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Sunday Mailbag

The mailbag's all over the place today, starting with the Magic Kingdom, and wending through progressive politics, France, Tucker Carlson, Elon Musk, abortion, Judaism, some more influential musicians, and some more names for readers of the site, among other stops.

The House of the Mouse

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: Thank you for answering my question about Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R-FL) fight with Disney. So it seems like the benefits that DeSantis got from this battle is the short-time high of "owning the libs," although most progressives would be greatly amused that smacking a mega-giant corporation is seen as "owning the libs." It seems that DeSantis, like most drug users, is in for a short lived euphoria followed quickly by a world of hurt. Once again we see the short-sightedness of a political party with no actual policy on display. So Florida, if you end up losing millions of dollars in revenue, see thousands of jobs disappear or never materialize, hey at least you got the week or two of satisfaction of thumbing your nose at the wrong enemy. You must be so proud.

Being a Disney aficionado, I remember when Disney tried to build a theme park in Northern Virginia called Disney's America. The park was derailed when citizens' groups objected to its planned location and its proximity to Civil War battlefields, i.e., Bull Run (or Manassas for Southrons). Who wants to bet that some Disney intern has already ventured into their vaults and dusted off those plans? The Mouse is tenacious, far-thinking (unlike a certain political party) and it keeps every scrap of an idea. Hell, there might even be a plans for a park or two we the general public know nothing about.

While this lopsided kerfuffle is interesting because it shows the limitations of DeSantis—remember, the thing that makes him scary is he's smarter than Donald Trump, yet all evidence points to him being at best ill-conceived and at worst not very bright, either. It does serve to highlight the Republicans biggest liability going into the midterms: They have nothing beyond their grievances and mean-spirited thirst for fleeting satisfaction against paper targets. Additionally, they never learn from their perpetually repeated mistakes. They tried to do this same gay-bashing in Indiana, and that's why then-governor Mike Pence was on his last political legs before Trump tapped him to be his vice president and later hanging scapegoat. North Carolina tried this path with their "bathroom bills" and were significantly smacked down by big business. Arizona and Georgia have made similar short-sighted laws that lead to them shooting themselves in their own feet. Yet DeSantis and the Florida Republicans think by running the same old playbook, that this time they won't kill the goose that laid the golden egg. While I'm a horrible seer, I do predict that once the Supremes uphold the restrictive abortion laws that big business will suddenly find doing business in Texas, Florida, and Idaho not so attractive (they never found doing business in Mississippi or Oklahoma all that attractive in the first place). Their short-term gain will quickly turn to long-term pain.

So if any readers of are thinking of voting for the Republicans in the midterms or know of someone who is considering doing so, just ask them this question: Since the biggest concern for voters is inflation and the economy, how does not saying "gay," banning books, not teaching CRT and/or making abortion illegal do one damn thing against inflation? The Fox-addled will huff and bluster about Hunter's Ukrainian lap-top and Hillary's e-mail and Ping Pong Pizza Pedo Ring but that doesn't answer the question. So, ask them: What does the GOP plan to do about inflation? Apparently, not one damn thing since fighting inflation is not the stuff of cancel-culture political stunts. But at least you'll have the "satisfaction" of preventing something that was never taught in our public school system from ever being taught in our school system and that has to count for something, right? Political stunts at best work once, sometimes twice, but never on perpetual repeat.

And this just in, I read a poll that found that most Americans are happy with their local school systems, even with all of their Critical Race Theory; chants of "Gay, Gay, Gay;" pedo grooming by Big Businesses and woke mathematics! Perhaps that dog ain't hunting no more! Imagine, a political party comprised of pure performance stunts and no actual principles or guiding ethics! What does that get you when it comes to real-world problems and concerns? Absolutely nothing but tilting at imaginary windmills.

M.A in Knoxville, TN, writes: I wanted to pass along this comment, which was originally from a Washington Post article, about the whole DeSantis vs Disney thing, because it's quite interesting. One of the regular commenters on Political Wire shared it yesterday:

I have a college friend who is a member of the Florida state legislature and he has been giving me the comical inside "play by play". Basically, DeSantis, nor his staff had any idea what Reedy Creek was, what it did or cost. There were a couple staffers who tried to tell them literally the day of the signing, but they didn't want to hear it.

DeSantis literally thought that this "Disney Tax District" was a way Disney was getting away without paying their taxes. He had no idea of the debt and infrastructure maintenance responsibilities not just for Disney, but for large swaths of business and FL residents outside the bounds of their property.

There was quite a bit of swearing from DeSantis's staff and a handful of his strongest legislative supporters in conference room in the state capitol building the day after the signing when it became clear that they would now obligate the state of Florida to the tune of billions of long term debt and hundreds of millions of yearly expense that the Mouse had been shouldering.

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: You wrote: "There is no corporation in the world that is more litigious than Disney is." When I became yearbook sponsor at a small independent school, one of the first things the publisher told me is never do any theme or use any image from anything Disney, ever. They'll sue us, you, your first-born son, and before that your neighbors as a warm up to their direct attack.

I.M.O. in Norman, OK, writes: While I doubt Disney will try to relocate Disney World from Orlando, the states I see as being the most viable would be Texas or one of the Carolinas. In my mind, the geography simply doesn't work well in other Southern states, which I think is a must for a major outdoor amusement/entertainment/resort complex. While California might sound ideal, there simply isn't available land south of Bakersfield for such a massive district, and California's political climate would be far less amenable to the corporate demands Disney would likely make. As for the South and Southeast, these are all GOP-dominated states, but they are more likely to offer huge TIFs and other tax breaks, and certainly don't care as much about the ecological impact as blue states. Texas, although not my favored political color, is less politically "unpredictable," and it has similar swampy land south of Houston that is similar in climate and proximity to a swimmable beach and resort area, and a large cruise port in Galveston.


P.M. in Seattle, WA, writes: P.S. in Arlington asked: "Who exactly do progressives think these 'voters' are?"

The short answer is young and minority voters who voted in higher numbers than in previous elections and who propelled Joe Biden into the White House and delivered the Senate to the Democrats. These voters prioritize progressive policy and have been disappointed by Biden and the Democrats' failure to deliver on their campaign promises. Without their participation in the next elections, the GOP will certainly regain control of Congress in 2022 and probably the White House in 2024. Setting aside the fact that "massive, underfunded expenditures" have not been passed by Congress and signed by Biden, and ignoring the fact that the current high inflation is due to the massive, underfunded Republican tax cuts, difficulties in the global supply chain, and decades of very-low-inflation Fed Policy, if Democrats think they can win future elections and ignore progressives, they're delusional.

R.S. in San Mateo, CA, writes: To P.S. in Arlington, who is wary of Democrats because "passing massive, underfunded expenditures that raise my taxes and inflate the cost of things doesn't help my family," I ask: What does that have to do with Democrats? The Democrats' plan is to pass massive, fully-funded expenditures that do not raise middle-class taxes and lower inflation over the long term, while also making services you already use (health care, child care, education, etc.) more affordable. That seems like a better platform to be running on than doing nothing.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: I hate it that this woman gets any attention at all and I look forward to the day when she pops up randomly in the news and I realize I haven't heard about her for 10 years. But that day will be a long time coming. I also hate that folks in the media are using the abbreviation "MTG," which I posited a couple of years ago that she isn't cool enough to have. Anyway, when I hear it, I think, "empty G" because her head is clearly empty of intelligence and knowledge.

But I digress before I even start. I'm writing, of course, about Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (Q-GA). What I find interesting about the text messages to Mark Meadows that have been revealed is that on January 6, she had been a member of Congress for 3 whole days. And yet she already had the phone number of the president's Chief of Staff!?! Clearly they either saw value in her, realized that she could be a "useful idiot," or they have something salacious on her that they are holding over her head.

In mean, it can't be that common for a 3-days-of-service freshman representative to be looped in to someone so close to the president, right?

R.S. in Pullman, WA, writes: You wrote, of Marjorie Taylor Greene:

We can't speak for those outlets, since we were not at their budget meetings (when each day's coverage is discussed). However, we can speak for ourselves, and we suspect that our reasons for ignoring the story are probably similar to those of the Times or the Post. ... So, giving attention to whatever idiotic thing she's said this week is not only not instructive, it actually helps her to keep spreading her bile.

As a Catholic (someone who goes to Church regularly) and someone who is very liberal, I find this reasoning to be aggravating. According to Pew, about 21% of Americans are Catholic. That's 1 in 5. Would you have been so "reluctant" to give her attention had she said this about Jews, Latinos, or Black people? I don't know your thinking on all issues, but as a guess, I doubt you'd have ignored it. Her comment has caused a lot of anger within the Catholic community, which is ignored by you.

V & Z respond: Actually, we have ignored other bigoted statements. After the Jewish space lasers bit made clear what kind of person she is, she followed with several additional antisemitic and anti-immigrant declarations. It quickly became clear that giving her attention was just feeding the troll, so we stopped doing so.

S.W. in San Jose, CA, writes: To expand on your answer to J.E. in Brooklyn about what drives 35% of the populace, remember the words of Yoda: "Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering."

R.K. in Tucson, AZ, writes: Not even P.M. in Currituck ever motivated me to write in to the mailbag. But the letter from D.H. in Pueblo caused me to dust off my computer keyboard. I respectfully disagree with the premise that Democrats are equally to blame for the chasm between the two political parties and their inability to find healing and common ground. To do so is to ignore decades of leaders like Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and virtually every Republican in office today who puts party before country. I reject "whataboutism" and dare you to find equivalence between any Democratic action and an armed insurrection instigated by the president to overturn the election he lost. Only members of one party, many of whom took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, are guilty of actively plotting to nullify the legal votes of 81 million people. The sins of the Republican Party are orders of magnitude greater than any, real or imagined, of the Democratic Party. There simply is no comparison.

Does anyone seriously think that the talking heads on the right are open to civil discussion and sincere consideration of alternative opinions? Torturing the truth and riling up the base is more fun and certainly more rewarding. There simply are no equivalents to Reps. Jim Jordan (R-OH), MTG, Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) in the Democratic Party. Sure, the Squad is guilty of saying some pretty stupid things, but comparing them to the hurtful, hateful, incendiary remarks from their Republican colleagues is hardly a fair comparison.

My experiences with Trump supporters do not support D.H.'s belief that they would be open to discussion or an exchange of opinions if only they were treated with respect. At least in my instance, the vitriol, name-calling and condescension came from someone besides me. And, no, I did not provoke these responses. Similarly, conservative family members have been eager to share their unsolicited opinions with no interest in hearing any thoughts to the contrary. Unfortunately, my failure to engage them was probably interpreted as agreement. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.

Respect is earned, not demanded. It is received, not taken. The misguided "patriots" who stormed the Capitol, the participants of the Trump caravan outside of Austin during the campaign, and the leaders who put party before country are not deserving of respect. Neither are those who sow unrest by circulating conspiracy theories, lies, hatred and division for their own gain nor are those who ignore, condone or support such behavior.

There will not be a civil war. It will not be necessary. Republicans have been highly effective with their restrictive voting laws, gerrymandered redistricting and slanderous campaign ads. The irony and hypocrisy is maddening as Republicans are actually doing what they accused Democrats of doing in 2020. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders are limp and flaccid, their impotence all but guaranteeing the success of conservative candidates.

Prior to Trump's election I predicted his presidency would set back the Republican Party for decades. How could I be more wrong? I grossly underestimated the willingness of conservatives to abandon common decency and the norms that protect our society and our democracy. Anything goes. No bar is too high or too low. When words and actions have no consequences we are all in trouble. God help us...

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: Black Voters Stuck? As a trans woman, I wanted to point out that many of us in the trans community feel the same way. I read your piece, and literally could have replaced black with trans in almost every occurrence (except slavery, of course).

I suspect many other minorities feel the same way. So why are Black people singled out as the only ones worth mentioning? I know many Latinos who don't feel Democrats are doing enough about immigration, trans like me who don't think Democrats are doing enough to head off the multiple attacks against our community, and I know Jews who don't think Democrats are doing enough to fight the rise of antisemitism.

From where I stand, it seems like the Democrats feel that if they "try" but get nothing done, that is good enough. I am here to tell them that it isn't enough. Now, because I happen to be an Officer of the NC Democratic Party, I will continue to vote for and support Democrats and I won't stay home. But I do worry about the many others out there who may finally decide to stay home because, while the Dems are not hurting them... Democrats are not helping enough.

In fact, I see a way this can all backfire very badly for Team Blue, but I am not going to say it since I have no desire to help my political enemies. But I will say there is a hell of a lot of truth, for us minorities, in the notion that the Dems are the lesser of two evils. For us, it seems there are no good guys.

International Affairs

K.E. in Newport, RI, writes: I read your comments about Emmanuel Macron's decisive victory in the French presidential election, and I don't think you did enough to convey how impressive his victory is and how important it is to maintain the NATO and European Union partnerships.

I'll give readers a little background about myself. I studied French for 8 years growing up and I can still read and converse in the language very well. I spent 9 months living in Le Havre, France, in the late 90s as an exchange student and immersed myself into life there. My ancestors were also Anglo-Normans who were English people of French descent who settled heavily in Britain and Ireland in the Middle Ages and greatly influenced the evolution of the English language. When I visit Canada and France today, they consider me an honorary Francophone.

Having read many articles about Macron's first term in office, I believe Macron's victory was very impressive. In fact, I think he is probably the most skilled and talented politician in the world during the first 3 decades of the 21st century. His favorability ratings throughout his first term were terrible. He has also been the target of a loud and profane protest campaign against his administration. The Gilets Jaunes (yellow vests) have frequently been disruptive of traffic in French cities and they are known for shouting profanities and insults at passersby. They have also occasionally become destructive of property and have engaged in violence. Since 2018, the Gilet demonstrations have led to 11 deaths and over 4,000 injuries to the public and to police officers.

Macron used the Gilets as a foil to put his political opponents on the defensive. He linked Le Pen and her party to the protests and she couldn't denounce them because they were an essential part of her voter coalition. It worked brilliantly and he won in spite of his low approval ratings. It is a great example of how an astute politician can turn something negative about him into something that benefits him.

I think this is something today's Democratic Party in the United States needs to do more aggressively. I thought it was great this week when President Biden labeled Ron DeSantis as a bookburner. Biden should be going on national TV on a weekly basis linking the Republican Party to the January 6 insurrectionists. For good reason, the 1/6 insurrectionists are very unpopular. He and Democrats in Congress need to make the Republicans own that attack. They must demonstrate how pandering to conspiratorial extremists and their refusal to accept election results led to attacks on Congress and is putting future elections at risk.

All Politics Is Local

H.R. in Jamaica Plain, NY, writes: Thanks for the nice item on the Governors' polling. I think your readers might be interested to know that, in the case of Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA), his approval is much higher among Democrats than among Republicans or independents. This reflects the split in the Massachusetts Republican Party between those who blindly support the former guy and those that don't (Baker among them). Here's a quote that appears to be from Ipsos: "His approval rating among Democrats is particularly striking—81% approve of the job he's doing, compared to 65% of Republicans and 68% of Independents."

I wonder if the same isn't true for the other Republican governors in Democratic states.

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: Regarding Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and the topic of seniority: No one serves forever; you can only put off the process of rebuilding seniority so long. If the incumbent has become ineffective, it's time to begin that process. This is the same thinking I applied when I voted for Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA) over Mike Honda in 2016.

D.K. in Oceanside, CA, writes: In reference to Jake Bequette, the former Razorback player challenging Sen. John Boozman (R-AR), you wrote: "Right-wingers and football seem to go together for some reason."

Let me just clarify, in case anyone missed the point: It is now proven that football players suffer brain damage due to taking too many hits to the head. Take Herschel Walker...

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: I came across this story about Rep. Kai Kahele (D-HI) a couple of weeks ago. The executive summary is that he hasn't been to Washington since January, has not been engaged with his committees, has been voting by proxy, and is spending all of this time in Hawaii. This seems to confirm you item about his retirement announcement and run for governor. I guess he didn't like the long flight. There is nothing in the story about how his constituents feel about his absence but it's hard to imagine that they would be happy about this. And, by definition, he "represents" half of the population of the state. Probably we'll never hear from him again.

P.F. in Fairbanks, AK, writes: This is what a 48-candidate, by-mail election packet looks like. My favorite part is the security sleeve:

An envelope, secrecy sleeve, long list of
instructions, and a ballot with a very long list of candidates

With a Name Like Tucker's, It Has to Be Bad

E.F. in Baltimore, MD, writes: Tucker Carlson's playing shift-the-Overton Window games here. If Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) is a liberal, then middle of the road Democrats are socialists. The really liberal ones like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), he'll pretend are Marxists. Or if he wants to sound as if he actually knows what he's talking about, he'll call them Bolsheviks.

The important thing to remember is that in Tucker's political lexicon, there are never any extremists on the right. His Overton Window always moves far enough in that direction to legitimize the GOP.

D.H. in Boston, MA, writes: I'm kind of shocked that D.C. in Brentwood wrote in to ask what happened to Tucker Carlson. I feel like Jon Stewart going on Crossfire on CNN in 2004, when Carlson was a host, revealed everything I ever needed to know. It makes me wonder if Stewart on Crossfire wasn't as famous/infamous as I thought.

I can't think of a single moment in my adult life when someone has called out pundits, in particular Carlson, for their bogus debating style so clearly. The actual conversation was somewhat halting but amazing:

Stewart [around 6:30 of the video]: Now, this is theater. I mean, it's, it's, how old are you?

Carlson: 35.

Stewart: And you wear a bow tie.

Carlson: Yeah, I do. I do. I do. No, no, I know, I know, you're...

Stewart: So, so this is, so this is theater.

Carlson: Right, and let me just uh, now come on, Jon.

Stewart: And listen, I'm not, I'm not suggesting that you're not, you're not a smart guy, because those are not easy to tie. But the thing is, that, this, you're doing theater, when you should be doing debate. Which would be great. It's not honest. What you do is not honest. What you do is partisan hackery.

And that was only one of many remarkable exchanges. Another:

Carlson: Tell us, what do you think about the Bill O'Reilly vibrator story?

Stewart: I'm sorry? I don't. What do you think? Where's your moral outrage on this one?

Carlson (laughing): I don't have any

Stewart: Oh, I know.

Nothing about Carlson I've heard since then has caused me to reconsider his character in a positive way.

A.C. in Kingston, MA, writes: I wanted to comment a little about Michael Savage as an example of someone who used to be far-left but shifted to far-right. As a fairly earthy-crunchy new mom myself in the early 2000s, I got to witness close up and in real time just how much overlap there is between the "natural living" community and the far right. I originally got into the subculture when I was looking for breastfeeding support and interested in cloth diapering, gentle discipline/attachment parenting, and sourcing natural and earth-friendly products for my family—all practices I maintained and, to the degree practical with teenagers as opposed to babies, still do. I discovered fairly quickly that a lot of the "mamas" in this community were big promoters of biological essentialism, thought mothers should stay home, kids should be homeschooled (critiques of public schools coming from both the left and the right), and vaccines and modern medicine were evil. In other words, I don't view Savage's early "back to earth" publications as necessarily an indication of left-leaning sensibilities. Some of my furthest-right acquaintances from my childhood have many such books in their home libraries.


S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: You wrote: "Needless to say, requiring people to register their true identities to open or maintain an account would not be popular with some people, especially people who post hateful or illegal material."

Also transgender individuals, and any people who have professional or other names which differ from their legal names, especially if they wish to also maintain a more private account under their legal name. I remember Facebook took a lot of flack from the LGBTQ+ community a few years ago for locking the pseudonymous accounts of trans folks and drag queens (many of whom depended on their accounts for their professional networking, and thus suffered hits to their income) under their then-policy of requiring legal names.

J.A. in Redwood City, CA, writes: Let's not forget the original intended benefit of pseudonymous postings: To shield posters from unwarranted harassment. For what it's worth, I applaud's practice of publishing only the initials of readers who submit comments.

L.R.H. in Oakland, CA, writes: Requiring real names would also be a potential hazard for political dissidents in countries where they could be imprisoned or killed, sexual minorities in countries where, for example, homosexuality is illegal, feminists in Saudi Arabia, and so on. Anonymity can serve to protect such individuals, not just hide bad actors and bots.

B.G. in Palo Alto, CA, writes: Just a few thoughts on Elon Musk acquiring Twitter.

First, Twitter has been underperforming relative to peers like Facebook. If Musk can take it private, boost the metrics/revenue over the next year or three to something more in line with peers, then he can re-IPO it and make a trillion dollars. I'm sure he's at least aware of this option and is viewing his purchase as potential classic turnaround play.

Second, maybe this is just Musk's version of buying a newspaper, as billionaires like to do from time to time. Jeff Bezos has The Washington Post after all, maybe Musk decided it's time the world's new richest guy has his own big media company too.

Third, he's made clear that one of his priorities is to kill all bot spam on Twitter. Initially he'll do this by offering a service to verify Twitter accounts' real-world identities, possibly for a small fee (boosting revenue, see #1). Non-verified accounts will then be more likely to being filtered out of timelines, either by Twitter's algorithm or by users themselves.

So I wonder, let's say he allows Donald Trump back on Twitter, but kills most botspam. Will that have any appreciable effect on the amplification of Trump's twitter trolling? Or does Trump have enough organic real-life followers retweeting him that losing bot amplification makes no difference?

P.B. in Chicago, IL, writes: I am torn about whether it is good or bad for the country to let Donald Trump back on Twitter. Not too long ago, Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo wrote something that really struck me. He observed that to the general public, they think Trump has really calmed down because the MSM doesn't report on his every crazy utterance. If you are a political junkie like those who read TPM or, you hear about all the crazy crap he says, but most of the public are not like us.

But put him back on Twitter and he will have a broader reach and probably get more negative press. More people will come to see that he has really gotten worse than he was a year ago. And overall, that should scare a lot more who are not his base.

So, while I loved seeing him kicked off Twitter, I think it will help us if he has the megaphone back to spout his craziness.

D.R. in Massapequa Park, NY, writes: This might sound like a conspiracy theory but hear me out. I find it a tad bid ironic that Elon Musk is being hailed as a hero by conservatives for buying Twitter in the name of "free speech" and totally "owning the libs" but in the same respect the reason he has all that money it because of electric cars which conservatives seem to be vehemently against. Could this be some kind of a ploy by Musk? He allows conservatives to push through, lies, sometimes dangerous lies, on Twitter and he will look the other way so long as Tesla gets some government help. Taxpayer-funded charging stations at every rest stop across every major highway? Friendly tax incentives? Maybe government contracts for government vehicles?

The first principle of the modern-day GOP is to "own the libs"; they will give Musk anything he wants if they think liberals will be mad. As for Democrats, with all the hype and support they give to electric vehicles, they will not be so quick to try and do anything that could halt progress in the electric vehicle market. Musk gets someone else to foot the bill, helps his bottom line, raises the stock of Tesla and laughs all the way to the bank. He might of just beat the GOP at their own game.

Legal Matters

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: Do you think that the Conservatives on SCOTUS have figured out that if they gut stare decisis, they are going to open a floodgate of incoming work for the federal judiciary? Every law and local ordinance and executive action becomes subject to court action and nothing is settled until the judges rule. Legislative action is just step one. You know what you call a race where there are no lane boundaries? A demolition derby.

J.M. in Stamford, CT, writes: In your item about the Oklahoma anti-abortion law, you write: "The bill ... would ban all abortions after the fetal heartbeat can be detected..."

As with the similar Texas law, the use of the phrase "fetal heartbeat" is considered by medical professionals to be misleading propaganda designed to win sympathy among less-informed citizens for the position that an embryo is a "person," etc., etc.

At 6 weeks, the embryo has not developed enough to be called a fetus. There is nothing resembling a heart in its developing body, and no valves to open and close thus causing a "beat." Rather, at about this point in the embryo's development, an electrical rhythm is detectable in its nervous system which will, many weeks later, lead to the regular beating of the yet-to-come heart. Doctors admit that they sometimes call this pulse a "heartbeat" by analogy, when explaining its detection to pregnant women, but that has led anti-abortion lobbyists and legislatures to hijack the phrase to convince Americans that a six-week embryo is a fetus, basically a person, with a fully-developed and beating heart.

Repeating the laws' deceptive language when reporting about them has the effect of confirming the deception of your unknowing readers. I would ask you to consider not falling for this, but to rather use more correct terminology even if you don't have the room or focus to actually comment on the matter.

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Just to clarify: The Texas abortion ban is a 6-week ban, not a 15-week ban like the one in Mississippi before the Supreme Court. That's why the Texas law is so outrageous and why it's so egregious that the court refused to block it, particularly given the novel and inappropriate enforcement mechanism.

One of the abortion bans just signed into law in Oklahoma mirrored Texas almost exactly. And yet another ban Gov. Kevin Stitt (R-OK) is expected to sign goes even further and bans abortion entirely with a limited exception to save the woman's life. The practical effect of these bans, even as they're being fought in court, is that legal abortion providers will leave the state and women will once again be subject to back-alley butchers preying on their desperation. As one Democratic lawmaker put it, these laws are not "pro-life" because they don't reduce abortion, they just endanger women's lives.

But a woman's life, and the family she already supports, are unimportant when it comes to scoring political points with the base.

B.E. in Long Island, NY, writes: You wrote: "So, the Oklahomans decided that instead of 15 weeks, they would impose a cutoff that is Sooner."

Hmmm, I see what you did there.


R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: So let's talk for a minute about homelessness in Los Angeles. In the 2020 Point-in-Time count (The 2021 count is probably available somewhere, but it was also probably affected by COVID) the city and county of L.A. estimated 63,000+ people experiencing homelessness in shelters, transitional housing, or on the street on one night near the end of January. Of those 17,6000 were in some kind of shelter that night (93% of full capacity) and just over 46,000 were sleeping in a place not meant for human habitation.

Throughout that year, the homeless services system provided at least one night of some kind of shelter to 34,700. For the past 6 years (2021 data isn't available yet, so 2015-2020), Street Outreach and shelter programs in L.A. have exited an average of 8,000 people to permanent housing. 2017 was the only year that total was less than 6,000. So, 63,000 divided by 8,000, it should take just under 8 years to get everyone off the street, right? Nope. That same year, the system served over 18,000 people who had either never experienced homelessness before, or had been away from the system for at least 2 years. It's pretty common across the country for these "newly homeless" (my term) to outnumber people whose homelessness was ended by 2 to 1. The national average is about 2.4 to 1.

That's why prevention and affordable housing are so important to ending homelessness. Homelessness in L.A. and L.A. County is an overflowing bathtub because the drain is too small, the people who are trying as hard as they can to bail water don't have any place to pour it, but most frustratingly, the faucet is still running full blast.

Finally, I want to address some of the comments from A.G. in Los Angeles directly. People living on the street don't have a pot to piss in. People defecate on the street because they are not allowed to defecate anywhere else. You don't have to like finding s**t on the street, but the answer isn't to arrest people who have no other choice. The answer is to get those people into apartments/houses with indoor plumbing, or failing that let them use public toilets. But business owners go to great lengths to make sure no one experiencing homelessness relieves themselves in their establishment and any time someone suggests providing such amenities, there is a hue and cry because "those people" will use them. Austin, TX, thought it would be nice to have benches downtown so visitors would have a place to sit, but then people experiencing homelessness started sitting there and the downtown business and neighborhood associations just threw up their hands and said, "Well, I guess we just can't have nice things," (almost a direct quote).

Also, I disagree that penises are inherently traumatizing, but I haven't lived A.G.'s life. I don't know what homeless advocates A.G. is talking to, but from my experience, when people refuse services it's generally for one of two reasons: (1) The person/organization providing the services have a bunch of strings attached or hoops to jump through (I've heard of churches requiring people to come to and participate in their services as a condition of getting help), or (2) They've had bad experiences in the past, either from excessive strings and hoops or long wait lists and crappy apartments and just don't want to go through that again. But when you come up to someone and say "Do you want to look at some apartments? We can get you moved in to the one you choose today" they don't say "no." Or rather, I've only ever heard of one person saying "no" in that situation. There may be exceptions, but in general people don't choose to be homeless. Even people with severe mental illness or serious chemical dependencies can be successfully housed without making them get help first. It literally happens all the time.

Honorable Menschions

M.S. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: M.R. in Acton wrote about how people are considered Jewish no matter where they go with their beliefs. As someone who was raised Jewish but became an atheist, I've always considered this a big negative—people are not allowed to leave. It's like getting married without the possibility of a divorce if people grow apart (and I know getting rabbinical approval for a divorce can be challenging). In both cases, I think this attitude is inappropriate in the modern world.

So, I describe myself as culturally Jewish. Or sometimes, I say I have four Jewish grandparents.

V & Z respond: In other words, Jewishness is like... the Hotel California?

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: Following up on letters from M.R. in Acton and L.M. in Tampa, FL, SSR (sorry you have to live under a Soviet-style dictator, LM): Judaism exists as both a religious and a cultural identity. This wasn't our idea but grew out of the Holocaust when Hitler declared us not white enough to be Aryan (my words, not his).

The separate cultural identity likely goes back further, given that Jews had long been relegated to living in their own insular communities—the shtetls and ghettos of Eastern Europe that my grandparents came from. Much of this was transferred to the United States, as Jews immigrated here in the 1910's and 20's and, like other new immigrants, they chose to live among themselves, creating Jewish enclaves in many American cities. The suburb of Detroit that I grew up in during the 1970's and 80's had so many Jewish kids that the public schools scheduled days off for the High Holidays, because of "insufficient attendance."

My point is that we didn't choose to be a cultural identity on top of a religious one. That was given to us by the people who hate us. We haven't had much choice other than to embrace it. This confuses a lot of non-Jews to this day, including my own wife for the first several years of dating me.

L.M. is correct that the haters of the world could care less how observant a Jew is. My standard is pretty simple: If Hitler would have had a person rounded for the concentration camps, they are a Jew.

M.H. in Salt Lake City, UT, writes: I often tell people: I'm not a "real Jew." I'm Jew-ish.

I'm hoping Rabbi M.R. and other Members of the Tribe who read your site might get a chuckle from this.

V & Z respond: (Z) was once at the house of a friend's parents, and noticed some gefilte fish in the cupboard. (Z) said: "I thought you said your parents weren't very Jewish. And yet, they have gefilte fish in the cupboard. That's pretty Jewish, don't you think?" And the friend replied: "But that's exactly it. They're Jewish enough to HAVE it, but not Jewish enough to actually EAT it."

S.S-L in Norman, OK, writes: Just a quick note to say thank you to other readers for once again raising my awareness around antisemitism. I generally assume American antisemitism is a thing of the past. I can't fathom being uncomfortable with someone on the basis of their Jewishness, so I lump it into the same mental category as dying from smallpox or having to churn butter. I just don't even have a concept for how or why antisemitism would be a thing anymore. This is probably the same cognitive dissonance many able-bodied people experience when they learn about ableism. Wild.

My Gift Is My Song, Part II

B.D. in Lisle, IL, writes: Greetings from Chicago! I have enjoyed your insightful daily musings for many years and have often thought that I should comment, but have never made that happen. However, music is a subject in which I can offer at least a bit of expertise. As a musician and educator let me say congratulations to you for an excellent list of influential musicians in American history. Certainly reasonable people could argue about the specific inclusions or exclusions from your list. However, what is vastly more important is that you have identified individuals who were most responsible for certain watershed moments in American music history. Much as all history should be about the "what" more than the "who," music history is no exception.

That being said, I believe one important moment (perhaps movement) has been left off of your list: music's introduction and eventual near universal adoption into the American public education system. While it is undoubtedly a process that is still ongoing (and at times struggling), the concept of "music for all" by its formal inclusion in the curriculum was unique at the time of its inception and has been copied by a number of other countries since that time. There are few public schools in the U.S. that do not include a choir and a band in their curricular offerings, with larger schools offering instruction on string instruments as well. Assigning credit for this movement must lead to Lowell Mason and his work in Boston in the 1830's. Although some critics dislike his introduction of the Western European model of hymnody and its slow elimination of a fledgling American hymn song tradition, it is difficult to argue with his placement at the beginning of the movement and the ongoing momentum he provided. Placing at least some level of music instruction into the formal education of students has led to unprecedented levels of music makers and music consumers, to the benefit of all.

C.J. in Redondo Beach, CA, writes: How can Aaron Copland not make the list? He is literally the quintessential American composer and basically invented the sound of America. When people think of the west, one hears "Billy the Kid" or "Rodeo." "Appalachian Spring" is known the world over as representing the United States. "Fanfare to the Common Man" is unmistakable, and cannot be thought of as anything but American. His style of music has been copied by other composers for a hundred years, especially in scores of westerns, but in other genres as well. Even music not directly dealing with "America" or "The West" has echoes of Copland. Much of Thomas Newman's overall style seems to have influenced by Copland.

M.K. in Toronto, ON, Canada, writes: I notice several of your suggested influential musicians made the cut for their contribution to breaking down racial barriers. Along those lines, how can you omit Benny Goodman (or if you don't like giving the white man all the credit, Goodman in conjunction with Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton). In the big band era, jazz was strictly segregated; white and black musicians weren't even judged by the same aesthetic, as the white bands were supposed to sound "sweet" and the black bands were supposed to sound "hot." For one of the leading white bandleaders to go on tour with two black musicians was scandalous—and this happened 10 years before Branch Rickey gave Jackie Robinson a Dodgers uniform. Highly visible challenges to the racial taboos of the day in such institutions of popular culture as jazz and Major League Baseball no doubt pushed the Civil Rights Movement along.

Also, for breaking down a different kind of barrier (stylistic rather than racial), I'd include Miles Davis on my list.

M.S. in Knoxville, TN, writes: Although he did not create country, Hank Williams was a towering early practitioner of the music genre of rural America. Whether they were honky tonkin', felt so lonesome they could cry, or saw the light, country folk were doing it to Williams' sound track, much of which survives. And country music, of course, is the music that made getting drunk, going to prison, standing in the rain, trains, and Momma famous.

D.S. in Winnetka, CA, writes: Contrary to popular belief, Les Paul did not create the solid body electric guitar. While he had an extraordinary impact on the recording industry with the development of multitrack recording, his involvement with Gibson was basically an endorsement deal.

While he had shown Gibson his solid body prototype nicknamed "The Log" in 1941, Slingerland had already brought their solid body Songster 401 to market in 1938-39. Also, Leo Fender had started selling their early version of the Telecaster, called the Broadcaster, in 1951, a full year before Gibson released the Les Paul guitar in 1952.

P.K. in Marshalltown, IA (one hundred miles from where the music died), writes: I am glad you included Elvis and Chuck on your influential musicians' list but, heaven forfend, Buddy Holly deserves the third spot in your triumvirate, not Les Paul. He blended musical styles; created the "rock band" of two guitars, bass, and drum; made orchestration work with rock music; influenced the likes of The Beatles; and served as the inspiration for one of the great rock songs of all time ("American Pie"). Whereas Elvis is The King and Chuck is The Godfather, Buddy completes the Holy Trinity of Rock 'n Roll as the Cool Uncle.

You Say Tomato...

J.E.S. in Sedona, AZ, writes: In response to the question from B.C.B. in Madison, I've got another Kansas/Arkansas English/French pronunciation conundrum that's caused me much amusement over the years. I was born in Beaufort, South Carolina (pronounced BYOO-fert), but later graduated from high school and began my Navy career near Beaufort, North Carolina (pronounced BOW-fert). I was informed as a young'n that this variance in regional pronunciation was due to French Huguenot influence in South Carolina (my ancestors include a lot of folks with the surname Huguenin, so I get that), and English influence in North Carolina.

Since the main drag of my home city is Ribault Road (pronounced REE-bow), this made sense to me growing up, even though I suspect that the pronunciation story might be somewhat apocryphal. But in any case, it always amuses me, having lived all over the country throughout my military and post-military life, to tell people where I am from, and have them "correct" my pronunciation of my home city, based on their brief visits to one or other of the Beauforts. I guess folks from Little Rock might be similarly entertained by having strangers tell them how much they enjoyed their brief visits to Ar-KAN-sass, or folks from Wichita hearing about KAN-saw from pedantic strangers.

M.B. in Windsor, CT, writes: In Atlantic City, NJ, Arkansas Ave. is pronounced "Are-KAN-sis" Ave.

S.S. in Clayton, CA, writes: In your answer to B.C.B. in Madison, you wrote: "Kansas is not nearly as close to Louisiana, and it is close to Indiana and Ohio..."?

Really? According to my U.S. map, Kansas is closer to Louisiana than it is to Indiana and Ohio. And I would hardly say that Kansas "is close to Indiana and Ohio" given that Missouri and Illinois are located in between.

Perhaps one should have pity on a UCLA grad's attempt at reading a map, but I have to wonder if the staff geographer was too strung out on LSD to catch this error.

V & Z respond: What you say is true of the states of Ohio and Indiana. However, the names predate the 19th century, and thus the states. And the Indiana Territory included not only the modern-day state of Indiana but also the modern-day state of Illinois, as well as a sizable chunk of Missouri. So, in the 18th century, the area known as Indiana was less than 150 miles from the area known as Kansas.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: In east Texas there is a town named Nacogdoches and in western Louisiana there is a town called Natchitoches. Both were named for the same Indian tribe, a branch of the Caddo. They date back to when one was at the edge of New Spain and the other at the edge of New France. Neither would have existed without the other because they were military outposts to guard the frontier from one another. They never actually fought, but the Spanish often traded with the French because, being much closer to a port, the French had better stuff. Today, neither name is pronounced by the locals in a Spanish or French fashion or like each other. The Texas town is called Nack-a-doe-chess and the Louisiana town is called Nack-a-tish.

Who Are You? Who, Who, Who, Who?, Part II

D.S. in Wayland, MA, writes: In response to the question "As fans of this site, what should we call ourselves?" I nominate the name "Electrolites." As a recent new father, I finally have an outlet for all my double-entendres and "Electrolites" satisfies our collective appreciation of history by alluding to any number of ancient peoples such as The Israelites, but also "electrolytes" which, given their electric charge, could be a stand-in for how polarized the political climate has become.

V & Z respond: Congrats on your recent fatherhood!

D.M., Granite Bay, CA, writes: How about "dE-Votees"?

S.M. in Austin, TX, writes: "E-Vekkies" (a political version of "Trekkies")

C.J. in Branford, CT, writes: Perhaps the readers might be called "The Collective."

V & Z respond: Locutus of Borg would like a word with you.

B.S. in Huntington Beach, CA, writes: I think of myself as an "E-V-olutionist."

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Probably not a good team name, but descriptive of the majority of us: "The Rationals."

C.F. in Boston, MA, writes: "The ViZiers."

D.M. in Spokane, WA, writes: I am very much a fan, and have been since the origin of the site in the early part of this century. There are many fans of course, and fans of sports teams certainly have names.

I respectfully suggest that a name for E-V fans collectively would be inappropriate. I respect immensely the positions taken by the writers. I believe the site has a positive influence on American political directions, or at least promotes civility in same.

I believe that we do not want to move this site in the direction of being a political movement. We want it to stay exactly as it is, a voice for reason, and not a voice for a political direction.

V & Z respond: We shall learn if others share your views. If readers care to vote on this week's suggestions, the ballot is here. If you want to vote on last week's suggestions, that ballot is here.


D.R. in Slippery Rock, PA, writes: Another late posting. I can't believe you put your students and your professionalism ahead of your readers. It's hard not to take this personally.

V & Z respond: Former California gubernatorial candidate, and long-time right-wing talker Larry Elder regularly goes on rants about how college professor is the easiest job in the world because they only have to work 10 hours a week. (Z) has gotta find what university he is talking about.

K.D. in San Jose, CA, writes: Whoever voted for Otto the Dachshund clearly must be on recreational drugs or neurotransmitter suppressants, or both.

However, one does not need extensive imagination to understand why the staff mathematician received a write-in vote in March Sadness. The next time he shows up, please tell him not to drink and derive.

V & Z respond: That's good advice.

D.M. in Burnsville, MN, writes: You wrote: "Terry Malloy. The latter, as far as we know, is a fictional character from a movie made three-quarters of a century ago. Certainly didn't expect him to get a vote."

That was my entry, because he "coulda been a contender."

E.H. in Dublin, Ireland, writes: This is a picture of Canada House in Trafalgar Square London last weekend:

The house has at least a dozen Canadian flags hanging in front.

No embassy needs this many flags; I'm thinking that Brexit was just the first step in Canaddition.

V & Z respond: Clearly this is bigger than anyone suspected.

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: Reading your response to F.L. in Denton, the story behind the great Rio heist has now become crystal clear. It's obvious that Canadians must hate pool players.

V & Z respond: Finally someone puts all the pieces together.

R.R. in Pasadena, CA, writes: So, first (Z) gets pulled over by the U.S. Secret Service while trolling the security perimeter around VP Harris' residence in Brentwood, and then his hotel room is mysteriously ransacked in Las Vegas when he happens to be out at night due to a "keyboard issue." I dunno, seems like an awfully big coincidence. Are we about to see (Z) write articles for, or will we soon go back to just articles from (V) when (Z) is sent to Guantanamo due to his spying on the government?

V & Z respond: Let's just say that (Z) always makes sure to test his tea for polonium before drinking it.

A.N. in Tempe, AZ, writes: Regarding hotel superstitions about the number 13, on a trip to Quito, Equador, we were put in room 1414. There was no floor numbered 13, nor was there a room 1413, so we were in the 13th room of the 13th floor, #1414. That brought a big smile to our faces.

In a more mischievous moment, we entered a large crowded elevator in a high rise hotel on Times Square in NYC. Upon entering the elevator, I could see that our floor (37, if I recall) was already pressed. A woman very overdressed in a white gown and a profusion of gold and jewels insisted loudly we tell her what floor we wanted, so I flippantly said 13. She searched half bent over with index finger extended and moving quickly around the many buttons for button 13. As the elevator passed 14, she screamed "There is no floor 13!" There was a whole lot of laughter in that elevator. Maybe that woman toned down her need for attention after that?

V & Z respond: You clearly stay in a better class of hotels than (Z) does. Not only was he put on the 13th floor in the Rio, but when he lived in the dorms at UCLA, his room number was 666. True story.

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