Dem 51
image description
GOP 49
image description

Sunday Mailbag

We received a truckload of messages this week, and we'd like to flatter ourselves that we wrangled them into an enjoyable mailbag.

Politics: The 2024 GOP Field

L.E. in Santa Barbara, CA, writes: This week, you had items that addressed the "Beer Problem" in a politician's likability and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) crying alone in his beer.

After reading those two posts, I realized that if I were forced to choose between having a beer with Cruz or Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), I would have to pick Sen. Cruz. Yes, he is a petulant, whiny butt, disingenuous, fraud of a human being—but he is human.

DeSantis, on the other hand, immediately brings to mind one of the "visitors" from the original 1983 mini-series V. He makes my flesh crawl. (Honestly, the entire plot line of V even has parallels with what DeSantis has done to Florida: discrediting science, subverting the MSM, finding collaborators among humans, and the strong imagery of Nazism.)

Thank goodness that I will never be forced to make this choice.

R.W. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: In regard to Ron DeSantis' lack of skill with retail politics, back in the mid-1990s, I ran as a Democrat in the closely-watched (kidding!) race for Aldan, PA (population approx. 4,000) Borough Council. I went door to door, meeting as many potential voters as possible. Despite a 3:1 Republican registration advantage, I came within spitting distance of getting elected. So yes, retail politics can be important, certainly at the local level, and likely if it can be scaled up at the national level.

A.B. in Miami, FL, writes: Still nary a Trump flag on boats or trucks, but I did see this walking in a local parking lot:

A cut-and-stich sign that says 'Keep Florida
Free' and 'DeSantis'

It appears to be a home-made fanboy DeSatan sign. It's a modification of this sign from the governor's race, adding "Keep Florida Free" (no doubt from the Florida GOP's "Keep Florida Free" tour. With all the various commentary about how the Governor doesn't thrill people, what struck me was it being homemade, and notably erasing that it was about the governor's race, so one might conclude it's for a presidential campaign, or just undying love regardless of what election. Even as wet a noodle as DeSatan is, he still apparently has enough... something... to have fanboys who want to rig up their own signs. (But still no Trump signs; Sorry, Don.)

M.F. in Oakville, ON, Canada, writes: You wrote: "Republican voters have a favorable view of both Trump and DeSantis. Trump has 77% approve/23% disapprove and DeSantis has 69% approve/11% disapprove."

That means, of course, that DeSantis' net approval (69 - 11 = 58) is actually better than Trump's (77 - 23 = 54), and that DeSantis still has 20% who haven't decided yet, as compared to Trump's 0% undecided, where everyone's opinions are pretty much locked in.

Politics: New College of Florida

D.E. in Austin, TX, writes: I never expected to be reading about my tiny alma mater on While I wasn't as attached to the school as many, (I was also much more science focused), it does bring me sadness if Ron DeSantis can succeed in changing the school. It is so small. Its enrollment was 400 when I was there in the 80's, then it swelled to 1,200, and now I guess is down to 700.

I wonder how public college trusties usually are decided? Originally, it was a private college then joined the South Florida University system. Becoming public has its price.

I also want to say I was really proud when I read a few years back about how my school converted a born-and-raised white supremacist to a non-racist human being. My school was a cure for racism! That will always be an amazing win. It was nice to see that story brought up again!

P.B. in Gainesville, FL, writes: Just to amplify your points about New College with a little more background. We learned about the school when our daughter seriously considered enrolling there a couple of years ago, and her best friend in high school actually did. So this story is personal to us.

It's a tiny college, as you pointed out, with a very non-traditional approach to post-secondary education. Namely, that students have wide latitude in how they construct their own curriculum, whether it be for a liberal arts degree or a number of other programs. This is manifest most plainly in the requirement that every student is expected to write a fairly sophisticated senior thesis on a topic of their choosing (provided they can find a professor willing to advise them). These theses are proudly showcased in the college library, and a browsing of their titles and contents (which I've done) is very impressive, ranging from mainstream science (marine biology is a particularly strong specialty there) to economics to religion to literature to art to mathematics to... any number of topics. It's definitely a place for students who want to think and learn, and be responsible for what kind of education they receive. And because it's public, it's relatively affordable through the state's Bright Futures program.

In our view, there is nothing particularly "lefty" about this approach to education, except that it's more up to the students than in most other colleges. Maybe that's where its reputation comes from. But I think you have Ron DeSantis' motivation exactly correct: It's a small school that has "embarrassed" the far right, a perfect target for an a**hole like him.

B.S. in Chelsea, MI, writes: My wife's cousin is a neoconservative and is always on a rant about liberal professors teaching things that make college students liberal. My experience is that college students become more tolerant and understanding of others, like the LGBTQ community, because of people they meet on campus. My son became more liberal than myself, partly because of the students he met on campus, like his gay roommate. A professor didn't tell him to support gay people; rather, he saw firsthand the struggles his roommate had. The latter had a much more profound impact on him.

So if Ron DeSantis wants a conservative school, with a conservative board, it may work, but only because the more diverse students won't go there. This in turn makes the education inferior and has nothing to do with the quality of professors.

Politics: Leaky SCOTUS

T.J.C. of St Louis, MO (though currently cruising off the coast of Antarctica), writes: Your reportage noted that the SCOUTS self-investigation into who the leakers were did not produce any evidence against the "employees" of the court, implying the justices themselves were the remaining suspects. Consider another possibility: a justice's wife, who has repeatedly inserted herself into political stances that would normally put the justice themselves in a compromising position.

R.M. in Las Vegas, NV, writes: Your list of suspected Supreme Court leakers—Ida Nottnoe and Jurgis S. Esgood-Esmyne—left out one leading candidate: the infamous Noah Deah.

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: If you do not care for those respondents, you can always go to Helen Waite on the 13th floor of our building and consult with our complaint director.

M.K. in Austin, MN, writes: Your comments on the leakers at the SCOTUS reminded me of this poem which is an example of Dog Latin:

Caesar adsum iam forte.
Brutus aderat.
Caesar sic in omnibus.
Brutus sic inat.
Politics: The Republican Agenda?

J.D. in Cold Spring, MN, writes: Your list of three possible explanations for the House Republicans' crazy tax and economic proposals misses what is, to me, an obvious explanation: the very mission of the tea party/MAGA wing is to destroy the federal government. This has been a major GOP theme since at least the "states' rights" claim of the segregationists, to Ronald Reagan ("The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I'm from the Government, and I'm here to help."), to the lack of a GOP platform in 2020, to the 1/6 insurrection, to this present round of debt-ceiling brinkmanship, and soon-to-be investigations of the IRS and FBI.

No doubt they have a variety of reasons for seeking to take down the Fed (compare George Wallace's reasons to Matt Gaetz and Trump's fear of the FBI, to the run-of-the-mill GOP interest in protecting wealth, to libertarian preference for anarchy over state), but the goal is the same: a nihilistic destruction of the U.S. federal government. That is the real platform of today's GOP and it hasn't much changed for generations.

S.M. in Pratt, KS, writes: The 30% sales tax idea has been floating around in conservative circles for the better part of the last 20 years. Most of the time, I have heard it referred to as the "Fair Tax" or something similar. One of the benefits of old, bad ideas, is that everyone gets the chance to think about all of the things that will go wrong if the bad idea is implemented. In addition to the problems you outlined, I can think of at least three more major ones, as follows:

  1. To a certain extent, online sales are exempt from sales taxes. I know that most major retailers will collect sales tax, but many smaller ones will not, relying on the buyer to remit the taxes to the state. (In Kansas, this is called Compensating Use Tax.) At 30%, it seems unlikely that most taxpayers will voluntarily send in the taxes. And with no income tax forms, the state has no way to collect it anyway. This doesn't even begin to discuss sites like eBay and other person-to-person sales portals where no taxes are collected. I have even seen a case where the company collects sales tax on their website, but doesn't at their eBay store.

  2. Most states with existing sales taxes also have a very long list of sales which are exempt from taxation. The last figure that I have seen, in Kansas 71% of the sales (by dollar figure) were exempt from taxation. While some of these makes sense (prescriptions, doctors' visits, etc.), some of them are just straight up giveaways; gym memberships, ag purchases, individual churches. Has anyone thought about the issue with the states collecting a Federal sales tax on the same goods that are state-and-local-sales-tax exempt? Is this even possible? Could a state refuse to collect federal sales taxes on sales that are exempted by the state?

  3. Last, but not least, is the problem of what happens to state income taxes. Here in Kansas, the state piggybacks on the federal system. You use your federal adjusted gross income as the starting point for modification to create your state adjusted gross income. With the federal system gone, states will be left with two choices: either create their own system from scratch, or adopt a state sales tax of their own. Given that the cost is less, and there already exists a sales tax collection system, I am sure Kansas would go with the latter. I usually pay about three times as much in Federal income taxes as I do to the State. Thus, a new state sales tax would need to be at least 10% to raise comparable taxes. Add to this the existing state and local sales taxes, most in the 9% range, and you suddenly have a combined sales tax of 50%! If you thought 30% would cause folks to re-think a purchase, imagine what 50% will do.

I'm not sure how an idea hangs around for as long as this one has, when if implemented it would immediately drive the country into a recession, would reinforce the already existing loop holes in the tax system, and would create massive black markets. Must be something to this idea that I am missing. /sarcasm

E.S. in Maine, NY, writes: You wrote: "The bill, in order to make sure that the sales tax permanently replaces the income tax, requires that the Sixteenth Amendment be repealed within 7 years. If not, then the sales tax would be sundowned. Of course since the IRS and the income tax would already have been shut down, that would mean that the government could theoretically end up in a situation where its total revenues are... $0."

So let's put a gun to our head with a timer to go off in 7 years. And the only way we can remove it is to do something that takes 2/3 of the House and Senate, and 3/4 of the state legislatures. What could go wrong? So glad the Republicans in the House have learned how to govern!

E.W. in New Orleans, LA, writes: In a year of absolute gold, I still think that your most insightful moments last year were when you chimed in on the eternal practice of political parties painting themselves as reasonable moderates and their opponents as dangerous extremists. A longstanding practice, yes, but unprecedented in scope and style and balance in 2022 as nearly everything the Republicans were ascribing to the Democrats were either held by one retiring state representative in a remote district or else a complete fabrication: teaching CRT to grade schoolers, installing litter boxes for students who identify as cats, banning the Bible, and disbanding the police and so forth.

And while the Republicans were running against an army of straw men, the Democrats could just run against the public statements of the Republicans... they didn't even have to add commentary or a creepy black and white filter. Republican speeches were full of conspiracy theories, dangerous medical advice, attacks on democracy, dog whistles, calls for violence, and detailed plans for restricting rights and dismantling social programs. Any voter not already deeply in the bag for the MAGA crowd last year did not get a great impression of the Republican agenda and voted accordingly.

L.B. in Atlanta, GA, writes: Regarding your observation: "Last we checked, the Republican Party claimed to be the party of free markets, deregulation, and limiting government overreach."

I have recently been looking for markets where I can do AirBnB arbitrage (rent a property and list it on AirBnB with the owner's consent). What I am finding is a bit surprising—the politically conservative markets, by and large, seem to be the places where AirBnBs have been regulated so much that non-owners cannot legally operate AirBnBs there.

By contrast, I am finding that politically liberal markets tend to have already passed regulations allowing such use with no more than a permit needed (and possibly some taxes on operation).

It seems that most conservative markets have engaged in knee-jerk overregulation. Pretty much the opposite of free markets and deregulation.

Politics: Making a Statement

R.S. in San Mateo, CA, writes: Your presentation of the Oversight Committee's mission statements really exemplifies the differences between the communication abilities of the parties. The Republican one brings "efficiency" and "accountability," while "checking the power" of government and giving a "voice to the people." The Democratic one is a dry legal statement that might be copied and pasted from a textbook. Granted, no one will ever read them, but Republicans take every chance they get to rile up the masses.

C.F. in Nashua, NH, writes: I disagree that the word "statement" should be removed from the new mission statement of the Oversight Committee. After all, the Committee's actual mission will be to "own the libs." The rest is just a statement, and not the real mission.

D.B. in Mountain View, CA, writes: In response to the Democratic mission statement for the Oversight Committee, you wrote,"We have no complaints about the grammar in this one."

To be fair, the punctuation is ludicrously wrong.

Politics: Burning Down the House

B.D. in St. Agatha, ON, Canada, writes: I meant to send this a week or two ago, sorry:

It is a satirical
screen capture that looks like it is from CNN, and lists the concessions that Kevin McCarthy made: Can only bang gavel
on his own crotch; Build the border wall and he has to be on the other side of it; Install those Wild West saloon doors
on Capitol to make future insurrections easier; Subpoena Hunter Biden's penis; Once a year, Lauren Boebert can hunt him
for sport; First Friday of the month will be 'Take Your Daughter to Matt Gaetz's Office Day'

H.B. in State College, PA, writes: Satire became obsolete when Rep. "George Santos" (R-NY) was appointed to the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

(I'm paraphrasing Tom Lehrer, who said "Satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize.")

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: I'm an independent, not affiliated with any party. Currently, I frown on the GOP for many reasons. I wish to list two of them here. First is "George Santos." No further explanation needed. The second has to do with Solomon Peña, a candidate for the New Mexico legislature, who was arrested for trying to assassinate Democratic officials after he lost his election in a landslide.

My problem with today's Republican party is they seem to either defend, or stay quiet, about folks like Santos and Pena.

I consider integrity and good character very highly when I vote for someone to office. The fact that a major political party has not placed much value on these qualities says a lot about them, and the people they support. Until the Republicans effectively confront the scourge of the likes of Santos, Peña, and others, I cannot in good conscience vote for many, if not all, of their candidates. Sorry.

Politics: The Abortion Wars

Anonymous writes: Over 40 years ago, I graduated from a conservative seminary that was known for its intellectual rigor and its academic integrity. Although at the time many students were politically aware or engaged to some degree, the institution itself scrupulously avoided politics.

Lately, fund raising appeals from the current president of the seminary have been increasingly dark, and I knew that my former roommate, now a pastor nearing retirement, was committed to the "pro-life" position. In fact, he told me that he was a "proud one-issue voter" and that abortion was the "hill I would die on."

Still, I was not ready for the latest issue of the seminary's alumni magazine. It had the usual alumni news, faculty notes, obituaries, publication notices. But the President's introduction to the issue comprised an introductory paragraph, a concluding paragraph, and a longer middle paragraph devoted entirely to opposition to abortion, and the four major articles were entirely culture war-oriented, and not just about abortion.

The first article, by a professor, attacked homosexuality. Your high school writing instructor (if you had a good one) would have called for a rewrite to remove the "purple prose." Your college professor would have given it a "C" and written "Generates more heat than light." Never would the professors I knew have written a piece like that.

The second article attacked "Critical Theory," and along with it, Gnosticism, Descartes, Nietzsche, Marx, C.S. Lewis (one of the good guys, but insufficiently critical of Critical Theory), non-pro-life Christian pastors, and people who criticize people who criticize Martin Luther King Jr. But in the process of criticizing the Black Lives Matter organization (which is based on Critical Theory apparently, though the author does not specify Critical Race Theory), the author names BLM as an explicitly Marxist revolutionary organization. I remember the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. I know that opponents of the movement always smeared it as communist. I saw the propaganda billboards in my own hometown. The author points to direct evidence from BLM's own web site to make his case, but BLM has now taken that evidence off the site! In other words, his evidence no longer exists. Which means that if he had any intellectual or academic integrity, he would know that he can't cite non-existent evidence as evidence. And the editors somehow let this get through and be published. Never would the seminary I knew allow such a thing.

But it gets worse: The author asserts that Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ+ community are working together for "the eradication of the nuclear, biological family." Wait. Did we just blow through the warning barriers and take the short-cut to Crazyland? It's a conspiracy!

The third article, also by a professor, which I will summarize very briefly, makes a Sherman's March/scorched earth/no prisoners nuclear attack to eliminate any neutral, common, or middle ground upon which pro-life Christians could have any sort of civil dialogue about the issue with anyone else. Your only choice is whose side are on. Dialogue is not possible according to the author.

At this point, I'm having trouble making any sense of this at all. But the connection is coming.

The fourth article is by the president of the seminary. It comprises a full-throated all-out attack on the central problem that unifies the other articles: Cultural Marxism. I'm a bit confused because this includes an attack on Herbert Marcuse ("The '60s just called. They want their cultural references back."), and on Antonio Gramsci (I know. I had to look him up. The Italian Fascists arrested him in the 1920s; he died in his mid-forties, having spent the last 12 years of his life literally rotting in prison. Should we really consider him a threat today? Particularly since no one has heard of him, except the people who think he's dangerous, even though he's been dead or in prison for nearly a century), and on Karl Marx. It turns out that "Cultural Marxism," according to the author, is Marxism without the economic component. (So, sort of like, um... Calvinism, but without the God part?)

Naturally, at this point I googled "Cultural Marxism" and found out it is a giant conspiracy theory, which was no surprise: When you see things in black and white, no colors or shades of grey; when all of your perceived enemies—the abortionists and the black rights people and the LBGTQ+ people and Antonio Gramsci and Critical Theory and the secular big-state government and the media, and everyone else—are in league with one another, working to overthrow that which you hold most dear; when adult, white, Christian males, who are over-represented (measured by demographic statistics) in every legislature in the country and all positions of power, economically, politically, socially, and intellectually, then assert that they are being persecuted for righteousness sake and worse is coming; when all of this organized evil can all be traced back to [that dirty Jew] Karl Marx!, well, then, IT'S A CONSPIRACY!

So my report is this: The overturning of Roe v. Wade may be the most important political story of the last 75 years. If the people who worked for it had gathered in their church basements and uncorked the champagne instead of setting out the usual pitchers of iced tea, if they had organized dancing in the streets in cities and towns across this nation, we wouldn't have been surprised, because it was a great victory and they deserve their moment of celebration. But that is not what happened. They are more angry and afraid and more extreme now than they were a year ago before the overturning of Roe. They do not know where this ends, but no end is in sight and they are determined to move this country farther and faster in the same direction. And at this point, we should not be surprised to learn that the pro-life movement is being driven by a giant conspiracy theory.

V & Z respond: As a reminder, we do allow letter writers to keep their identity hidden on rare occasions.

J.F. in Fort Worth, TX, writes: You wrote that there were two main takeaways from Donald Trump's rant about evangelicals. I think there's an important third takeaway from this and it concerns the sentence "I put three Supreme Court justices, who all voted, and they got something that they've been fighting for 64 years, for many, many years."

I think this is Trump openly saying the "quiet part" out loud: that he nominated Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett to please the evangelicals and to overturn Roe v. Wade. Despite the endless protests of every conservative pundit and politician saying that this was not the case, we all knew this was why they were nominated. It's almost refreshing to hear Trump admit it openly like this.

T.K. in Warsaw, IN, writes: You wrote: "The stated reason for this, among members of [the anti-abortion] movement, is that the women who receive abortions are victims of the abortion-industrial complex, and should not be treated as criminals. This belief is probably sincerely held, at least among many anti-abortion activists."

As a non-crazed resident of a highly GOP state with strong anti-abortion activity, this is not accurate. Anti-choice persons generally explicitly blame the woman getting the abortion, as she is an immoral, God-hating slut (their words) who is at fault and should be punished. If Republicans had their way (and most Republicans in red states are anti-choice), women that had abortions would be imprisoned, fined, and/or executed, if the state is red enough.

All should remember that the root of the anti-abortion movement is "Women having sex without the permission and control of their husband are making our religion (evangelical Christianity) look dumb, and we need to stop that."

Politics: The Debt Ceiling

J.K. in Bremen, Germany, writes: You wrote: "On the other hand, if Biden waited until June 4, after all other options have been exhausted, then the move would likely go over much better in the economic sector, since it would be seen as a vastly superior option to the alternative."

I strongly agree. Bold steps in times of trouble have historical precedent:

  1. I was reminded of my childhood when our TV set reported about the "Nixon shock." Nixon suspended convertibility of the dollar to gold, a step that should have caused earthquakes.

  2. Franklin D. Roosevelt limited gold ownership in his EO 6102. A bold step that would be impossible today. SCOTUS would never let this pass.

So, Biden "issuing platinum coins to prevent default" surely is an oversimplification, but I think voters would tolerate this innovative idea and in 2024 Biden's campaign team may praise the old man for this kind of leadership.

G.T.M. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: While simply printing enough money so that the U.S. is theoretically solvent (but not actually putting the money into circulation) likely complies with "generally accepted accounting principles" so that the U.S. doesn't have to default on its debt, the reaction of the rest of the world to the U.S. government doing that is very likely to be along the line of "Hey Bob, the U.S. dollar isn't actually worth anything so isn't there some other country's currency that we can use as an international standard of payment?"

This just might have more than an incredibly tiny effect on the ability of American companies to compete on the world market because the international sellers are going to want to be sure that those U.S. Dollars that the purchasers are paying are actually going to be worth more than Russian railway stocks.

Of course, if a person is of the mindset that "America doesn't need anything from anyone and the rest of the world will go broke if it wasn't for us letting them sell us stuff, so who cares?," that really wouldn't be much of a problem, would it?

D.E. in Washington, DC, writes: I appreciate your likening of the financial juggling soon to be required of the Treasury to a family "deciding to buy food and not paying the rent," but my 17 years working for the Congress led me to a different, and I think more useful, analogy.

Remembering the scorn heaped upon then-presidential candidate Al Gore, who famously claimed that certain federal funds might be safely secured in a "lock box," I came to understand appropriations not as bank accounts routinely disbursed to the various agencies, but rather as time-limited lines of credit (or credit card balances, if you prefer) granted (appropriated) to those agencies against a vast, undifferentiated pool of funds held by the Treasury. Funds in that pool that have not yet been obligated at a given point in time may (within limits previously imposed by Congress) be made available (juggled) for other appropriated purposes.

Politics: Mental Health

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: In your answer to KC of West Islip, you wrote: "We would say it's somewhat unlikely it will be a failed candidate for office (going the Solomon Peña route of violence directed at Democrats), just because you generally you have to be playing with a full deck to mount a viable campaign."

Um, you sure you want to stand by that statement? Because I would offer as evidence that playing with a full deck has become a voluntary option for one party's candidates. I give you: "George Santos," Kari Lake, Herschel Walker, Blake Masters, Doug Mastriano, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Sarah Palin, Louie Gohmert, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO), Mehmet Oz and, of course, that most stable genius himself, Donald Trump. And that's just me winging off a few names off the top of my head. We can do a deep dive and start naming names like Idaho state Republican Jack Nelson, who recently said that his experience milking cattle made him eminently qualified to make decisions on women's reproductive health (because equating half the world's population to being no better than livestock certainly has to be a sign of being a sociopath, or at least should make you feel very sorry for a Mrs. Nelson, if there is one). Or how about Texas state Republican Bob Hall, who has introduced a bill to label all foods containing human fetal tissue, something that does not and has never existed, as an example of someone so delusional that they're upset by something that isn't even real. Notice how Hall is so upset by this imaginary thing that he doesn't want to ban it, just make sure it's labeled correctly. If Jeffrey Dahmer were alive, I guess he would be a fan of Hall's knowing that when he was jonesing for a quick cannibal snack he could easily pick one out in his local grocer's healthy living aisle. Do you want me to go on?

W.L. in Mol, Belgium, writes: You wrote: "Eventually, someone is going to get killed by one of these aggrieved Trumpers. And then we shall see what the former president and his enablers do with that. Our guess? Thoughts and prayers."

I agree with thoughts and prayers at first; then calls for better mental health (but with the assumption it shouldn't cost anything); then, within a week it will be transformed to anger at anyone who dares to suggest that Donald Trump or Republicans are in some way responsible for it. In the end (after some months), it will be transformed in proudness that of course they started it, but that is not their fault as doing bad against evil is good (and this is more important than killing baby Hitler).

Excuse me while I go trying to survive this mind trip into a MAGA-head.

P.M. in Edenton, NC, writes: I just wanted to opine on a general issue I have noticed for a long time.

People who follow politics closely seem to be in a constant state of worry, going from one crisis to the next. Case in point: the debt ceiling issue. Two weeks ago, no one heard a word about it. Now, it is the topic du jour and everyone is worried about possible default, what the consequences would be, etc. Two weeks from now, today's issues will be forgotten and there will be a whole new set of worrying about something totally different.

It is often said on this site that "in politics, a week is a long time." As a very-long-time follower of the site (starting in October 2004), I wholeheartedly agree. But being a close follower of politics can cause one to go down so many pointless paths of possibility which never happen (see here and here for relevant examples), and thus create so much anxiety and stress. Living in a state where one goes from this week's crisis to next week's crisis just doesn't seem to me to be... good.

How about: Pay attention to what is going on, but don't become so personally involved? Life will go on either way; live it. Do the best you can, be aware of what is going on, and (as a person of faith might say) leave the rest to God. (If God isn't your thing, then how about fate/the universe/creative force/whatever.) Things always have a way of working themselves out, and accepting that axiom may bring a lot less stress to a lot more people.

Politics: Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Lovely Spam! Lovely Spam!

H.R. in Jamaica Plain, MA, writes: Your item on small donors, and the ever-increasing flood of e-mail donation requests that results from making a small donation from time to time, was very timely for me. A few weeks ago, I made a concerted effort to get off of most of these lists and to delete all the accumulated e-mails from politicians from all over the country that were coming into my inbox. I didn't fully keep track, but I'm sure I deleted over 300 MB of email. Even better, the unsubscribes paid off, as my inbox is now filling up at a much slower rate. I was traveling for 2 weeks and not able to do much e-mail maintenance, yet my total storage use grew by less than 40 MB during that time. Before doing the concerted unsubscribes, it was growing at a much faster pace. I did stay on a few lists, especially from politicians I actually can vote for. Next step for me is to tackle all the merchants who send me e-mails. I'll be seriously thinking about setting up a gmail account for political donations in the future.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: Count me among the disaffected victims of campaigns' electronic aggression.

Many years ago, I gave a political donation or two online. Now I am inundated. The House campaign committee, the Senate campaign committee, the gubernatorial campaign committee, the state legislative campaign committee, the party all inundate me daily. So too the candidates to whom I donated, candidates in my own district and state, candidates in other districts in my state, candidates for offices from school board to governor in the state I used to live in, candidates from states I've barely ever visited (I've been to all 50), candidates I support, candidates I loathe, candidates I've never heard of. And, of course, presidents, ex-presidents, and their spouses and buddies. I've gotten wise to routing all this crud to a folder that I periodically dump without looking at. I will never, ever, ever, give an online political donation ever again. When I want to donate, I send checks. It's easier to toss the incoming physical mail into a recycling bin than it is to deal with the incoming e-mail.

But the infection is worse than that. I have a long history of canvassing for politicians whose campaigns I support. The last time I did so, for a congressional candidate in 2018 (before the, um, pandemic), the campaign insisted that it had to have a cell phone number so it could communicate with me, make sure I was safe, whatever. Now that cell phone gets texts all the time from that member of Congress, plus all kinds of other politicians with whom I do not want a texting relationship. If I ever canvass again, I am going to have to learn how to use a burner phone.

There is one form of political e-junk mail that I kind of enjoy, however. Once I sent a snotty e-mail to a benighted congressperson from a distant and benighted district, objecting to some particularly noxious legislative priority of said congressperson. I did not get a reply, but ever since I've been subscribed to the Honorable Member's periodic "surveys" on policy issues. The surveys' neutral wording makes clear that they are intended as objective, scientific exercises in public opinion research, on the order of: "Do you support (a) a sensible border policy that keeps filthy, criminal illegal aliens in the s***hole countries where they belong or (b) opening the gates and letting them all in to the everlasting detriment of American civilization?" I find it mildly amusing to choose the "incorrect" option. A very gentle variation on ratfu**ing, perhaps, but entertaining nonetheless.

M.S. in Hamden, CT, writes: You wrote about how small donors hate repeated requests for contributions. And no, I'm not writing in to disagree with you! I'll just give two pet peeve examples, and then a suggestion.

Do campaigns really need to "thank" me within an hour of my contribution with a request for another?

I once contributed to an Act Blue campaign in support of many candidates for state legislative positions. I had little knowledge about these local campaigns, and thought making a single donation that would be split 24 ways was a great idea. BIG mistake! Clicking "unsubscribe" has been a great help, but I'm still cleaning up the occasional progeny of my mistake multiple years on.

M.M. in Centralia, IL, writes: You advised: "The second way [to avoid getting on mailing lists for money requests] is to donate by mailing a check without putting a return address on the envelope."

No, it has to be a money order. It may or may not be a current banking rule, but everyday people will find it impossibly difficult to have checks printed without a live address on them.

J.C. in Washington, DC, writes: For political donations, I use It creates a throwaway e-mail account that lasts only 10 minutes (more if you need to extend it) and allows you to send/receive e-mail while it's active. Super helpful!

C.C. in Hancock, NH, writes: You wrote: "One strategist made the point that constantly bombarding people with messages they don't want and getting them angry is not a great formula for getting them to vote for you..."

It's astonishing to me how few marketers realize this basic and obvious facet of direct marketing. Yes, the measurable returns on spam are usually positive, but you can't easily measure how badly spam will tarnish your brand.

Back in 1999, when they were still a DVD rental company, Netflix opened a pop-under ad on my browser. I was so annoyed, that to this day, nearly a quarter-century later, I still will not open a Netflix account. Granted, not everyone holds a grudge like I do, but campaigns that don't take the hidden costs into account are going to pay for it in the end.

Politics: What's in a Name?

M.C. in Newton, MA, writes: This is an additional response to the question from D.C. in Toronto about your use of people's full names.

For Ronna Romney McDaniel in particular, I think it's also relevant to use her full name as a reminder that she's part of the Romney family. My understanding is that her personal political positions are much closer to uncle Mitt's than to the RNC's Trumpy platform.

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: I'm pretty sure on several occasions you've written the full name of the other Romney, Willard "Mitt" Romney. Not entirely sure of the connotation; perhaps it just adds flavor knowing his somewhat surprising first name. But this is further evidence against the claim that this is some kind of gender-based habit.

V & Z respond: That is accurate.

E.R. in Irving, TX, writes: So, it appears "George Santos" (Anthony Devolder) enjoyed being a part of the drag queen scene in Brazil as "Kitara Ravache." I think he's got a great smile and, with that lipstick, wears it beautifully. The video I saw on a gossip website surprised me; given other reporting on the matter, I don't see how such a confident performer who wears a dress as well as he does wouldn't have found success in the scene there.

What's newsworthy to me is that he denies it. Why does he feel he has to do that?

Drag is legal, healthy, and fun; fraud is illegal, unhealthy and damaging to society. But, for the GOP, the latter isn't a problem; it's the former which they can't be associated with because of the subject matter involved and their current culture-wars crusades.

Consider the challenge my Representative in TX-6 (Republican Jake Ellzey) would have defending "George" publicly without also having to explain to his constituents why he's backing a "drag queen groomer" to remain in Congress. Note that this is a district so red that the Democrats didn't even bother to run a House candidate in 2022.

My prediction is that, because the GOP is presently so dysfunctional as a political party, the news of Kitara Ravache will ultimately be the downfall of "George Santos." It's the perfectly ethical and legal behavior in his past which they'll have a problem with, not the lies and fraud.

As for his problem with the truth, the compulsive lies might actually be an untreated mental disorder. What if the dude just can't not lie? I noted in the bio from 2011, which Politico is reporting on, it also reads that he was in Disney's Hannah Montana and worked with Uma Thurman and Alicia Silverstone in The Invasion. It appears he's been fabricating his story going back at least a dozen years.

M.H. in Salt Lake City, UT, writes: I believe "George Santos" is the Ellis Island's clerk's spelling of his real name, Gregor Samsa, proving once and for all that he is really a cockroach.

This Week in Trumpworld

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Judge Middlebrooks' sanctioning of Donald Trump and Alina Habba is all the sweeter if you know that Trump filed the suit in Fort Pierce, Florida, hoping to get the lone judge in that courthouse assigned. It didn't work, and the case was randomly assigned to Judge Donald Middlebrooks, who is (unfortunately for Trump and Habba) honest and competent. Oh, and you may recognize the name of the judge in Fort Pierce: Aileen Cannon. They tried again a few months later with the special master suit, which succeeded in gumming things up for a bit.

P.S.: Annnnnnnnd, I just saw this. Trump dismissed one of his suits against New York AG Letitia James regarding his personal trust records. The suit was pending before Judge Middlebrooks. Apparently, the sanctions are having an effect!

All Politics Is Local: Media Outlets

L.S. in Black Mountain, NC, writes: In response to your invitation to pass along sources of good information about local issues and politics, I want to point you to Asheville Watchdog in Asheville, NC. Rather than my telling you about them, you can read the About Us page on their website. In just a couple of years they have done some amazing in-depth reporting on controversial subjects, growing all the while, and they even got popular local journalist John Boyle to defect from the dying Gannett-owned Asheville Citizen-Times. The Watchdog is donation-based, not subscription... at least, not yet.

P.W. in Tulalip Nation, WA, writes: The Stranger is a Seattle-based, biweekly, "alternative" newspaper in tabloid format. Besides their incomparable, regional Arts coverage and columnists, I have embraced their extensive political coverage—city, region, and Washington statewide. I rely on their voting guide each election cycle. Particularly, their breakdown of initiatives always helps me to understand that, depending on how an initiative is written, sometimes a seemingly "no" vote can actually implement the initiative, and vice-versa.

Of course, being Seattle based, they lean left (understatement?). But I feel that their editorial view does not exist in an echo chamber. Their style is not for everyone, but I love it. Their profanity and snark make you guys sound like Emily Post or Maya Angelou! Their link to make contributions explains their approach perfectly: "News—Arts—Mischief." Here is their current take on the Washington State legislative session. For those not wanting to check out the link, the article is headlined: "The Stranger's Big-Ass Preview of Washington's 2023 Legislative Session—Guns! Abortion! Housing! Police Reform! Health Care! Taxing the Rich! And Steamrolling the GOP! Or Not."

V & Z respond: It's also the home outlet for Dan Savage, and is thus the paper responsible for giving "Santorum" its proper meaning.

K.H. in Albuquerque, NM, writes: In Albuquerque, there is an independent community news digital service called The Paper. It has a newsletter titled The Email. Subscribe here or just browse occasionally here. It's not 100% devoted to politics, but does a good job of hitting the highlights.

Meanwhile, for all New Mexico politics, all of the time, with a strongly progressive Democratic take, the gang at Retake our Democracy puts out lots of excellent analyses, calls to action, and links to their Saturday radio broadcasts.

D.M. in Burnsville, MN, writes: MINNPOST is a reliable, local (and free) paper covering news from all over the state, with a particular emphasis on political news.

V & Z respond: Thanks to all for the suggestions; we've got more that we will run next week. We're also happy to receive additional submissions on this question.

All Politics Is Local: Virginia Run

E.B. in Seattle, WA, writes: K.S. in Lorton asked about running for the County Board of Supervisors as an independent. The following is based on my experience running in (and losing) a School Board race in Seattle.

Normally, I'd advise running as one party or the other. Out here at least, the two parties have a significant advantage: voter databases. While some amount of voter database is public, the party ones also categorize voters based on a variety of factors so you can target ads/door knocking and waste less money/volunteer time. In a few clicks, you can generate lists of people who are: (1) likely to vote and (2) aligned with you politically. You also can recruit volunteers from the local Democratic organizations. However, since there's an incumbent Democrat, you stand virtually no chance in a contested primary. Unless the incumbent has serious skeletons in their closet or has pulled Sinema-level shenanigans that upset the base, the local organizations will close ranks around the incumbent.

As for whether you should run, consider a few questions: Running for office will be a nearly full-time job for 6 months. Are you financially independent and/or can you do that in addition to your regular job? For reference, in the last month before ballots dropped, my school board race had 1-3 events per day, bumping up to 3-4 in the last couple of weeks. A county council race will have many more. Do you like calling people up and asking them for money? You'll need to do a lot of that. Do you have friends/associates who are invested in you running and would be willing to host fundraisers with 20-40 people they know? Do you have a friend/associate who is willing to be your campaign treasurer? If not, are you able to raise another $5-10K to pay for that service? Do you have a campaign consultant/manager lined up? What's their track record and how much money do they think you'll need to raise?

And that's even before we get to the question of whether an independent campaign is viable at all. To assess that, you'll need to ask a few more questions: What's the breakdown of Democrats, independents, and Republicans in your county BoS district? If there's not a large fraction of independents, your bid is likely doomed. Why should a registered Democrat vote for you instead of the Democratic incumbent? Will the Republicans run a non-fringe (for Republicans!) candidate? If not, will you be able to pick up some Republican votes? How will you reach nominal ondependents who lean toward one party or the other? Have independents won other partisan offices in Fairfax County recently? How do you convince people that your campaign is viable in such a Democratic stronghold (2021 gubernatorial race was 65-35 D-R in Fairfax)? Do you have polling or other information that shows that Fairfax County voters are looking for someone outside the two-party system?

I don't want to discourage you from running, but running for office is an extremely challenging gig. It takes an enormous amount of time and running as an independent offers little chance of success.

Good luck!

M.S. in Springfield, VA, writes: Regarding potential independent run for Board of Supervisors by K.S. in Lorton, an independent would not have the benefit of the local Democratic Party, which does fundraising and supports and coordinates a slate of candidates for other offices, as well as the pool of volunteers who can run the "ground game" that is difficult to build from scratch for a first-time candidate. On the other hand, some of the candidates that get the local party's seal of approval are not necessarily the "best" candidates for the district, and they may demand a level of conformity on policy (or lack of boldness) that is unacceptable to K.S. Best wishes!

R.L. in Easton, CT, writes: In response to K.S. in Lorton: You will also need to have lots of people working on your campaign. Without a political party behind you, it will be difficult to rally the paid and volunteer bodies to run a campaign. You also need money. Where will that come from without a political organization behind you? I wish you luck and hope you have lots of friends and generous acquaintances to support you.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Definitely, definitely, definitely knock on doors! When surveyed, voters' first complaint about a candidate is that the candidate did not, in person, ask them for their vote... yeah, utterly impractical, but that's the less than rational undercurrent you will encounter. Good luck.

J.D. in Ashburn, VA, writes: K.S. in Lorton suggested they might run for the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors as an independent. This would be a great gift for Republicans, because if K.S. gets any kind of traction, it would surely split the vote from the Democrat who is running. This happened recently with the school board in nearby Loudoun, when Andrew Hoyer ran as an independent against the Democratic candidate and a blue area was treated to a Republican representative on the school board.

International Politics

J.S. in Peterborough, ON, Canada, writes: I enjoyed reading the whole posting on Friday, and was glad to see in the item on Jacinda Ardern that "the PM has given her all while also raising a young child." The only other reference to this that I've seen or heard was a mention that she'd given birth while in office. As a parent, I salute her for getting her priorities right by resigning.

B.J.L. in Ann Arbor, MI, writes: Can I just say I feel so sorry for the New Zealanders who lose one of the most inspirational leaders around us today? I'm also sorry for us in that the Kiwis had her, and we Americans have not done nearly as well. Let this be a clarion call for people to rise and serve for the right reasons. Give until it's time to step aside and Do it. I love it.

S.S. in Elliot Lake, ON, Canada, writes: We have our share of scandals up here in the chilly regions of Northern Ontario. And we deal with them, by gum! Imagine the gall of lobbying fellow councillors to do something that will benefit you financially!

A judge has ordered [newly elected] Elliot Lake Mayor Chris Patrie removed from office after ruling that he violated two sections of the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act during his previous term as a city councillor (2017-2019).

In a lengthy decision released Monday night, Ontario Superior Court Justice Annalisa Rasaiah concluded that Patrie breached sections 5(1) and (2) of the Act by lobbying fellow councillors regarding the building of a $30-million planned sports hub.

The ruling concludes that Patrie made inappropriate attempts to persuade fellow councillors to vote against the city purchasing the property of the former Algo Mall site for the recreation hub. At that time, councillor Patrie favored building the hub near the ski hill and in close proximity to a commercial plaza owned by a corporation—the shares of which were owned by him and his wife.

"This court finds that the appropriate penalty for this breach is removal from office and disqualification from being a member for a period of two years," the ruling reads.

History Matters

T.S. in Seattle, WA, writes: Your comment today about how LBJ took secret documents and hid them as president prompted me to search for the exact thing taken. Was it some embarrassing intelligence report? A casualty list he wanted suppressed? As it turns out, it was the evidence that Richard Nixon had committed treason: records of a wiretap of the Vietnamese embassy proving that Nixon had ordered his colleagues to sabotage peace plans. This episode is also referenced, obliquely, in the Haldeman Diaries. There was one fascinating moment when Nixon, famously brash and unafraid, received a call from Johnson and immediately went into a panic. It was clear he was scared to death of what Johnson could do to him, but at the time I read the diaries in the early 1990s there was no evidence of what threat LBJ used. It's likely it was the dirt he'd taken with him about Nixon.

V & Z respond: Indeed. We should have spelled it out, but that was the last answer written, and time was tight.

C.J. in Redondo Beach, CA, writes: You mentioned that neither Benjamin Harrison or Woodrow Wilson were good at personal communication in your response to L.B.K. in Cle Elum. However, what those two had that Richard Nixon and Calvin Coolidge (and Ron DeSantis) didn't is they were well known for being excellent speech givers. Wilson makes sense, given he was a college professor and had years to become effective at addressing crowds. I find Harrison's case interesting, especially given his grandfather was at the opposite end of the oration department. Anyway, that helps explain why the Harrison and Wilson were so successful, even with their awkwardness at more retail politics.

N.W. in Lexington, MA, writes: You wrote: "There may be no politician in history for whom television was less friendly than Joseph McCarthy." I think James Stockdale would disagree with that.

J.W. in Madison, WI, writes: I saw the screenshot of the map you posted with the title "The Yalta Conference*" and I was instantly brought back to my early career in cartography. I made that map! I worked for a mapping company called Mapping Specialists, Ltd., in Madison, WI. My position with the company was in textbook maps. Our signature style was to emboss and add a white vignette along the coastlines—it was at the cutting-edge of Photoshop technology in the early 2000s. Glad to see it's still being used 20 years later!

V & Z respond: Wow! Small world!

The Sporting Life

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: I hate to go on a tangent related to football, but as a former Detroiter, I have to point out that, in reference to the comment from R.N. in Canton, the Detroit Lions' semi-successful season is not a reason to stop using their impotence as a means of comparison but rather it is the reason to keep using it. This is what they do. They are awful year-in and year-out. Once in a while, they actually field a decent team only to find new and disappointing ways to lose and/or come this close to the playoffs while still missing out. I don't watch anymore, but I was compelled while visiting my family at Thanksgiving to give some attention to the game against the Bills. As they so often do, they found a new and creative way to lose. And missing out on the playoffs after defeating their long-time nemesis in Green Bay only to see Seattle win in overtime? Classic Lions.

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA , writes: This week, you wrote: "[.108 is] still good enough to start for the Pittsburgh Pirates."

2016 may have given us the election of the Muppet-in-Chief, but I'm thankful that it also gave the Cubbies a World Series win. With a little luck, they won't be the butt of such jokes again for at least 10 years thereafter.

Damn, 2026 isn't that far off, is it?

D.T. in Hillsboro, OR, writes: I suppose that the disclaimer from P.R. in Arvada about counting cycling as a sport kept you from mentioning Bush Jr. being an avid mountain biker. Due to that cycling, George was one of the most fit Presidents, possibly the most fit. However, if John Kerry had been elected, George would have had competition for that title. Kerry was not only a cyclist but also engaged in windsurfing, snowboarding, sailing and probably other outdoor sports.

As an avid cyclist, I disagree with this exclusion. I never see cyclists sitting on the sides watching here in Oregon. Those people in Colorado need to get off their duffs and ride.

R.C. in Des Moines, IA, writes: If fishing (as Hoover participated in while in the Oval Office) is a sport, then golf surely is a sport, along with darts, bowling, billiards, hiking, croquet, and corn hole.

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: You raised the issue of whether golf is a sport or a game. Obviously, it's a game. Name a sport where a player can smoke a cigar while playing. Name a sport where the players themselves can place and take bets on the outcome of the contest while the contest is being played. It's a game, not a sport.

K.H. in Albuquerque, NM, writes: While we appreciate that (V) & (Z) recognize hurling hurling as a major sport in your answer to the question from P.R in Avarda, the use of ketchup as a sliotar is not approved by the Gaelic Athletic Association. Goes to the Dogs

P.W. in Springwater, NY, writes: I always look forward to Friday's "This Week in Schadenfreude" and "This Week in Freudenfreude" but this week's pieces were especially heartwarming. TFG being hit with a million dollar fine was priceless but the item about Ms. Findlay and the setters warmed my heart and reminded me that social media can serve a useful purpose. Generally, I'm not a fan; I think that social media has done way more harm than good for the country. Then you get stories like these, and I think if only this was how social media really was used... Oh, well.

When I'm Ms. Findlay's age (if I can remember this story), I think I'll make the same request for my 97th birthday. Setters and hounds—all dogs, really—would be wonderful, but honestly, how can you not wish for retrievers? Every morning, when reading your site, Duncan and Libby are right there, too:

A jet black and a red-brown retriever
under a kitchen table

J.E. in Gilbertsville, PA, writes: One of my daughters is a nurse aid in a nursing home and the other is a handler at a dog resort (boarding and daycare), which tells you everything you need to know about the priorities and passions within our family. So thank you for the story about Gemma the Irish setter. It really made my day. You can post similar stories every week, I don't care if it connects to politics!

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: Sorry, I must take issue with your assertion that hounds, particularly of the dachshund type, are the best dogs. I am partial to shepherds, as they are very loyal, loving and protective dogs.

My last two have been shepherd/black lab mix...and shepherd/Bernese mix. They are the best dogs in the world, though the first one is now at Rainbow Bridge waiting for me.

Nobody f**ks with you when you have a big dog by your side.

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: You may enjoy this 72-second video of a shepherd dog doing his/her job:

I'm a cat person, not a dog person, but this is a VERY good boy (or girl).

V & Z respond: That is impressive.

D.R. in Unalakleet, AK, writes: While we appreciate the nobility of the setter breed and the charm of dachshunds, Alaska Malemutes must lay claim to be the champion breed. As we prepare for the upcoming Iditarod race in March, we remind the world that the race commemorates the 1925 Serum Run to Nome, where brave Alaskan Malemute, and assorted other breeds, carried diptheria serum to save the lives of hundreds of residents of Nome who were threatened by that disease. To this day, Alaska Malemutes remain pro-vaccine.

V & Z respond: So they won't be dragging a sled full of immigrants from Texas to Martha's Vineyard (with a stopover in Florida) anytime soon.


D.M. in Granite Bay, CA, writes: Regarding the quip about pathologists and surgeons from H.F. in Pittsburgh, the full joke is: the internist knows everything and does nothing, the surgeon knows nothing and does everything, the psychiatrist knows nothing and does nothing, and the pathologist knows everything and does everything... but it's too late.

This item appeared on Read it Monday through Friday for political and election news, Saturday for answers to reader's questions, and Sunday for letters from readers.                     State polls                     All Senate candidates