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Sunday Mailbag

If any harm should come to you while reading this mailbag, just say these words: "Klaatu barada nikto!"

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Race

J.W. in Cedar Falls, IA, writes: I question your 270toWin map for 2024 in one small way. You colored in Omaha, NE, as red instead of leaving it a battleground. I realize the district has changed since 2020, but I still think it is not a sure thing for either Donald Trump or another more generic Republican. I am fighting a lot of anti-GOP bias here, but I do live in Iowa and I do see the district (from here, anyway) as winnable for Biden if all goes well for the next 21 months.

Furthermore, I think that ranked-choice voting makes Alaska and northern Maine at least a bit in play, but I do agree those remain a long shot. It would depend on whom the Libertarians nominate, so we could compile a more thorough 3-way election scenario analysis. But I do digress. Just mentioning that the list of battlegrounds could possibly be expanded a bit. Just enough for Biden to win without winning a majority in more than 22.5 states plus Omaha and D.C. But Arizona and Wisconsin and Georgia all remain much more likely.

J.E. in Brooklyn NY, writes: In "Haley Will Take on Trump," you posted a link to Nikki Haley's candidacy announcement ad. I clicked through out of morbid curiosity. What I found incredibly disgusting was the footage of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) quickly sandwiched between footage of a burning American flag followed by the word "evil."

It's disgusting that someone like Haley would resort to this culture war junk. But what's even more grotesque is the knowable fact that this type of messaging agitates extremists who are sometimes locked and loaded. If something terrible happens to AOC or others in her sphere, well, here's one more to blame.

S.S. in West Hollywood, CA, writes: I think you're being too quick to dismiss Nikki Haley as a Republican presidential candidate. The more I think about it, the more she worries me as someone who can get votes from Donald Trump's base as well as more reasonable Republicans and independents. With a few typical and hateful Republican digs at "socialist Democrats" and Biden's "abysmal" record, she showed in her announcement video that she can attack those "woke" Democrats and she will. Otherwise, she came across as very reasonable and likable and hits all the appropriate, "I'm a product of the American dream" buttons.

She's the kind of candidate Republicans can vote for as "proof" that they're not racist or sexist. Her appointment as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. by Trump is close enough to assure the Trump base that she's Trump approved, but far enough away to not look entangled in any of his incompetence and corruption. She also fits the "new generation" label Republicans are trying to sell. I think she has the best chance of finding that sweet spot between throwing red meat for the new Republican base, and doing it with a smile and sounding reasonable for those longing for a return to a more normal Republican Party. The only question is how hard the other candidates are going to go after her for her Indian heritage. (I suspect we'll see her wearing a cross soon enough.) If it's not her, she's obviously going to be an ideal VP pick for whomever gets the nomination. As a progressive Democrat, of all the assumed Republican candidates, she worries me the most.

B.S.M. in London, England, UK, writes: I think everyone might be getting it wrong about Nikki Haley. She sure does have an uphill battle in the Republican primary. But, I think she would have a much easier time defeating Joe Biden than any other Republican candidate that is either running or expected to run.

It seems to me once the general election gets underway, people may be tired of whatever nonsense personal attacks and name calling has been going on between TFG and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL).

And, in the end, Republicans just want to win. I am not going to vote for her, but she is at least competent and has experience in foreign policy and domestic policy.

I.H. in Washington, D.C., writes: I'm curious why you think Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) has no chance in the GOP primary. Stipulated, a significant minority, perhaps even a plurality, of the GOP electorate is profoundly racist. That's a big drag on his chances but not fatal in a winner-takes-all system with 5-10 contestants. Remember that at various times in 2012, Herman Cain topped GOP primary polls, as did Ben Carson in 2016. Neither of those two won, but neither of them had Scott's political skills or the imprimatur of being a U.S. Senator. Part of the GOP primary electorate might vote for a Black candidate to show they are not racist or because they think it's a sound general election strategy. Scott also has a personal story and a sunny disposition that sets him apart from most of the rest of the GOP field, while still being solidly conservative. Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis are clearly 800-lb gorillas A and B, but after that does Scott really have worse odds than Nikki Haley or Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R-VA)?

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Liz Mair might not know to whom Mike Pompeo would appeal to as a presidential candidate, but it's safe to say he's looking for support from Bible Belt conservative Protestants and, by extension, "Christian" Nationalists. When he was Congressman Pompeo from Kansas, every public statement he made sounded as if he was speaking from a pulpit. Smug, unctuous and judgmental seems to work for him with that particular demographic.

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: K.C. in West Islip describes Pete Buttigieg as "the smartest and most well-spoken [prospective president] we've had in many decades" and "exactly what this country needs in a president" and says they would "vote for Buttigieg in a heartbeat".

I used to feel similarly, and have always been very impressed when seeing Buttigieg speak. His response on late-term abortions during the 2020 primary cycle was moving and persuasive and spot-on.

But I think some of the sheen has come off Buttigieg this year. As secretary of transportation, he presided over the airline disaster with Southwest. We saw a lot of him visiting the political TV circuit and talking very smartly about the problem, but he was the sole person who could wield power to improve the problem, and he refused to do so. said that there's not much that can be done, and I guess Buttigieg agrees, but I do not. I expect more of the same in response to the rail crisis in Ohio. Once you start to suspect the smart words are also empty words, the well-spokenness becomes insulting rather than endearing.

Anyway, all this talk about Buttigieg or Kamala Harris should go away and all Democrats should get on board the Biden Train. If Democrats squander the advantage of incumbency, the metronome will tick the other way.

Politics: The Grand Jury (Semi-)Report

R.C. in Newport News, VA, writes: In response to the release of the (partial) grand jury report, you wondered why only article VII showed up unredacted, and wrote: "Clearly, the previous pages contain conclusions I through VII. Were some or all of those conclusions about other criminal acts the jury felt had taken place? If that is the case (or even if it isn't), how come those conclusions were redacted and conclusion VIII was not?"

It seems to me that perjury is the only potential crime committed against the grand jury itself, and so unrelated to the other potential crimes and safe to disclose without harming the witnesses before charges (if any are brought).

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: I never practiced criminal law, but one thing that immediately comes to mind is that conclusions I through VII may name specific individuals that the grand jury believes may have committed crimes. It's standard to protect that information from disclosure prior to an actual indictment, lest innocent people be tarred with crimes that, in the end, the state could not prove or would not even charge. That's a big reason why grand jury proceedings are, in general, secret. Conclusion VIII, however, with no names named, could not reasonably have that kind of effect, notwithstanding the inevitable speculation that resulted from VIII's publication.

G.T.M. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: Given that it is generally not considered apropos to release information while an investigation is actually in progress, can I make an EWAG that the seven conclusions NOT released relate to investigations that are actually in progress, while the one that was released relates to an investigation that should be started?

I know that is a surmise, but if it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, dresses like a duck, hangs around with ducks, and it went to duck school, you are not going to have an easy time convincing me that it is a camel.

Politics: Diversity

J.E. in San Jose, CA, writes: Thank you for posting the question about diversity from A.G. in Los Angeles. Your final point was the most important: In essence, we have reached an equilibrium, or at least we hope we have. Is there an obvious better way to have the judicial system be a better representation of the electorate? (Secondarily, should it be the electorate, or the population at large? Would love people's thoughts on that.)

I fear you will receive many comments condemning the original question posed. As someone who travels in many socioeconomic circles, socially and professionally, I anecdotally see certain people (mostly white-presenting well-meaning liberals) be afraid of asking questions "for fear of being canceled." I really want to thank A.G. for asking their original question. We must continue to question society—to play devil's advocate, at a minimum, or outright disagree if we do so.

Similar to your judicious judicial response, this questioning of the status quo seems to be the best we've got.

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: In your answer to A.G. in Los Angeles you wrote: "Second, the U.S. decided long ago that 'diversity' primarily means racial and gender diversity. Maybe a little attention, in some contexts, is given to things like religious diversity, or diversity of sexual orientations or gender identities, but not a lot of attention. And there is basically no attention given to things like diversity of life experiences, class diversity, or diversity of political opinions."

This may well be true with respect to government and academia. However, I retired from a major corporation (Fortune 400, S&P 500) which stressed Diversity and Inclusion both publicly and internally. I went through several D&I training courses. Without exception they stressed that D&I meant age, sex, gender, race, ethnicity, political leanings, religion, economic class, abled/disabled, military/non-military, rural/urban/small town, public/private education, work experience, etc. Multiple dimensions of diversity were highlighted in regular communications with employees. It was stressed that companies whose employees reflect the buying public consistently outperform those who don't.

So at least in one major corporation, and I would suspect many—if not most—others (they all tend to use the same consultants, after all), D&I was stressed to include pretty much every dimension you can conceive of. So the attention given to "things like diversity of life experiences, class diversity, or diversity of political opinions" may be much more prevalent than you are aware.

By the way, I'm also now involved in a DEI work group in my profession. At meetings, when focus gets too narrow, I regularly bring up the need to consider more dimensions, and those thoughts are broadly supported by the group.

S.S. in Koloa, HI, writes: In answering A.G. in Los Angeles, you wrote: "And there is basically no attention given to things like diversity of life experiences, class diversity, or diversity of political opinions." I was under the impression that Joe Biden has, in fact, added diversity to the courts by appointing judges with varied life experiences, including many public defenders and fewer former prosecutors.

(V) & (Z) respond: True, though we did not regard that as being "diversity," as it is usually understood. That is to say, appointing more public defenders is a corrective to an imbalance that is specific to the court system.

T.J.R. in Metuchen, NJ, writes: One thing you did not mention in your response to A.G. in Los Angeles (though I'm sure you thought about it) is there is ingrained racism/sexism in our institutions that has not yet been rooted out. Diversity seeks to ameliorate this problem. As you pointed out, there is no cure-all and this is the best anyone has come up with. And in most cases, it's better to try something than do nothing at all.

Politics: M&M's and Other Wokeness-Related Matters

K.F. in Framingham, MA, writes: In your item about the M&M's Super Bowl ad, you intimated that it would be nearly impossible for the company to produce a spot like that in just 3 weeks' time, leading you to ponder that either M&M/Mars played Tucker Carlson like a fiddle or he has been on their payroll.

It seems that NPR has provided us a bit more insight. It does indeed sound as if the company had this Super Bowl ad in the works for some time prior to Carlson's most recent comments, which came on January 23. The NPR article is dated January 24. Recall that Carlson's ridiculous rants against the characters did not begin in January, though. He started ranting last fall when he attacked the purple M&M character. I have also read that Maya Rudolph allegedly acknowledged that her selection as the new spokesperson was all for a Super Bowl ad.

Finally, though it appears this ad started production before Carlson's January 23 screed, it would in my view, not necessarily have been out of the question for an ad to be produced inside three weeks. A quick Google search will reveal that ads can be produced in as little as one week and a three-week timeframe is not unheard of. Especially when you are considering the likely budget and resources of a major company, it may be a challenge, but my guess is that it could be done in a short space of time if necessary. Think about Saturday Night Live and their commercial and movie trailer parodies which often feature the guest host for that week. I'm sure some of them have even featured Maya Rudolph. Perhaps I'm overlooking something, but if SNL can pull those off in about a week or so, I would think that it shouldn't be that much of a stretch for large multi-national corporations to have a new ad up in a few weeks. Whatever the actual situation was behind the scenes, well played M&M's!

(V) & (Z) respond: Fair enough. If SNL and Maya Rudolph could pull off "Dick in a Box" in 1 week, then 3 weeks should be plenty for the dick that's on Fox.

M.H. in Arvada, CO, writes: Welp, it took almost 20 years, but I finally found a statement with which I disagree and possibly have more expertise in than you both. I'm a post-audio sound designer by trade and have been on the tail end of the production of many commercials, TV programs, and films. I can tell you in my experience, two weeks turnaround for two M&M's spots, such as the ones that aired during the Super Bowl, is absolutely within the realm of possibility. Many corporations, like Mars, will have their own in-house production company including a writing staff, legal team, production crew, animators, editors, and often even a soundstage. Think South Park, whose staff has their process so tight, that they can turn around a 1/2 hour show over the course of a week, being able to parody current events often while they are still in the headlines. Think Saturday Night Live: slick production, guest stars, fantastic set design, hair and makeup, all in the course of a week. It can happen and has happened.

I suspect Mars' media staff were told they had two slots to fill during the Super Bowl and that all hands were on deck. It was undoubtably a stressful few weeks, but it is absolutely doable and personally I think they nailed the tone. They leaned into the controversy instead of pretending it didn't happen, by mocking its insanity and stupidity, all the while not sounding defensive or going political and risking escalating the situation. While the production did have a rushed feel to it (small cast, common locations, leveraging closeups, simple animation, not a whole lot of edits), hats off to them. Amazing work in that small window.

G.D. in Jurupa Valley, CA, writes: Thank you for explaining M&M's Super Bowl ads. What a terrible campaign for everyone involved! M&M got the people who follow Tucker Carlson upset with their product's "wokeness" and then again when the candy "spokespeople" fought back. M&M upset the people who don't like Carlson by capitulating to his rants.

Perhaps next year M&M Mars should just donate a few million dollars of their products to disaster refugees and show a video of them being given to needy people. At least it would be a feel-good story about the company as well as doing some good in the world.

P.B. in Princeton, NJ, writes: In "Book 'em, Ronno," you wrote: "...there is enormous incentive to pull any book that isn't tame enough to be made into a Hallmark Channel movie."

I'm afraid by the standards of Ronno, the Hallmark Channel is quite woke these days. Recent movies have centered on Black romances and Kwanzaa, gay and lesbian romances are often subplots and occasionally the main event, Black bosses and professionals are ubiquitous, native characters were featured in a national park movie recently, and even a few Jewish romances appeared in December for Hanukkah. Just pointing out that even Hallmark is moving away from the right-wingers and further pushing them away into a smaller and smaller bubble. Diversity is winning and yet Hallmark is still a feel good retreat from the Sturm und Drang of politics.

Politics: John Fetterman

J.E. Gilbertsville, PA, writes: I'm not convinced that Sen. John Fetterman's (D-PA) recent bout with depression will end his future political dreams. Sure, the Boomer set still tends to stigmatize depression, particularly in men. But have you talked to a Gen Z-er recently? They all talk openly about their various perceived mental illnesses and challenges. You're practically called a liar if you don't admit to struggling with something. So, the pendulum is in the process of swinging hard to the other side. Gen X and Millennials—at least in Pennsylvania—lie along the spectrum between Boomers and Gen Z but are much more comfortable with the idea of mental struggles than you might expect. Fetterman's future as a senator depends only on how he proceeds from here. Will he ever be able to run for President? I'd say that depends only on his health, his desire, and his political acumen. He could tap into the changing zeitgeist and ride it anywhere he wants, if he's savvy.

M.S. in Parma, OH, writes: Contrary to your comments disparaging her intelligence (because of her nasty comments about Sen. Fetterman and his wife), Laura Ingraham is not uneducated or dumb, just reprehensible. Ingraham studied English literature and Russian at Dartmouth College. (So, she probably read Macbeth.) She graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law (a top 10 law school). She was a notes editor for the Virginia Law Review, so she was very successful academically. She then clerked for a highly respected federal court of appeals judge. She had to have been a top student to get a clerkship with him. Then she clerked for Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. Yes, he's an extreme conservative, and probably favors very conservative applicants. But she not only had to be a top law student but also to do top-notch legal work for the appellate judge to be recommended to Thomas.

So the terrible things she says cannot be excused by lack of intelligence or education.

M.H. in Swarthmore, PA, writes: You commented on right-wing shock huckster (shuckster?) Laura Ingraham for her despicable comparison of John Fetterman's wife Giselle with Lady Macbeth for supposedly pushing him to run for the Senate when he was reluctant to do so. You suggested that Ingraham is stupid or culturally illiterate and perhaps never read "anything more challenging than a fortune cookie." I must take issue with that. She has a good education, and has probably read Shakespeare and even attended theater productions of Macbeth. She is probably even pretty intelligent. However, she is unquestionably a heartless and morally bankrupt slanderer and right-wing bomb thrower of the worst order, sure to suffer in the ninth circle of hell once she shuffles off this mortal coil. And yes, I have read Dante's Inferno as well as multiple Shakespeare plays. I did so in the course of the excellent education I received at Dartmouth College (class of '84), where I studied at the same time as Ms. Ingraham (class of '85) and Dinesh D'Souza ('83). They were both editors of the Dartmouth Review, where they both excelled at being self-important pseudo-intellectual shills for the neocon cause. The DR was (and still is) a private, non-college-affiliated publication supported at the time by the neo-con Reagan fan club, many of whom were alumni. A free publication, it was dropped like dog waste in front of every dorm room on campus. It was a breeding ground for the pond scum of culture warriors that incubated swamp creatures like Newt Gingrich (not a Dartmouth alum!), and later the Tea Partiers and the Freedom Caustics. They thought they were funny, clever, and relevant in the same way that today's Trumpist trolls try to "own the libs."

Two events from Laura Ingraham's tenure at the DR explain why I came to despise her as the venomous, hateful antithesis of human decency that she is. She sent a "reporter" to a support group for closeted gay students, posing as a closeted student seeking support. They secretly taped, and then printed, the transcripts in the DR. Although the paper did not provide names (except those of the organizers, who were out of the closet), the participants were naturally terrified that the other shoe would drop, and their classmates or family would discover their secret. I was living in a 4-person dorm suite, and two of my roommates and friends were gay (a fact I only learned after we all graduated and they had come out). One of them attended that meeting, and later told me about his anxiety during this incident. Ingraham was also behind the DR's long-term, mocking harassment of Black professor of music Bill Cole, who eventually resigned in 1990, saying that the relentless slander and badgering was part of the reason. Tasteless and racist taunts by Ingraham included referring to Cole as a "Brillo pad" and deriding his classes as "a song and dance routine." According to the Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Cole dropped a lawsuit he had brought against them after the DR promised to print an apology, which it never did. The Dartmouth Review continued its calumnious sleaze after Ingraham graduated, and she of course went on to spew her bile on bigger platforms.

My point is to chide you on the all-too-common tendency to equate sleaziness, slander, mendacious political trolling, and sheer ickiness with ignorance. Ingraham was accomplished enough to get accepted to Dartmouth, where she was unquestionably exposed to a stellar education. She just opted to take the low road at every fork in her road, and to thus build a "career" out of her journey of shamelessness.

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Yes, I think Laura Ingraham has likely read Macbeth. She was an English literature and Russian major at Dartmouth, where she was Editor in Chief of the Dartmouth Review. She served as a Notes Editor on the Virginia Law Review, and clerked for Ralph Winter on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and Clarence Thomas on the Supreme Court. There is no doubt that she is very smart and very well educated. Now, what she does with her brains and education is dishonest and malicious. As a human being, she is deplorable, to coin a phrase. But gratuitous, ill-considered insults, such as (Z)'s directed at her intelligence, demean and distract from the very legitimate criticisms of her values and conduct. She chooses not to do better. We should.

(V) & (Z) respond: All three of you are right; it was a clumsy remark.

Politics: Small Donors

D.D. in Portland, OR, writes: Your graph ranking House members by the amount of small donor funding makes me hopeful about our democracy. When you write: "(ARPANET visionary Larry Roberts) had no idea he was going to unleash a bunch of crazy people 50 years later," I answer "Citizens United decision-writer Anthony Kennedy had no idea some representatives would get most campaign funding from small donors 12 years later." Last I checked, nutcases have a right to representation and if Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) serves their needs, then more power to her. That's why we have 435 representatives.

In fact, I'd take this one step further. Imagine a law stating 25% of each campaign's spending must originate from direct individual donations of less than $250. I argue that would lead to representatives much more responsive to their constituents!

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: Can we just repeal the law of unintended consequences? We railed about lack of racial diversity and ended up with gerrymandered districts where POC members are politically safe but tokens. We railed about big money in politics but the candidates that live on small contributions are so crazy they gum everything up. We rail about freedom of speech and we can't think for all the noise. We railed against judicial activism and ended up with counter-activism instead of moderation. To quote Charlie Brown, "AAUGH!"

Politics: Economics

R.P. in Alexandria, NY, writes: J.L. in Mount Vista asked about economic populism, which I find cannot be separated from the larger political project of populism at the time. When teaching about Populism and Progressivism I always found it useful to draw on Lawrence Goodwyn's The Populist Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America, because it puts the silver coinage issue in the larger context of the struggle against monopolistic corporations as well as their enablers in government. Put more simply, it was a struggle of the Populists against Big Business, which explains how they were also involved with pushing some of the most significant achievements later identified with the Progressives, i.e. direct election of U.S. Senators and the graduated income tax, the 8 hour work day and even advocated government ownership of the railroads. They also called for the subrreasury plan, which would have allowed currency to be issued based upon farm commodities. In many ways the Populists stood for direct democracy, in terms of the initiative, referendum and recall elections, which they wanted established nationally. Imagine if there had been the option of a recall election to remove Bill Clinton or Donald Trump.

Goodwyn argues that silver coinage was an example of a shadow movement within Populism, when the People's Party hoped to get the elements of their 1892 Topeka Platform established by backing the candidacy of William Jennings Bryan in 1896. When Jennings was defeated, some of the southern Populists became embittered and turned racist, which is why people like the Former Guy are identified too simplistically as populist when they are clearly not anti-Big Business but are certainly racist.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Goodwyn after a panel on Populism at a conference years ago and found him to be a genuine believer in democracy, as well as a great guy to have a beer with, a very down-to-earth person. I recommend his book as the best read I have encountered for understanding this late-19th-century movement that still informs our politics today.

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: FICA taxes are not capped—Social Security taxes are capped, but the Medicare tax is also included in FICA, and there is no upper limit on the amount of earned income subject to the Medicare tax.

Matter of fact, as part of the funding mechanism for the Affordable Care Act, there is an additional surcharge on higher incomes, which is not paid by those who do not exceed the limit.

So if you ever wondered why Republicans were so strongly opposed to the Affordable Care Act, there's your answer: Republicans were willing to take health insurance away from tens of millions of Americans in order to save rich people 0.9% on their income taxes.

Politics: Child Labor

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: To piggyback off the recent item "Who Needs Child Labor Laws?," I wanted to add that this week, CNN had a story about how Packers Sanitation Services paid $1.5 million in civil penalties for employing over 102 minors between the ages of 13 and 17 to work overnight shifts cleaning meat processing equipment, including back saws, brisket saws and head splitters in over 13 plants in 8 states. CNN reports that three children were injured.

A bit closer to my home, this past Monday, OSHA cited a Snecksville, PA, (and for those adverse to maps, that's in the "tucky" part of Pennsyltucky) tree company, Adam's Tree Service, for an incident this past August where a 17-year-old was partially pulled into a woodchopper. According to his autopsy, the minor died from multiple traumatic injuries. I certainly do want to be morbid, but take a few seconds and try to imagine what that must have been like. Dark satanic mills, indeed!

The U.S. Government reported that in 2022, child labor law violations increased 37%, with 688 children found to be working in hazardous conditions—and that's just the ones that were caught. Then there are the incidents where minors are simply worked more hours than allowed, like the Pittsburgh area McDonald's franchise that was recently fined for 101 violations. And this is just not a Pennsylvania problem. Just Google "Child Labor Law violations" plus your state and prepare to be appalled. If you continue to explore your search, you'll discover that state Republican lawmakers' response to this situation is always outrage that so many unfair child labor laws are on the books. It seems the proposed law in Iowa that was highlighted is not quite the nutty outlier after all.

That leads me to imagine if a time traveler from the far distant future were to ask me to describe the modern-day Republican Party. I would think on these instances and how the Republican politicians' fetid dreams are to abolish the laws we have to protect children. And what is "Karen T. Republican-Housewife" concerned to the point of screaming about? Is it the idea of children cleaning head splitters and back saws, working overnight when they should be in bed, or ending up mauled in a wood chipper? No, not in the slightest. The thing that has all the Karens in an uproar is the thought that their little Tyler or Taylor might read a book about imaginary male penguins raising an equally imaginary penguin chick as their own. Boy, talk about having your parental priorities aligned!

I would like to tell all these outraged parents a couple of things. First off, no book ever written or ever to be written will make your child gay; just like no book ever written will make him/her/them straight. Second, and most importantly, your outrage has nothing to do with protecting your kids from harm (if it was you would be more concerned that LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to commit suicide) but more to do protecting your own self-esteem. It's all about you and your precious children come in at a distant third place. To all the outraged parents ready to light the book bonfires at their local school boards, if their little Tyler or Taylor is LGBTQ, you, the parents, will live and more than likely thrive. Your kids might not, but you will. Besides your little Tyler or Taylor are too busy cleaning brain matter off a head splitter at 3 a.m. to have time to read a book about imaginary penguins.

That is the crux, I would tell any time traveling historian, of the modern-day Republican Party. The base is too hypnotized by the latest pretend outrage while they vote for the people and party who are doing more to cause injury, both physical and mental, to themselves and their families. As they fight against imaginary threats to their children's well-being, they ignore those things that could literally harm them. They are letting the wolves in the pen while they, the parents, are busy screaming at the chickens. But lest we forget, the Republican base thought it was great fun when their hero was caught keeping immigrant children in cages!

In his first solo album, "The Dream of the Blue Turtle," Sting (Gordon Sumner) wrote a song, "Russians," in which he juxtaposes how the modern world rushes to annihilation all in the name of protecting our children from "dangerous" concepts and ideas. A greater oxymoron you will never find. Although Sting could certainly update his lyrics to reflect today's insanities with, "I hope the Republicans love their children too!" Or to paraphrase a famous author—and let's hope there are books still unburnt for our time traveling historian to catch the reference—"Are there no workhouses?"

Politics: The Death Penalty

S.B. in Hood River, OR, writes: This is in response to your item. "Trump Is Desperate for Ideas."

First, I am an absolute opponent to the death penalty.

But if the government is going to continue to execute people, we should not pretend it is some kind of medical procedure. It is an exercise in state-sanctioned brutality and citizens should have no illusions on that point.

Regarding cruelty, with the lack of availability of preferred execution drugs, due to the manufacturers (properly) forbidding their sale for this purpose, medical executions are often prolonged and agonizing.

Hanging is the principal method of choice of democracies worldwide, and done properly is instantaneous.

Death penalty proponents need to be confronted with the inherent brutality of their position.

The best solution by far is to end the death penalty. But failing that, don't let people continue to think it is just another medical procedure.

R.D. in Philadelphia, PA, writes: Being a huge George Carlin fan, I remember a part of his standup routine in which he suggested they should bring back old fashions of execution, such as crucifixion and the guillotine. Criminals nailed to the cross, upside down, naked at halftime during Monday Night Football. Use the guillotine and have the head roll down a hill into five numbered holes, so people can gamble on which hole the head will fall in. He had a lot of other dark material regarding the death penalty. Of course, George wasn't serious, and sadly, Donald is.

Politics: Wording Matters

D.T. in San Jose, CA, writes: On several occasions, when referring to Ron DeSantis's Martha's Vineyard stunt, you have also mentioned the millions of dollars the Florida legislature has allocated for the purpose of relocating undocumented immigrants.

Respectfully, I believe you are inadvertently repeating the misleading narrative that the DeSantis camp has been attempting to spin. These were NOT "undocumented immigrants." Most of those people had formal asylum petitions pending; by definition, they most certainly were "documented."

By mentioning the funds for removing undocumented immigrants, in the same paragraph as the Martha's Vineyard stunt, you are implicitly suggesting that these WERE undocumented immigrants. And that makes it easier for DeSantis to politically benefit from claiming he stuck it to those "Sanctuary Cities."

DeSantis wants people to have the impression that his people were out there, heroically snatching Mexicans down from the border fences and fishing "illegals" out of the Rio Grande, before shipping them off to those lawless blue states.

In reality, what DeSantis did was trick some Mexicans into moving away from places they were LEGALLY allowed to be. He did this because Republicans didn't want those people living in their neighborhoods.

The legal status of these people was not the problem. Try to avoid phrasing that plays into the narrative that DeSantis is spinning.

(V) & (Z) respond: Fair enough.

L.A. in Belmont, MA, writes: You wrote:

America's fentanyl problem has, of course, hit red states and cities/towns particularly hard. Finding a way to shift the blame to brown people is a way to avoid pointing the finger at the addicts themselves. After all, drug-addicted Americans can vote, while undocumented immigrants cannot. It would be nice if, instead of searching for someone to blame, we could all think of this as a disease that needs treating. But some folks aren't there quite yet.

One way of effecting positive change in this regard would be if people stopped using language that implied moral failings—such as "addict," "addiction," "junkie" and "alcoholic"—and started using language that reflected a medical model perspective, such as "substance use disorder" or "person with a substance use disorder."

(V) & (Z) respond: Also fair enough.

All Politics Is Local

M.P. in Leasburg, MO, writes: I travel through some of our super-ruby-red counties on a regular basis. Since 2016, I have tagged 2 residences and one small convenience store along that travel path as barometers for all things Donald Trump. One residence is clearly a former Marine, as it sports all of the flags associated with the Marines/military. One is large farm and the store is basically in the middle of nowhere and the only option for miles. Each residence's front yard had been draped in Trump signage from one end to the other and the store sported a string of various Trump flags across the front of the entire store. The farm also included, on a regular basis, large hand-painted banners with very disrespectful notes to President Biden. All had Trump 2024 signage posted long before we had even voted in the 2020 election.

I noticed that about 2 or 3 months, after Mar-a-Lago had been raided, the signs and flags began disappearing. At first, I thought surely they were just planning on replacing the tattered, worn-out ones and were waiting for newly purchased ones to arrive (their continued contribution to the grift, of course). I just traveled through last week and still NO new signage at any of these three locations. I am kind of shocked. I have been driving the gauntlet of Trump for so long that I guess, weirdly, I had a strange visual connection to it. Admittedly, I am hoping none of them return. Even after more than 6 years, every time I would see them I was instantly annoyed before I could convince myself to just see the entertainment value in it.

J.G. in Fredonia, NY, writes: You commented on Gov. Kathy Hochul's (D-NY) appointment to the New York Court of Appeals and found her behavior perplexing, with her ignoring Democratic resistance to her choice for replacement of retiring Chief Justice Janet DiFiore.

DiFiore was appointed by former governor Andrew Cuomo and they were political allies. Hochul is acting in a manner consistent with the governor's office behavior over at least the past decade. At the time she replaced resigning governor Cuomo, the seven judges on the court were all appointed by him. DiFiore led the four-judge conservative bloc that voted together in 96 out of 98 cases during her last year on the bench. This appointment would have returned the court to a right-of-center majority.

So, why is this standard operating procedure? I'm not sure, but how about this: Republicans oppose abortion, and support gun "rights" and praise Jesus. They get votes from voters who like that stuff. Many of those voters fall near or below the average U.S. income and they lose out when Republicans reduce taxes for someone else and not them. It is easy for us liberals to consider them rubes who get sucked in.

In Albany, Democrats say they support abortion, and some restraint of gun behavior, and don't tend to praise the Lord (at least not ostentatiously). But they put in place judges that tend to be against easy abortion access, against labor protections and for business interests and loosened financial regulations. Who, exactly, are the rubes?

K.P. in East Lansing, MI, writes: Michigan State University is one of the safest college campuses in the country. The campus is nearly 100% continuous and the MSU police are well trained and know how to interact with students. Football weekends are fun and safe on campus. I know this because I live a mile from campus, my son is already attending community programs there and my daughter will be a MSU freshman in September.

The campus is safe and well-organized, but the road adjacent to the campus to the north, Grand River, is busy, hectic and non-secure. There are plenty of places to eat and waste time on Grand River and the students spend plenty of time and money at the local businesses. Buses have several stops along the route. It's hopping.

The recent attacks on MSU students were in two buildings close to Grand River.

If the politics of our state were better, leaders would quickly analyze the situation and make sure that Grand River, a state secondary road, would be patrolled by the MSU police starting tomorrow and forever into the future. There is a 2-mile stretch which has university buildings nearby; the campus officers would have no trouble increasing their territory to include these 2 miles. The state could sell or donate the property to the university or change a law or two to accommodate the new security arrangement.

But no, the politicians have already turned this tragedy into a gun-violence event. Lets ban assault weapons because a local man with severe depression easily walked off Grand River onto campus with a hand gun and shot 8 students.

The problem with politics in our state and the country is that smart people cannot discuss remedies that will work, like keeping Grand River as secure as the campus.

You can male up snarky or insulting descriptions for people like me, but we still won't have even one political party that is functional come this fall when my daughter starts classes. Give them both an F.

Nur Einich Luftballoon

D.T. in San Jose, CA, writes: In your response to J.K. in St Paul, you explained the safety concerns involved with a fighter jet trying to shoot down a balloon, without hitting it with the plane itself.

There is another big reason they aren't trying to shoot down these balloons with the regular bullets: It doesn't work very well.

People have the expectation that shooting a weather balloon with a bullet would result in a catastrophic "Pop!", like poking a birthday balloon with a needle. That isn't actually what happens. At that altitude, the atmospheric pressure is considerably lower. The size of the balloon is massive compared to the size of a bullet hole. Combined, this means that hitting the balloon would just cause an extremely slow leak of helium. It would likely take days for a damaged balloon to come down, at which point it might no longer be within our borders.

This actually happened, back in 1998. The Canadian Air Force tried to shoot down an out-of-control weather balloon. They fired 1,000 rounds at it, and that barely made any impact.

You shoot it with a missile because you want it down now, rather than next week.

Interesting footnote: During World War I, the sheer size of Zeppelins made it impractical to shoot them down with bullets; The hydrogen took forever to escape. They eventually had better success, after switching to incendiary rounds...

A.C. in Aachen, Germany, writes: You describe it as "a balloon the size of three buses" and "an unidentified flying object the size if a small car."

It's funny the new measures you Americans are inventing just in order to avoid using the metric system.

(V) & (Z) respond: You know who uses the metric system? The 'Nades. And look where it got them in their balloon-destruction efforts.

D.M. in Burnsville, MN, writes: I offer the (20+ minute) transcript, plus live audio, of the shootdown.

As both an amateur aviator and amateur radio enthusiast (and an amateur at everything I have tried), I feel that this YouTube video explains it all.

Listen and be impressed by this example of the care and surgical sterility that our Armed Forces today operate within.

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: You wrote: "It's true that half a million bucks is a lot for a missile. But if something happened, and a pilot had to eject, well, an F-22 costs about $200 million."

The other response is: "How do you place a value on a human life?" Beside the cost of the aircraft, you could also input the cost of the support, training, and experience of the pilot. Those zoomies don't just fall off the back of the turnip truck. It takes many years of schooling, advanced training, and OJT training before one of those fast-flyers gets the awesome responsibility to sit in the seat of a locked and loaded front-line fighter/interceptor in the ready shelter on the flight line of one of our NORAD responding bases. And that says nothing about all of the other men and women who train, maintain, brief, or support that one individual in the cockpit. Notice, please, that I never mention the gender of the person in the hot seat. Our fighter jockeys are from all races, genders, colors, and creeds (and I probably inadvertently left out some identifying marker). I am glad I know and have known a few and they have my ultimate respect. Keep em flying!

(V) & (Z) respond: Note that our presumption was that an ejection would destroy the plane, but keep the pilot alive. Obviously, it is not worth a human life to save the government on its Sidewinder costs.

A.W. in Eaglewood, NJ, writes: As a former Air Force meteorologist, I invite you to contact the National Weather Service. You will find that there are 96 stations in the U.S. (doesn't include Canada), and 900 in the world that send up weather balloons twice a day, every day. These rubber balloons are 6 feet in diameter with a transmitting payload when launched, and expand to 20 feet when they reach their breaking altitude, about 100,000 feet, and can travel about 125 miles. When they break, a parachute allows the payload to reach the ground without being destroyed. Why hasn't anyone even mentioned this? I'm sure these are detected continuously and confused continuously these days.

Education Matters: Japanese Internment

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: That was a sound answer on the middle-school curriculum question, especially on the "substantive activity meant to give depth."

In my 40-year career teaching history, I encountered two kinds of parents: Those who cared not a whit for what was being taught but were just thrilled if their kid liked the class and the subject; and the self-styled "history buffs," whom I loved, but people interested in history tend to read two kinds of works: military history and Great Man [sometimes Woman] biographies. They see that as the substance of history, and it's simply not.

I remember the education editor of The Washington Post worrying that his daughter's AP US History class wasn't up to snuff. He was quizzing her on battles of the Civil War. At the time (less so now) there were NO battles of the Civil War on the AP US History exam, save occasionally Antietam, because it gave Lincoln the context he needed to announce the Emancipation Proclamation. (Not military history, really.)

Today's historians tend to focus on social history and shun military history, while the reading public thinks that military and political history is what the subject is all about. I'm not surprised the curriculum focused on the home front and social issues. Most high school and college texts do the same.

What the parents have little expertise in (though most are pretty talented amateurs) are developmental issues. Most particularly as related to curriculum. Anyone who has ever tried to teach middle school anything and especially history knows how incredibly difficult it can be. At an independent school, as upper-school department chair in history, I was expected to help coordinate the K-12 "social studies" curriculum. My best move was to rely on the teachers to create courses that were developmentally appropriate. If the middle school students got to upper school knowing about something at all, regardless what it was, and they had learned some good skills—reading; reading charts, graphs, and maps; how to study; etc.—and they had a positive attitude toward learning history, we were happy to take the students from there.

S.L. in Glendora, CA, writes: As a retired California public school history teacher, I noticed something interesting about the question asked by P.N. from Oakland, which identified the class as a 9th grade history class. In California, there is a well defined framework. Modern U.S. history is taught in 11th grade. So this class, with its three weeks on Japanese interment camps, is not likely a U.S. History class. In the 9th grade, schools offer history electives. Modern world history is taught in the 10th grade. Even if this is a U.S. history class, World War II will be taught in both the world history class and the U.S. history class, so students should get a more complete view of the war by the time they graduate. Often history teachers talk to each other and coordinate so there isn't too much repetition.

At my school, we did a major unit on the Holocaust in world history, with primary resource material, literature, and a research project, so it didn't need to be covered in detail in U.S. history. Of course, we also covered other details about the war—causes, turning points, maps, important people, and we included a lesson on the Japanese internment camps, since we were just a couple blocks from Santa Anita racetrack, where people were detained in horse stalls until the more permanent camps could be set up.

I took a look at the Oakland Unified School District's webpage to see what was taught in the 9th grade year, and it looks like they offer ethnic studies in 9th grade. It seems to me that 3 weeks on the Japanese internment camps would be entirely appropriate in an ethnic studies class. As ethnic studies is not yet a required class, each teacher pretty much has leeway to design the class as they see fit. It also could be a different elective class. It is sadly true, though, that such a syllabus could be taken out of context by someone looking for a way to attack public education. But I would hate to see a teacher who had developed a 3-week unit on the Japanese internment camps feel like they shouldn't teach the class because someone like Ron DeSantis might criticize it.

P.P. in Lincoln, VT, writes: I read, with interest, P.N. from Oakland's comments about teaching World War II history and I agree with your response. As both a high school history teacher and a World War II buff (my father was a veteran and I'm part of an airborne demonstration team) I feel I can add in a bit more to what you wrote.

I tried teaching WWII in more depth a few years ago. Names, dates and maps are usually the starting point—OK, that takes time to establish locale and relevancy. Then, understanding the basics of air, land and sea warfare and how it changed. I tried explaining the concept of blitzkrieg and how it was different—that took a day of class time, as I had to establish a base of what warfare was like before the blitz (cue in World War I footage).

Then, a basic lesson about sea power—the differences between a battleship, an aircraft carrier and a submarine for context. That took a few days as we then delved into the concept of logistics: Why did we have so many convoys on the Atlantic?

Each class was peppered with the "Why?" questions that are relevant: "Why attack the Soviet Union?" "Why go to war with the US?" "Why Normandy?" "Why not surrender?" "Why nuke twice?" and all of them are important, relevant and show that the students are interested—but they take time.

Notice that I don't get into Nazism, the Holocaust and the homefront yet—but I will.

It's hard to teach just a unit on such a complex topic. Context, cause and effect all need to be established and that takes time. I'd love to teach a full semester course on 1900-1948 but so far my admin hasn't gone for it.

J.E. in Manhattan, NY, writes: Speaking as a high school teacher (the sciences, but we touch on a lot of other topics), I am going to offer a response to P.N. in Oakland who said "On the other hand, I wonder why we (the libs) make it so easy for people like Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to score political points by taking things to an extreme, where reasonable people (i.e., not DeSantis, but maybe some of his voters) can see political distortion in the curriculum."

Would P.N. describe it as "political distortion" to say that slavery was bad? Clearly not, but many of the folks on the right would say precisely that, as evidenced by the textbooks in Texas that referred to Black "migration" into the state. Or that in most curricula in the U.S., until recently, nobody ever mentioned that a major driver for Texan independence was that Mexico abolished slavery, and the white, Anglo Texans were upset that they could no longer own their fellow humans.

And if you are of Japanese descent, maybe spending some time on the internment camps—which many Americans still remain blissfully ignorant about—might be worth doing. Especially since we did not imprison people on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, a largely German speaking area. In California, in particular, the ethnic geography of every city of any size was profoundly shaped by the internment, which is why Japantowns in San Francisco and Los Angeles are touristy shadows of their former selves, and most no longer exist at all.

What we teach in a history class is very much a political decision, and it says a lot about what we value. That is going to change over time, and if we are going to say that it is important to offer people basic respect as human beings, that means at least touching on topics that affected, and continue to affect, people who were historically marginalized.

I might add that with respect to teaching, the problem is in part that the best teachers make it look easy. Teaching is one of many professional jobs like that, which people do because they think it is important for society to do, and which, if you are a student, seems effortless. But there's a lot that goes into teaching—planning lessons, grading, making sure that you've planned the entire set of units for the year, taking care of calling parents when kids are absent or not doing well. And none of that material you see in the classroom—and probably none of what you recall from the classroom as a child—was pulled out of thin air. Basically, almost every movie about teaching gets much of the profession drastically wrong. Until I started doing it I wasn't aware of that fact.

It is no accident that the people who complain most about curricula have often never seen the curriculum (which, in most localities, is available on the web; New York State, for example, publishes the entire scope and sequence for all the core subjects on the DoE's site). Further, most tend to think teachers are lazy or "get summers off." (I can tell you, if you do nothing all summer long, you are going to walk into class in September and have a lot of unpleasant surprises, and many teachers work summer school for the extra money.)

Finally, I should also note that the attack on school curricula is not some spontaneous uprising of irate parents; it's part of a well-orchestrated campaign from right-wing organizations. It's of a piece with movements that once peddled Holocaust denial—mostly white people who are upset that after decades or even centuries, the U.S. is finally, in a small way, acknowledging that maybe some of our decisions as a society were unjust. These are the same people who would be upset that children learn of the dozens of massacres of Black people between the end of the Civil War and the 1930s (for which not one single murderer was even charged) or that LGBTQ people are in fact, people, deserving of respect.

Make no mistake, the attacks by the GOP on public education have nothing to do with the quality of education, and everything to do with entrenching white (and preferably Christian) supremacy.

L.C. in Brookline, MA, writes: You wrote "The fact is that many (perhaps most) parents don't know all that much about being an educator. Quite often, they also don't know much about the specific subject matter. They would not presume to tell their doctor, or their lawyer, or even their mechanic 'Hey! I know better than you!' But they feel free to say that to teachers all day long."

Actually, Donald Trump has proven to be willing to say that he knows better than everyone, including doctors and generals, and he's managed to capture the undying loyalty of a non-majority but still frighteningly large part of the U.S. population. So large numbers of parents that feel free to say they know better than teachers is no surprise.

In addition, my experience with a subset of red-state teachers and teachers-in-training has led me to the sad conclusion that in some cases, the parents really do know more than the teachers. After all, the teachers come from the general population, and if their state supports a majority of the population as being as delusional as above, and doesn't really care about teacher quality (as is not surprising for a state in which anti-education politicians dominate), some of the teachers will be equally delusional.

J.L. in Paterson, NJ, writes: You write that people "would not presume to tell their doctor, or their lawyer, or even their mechanic 'Hey! I know better than you!'"

I can assure you that there are people who DO presume to tell their lawyer what the law is.

Their most common pattern is to reach a conclusion about what they think the law should be, and then assert that it must be so. Making it worse is that their view of what the law should be is almost always tilted toward what would benefit them. For example, a particular procedural irregularity is either trivial or earthshaking, depending on who committed it.

That said, you're probably right that teachers get this even more than we lawyers do.

R.C. in Des Moines, IA, writes: You noted that Manzanar and Tule Lake are both within range of most California schools. Really? Tule Lake is near the border with Oregon and Manzanar is about a 7-hour drive from San Francisco; even longer from Southern California.

(V) & (Z) respond: Actually, even if you leave from San Diego, Manzanar is a 5-hour drive. And (Z), while in 4th grade in Orange County, was part of a 7-hour bus-ride trip to Sutter's Mill in Sacramento. Yes, the class stayed overnight, but if that's doable for a bunch of 4th graders, then Manzanar is doable for a bunch of 9th graders. Other potential options include the various temporary holding centers (like Santa Anita; see above) and the Japanese-American National Museum in downtown Los Angeles.

R.C. in San Diego, CA, writes: I was "amused" to read the question from P.N. Oakland and your response, in particular the 3 weeks section on Japanense internment. I went to high school in California in the mid-60s. My senior year history teacher was fired mid-term for mentioning, in passing, the Japanense internment camps. The school board voted to fire him because "the United States would never have internment camps." I guess times have changed. This has stuck with me forever and just reinforced the old adage that "history is written by the victors."

Education Matters: AP Tests, Book Burning, and Other Stuff

J.C. in Arlington, VA, writes: I saw the note from the reader who was shocked to find out that their AP exam did not really translate to MIT-level understanding.

We had a similar problem with our son. He took all the AP classes on offer, including calculus, and got 5's on all of them. This resulted in numerous college acceptances. When he got to the first day of college, he was whisked away to meet with his academic advisor. On the basis of his almost-perfect SAT score and his AP scores, he was a direct admit to the Math Department with a full ride. So nice, set up for success! The advisor told him to skip all of freshman math and freshman physics and essentially start as a sophomore. It was a disaster. Turns out he is a fantastic test taker and never learned how to study.

He bombed out and drove trucks for a while. Finally went back to school and painfully got a B.S. and then a Masters in cybersecurity. It took forever.

Bottom line: We should have made him march right back in there and change his course schedule. He was thrilled that he was so well regarded, and he didn't want to hear it. If there is a day he could take back, that would be the day.

Hope other parents get the word. As my husband said, we could have bought a Porsche with the college tuition we had to pay for ourselves, instead of using his scholarship.

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: I'd like to offer a counterpoint to the negative experiences some readers have sent in regarding high school AP courses. I took four AP courses my senior year: European history, statistics, BC calculus, and computer science. I got a 4 on the history test, and 5s on the rest. That gave me credit for my university's general western history requirement (a one-off without a successor class to be ill-prepared for), two classes in my major in mathematics (from BC calc), one mathematics course outside my major (from statistics, which in the end only counted for general hours, since my major more than covered the university's general mathematics requirements), and the first class in the CS track, also in my major. Outside of some brief stumbles adjusting my study habits for college, I had no trouble with the advanced calculus or CS classes I went into; for me, the AP system worked as advertised. My only regret is not being able to also fit AP physics or chemistry into my 12th-grade schedule, since they would have saved me some 100-level classes which I then had to take in my freshman year of college.

M.G. in Chicago, IL, writes: I do not believe I have seen any mention to the practical side of AP courses: They can save you a lot tuition. Reducing your college expenses by 10% or 20% is well worth any AP course. Also, taking courses at a community college during high school that transfer. The argument can be made that such tactics would shortchange your college experience, but when the tuition costs are so high, it becomes part of the equation.

O.E. in Greenville, SC, writes: You mentioned the website, and cited the work of the professors involved. One of them has been in the news lately, for very different reasons. Christopher Healy, a professor at Furman University, was named in a Twitter-post series not long ago as a participant in the "United the Right" rally in Charlottesville. He was shown in video and pictures as participating in a flag march, and entering an area with a number of Nazi supporters. Further, in a previous leak, he was named as a member of the British National Party, despite not being in the U.K.

Needless to say, this did result in Furman suspending him while he was being investigated. (He admitted to being there, by the way.)

It's also worth noting that several professors have criticized the grade inflation theory.

I'm not sure if you knew this, but I think your readers should know.

(V) & (Z) respond: We did not; thanks for the added information.

T.W. in Norfolk, England, UK, writes: Ron DeSantis needs to look at lessons from history. Short term gain from banning things never works out in the long run, as the bans will quickly become a millstone around his neck. He need only look at the British Conservative Party's history with attempting to ban any supposed "promotion" by the State of homosexuality via the means of Section 28. Eventually the Conservative Party had to apologize for their historical homophobia and—thank goodness—they ended up being responsible for the legalization of equal marriage in the U.K. They are still viewed with suspicion by the LGBTQ community, though.

Ultimately, getting the reputation for banning things in the face of a shrinking reactionary demographic never works out. It associates the politician with dictators—and the banning, and burning, of books draws parallels with the very worst of those dictators. DeSantis may be appealing to his base now, but in 2 years' time there will inevitably be less of them, and in 6 years... well, at some point the Republican Party is going to realize that it's dug itself into a hole that's so deep that a change in direction is going to be humiliating for them. And they're going to have to eat that humiliation with a smile on their face. They should look to the U.K. for the evidence.

Suggested Podcasts

I.S. in Durango, CO, writes: The "this date in U.S. history" podcast proposed by G.Z. in Walnut Creek is pretty much covered by Jon Meacham's Reflections of History podcast. It's a weekdays-only short (4-6 minute) highlight of events of the past, with comments on their current relevance.

And, I disagree with F.S. in Cologne: The Now and Then podcast by historians Heather Cox Richardson and Joanne Freeman is quite fascinating, even though they agree on most things. It helps that they're each specialists in different eras and they bring different backgrounds to the topics they cover.

R.S. in Boston, MA, writes: For G.Z. in Walnut Creek as well as J.B. in Arlington, I recommend This Day In Esoteric Political History, which each weekday covers a historical event and its aftermath.

Gallimaufry: Final Frontier Edition

F.S. in Cologne, Germany, writes: I hope that wormholes exist. If not, we will likely never meet aliens. Maybe we would be able to communicate with them, but meeting them would be very unlikely if wormholes don't exist.

D.R. in Hillsboro, VA, writes: On Monday, you mused about the dire consequences of President Biden ordering the destruction of a UFO that belonged to an advanced alien civilization. Methinks the fault would be to the aliens. After all, if they are advanced enough to be floating these things here from lightyears away, they would be aware of the protocol for doing so. Namely, they should be doing what most polite humans have been doing since Thomas Edison first brought electricity to a lightbulb in an outhouse on Native American Indian territory. In other words, they should wire a head for a reservation.

(V) & (Z) respond: D.R. is here all week, folks.

D.E. Atlanta, GA, writes: I would like to give kudos to S.H. in Raleigh for the comment on John Glenn's 1975 polling numbers being "adjusted" by Yuri Gagarin. I nearly choked on my pasta fazool (the pasta version, not the soup).

W.S. in Austin, TX, writes: You wrote: "And if E.T./Spock/ALF/Klaatu/Superman somehow have overcome that little problem, it seems rather improbable that they would, upon arrival, switch from their warp-speed high-tech spaceships into clumsy, barely controllable floating deathtraps."

I don't know why you would call it improbable given that their known preference for architecture is stone pyramids.

L.A.D. in Las Vegas NV, writes: I think it's a big mistake to leave Arthur Dent off the list of aliens. For all we know, the UFOs could be Vogons scouting design changes to the intergalactic bypass.

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: Klaatu (1951 only!) will always be my favorite alien.

Klaatu barada nikto!

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