, and organizations. We can recognize and support positive changes. We can encourage and we can lead by example. We can push back against the edge of disaster and teach our children to do the same. Our actions can give researchers time to find answers.

For encouragement and for more information about Maathai and other recent world changers, look for Hope's Edge: The Next Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappe and Anna Lappe. (It has very little to do with food, except for a chapter on the Slow Food movement.) Frances Moore Lappe is also the author of Diet for a Small Planet, which popularized vegetarianism as a way to make more food available to the world's population. She holds 19 honorary doctorates that honor her own world-changing work.

The (Stupid) Economy

M.S. in Alpharetta, GA, writes: Your item "Inflation Damnation" actually understates the problem. Not only did headline inflation increase, so did core inflation, which excludes the volatile goods like gas and food.

The price of gas is coming down (here in Georgia today, I saw gas at $3.99), which will help, but I've read that our current inflation is roughly 50% due to continuing supply issues and about 25% from oil/gas. The rest is attributed to expansionary monetary policy. Again, as you wrote, the supply chain is "loosening," but certainly not fast enough. Per the Cleveland fed, the price of motor fuel increased at an annualized rate of 251% in June.

If you're looking for a silver lining, it would be that companies that offshore manufacturing are finding out that getting said manufactured goods can be... problematic. This is causing them to ...inshore? ...reshore?... well, move manufacturing back to the U.S.

At any rate, Even with gas getting cheaper, look for the inflation rate to be uncomfortably high for the rest of the year.

M.C. in Friendship, ME, writes: Looks like some of the inflation is because there's, essentially, full employment. So people are asking for more money and spending more money which causes businesses to raise prices because they must, or can.

Our financial advisor—a calm, smart guy—says there's a "strange recession" coming. Strange because of the full employment. So it seems to me that some people will feel the recession but lots won't.

A.H. in Columbus, OH, writes: This morning I chuckled when I read: "However, even they wrote a headline that is misleading: 'Inflation rose 9.1% in June, even more than expected, as consumer pressures intensify.' Just about all outlets report it this way, for reasons we really don't understand."

Really? What's not to understand? Newsertainment makes money primarily from ad revenue. Ad revenue is higher when you get more clicks/views. What gets more clicks/views? If it bleeds, it leads. Doom and gloom attracts eyeballs. So, you know... it's clickbait.

Ever see local news promos during sweeps weeks? "A common item you have in your house right now could be slowly killing you... tune it at 11 for more!" Seriously? Just tell me what it is! Then you tune in and it's some dumb story about how sitting on couches watching TV for hours a day is bad for you. Wow. I did not know that already [insert eyeroll].

Hyperbolic and sensationalized headlines are Journalism 101. I know you couldn't see me do it, but I actually made the air-quotes hand motion around 'Journalism.' What passes for news sickens me. Headlines like "[Insert political figure or celebrity] DESTROYED over [some gaffe]" and the contents of the article is literally a series of 5 tweets from absolute nobodies that aren't even well written or that damning with zero analysis or other content. It's literally 5 tweets. It's embarrassing. But newsertainment media conglomerates don't care. It's all about ad impressions. Just do whatever you can to amp people up and get their eyeballs in front of the ever-important, omnipresent, sweet, sweet revenue producing advertisements.

There's a reason I watch Netflix and other subscription services that don't have ads. And if any of them start showing me ads, I'll cancel. And I use software that can record TV broadcasts and automatically remove advertisements. And I use ad-blockers online. So I don't actually see that many ads. But still... I notice how some shows have an awful lot of Apple products in them. Or a particular brand of car... Hmm, everybody drives a [insert auto brand] on this show... and the plotlines often include them using Apple Car Play and hands-free mode while driving in their brand-spanking-new car with self-parking feature. I wonder why. Drives me batty.

I've even noticed some TV channels have started inserting ads as an overlay on top of a show as it's playing. They block the bottom 20-25% of the show for a 15-30 second ad that slides in/out from the side or rolls up/down from the bottom. It's gotten to the point where I am ready to stop watching some shows that I've watched several seasons of just because the ads are not removable and so aggressive that they now block me from seeing the full scene. I'm frankly blown away by the audacity of it.

Anyway, sorry for the rant and thanks for coming to my TED Talk.

S.C-M. in Scottsdale, AZ, writes: I share your annoyance with the way inflation data is reported by the press. They should know better. The headline number includes both food and energy which are quite volatile. With gas prices dropping rather quickly, the headline number should drop in the next report.

Better indicators of inflation is the "core" number which is just under 6% (still too high) and the 10-year inflation protected TIPS TBill yield, which is still under 1%. This indicates long-term inflation expectations are low. Keep in mind the Feds' 2% target inflation rate is not zero, and economists have argued the number is pretty arbitrary and may in fact be too low to achieve full employment, which is the other Fed mandate. Historically, the Fed seems to be biased towards controlling inflation, since we really do not know at what rate of unemployment where actually achieve full employment without excessive inflation.

I do agree with Paul Krugman and other economists that the economy is running "hot" right now, which is actually good for labor as it drives wage increases. Anecdotally, I see hiring signs all over the place, which indicates we have a labor shortage right now. We also still have supply chain issues and supply shortages which impact supplies of everything from computer chips to groceries.

The real dilemma for the Fed is they do not want to raise interest rates too high (which makes investments more expensive) and trigger a recession that puts people out of work.

My own belief is we are in a unique and unprecedented time. Most of the inflation we see right now is hangover from the pandemic. One indicator of this is inflation is worldwide. I really think policy makers are having a hard time figuring out a response that does not make things worse. Unfortunately, the inflation hysteria is not helping.

We would, of course, be in much better shape if we had the foresight to aggressively invest in reducing our dependency on fossil fuels and also invest in semiconductor manufacturing here in the U.S. among other policies, but politics does not seem to work well over more than an election-cycle timeframe.

News Flash: Readers Have a Low Opinion of Donald Trump

J.P. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I am not attempting to make any accusations, but it seems to be a staggering coincidence that the scheduled depositions given of TFG, Junior, and Ivanka (which were supposed to happen Monday), and the death of Ivana Trump occurred so close together. Was anyone else struck by that? Please excuse me for mentioning this if you find it offensive.

B.C. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: Republicans seem to get a lot of great mileage with the brain damaged elements in their base out of conspiracy theories (the Pedophile Pizza Palace and the 2020 Massive Voter Fraud are just two of the silliest, yet most effective).

My wife and I enjoy a lot of U.K. television on Britbox and Acorn. One of our favorite shows is Silent Witness, about a group of forensic scientists who team with homicide detectives to investigate suspicious deaths. In a number of episodes, they perform second autopsies and discover the victim was murdered.

I see this as a golden opportunity to beat the Repugnicans (<- not a typo) at their own game:

Ivana Trump Was Murdered: Trump's Ex-wife Knew Secrets of Illegal Deals

Naturally, most liberals are too smart to fall for this, but some elements of the Red Team might.

V & Z respond: These two letters are pretty dark, but we run them because it says something about the Trump family that many, many people pondered, if even for a moment, that they might have murdered Ivana to advance their own ends.

M.C. in Newton, MA, writes: Regarding Donald Trump's description of Elon Musk as "another B.S. artist" my immediate thought, which I think is all that needs to be said, was "takes one to know one."

J.A. in Austin, TX, writes: You wrote that Donald Trump did not specify what B.S. artist he had in mind, "but we doubt that The Donald was thinking of himself."

When has he thought of anyone else?

All Politics Is Local

B.A.R. in South Bend, IN, writes: Of Indiana AG Todd Rokita (R), you wrote: "[H]e undoubtedly looks in the mirror and sees future governor Rokita or future senator Rokita, and so is doing some grandstanding and some harassment of [Dr. Caitlin] Bernard to score political points."

I guarantee Rokita is planning on running for something, probably Governor, since Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) is in his second term. Rokita's been trying to raise his profile in my state for a while now. He does himself no favors with stunts like this, though. He's only succeeded in showing himself to be the blowhard jerk he is. I hope Dr. Bernard sues him.

P.C. in Helena, MT, writes: There may be an interesting race in Montana's newly created Second Congressional District, which covers the eastern half of the state. Gary Buchanan has qualified for the ballot as an independent. He had to gather 8,722 valid signatures minimum; he got almost 14,000, collected by 428 unpaid volunteers. This for a candidate who jumped in at the last minute 3 months ago and who has never held office. And that total is more than five percent of the total expected votes in November.

The incumbent is Rep. Matt Rosendale (R). He took office in 2021 after 10 years of serving in the legislature and as state insurance commissioner. He made his money in real estate in Maryland before moving to Montana in 2002. Rosendale was one of three representatives voting against the resolution supporting Ukraine's sovereignty. He's also voted against special visas for Afghan allies and against giving medals to the police who defended the Capitol January 6. And that's just part of his résumé. He has voted against much more.

Buchanan is a financial advisor in Billings, MT. He moved to Montana in 1975. He has been appointed to various positions by half a dozen Republican and Democratic governors. He was endorsed at his announcement event by former governor Marc Racicot (R) and Racicot's opponent in 1992, Dorothy Bradley (D). Buchanan has been described as fiscally conservative and socially liberal. He supports the right to privacy, which includes a woman's right to choose. National defense, health care, and crime are the lead issues on his website. He has said Rosendale's stance on Ukraine was the final straw convincing him somebody had to mount a challenge.

District 2 is strongly Republican. Rosendale won his 2020 race in that part of the state by 22 points against a well-funded Democrat with good name recognition. In the 2018 race for the Senate, which he lost, Rosendale still beat Senator Jon Tester by 4 points in eastern Montana.

The question is whether Buchanan can get the 40% or more of the vote necessary to win. (Less than 50% wins because Democrats and Libertarians also are on the ballot.) Rosendale's style and stance on classic Republican issues has alienated some in his party. On the Democratic side, they have no realistic chance this election. People from both parties will find things to like about Buchanan and things to dislike. How that will balance out isn't yet clear.

Buchanan does have one very good hole card: People of all persuasions find Rosendale embarrassing and obnoxious. When a signature gatherer asked a guy wearing a MAGA hat if he would sign to put an independent on the ballot against Rosendale, the guy said, "That di*k? You bet!"

This Week in Schadenfreude

R.B. in Albany, CA, writes: Had to laugh about your mention of "Shooter's Grill." Rifle, CO, is a world-renowned climbing destination and, being a climber, it was on my list of places to climb at. On my first visit to the town, my son and I were trying to find a place to eat and ended up at the restaurant. We were a little put off by the displays of weaponry but decided to explore the place. The waitress was intrigued that we were from Berkeley, CA, but was polite and friendly and the food was very good. The funniest item on the menu was the option to "Trump your burger" for an additional $4. The best we could tell was that this option was basically getting the standard $5 burger served on a cedar board with some additional decorations. We stopped counting the number of people paying extra for this option.

Picture from the front of the restaurant:

Front window of Shooter's Grill,
with its logo, which is the name of the establishment in a Wild West font, and two Colt revolvers

We didn't go back.

H.M. in Paris, France, writes: Maybe Roy Moore should take his case to the Supreme Court, to generate yet another wave of news stories.

Who knows, with this Supreme Court, maybe he can get the law changed from the bench so that marriage and the age of sexual consent are 13 again. It's in the Bible, after all, and it was an American practice, so it must be the Founders' intent, right?

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: Concerning this week's schadenfreude: People doing stupid pranks like making phony reservations at a restaurant punish only the workers who had nothing to do with the restaurant's treatment of Brett Kavanaugh in the first place. It's not as bad as the people who ordered pizzas delivered to the house of a certain Georgia poll worker, but it's in the same category. We shouldn't celebrate it or even think it funny. Besides, this week already offered us Roy Moore and Lauren Boebert. It's just greedy to want more, even when one acknowledges that yes, including Kavanaugh is a great temptation.

Sometimes I think that you guys just have it in for privileged, beer-swilling, fanny-grabbing frat boys who somehow overcome their background and make good. Or is it that you need three people for an episode of the Electoral-Vote Picking on Republicans Goodtime Hour?

E.R. in Irving, TX, writes: I make all my restaurant reservations in the name of Abe Froman; sometimes, it generates a smile. For those who are thinking it, not once have I been asked the question of my occupation.

V & Z respond: You're the "Sausage King of Chicago"?

E.K. in Patchogue, NY, writes: I love "This Week in Schadenfreude" like crazy, but sometimes it just makes me so blue, too. The overall number of appearances these articles make is like a bellwether of how things are going. Three for the price of one this week means things are still completely off the rails!

To wit: You ran an item earlier this week briefly discussing Rachel Kleinfeld's work on how countries normalize dehumanizing people, and how that is a key step towards serious political violence, to which we are well on our way! There are oodles of examples, but the one from well today (and sadly, there seem to be at least 1-2 of these each week)—poor Dr. Bernard is gonna become the right's next new bugaboo, raked over the coals, doxxed, threatened by voicemails and maybe in front of her office, but she did everything correctly according to the law and her professional code of ethics. Whether or not I or anyone else agrees or disagrees with her professional decision is irrelevant! But, she will likely become some kind of collateral damage. I hope I'm wrong.

What are we going do when people become too afraid do what's right? We need some kind of "hero" of the week article or something...

The whole feigned outrage that is motivating Americans to ruin their neighbors' lives just makes me feel sad for our country today. No schadenfreude in New York this week.

V & Z respond: That's not a bad suggestion...

How Do I LIV without You?

D.G. in Manhattan, NY, writes: I was glad to read your item about Donald Trump and the new Saudi golf tournament.

To add a final fillip to the story, it should be remembered that the PGA withdrew its 2015 Grand Slam Tour from Trump's Los Angeles course after the President's disparaging comments about Mexican immigrants.

The PGA dissed Donald again, in January 2021, following the insurrection at the Capitol, moving the 2022 PGA Championship (an agreement penned in 2014) from Bedminster, NJ to a non-Trump course in Oklahoma.

Trump was so furious that he—surprise—sued the PGA for breach of contract. The matter was settled in late 2021.

Thus, like everything Trump, his disdain for the PGA is based largely on personal pique and revenge. And, of course, money.

Of course, Trump refused to divest himself of his golf properties during his presidency, raising conflict of interest and emolument clause issues, but that's for another time. Maybe.

P.B. in Sherman, CT, writes: The good news is any alternative to an established pro sports league that Donald Trump gets his tiny hands on is doomed.

B.L. in Ann Arbor, MI, writes: I wrote a book about competitive advantage in sports and why some folks win more than others. In golf, it's one thing to win a tournament. It's another to win one of the so-called majors that draw the most competitive fields to play, usually because the purses are largest as well. The Saudi's entry into LIV golf is no different than Donald Trump's failed effort to create the United States Football League as a competitor to the NFL from the late 1970s. Don had a team (the New Jersey Generals) and hired a guy named Herschel Walker way back when, so they've been scratching each other's backs for decades. Of course he wanted to go up directly against the NFL in the fall season, after the USFL originally set up to play in the spring, and bent the whole league to follow suit. That led to lawsuits, squabbling, and a quick folding of the entire league. Another Trump legacy. Of course it was an epic failure. Of course, Trump got bailed out and lived another day.

So the premise for the LIV is that the payoffs are so large that they can pick off elite players who will take the money and forego the enduring legacy of being in the PGA Hall of Fame as a major tournament winner. It's no surprise who has joined the league, for the most part. Tiger Woods will never join LIV since he wants 18 major tournaments to tie Jack Nicklaus. In fact the formation of the LIV is actually helping Tiger Woods achieve his goal as its pulling out bunches of other competitive players from it. A guy like Phil Mickelson apparently is so in hock based on his gambling addiction that he needs money more than more major victories. The prior major winners who bolt to the LIV are calculating that their chances of winning a PGA major pale in comparison to taking a sure check. Of course, it's no surprise that Trump is with the upstarts. He always is. But his goal is different. He is haemmorhaging money at all of his golf courses, and a blood money check now from the Saudis is better than a bankruptcy later. The players who lose out as a result of being banned from the PGA? Trump could care less.

S.H. in Sutherlin, OR, writes: I read with interest your item on LIV Golf. This is a boiling subject that has affected not only individual players but the fans and the game itself.

For some context, this issue has roots way in how the PGA Tour sets its rules, controls its players and, of real importance, the sharing (or lack thereof) of the millions of dollars of revenue the Tour takes in every year. There are players on the Tour who have long lamented that the "rules" of the Tour are unfair to the players, especially with regard to their media rights. The Tour has demanded payment for media exposures of Tour players, i.e. when "The Match" was broadcast on TNT, they had to pay the PGA Tour a fee because Tour players were involved in playing "The Match." This is but one example where the Tour has profited on the backs of the individual players. Consequently a rebellion has been brewing for a long time.

Enter LIV Golf. Amid the brewing anger and storm with some of the Tour players, LIV Golf offered a new plan, including a huge chuck of cash, but also a more manageable schedule, plus benefits for the caddies. It is no surprise that there are players who decided "enough is enough" on the PGA Tour and decided to take advantage of this new opportunity. The most prominent player to do this was Phil Mickelson. That Mickelson has been made the scapegoat for his "treachery" to the Tour is disgusting. He has given so much back to the fans and the game and to charitable causes over the course of his golfing career. Mickelson's habit of giving autographs to the golf fans longer than anyone else is legendary. And where was the media when the U.S. Government played ball with the Saudis? And where were they when other sports (think NBA) have played ball with the Saudis? The hypocrisy here is appalling.

And now to the part about LIV Golf doing business with Trump and his golf courses. The PGA Tour has long done business with Donald Trump. They liked his golf-friendly attitude and his love for the game. The Tour backed off from associating with Trump only in recent times, when Trump's obviously odious behavior prompted the PGA to distance themselves. This is like the pot calling the kettle black.

Do I like any of this mess? I absolutely do not! However, there are two sides to every story and this one is no exception. Had the PGA Tour revised money policies and schedule policies, etc. long ago, this would not have happened. The Tour saw this coming many moons ago. That they did nothing says shame on them. The vacuum was filled by LIV Golf.

Ultimately this will be decided in courts of law. And it won't be pretty. This could have been avoided. My hope is that the Tour and LIV Golf will be able to meet and make accommodation for each other. That will be the best possible outcome.

For those on and who follow golf, this is no doubt old news. I felt it was important, however, for those who are not immersed in golf to know the "other side of the story". Thanks for letting me put it out there.

History Matters

M.O. in Tübingen, Germany, writes: I've been reading for a long time, and what subject should it be but Nordic history that finally makes me write a letter.

Iceland seems to me a pretty poor candidate for the longest-lived government or governmental institution. True, there was an institution called the Alþingi in Iceland in 930, and there is one today. But while the Alþingi had legislative and judicial functions in the 10th century, it was exclusively a court of law for centuries in the early modern period—the Danish kings preferred to do the legislating themselves. From 1845 to 1873 the refounded Alþingi had a purely consultative function, and since 1874 it has had legislative but no judicial functions—just like other modern parliaments. And besides the complete change in function there is the period from 1800 to 1845, there was nothing called the Alþingi at all—in terms of time, that is nine times the small matter of Oliver Cromwell...

V & Z respond: We disagreed on the correct answer, which is why we gave you two answers for the price of one. In any case, it makes our point that it's none too easy to definitely identify the longest-lived government.

W.V. in Andover, MN, writes: I would like to suggest a Supreme Court history covering the Court and slavery in the pre-Civil War era: Earl Maltz's Slavery and the Supreme Court, 1825-1861. As a layperson, I found this book understandable, informative and thoroughly engrossing. It examines key cases, without being overly legalistic. I appreciated the author's couching things in their historical context. My favorite chapter focused on an aged Rep. John Quincy Adams (W-MA) taking on the Amistad case. And certainly the chapter on the Dred Scott case will be of interest for many readers.

Yinz Can't Please Everyone

J.L.G. of Boston, MA, writes: You described Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) as "a former JAG officer (and, arguably, a current JAG off)."

Tell me who wrote the item without telling me who wrote the item.

Is (Z) secretly a Yinzer? Is this week's readership game to be on the lookout for other Pittsburgh slang? Should hiring committees at Pitt and Carnegie Mellon (and other fine Western Pennsylvania schools) be on the lookout for a certain CV from California? Is this the real reason that there's been so much coverage of the Mehmet Oz vs John Fetterman race on

C.R. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: I loved your joke calling former JAG officer Lindsay Graham a current "Jagoff." That is definitely a Pittsburgh term! As a current Pittsburgher, I'm curious if either of you have spent time in the Steel City?

V & Z respond: (Z) hasn't been to Pittsburgh, but his maternal family descends from the area, and he certainly spent many days sitting on his grandmother's davenport, sometimes eating gobs, or drinking some pop, or watching as she ran the sweeper over the carpet.

L.S. in Black Mountain, NC, writes: I usually enjoy (Z)'s snark, but the JAG off bit crosses the line to just plain nasty (assuming I am interpreting it correctly). It is beneath you, and I hope you strike it from the text.


C.W. in Carlsbad, CA, writes: In your response to the question from O.Z.H. in Dubai about Joseph Manson, you went into some detail about a presentation (Z) attended where the presenter and some others present took offense at a question Z intended as being neutral. It immediately struck me, given the subject of the inquiry, that there's an obvious connection to the question "Why not 'ALL Lives Matter' in response to 'Black Lives Matter?'"

Perhaps you can see then why offense was probably taken, as innocent as the question was intended. But I think (Z) is scratching the surface of a very deep problem: Do we really have to compromise with a**holes such that the every workable solution is "half-assed"? Surely the solution is more simple than that.

J.M. in El Sobrante, CA, writes: In response to O.Z.H. in Dubai, you recounted an anecdote in which you—assumedly a professor or GSI at the time—were trying to make the point that you faced perceived anger/resentment from your colleagues for asserting that a conservative student might feel discomfort from open displays of solidarity and acceptance of implicit personal identities such as queerness in the classroom, and you asked how to make that conservative student more comfortable.

The reason you likely received a frosty reception from your colleagues is simple. First, a student being a "conservative" and/or hardcore religious fundamentalist who supports a political agenda that involves the desire for suppression (or even criminalization) of others' immutable identities (queerness, race, etc.) reflects an ideological choice, one that involves control over others' personal lives and how they live them. Those students who would be marginalized and targeted by the ideological choices by the conservative student should not have to tolerate that student being "comfortable" in expressing open bigotry in the classroom—and you, as an instructor, should already know this. Honestly, by the time they get to college, so should the students.

So, I'm not surprised you received some strong pushback for your comment—it equates two things that are not the same at the expense of a marginalized identity that is implicit rather than ideological/political. You certainly know better, and it is understandable that your colleagues may have also assumed you may personally hold bigoted views from the framing of your question. It may have been uncomfortable to be in that position, but if you are going to be a contrarian on civil rights you (and the retiring professor who was the original topic) should probably develop a thicker skin.

V & Z respond: First of all, the title of the presentation was "How to create a more inclusive classroom." It was not "How to create a more inclusive classroom for LGBTQ+ students." And frankly, (Z) did not need to spend two hours to hear about announcing one's pronouns and carrying a rainbow thermos. He could have come up with those ideas all by himself.

Further, the narrative offered last week was a simplification of what (Z) actually said on that day. Given the response, perhaps it is best to give a more accurate accounting. So, here's a pretty close approximation of the statement (Z) actually made:

I now teach here, but I was also a graduate and undergraduate at UCLA. As chance would have it, sitting in the room right now is the professor who taught the very first college class I ever set foot in. They do not know who they are, since this was 25 years ago, but by remarkable coincidence, they are here. And I grew up in Orange County, when it was the land of Ronald Reagan and homophobes like Bob Dornan. The social climate was such that my high school made national headlines when Planned Parenthood held a protest in front of campus in which they handed out condoms and pamphlets about birth control.

Today, all these years later, I'm obviously in a very different place. But back in the early 1990s, given where I grew up, I had never even heard of trans individuals. If, on that very first day of that class all those years ago, that professor—who again, is in this room—had walked in and started talking about pronouns and had made a point of displaying their rainbow thermos, it would not have offended me, per se. I was not religious, and did not/do not have religious scruples as regards sexual orientation. What it would have done, however, is heighten my already profound feeling that I was out of place, that I didn't fit in, that I had bit off more than I could chew, etc. I don't think that trading the comfort of one group of students for another is ultimately in line with our mission as educators. So, what would you suggest we do to make sure that students from more conservative and/or sheltered backgrounds also feel included?

(Z) stands by his view that this is a perfectly reasonable comment/concern. And the professor in question, who was able to figure out that it must have been them who was being referred to, since there weren't that many 25-year veterans in the room, spoke to (Z) afterward and said they were in total agreement with the observation.

(Z) also stands by his view that this is a pretty good illustration of the tunnel vision that is commonplace in academia. Quite a few members of the academy celebrate "diversity," but it's often diversity as they understand it, and as dictated by what is currently... fashionable, for lack of a better term. So, for example, there is much concern about LGBTQ+ representation and the representation of racial minorities right now, which (Z) shares. However, the next time that (Z) hears a colleague express concern about how many working-class students are being admitted, or whether the experience of Christian students is being reflected the classroom, will be the first.

And finally, (Z) does not need to grow a thicker skin, because he honestly doesn't care one bit about the disapproval of colleagues who behave in that manner during a presentation on "inclusiveness."

Preposition Propositions

J.B. in Austin, TX, writes: Linguistics professor here. Regarding this observation: "[T]he headline for this particular item has three consecutive prepositions. There can't be that many constructions in English that have that, can, there?"

Yeah, this is probably a bit rare but you can stack even more. What helps in this case is that the first preposition "out" is actually a particle that goes with "yank" to form a particle verb "yank out." Unlike a regular preposition, particles don't have a noun phrase or prepositional phrase that it can take after it. Then you have the regular preposition "from," which can take a noun phrase or prepositional phrase after it, in this case the prepositional phrase "under them." Prepositions that describe spatial regions tend to be the ones that allow prepositional phrases after them, so if you choose carefully you can stack two or three of those together. But others can stand alone to indicate a spatial region, like "in" as in "walk in," which might be short for "walk in the room". Finally, you can get two or even more independent prepositional phrases side by side as in "walk from the market to the square," though one or the other could just be a standalone preposition as in "walk in from the other room".

So, if you start with a particle and throw in some side by side prepositional phrases, carefully choosing some that chain but end in standalone prepositions, the string gets longer, and you might get something like "Everyone please carry on from down below to over near the staircase" and you've got seven in a row. I am sure someone with a bit more creativity than I can muster up right now can probably get eight.

L.R.H. in Oakland, CA, writes: At the close of an item about Sen. Joe Manchin (A******-WV), who has yanked the rug out from under the Democrats yet again, you asked about English constructions with three consecutive prepositions. These immortal lyrics appear in Frank Loesser's musical Guys and Dolls, in the song "Take Back Your Mink":

So take back your mink
To from whence it came
And tell them to Hollanderize it
For some other dame.

Surely you can work "to from whence" into a future headline.

C.S. in San Jose, CA, writes: In the novel Cannery Row, John Steinbeck writes, "silver rivers of fish pour in out of the boats."

But this one, with 15 prepositions in a row, has to be the winner: "What did you bring me the magazine I didn't want to be read to out of about "[Over Under Sideways Down' up from Down Under" up around for?

P.D. in Salt Lake City, UT, writes: My favorite preposition string comes from the Great Salt Lake Yacht Club (yes, there is such a thing):

"What do you want to bring weather that you'd rather be in out of up for?"

B.W. in Olympia, WA, writes: I offer the Morris Bishop poem, "The Naughty Preposition":

I lately lost a preposition;
It hid, I thought, beneath my chair.
And angrily I cried: "Perdition!
Up from out of in under there!"
Correctness is my vade mecum,
And straggling phrases I abhor;
And yet I wondered: "What should it come
Up from out of in under there for?

J.M. in New York City, NY, writes:

Talk about fun! Here's a rough dozen you really might could enjoy:

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: I think this construction has three prepositions in a row: F**k Joe Manchin and the horse he came DOWN OFF OF.


D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: In your answer to J.L. in Los Angeles, you wrote, "As to TrumpVerse, it doesn't quite flow as well as TrumpWorld does. Plus, it kind of makes it seem like he's a Marvel Comics hero." You mean like this?

Trump's head superimposed onto
Captain America's body, with a giant TRUMP behind

I guess the Super Soldier Serum and the Vita-Rays finally cured those pesky bone spurs!

G.N. in Laurence Harbor, NJ, writes: How about a Marvel Comics Villain? My nominee is:

The character Abomination is
a frightening looking individual, something like a demon on anabolic steroids


R.J.J. in San Francisco, CA, writes: The question from J.L. of Los Angeles got me wondering about the use of planetary and dimensional suffixes in English language usage so I did a small amount of research as to why some things are a -world (- World) and others a -verse? It also got me thinking about the origins of each, along with their rules/guidelines/standards for usage.

As to why one rather than the other, -verse seems reserved for two syllable precursors (multiverse, metaverse, whedonverse) to stay in line with the original term "universe." One, two, or three syllable prefixes have all been used with euphonious effect in conjunction with -world (e.g., Westworld, Disney World, Bizarro World).

As to when this all started, while (Walt) Disney World opened in 1971 and the Westworld movie debuted in 1973, Bizarro World predated both by more than a decade when DC's Adventure Comics began a recurring series in 1961 titled "Tales of the Bizarro World" home of Superman's "twin," Bizarro No. 1, featuring the misadventures of a neocubist Frankenstein version of the Man of Steel (along with Lois Lane, Jimmy Olson, Krypto, and others) where everything am reversed (no, that isn't a typo).

Thank you for coming to my early Saturday TED talk.

P.V. in Kailua, HI, writes: In reference to the results of the election in Japan, you wrote: "So, a push in that direction is likely in the cards. Or, since it's Japan, in the riichi mahjong tiles."

It is perfectly appropriate to just use "in the cards." Mahjong didn't make an appearance in China until the 19th century and riichi mahjong didn't find its way to Japan until the 1920s. In contrast, Western playing cards were introduced to Japan by the Portuguese in the mid-16th century. Japanese hanafuda ("flower cards") originated in the 19th century as a way to get around a ban on European-style cards. Every video game nerd knows that Nintendo got its start in the late 1800's manufacturing and selling these playing cards. Nintendo still makes hanafuda—probably just out of a sense of tradition. It's unlikely that cards add much to the revenue generated by, say, the Switch or "Breath of the Wild." Mario themed deck from 2007:

Some very ornate and flowery
playing cards, heavy on red shades, without numbers or suits, but with lots of Super Mario characters

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: National Blueberry Muffin Day? My mother's standby, rest her soul: Blueberry Muffins by Betty Crocker.

Homemade blueberry muffins burst with fresh flavor that store-bought can never duplicate...

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