Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Sunday Mailbag

This is a blend of letters from last week and this one (albeit skewed in favor of this week) due to the lack of a Sunday posting last week.

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Race

M.P in Leasburg, MO, writes: The indictment is definitely having an impact on one of my three barometers mentioned in an earlier post (flying the Marines flag). Within just a few days of potential prisoner #4547-6-5 being indicted, three bright red banners for Trump's 2024 presidential election were planted in the front yard. I sighed in utter disappointment.

As an aside, you guys perked me up and made me feel completely validated when you wrote: "Republicans in the Senate would keep Charles Manson in that [Supreme Court] seat if he was a reliable conservative vote." When 45 was elected, I told friends and family members that, not only did we now know the collective IQ of the nation, it was clear the Republicans would have elected Charlie Manson if he ran with a (R) behind his name!

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: Mrs. B.C. in Walpole just watched the whole Trump/Carlson sit-down, which obviously wasn't an interview. Some time back, mentioned in passing that Trump's act has grown stale and that he's got to update his appeal, but how you didn't know. Mrs. B.C. may have found it. Trump runs on fear and hate. In the interview, according to my wife, Trump kept emphasizing nuclear threats. It sounds like he's literally about to go nuclear; try to scare everybody: If you don't elect me, NUCLEAR HOLOCAUST. That does sound very Trump.

As she relayed the content, it sounded once again like Trump's view of the world has not changed since 1962. And based on what she told me, it sounds like he wants to run a "Daisy" style ad campaign, only instead of "My opponent is so crazy he'll get us into a nuclear war," it would be, "My opponent is so weak, our enemies, who are my friends, will attack us with nuclear weapons."

D.S. in Oakton, VA, writes: You casually observed: "And let's imagine that somehow the Republican decks are cleared of Trump (likely the only way that happens is if Trump dies)."

Do you think death would truly stop the Trump campaign? Consider poor John F. Kennedy Jr. and his miraculous and mystifying rescue from his downed plane 22 years ago, so that he can join DJT on the Republican ticket. Or maybe the faithful will go to his burial site 3 days after his internment and find Roger Stone standing there, pronouncing "Fear not; for I know that you seek Donald. He is not here; for he is risen, even as he said. Come, see the place where the President lay." Then, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and the MyPillow Guy determine that his death is a deep-state conspiracy, and Trump is actually hiding in North Korea planning his return on January 6, 2025. Despite death, the Trump ticket may still get plenty of votes.

M.M. in San Jose, CA, writes: You conjecture that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) is positioning himself for a run in 2028, and that's why he's attacking Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL). That makes sense given the 8-year limit on being governor. However I think he is also positioning himself for a late run in 2024 if Biden should be unable to answer the bell due to a major health problem. Roughly the position that Hubert Humphrey found himself in after Bobby Kennedy was shot in 1968.

S.B. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Wow! Not so bullish on Tim Scott? I totally agree but you missed out on a chance to play the Dean Wormer card:

Politics: On Conventions and Headquarters

S.S.H. in London, England, UK, writes: I'm guessing the mention of prostitutes and alternate prostitutes was meant to be funny, though not sure why it would be. Instead it feels kind of awkward and off. Is that because this would imply men in smoke-filled rooms and women waiting outside for them? For Democratic delegates there are gender-balancing requirements for delegates, so men really don't dominate the way they once did... perhaps you were thinking of the bad guys.

Kind of nothing funny about prostitution or prostitutes anyhow, no matter their sexuality.

(V) & (Z) respond: There are male prostitutes, too. In fact, (Z) went to grad school with a fellow who paid his tuition that way. And then there is Fred Garvin, of course.

In any event, the joke isn't the prostitutes, it's the alternate prostitutes, which is something of an absurd notion.

M.S. in Zurich, Switzerland, writes: Aren't you being redundant when you wrote: "100,000 or so politicians" and also "prostitutes, and alternate prostitutes"?

W.K. in Berwyn Heights, MD, writes: In the item about Biden choosing a campaign HQ location, you suggested flights to Philadelphia vs flights to Wilmington is a logistics consideration. However, the Philadelphia airport is on the south side of the city and is only 25 minutes away from Wilmington by car, which is just a few minutes more than from Center City Philadelphia (and closer than many other Philly suburbs). It should be a non-issue.

C.D. in Wilmington, DE, writes: It would be wise for Biden's campaign to be based in Wilmington. The scene is vibrant, costs are lower—and we're closer to the Philadelphia airport than most of Southeastern Pennsylvania.

Politics: Abortion

M.A. in Knoxville, TN, writes: Beyond a single judge in one state being able to ban drugs in the whole country, few—if any—drugs have only one use. Viagra is useful for people who have Raynaud's phenomenon and the latest weight-loss drug Wegovy is a stronger formulation of semaglutide than Ozempic, which was developed for treating type-2 diabetes. Even a drug like thalidomide, which causes horrible birth defects, has uses treating multiple myeloma and some complications of leprosy. It's effective enough that it was given FDA approval, only with extremely tight controls for its distribution.

With this in mind, the ban on mifepristone is an even bigger deal, since it has off-label uses as well. It's used to treat high blood sugar that some adults with Cushing's Syndrome experience, as well as treating leiomyoma and endometriosis. In his zeal, Kacsmaryk has taken that treatment option away. It never ceases to amaze me how the pro-life anti-abortion zealots are perfectly fine with causing harm, or letting women suffer and/or die, to save a fetus. A fetus that they'll promptly refuse to assist, since they oppose welfare and a fetus that might only exist because they oppose proper sex education and making contraceptives available to teens.

J.E.L. from Cincinnati, OH, writes: You forgot the third "M" among abortifacients: Methotrexate.

It doesn't make for such a good pun, but instead of just referring to mifepristone and misoprostol with the headline "The National M&M Debate Is No Longer About Spokescandies", I would have said something about the Three Ms (maybe a reference to 3M?): mifepristone, misoprostol, and methotrexate.

Methotrexate is older than even misoprostol and is primarily a chemotherapy drug, although it can also terminate ectopic pregnancies and is used in combination with dilation and curettage to terminate a molar pregnancy (a non-viable uterine pregnancy resulting from the fertilization of an ovum that lacks a maternal nucleus); it may also be used instead of misoprostol as part of the two-dose regimen following mifepristone to terminate early uterine pregnancies, but this is rare.

I am surprised that there is little attempt to restrict methotrexate (or misoprostol, for that matter) in the U.S. or other countries that do not generally permit abortion; maybe the issue is that unlike mifepristone, it has substantial non-abortifacient uses (mifepristone does also treat Cushing's syndrome, leiomyoma, endometriosis, and incomplete miscarriage, but to my understanding, all but the last of these uses were found after it had been approved to terminate pregnancy) and was discovered and approved much longer ago. Mifepristone was discovered in 1980 and approved in 1988 in France and 2000 in the US, misoprostol was discovered in 1973, and methotrexate was discovered sometime between 1947 and 1950 (both it and aminopterin are analogues of folic acid developed for chemotherapy; aminopterin was discovered in 1947, and methotrexate was first investigated in 1950) and went into wide clinical use for chemotherapy in 1956, displacing aminopterin.

Maybe the anti-abortion movement is trying to lock down a mifepristone ban first, before going after misoprostol and then methotrexate; maybe the movement just won't go after methotrexate at all, considering that without a first dose of mifepristone, its only abortifacient use is in terminating pregnancies that cannot result in live birth (unlike misoprostol, which can terminate ordinary early-stage pregnancies by itself, just less safely and less effectively, with worse side effects, than if taken after mifepristone).

D.T. in San Jose, CA, writes: Democrats are making a tactical mistake by not making more noise about court reforms, in the wake of the Matthew Kacsmaryk ruling. An obvious option would be to crack down on "venue shopping."

Propose new rules that all districts need to have more than one judge. If a district doesn't have multiple judges, then all cases would be randomly assigned from a pool that includes judges from neighboring districts.

Obviously, Republicans would never allow this to happen. But Democrats could at least make some political gains by forcing Republicans to take the unpopular position. The intricacies of the court system may be a bit abstract to most voters. But almost everyone can understand (and agree) that "You should not be allowed to pick your own judge."

Making Republicans defend corruption in the legal system seems like an appropriate response.

Politics: Today's Republican Party

K.R. in Austin, TX, writes: I decided to write to Governor Greg Abbott (R-TX) to tell him that if he issues a pardon, he doesn't support the Second Amendment or the Texas open-carry law.

Garrett Foster, who was shot to death, was legally carrying his AK-47 under the very liberal Texas gun laws. If someone can shoot a person just for carrying and then be free under a claim of self-defense, then the open-carry law is worthless.

Of course, I don't expect him to care. I believe that he would like the law to be enforced such that white Republicans can carry with impunity but minorities or liberal protesters can be shot for carrying.

T.W. in Norfolk, England, UK, writes: I think you are being preternaturally restrained in describing the GOP considering bombing Mexico as "kookiness." Do they want another Mexican-American War? I mean really? I am beyond gobsmacked. Has GOP lost its last remaining brain cell? It is totally insane. If they are returned to the White House, then the lunatics really will be running the asylum.

J.O. in Centralia, MO, writes: As a reminder to the readership, "Bomb Mexico" is a page directly out of the Buzz Windrip playbook (for those unaware, that was the American fascist president in Sinclair Lewis' 1935 cautionary novel, It Can't Happen Here). Not that this should be a surprise; Trump and his merry miscreant minions have been pulling pages from that playbook since at least 2015.

S.M. in Louisville, KY, writes: You wrote: "We are really, really hoping that today is not another day of GOP whackadoodlery, so we can do a much more standard post tomorrow."

That's not possible. The GOP is the party of insanity. Ignore climate change, attack women's rights, attack the right to vote, or even the right to speak! Republicans are all-in on fascism, 100%. I don't agree with the Democrats but I don't even have to look at any issue again. If you have an "R" next to your name, I am obligated by morality to vote for the party that has the best chance to defeat you.

M.G. in Chicago, IL, writes: I felt a sense of distraught or pain in your post with all the "Today's Republican Party" items. I hope (Z) and (V) have not lost all hope in the experiment that is American Democracy. I would understand as I have felt brief moments of lost hope. Not as many since I stopped watching Rachel Maddow. Rachel pointing out such abuse and corruption and the lack of any correction was far too depressing to watch day after day. Your post today was a kinda "Rachel Lite." I am not asking that you change anything just to remind you the glass is half full....or at least remind myself.

(V) & (Z) respond: We have not lost hope, we just worried that posting was laying it on fairly thick. There was no intent to do a whole day about Republican whackadoodlery, but once we collected the big news for the day, that was a clear leitmotif, and at that point we felt we had to point it out, while at the same time acknowledging that we know that so many items on the same basic subject can be a bit much. That said, that post was actually quite well received. Continue reading to see one example (selected from many).

M.D. in North Canton, OH, writes: Tuesdays posting was some of the best stuff you have written in a long time. I particularly enjoyed the comment that you made regarding what John Bolton thought of bombing Mexico. When John Bolton says we shouldn't invade somebody, you know it must be a bad idea.

M.F. in Oakville, ON, Canada, writes: I'm vaguely surprised you would float the name of J.C. Watts as even a hypothetical Republican presidential candidate. I would have expected you to be suspicious that his five years in Canada might have made him a mole for our plans for expansion, or even that the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service might have kompromat on him.

(V) & (Z) respond: Using this "American" site written by two "Americans" as a means of encouraging people to start thinking seriously about future President Watts is just the first phase of Operation Maple Leaf, eh.

Politics: Mike Pence

C.C. in Saint Paul, MN, writes: I want to weigh in on the question from D.D. in Portland about whether Mike Pence's refusing to have dinner with a woman who is not his wife is overblown. You pointed out some of the things that Pence's rule speaks to. Your observations were good, but I want to throw in another concept. The idea that a man and woman can't have dinner alone together is essentially saying that men and woman are not capable of having platonic friendships with one and other. This is a very dangerous idea because it is connected to a whole host of other dangerous ideas:

All of these ideas are serious threats to women's autonomy and safety.

T.W. in Norfolk, England, UK, writes: In respect to your answer to D.D. in Portland, while it's not clear if Mike Pence has ever had dinner with a gay man, he certainly appears to have had breakfast with two of them, and seemed to be quite taken with one in particular...

Politics: Today's Democratic Party

F.S. in Cologne, Germany, writes: After reading your items about today's Republican Party, you can only come to the conclusion that the Republican Party is cruel, dumb and pathetic, so Democrats should decisively win against Republicans in the next presidential election and win clear majorities in both chambers of Congress. Yet it is very likely that it will be a close presidential election and that the majorities in Congress will be close. So the Democratic Party must be deeply flawed since they can't convincingly win against such a weak opponent. I think should really focus more on the weaknesses of today's Democratic Party.

For example, you wrote: "[I]t sure looks like Wisconsin is lost to the GOP... for a while." I disagree. I mean, Joe Biden won by less than one percent against Donald Trump in Wisconsin in 2020, Democratic Governor Tony Evers won a close reelection and Republican senator Ron Johnson was reelected in 2022. So it's likely that Wisconsin will be a close again in 2024.

J.C. in Chicago, IL, writes: I enjoy your website and have been a reader on and off since the Bush-Kerry election in 2004. You guys do a great job!

If I had one critique, it seems like you periodically make comments that overrate the chances of Democrats. One example was in the piece about conventions called "Sweet Home Chicago." In the article, you mentioned that "it sure looks like Wisconsin is lost to the GOP... for a while". I understand the recent Supreme Court election was a good outcome for the Blue team, but virtually every important election in Wisconsin since 2016 has been extremely close. Biden won by less than 1% in 2020, Tony Evers only won by 3% in 2022 and GOP Senator Ron Johnson was re-elected just last year. While trends seem to be improving for the Democrats, I think it's a stretch that the state is "lost to the GOP."

Is there other proof that you have to back up this claim? Is this a bias? Just wasn't sure where this was coming from.

P.S.: I'm a Democrat and wish you were right, but it seems far more likely that Wisconsin stays ultra-competitive in the near future.

(V) & (Z) respond: We were thinking specifically in terms of the (very small) impact that convention location has in terms of voting patterns. In addition, however, the recent judicial election would seem to show Democrats exactly what issue they should be running on in Wisconsin for the foreseeable future. If they do that, it's going to be hard for the Republicans to beat them. Also note that the Wisconsin Republicans have won just one presidential election and have sent just one senator to Washington since 1990. Close elections notwithstanding, it's a blue-purple state, not a purple state.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: Here's another response to M.G. in Stow about why blue states don't Gerrymander more aggressively: I would argue that they don't need to.

Fair maps favor Democrats because more people vote for Democratic congressional candidates. I believe Michigan is a good example. For most of the '10s, Michigan's Congressional delegation was 5D, 9R. After the new citizen reapportionment commission (created through a ballot initiative) got its hands on the maps and un-gerrymandered the state, their delegation is now 7D, 6R. In what is essentially a purple-to-blueish state that voted for Trump in '16 and Biden in '20, this seems appropriate. (Incidentally, the state Senate went from 16D, 22R to 20D, 18R and the state House went from 52D, 58R to 56D, 54R).

Unlike Republicans, Democrats don't need to game the system to achieve positive electoral results. We are already in the majority.

Politics: Dianne Feinstein

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: Who speaks for the Dianne Feinsteins? Well, it looks like it's going to be this old Lorax. Let me hoist my rear on this old Truffula tree stump and say I have major problems with the language and comments regarding her struggles.

Let's turn to the question posed by E.S. in Maine. I'm going to be charitable and assume the "old geezers" comment was just snark, but even as snark it massively fails the smell test. Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA) is currently 54 years old. I assume she is on this list because she recently announced she has Parkinson's Disease. Yes, Parkinson's usually has onset after the age of 65, but two of its most famous victims, Muhammad Ali and Michael J. Fox, starting exhibiting symptoms while in their 30's. Senator John Fetterman (D-PA) is currently 53 years old and was recently treated at Walter Reed Hospital for depression, something his aides say he has struggled with his whole life. Last year, he suffered a stroke, which is not uncommon for someone of his height, 6'9".

Lastly, Senator Ben Ray Luján (D-NM) is only 50 years old, and like Fetterman, also suffered a stroke last year. While the risk of having a stroke is greatest after 75, sadly strokes can happen at any age and the rate of strokes for people 50 and below in the U.S. is increasing. The more important concern is that these three politicians were lumped in the category of "old geezers." Their ages, from 50 to 54, are nowhere near "Old Geezerville." Hell, they're not even in the suburbs. People who have unfortunate medical conditions should not be written off so easily.

Politics: Schooled

R.H.O. in Portland, ME, writes: Your response to the question from O.Z.H. in Dubai about Red America sending students to elite colleges is a good one, but incomplete.

I grew up in the rural Midwest and left to attend a cosmopolitan, albeit second-tier, Ivy League university (hint: Donald Trump Jr. was my classmate). After earning my degree(s), there were no jobs to lure me back to the rural Midwest. But I can assure you, even if there was a job there I wouldn't be welcomed back, nor would I want to return.

While I was growing up many of my classmates, the townspeople, and the public at large made it clear I was not welcome there. I was regularly referred to as "fa**ot" by classmates and their parents alike. This had nothing to do with my sexuality—I'm a hetero cis male father of two who has been happily married for 21 years. It had more to do with the fact that I just didn't fit in to rural orthodoxy, and people needed some way to "other" me. They didn't know what to do with a kid who enjoyed academics, thought a little differently, and was generally curious about the world. There were a few other kids like me. We all got out and never went back. Nor do we have any desire to return. I'd be remiss to neglect to point out a few of my teachers were incredibly supportive, caring educators to whom I owe a great deal, and on whom my escape depended.

I'll add as a final note that I found some of the media's infatuation with Sen. J.D. Vance's (R-OH) narrative, and subsequent need to talk with and listen to "the forgotten folk of middle America," infuriating. I don't need to listen to the rural poor in order to understand their needs. They spent 18 years telling me—loudly and offensively—that they need people who think, look, or act differently to go away. I'd rather not return to learn my lesson again.

All Politics Is Local

S.B.A. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: FWIW, there are no heroes in the Tennessee Three episode. Obviously, the expulsion of Rep. Justin Jones (D) and Rep. Justin Pearson (D) was a massive overreaction by the GOP-controlled legislature. However, what Jones, Pearson, and Rep. Gloria Johnson (D) did was totally unacceptable. As someone who currently works at a state capitol, it's my sincere belief that one of the few bright lines you don't cross as an elected official is to disrupt a legislative proceeding. Because once you start allowing for that, the whole system (i.e., a representative democracy where men and women gather to debate, vote and pass laws in peace) starts to collapse.

Even if one supports the tactic, though, it was ultimately pointless theater. No policy victory will be achieved by their actions. Who here honestly believes that any gun control reforms will now be passed in Tennessee in the foreseeable future? I also have no doubt that if the shoe was on the other foot—if three GOP reps shouted into a megaphone on say, the Illinois or Oregon House floor, demanding passage of anti-abortion legislation—liberals would condemn their actions, not shower them with praise and adulation for taking such a brave stand.

So let's be clear about what transpired: The Tennessee Three essentially threw a temper tantrum. Left-wing politicians need to be better than this. And, of course, the Tennessee GOP needs to rein it in as well. Strip the Tennessee Three of committee assignments, censure them for their disruptive behavior, sure. But don't banish them from the legislature. That's beyond overkill.

What frightens me, though, is it's not just this one incident in one state capitol. The ties that bind us are fraying and it keeps getting worse. We need to do something about the corrosion of basic social norms in the political sphere and fast. Because on our current trajectory, it's only a matter of time before the U.S.A. starts to look like Northern Ireland during the 70s or the former Yugoslavia during the 90s.

G.A. in Nashville, TN, writes: As a former legislative staffer of the Tennessee General Assembly, I have been a close observer of the body for more than 20 years. Nothing about the recent events are surprising in the least. When I worked there, the legislature was controlled by a small Democratic majority while the governor was a moderate Republican. The voters of the state were conservative, but had voted for Democrats for most of their lives at the local and state legislative levels because many of them knew their legislators personally and had seen the results of their efforts in Nashville in the form of better roads, which led to increased manufacturing jobs in rural areas. These efforts were the result of a state that was governed from the center-right.

In 2010, 14 of those rural Democrats in the House were defeated and their now-gerrymandered districts have never been competitive since. At the same time, the shift in getting news from local newspapers and TV news to social media and cable news has created deep distrust and downright hatred of Democrats. Instead of learning about the events in Nashville each week from their representatives' columns in the local papers, voters get news from sources who inevitably have an agenda other than truthfulness.

This has also led to the minority party being treated as nothing more than a mere annoyance. The attitude of the majority seems to be "if we can do it, we will do it." This attitude is exacerbated by the most vocal and deranged voices on social media who have an insatiable thirst not just to win, but to humiliate the opponent. These voices see anyone who opposes them as an enemy who must be destroyed at all costs.

There is a very real fear of non-whites in this state. During the George Floyd protests, protesters were talked about as if they were animals who deserved to be hunted. Justin Jones was one of the leaders of these demonstrations and had earned a reputation as a rabble rouser thanks to run-ins with the prior Speaker of the House who stepped down in disgrace and is not awaiting trial on federal corruption charges. When Jones was elected last year, I knew it was only a matter of time before the supermajority found a way to get rid of him.

I don't know what has to happen for these attitudes to change. I love Tennessee and am proud to be a Tennessean, but I am also embarrassed by the recent events that make us look like a bunch of dumb hicks. We are not all dumb hicks, but we sure have voted for a lot of them.

C.J. in Lowell, MA, writes: I actually have a different take, albeit completely speculative, regarding the Tennessee legislature knowing how quickly the expellees could be reinstated. I wonder if they knew full well how easily their actions could be undone and thus were able to have their cake and eat it, too. My hypothesis is that like so much else Republicans do these days they took a show vote for their base, but deep down are happy their colleagues would return in short order so really no harm, no foul. Maybe they would not have been as quick to act if there were more real and permanent consequences.

P.R. in Arvada, CO, writes: As much as I get a chuckle out of the Tennessee legislature showing their true colors, I really hope that the Democrats use the publicity well. If they have 30 chances to introduce legislation, I am going to assume some of it is just a showboating waste of time. You know, the "let's ban AR-15's" type of thing that we all know isn't going anywhere. At the same time, there is a real opportunity to make a real difference. How about some bills improving mental healthcare? That will have one of two outcomes: either there is an actual improvement in the availability of mental health or there will be self-writing adverts of "the Republicans think mass shootings are a mental health issue but they will not address it" type.

Another good law would be a Red Flag Law that gives mental health professionals the ability to contact police to get someone's guns taken away while they are treated. If the shooter really was getting help for their issues, a law like this would have been effective. Kind of hard to justify voting against a law like that.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: In a world of stories about red states passing extreme laws, this news should get more attention. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D-MI) is rivaling New Zealand's Jacinda Ardern in reacting appropriately to a tragic mass shooting. Two months after the shooting at Michigan State University, she signed a package of new laws that expand background checks and mandate safe storage of guns. While there may certainly be more to do, this is a great start. We need to celebrate governors and legislatures doing the right thing. This is what can happen when states are un-gerrymandered and the people are able to elect a legislature that reflects their needs, wants and desires.

Whitmer is a shining example of what Democrats can accomplish when they unabashedly run on doing the right thing and then do it. The days of Democrats being afraid to state what they believe in are hopefully over. Abortion is a winning issue. Gun control is a winning issue. So many Democratic priorities are winning issues and people are noticing and voting. Whitmer '28! She's my front runner to succeed President Biden.

Money and Drugs

M.A.K. in London, England, UK, writes: In response to the question from J.M. in Silver Spring about why they could move money easily and you couldn't; and your answer:

This is all to do with anti-money-laundering (AML) rules. J.M. was moving their money in a time when it was relatively easy to move large sums of money without questions being asked, and therefore relatively easy for people to hide the source of ill-gotten money with a series of large monetary transactions.

These days, most of the free world places strict requirements on banks and other financial institutions to know who their customers are, monitor what they're doing with their money, and assure themselves that it's legitimate. In the U.K., this is done by making banks and their employees criminally liable for carrying out any money laundering transaction, unless the bank can show that they had comprehensive AML procedures that were defeated by the criminal.

The modern AML era began in 2001, when the international Financial Action Task Force expanded its remit to include financing of terrorism as well as money laundering (since the techniques are similar); the strict know-your-customer (KYC) requirements as we know them today are much more recent and based in things like the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network's CDD Rule (2018) and the European Union's Fourth Anti-Money Laundering Directive (2017).

(V) & (Z) respond: (Z) primarily ended up wrestling with Wells Fargo, a.k.a. the worst bank in the world. But he had issues at other banks, too, which made clear it wasn't just a Wells Fargo thing. And employees at several of those banks said things that implied the rules had changed recently. This would comport with your answer, since (Z) dealt with his father's estate was being dealt with in 2019/2020/2021.

G.M. in Laurence Harbor, NJ, writes: You wrote: "As a general rule, the federal government does not approve of medicine-via-mail. That said, there are some exceptions to that, one of which is it's the recipient's only option. Further, as with federal laws that prohibit the use of marijuana, they don't much matter if they're not enforced."

Actually, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs dispenses hundreds of thousands of prescriptions each day by mail. Years ago I saw a number and think it was 450,000 individuals receiving prescriptions via mail. I use the VA as my primary caregiver and often they add a prescription or change one. The offer then is I can wait at the facility pharmacy or have it sent by mail. The time a wait at the pharmacy is often hours so I usually tell them to send it by mail because I know it will be in my mailbox on the second or third day after my visit.

(V) & (Z) respond: Yes, we got many e-mails on this point. Since we were writing about the possibility of mifepristone being shipped from Canada, we intended to refer to international shipments instead of domestic shipments. In other words, we really should have written: "As a general rule, the federal government does not approve of medicine-via-international-mail."

History Matters

A.M. in Miami Beach, FL, writes: Regarding the question posed by F.S. in Cologne about the lack of women represented in written histories, and your response that includes (Z)'s class lectures:

First, please share (Z)'s syllabus if possible! Sounds great!

Second, I would nominate Anna May Wong as a possible alternative or addition to the Asian Americans in California component.

As a second generation Asian-American from Chinatown, she grew up in a diverse neighborhood, and was a key figure in early Hollywood and worked alongside Lon Chaney, starred in one of the first Technicolor movies when she was only 17, and fought against anti-miscegenation laws that stymied her success. She achieved success in European films and stage, and was offered better roles when she eventually returned to the U.S. She was an advocate for Asian Americans, and was a skilled actress who critically considered to be on par with Marlene Dietrich. Despite headwinds against her, she continued trying to better conditions for asian Americans in California throughout her career. As an added bonus, she was a Democrat. In the past 20 years, several books and retrospectives have been created about her life and career.

(V) & (Z) respond: The syllabus wouldn't tell you much more than what you already know, but if you want to look at the course materials, they are here. The username and password are both history3370 with no capitals or spaces.

As to Anna May Wong, she's a good suggestion, but the person has to fit organically with the rest of the lecture. And the central event addressed by the lecture is Japanese internment, which means that the person at the start really needs to be an internee. If (Z) really, really wanted to put a woman in that slot, he could use Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston. However, the reading for that week is written by her, so she already gets attention. Further, in addition to being Japanese American and an internee, George Takei is also LGBT. So, it's two for the price of one, representation wise.

Anyhow, this is the kind of thought process that a history teacher who is trying to be inclusive goes through all the time.

P.K. in Marshalltown, IA, writes: Your response Saturday to F.S. of Cologne brought to mind Dave Barry's "history" book, Dave Barry Slept Here: A Sort of History of the United States. To make the book more attractive for "for purchase by public school systems in absolutely vast quantities," he regularly added the phrase "and women and minorities did important things too." There's your fix...

B.J. in Arlington, MA, writes: [I do not envy you the quantity of e-mail you are almost certain to get on this topic...]

You wrote, "For most of the past, it was men who were the politicians and the generals and the scientists and the artists." I'll accept politicians and generals. However I'm not sure it is accurate to say the men were the scientists and artists. Instead I think it is more accurate to say that it is predominantly the male scientists and artists that became well known, written about, and honored, while the women who made comparable contributions were often just ignored.

My basis for this statement is posts from A Mighty Girl that I regularly see in my social media feeds. The site covers really amazing discoveries, inventions, and other contributions from humanity that I had simply never heard of before. One example is Margaret Hamilton, the software engineer who worked on the Apollo missions; another is Cecilia Payne, the woman who discovered that hydrogen is the most common element in the universe. There have been many others across many fields and times, essentially none that I had ever heard of before A Mighty Girl introduced me to them.

(V) & (Z) respond: It's true that once you get into the 20th century, and sometimes even the mid-to-late 19th, there are at least some women options for a history lecture. But any further back than that, and they get scarce in all fields of endeavor. Further, as noted in the previous comment, the fit has to be reasonable and organic. For example, one can talk about Ada Lovelace in a lecture about the emergence of the personal computer. However, it is hard to justify talking about her and yet omitting Steve Jobs. And most of the time, there's only enough time and attention span for one person (or two, if they are a well-connected team).

K.C.W. in Providence, RI, writes: I really thought resident historian (Z) would address the issue of "f's in place of s's" and put M.M. in Newbury Park straight. Thinking about it more, since (Z) is a late-19th century historian, I realized he probably doesn't encounter these too much.

I'm a historian of printing and the book trade in the 17th century, a bibliographer and a rare books librarian, and have fielded this question hundreds of times in my career. Thing is, these are not "f's," they are "long-s's," and if one looks closely at the letter, at least in Roman, not italic, the cross bar is only on the left. The character is not entirely unlike the still-used German eszed, ß, which is written as "ss" if the character is unavailable. Typographer's manuals from the mid-17th century forward prescribe when long-s should and shouldn't be used (initial, medial, final, etc.), but the "rules" were rarely followed in practice. The long-s fell out of favor in the late 18th century as spelling became standardized and the long-s was almost entirely gone by mid-19th century. One can pick up fluency in reading this usage remarkably quickly, to the point that it doesn't even register as anything but an "s".

(V) & (Z) respond: (Z) knows the backstory here, but that was a secondary point in a question about talking to George Washington, and as we also noted yesterday, we try not to dig too much into secondary points, for fear of the posting getting too wordy. As it is, we crossed the 14,000-word mark both yesterday and last Saturday.

D.T. in Hillsboro, OR, writes: The supposed f's used as s's are not actually f's. They are stretched out s's and only appear in the middle of words. Ordinary, s's were used at the beginning and end of words. As you say, it was old-fashioned at the time they wrote the Constitution, but it does survive as the integral symbol in mathematics.

Also, like you, I used to think Michael Jordan was responsible for the long baggy shorts worn by basketball players, but that is not correct. The Fab Five who played at Michgan in the early 90s were actually responsible.

(V) & (Z) respond: One can argue that the Fab Five took things to the extreme that was ultimately reached, causing legendary UCLA coach John Wooden to complain that modern basketball shorts look like "bloomers." But there's no question that Michael Jordan was taking things in that direction first. Here are pictures of Jordan and of the Hawks' Dominique Wilkins during the 1988 slam dunk contest, for example:

Michael Jordan and Dominique Wilkins dunking

Wilkins, on the right, is wearing the old-style shorts. They clearly end much higher above his knee than Jordan's do. And this was while the Fab Five were still high school sophomores.

The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings

M.S. in Canton, NY, writes: Thank you for including Frank Robinson in your tribute to important African-American baseball players. In addition to being a magnificent player on the field, he was a transformational figure in the sport in his career afterward. While living in southeastern Ohio in the 1950s, my non-sports-fan mother became an avid follower of the Cincinnati Reds. Eventually, she took to referring to Frank Robinson (in jest!) as "the only man I ever loved." My father never minded.

R.K. in Columbia, MO, writes: I loved that you mentioned Buck O'Neil in your Friday Freudenfreude. However, it missed one of the greatest things about him being an advocate for the Negro Leagues. He should have been in the damn HOF in 2006 when the Hall had its Committee on African-American Baseball. He wasn't selected then, but he gave one of the most sincere speeches the Hall had ever seen for those who were selected.

I had the privilege of meeting Buck on several occasions, as he came to my high school several times and I was also able to visit the Negro Baseball Hall of Fame (NBHOF). He would talk to anyone who came up to him and tell stories about the Negro Leagues or baseball in general. Just a genuine amazing person. Everyone should find time to visit Kansas City and visit NBHOF.

J.G. in Upper Hanover, PA, writes: Curt Flood belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame. That is all.

(V) & (Z) respond: Agreed. But when it comes to people inducted in the "contributors" category, team owners have a significant portion of the vote. Same reason it took trailblazing MLB union leader Marvin Miller four or five tries to get in.

A.T. in Quincy, IL, writes: I just couldn't let this go by. You wrote: "Tomorrow, Major League Baseball will commemorate the anniversary of the day that Jackie Robinson integrated the sport (April 15, 1947). There will be some speeches and some other activities like that. Announcers will talk about Robinson during television broadcasts. All players will be wearing Robinson's #42 on their uniforms. For those who do not follow baseball, Jackie Robinson Day is the only time active players can do that, as the number has been retired throughout the sport, and the last active player who had a waiver (the Yankees' Mariano Rivera) is now retired."

So, there it is. The Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything has at least something to do with baseball, Jackie Robinson, integration, or any or all of the above. I think I could get behind any or all of that.

Seriously, if at least one more reader doesn't send you a Hitchhiker's Guide reference, I, for one, would be supremely disappointed.

(V) & (Z) respond: Indeed, we got many.

B.K. in Hell's Kitchen, NYC, writes: I was a little shocked that you neglected to mention Larry Doby.

Doby, of course, is the second African-American player in the major leagues. And the first in the American League (for the-then Cleveland Indians.)

There's a lot to be said about him. But there is a story that really sticks with me. When Doby first met the players, he went down a line, shaking hands and introducing himself to each person. Several players refused to shake Doby's hand. And those players were all traded away.

J.L. in Paterson, NJ, writes: Thanks for your Freudenfreude feature on overlooked Black baseball players. I write to add another: Larry Doby, the first Black player in the American League. He first came to the plate for the (since renamed) Cleveland Indians in 1947, three months after Jackie Robinson's start for the Dodgers. He beat Robinson to a World Series title, as he and teammate Satchel Paige helped the Indians to the win in 1948.

A side note from Doby's time as a wide receiver at Paterson Eastside High School: "After winning a state football championship, the Eastside team was invited to play in Florida, but the promoters would not allow Doby, the only black player on the team, to participate. Consequently, the team voted to forgo the trip as a gesture of support for Doby." That's an impressive decision from a bunch of Depression-era high school players.

(V) & (Z) respond: There were two other people who we had in mind for that item, and we had to hold off on them because the length of the post was running very long and time was running very short. One was Doby and the other is the person suggested in the next letter. In retrospect, we wish we had included everyone we initially intended to include.

M.J. in Oakdale, MN, writes: Might I suggest an addition to your list of other honorees for Jackie Robinson Day?

Effa Manley was the first, and remains today the only, woman in the Baseball Hall of Fame.v

When Branch Rickey singed Jackie Robinson to a contract, Robinson was already playing under contract with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro American League. The Monarchs received nothing in exchange for one of their best young players. As a co-owner of the Newark Eagles (of the Negro National League), Manley fought for compensation for players signed to the Negro Leagues, improving the respectability of the Negro Leagues.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: As a lifelong White Sox fan, I would be remiss if I did not remind you of Minnie Miñoso, the first Black White Sox player. Miñoso was obtained by the Sox in a three-team deal originally. He powered the Go-Go Sox of the 1950's with his brazen base-stealing... and for decades held the record for the most times hit by a pitch.

He was later traded, in 1957, for pitcher Early Wynn and Al Smith, who helped the Sox win their first pennant in 40 years. Miñoso was very upset about having been traded and thus not able to be a part of the 1959 Sox pennant win... the White Sox re-acquired him in December of 1959, and they gave him a World Series ring.

R.S. in Tonawanda, NY, writes: I'd like to put in a word for Frank Grant, who was arguably the best baseball player of the 1800s.

Grant played for the Buffalo Bisons of the International League from 1886 to 1888. He was a spectacular second baseman and though popular with fans, he was driven out of town by the racial resentment of some white players. In a roundabout way, it is said, he invented the feet-first slide and shin guards: He fashioned wooden shin guards to protect himself from white players who tried to spike him coming in to second.

The current iteration of the Buffalo Bisons are the local AAA team here. The downtown stadium opened in 1988, roughly 100 years after Grant's playing days ended here. (He went on to play for other minor league and Black teams until 1903).

The stadium has borne the names of successive corporate sponsors who've purchased the naming rights. I've often thought that it should have been (and should be) named for Frank Grant.

Humor Is in the Eye of the Beholder

S.F. in Ringgold, GA, writes: In "The Loonies are fighting the Loomies," (V) made the comment, "That's right, she is too crazy for Greene. That is not an easy place to get to. Especially if you're not a Chicago Bears season ticket holder."

I'm not a Bears season ticket holder, but I am a lifelong Bears (and White Sox) fan and I live in Marjorie's district. While being a lifelong fan of both these teams might label me as some sort of masochist, I am still nowhere close to crazy enough to vote for MTG, though far, far too many of my neighbors, who otherwise seem like nice people, are.

(V) & (Z) respond: You could not have known this, but as we revealed yesterday, it was (Z) who put that in there. Just FYI.

C.B. in Denver, NC, writes: "Especially if you're not a Chicago Bears season-ticket holder."

Please stop this horsesh**. It's getting really stale.

C.S. in Guelph, ON, Canada, writes: Why Trump is similar to Jesus: "They both bring to mind white robes and crosses."

My wife shot her tea out her nose as I read that aloud.

S.A.K. in Karnataka, India, writes: Your childish comparison of Trump with Jesus, which descended into gibberish, was uncalled for. I'd have expected such crud from Mike Lindell.

An apology or at least a clarification is in order. Hopefully, one's coming soon.

(V) & (Z) respond: We are honestly not clear what we would apologize for. It was a joke at the expense of Marjorie Taylor Greene, who earned the derision with her absurd comparison of Trump to Jesus.


B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: You wrote: "To paraphrase the movie Dirty Dancing, nobody puts Big Pharma in a corner."

Saturday morning, and there's only one news source out there referencing everyone's favorite movie of all time.

K.H. in Albuquerque, NM, writes: Since last November, I've taken it upon myself to better understand the inner workings of To that end I've recorded every title of a staff member that has appeared in your postings:

  1. Votemaster (V)
  2. Zenger (Z)
  3. Staff Mathematician
  4. Staff Financial Analyst
  5. Staff Dachshunds
  6. Staff Historian
  7. Teutonic Affairs Consultant
  8. Staff Meteorologist
  9. Staff Calligraphers
  10. Russian Affairs Consultant
  11. Staff Pulmonologist
  12. Staff Geographer
  13. Staff Vestal Virgin
  14. Staff Thesaurist
  15. Staff Theologian
  16. Staff Astronomer
  17. Staff Counsel
  18. Resident Demographer

Is there someone on staff (or in the readership) with strong AWK skills who could parse the pre-November 2022 postings and extract a more complete listing of your amazing staff?

In the absence of a published organizational chart, I asked ChatGPT to generate an operational hierarchy:

At the top of the hierarchy are the Votemaster and Zenger, who may be the most senior leaders of the organization. Below them are the Staff Mathematician, Staff Financial Analyst, and Staff Pulmonologist, who could be part of the organization's core operations team.

The next level includes Staff Historian, Staff Teutonic Affairs Consultant, Staff Russian Affairs Consultant, Staff Meteorologist, and Staff Geographer, who could be responsible for providing context, analysis, and insights related to specific areas of interest or expertise.

Further down the hierarchy are the Staff Vestal Virgin, Staff Thesaurist, Staff Theologian, Staff Astronomer, and Staff Calligraphers, who may have specialized roles in the organization.

The Staff Dachshunds, although listed here, could be a playful addition to the team, and their role is not clear from the given list of positions.

At the bottom of the hierarchy are the Staff Counsel and Resident Demographer, who could provide legal and demographic expertise, respectively, to support the organization's operations.

In all seriousness, I'd like to remind people to check out the site's acknowledgements page. Tip o' the hat to the people that make happen. Thanks!

(V) & (Z) respond: Shows how much ChatGPT knows. You may be well assured that the staff dachshunds are atop the site hierarchy.

And indeed, in all seriousness, we always like an opportunity to acknowledge the other folks who make the site possible. And we also need to edit that page to include the staff copy editors who send in corrections each day (even if it sometimes takes us some time to make them).

R.M. in Bryan, TX, writes: I understand that the staff mathematician's name is Theorem Hammered. Couldn't he have stepped up and produced last Sunday's issue of E-V? Perhaps you could have him or other staff on stand-by when the two principles are indisposed—say, on April 1?

(V) & (Z) respond: Ha! You do know the letters entry is produced on Saturday night, right?

Final Words

D.B. in Mountain View, CA, writes: Attributed to Voltaire, among others. He didn't really say it, but wouldn't it have been great if he had? On his deathbed, in response to a priest asking that he renounce Satan: "This is no time to be making new enemies."

If you have suggestions for this feature, please send them along.

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