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Sunday Mailbag

In the comments mailbox, we got four times as many e-mails about Donald Trump's mugshot than we did e-mails that mention Joe Biden—that is, the sitting President of the United States—in any fashion whatsoever. We'll let you reach your own conclusions as to what that means.

Trump Legal

J.T. in Milton, MA, writes: In "Trump Legal News: Out on Bail," you wrote: "In the Florida documents case, Mar-a-Lago IT director Yuscil Taveras has terminated the counsel Trump was providing for him, switched to a federal public defender, and changed his testimony to implicate the former president in obstruction of justice."

The attorney Taveras terminated was, as you point out, being paid for by Trump's Save America PAC. While it is not against ethical rules for an attorney to be paid by a person other than his client (e.g., a mother hires an attorney to represent her destitute son), the attorney owes his/her duty of loyalty to the person being represented and NOT the person paying him/her. That Taveras switched counsel and, likely upon the advice of said new counsel, suddenly changed his story to implicate Trump strongly suggests that his former counsel likely had a person other than Taveras' best interests in mind. I just wish I could figure out who.

This is a long way of saying that, as these four indictments unfold and given the number of defendants, I imagine you will see a number of attorneys lose their licenses for violating ethical obligations.

D.E. in Culpeper, VA, writes: The "just following orders" defense? That line, now being proffered by the Georgia defendants, didn't work in Nuremburg in 1946, and it's not likely to work in Fulton County in 2023.

M.A. in Knoxville, TN, writes: Since most of your readers probably aren't familiar with how and where jails do booking, I thought I'd share some info on that. Jails don't toss everyone they book into the slammer, so they keep the fingerprinting and mugshot equipment on the public side of the jail. When I went to the county jail to be fingerprinted for a background check, I never even saw the door into the actual jail cell section. I was in and out in under five minutes. They had all the equipment in a small room by itself.

Also, most (probably all) jails and prisons don't use black ink for fingerprinting any longer. When I had the background check in 2004, they were already using an ink that's invisible on the fingers afterward and easier to wash off. Nowadays there's also equipment that can take fingerprints digitally. It's less messy for the jail staff and also less stigmatic for people who've been fingerprinted for various reasons, many of which have nothing to do with breaking the law.

Trump Legal: The Mugshot Seen 'Round the World

R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: I absolutely believe that there was a meeting somewhere in Mar-a-Lago to discuss how they could turn the mugshot thing into a positive and they decided they wanted something defiant that they could put on t-shirts and other merch. However, there is a fine line between "defiant" and "deranged."

As for the other mugshots, looks to me like Jenna Ellis didn't really understand what was happening. Either that or she's got a prison fetish.

R.B. in Margaret River, WA, Australia, writes: Look, I hate Trump, but the mugshot was genius. He was advised and he practiced. I don't think I ever saw a mugshot that looked less like a mugshot. (Well, maybe that lass that was smiling like a film star.)

And that was the point.

Let's give credit where it is due. Only then can we (liberals) work out the effective attack point against Trump. This photo was not it.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: Reacting to P01135809's mugshot, Fox "entertainer" Jesse Watters remarked: "I say this with an unblemished record of heterosexuality: He looks good and he looks hard." Speaking as someone with a slightly blemished record of homosexuality, I feel compelled to say: "Oh Jesse, hon, the second you started visualizing the sexual arousal of a 77-year-old man with a spray-on tan and a too artfully arranged hair style, then that unblemished record you're so proud of just got a blotch on it the size of Texas!"

Speaking of humorous programming, it should be noted that every time going forward that I mention P01135809, I do so sounding like Inspector Javert in Les Misérables. Yes, I know that Javert is not exactly a role model because he got all indignant over the theft of a loaf of bread. P01135809, on the other hand, tried to steal—and is still trying to steal—almost 250 years of dreams of democracy. I think that deserves a little Javert-type righteous anger.

D.S. in Longwood, FL, writes:

A comparison of Russian and American handling
of the leaders of coups; on the American side it has Trump's mugshot and on the Russian side it is blank

K.R. in Austin, TX, writes: Although Trump is smiling in this photo, it reminds me of his mugshot, and I think he looks just as evil.

The famous Trump-Mitt Romney photo

R.R. in Westborough, MA, writes: Contrary to some other descriptions of Trump's mugshot, to me he just looks like he is sulking.

D.S. in Albuquerque, NM, writes: The only thing I don't like about your site is that when I click on it, that traumatizing, PTSD-triggering image of Donald Trump's smug, self-satisfied smirk pops up before I can scroll down to get rid of it. May I suggest replacing it with his mugshot? That would be much more accurate and up-to-date, not to mention reflective of his (alleged) criminal status. I know you strive to be balanced, so you could just pair it with Joe Biden's mugshot. Oh, wait, never mind...

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: The New York Times had a comment in the live-blogging of Trump's surrender that his mugshot was intended to be similar to his inaugural photo because he thinks the scowl makes him look like Winston Churchill:

Winston Churchill and Donald Trump

If only Churchill had been arrested for leading a coup against Clement Attlee, then we'd have a real comparison to make.

L.S. in Queens NY, writes: The same stare was used by Charles Evans (Robert Walker) in the Star Trek episode "Charlie X." When he used his power, he made that stare and the person he did not like "went away":

Charlie X

I wonder if Trump thought it could work for him too.

P.S.: Keith Olbermann said that Trump angled his head to hide his chins.

K.R. in Austin, TX, writes: One more mugshot comparison:

Trump and Vigo the Carpathian

Vigo the Carpathian is the main villain in Ghostbusters.

A.E. in Albany, NY, writes: I read your site almost everyday and for a bit of levity I wanted to introduce you to one of the drag queens who will be competing in season 16 of RuPaul's Drag Race. Please give a warm welcome to Anita Pardon:

The Trump mugshot Photoshopped to make him look like a drag queen

B.B. in Pasadena, CA, writes: Who's the better actor?

Don Vito Corleone and Donald Trump

(V) & (Z) respond: Of course, only one of these Dons was dumb enough to get caught.

Trump Legal: The Great Escape?

C.Z. in Sacramento, CA, writes: Although I totally detest prisoner Pee-Oh-one-one-three-five-Eight-oh-nine (apologies to Tommy Tutone), and long for the day he is no longer a news item, I do appreciate the information you are providing about his legal issues. It helps me combat the terrifying prospect of a second tRump Term. (Forewarned is Forearmed.)

You mentioned secret passageways, like the one beneath the White House, as a potential way Dolt 45 could flee from the Secret Service. According to The Guardian, there are also secret passageways under Mar-a-Lago: "Bloomberg's Jason Leopold notes that the tunnels underneath Mar-a-Lago are actually part of the public record—though the Secret Service presumably locked them down after Trump was elected president."

There are probably several secret passageways under the White House, and probably in several other government buildings in D.C. as well, just as there are many secret passageways under California's State Capitol, here in Sacramento. Our tunnels run for blocks from the Capitol, and emerge inside various state office buildings in downtown Sacramento. They are escape routes for the legislators, as well as for the police to surreptitiously access the Capitol, if necessary. (Remember, Squeaky Fromme tried to shoot President Ford on the Capitol grounds.) There are some tunnel exits located well outside the government office buildings and the Capitol, that can even accommodate vehicles and police on horseback. My old office building, located two blocks from the Capitol, houses one of the tunnel exits. The exact location of the tunnel exit is on a "need to know" basis, and so is kept secret even from the staff who have worked there for decades. However, you can get a general idea of where the tunnels might be located, from the tunnel exhaust system. What look like cement toadstools along the sidewalk on some of the streets, continuously exhaust warm air. They are magnets for the homeless in the winter, of course.

J.W. in Madison, WI, writes: Your response to J.H. in El Segundo, suggesting that Trump could theoretically escape S.S. protection by traversing secret passageways like those under the White House, assumes that he is capable of walking more than 200 feet without getting winded. I suspect that if he were to try this they would find his rotting corpse about halfway to freedom.

(V) & (Z) respond: In other words, if he does go to prison, a sequel to The Shawshank Redemption is not gonna happen?

L.B. in Savannah, GA, writes: Your answer to J.H. in El Segundo assumes that Trump's Secret Service detail won't cooperate with any attempt to flee the country. I'm not sure we can count on that. Information recently came out about contacts the Secret Service had with the Oath Keepers.

One hint that Trump might be planning to flee is his use of a bondsman to cover his bail in Georgia. Despite theories that he's short on cash, $200,000 wouldn't be a major expense for him, but if he's planning on skipping out, I'm sure he'd prefer to forfeit the $20,000 he paid the bondsman instead. It's not out of line to surmise that the Secret Service agents guarding him may be more loyal to him than to their oath to the Constitution; the question is whether they'd be willing to follow him into exile. If he absconds during a legitimate overseas trip, they'd have plausible deniability up to the point he gives them the slip (arranged in advance, of course).

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: I think you overestimate the Secret Service's ability to control their subject. If a sitting president can escape their notice from the White House, a billionaire private citizen on his private property can too. And when you're a billionaire, the question of finding a safe haven becomes much simpler. The U.S. can extradite terrorists and petty criminals from friendly nations easily enough, but just look at Julian Assange or Kim Dotcom to see how easy it is to extradite political prisoners or well-heeled white collar criminals, even from Five Eyes allies. Now add Trump's legal funds and delay tactics. It would never happen. Trump could easily set up shop in London and be untouchable.

The real reason that Trump can't flee is entirely political, and not at all logistical. Trump is running to be president. And even if not, he is the head of the MAGA movement, whose support of him has only grown since the incitement. And he is the head of a corporate empire whose biggest asset is his brand, which he wants his family to inherit. All of that is forfeit if he flees. If he stays, worst case scenario is that he is convicted of a crime that he can portray as trumped up and politically motivated, and tie up with appeals for a long time, and negotiate some favorable house arrest conditions. Best case scenario is he becomes president, pardons himself for any federal crimes or just orders the justice system to halt any imprisonment proceedings. And has a strong hand in any negotiations for state-level convictions (does Fulton county actually want to pay for the logistic requirements of imprisoning a sitting President?)

Fleeing the country is not a good option for Trump. He would never take it. Also, being a fugitive from the U.S. would probably be a stronger punishment than anything the U.S. justice system will deliver, so if you want to see Trump punished you shouldn't worry about this unlikely outcome.

L.M. in Tampa, FL, writes: About Trump escaping justice by flying to another country: He wouldn't need to take either the Trump plane or a commercial flight. He could just go on the Boeing 747 owned by Saudi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman. Evading the Secret Service might be difficult, but a dumb Trump-style plan would be a switcheroo with a double. They think he's in bed in Bedminster, sick with the flu, when in fact he's flying to a stopover in Riyadh, on his way to Sochi. (Please, please, let that happen!)

Trump Legal: The Big Cheese

L.B. in Savannah, GA, writes: The name "Chesebro" originated in Cheshire, England ("bro" is a shortened form of "borough," meaning a town). Since "Cheshire" is pronounced "Cheh-sher" (we've all heard of the Cheshire cat), "Chesebro" would be pronounced "Chess-bro."

The real question is how he pronounces the "bro." An alternate pronunciation could be "bruh," as George Brough (maker of the Brough Superior motorcycle, ridden by Lawrence of Arabia) pronounced his name "Bruff" (not "Bro"), so Chesebro could be "Chess-bruh."

Some English names have counterintuitive pronunciations; for example, St. John is pronounced "Sinjun," and Featherstonehaugh is pronounced "Fanshaw."

(V) & (Z) respond: All we know for sure is that Cheshire cheese is delicious.

T.G. in Lee's Summit, MO, writes: Nope, too late, you've already done it. I look at his name and all I can see is Cheese-bro!

Politics: Campaign Logos

F.A. in Belmar, NJ, writes: I loved your item on the Republican candidate campaign logos, especially because I was a graphic artist and typographer back in the 1980s. I agree with much of your assessment. But let's remember the debacle in 2016 when Trump-Pence revealed their first logo, which was a laughingstock.

I also recall awhile back you posted an analysis that presidential candidates who don't use all caps don't win elections. I guess some of these Republicans didn't see your site that day.

L.R.H. in Oakland, CA, writes: It's not just the kerning that looks off in Chris Christie's logo. The letter sizes are odd. The logo would look better if the "H" were a bit narrower and the "R" were generally smaller, somehow. The distance from the top of the R to the opening in the center looks bigger than the top of the "T" and the "E."

I half-agree with you that in his slogan, "TRUTH" is what should be in red, but, on the other hand, if you were reading the slogan out loud, you might put the emphasis on "MATTERS": "Because the truth matters!", for example.

Tim Scott's logo is truly bad. The colors distort my perception of the size of the letters: The "T" in "TIM" somehow looks smaller than the Ts in "SCOTT," and on first glance, the "M" in "TIM" looks squeezed by the blue ground for "SCOTT."

I don't know about the "shooting star" in the Larry Elder logo. I initially read it as another bad take on the U.S. flag, along with DeSantis'.

L.S-H. in Naarden, The Netherlands, writes: I looooove looking at logos and putting words to the intuitive feeling one gets when looking at a logo. So I found your comments on the Bulwark's ranking of Republican candidates' logos interesting. Especially that of Chris Christie. I disagree that "TRUTH" should be in red. I think Christie's campaign staff first tried out several slogans: Because the truth be damned, Because the truth is scary, Because the truth matters, damn it! At least he'll be able to segue after the primaries to a new hobby: Chris Tie—Because the tie matters!

R.R. in Wiesbaden, Germany, writes: Regarding the logo of the Perry Johnson campaign, you wrote: "We're not so sure what the slash is about. Johnson sometimes talks about 'slashing' the national debt; if that's what he's going for, wow, that's a stretch."

I'd call a slash followed by the name Perry Johnson a divide-by-zero error!

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA , writes: Kerning aside, Mike Pence's campaign logo reminds me of a mid-to-low-tier department store logo ca. 1983. The boring kind of place your grandfather would go to buy his long-since-out-of-fashion suit jackets. Which, actually, is pretty much on-brand for Mike Pence.

K.F. in Framingham, MA, writes: After reading your piece about campaign logos, I was surfing the web and stumbled upon this gem. Is there something you've been meaning to tell us...?

It says 'Votemaster/Zenger 2024

(V) & (Z) respond: You know how Ron DeSantis's PAC accidentally leaked his debate notes prematurely? Let's just say that Canadian intelligence services is capable of the same mistake.

Politics: Fiscal Conservatism

J.E.L. in Mount Vista, WA, writes: M.M in Plano wrote that "Fiscal conservatism was always phony." A more precise way to say it is: "Republicans' claim to fiscal conservatism was always phony." Fiscal conservatism itself isn't phony at all. It simply advocates prudence and discipline in all fiscal matters:

True fiscal conservatives are really quite principled, and their ideas are often popular with voters. So it's not surprising that Republicans have falsely claimed, for decades, to be fiscal conservatives. Of course, they did this only for cynical political purposes, since their actions prove that they privately oppose most of the principles listed above.

Politics: Migrants

R.W. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: I am very surprised that you did not call out the false premise behind the question from S.P. in Harrisburg as to what it would take for "Democrats to realize that illegal entries into the United States is a problem." S.P. was specifically referencing the difficulties that New York State and New York City are having managing the migrant crisis. The people in question are almost entirely asylum-seekers and they are in the U.S. legally. "Illegal entries" has nothing to do with it.

M.M. in Atlanta, GA, writes: S.P. in Harrisburg notes that poor New York simply can't handle the influx of migrants! But mysteriously they can afford $850 million to subsidize a multi-billionaire's football team.

All Politics Is Local

S.M. in Pratt, KS, writes: Several weeks back, you answered a question from R.L. in Alameda about why so many Republicans are indicted at the federal Level. In your response, you noted that the D:R indictment ratio it is roughly equal at the state level, but many more Democrats are indicted at the local level. You attributed this to Democrats running the cities and thus, more opportunity for malfeasance.

I'm sure you've seen the story out of Marion, KS, these last few weeks. Local law enforcement enforced an illegal search warrant against local paper at the instigation of a corrupt local official. It's becoming obvious that law enforcement broke several laws, both state and federal, in the process. And guess what, no one has been called to account. No one has resigned. The Kansas Attorney General seems to be looking the other way. Other than embarrassment and shame, if they are even capable of that, there will be no repercussions on those responsible.

In an urban area, there is no hope of a corrupt official intimidating all the media in this fashion. Police departments have internal affairs divisions, and county attorneys know the law.

This, in a nutshell, is why there are so few criminal cases against rural Republicans. I've seen the figure that 96% of all the local officials in Kansas are Republicans. They protect their own. No matter what you do, they cover for you. If it's bad enough, you might have to resign, but you won't get indicted. Ask anyone in a rural area, and they can tell you stories about police misconduct, or misuse of equipment, that went completely unpunished.

So, while I respect your answer to R.L., I think you underestimate the level and depth of official corruption in rural America.

J.R.B. in Boise, ID, writes: Two things about your item on Idaho.

First, Reclaim Idaho was not founded earlier this year. They spearheaded the initiative drive that resulted in Idaho expanding Medicaid Under the Affordable Care Act in 2017. I participated in the coalition steering committee that worked for 6 years to get expansion through the Idaho legislature without success. Reclaim Idaho just started collecting signatures and the initiative took off. I did a little bit of volunteer work for them. They had local successes before that in deep-red North Idaho. They later promoted an initiative to improve Idaho's education funding base which forced the governor and legislature to enact most of what they wanted before withdrawing the petition in response. So they have a track record which is quite enviable. They make the MAGA Republicans very nervous.

Second, Sens. Jim Risch (R) and Mike Crapo (R) are from the old Republican Party and plagued Idaho state politics for years before even the tea party. They actually represent what Idaho Republicans consider "moderate." I remember Risch from when he was Ada County prosecutor and I was a law clerk for a district judge. I have a story or two, but they are too long for this letter.

Climate Change

H.R. in Pittsburgh PA, writes: I realize I am late to this particular party, but I expected the response to the question from S.B. in Winslow to generate a slew of responses that would surely dwarf the portent of anything I might have to contribute. After reading those contributions, I realized that even the highly qualified climate scientists who did contribute were able to make their views so easily understandable to the laity that, wonder of wonders, my contribution might actually be received without derision. So, here goes...

An acquaintance who is a climate scientist told me that, when he encountered climate skeptics in his lectures, which were part of the science curriculum, he "dumbed down" his explanation of what we are seeing to 3 words that every science student understands: "Biology," "Physics" and "Chemistry," which he frames as the three most powerful weapons in Nature's arsenal against human desecration (substitute "God's arsenal" to those who are so inclined).

Biology, as in: Proliferation of new diseases (e.g., Zika, COVID, RSV) along with improbable vectors of old diseases expanding their reach with the ever-expanding global warming trend (malaria in the US?—foreshadowed for years by the steadily expanding reach of malaria up the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, as the anopheles mosquito's breeding grounds crept up to new elevations.)

Physics, as in: Earthquakes from forces of Nature released by drilling, fracking, and mining, and Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, and wildfires of unprecedented ferocity and frequency, from warming seas, hot land, and droughts.

Chemistry, as in: Cancer and Respiratory Diseases from the effects of polluting the air with fossil fuel emissions, and poisoning the environment, seas, lands, and food chain with Forever Chemicals like PFAs.

He ended the explanation with "Man has nothing to match those three weapons, so he is doomed unless he stops the desecration."

He claimed that, "They have no answer when climate change is framed by those parameters." I can verify that claim from the rare occasions I have used this argument.

Whether that means the skeptics have changed their minds is unknowable, but the very fact that they have no answer is a victory, however small.

A.B. in Chesapeake, VA, writes: R.S. in Durham mentions Kim Stanley Robinson's climate-change novel The Ministry for the Future. I recommend David Brin's Earth, written in 1988, and taking place in 2038 (only 15 years from now!). The demographics and predictions from 1988 are very interesting indeed. Also, check out William Gibson's The Peripheral and sequel/prequel Agency. Gibson, who coined the term "cyberspace," predicts "the Jackpot" in the next 40 years: gradual, inexorable and near total ecological collapse with future recovery that meddles in its past. Cli-Sci and Time Travel at the same time!

Losing My Religion

L.V.A. in Idaho Falls, ID, writes: In the defense of rational Catholicism and its comparison to science, and the paths of both to eventual acceptance of "Truths," I note one important difference. One path is historically FAR bloodier. I leave it to the reader to decide which.

J.D.M. in Cottonwood Shores, TX, writes: As someone whose political activism arose from my study of the teachings of the original democratic socialist, Jesus of Nazareth, I have followed the discussions of rational thought in the Catholic church with some interest.

I begin my own comments by adding a fifth group into the mix, those that scholars of religion label "spiritual but not religious." To riff off of R.L. in South Pasadena, we are folks who, once we were out in the world and old enough to fully understand the failings of whichever church to live up to the teachings of Jesus, found refuge in non-religious, spiritual communities. This is one of the fastest growing groups in the United States over the last 20 years.

I left a Protestant denomination also proud of its emphasis on good education and theological inquiry. I would say that my critique applies equally well to the various branches as it does to the Catholic trunk. My critique is that the foundational premise underlying the millions of words of critical thinking and intellectual discussion was so corrupted in the first 300 years of church history that they aren't just missing the forest for the trees, they are in the wrong forest.

For just one example of many, take the issue of women in the church. Read the synoptic gospels and the Acts of the Apostles and the newly re-discovered Gospel of Mary Magdalene and several things are apparent. First, that Jesus was a radical feminist in regular conflict with the establishment over his acceptance of women into his community of followers. Second, that Mary Magdalene had a primary place in his inner circle and understood him better than most of the men. Third, that women were important participants in the leadership of the early churches. There is no path from that point of origin to the dogma of the Catholic church (and the Protestant denominations up until the 20th century) that involves right thinking.

But, hey, they did pardon Galileo in 1992 after only 359 years of careful deliberation, so there is that.

D.W. in Arden, NC, writes: As a person who was raised in the Catholic Church and now, being in my 60's, still find myself attempting to figure out where I fit regarding religion, I like the term recently used by R.L. in South Pasadena—"radical inclusion"—and find it describes where I have comfortably settled since I left the church so long ago.

Education Matters

A.L. in Highland Park, NJ, writes: In your response to S.B. in Winslow about the gender disparity in college degrees favoring women, you gave a list of very cogent possibilities. I confess I had never thought of generational wealth as a factor keeping a man out of college. Allow me to suggest one more theory, namely that colleges started offering courses of study that statistically attract women more.

I was an undergraduate in the 80's at a technology-oriented institution where the gender ratio was heavily male-dominated. One of the professors in my research group went to a few of the ubiquitous workshops/conferences/think-ins on how to address the situation, and his summation of the discussion was "push bio more, mech-e less." And sure enough, they did that. Hiring priorities were adjusted. A female life scientist was appointed president. The place is at rough gender parity today.

History Matters

C.S. in Duluth, MN, writes: Lyndon B. Johnson's Oval Office tapes revealed that he feared being labeled "soft on communism" by Republicans, and therefore embraced that little conflict in Southeast Asia with some enthusiasm. Consequently, you might reasonably attribute the deaths of millions in Vietnam to Joseph McCarthy. Nice legacy. For both.

That pithy thing about "sticks and stones" needs revisiting.

A.C. in Zenia, CA, writes: My mother got her Ph.D. in history from Columbia in 1965, but the bulk of her coursework was in the mid-50s. She eventually studied Mexican colonial history of the 18th century, and spent her career teaching, publishing and writing about it. But when she joined the program, she had much more interest in U.S. History. However she just would not buy the credo that the South had been in the right during the "war between the states," and that the North had been mistaken to go to war. She had recently been dating a Black man who was a radical activist with the Communist Party USA. All of her professors told her in no uncertain terms that she would have zero ability to have her perspective taken seriously, get research published, or to get a university job after graduation with her point of view. They told her to give up her hopes to study and teach U.S. History. Which she did. (Need I point out that Columbia is an Ivy League school in New York City?). This was a story I heard many times when I was growing up, and I have never had any doubt how profoundly racism affects all sectors and areas of the USA, and does to this day.

(V) & (Z) respond: When James McPherson was in grad school at Princeton, he said he wanted to write about Black soldiers' service in the Civil War. Every tenured professor he talked to could not understand what value there might be in such a study.

D.F. in Portland, OR, writes: I would have thought that the time when the country voted to have a civil war would have walked away with the "most interesting" prize. People on both sides knew that they could vote for Stephen A. Douglas and keep the peace. And so, Douglas won... Missouri.

The Civil War is often presented as something that America slid helplessly into, but I think it was deliberately and decisively chosen in the 1860 election, in both the North and the South. Each side had enough: They wanted to have it out then and there.

The scale of the conflict ended up shocking everybody. But it was undertaken deliberately: People knew that a vote for Lincoln or Breckinridge was a vote for war.

(V) & (Z) respond: We thought 1860 was such a slam dunk we almost didn't ask that as "question of the week." To our great surprise, we didn't get a single message arguing for 1860 (excepting messages that had lists of numerous elections).

G.T.M. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: Recently you recommended several books about the causes and nature of the American Civil War.

Well I read all of them and came away with a nagging feeling that today's American "Republican/Democrat" zeitgeist bears an uncomfortable similarity to the "Union/Confederate" zeitgeist in the early 1850s where one segment of American society was desperately trying to maintain revert to a status that they (deep in their hearts [assuming that they actually bothered to be that analytical]) knew simply couldn't be achieved because "society has marched onward." To that end, that segment of society was prepared to "invent" any "rationale" that sounded even remotely plausible in order to convince itself of the rightness of their "cause" REGARDLESS of the evidence.

(V) & (Z) respond: It's a fair point, and we have pointed out the parallels on more than one occasion.


J.J. in West Hollywood, CA, writes: K.K. in St. Louis asked about how democracy can survive if we have to continue into an election year without Bill Maher, John Oliver, Stephen Colbert, etc.

It is worth noting that the last writers' strike 15 years ago dramatically increased the number of reality shows, including The Apprentice, as these were not covered under the WGA's collective bargaining agreement. Trump's show probably would have been canceled due to sinking ratings, but NBC was forced to scrape the bottom of the barrel for programming to fill the gap left from scripted shows like The Office and Scrubs as the strike lingered.

The spinoff, The Celebrity Apprentice, ran for seven seasons, rejuvenated Trump as a celebrity, and also created the appearance he was a successful and shrewd businessman, while glossing over his many failures. Trump rode this all the way to his famous escalator campaign launch. Without the strike, Trump would likely be just another faded TV-reality star like Snooki, and may never have been president.

D.M. in North Port, FL, writes: In response to the question asking about Hurricane Hilary damage, I too had concern for my San Diego area friends. This picture let me know they were okay out there:

It shows a lawn furniture set where one chair has
fallen over and says 'WE WILL REBUILD'

B.C. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: Some weather forecasters were predicting rain for Phoenix from Hilary, and I guess some parts of town did get some, but last week I got more bird poop on my car than dusty raindrops.

Keep in mind that if you ever bring the staff doggies to Phoenix, you can lose the umbrellas, but you'll need little booties for their feet if you take them out on a summer day.

J.M. in Silver Spring, MD, writes: Interestingly enough, so many folks came up with such truly good (as in doing good things to help people) ideas for the Doug Burgum money that I voted for my own idea in fifth place.

S.R. in Paradise, CA, writes: After consulting with my own staff political advisers, (pictured) we went with "dachshund rescue" for the Burgum money:

One black and one brown dachshund

C.B.L. in Warwick, RI, writes: I did not get a minute last week to write in as to how the "lighter side" of is one of my favorite things about your site. I grew up in a household that ended just about every meal with dessert, and consider explorations of just about any subject these days better done with large doses of levity.

I must consult with your resident Thesaurean however. What is a "skosh" and can it be "gacked"?

Final Words

C.S. in Duluth, MN, writes: Not quite final words: First words my grandmother uttered when I visited her in the emergency room, "Am I dead?"

Editorial comment: This is not a question one hears very often.

The ER visit followed some medical emergency and an ambulance ride. This 90-year-old and 90-pound woman tried unsuccessfully to punch out the paramedics.

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