Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Saturday Q&A

Recall that we only answered questions in two categories last week, so today's entry is super-sized due to the holdover questions in the other three categories.

Also, the voting was overwhelmingly in favor of the status quo—to wit, Q&A on Saturdays, letters on Sundays. That is our inclination, too, but we were open to being convinced otherwise.

Current Events

D.S. in Fort Collins, CO, asks: Your site and others have raised the possibility that indicting Donald Trump for his various misdeeds might be the proverbial "slippery slope" and could lead to each party indicting the other's former presidents when they gain power. But how likely is that, really? As you also mentioned, plenty of legitimate democracies have brought former leaders to justice; they must each have had a first time too. Is there any data showing that legitimately prosecuting a (former) politician, especially a president or prime minister, leads to retribution and/or tit-for-tat use of the justice system?

(V) & (Z) answer: It is very likely. Not a tit-for-tat, per se, because it is unlikely Democrats will begin to charge crimes against Republican presidents for no reason. But there is little question that Republicans will at least consider going after Democratic presidents.

In order to make this argument, we could point to the experiences of other countries. Not all of them ended up in a vicious cycle of using the legal system as political payback, but certainly some of them have gone in that direction. Brazil is the obvious example, but it's happened in numerous other nations, too, particularly nations that are high in corruption and/or are post-colonial. Obviously, those two things often correlate.

That said, we don't need to look to the experiences of other countries. What Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is doing right now is crystal clear evidence that the modern GOP is willing to pursue "payback justice," even if the basis for it is bogus. Similarly, at least two Republican DAs are already openly searching for some legal theory they can use to go after the Biden family. Surely they are not alone; as we pointed out earlier this week, there are probably something like 10,000 Republican DAs in the country, and it only takes one who's willing to abuse their powers.

M.B. in San Antonio, TX, asks: I don't understand why Donald Trump involved campaign expenditures (or even Michael Cohen) at all. $130,000 is chump change for a billionaire. Why not just cut Stormy Daniels a check directly, have her sign the obligatory non-disclosure agreement, declare it as a loss on his taxes, and move on? Why come up with this complicated scheme involving 12 different payments disguised as legal fees? And why wouldn't Cohen (or any other lawyer) advise him to just do that? Could it really come down to greed and stupidity?

(V) & (Z) answer: There will come a time, presumably, when we'll have much better answers to these questions. However, we can tell you three things right now. The first is that Trump was trying very hard to keep these payments completely unconnected from him personally. Maybe that was to keep Melania in the dark, maybe it was to keep reporters from finding out, maybe it was both. This is not actually that easy a thing to do, particularly if large cash payment and non-disclosure agreements are involved. (Z) has been trying to repay a debt to a friend that is considerably less than $130,000, but is more than $10,000. He has the money, and there is nothing illegal involved. But banks do not make it easy to transfer that much cash from person to person, and even when you do finally execute the transaction, you get a long look from the IRS.

Second, Trump is most certainly a cheapskate, and could have been looking for the approach that took the least amount of money out of his own pocket. Third, and finally, there is also much evidence that while he is wealthy on paper, he is cash-poor. So, it might not actually be that easy for him to come up with six figures at the drop of a hat.

D.P. in Pittsburgh, PA, asks: I was wondering this: Didn't Donald Trump's lawyer Michael Cohen go to prison for pretty much the same thing Trump has just been indicted for? Why is there doubt that they can convict Trump and send him to prison for this too?

(V) & (Z) answer: Yes, Cohen did. However, that was a federal prosecution, and Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg is a state-level officeholder who cannot pursue federal crimes. Plus, depending on how the crime is handled, the statute of limitations on federal election fraud may have run.

D.D. in Hollywood, FL, asks: Attorneys Christopher Kise and, now, Todd Blanche resigned their partnerships to "join" Donald Trump's legal team. I know that Kise received $3 million in advance (smart) and I think we can assume Blanche got a sizeable retainer as well. Yet it takes years to become partners in a law firm. Any clue as to why both these attorneys who seem to be at the height of their careers would give up so much to take on what is most likely the worst client a lawyer could have? They have to know the retainer is the last money they'll ever see from Trump so there are no real prospects after the cases are over.

(V) & (Z) answer: To start, all of the evidence indicates they are non-equity partners. If so, then a decent ballpark guess is that their salary was in the $400K-$500K per year range, and that is usually in exchange for working like a dog. If they got a 2-year retainer for multiple millions, that's way more money per year for what is likely to be far less work.

On top of that, only they know what their next steps are. It could be that, armed with the fame that they have now acquired, they think they will be even more marketable, maybe as a pundit on Fox, or maybe as an author of books, or maybe as a partner at a firm that represents mostly right-wing clients (the MyPillow guy must have lawyers, right?). Alternatively, maybe they are planning to leave the legal profession, and this is their de facto golden parachute. Based on his dates of graduation (undergrad 1996, law school 2003), Blanche would seem to be about 45 years old. That is an age when plenty of lawyers, particularly those who went into the profession for the money, start to burn out.

D.N. in Boston, MA, asks: For what seems like decades, we've been told that the cases being worked on by Alvin Bragg (and other) were moving slowly because for things that are as high-profile as this, they needed to be airtight before anything was announced. Now that the indictment has happened, there seem to be articles everywhere panicking about how weak the case is. What's going on?

(V) & (Z) answer: The commentariat has to say something, and the easiest angle is "there are weaknesses here," because there is no such thing as a 100% airtight case.

When (Z) was in grad school, one of the professors said: "Undergrads tend to see the strong points in every book, while graduates tend to zoom in on the weaknesses. What a professional scholar tries to do is see both." We would have felt better about the legal analyses we saw if they'd taken a more balanced approach like that, especially since every one of those folks knows full well that Bragg has information they do not.

R.C. in Denver, CO, asks: It seems to me the whole case in Georgia hangs on the meaning of "finding" some more votes, and I don't see how Fulton County DA Fani Willis could ever get 12 jurors to convict based on that. Won't Donald Trump just claim he meant "go get an accurate count," and that he truly believed there were more Trump votes out there?

(V) & (Z) answer: Yes, he will claim that. However, he didn't just make one phone call, he made two. And Rudy Giuliani made phone calls. And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) made at least one phone call. And other people put pressure on Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) in various ways. Also, Team Trump conspired to put together and submit a slate of false electors. And they seized voting machines, almost certainly illegally. Oh, and there were shenanigans in other states, too. Not to mention 1/6.

At a certain point, you move well beyond "I honestly thought..." and you move into "My acolytes and I knowingly conspired to overturn a lawful election result." Presumably, Willis will be in an excellent position to make a case for the latter, armed with extensive evidence.

D.M. in Surrey, England, UK, asks: Donald Trump's arraignment got me thinking. If Donald Trump is convicted and incarcerated, what happens to his Secret Service detail? Are they sent to prison, too?

(V) & (Z) answer: We get this question a lot, and so, although we have answered it before, we will answer it again.

The short answer is: Nobody knows. After all, there is no precedent for this.

The longer answer is that, assuming Donald Trump does not waive his U.S.S.S. protection (which he can do, though it's not terribly likely), then an arrangement would be worked out that would satisfy the needs of both the incarcerating entity and the U.S.S.S. Some version of house arrest is possible. Or, Trump could be assigned to some version of solitary confinement, where he's got a portion of a state or federal prison all to himself. Or they might even create a temporary facility of some sort, just for him. What is nearly inconceivable is that he'd be placed with the general prison population. Even at a white-collar prison, the security issues would be just too great.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, asks: I'm already so sick of hearing Republicans say they are facing political persecution through a weaponized judicial system that I want to scream! I feel there have been investigations that were politically motivated but that most investigations, indictments and convictions of politicians are not politically motivated. With that in mind, could you come up with a definition or traits that generally identify a politically motivated judicial procedure and what doesn't constitute one in order to bring a little sanity to at least our little corner of the political world? Or is it like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart and pornography, you know it when you see it?

It seems to me classic examples of politically motivated investigations are Bill Clinton's "What started out as an investigation of a real estate deal, Whitewater, and somehow ended up being about his affair with an intern." Similarly, Hillary Clinton was investigated about Benghazi and it ended being about her e-mails; and Hunter Biden is being investigated about something, something and is ending up being about dick pics! On the other hand, Alvin Bragg knew what he was looking for because Donald Trump's ex-lawyer, Michael Cohen, told Congress what laws Trump had violated. Unfortunately, my examples have investigations against Democrats as being politically motivated while investigations against Republicans as legit, which of course makes me worried I'm being biased. There must be investigations of Republicans that don't pass the smell test but for the life of me I can't think of any. So can you guys help?

(V) & (Z) answer: Broadly speaking, at least these days, there's really no such thing a politically motivated criminal or civil prosecution. There are so many hurdles to overcome, from the DA bringing charges to a judge looking askance at a dubious case to the need to convince a jury, that it's not plausible to prosecute the case. And a DA who tries it is at risk of significant political and or professional fallout.

(And note: We speak here of prosecutions rooted largely or entirely in political differences. It is still sometimes possible for there to be a bogus case involving issues that are politics-adjacent, like racism or police misconduct.)

Anyhow, what this means is if you're looking for actual politically motivated investigations, you're looking for congressional committees, special prosecutors, and other such political actors who don't have the accountability of trying to convince a judge and/or a jury. Beyond that, however, it pretty much is just the smell test.

And it is not just your biases speaking; it really is the case that dubious investigations tend to be undertaken by conservatives at the expense of liberals. That's not merely the case today; one thinks of labor leaders who ended up in prison in the 19th century, or Eugene V. Debs, or Joseph McCarthy's targets, or the Civil Rights Movement activists who ended up in jail. There are many possible explanations for why conservatives are much more likely to abuse justice in this way.

We can think of no examples of Democrats launching witch-hunt type investigations, at least not in the last half-century (since the parties realigned), and we don't think they exist. On the whole, Democratic voters are just not comfortable with this kind of Machiavellian behavior. And so, the closest you're going to come is a Democratic investigation that has some legitimate justification, but also could have political motivations, and it's not really certain which is paramount. The ultimately successful effort by House Democrats to lay hands on Donald Trump's tax returns would be an example of this.

A.J. in Ames, IA, asks: Would Richard Nixon have been brought up on criminal charges if Gerald Ford hadn't been such a wimp and pardoned him? Everyone keeps making such a big deal out of the Donald Trump indictment and it just baffles me that so many people want to give him a pass simply because he's a former president and "this has never been done before".

(V) & (Z) answer: People who were a part of those events pretty much universally believed that Nixon would face criminal charges. Nixon believed it, too, and so did Gerald Ford. Ford would not have accepted the political costs of pardoning Nixon if he did not think it absolutely necessary to issue the pardon.

D.S in Boston, MA, asks: With a $17,000 limit on tax-free gifts, can Justice Clarence Thomas be forced to pay back-taxes without having to prosecute him? This might have the added benefit of forcing him into bankruptcy given his current salary.

(V) & (Z) answer: Nope. According to 26 U.S.C. 102, "Gross income does not include the value of property acquired by gift, bequest, devise, or inheritance." If taxes are due on gifts like these, they are paid by the giver, not the recipient.

There is an exception; you do have to pay taxes on gifts from your employer. That is to stop people from getting their salary tax free as a "gift." But Thomas clearly isn't an employee Harlan Crow.

E.W-H. in New London, CT, asks: Per the patriots' slogan "No Taxation Without Representation," wouldn't people and businesses located in the districts of the three Tennessee state representatives who have been expelled from their legislature be justified in withholding their state tax payments until their representatives are restored? What do you think about such a strategy?

(V) & (Z) answer: We think that such a strategy would be a great way to end up paying even more to the IRS, and possibly going to prison. Maybe such a person could be Clarence Thomas' bridge partner.

What you are describing is known as "tax resistance," and various people who did not want to pay taxes for various reasons have tried hundreds of different arguments in hopes of getting away with it. They always, always lose.

"No Taxation without Representation" is a particularly poor argument. As you point out, that was just a slogan. It does not appear in the text of the Constitution. On the other hand, the government's right to collect taxes most certainly does appear (see Amendment, Nineteenth).

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, asks: Could the three Tennessee lawmakers facing expulsion take their case to court, maybe all the way to the Supreme Court, and argue their First Amendment rights are being violated for merely exercising their right to protest. Or would this be a waste of time and money?

(V) & (Z) answer: It would be a waste of time and money.

The First Amendment says the government cannot encumber your right to free speech... without a good reason. And maintaining decorum in a legislative chamber is a perfectly acceptable reason for encumbering someone's free speech. On top of that, courts are very leery of telling the other two branches of government how to conduct their internal affairs.


D.D. in Portland, OR, asks: I suspect we agree on over 90% of the political issues of the day, so with that in mind, I ask if the talk about Mike Pence's woman phobia is overblown. OK, so he won't dine alone with a woman who's not his wife. Honestly I've been married over 20 years and I can't remember the last time I did the same. Lunch for two? Sure, several times. Dinner and/or drinks with several people? You bet. But, dinner alone with a woman who is not family? As a politician would answer, "Not that I recall."

So, my question is two-parts: (1) Is this Pence dining with women thing overblown? and (2) Do you think Pence has a similar, yet unspoken, rule against dining alone with gay men?

An inquiring mind wants to know!

(V) & (Z) answer: Evangelicals of the Mike Pence sort are already prone to ideas about gender roles that are out of step with more modern thinking. The dinner policy is just an affirmation that Pence is on board with those ideas, and that he ascribes to a particularly retrograde version of them. His actions as governor (e.g., signing an aggressive abortion bill into law, even though Roe was still the law of the land back then) also support the conclusion that his views on gender are evangelical and 19th century rather than secular and 21st century. We wouldn't call it a phobia, per se, just a variant of both misogyny and sexism.

We honestly don't know what Pence would do if he was put in the position of dining with a gay man. On one hand, he's pretty overtly homophobic, as is consistent with his brand of evangelism. On the other hand, sometimes this type of Christian deigns to engage with those whom they view as beneath them, thinking they are mimicking gospel stories like Jesus washing the leper. They do not generally seem to understand why Jesus did that, mind you, but they copy him nonetheless. On the third hand, sometimes people who are virulently homophobic are compensating for something, if you know what we mean, and are secretly happy to have "no choice" but to spend time with a gay person.

J.C. in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, asks: Do you guys have any idea why, at a time when CRT and LGBT and vaxxing is being so successfully banned in many school jurisdictions, Literal Creationism and Intelligent Design haven't raised their Frankenstein heads again? It seems we are in an era where parents and conservative governments can successfully prohibit things being taught in school—so why aren't we seeing a wave of anti-evolution again?

(V) & (Z) answer: The people who would be motivated by crusades against Darwinism are already voting for far-right candidates. On the other hand, the people who are motivated by the use of CRT/vaxxing/LGBT as wedge issues are not necessarily reliably Republican voters. A wedge issue is only useful if it attracts some people to your side who would not otherwise vote for you.

J.M. in Cushing, ME, asks: Why did you spend so much time and space describing what the Parents' Bill of Rights "law" would do, when you also wrote that there is no way the law will be passed since the Senate is not going to even bring it up for a vote?

(V) & (Z) answer: Because it is a rough draft for the Republicans' list of talking points, and their platform, for 2024.

M.G. in Boulder, CO, asks: On Monday, (V) gave us two articles on political allegiance by county. Other than war or another 9/11, what might at least begin to produce more national unity? What would help rural and urban people identify and resolve differences?

(V) & (Z) answer: The fact is that humans are inherently tribal, and some of those humans really, really need an "other" to feel good about themselves. Right now, for many American tribalists, that "other" is members of the other major political party (or is, more broadly, "snobbish elitists progressive city dwellers" or "backward redneck rural bigoted yokels").

Wars provide a non-American "other" that can displace the domestic "other" and give everyone something to rally around. In other words, at least for a short while, instead of Americans hating other Americans, everyone gets on board Team USA in opposition to Team Nazi or Team Kaiser or Team Saddam.

The problem is that, outside of an identifiable foreign enemy, there aren't too many "others" that seem to connect with Americans as a whole. The country could have pulled together to stand unified against COVID-19. That obviously didn't happen. It could have pulled together to stand unified against global warming. That didn't happen either. The only thing we can think of that actually pulled people together, without there being a shooting war, were things that served as a proxy for a shooting war. For example, beating the Russians to the moon in 1969 or in hockey in 1980. But in many ways, the costs wrought by the Cold War were worse than the costs wrought by a shooting war (specially since the Cold War also included two shooting wars).

D.K. in Iowa City, IA, asks: Has any white nationalist explained what they would want in terms of racial separation? Would they be willing to give non-white people a few states or do they want non whites to leave the country? According to one of your recent pieces, race is increasing as a reason for right-wing voting. However, there does not seem to be any coherent thinking among white people about what should be done.

(V) & (Z) answer: White nationalists are pretty much uniformly not the sharpest knives in the drawer. Per the question above, they have decided that their "other" is minorities in general, or one or more minority groups in particular (Black people, Jews, LGBTQ, etc.), and hating those people is pretty much the endgame. That is to say, most of them are not really looking for a "solution;" the hate itself is the solution because it makes the white nationalists feel better about themselves and their in-group.

That said, those white nationalists who have tried to plot out an endgame—the white nationalist intellectual class, if you will—generally accept that ejecting all non-white people from the country is not viable, nor is any sort of forcible relocation plan. So, they generally propose something along the lines of dividing the country into regions, and assigning each region a racial identity, then encouraging voluntary self-sorting. So, there'd be a white region, and probably a Black region, and maybe a region for other minority groups and maybe one for people who are of mixed heritage. Yes, it's really stupid; see what we said about "not the sharpest knives in the drawer."

We should also note that given how ridiculous this plan is, many white nationalists have embraced the slightly more realistic plan to divide the U.S. into just two countries, one for Republicans and one for Democrats.

K.L. in Los Angeles, CA, asks: Hopefully the recent Disney debacle closes the door on the almost daily mention of how smart Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is. ´╗┐You gents seem to find it necessary to make daily (hourly?) comments extolling his brilliance, usually in relation to DJT.

Please stop confusing "smart" with "clever"! Just his attitudes toward COVID, abortions and gun violence should be proof of DeSantis not being so smart. Disney is just the icing. However he, like Trump, is simply very, very clever.

You guys are both great, but it really is a bit surprising given your academic careers, why you fail to acknowledge the semantics. And the difference.

(V) & (Z) answer: Well, he's got the sort of academic and professional résumé that it's hard to compile if you're not pretty sharp. Not impossible, mind you, but pretty hard. And people who know him personally extol his intellectual ability.

It is true that we haven't personally been overwhelmed by his intellectual gifts. But maybe his brainpower really only shows up in small group, non-public situations. Or maybe we just haven't seen him at the right moment. Or maybe it's an "emperor has no clothes" sort of thing, and everyone's just assuming he must be smart because he went to Harvard. We'd prefer a bit more data before reaching our conclusions, but we accept that the third option is possible.

Incidentally, there is not a single thing we've written here that is not also true of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

R.C. in Des Moines, IA, asks: What's to stop the new board taking over at Reedy Creek from just undoing what the old board did?

(V) & (Z) answer: The old board agreed to a legally binding contract with Disney. It's not much different than if the new board had agreed to sell some land, or license the Disney name—neither the new board nor the Florida legislature can, by fiat, overturn a legally executed contract.

There are potentially ways to change state law that would render the contract, by its own terms, invalid. But changing state law to stick it to Disney could end up having far-ranging legal consequences that invalidate many other contracts as well. That would be a bad look. And so, Team DeSantis is poring over the Reedy Creek contract to see if they can find a weakness they can take to court.

T.W. in Toronto, ON, Canada, asks: If Trump doesn't win the Republican nomination (or it looks inevitable that he won't), what's the latest point in the calendar he could plausibly run as a third-party candidate, given ballot access rules?

(V) & (Z) answer: If he is going to maintain the illusion that he's a viable presidential candidate, and he's going to run as an independent (or the candidate of the MAGA Party, or the TRUMP Party, or the Bull Sh** Party in honor of Theodore Roosevelt), he'd have to decide sometime in April, because that's when ballot access deadlines start to arrive. If he's just going to run as a spoiler, he could probably make that decision as late as June or July. And if he's going to persuade the Constitution Party or some other established third-party to make him their candidate, he could probably still make that work as late as August.

J.L. in Bradenton, FL, asks: With this ongoing high-stakes poker game over the debt ceiling, why haven't the Democrats been more aggressive in pointing out that Republican tax cuts are the major cause of our staggering national debt.

(V) & (Z) answer: They have been, but you can only say a thing so many times before people begin to tune you out. Further, those who are amenable to that message pretty much already believe this to be true; they don't need to be told again. And those who think tax cuts are a panacea for all ills aren't listening, and aren't going to hear this message no matter how many times Democratic politicians repeat it.

J.A.C. in Northbrook, IL, asks: Your item on the Nashville shooting said that Republican politicians are dependent on "sweet, sweet NRA money." A few years ago it appeared that the NRA was on the ropes and that donors had largely tired of Wayne LaPierre. Is LaPierre still controlling the NRA and is it still a major source of funds for Republicans?

(V) & (Z) answer: The NRA is still a player, and some Republicans are still on the gravy train. That said, we wrote it that way because it was late and we couldn't come up with better verbiage. What we should have put was "sweet, sweet gun lobby money."

H.R.Z. in Port Washington, NY, asks: Long time listener, first time caller, as they say on the radio. Actually, been reading since the very beginning, when you were first written up by Boing Boing. My question concerns The Drudge Report. I had a social studies teacher in high school, around the same time I started reading your website, who would regularly read TDR. At the time I thought of it as a sensationalist tabloid, but now thinking back on it I wonder if I wasn't naive and it wasn't something closer to a precursor of odious websites like Breitbart and InfoWars. As long observers of online political discourse, I was hoping to get your take on this.

(V) & (Z) answer: First, Drudge Report did not produce original content, the way that Breitbart and InfoWars do. It was (and is) a content aggregator—a collection of links to other sites' content. Second, while Drudge was (and is) right-leaning, there was at least some commitment there to being honest. By contrast, Breitbart and InfoWars have no problem distorting the truth beyond all recognition.

The closest current analogue to Drudge (other than Drudge itself, of course) is probably RealClearPolitics. They aggregate other sites' news, too, and with a similar right-wing slant. Also rather similar, in impact if not format, is Facebook. That is to say, when your social studies teacher was reading Drudge, they were really inserting themselves into a right-wing information bubble. People who rely on Facebook for their news do the same thing, by virtue of how the platform's algorithms work (i.e., you get stuff from your friends/family, who likely share much of your worldview, and you get things similar to items you've clicked on in the past).

D.T. in San Jose, CA, asks: You mentioned that Sen. Joe Manchin's (D-WV) advantage might be his seniority- That he would have more power in the Senate than Jim Justice, so voters should re-elect Manchin. Is there any evidence that the "seniority" argument is at all persuasive to voters? Aren't the nuances of Senate rules kind of "inside baseball"? Have there been past elections, where it was clear that Senate seniority influenced voters?

(V) & (Z) answer: Because of the nature of American politics, it is virtually impossible to test for the impact of a single factor on voting outcomes unless it is something very obvious and very specific that has a dramatic impact in a short amount of time (like calling your opponent a "macaca").

It is also true that the operation of the congressional committee system is "inside baseball," and does not lend itself to a soundbite. However, there are plenty of voters who know their civics and don't need it explained to them. Further, there's a simpler, sound-bite length version that goes something like this: "I've brought lots of funding to our state, because I'm the one who knows how to do it."

Every member of Congress puts items up on their webpages highlighting all the bacon they brought home. Even if they do not explain exactly how it works, the message is clear, and the politicians clearly think they are influencing voters' behavior by making a big point of this. Here, for example, is Manchin bragging about all the benefits he secured for West Virginia thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

T.B. in Detroit, MI, asks: Is TikTok an actual problem or is this just another Red Scare?

(V) & (Z) answer: TikTok collects data on over 100 million Americans. Some of these are politicians, journalists, and leaders in business, academia, and other sectors. ByteDance, the Chinese company that owns TikTok, has to provide all its data to the Chinese Communist Party on request. More likely, it just hands over everything every day automatically. There is no doubt information there that is valuable to China and perhaps information useful for blackmailing people.

Neither political party trusts ByteDance, and they should pass a law requiring ByteDance to sell the entire American operation to an American company or if they refuse, to ban it in the U.S. At least two big American companies (Oracle and Microsoft) have expressed interest in buying it and if ByteDance set up an auction, there would probably be more bidders. For antitrust reasons, companies already in the social media business should not be allowed to bid. Truth Social might be interested, but probably couldn't afford it.


K.S. in Lorton, VA, asks: I recently watched the BBC/HBO miniseries Years and Years about a family navigating the rise of an authoritarian government in Great Britain over 15 years starting in 2019. In the 4 years since it aired, it's surprising some of the predictions they got correct. Of course, some were very wrong (No COVID, Trump would be reelected). In the show, in later years, the family and others communicate through their home device called Signor. I was ruminating on that today when I considered the fact that I do not have a landline or home phone, but I do have an Amazon Echo Dot, which I have used like a landline. Could it be possible that pollsters in the future could contact us through these devices rather than our cell phones?

(V) & (Z) answer: It is possible, but a very bad idea. In 1936, the then-prestigious magazine Literary Digest picked names at random from telephone books and called them, asking who they would vote for. Their conclusion was a landslide victory for Alf Landon over FDR. It turns out that people who had telephones in 1936 were not a good reflection of the electorate. Today, using people with smart speakers would have the same problem. The demographics of people who own such devices probably doesn't reflect the country very well. On the other hand, the vast majority of voters have a telephone, either a landline (including VoIP) or a cell phone. Using random-digit dialing probably gives a reasonable sample (although there are issues with calling cell phones and people's refusal to participate). Pollsters sometimes use other methods, including buying lists of voters and online panels, each of which has its own issues. But using any device with limited ownership is a bad place to start. The key element is to find a way to collect responses from a pool of people who more-or-less reflect the demographics of the electorate.

Smart speakers also have another problem: trust. Suppose out of the blue your Amazon Echo Dot were to say: "We're conducting a poll. Who do you plan to vote for?" We suspect quite a few people would refuse to answer, introducing even more bias.

M.J. in Surrey, England, UK, asks: As a Brit who follows American politics, I am an avid reader of your site. I have a question about this: "American readers are left to wonder how things would be different if U.S. political parties had the means to expel members."

So, why can't they? Why can't a party simply say, "This person can't be a candidate and is banned from entering our party's primary."

(V) & (Z) answer: Because in the United States, there is no such thing as membership in a political party. So, there is therefore nothing to revoke, and no legal basis for controlling a candidate's behavior.

To the extent that party identification is tracked in the United States, it's done by the government (usually state-level governments). And even then, it only happens in some places. And the only purposes of the tracking are: (1) to establish deadlines for declaring a run for office (since major-party candidates have to declare earlier than third-party and independent candidates, due to primaries), and (2) to know which ballot to send to voters.

P.F. in Fairbanks, AK, asks: Can you explain how a state has the ability to codify primary dates? The political parties are (nominally) private corporations, so how could New Hampshire, for example, really prevent a party from holding their primary on some other date? If so, what civil or criminal penalties could be imposed on them?

(V) & (Z) answer: The Democrats can hold 10 nominating contests in New Hampshire if they want, and the state couldn't stop it (although they would be called caucuses rather than primaries). However, the Democrats would have to pay the costs for those events. If the Democrats (and the Republicans) want the state to do all the work, and they want the state to bear all the costs, then they have to play by the state's rules and the state's calendar.

New Hampshire, for example, has a law that states that the secretary of state shall choose the date for primaries. Unless the law is repealed, no one else has any influence on the date than the SoS. Bill Gardner, who was SoS for almost 50 years, once threatened to hold it before Halloween of the previous year if he had to in order go go first.

The parties do have some leverage, because states don't want to be excluded from the process, which the parties can do (free of charge!). But the parties are not in a position to dictate terms all by themselves unless, again, they want to run the show and pay the bills themselves.

K.H. in Scotch Plains, NJ, asks: Do you know the status of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact in Minnesota? Checking it on Wikipedia, it seems to have passed the state House and Senate but I can find no news about it and whether it will go forward to the Governor's desk for a signature. The NPVIC seemed to have momentum several years back but it stalled after several consecutive states signed it into law. I'm hoping to see more states do that.

(V) & (Z) answer: By the rules of the Minnesota legislature, because both committees reported the bill, the President of the Senate (Bobby Joe Champion, DFL) and the Speaker of the House of Representatives (Melissa Hortman, DFL) have to bring the measures up for a vote. And there's really no reason to expect them to resist that, since they are both Democratic-Farmer-Labor (i.e., Minnesota's version of the Democratic Party). However, that vote hasn't been scheduled yet, and each chamber has only a couple of floor sessions planned this month, between holidays and committee work. So, it may be May or June before the vote is held.

D.L. in East Lansing, MI, asks: Donald Trump keeps mentioning the 1,850 boxes that President Biden has. I finally went looking to see what the former president is basing this on and it appears Biden in 2012 provided 1,850 boxes of files from his decades as a senator to the University of Delaware.

I know that all Presidential documents are to be turned over to the National Archives since they belong to the American public per the 1978 Presidential Records Act. What about Congressional (Senate and House) documents? Are they required to be turned over? Or are they the property of the Senator/Representative?

(V) & (Z) answer: With only a few exceptions (e.g., classified documents), the papers are the property of the Senator/Representative. It would get very cumbersome for NARA if they were collecting all the paperwork generated on a daily basis by 540 people and their staffs.

Customarily, members of Congress donate their papers to the Library of Congress, or to an academic institution with which they have some connection or affiliation. Occasionally, they give them to their successor, so the successor has them available for reference. In any event, Biden did absolutely nothing wrong (and nothing unusual) by giving those papers to the University of Delaware which is, of course, his alma mater.

D.M. in Granite Bay, CA, asks: Could you dispel an election myth for me? Apparently there are rumors of people who placed GPS trackers in their mail-in ballot to make sure they were counted and they saw that their votes did not leave to the polling station or something like that. Any truth to this story or the claim?

(V) & (Z) answer: We have not heard or seen this particular claim. Nor would it make all that much sense. If someone puts their ballot in a USPS mailbox, it's not like the USPS is going to leave that mailbox untouched until after the election, in hopes of wiping out some Republican votes. And if someone puts their ballot in a dropbox, you run into similar logical problems. How would the "deep state" know which dropboxes to leave untouched? And wouldn't their machinations become clear when the dropbox started overflowing because it wasn't being emptied?

We suspect that what you actually heard about was the claim made by far-right propagandist Dinesh D'Souza. He bought a bunch of cell phone tracking data, and then he conducted a "study." And his basic supposition is that if a person's cell phone "visited" the offices of a left-leaning activist group at least five times in the span of a month, and then "visited" the area where a drop box is located at least ten times, that person must therefore be a Democratic "mule" who was collecting and depositing phony ballots.

This is all kinds of stupid. To start, cell phone location data isn't all that precise. It's correct within 10-15 meters or so, but it's not precise enough to reach the sort of conclusions that D'Souza reached. Second, his parameters were crafted in service of his desired result. A month is a pretty long time. Third, the basic presumption doesn't stand up to scrutiny. When (Z) walks to the grocery store during election season, he passes an office that belongs to LA Forward, and then a ballot drop box (it's in front of the USPS and the senior center). Per the terms of D'Souza's test, then, he must be a ballot mule. In fact, there's a very decent chance he's one of the "2,000 mules" D'Souza identified. Needless to say, he did not pick up, deposit, or otherwise handle any fraudulent ballots.

D.S.R. in Tempe, AZ, asks: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

I am very curious to learn what the staff historian thinks about those 27 words?

(V) & (Z) answer: The staff historian thinks that the fellows who wrote the Constitution practiced great economy of language, for various reasons, and never, ever put extraneous details into the document. Ipso facto, it is evident to anyone who has even a passing familiarity with their thought processes that they (and James Madison in particular) intended to tie gun ownership to militia service. If all they wanted was for people to be able to own guns, they would have written "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed," and left it at that, the way they also wrote, for example, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" without adding any additional details.

S.M. in Pratt, KS, asks: It is discouraging to admit, but I have come to accept that there will not be a political solution to the school shootings/mass shootings/general gun violence that plagues our country. At least not in the immediate future. And by the time that demographic changes finally bring political changes, decades from now, tens of thousands of our fellow citizens will have been murdered.

I have come to believe, more and more, that the solution is economic. Specifically, liability insurance. Owners of firearms must show that they have a liability policy to cover that weapon. If the gun is used in a crime, then the insurance company must pay the victims. Obviously, insurance rates would vary greatly. I imagine that a middle-aged homeowner, who owns a few sporting weapons, would pay a very low price for said insurance. Same if they purchase a single self-defense handgun. Others, such as young single males, and those wishing to purchase weapons with high-capacity magazines, would have to pay much steeper rates. I cannot see how this could be construed as infringing upon anyone's right to bear arms.

Laws concerning insurance are usually a matter for state legislatures and regulators. Could Congress pass a national law requiring liability insurance using its constitutional powers?

(V) & (Z) answer: Certainly they could pass it, on the basis that they were regulating interstate commerce. But it is not likely it would pass muster with the Supreme Court, as the Court has uncoupled the militia stuff from the rest of the Second Amendment, and would undoubtedly zoom in on the word "infringed," concluding that an insurance mandate is an infringement on gun ownership.

E.M.H. in Oslo, Norway, asks: In light of the Wisconsin state Supreme Court election, I wonder why judges are elected to begin with.

In my adoptive "home" state of New Hampshire, they are recommended by the governor and confirmed by a majority of the executive council (5 people), and it is sort of the same on a national level.

(V) & (Z) answer: In general, the people who designed the processes for selecting judges (often generations or even centuries ago) were trying to find a way to insulate the process from factionalism, and to seat judges that would treat all people fairly. In some cases, the model was "one branch of government appoints, another one confirms." In other cases, the model was "a partisan official appoints, a nonpartisan board confirms." In still other cases, the model was "let the people vote" (usually while hiding the party allegiances of the candidates). There are other models, but this is enough to make the point.

As it turns out, there is no model that eliminates partisanship completely, and thus no model that guarantees that "justice is blind." Obviously, the election of judges has become hyperpartisan, as we saw in Wisconsin. On the other hand, so too has nominate and confirm, as we saw with Brett Kavanaugh.

One conceivable model is bipartisan rather than nonpartisan. Imagine a state in which the majority and minority leaders of each chamber of the legislature each got to nominate one person to a judicial commission. The commission's job would be to give the governor a list of three people to choose from. Each nominee would need a majority vote to make the list, which would require buy-in from both parties. The only people who could get nominated would then have to be relatively neutral. After the first 20 proposed nominees broke 2-2 and were all thus rejected, the members would probably get the idea that stacking the deck was not going to work.

A.T. in Toronto, ON, Canada, asks: Do I understand you correctly? You wrote that if someone appeals a guilty verdict and then takes their own lives, in the "final" record, they would have a "Not Guilty" verdict? Does this extend to civil trials as well?

(V) & (Z) answer: You understand correctly. If the process is not brought to a final resolution, then the guilty verdict was never 100% affirmed, and it is not allowed to stand. Ultimately, the harm done is relatively little, since the primary consequence of a criminal conviction is punishment for the defendant, and you can't punish a dead person (though they certainly tried in Renaissance Europe).

This does not apply to civil trials, since a deceased person will be replaced as defendant by the estate of the deceased person. This also makes sense, because the primary purpose of a civil trial is to make a wronged party (or their estate) whole. So, there is still an important issue to be resolved after the person dies, and there's generally evidence available to help reach that resolution.

G.L. in Deerfield, MA, asks: Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) recently raised this point, and I'm curious what your take on it is: Why should American prep schools and colleges be educating Russian and Chinese students right now? Obviously the students are not responsible for their governments' actions, and keeping them here might help them develop an appreciation for this country, but both countries are led by dictators engaged in genocide and bent on destroying the United States. Why should we be indirectly helping them do so?

(V) & (Z) answer: First, as you point out, the students are not responsible for the actions of their leaders, anymore than it would be apropos to hold an American student responsible for the drone bombing of Syria. Second, as you also point out, many of these folks will end up being the best evangelists for America possible, since they will have credibility with the folks back home. There is enormous value in that kind of PR.

There is also one other issue that the Representative either does not know about or neglected to mention. At many schools, particularly state schools, foreign students pay way more tuition than resident citizens do. If the government were to ban students from these (and other problematic) countries, university administrators would howl, as it would take a huge bite out of their already-stretched-thin budgets.


M.G. in Indianapolis, IN, asks: You wrote: "Anyhow, you can only make a historic site out of a place that is at least partly intact, and at least partly accessible to the general public. This is why, for example, there are virtually no Revolutionary War battlefields available to visitors." Could you explain the definition of an intact battlefield? There seem to be lots of revolutionary war remnants listed here.

(V) & (Z) answer: There's no simple definition; it's a judgment call based on how much of the battlefield still remains (and hasn't been developed over, or hasn't otherwise disappeared). There is a government entity responsible for making these assessments; it's a division of the National Park Service and is called the American Battlefield Protection Program. Their report on the Revolutionary War and War of 1812 said that more than 60% of battlefields from those wars are gone completely, and most of the rest are only partly intact. The equivalent report on Civil War battlefields said that about 20% of those are gone.

M.M. in Newbury Park, CA, asks: I fear this may be a stupid question so I will embrace the extra anonymity that being one of the many M.M. readers of provides. If time travel were to allow me to spend 10 minutes with George Washington, either in his time or my own, would we be able to have a conversation?

The English language seems to have changed a great deal in the last 250 years, especially when you look at the Declaration of Independence or Constitution (with f's in place of s's and so forth) that I often wonder if it would even be possible.

I realize that all slang would be out, including now ubiquitous sayings like "ok" and "cool", and we wouldn't have much to talk about that wouldn't lead to endless confusion about technology and such, but if we just stuck to the weather, dogs, and how delicious apples are, could George and I have a lovely chat?

(V) & (Z) answer: You and George would not have a particularly difficult time understanding each other. The core elements of language evolve pretty slowly, and the promulgation of texts like Samuel Houston's The Essence of English Grammar (1817) and Webster's American Dictionary of the English Language (1828) slowed down the process even more. Some of the things that are most foreign to us (like the f's and s's, and the use of "ultimate" "instant" and "proximate" to mean "last month," "this month" and "next month") were old-fashioned even in Washington's time, and did not linger much longer.

One area you would have problems, as you note, would be slang and idiom. If he warned you to watch out for those flaming faggots, you would think him quite the bigot until you realized he meant that you should not burn yourself on that bundle of sticks that someone had ignited. And if you said you very much liked his wife's hat, he'd punch you, since back then that was vulgar slang for a part of a lady's anatomy that you don't discuss in polite company (even today).

You could also run into problems with, for lack of a better term, etiquette. If the first president knew you were from the future, or otherwise had reason to be tolerant of your missteps, then maybe you would be OK. But otherwise, there were expectations for how to speak to a gentleman, and Washington was extremely nitpicky about them. He would not be pleased, for example, to be addressed in any manner that might be deemed familiar. You could call him "General" and "Mr. President" and "Sir" and maybe "Mr. Washington." Anything else is a no-fly zone. Similarly, you better not touch him in any way, even to shake his hand. The proper greeting is to bow.

J.L.G. in Boston, MA, asks: Wait, molasses and sorghum? What were William T. Sherman's objectives during the March to the Sea? Was the Lincoln administration on board with Sherman's methods? When I think of the March, should I consider it the 19th Century equivalent of the atomic bombings of World War II (e.g., a controversial attack indiscriminately targeting civilians, in a successful attempt to bring the horrors of the four-year conflict to an end?)

I know that there are only so many hours in history classes, so history teachers can only cover so many topics ... but my (mostly Southern) education really glossed over this one, other than a brief mention of the burning of Atlanta.

(V) & (Z) answer: Sherman and Ulysses S. Grant understood better than any other generals in the war that the world had entered a new era of "total war" and that you could not merely defeat the enemy's armies, you also had to defeat the enemy's homefront. And so, he and Grant proposed to Lincoln that they would make Southern civilians feel "the hard hand of war," and Lincoln consented.

As to the molasses and sorghum, Sherman's men tried to be efficient, and that was a two-fer. It wrecked the church building and it deprived the South of valuable agricultural commodities. The famous "Sherman's neckties," wherein the troops would heat up railroad ties and wrap them around trees, worked the same way.

The atomic bombing comparison is pretty apt, excepting that Sherman did not countenance the indiscriminate killing of civilians. He was willing to wreck farms and businesses and infrastructure. And he was willing to imprison civilians without trial. And he was willing to kill soldiers. But killing civilians, unless in self-defense, was off the table. And, in particular, killing women and children would have been deeply problematic, and might well have gotten a Union soldier court martialed and executed.

W.H. in San Jose, CA, asks: You wrote that Ulysses S. Grant is the only president to have been arrested at any point in his life after being elected. I am surprised that no other reader picked up on your use of the word "after" to ask the obvious question. So, which U.S. Presidents were arrested before being elected?

(V) & (Z) answer: We understand why you made that inference, but it's not the correct one.

The problem is that arrests do not always create a record, particularly the further you go back in time. And even if they did result in a record, those records might well have been lost over the span of 50 or 100 or 150 years. Recall, for example, that Joe Biden recalls having been arrested in his youth. Well, if so, there's no paper trail to support his case. Does that mean he's mistaken? Or that he was detained, but not formally arrested? Or that he was arrested, but over the course of nearly 60 years, the record has vanished? There's really no way to know, unless you borrow the time machine of the reader above who is planning to visit George Washington.

However, once someone becomes president, they are a big deal, and everything they do is big news. If any of them is arrested (or arraigned), there is a vast paper trail. So, while we can't really be sure how many presidents were arrested during the period of their lives that they were basically anonymous private citizens, we can be very sure how many presidents were arrested after having been elected to the big chair.

M.A. in Knoxville, TN, asks: You often refer to the Republicans as the "GOP." I know that GOP stands for "Grand Old Party," but I was wondering when it started being called that and why?

(V) & (Z) answer: Interestingly, the term was actually coined by the Democrats, for their party, in the 1850s. However, after the Civil War, most newspaper editors, reporters and cartoonists were Republicans. And those folks stole the term. Thanks to them, and in particular the cartoons of Thomas Nast, the theft stood up, and the Republicans are known as the GOP to this day.

D.L., Springfield, IL, asks: You mentioned the universities in the Research Triangle, two of which are the University of North Carolina and North Carolina State.

This made me wonder: There are a lot of universities around the country called "University of (State's name)," there are also a lot of them called "(State's name) State University", and there are many states that have both. What, if anything, do all of the universities with one type of name, or the other, have in common with each other? What is the difference between them?

(V) & (Z) answer: This is not universally true, but as a general rule, the schools called "University of [STATE]" were created to train people for the "learned" professions—doctors and lawyers and clergy and the like. And the schools called "[STATE] State University" were created to train people for one or more "skilled" professions. Many of these latter institutions actually began as "Normal" schools, which means their purpose was to train teachers (for example, the original name of Minnesota State was "Second State Normal School"). Other institutions in this group were created to help train farmers (for example, the original name of Michigan State was "Agricultural College of the State of Michigan").

In quite a few cases, these distinctions have been partly retained. For example, there are many "University of [STATE]" schools that don't offer a lot of "skilled" majors (animal husbandry, restaurant management, industrial design, etc.). And there are many "[STATE] State University" schools where the list of "learned" majors is more limited and/or the "learned" departments are much smaller. And, in turn, because the world tends to assign more honor to "learned" disciplines, "University of [STATE]" schools tend to be wealthier and more highly ranked and regarded than "[STATE] State University" schools.

R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, asks: As someone who has been working in homeless services for the past 13 years (exactly 13 years on April 5th), I appreciated you using homeless encampments as a modern analogy for the Bonus Expeditionary Army. It certainly raised a vivid and familiar picture and so was apt in that regard. But, it made me wonder exactly how apt. Do we know how may of the BEA didn't have homes to go back to when Eleanor Roosevelt convinced them to disperse? Or put another way, I don't have any problem believing that some of them were literally homeless but do we know how many of them were?

(V) & (Z) answer: Congrats on your anniversary, and a huzzah in honor of your very noble work!

We have very little demographic information on the BEA, excepting a handful of prominent participants. To give a crude analogy, think about how much specific demographic information we really have about the 1/6 insurrectionists. Then, take away the arrests (which gave us good information on those folks, at least), the presence of cameras everywhere, the much more ubiquitous news media, and allow for the passage of 90 years.

A.S. in Bedford, MA, asks: Based on Mad Men, I assumed the counterculture settled in California in the 60s due to the lighting being better there. I've been meaning to ask, though, how accurate did you find that show's depiction of New York and California in the 60s?

(V) & (Z) answer: The show did an excellent job of getting the small details right (clothing styles, colors, furniture, props), so it really made it feel like they were inhabiting that decade.

As to the historical events that were swirling all around them, the show didn't engage all that much, but the staff was certainly happy to rewrite the past as needed. The actual story of the Coke "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" ad had nothing in common with the way it was portrayed on the show.

Similarly, the show was willing to exaggerate in service of its dramatic and visual goals. This isn't a criticism, it's just the way it works in Hollywood. The "mad men" had far too many secretaries, offices that were far too large, drank far too much liquor while working, etc. They lived a fantasy 1960s life, not a real one.

J.P. in Horsham, PA, asks: I've been listening to the wonderful 1966 album, Phil Ochs In Concert, which features live performances by the topical folk singer. In his spoken word introduction to his song "Ringing of Revolution," he jokes that the song "is so cinematic it's been made into a movie" and goes on to list some sarcastic casting choices for this fictional film (e.g., "Frank Sinatra plays Fidel Castro... John Wayne plays Lyndon Johnson, and Lyndon Johnson plays God").

Most of the references he gives are still funny nearly 60 years later but there's one reference I don't quite understand: "Sen. Carl Hayden [plays] Ho Chi Minh." I can't quite place why Ochs would have chosen to conflate the long-serving Arizona Senator with one of the key revolutionary figures of Vietnam.

What do you think? What am I missing from this joke?

(V) & (Z) answer: In the string of references, he's not making the same basic joke half a dozen times, he's making a different joke each time. The Sinatra reference is about his ties to Cuba and the Mafia, the John Wayne reference is about his conservative politics, the LBJ reference is about his big ego, etc.

There's no obvious political connection between Hayden and Ho that we know of, especially since the Senator's career was winding down while the Vietnam War was underway. And so, we suspect that the joke was at the expense of the two men's vaguely similar appearance:

Ho and Hayden are both balding, slight,
and wear horn-rimmed glasses

Of course, we are happy to be corrected if any reader knows better.


M.M. in Amsterdam, Netherlands, asks: You wrote: "We still await a ruling on whether Finland remains a poor second to Belgium when going abroad, however."

I am completely missing the reference. At the risk of killing the joke, could you explain?

(V) & (Z) answer: That item had numerous references to Monty Python's "Finland Song." And among the lyrics of that song are: "You're so sadly neglected/And often ignored/A poor second to Belgium/When going abroad."

We do know that some references might be a little tricky, and in those cases (including this item), we generally put a link for those who might lose the scent.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, asks: I was amazed at the story of Andrew Toles, and thought it was really cool. I do have to wonder, though... because the Dodgers sign him to a contract, do they not also have to pay him the major-league minimum salary (which, I believe, is now north of $700,000 a year)? Does this contract every year also count towards MLB player pension eligibility? Or do they have some sort of special exception in place for him?

P.S. Being as I am originally from Chicago, I am still a proud Bears fan—and all the knocks in the world from you guys won't change that! And because I am a Bears fan, you know EXACTLY how I feel about the Packers!

(V) & (Z) answer: They sign him to a staff contract at a salary of $0. So, he gets the health insurance, but no service time or money beyond that.

And indeed, we know exactly what you feel when it comes to the Packers. Jealousy.

C.Z. in Sacramento, CA (Class of '69), asks: Why and when did male basketball players stop wearing those cute short-shorts that I remember from high school, and move to knee- and calf-length uniforms instead? I was one of my high-school's 500-member pep club, and I can attest to the fact that those short-shorts gave us girls an extra reason to cheer at the games. Bring back the short shorts and the female fans will follow.

(V) & (Z) answer: You can thank Michael Jordan for that. The short-shorts did not suit his game, particularly his propensity for high leaps and slam dunks. He found the short-shorts restrictive, and so began wearing his shorts longer and looser. Other players followed, and there wasn't a whole lot the NBA could do but go with it.

He did wear the short-shorts in college, though.

J.E. in San Jose, CA, asks: What was the connection between Sean Spicer and Hot Dog on a Stick? I worked at two other fast food franchises in a food court that had a Hot Dog on a Stick location, and I always wanted to work there. They already had a token guy, though. He eventually led a local band as part of the pop punk "revolution" of the '90s before getting a job working on the Simpsons. It is fun to see his name in the credits every week.

(V) & (Z) answer: In California, at least, it's sort of the go-to for "embarrassing job for an adult to have" jokes because of the very loud costume employees are required to wear.

K.S. in Jefferson City, MO, asks: Concussion? Did you move into Rand Paul's neighborhood?

(V) & (Z) answer: (Z) wouldn't fit in there. After all, he actually pays his taxes.

The concussion was the result of a black car with a black hatch in an extremely dark and poorly lit parking lot. (Z) thought he was standing far enough back when he closed the hatch, but it would seem not.

S.M. in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, asks: As-salamu alaykum, We (Arab Capital Middle East Investment Company) are looking for project owners/consultants with lucrative projects in various sectors requiring funding between $1 million USD to $1 Billion USD funding through Loans or Debt Financing at an interest rate of 3% per annum for a funding period of 2 to 25 years? We offer 1% commission to agents/brokers/consultants who bring projects to us for financing. Does this match your interest?

(V) & (Z) answer: Oops, your Google search has led you to the wrong people! It's partly our fault, though, for having written numerous items in which we mentioned Jared Kushner.

Reader Question of the Week

Here is the question we put before readers last week:

K.H. in Ypsilanti, MI, asks: What tattoo should/will Donald Trump get in prison?

And here some of the answers we got in response:

L.S. in Greensboro, NC: Ivanka.

D.S. in Layton, UT: It will read "Greatest tattoo ever." Probably with some words misspelled.

S.P. in Tijeras, NM: That's easy, a Nazi swastika.

B.W.S. in Pleasant Valley, NY: Being descended from Holocaust survivors, there is only one tattoo that I would ever want to see Donald Trump—a man descended from a racist and Nazi sympathizer, and being no slouch in that department his own self—receive: A serial number.

A.V. in Cedar Falls, IA: There is only one tattoo Donald Trump would ever put on himself.


We can call it the Trump Stamp.

S.S. in West Hollywood, CA:

Trump's face as a tattoo

M.N. in Madison, WI: Simple but classic: A heart with a scroll wrapped around it, with "Donald" written on the scroll.

B.C. in Walpole, ME: A red heart with an arrow through it, and beneath, in blue, the name "Stormy." Simple, traditional, heart-felt. classic.

C.W. in Littleton, CO: So many possibilities, so little time. Perhaps one of these would suit the (fingers crossed) future inmate:

A tattoo that says 'Oops I Did it Again
and one that has Ronald McDonald

Z.K. in Albany, NY: MIGA—Make Incarceration Great Again

W.H. in New Orleans, LA: I think Trump's prison tattoo(s) should be multiple tear drops under the eyes, which I understand indicates that the prisoner has killed someone. Trump killed thousands with his COVID fake science bulls**t.

A.S. in Black Mountain, NC: One word on his forehead. Except it will be a mirror image so he can read it in the morning:

'Martyr' in Gothic lettering

P.J.T. in Raton, NM: The hammer and sickle of the old Soviet Union.

Far and away, the most popular responses were: (3) Ivanka, (2) Swastika/white supremacist imagery, and (1) himself.

Here is the question for next week:

O.Z.H. in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, asks: For those of us who really don't want to see either a President DeSantis or President Trump 2.0., which of them should we be rooting for to win the GOP nomination?

Submit your answers here!

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