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Sunday Mailbag

We got a lot of messages this week, including many dozens on the subject of Donald Trump as Bond villain. So, we're going to run some of those this week and some next, and, because today's mailbag is overstuffed, we'll hold the Great American Novels responses for a week or two.

National Disunity

J.S in Germantown, OH, writes: I couldn't disagree more strongly with R.H.D. in Webster on the observation that we all "[came together and agreed] on what [9/11] meant ... and the reason why 3,000 of our fellow citizens perished so tragically."

That is, unless R.H.D. agrees with many (though not most) of their fellow Americans that this was not simply the act of Islamic terrorists wanting to destroy our way of life, but a foreseeable outcome of decades of American support for business interests in foreign countries over the citizens of those countries. I also suspect the a large number of Americans of Arab descent might take exception to the claim that we, "We helped those who were suffering," as they were made to suffer at the hands of the fellow citizens who saw them as the enemy.

The War in Ukraine

M.O. in Elsinore, Denmark, writes: Your response to M.R. in Concord surprised me. While I sometimes disagree with the two of you, this answer I can not wrap my head around.

I have little doubt that if Russia used atomic, biological or chemical weapons in Ukraine, NATO would not do anything other than condemn it and give Ukraine any weapons they asked for and Putin would lose the last bit of support he has from countries like Iran, China and the Stans, I agree it would be unlikely he would get the chance to use tactical nukes, much less the big ones, but if he did, the idea NATO would attack or even invade Russia and risk nuclear holocaust is so far out there I suspect someone hit the ganja a little to much (j/k, even if you are in CA and NL).

I cannot see any scenario where NATO would risk open conflict with Russia. Even if Russia invaded the Baltic states, then NATO would push Russia out and maybe do a few strikes in Russian territory. But invade Russia? Not going to happen.

R.A.G. in Seattle, WA, writes: If Vlad nukes Ukraine, I don't see your scenario being likely at all. If Vlad caps one off, it is perhaps possible to get better conventional weapons get into the hands of Ukrainian military forces. But the day a bomb/missile lands on Russian soil from a foreign power (particularly a NATO power) is the day Vlad declares Russia has been attacked, and he then is free to use whatever weapons he has to defend himself. Your cards/dice analogy in another question is instructive and applicable here (and is indeed the cornerstone of war in general, and MAD in particular) we do know that when it comes to Thermonuclear War, Joshua was right: the only winning move is not to play. Stick to a nice game of Chess.

M.E. in Syracuse, NY, writes: You wrote:

There is little tolerance for political figures who let their hair down. Jimmy Carter tried it, and all it did was undermine his legitimacy as president. So, stories like this tend only to see the light of day once the person is out of office and/or dead. That's really too bad, a lot of people feel like their government is out of touch and doesn't understand them (this is a major driver of Trumpism), and a few things that humanize a monarch or a president or a prime minister might help to defray that sentiment a bit.

Perhaps this is Volodymyr Zelenskyy's special sauce.

K.E. in Newport, RI, writes: My girlfriend and I are fellow Star Wars fans. Have you ever seen this?

Someone made a video of Vladimir Putin entering the Kremlin to the Imperial March from Star Wars. It lines up so well with the music it's almost creepy. The funniest part is when former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev enters and the music turns lighter. Medvedev, of course, is known for being subservient to Putin.


D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: In regards to the various Republicans wiping their websites clean of all references to abolishing abortion rights, is there anyone out there that seriously believes that John QAnon Republican has suddenly embraced a woman's right to choose? Let's see a show of readers' hands. Anyone... anyone... Bueller... anyone?

Too bad the average American voter is not as well-read as the typical reader. Because if the Republicans do win either chamber, as sure as day followers night, the GOP will be Federal Abortion Ban (the new "Repeal Obamacare" and "Defund ACORN") and "Impeach Biden" because of Hunter's laptop 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It's turtles all the way down!

L.R.H. in Oakland, CA, writes: I also read Nate Cohn's New York Times article carefully, and he failed to mention a major difference between this and any other past election: Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. Abortion rights are likely to be a major driver of turnout this year, which will work in the Democrats' favor.

E.N.A. in Olalla, WA, writes: Regarding the comments of E.D. in Saddle Brook, who wrote, in part, "I'm not sure why there is any surprise about Joe Biden's approval rating being low..." I couldn't agree more. And I am constantly surprised that seemingly everyone takes polled approval ratings at face value as a unified rejection of the direction of the nation. The simple fact is that a large percentage of those who disapprove feel Joe Biden isn't progressive enough, while most others disapprove because he isn't conservative enough. It's a split decision and not necessarily predictive of how people will vote. I wish the polling agencies would ask the follow-up question to make the predictive value of the poll more meaningful. But I don't expect they will, as their intention seems to be less to provide clarification and more to either steer voter support or to simply stir the pot.

R.V. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: In addition to Inflation Reduction Act, PACT, CHIP, last year's infrastructure bill, and a whole ton of judicial nominees being confirmed, President Biden helped orchestrate a deal to avoid the U.S. railroad strike, which likely would have crippled the supply chain. I would think that this would pay dividends (aka votes) in states like Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, where the union way of life still means something.

Does anyone think a GOP president and/or Congress would have done a damn thing for union workers? A Republican president would have zero time for any work that would benefit American union workers because he is solely interested in nominating and confirming anti-abortion and anti-voting-rights judges to the various courts.

D.S. in Palo Alto, CA, writes: I'd put Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg back on the list of possible Democratic presidential candidates, and add former Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. She has the orator's gift, and he has the quiet one-on-one commentator's gift. Both very impressive.

J.L. in Chicago, IL, writes: Despite the recent example of Barack Obama, sitting senators rarely get elected president. And that is hardly for a lack of attempts. The previous two were John F. Kennedy and Warren G. Harding. We much more frequently elect governors, and I suspect that the COVID-19 pandemic might increase that tendency since it tested governors' skills in prominent ways. This likely weakened the standing of some and strengthened others.

It is generally believed in Illinois that our governor, J.B. Pritzker, is laying the groundwork for a run in 2024 or 2028. I think he has done a good job and it is assumed he will win reelection in November. (Let's hope so, given his utter lunatic of a Republican opponent.) I don't know that I see him as presidential material, but who knows? The candidate I actually have been hoping for, although I will admit largely off a general impression of her than deep knowledge of her record, is Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI). I may have some regional bias, of course, but she seems like the sort of sensible, moderate, practical Midwesterner I prefer to see running things. Naturally, winning her own reelection race this year (and possibly again in 2026) would be important.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: You might turn the readers onto a group I am familiar with, in light of the messages from K.F in Austin and M.D. in the Poconos (howdy, former neighbor!) with regards to groups that help progressive candidates.

I am talking about The Sister District Project. They help channel some excess funds from sapphire-blue districts into more-competitive purple and flippable red Districts.

I found them during my own state Senate run.

Is the Abortion Bill a Hit or a Miss, Lindsey?

G.W. in Oxnard, CA, writes: You have written that you are mystified as to why Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced a bill to restrict abortion nationwide and why Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) cosponsored said bill. I have a theory that might explain their motives.

Assume, for the sake of argument, that these men have committed crimes that could cost them years in prison if convicted and further assume that the prosecutors have slam-dunk cases to prove the crimes in court. Then assume that they are counting on getting at least one evangelical Christian in the jury. They could make their whole defense, "This is all a frame-up! This is a conspiracy by the evil Democrats to prevent me from saving babies lives! A vote to convict me is a vote to kill babies!" They would probably be a little more subtle than that, but that would be the gist of the defense. They would be counting on the evangelicals in the jury to return a hung jury. This goes against Occam's razor with the number of assumptions, but I've always felt that a larger number of plausible assumptions should beat a smaller number of implausible assumptions.

E.F. in Baltimore, MD, writes: You wonder what drove Marco's seemingly irrational endorsement of Lindsey's seemingly irrational proposed abortion ban bill. Putting aside the remote possibility that Marco has always held a deep and sincere belief in the sanctity of all fetal life, this can be understood as his protecting his political brand.

Supporting this bill may or may not hurt his upcoming Senate reelection campaign, but I'd go on to suggest that he's looking past 2022, to his inevitable presidential campaign in 2024. If he's to have a ghost of a chance of winning the GOP nomination, he can't allow anyone to run to his right on the abortion issue. Plenty of time moderate his position, once he's won the nomination.

J.H. in Forest Grove, OR, writes: I think Lindsey Graham's thinking is much simpler than you make it. Marketing guy here (from the blue side of the aisle), and one thing I know is: If you can't win, steal the opposition's argument.

The Democrats' argument is that Republicans are wingnuts on abortion and are coming to take it away, away... they're coming to take it away.

Graham comes and says, "No.. no.. the Republicans support a bill that allows a national standard of abortion in the first 15 weeks, protecting the baby in late term abortions, and allowing exceptions for rape incest or for the life of the mother. The Democrats want abortion-on-demand, with no regard for the baby."

It has the potential to blunt the anti-Dobbs momentum. All Republicans have to say is "I don't like the bill.. but I support it as a good balancing of interests."

The result of Trumpism is intolerance of anything other than total ban. Graham's approach will fail, but I don't think its stupid.

C.W. in Myrtle Beach, SC, writes: You wrote: "...or [Graham could be angling for] for the Party's 2024 presidential bid. But Graham has never shown that kind of ambition..."

Actually, he ran for President in 2016. I get why you don't remember it, because he made Jeb! look like an FDR-level campaigner in comparison... but he did run, and seems dumb enough to think he still has a chance someday.

M.O. in Metamora, MI, writes: The motivation that seemed obvious to me, on the part of Lindsey Graham, is that Republicans have been taking hits on the abortion issue, with the most extreme of the extremists becoming the face of their movement. It's hard to see from the pro-choice side, but I believe that the Senator was trying to present a more moderate pro-life position to try and counter that narrative and stem the party's bleeding. "See? We don't want to ban from moment of fertilization, and force raped children to carry their attackers children! Look at our very reasonable 15 week ban with exceptions! Now everyone calm down and go back to your normal voting patterns and enthusiasm levels!"

E.F. in Baltimore, MD, writes: No one really knows what he's thinking but Lindsey himself, but I'm guessing it's his variety of a dog whistle. He wants to remind GOP voters that, if elected, their GOP Senate nominees will vote for a federal ban on abortion, even if the candidates themselves would rather not be talking about it right now. Persuading the single-issue anti-abortion voters that now is not the time to take victory for granted and stay home.

It's a dog whistle, because hearing it won't change pro-choice voters' behavior. They're already wide awake, thanks to the Dobbs air raid siren.

D.P. in North Bethesda, MD, writes: Perhaps Lindsey Graham was doing something preemptive and was intentionally sabotaging the Republicans for 2022 to make sure they don't win seats in the House and Senate this go around and neuter the Trumpies. In essence, he will destroy the party to save it. Uncharacteristically not self serving of him, I imagine.

Abortion Bans Have Consequences

J.M.C. in Portland, OR, writes: I was furious to read that Lindsey Graham has decided to lead the charge to stop abortion via a national bill. I tortured myself reading articles that I knew would only make me worry and become increasingly enraged.

The quote that I kept coming back to was, "If we [Republicans] take back the House and the Senate, I can assure you that we'll have a vote on our bill. If the Democrats are in charge, I don't know if we'll ever have a vote on our bill."

I spent much of Tuesday afternoon and all of Wednesday fixated on the idea that once Roe was overturned, a massive number of low-information, low-participation Republican voters lost much of their incentive to vote every cycle. Graham's national abortion bill seems to me to be completely about energizing the base to ensure higher turnout not only this November, but for the foreseeable future, as well. Graham just gave anti-abortionists a new and even more powerful goal: using the federal government to end most abortions in a way that Blue States Can't Stop (on a trajectory to banning all abortions and, eventually, contraceptives).

What a gift he's offering to the anti-abortion movement and Republican candidates in close races! Now, Graham's cobbled together a new and better reason that all believers must get to the polls—a national abortion ban! And if they believe there can be a federal ban on abortion, I would imagine that many of them would unleash their hopes and dreams of federal bans on gay marriage, trans rights and all of the 'woke' issues that they can do nothing about in blue states. It could literally change the national conversation back to a focus on national-level action on all controversial social issues.

Graham's threat strikes me personally. When I was undergoing my second pregnancy, my husband and I learned at the 20-week detailed ultrasound that, to our horror, my baby's intestines had grown above his diaphragm, so his other organs had failed to grow properly. The baby could not survive and I had to abort. If Graham's bill had been the law in 2018, it would have forced me to carry the fetus to term, since I wasn't raped or the victim of incest.

Because I was 40, that pregnancy was considered high risk, and I was proactively scheduled for that ultrasound. To verify that the baby was developing properly, I couldn't schedule the ultrasound before 19 weeks—past Graham's deadline—or it would have missed potential issues. When the baby was confirmed as not viable, I only had one week to decide and schedule the abortion. For later-term abortions, doctors basically have to induce labor in order for the mother to dilate enough. That required two days of shots before the actual procedure. After 22 weeks, I was told that the risks to my life and health would go up. Certainly, the cost of the procedure would have jumped. If my memory serves, it roughly doubled in cost to have an abortion starting at the 22-week mark. At 21 weeks, which is when my procedure took place, it was about $1,900.

For the Graham bill's cutoff to be 15 weeks means that any woman who is considering having a baby after 35—which is when genetic abnormalities exponentially increase—would have to really weigh the possibility that they might be forced to carry a baby to term who is going to die as soon as they are born, or have a higher risk of dying while pregnant. Since women of color already have higher rates of maternity fatalities, Graham's national ban is potentially a death sentence for many older Black women who might become pregnant.

I just gave birth to my second child, but I would never have undergone a third pregnancy and the risk of having to carry a non-viable pregnancy if there had been a federal 15-week ban on abortions. Living in Oregon gave me options that my peers in red states have no access to, and it allowed me to have my wonderful second child via my third pregnancy.

To me it feels quite clear, the threat of women's injury, death or economic privation by banning abortion is the central reason for the entire anti-abortion movement—to stop promiscuity and adultery using the fear of an unwanted or even deadly pregnancy, and to limit sex to procreation within a traditional heterosexual married couple. I would hope that the irony of Graham authoring this bill is not lost on anyone.

Evel's Evil?

K.E. in Enumclaw, WA, writes: I liked your item on Evel DeSantis.

This absolutely was a political stunt that unfortunately victimized 50 unsuspecting migrants. One should not treat human beings like this for any reason... let alone just to gain notoriety.

However, some good can come of this. The comments section of The New York Times for this story came absolutely alive with salient points on all sides of the immigration issue. This is a good thing, and would be a better thing if it were to bring about discussion of this topic writ large in this country (...not just among NYT readers). It's especially good because I think there are lots of liberals that have latent hard-line stances on immigration, but don't get to regularly see the full impact of it.

The stunt raises some interesting questions: (1) How much are the federal grants that southern border states get for dealing with immigration like this? (2) Is it enough money? (3) Should southern border migrants be distributed more evenly throughout the country while their asylum cases are adjudicated, so as to more evenly balance the burden? (4) For that matter, what is/are the burden(s)? (5) Are areas/cities that declare themselves sanctuary cities really ready to step up and alleviate this supposed burden?

DeSantis' political stunt countered another political stunt by the way... the stunt (albeit a victimless one) that whatever governing body of Martha's Vineyard pulled by declaring itself a Sanctuary City (Isle?). For they had to have assumed, when they did, that they would never see the large numbers of uninvited migrants drift into their community like the people of the southern border states do. (The only way to Martha's Vineyard is via airplane, ferry, or private boat—modes that all but the most motivated of migrants would not have the means to use).

To the credit of the people of Martha's Vineyard, they were by all accounts, helpful and welcoming to their visitors.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: Speaking as a Texas resident, there is no way to be grateful enough for the good, economic and otherwise, that immigrants from Latin America have made to Texas. But on the other hand, it is reasonable for Texans of all ethnic backgrounds to be bothered by the current system, which can only be described as catch and release. When a desperately poor person is dropped in America with no access to any public services, what will they do to survive? Will a good person turn to petty theft? Will they take work that amounts to chattel slavery? Will they put their children to work? Will they live elbow-to-elbow in a shack?

With these realities, Texans are frustrated and angry for good reasons. We don't want these people to come to harm, but this un-American reality is still slightly better than where they came from, so they keep coming. It affects everyone in border communities, which are in the neighborhood of 80% Latino. So, can you understand why people here would appreciate the idea/stunt of relocating the immigrants to draw attention to the lack of a federal immigration plan, and lack of funding or programs for community integration? This isn't a conservative/liberal issue for us here. People keep telling us that immigration is the responsibility of the federal government, so why shouldn't all states be involved in the solution? If the rest of the country could see how hard-working and family-oriented these people are, it could change attitudes toward immigration.

C.B. in South Bend, IN, writes: Noting your item on Friday about the cruel Ron DeSantis stunt in which he used people as props to make a political point, I'd like to point out how he validates the view that his declarations (like those of many in the "pro-life" camp) about the sanctity of human life only apply to the unborn.

To people like him, human beings that are not white, American and well-off have no real value. It seems likely that even the unborn whose lives he champions are really not much more than political tools for him, either.

By using these migrants in this way, he has dehumanized them. It is against this kind of reductionism that Christans are called to speak out and it is precisely the people who are so used and mistreated that we are called to lift up. Maybe he should re-read the Magnificat (along with much of the Old and New Testaments) to see how God looks upon this kind of behavior. He should pay particular attention to the phrases, "He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the humble" and "He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty" to see with whom God sides in such matters.

I am especially blessed to be clergy in the Episcopal Church and found this story about St. Andrew's Episcopal Church in Edgartown to be a particularly good counterpoint to all of the cruelty inflicted by Governors Ron and Greg.

M.C. in Friendship, ME, writes: When referring to those people who do not practice what real Christianity is about, I like to write "Christians."

L.V.A. in Idaho Falls, ID, writes: As I understand it, one of the many boogiemen used by the right is "replacement theory," where the evil Democrats encourage illegal immigration to get the evil horde to become voters and outvote "real 'mericuns." Can it be lost on the Brothers Grim (Abbott and DeSantis) that by shipping illegal immigrants to bright blue areas like Chicago, New York and Martha's Vineyard, they are facilitating the process they claim to fear?

P.B. in Spring Lake, NJ, writes: I would love to see Mayor Eric Adams of New York City give a speech along the following lines: "I thank Governor Abbott for sending us 6,000 new residents; I am sure they will become productive immigrants like so many before them. I would like to reciprocate and we will be giving 6,000 New York residents one way air tickets to Austin. These people will be the next 6,000 people released from Rikers Island. Texans have big hearts and I am sure Governor Abbott will welcome these new Texans."

C.T. in Cape Coral, FL, writes: In regards to his latest base-pandering publicity ploy and its questionable law-skirting (human-trafficking, kidnapping, misuse of state funds, violation of campaign finance laws, etc.), it needs noted that Ron DeSantis originally wanted to bus Cuban immigrants north (an idea confirmed by his Cuban-American lieutenant governor). When his Cuban-American base started objecting, DeSantis went mute on the idea like he has on his previously declared opposition to gun control and abortion (The politically smart coward that he is). His people later explained he felt Abbott's busing migrants from Texas was sending the message. Obviously, he changed his mind or was jealous of the publicity Abbott was getting.

Of course, this is the same DeSantis who hurriedly had his legislature outlaw demonstrators blocking roads after the Black Lives Matter protests, but who didn't invoke that law when Cuban-Americans blocked roads demonstrating in favor of pro-democracy efforts in Cuba...

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: (Z) wrote that "a jury might not agree" that having a planeload of immigrants rounded up in Texas make a stop in Florida on the way to Martha's Vineyard was enough to comply with a Florida statute authorizing use of Florida taxpayer funds to transport "unauthorized aliens from this state."

No jury will ever get to decide.

The Florida legislature surely did not make it a crime to use the money to transport "unauthorized aliens not from this state." Even if they did—or even if there's some general Florida statute making it a crime to spend state money in a way not authorized by state law—did DeSantis commit the crime, or did the head of the state's transportation department, or did the low-level state employee who actually arranged for the flight from Texas? And even if it was a crime, and DeSantis committed it, who is going to prosecute him? The Florida AG? The Tallahassee DA? No way.

If a criminal case is out of the question, what about a civil case? Well, there are ways, even in Florida, to challenge unlawful government action. But a plaintiff must have legal standing to bring such a suit, and it's doubtful that anyone would. "They're wasting my tax dollars" generally doesn't cut it. Perhaps one of the transportees (exportees?) could bring suit, if they could manage to file a case in Florida from their digs in Oak Bluff or Vineyard Haven.

But even if someone could file a suit, that type of challenge to the lawfulness of government action is decided by a judge, not by a jury.

Trump Legal Matters

S.B. in Los Angeles, CA , writes: I am a criminal prosecutor and one time I had a case that was before the court for a probation violation. The judge decided to remand the out-of-custody defendant. The defendant panicked and tried to run out of the courtroom with such energy that the bailiffs had to pursue her and forcibly restrain her on the ground. All the courtrooms have video cameras continually recording, and it was witnessed by one superior court judge, two lawyers and two bailiffs. So we had a very strong case for filing a charge of attempted escape. I made a disposition offer to settle that if the defendant stipulated to the underlying probation violation (plead guilty) and the judge sentenced her on the violation, I promised, on behalf of my office, not to file the new charge. The defendant agreed and the violation was resolved and no new case was filed in accordance with the agreement.

For Donald Trump, something like this may be possible but it would be difficult and maybe inadvisable for several reasons. To start, the DOJ would have to reveal a fair portion of their case to try to intimidate him into considering such a deal. Countering this would be his gargantuan ego that would never let him back down no matter what evidence was presented. Also, the Trump defense team might review the evidence and still go forward, thinking they have now gamed the prosecution.

To continue, if he did agree and sign some type of agreement, it's hard to say how enforceable such an agreement would be. If he violated, the "punishment" would be he would be prosecuted at whatever point in the future when the violation occurred. Before even getting to statute of limitation issues, unlike a fine wine, a criminal prosecution almost never gets better with age. When you're ready to go, you need to go before memories fade and you can still find your witnesses. Also, aging a case can cause witnesses to have second thoughts or even be subject to outright intimidation.

Finally, there are societal purposes and aspirations that criminal prosecutions serve. First is the direct punishment of the defendant for purposes of their direct sanction and to prevent them from committing the same wrongdoing again. Second would be a larger sanction of the defendant for all the community to see and to prevent others from committing the same such conduct in the future. Trump planned, implemented and lead an insurrection! For our democracy to continue to survive and, hopefully, flourish there must be an affirmative condemnation of this conduct. This is best served by some type of prosecution of Trump for this activity rather than simply an agreement that would bar him from holding office again.

T.M.M. in Odessa, MO, writes: While it's possible to do a diversion agreement, that is probably not the best way. (It is not unusual for diversion agreements to require things like surrendering licenses or not working in certain fields of employment. Somebody agreeing that they will not run for or accept appointment to any public office would not be that different.) The problem with a diversion agreement is that the enforcement mechanism is filing criminal charges if the defendant breeches the agreement. While diversion agreements often include things like agreeing to waive a jury trial and stipulating to facts, the enforceability of such terms would almost certainly become an issue in a Trump prosecution. Given the high-profile nature of any charges against Trump, there is a good chance that the agreement would ultimately end up being reviewed by the Supreme Court, which has never considered such agreements.

The better solution would probably be a consent decree in a civil case. Basically, the Department of Justice would file a case asking the Southern District of Texas (or some other red state) to declare that Trump is ineligible to run for any federal office and that any electoral votes cast for Trump would not count. As part of the agreement to not file charges, Trump would consent to that judgment. Because this would be a final judgment in a civil case, several legal doctrines (primarily "collateral estoppel," also known as "issue preclusion") would bar him from contesting that issue if he tried to file to run and somebody challenged his eligibility to run. Additionally, trying to run in such a circumstance might be contempt of court.

M.S. in Parma, OH, writes: You erred when, regarding remedies for Judge Cannon's "conflict of interest," you wrote: "In theory, a judge could be impeached, but Congress has only tried it once, and that was two centuries ago, and the judge was not convicted."

In fact: "Fifteen federal judges have been impeached. Of those fifteen: eight were convicted by the Senate, four were acquitted by the Senate, and three resigned before an outcome at trial."

Your statement would have been true if you were referring to Supreme Court justices.

V & Z respond: You're right, we goofed. That said, the basic point doesn't change: There's no way Cannon is going to be impeached over this.

D.C. in Cuyahoga Falls, OH, writes: I was very happy to read the question from M.G.F. in Minneapolis about Donald Trump using Super PAC funds to pay for his legal expenses. As something of a campaign finance expert, I have been screaming since 2016 that Trump has violated—in some cases criminally—numerous campaign finance. That said, Trump is highly unlikely to face any consequences, especially criminal ones, for this shenanigan. Restrictions on campaign expenses are vague and rarely, although occasionally, prosecuted. The best criminal case against Trump on campaign finance violations was always the hush-money payments.

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: I have to take issue with the calculation by R.T. in Arlington of a 3% chance of a non-MAGA jury. If they are 25% of the population, that may represent the chance of a non-MAGA random sample, but voir dire is, of course, not random, and will explicitly exclude hardcore MAGAs. R.T., of course, considers this and counters that one-eighth of the population is voir dire passing MAGAs, but that sounds extreme. I bet the number of politically activated and legally astute but dishonest MAGA true believers in the D.C. jury pool is more like 1 in 1000.

C.H. in Oconee County, SC, writes: D.E. in Lancaster is worried about rioting in the streets by Trump supporters if Donald Trump is convicted of a crime.

The real concern should be how many of the streets will be blocked by women in Women's March t-shirts and pink pussy hats, who are waving signs and singing "Thank God and Greyhound He's Gone."

Trump Intelligence

K.N. in Annapolis, MD, writes: P.S. in Arlington writes: "...every time that classified materials exchanges hands it creates a paper trail."

I have worked in both contractor and U.S. Government (USG) SCIFs and I can tell you that the government has a practice of "do as I say, not as I do." What P.S. writes is completely true only in contractor SCIFs. Rules are very strict there. In USG SCIFs, however, you can easily lay your hands on many things. You can print them out. If you do, there will be an electronic record but no paper trail. If you want to destroy something, you just put it in a burn bag or a shredder with no destruction record whatsoever. If TFG printed things and later claimed he destroyed them, then the FBI would have no idea what things he had stolen.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: S.K. in Atlanta wrote of their experience as an active-duty naval intelligence officer and how rigorously the Navy investigated S.K.'s use of an empty folder. Keep in mind John Walker, the warrant officer who spied for the Soviets from 1967 until 1985, selling a tremendous cache of signals intelligence. It was such a damaging loss—the Soviets knew exactly where every vessel was and where each was headed—that the Navy tightened ship quite literally. Once Walker and his other family members were discovered, communications had to be thoroughly overhauled. I have to wonder if naval operations going dark after 1985 may have contributed to Mikhail Gorbachev being more willing to negotiate with the Reagan administration, which kept waving our nuclear capabilities and "Star Wars" antimissile defense system in their face.

Trump Gallimaufry

E.R. in Irving, TX, writes: R.B. in Portland asks "I've seen nothing about what is likely to happen with [Trump's] influence were he to run again and lose, especially if it were a major loss. Do you think some major portion of the donors, leaders, and Republican base would move on?"


It would only serve to validate to the unwashed masses—a.k.a. the Republican base—their belief that Democrats rig elections. The grift and incitement by the neofascists in the GOP would accelerate, and the violent response by the TRUE AMERICANS™ would make January 6th look like an 8th-grade graduation pool party.

Donors and leaders will ultimately find a way to support whomever the base is supporting, end of story. If the voting base decides that they want Ted Kaczynski for president, well... he hasn't been barred from holding office, and he was fighting against the elites and new technology, so...

The GOP leaders, donors and base won't sour on Trump until, as (Z) and (V) posit, he's dead or in prison.

P.S. In that latter case, I think you're wrong; I believe prison for Trump ensures he gets elevated to permanent martyr status and we will have decades of people wearing "Che Trump" shirts and comparing him to Nelson Mandela.

V & Z respond: In fairness, those 8th-grade pool parties can get pretty wild.

K.H. in Albuquerque, NM, writes: You wrote: "Given Bolduc's fervency, we assumed that he was a True Believer, and that he really had convinced himself the election was stolen. But it would seem we were wrong. That raises the question of how many other True Believer candidates for office are just faking it. Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania? Dan Cox in Maryland? Kari Lake and Blake Masters in Arizona? Maybe all the stop the stealers are just putting on a show."

My theory is that all the Stop the Steal verbiage is simply virtue signaling by MAGA Republicans to their fellows. I do the same thing with my reusable metal straw and my Prius. However, refusing a plastic straw or driving a high-mileage car doesn't endanger our fundamental democratic processes, involve the twisted logic of conspiracy theories, and require the lack of morals necessary for outright lying. Much to my surprise, there is also the concept of vice signalling, which seems appropriate.

D.H. in Lisbon Falls, ME, writes: My wife and I just arrived back from an 11-day adventure in the U.K.—Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Ireland. We were there when Queen Elizabeth II died, and were stuck with the constant sorrow from all the people that we encountered. During one of our lunches in Northern Ireland pub, I remarked out loud: "How many of our current and past presidents will attend the Queen's funeral?" One of our fellow patrons quickly warned: "Keep that orange baboon away from our Queen."

R.P. in Gloucester City, NJ, writes: You wrote: "[I]t was revealed that [Trump's] lead lawyer, Chris Kise, received a $3 million retainer, with the check coming from Trump's Save America PAC."

Perhaps its true name should be America's Save Trump PAC.

Licensed to Shill, Part I

M.W. in Northbrook, IL, writes: Given that most Bond villains are smart, actually rich, and truly accomplished something in life, it is hard to match one to Donald Trump. Really, the only choice is to look at the 1967 Casino Royale spoof, where Dr. Noah/Jimmy Bond was played by Woody Allen. His plan: Use a weapon to make all women beautiful and then get rid of all men bigger than him so he could get all the girls. Substitute "with bigger hands than him" for "bigger than him" and it could fit Trump to a T.

W.B. in Paris, France, writes: I figure TFG has to be Jonathan Pryce's Elliot Carver from Tomorrow Never Dies. The character is somewhat based on Rupert Murdoch, and if you think of an inept Rupert Murdoch, you kind of end up with Carver and/or Trump.

M.C. in Newton, MA, writes: It has to be Goldfinger. I'll let Shirley Bassey point out some of the reasons: He "Beckons you to enter his web of sin," "his lies can't disguise what you fear," and of course "He loves only gold."

E.F. in Baltimore, MD, writes: Goldfinger. No second choice:

I'm not the first to have thought of this:

Then again, Dr. No has even smaller hands (none) than Trump.

H.B. in State College, PA, writes: You ask which Bond villain Trump is most like.

Here's the problem: Those villains are all evil masterminds.

Trump is only halfway there.

Starr Warts

K.C. in West Islip, NY, writes: I greatly appreciated your item regarding the death of Ken Starr. For the life of me, I cannot wrap my head around anyone who would suggest that upon the death of a truly hideous person we should forget their warts and only speak in glowing terms about their life and work.

More people need to call it as it is. When TFG someday sheds his mortal coil, are we really obligated to find something nice to say about him? Better to immortalize for the history books the fact that he's a narcissistic xenophobe and homophobe severely devoid of empathy towards anyone. Perhaps even worse is his role in spreading oikophobia (yes, I admit I had to look that one up). Paranoia runs deep with the extreme right and he certainly made that worse, rendering this country closer to the brink of civil war than it's been since... the Civil War.

I hope more people will take your lead on this. It doesn't do any good to pile false praise on someone just because they died, and your synopsis of Ken Starr's legacy was right on the money.

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: You know the difference between Ken Starr and Bill Clinton? Ken Starr lost his presidency due to a sex scandal.

All Politics Is Local

R.N. in Canton, MI, writes: In your item "Michigan Is the New Kansas," you have several interesting points, but missed when writing, "The trifecta is probably out of reach for the Democrats because the state Senate is 16D, 22R and the map is strongly gerrymandered." In 2018, Michigan voters passed Michigan Proposal 2, the Independent Redistricting Commission Initiative 61.3% to 38.7%. The new Michigan Senate map is challenging for Democrats, but that is due to the advantages of incumbency. Gerrymandering is dead in Michigan. May it suffer the same fate in the rest of the country.

V & Z respond: You're right. Our mistake.

S.W. in New York City, NY, writes: I found it interesting that there was an item about the North Carolina Senate race. I am a regular visitor to the Smokys in rural western North Carolina (yes, Rep. Madison Cawthorn's, R, congressional district, no less!) and I occasionally tune in to Lawrence O'Donnell's MSNBC program. One night last week, an anti-Cheri Beasley/pro-Ted Budd ad appeared (it presented itself so quickly that I could not discern who sponsored the ad). Why any Republican would run an ad on The Last Word is beyond my comprehension. I would say that if the Budd campaign, Rick Scott's Senate Republican Fund or some other organization sponsored this ad they are doing nothing but wasting their Benjamins. Perhaps this is a reason why Republicans are worried about the Budd campaign?

R.E.B. in Lyme, NH, writes: In our small New Hampshire town's 2020 election, Donald Trump received 218 votes (17% of the total 1,292 votes cast).

In the this week's primary, a total of 152 voters switched from "undeclared" to one party or the other. Sixty of the undeclared residents (39%) switched to the Republican ballot, more than double the Republican representation in the 2020 election. Evidence of "strategic voting"? Possibly.

B.C. in Farmingville, NY, writes: Thank you for your item on the state of the races in New York. I'd say the part that you may not have your thumb on in the races here is the much larger gubernatorial race. No one here in NY-01 seems to care too much about the candidates, however they certainly care about the gubernatorial race. This is a much larger issue and quite the talking point. The Long Island districts don't seem to like Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), too much so I'd be willing to bet that Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin's coattails would carry at least some of the GOP congressional candidates to victory.

C.L. in Boulder, CO, writes: You asked, "Why can't Louisiana hold its jungle primary in the spring or summer like the other 49 states?" Actually, it's not a primary election. If a candidate gets a majority of the vote in the November election, it's one and done. It's more like a jungle general election with a top-two runoff if nobody gets a majority.

Having grown up in Louisiana, its system makes way more sense to me than the top-two primaries in Californiam where even if candidate A gets 95% of the vote and candidate B gets 5% of the vote, they run against each other again in November—because, as I understand it, you've got to elect people in the general election, not in a primary election. Louisiana saves on election administration by holding only one election if a candidate gets a majority. Yes, people may not show up for the runoff, but at least the two most preferred candidates are on the runoff ballot so there is hope that wackos or inconsequential candidates don't make the runoff and so won't get elected even if the runoff turnout is low.

Also, Louisiana gets to take the temperature of the rest of the country in November and has the chance to react to that temperature during a December runoff.

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: The Kentucky Constitution bans games of chance in the Commonwealth.

But wait—what about the Kentucky Derby?

Some people who apparently had nothing better to do with their time and money presented that very question to the high court of Kentucky.

Those learned gentlemen pulled their beards and thought deeply before they handed down their ruling, which was that parimutuel betting on the ponies is not a game of chance but instead is a game of skill—because bettors bet that their horse sense is better than the average bettors' horse sense.

V & Z respond: The same logic is what allows non-Native American casinos to exist in many places, including California. Those casinos cannot offer games of chance (e.g., craps, roulette, slots) but they can offer games of skill (poker, pai-gow, baccarat).

Ok, Maybe It Is the Economy

E.D. in Saddle Brook, NJ, writes: The Thomas Edsall piece you wrote about starts off on the right track, but it ends up completely missing the point. Yes, I live a nice middle-class life. Another thousand dollars in tax cuts doesn't change my life in any way I'd notice. But "they are willing to forego policies that give them more money but make them unhappy in other ways" completely misses what's going on. The Republican policies give us a little more money in the short term, but cost us far more in the long run.

A few weeks ago I wrote in about my experiences with student loans. I'm guessing the Bush 43 tax cuts might have saved me a few thousand dollars over the years they were in effect after I started my career. But the cost to get that was enormous. Once we switched from Clinton budgets to Bush budgets, my college costs soared and I incurred tens of thousands of dollars in additional expenses over what I was previously paying. Bush's policies probably cost me close to 10x what I gained from them, just from the most obvious parts. I'm sure it looks even worse if I were to dig deeper into it to find other things that impacted me.

Another obvious example is public services. I used to commute into Manhattan for work. But Chris Christie destroyed the New Jersey transit budget, transforming it from an award-winning model of public transition to a system that barely functions. Christie and Trump both canceled efforts to fix the train tunnels and stations that had been approved by their Democratic predecessors, leaving no hope of improvement in the short- or medium-term. The situation with transit here is now so bad that it's a nightmare I avoid at all costs. It also changed Manhattan from a viable place to find high-paying jobs, to a place I avoid as much as possible, which limits my earning potential. The tax cuts weren't worth the massive reduction in quality of life that came with it.

I'm sure we could go on and on with other examples—social programs, healthcare, etc. As far as I'm concerned, I'm not giving up anything by voting for the Democrats. I'm looking at the big picture, not just the numbers on my tax return, and realizing that I come out way, way, way ahead if I vote for the Democrats. The benefit I get from the higher taxes is worth so, so much more than it costs me.

W.M. in Philadelphia, PA, writes: It continues to astonish me that people equate "lower taxes in the short run for wealthy people" with "economic self-interest for wealthy people".

My household is pretty affluent (two professional salaries, no children). We both vote rationally, meaning that we both vote Democratic. This is not a question of morals/values taking precedence over financial considerations. I mean, we can see the values upside, but the bottom line is that our economic self-interest is better facilitated by Democratic policies than Republican policies, if we (rationally) take a somewhat longer view (i.e., the remaining duration of our expected lifetimes).

If we boil this down to money (only), the most important consideration for a rich person is—rationally—not to become more rich, but rather to avoid becoming no-longer-rich. This is why rich people pay other people to accept risks on their behalf. Umbrella insurance policies are a good example: we know that—statistically speaking—the expected value of the insurance policy is less than the cost of the policy, but we buy it anyway, because it reduces the risk of our becoming no-longer-rich (due to being sued and held liable for millions of dollars over a tragic accident, for example).

Other ways we might become no-longer-rich: economic collapse/socialist revolution. We want the gravy train to keep running, and for that to happen, we need enough people to derive enough benefit from the current system that they continue to tolerate that system. In a sense, our affluence is made possible only by (indirectly) taking advantage of a bunch of people who are not as well off as we are, and we enjoy the perks of that, so we want it to continue. (Remember, we have boiled this down to money only, taking values off the table.)

Unfettered capitalism will inevitably lead to unsustainable maldistribution of... stuff (wealth, necessities, etc.), which eventually would lead to either the collapse scenario or the revolution scenario. The system needs some economic "recycling," such as progressive tax policy (to collect money from the rich and spend it to benefit the not-rich), in order to keep the maldistribution within acceptable limits (acceptable to enough of the not-rich that the system can keep running). And my household might need the current system to keep running for another 40 years. So—again, considering money only—any policy that would break the system in less than 40 years is not a policy that we are going to favor.

J.C. in Chicago, IL, writes: I found Edsall's essay both inaccurate and insulting. In your summation of it, at one point you write that he claims that the rich are less materialistic than the poor. If they are so lacking in materialism, then there is a simple solution: they can give away all their money to the poor.

Then Edsall states that moral views are a kind of luxury good—that the rich can afford to have the moral views. Morals are only true when they are tested. I am in the midst of leaving a good-paying job because they insisted I do something professionally unethical. This will mean my family has no job, money, housing, insurance, or even country to go to. It's not that the poor don't have moral views. It just hurts us more when we follow them.

J.M. in Seattle, WA, writes: Regarding "It's NOT the Economy," I really find the argument perplexing. How are anti-union legislation and tax cuts for corporations about the economic needs of the working class while the Affordable Care Act (along much advocacy for universal healthcare), extensions of the child tax credit, and general advocacy for a raised minimum wage aren't?

Republicans have done a great job at weaponizing culture war issues to create a narrative of victimization and Democrats have done a poor job at "change management" in respectfully helping significant portions of the population manage shifting views on race, gender, and more. But the idea that the Democrats "aren't offering [working class voters] anything on the economic front" just sounds like GOP propaganda.

A.S.W. in Melrose, MA, writes: On the subject of Thomas Edsall's essay, I find his argument unconvincing. It's not that I doubt the concept of moral luxuries—I just think they're not remotely new. In fact, I would say that there has pretty much always been a strong motivation for the well-off to justify their positions by doing things that reduce their wealth modestly while burnishing their reputation (or self-image) as moral people. Sure, there have been moments when amoral philosophies have gained sway (thanks, Ayn Rand), but I strongly suspect that if you looked for them, you'd find moral luxuries flourishing in just about any place and time. If there's a trend in that direction today, it's because those amoral philosophies have lost some luster since their peak in the '80s and '90s.

So to me, what's interesting about the current situation isn't that the well-off are suddenly embracing these moral luxuries; it's that the luxuries favored by urban professionals are so different from the ones preferred by the poor, especially in rural areas. Urban liberals focus on universality and the environment; rural conservatives focus on community and religion; and history and politics have conspired to push those ideals to ever-more extreme poles. This difference changes the calculus for laborers in conservative areas. In times when laborers see the moral world through a similar lens to those in power, it makes sense for them to emphasize economic issues. But in times of moral polarization, economic issues seem less important: If you view the other side as morally corrupt, why would you trust them to help you financially?

So bottom line, if today's political situation is tied to moral luxuries, the problem doesn't lie in their popularity; it's that we don't agree what those moral luxuries should be. Truthfully, I don't know how to solve that issue, but I suspect that it involves more intellectual humility on both sides, and fewer blowhards fanning the flames for their own benefit.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Upper classes voting against their economic interests misses a key element: Patricians must be generous to be considered noble. When one has more than enough, one can afford to donate to charity and political campaigns. Concern for the poor and disadvantaged and voting for members of the political party that promotes everyone's welfare is a no brainer. Hence the reality that the left's behavior corresponds more closely with Christian ideals than does the Christian right's!

P.S. in Portland, ME, writes: I do a reasonable amount of fundraising and I often point out the following: If you are a Democratic, or perhaps an educated and well-informed person, you believe that the tax rates and regulations have been wrong since Reagan, or about 40 years. You believe trickle-down economics does not work (because it doesn't) and that this has led to massive wealth inequality. You believe this has led to a decimation of the middle class, stress and mental illness, and a whole host of societal problems. Indeed, it is usually why we are trying to raise funds —to mitigate the effects from, or fix something Reaganomics broke.

I therefore suggest to people on fundraising calls that if you are a wealthy democratic, you cannot escape the fact that you are much wealthier then you think you should be—so pony up!

Economic Matters

J.K. in Short Hills, NJ, writes: Regarding "The News on Inflation Is... Good?," the latest news on inflation was not "good." Joe Biden's contention that the August CPI report reflected progress in cooling consumer prices is what we on Wall Street call "talking his book." The data were extremely disappointing. The 0.1% month-over-month increase to the headline number exceeded expectations. Economists had anticipated a 0.1% decline. Moreover, the core figures, which purportedly trend more smoothly than food and energy prices and therefore tend to be more predictive, soared over consensus set by analysts (0.6% vs. 0.3%). This was the primary culprit for stocks enduring their worst day in more than 2 years, for investors anticipate that the Federal Reserve will be forced to tighten more aggressively than originally assumed.

Any student taking Econ 101, along with former Clinton Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, will tell you that the American Rescue Plan sourced a significant amount of inflation by shifting aggregate demand sharply up and to the right. I made such an argument to you in February 2021 prior to the bill's passage. Was the President the only reason for higher costs on Main Street? Of course not. The pandemic assuredly played a considerable role. Nevertheless, researchers at the San Francisco branch of the Federal Reserve, which many consider the central bank's think tank, released a report in March that concluded that fiscal policy contributed 3% to inflation. A widely circulated paper at last month's Jackson Hole Symposium had a similar thesis. $1.9 trillion in incremental spending from the Federal Government was, from an economic perspective, irresponsible. Finally, I will concede that the White House has indeed helped bring down spending by motorists at the pump. Markets look forward. The significant drop in crude oil and gasoline futures has largely materialized, in my opinion, from traders pricing in weaker demand thanks to a global recession that will likely arrive in the next 18-24 months (something else I predicted in February 2021) thanks to desperate efforts from Jerome Powell and his counterparts from around the globe to cool an economy that boiled for far too long thanks—in large part—to excessive spending from lawmakers from inside the beltway.

K.T. in Dublin, OH, writes: Give me the bad news first, Doc.

At 8.26%, annual inflation is simply too high. No one disputes this.

So what's the good news?

Annual inflation decreased for the second consecutive month, from 9.06% [June] to 8.52% [July] to 8.26% [August]. Still high, but the trend is encouraging. According to BLS' calculator month-over-month inflation was negative for the second straight month [-0.01% in July, -0.04% in August]. This is the first time this has happened since the early months of the pandemic. The BLS CPI month over month figures were 0.0% [July] and +0.1%, [August] and I don't know enough about the data to tell you why the figures don't agree, but they are all approximately zero, so let's just say prices have been flat for two months.

So why did annual inflation change so little?

Because the month-over-month figure for August 2021—which rolled out of the average to make room for August 2022—was very low at 0.21%. Month-over-month for September 2021 was also quite low at 0.27%, so another month of zero month-over-month inflation will only bring the annual rate to 7.97%. The highest month-over-month growth was during the first half of 2022, and those months won't roll out of the average until the first half of 2023. So whatever the Fed does, it will be a while before it shows up in the data. Indeed, if we assume zero month-to-month inflation from now on, annual inflation will reach 3.01% in March and drop below zero in June. I also point out that U.S. inflation is lower than that of the United Kingdom and the European Union, due at least in part to increased energy costs in those areas resulting from the war in Ukraine.

This... Is... My... County

R.M. in Williamstown, WV, writes: Just a comment in response to R.L. in Alameda regarding the variations in nomenclature regarding counties, parishes, and boroughs.

To expand a bit on Alaska's boroughs, as you indicated, there are vast stretches of Alaska that are very sparsely populated, and this would make the task of a sheriff or county prosecutor in a low-population county very difficult. However, presumably because of this, there is another distinct difference between Alaska's boroughs and counties or parishes in other states. In all of the rest of the states, if you add the area of all the counties together, you get the area of the state. That is, all of the state's extent is in one county or another. This is not the case in Alaska. Boroughs are created around population centers in Alaska (and more come into existence from time to time). But there remains vast areas of Alaska not contained in any borough. The state of Alaska refers to this area as "The Unorganized Borough."

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: You wrote: "It doesn't make much sense to have all of the usual county-level apparatus in, say, Yakutat City and Borough, which has a population of only 604."

Kentucky has 41 counties with jailers but no jails.

V & Z respond: You don't meant o put forward Kentucky as a role model for commonsense governance, do you?

Media Affairs

A.M. in Santa Fe, NM, writes: In your item "Without the Trump Gravy Train, The Washington Post is Hurting," you reported that the venerable paper "is suffering a post-Trump-presidency malaise."

I'd like to add a longtime reader's perspective. I visited The Washington Post online daily from about 1998 to 2018. It was at the top of my list of reputable sources of national and world news. Now I check out headlines once or twice a week. Sometimes I find something worth a click to read, usually I just move on.

There's too much agenda, too much clickbait, the shrill tone and propagandist style turn me away. I don't miss seeing the name "Trump" in half the headlines, far from it. They seem to have become little more than the Democratic Party's answer to Fox News. I say this as somebody who admires the social democrats of Northern Europe and votes Democrat. I no longer trust The Post to provide information I can rely on about things that matter. Still useful, perhaps, to get a feel for a single perspective on events. Little more, sad to say.

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: The other day you mentioned the practice if Gish galloping, and as I read the definition you linked to, I thought to myself, "Oh, it's that thing Ben Shapiro does that lets him convince himself that he's smart." Lo and behold, you called out the poison golem for it later in the paragraph. Bravo!

V & Z respond: Great minds...

Gallimaufry (and Gallerymaufry)

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: Your response to S.S. in Eaglewood about the location of presidential portraits in the White House was amusing. You and your readers might like to know that the White House is not the only building in D.C. where such shenanigans go on.

A portrait of every Attorney General hangs in the main Department of Justice building, halfway between the White House and the Capitol. It's very common for those portraits to move around when a new AG shows up.

At one point during the George W. Bush Administration, the portrait of Ramsey Clark, which had been in a prominent location, was hung in a little-used corridor in the building's basement. I don't remember which of Dubya's AGs did that. Something similar happened to Bobby Kennedy's portrait.

There's a small and handsome bust of Bobby—perched on a slim pillar with a chunk taken out of it to represent an unfinished life—in the courtyard of the DOJ building. I don't think the bust has been moved, but it wouldn't shock me if it happens some day.

P.V. in Kailua, HI, writes: Although he was gay, Anthony Perkins was not, in the literal sense, a "confirmed bachelor." He was married to actress/model/photographer Berry Berenson. I know this off the top of my head as I am a big fan of their son, Oz Perkins, who is a talented director known for making slow-burn horror movies. He is also a sometimes actor having had a cameo in fellow-talented director Jordan Peele's latest movie Nope. In addition, he had a small part in the decidedly less scary Legally Blonde. On a horrifying side note, Berry Berenson died on 9/11 when terrorists crashed the plane she was on into the World Trade Center.

M.C. in Friendship, ME, writes: I read that when Pat Cipollini was testifying before the January 6 hearings, the closed captioning said he was "Patsy Baloney."

G.S. in Spokane, WA, writes: Terrific mailbag this week. But then you wrote: "If you don't have access to a puzzle designed by a UCLA grad, then a puzzle designed by an MIT grad is surely just as good."

Oh great, trolling Cal Tech... better make sure everything's backed up.

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