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Sunday Mailbag

Looking at the mailbag, it would seem that former president Donald Trump was indicted this week. Who knew?

United States of America v. Donald Trump: The Indictment

J.A. in Austin, TX, writes: I read every word of the indictment (though I did skim the details of documents 23-31; your point about how much is enough to establish just how concerning the documents are was very well formulated).

Trump is... well, I believe the technical term is "fuuuuuuu**ed."

It is a "speaking indictment," which lays out, in detail, the narrative established by the facts as discovered in the case. I can imagine supporters of Trump being unwilling to read it, but I honestly cannot imagine anyone who does read the document able to describe this as anything other than an airtight case. And, given the unique circumstances of indicting a former President, it absolutely had to be nothing less. The indictment is damning in the specificity of the details.

M.B. in Washington, DC, writes: As I was reading the indictment yesterday with my jaw hanging open, the question that kept flashing in red lights in my head was "Why on EARTH has nobody obtained a search warrant for the entire premises of Bedminster??!!" Surely there's now probable cause—the whole part about how Nauta smuggled boxes (a lot of boxes) out to Trump's plane when he was on his way to Bedminster for the summer seems pretty compelling. I don't believe that the place has already somehow secretly been searched—the media would have been all over it. When are they going to look?

J.C. in Fountain Valley, CA, writes: I am amazed at the lack of attention to the gravity of the exposure of this information to anyone with the skills to access it. The Senate should hold hearings on the damages and cost of mitigation. And to the plausible possibility that the exposure was intentional in response to his primary client, Putin.

J.G. in Berkeley, CA, writes: You wrote:

(V) & (Z) answer: To start, we made a mistake when reporting the data. We downloaded the results, and opened them in Excel, forgetting that Excel treats fields with a zero in them as blanks. As it turns out, there were actually 44 people (a bit less than 2% of the respondents) who thought Trump would not be indicted at all. They were not correct, of course.

I'm one of those 44 people, and while I cannot speak for the other 43, I can assure and attest that I registered zero days because I thought the indictment was coming down that same day (June 7). Let the record show I was only 2 days off.

It did not occur to me that zero would be considered "no indictment."

United States of America v. Donald Trump: The Defendant

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I'm really surprised that no one has made this comment yet, so let me just blurt it out. Is Trump a hoarder, or what?

It's bad enough that every picture taken from within Mar-a-Lago just screams "Tacky, Tacky, Tacky!" It looks like Trump was nouveau riche and he asked some low-level monster how he should decorate, then feeling assured that this what how the kings and queens lived, bought his faux chandeliers at Walmart, and from the discontinued aisle no less. Frankly I've seen Motel 6's look more fancy than that. Maybe the double-wide crowd thinks "It's dang purty!" but I wouldn't step foot in there.

In all that cheap tackiness is boxes upon boxes crammed full of everything under the sun. All Trump needs in a few dozen cats and he could have his own series on Lifetime. When one reads the indictment, especially the texts between his employees, I come away with an image of a man just aimlessly looking through them, over and over, in every spare moment he can find. Which is ironic considering that he didn't read any of the papers he's so obsessed with when he was supposed to be reading them.

There's a strange part of the indictment that has the two Trump employees asking if Trump is only concerned with the papers or also the other stuff he had crammed in. The other employee said that Trump was only interested in the "beautiful mind paper." What the hell is that? Does Trump think he's Russell Crowe? After thinking about it for a while, the only conclusion I can reach is that Trump sees those papers as a validation of how powerful he is. He might not even understand the significance of the individual papers—in fact, for all intents and purposes, they could be coloring books with his name on them. To Trump, he can't even conceive that these papers have any value except for his having them, to pore endlessly through. It's almost pathetic, but not enough to change my opinion about him. He's still just one litter box away from being a crazy hoarder.

M.B. in Menlo Park, CA, writes: The memes based on the bathroom documents photo have begun. This tweet provides a better ending to Raiders of the Lost Ark:

Wow. Disney+ changed the ending of Raiders of the Lost Ark...

— Jesse McLaren (@McJesse) June 9, 2023

J.B. in Pittsboro, NC, writes: I would like to suggest an option for housing TFG for his 100 or so years in the federal prison system: Guantánamo. Lots of room, isolated, suitable for enemies of the USA.

J.I. in Regina, SK, Canada, writes: Pity the Germans tore down Spandau.

M.A. in Knoxville, TN, writes: Poop emojis simply couldn't convey how deep the trouble Trump's in. This little movie snippet does a great job, though!

P.B. in Chicago, IL, writes: When Donald Trump was president, my wife had this discussion, and then we have had the discussion a few times since, especially this week.

The biggest mistake Trump made in his life was running for the presidency. He had a really good life. He was basically a very wealthy man who got away with so much grift and tax evasion. He was liked by many (and, of course, many people like me just thought he was a goofball but basically harmless—although I was very upset about the Birther stuff).

By running for president (and winning), he was put under a microscope. All the bad stuff about him came out and showed how horrible he was. And the culmination of that is that he is most likely going to die in prison.

If he had never run, he would have continued in that life as a celebrity who got away with all the grift. Ego destroyed him.

United States of America v. Donald Trump: The Judge

L.E. in Santa Barbara, CA, writes: I am far less pessimistic regarding the assignment of Aileen Cannon to Trump's current Federal case in Florida. Really, it only indicates that she and Judge Bruce Reinhardt (the two judges who originally dealt with the subpoena and search warrant for Mar-a-Lago) signed the "appear to be arraigned" paperwork. The trial judge is still to be assigned. Thus, unless there are significant shenanigans on the 11th Circuit, she is not eligible to be the trial judge under district division distance rules, per one analysis I read. Additionally, in this same analysis, the Miami "duty judge" should be presiding over the arraignment in Miami—and not Cannon up in Fort Lauderdale.

So, until I see Judge Cannon presiding as the trial judge, I am not going to be anxious. And, even if Cannon were to pull the trial straw, another analysis by Joyce Vance: (bold emphasis is mine):

Before everyone gets too spun up about reports Judge Cannon has been assigned to the Trump case, a little law. I used to be an appellate chief in the 11th Circuit (where Florida is) and I litigated a few appeals where we asked the court of appeals to order a judge to recuse.

Altho a judge's behavior in court generally doesn't form the basis for recusal, the 11th Circuit has ordered "reassignment" where a judge leans so heavily for a defendant they call their objectivity in the eyes of the public into question. This is from US v. Martin.

This is persuasive authority that Judge Cannon must step aside if the case falls to her as a permanent assignment. Her court & certainly the 11th won't tolerate the damage it would do to their credibility if she failed to voluntarily recuse.

It is not clear Cannon is permanently assigned to the case. If she is, it's extremely unlikely it stays with her and as a last resort, DOJ will challenge her participation and win.

In light of the 11th Circuit smacking down Cannon twice, I suspect Vance knows of what she speaks.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: R.E.M. in Brooklyn did a nice job of describing many ways Judge Cannon could gum up the prosecution's works. But I am not so sure about your conclusion that, if the prosecution seeks to have her removed from the case, "that request is exceedingly likely to be granted." There are times when a trial judge's rulings are so one-sided that an appellate court decides that the trial judge is biased and must be replaced by someone else to assure a fair trial. But it's very rare. Judges don't like admitting that judges—even other judges—are biased.

Of course, the question whether a judge appointed to a lifetime position by an ex-president can fairly preside over a criminal trial of that ex-president is unpresidented (forgive me), so we don't know how that will turn out. Note, however, that it is not at all unusual for federal judges, including Supreme Court justices, to decide cases against actions by the presidential administration of the president that appointed them. That's arguably distinguishable, because the personal interests of the appointing president are not directly at stake in those cases. But remember the Scalia-Cheney duck hunt?

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: I think I didn't give you a detailed-enough answer Friday (and note I don't practice criminal law, so if you have a correspondent who does, I defer to them). Federal criminal appeals are governed by 18 U.S.C. 3731. A final order (like a dismissal of an indictment, or a judgment of acquittal after a jury verdict of guilty) is appealable by the government. Very few non-final orders are appealable, though one potentially relevant exception is appeals of pretrial evidentiary rulings.

The Classified Information Procedures Act (CIPA) will be implicated because of the 31 counts of unlawful possession of National Defense Information. The way-too-short version is that the government will seek a protective order and pretrial determination of whether it can provide a summary of the information or the document with redactions. The standard is that they must provide the defendant with substantially the same ability to make their defense as would disclosure of the specified classified information. If the trial judge denies the government's request in whole or part, it is appealable. So, for example, if Judge Cannon requires production to the defense of an unredacted document, or denies use of a summary, the 11th Circuit can review it (but of course, that will take time). It is not inconceivable that a count could get thrown out because the government does not want to produce a document in the form the judges require.

Note also that trial scheduling is not appealable. The only remedy there would be the "extraordinary" one of mandamus, and courts of appeals rarely grant that kind of relief.

T.M.M. in Odessa, MO, writes: While there are a lot of things that judges can do to put their thumbs on the scale, they really need to be broken into two categories—pre-trial rulings and trial rulings.

In many criminal cases, there are two big types of pre-trial motions: (1) motions to dismiss and (2) motions to suppress. To put these two types of motions into plain English, a motion to dismiss is just what the name sounds like: a motion to have the charges dropped. A motion to suppress tries to keep an item of evidence from being used on the theory that the evidence was illegally obtained. In this case, such a motion would allege that the search warrant was not properly issued (for example, that the evidence submitted as part of the application for a search warrant was not enough to support the warrant) or that the warrant was too vague or covered more than it should have. Judge Cannon will probably play those two issues close to the line for one reason—if she rules for Trump on either, the government gets to appeal.

Trial rulings are different. Because jeopardy has attached, the government does not get to appeal if the jury somehow acquits the prisoner in the dock. So Judge Cannon could potentially keep certain evidence out or give an unusual set of instructions. The biggest way that a political hack wearing black robes can stick their thumb on the scale is by granting a motion for judgment of acquittal at the close of the evidence before submission to the jury. In almost every criminal case, when the prosecution rests, the defendant asks for a judgment of acquittal based on the (normally meritless) claim that the evidence in the case, taken in the light most favorable to the prosecution (i.e. only the evidence supporting guilt is considered since the jury gets to decide what evidence to believe) is insufficient for any reasonable jury to return a guilty verdict. Of course, unless the prosecution is grossly incompetent or something has gone seriously wrong with witnesses changing their testimony, the prosecution will not have started a trial without having sufficient evidence to survive a motion for judgment of acquittal. But because jeopardy has attached, a pre-verdict grant of a judgment of acquittal is not reviewable on appeal. On the other hand, if the judge lets the case get to the jury and the jury returns a guilty verdict, the prosecution gets to review a post-verdict order granting a judgment of acquittal notwithstanding the verdict.

The real issue is whether Judge Cannon cares enough for her reputation and future to play the Trump trial relatively straight. At some point in time, the Trump fever will break. Unless Judge Cannon seriously believes that Trump could win in 2024 and push her up to the 11th Circuit, she needs to think about what will help her in five to ten years. The wise thing for her to do would be to recuse herself, spend the next 5 years building a reputation as a solid, sane, conservative judge, and hope that President Blake Masters appoints her to the Eleventh Circuit in 2030.

United States of America v. Donald Trump: The Timeline

J.S. in West Hartford, CT, writes: I am not a lawyer nor am I trained to deal with classified information, but I disagree with your assessment that the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case will be tried before the 2024 elections—at least for Defendant Trump. The reasoning is that new defense attorneys need to be approved for clearance to see the classified documents, and trained regarding the management of such documents in a courtroom. (Yet another Trump tactic creating a delay!) And then the admissibility of the classified documents will likely be challenged.

However, the indictment of Defendant Nauta puts significant pressure on Nauta to enter into a plea bargain. If his trial can be held separately, there may be no need to reveal classified information to the jury. His alleged obstruction can be demonstrated with e-mails, videos, and photographs, and the alleged lies and deception are visible without need of disclosing government secrets. His conviction could be informative.

When the indictment was unsealed Friday, I surmised that the Florida indictment is just the initial shot across the bow. I believe there will be an even more insidious indictment from the Washington, D.C., grand jury dealing with stolen classified documents (and not just 1/6 charges).

As a result, I maintain that everyone should take a deep breath, and let Jack Smith and his team continue with their 6-dimensional chess. Do not be distracted by the fact that some very damnable (and, hopefully, easily provable once the evidence is allowed) charges against Trump are to be tried in front of a jury of southern Florida citizens in a Miami courtroom managed by Judge Aileen Cannon. Let that court be twisted into knots while working through all of the details that are necessary to ensure a fair trial. And let a local jury grapple with the incredible accusations that have been presented in the indictment. The Miami indictment possibly may be only the first government charge of espionage and stolen documents, and another one (or more?) will happen in another venue in the near future.

J.L. in Paterson, NJ, writes: You see an "excellent chance" of a Trump conviction before the 2024 election. A former federal prosecutor and defense attorney disagrees. He notes factors that would move the case quickly, but believes they're outweighed by the potential obstacles to a speedy trial. He concludes that Trump "could easily delay this trial past the election—and there is every reason why he would, from fundraising advantages to avoiding a distraction from the campaign trail to the very real risk that a conviction might present."

On the other hand, another former federal prosecutor sees the Southern District of Florida as an exception to the general rule. He told ABC News that, in that court, "you can expect a criminal case to be resolved within six months of an indictment issuing." If he's right, a jury verdict (though not appeals) will come before the election and even before the first caucus or primary—making for a most interesting primary season.

United States of America v. Donald Trump: The Political Impact

M.G. in Augsburg, Germany, writes: In reference to the non-Donald Trump Republican presidential candidates. you wrote: "We suspect that you're about to hear a lot of reporters ask: 'Would you pardon Donald Trump if you were elected president?' And you're about to hear a lot of candidates say things like: 'Well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it' and 'We'll have to examine all the facts and make a decision then.'"

I guess the best answer for a Republican candidate would be: "This point is moot as Donald Trump would have to admit that he is guilty to get a pardon. I am absolutely sure that Donald Trump is innocent and that is why he would never agree to that."

J.P in Bronx, NY, writes: Where to start? Donny indicted, my first reaction was: "about time!" After days to fully digest it, we are going to see how strong our entire system of government is. There's an old saying that "what does not kill you makes you stronger." If we can get through this and Donny winds up at Club Fed, it just might finally loosen Donny's hold on the GOP. Had plenty of time to think this week, with the NYC orange air. I'm very cautiously optimistic.

R.M. in Pensacola, FL, writes: While there is much discussion following the 37-count indictment of Donald Trump as to his political future, we need to be very real about it: Nothing is going to stop him from being the Republican nominee and he will have a very legitimate chance of winning the presidency again next year.

Hear me out. He already has more support than every other announced Republican candidate for president. Most polls put him over 50 percent of support from Republicans to be their nominee. This is despite everything that has happened from him in the last 8 years.

Republicans love what he offers. The chaos, lies, grift and other shenanigans that Trump and family and friends were and are involved in don't bother them. Trump has them all thinking that everyone is out to get him. This indictment doesn't change that.

If a video of Trump admitting to forcing himself on women becoming public a month before the 2016 election didn't derail his campaign, will 37 counts regarding classified documents 17 months before the 2024 election do anything? Not a chance.

The 2024 election will come down to what less than 100,000 swing voters in three states think about the migrant caravans in October 2024, as well as whatever manufactured outrage that Republicans will be complaining about at that time. That's it. The only thing that will stop Donald Trump is if he is six feet under the 18th green at Bedminster.

United States of America v. Donald Trump: The Musical

C.Z. in Sacramento, CA, writes: I loved your recent references to the two songs "Reunited" and "I'm So Excited." Here are my Trumpty-Dumpty versions of the lyrics. I can' get the tunes out of my head, but they make it easier to see the Orange Blob on TV. Have we had an reader contest with political song parodies yet?

Re-Indicted and it feels so good.
Re-indicted and it's understood.
Trump's such a sh**
And maybe this time is it.
The world is so excited
'Cause he's re-indicted, hey, hey.

"tRump's So Indicted"
tRump's so indicted, and he just can't hide it.
He's about to lose control and I think I like it.
I'm so excited that tRump's been indicted
And I know, I know, I know, he'll be in jail soon.

M.S. in Las Vegas, NV, writes: Took your idea and ran with it:

"Re-Indicted," by Oranges and verb (the best verbs)
He was a fool to have so much damn pride
D Minus was his average college ride
The lockup he'll have will make him lonesome and sad
We realize he loves only himself, so sad, hey hey

He spent the evening with his docs, you know
Regrets the moment that he let them go
His crimes were such a way of learnin' so much
We know now he's a traitor who cheated us such, hey hey

Re-indicted and it feels so good
Re-indicted wish we'd understood
There's one perfect fit
and jail time, oh yeah, that's it
We're all so excited cause he's re-indicted, hey hey

I.B. in Gainesville, FL, writes: It truly is schadenfreude. I actually am less concerned with seeing Trump incarcerated than numerous of his enablers, who are not themselves manifestly suffering from a serious personality disorder. They are the people who we most urgently need to make examples of.

Re-indicted, and it feels so good
They popped his *ss, he never thought they would
It's so nice to think he'll spend some time in the clink
It might be schadenfreude but I'm tickled pink, hey hey!

T.B. in Singapore writes: Somebody already went to town with the Pointer Sisters idea:

@damaliism #duet with @FallonTonight #fallontonight I know this is immature of me but it was too funny not to do it! #trumpindictment #conservativehypehouse #liberalhypehouse #voteblue2024 original sound - FallonTonight

R.S. in New York, NY, writes: The musical headlines of Trump's legal woes are wonderful. In that vein, I imagine Trump wandering around humming "Don't Arraign on My Parade."

A.L.F. in Bettendorf, IA, writes: As a lover of baroque I'd be remiss in not reminding you of Handel's aria "My Heart is Indicting."

T.P. in Monmouth, OR, writes: You mentioned Donald Trump's "longstanding, not-so-casual, racism, starting with discriminating against tenants of color in the 1970s."

In 1950, Woody Guthrie moved into Fred Trump's Beach Haven apartments in Brooklyn. I'm sure you've run into Woody's supplemental verses to "I Ain't Got No Home." If not:

Beach Haven ain't my home!
I just can't pay this rent!
My money's down the drain!
And my soul is badly bent!

Beach haven looks like heaven
Where no black ones come to roam!
No, no, no! Old Man Trump!
Beach Haven ain't my home!
Politics: The 2024 Presidential Race

D.D. in Portland, OR, writes: Regarding your earlier comments and response to B.F. in Poway, I think it's a good strategy for Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) to embrace the Trump victimhood argument for the federal indictment. It's part of his plan to appeal to the right-wing base and attack his top rivals: (1) Stay fairly mum about the New York and Georgia investigations that frame TFG as a lowlife criminal, and (2) Attack the federal indictment as a president weaponizing the DOJ. Heck, I don't believe DeSantis ever actually said Trump is innocent of any of these charges, federal or otherwise.

Just my $0.02, which is worth at least a few bucks.

A.S. in Bedford, MA, writes: I question your numerous assertions that Ron DeSantis' culture warrior positions are an act. This article from last year, about DeSantis' time as a 23-year-old high school teacher, implies that he has always been an entitled, socially conservative, historically revisionist a**hole.

A choice quote: "Mr. DeSantis's takes on the Civil War were the subject of so much talk that students made a satirical video about him at the time for the video yearbook."

Another quote: " history class, he was trying to play devil's advocate that the South had good reason to fight that war, to kill other people, over owning people—Black people. He was trying to say, 'It's not OK to own people, but they had property, businesses.'"

R.M. in Tucson, AZ, writes: Reading and watching the Mike Pence announcement reminded me why I don't watch action movies. The 3-minute video, changing action every 3 seconds, with the rapid movement and flashing lighting... I had to look away, as I am prone to seizures. I was struck by the fact that the video, in 3 minutes, had more action than 4 years of his vice presidency.

(V) & (Z) respond: We'd bet good money it also has more action than 38 years of his marriage.

A.F. in Portland, OR, writes: The more I read about Chris Christie, the more I become convinced he's the only one who stands a chance of dethroning Trump. By today's standards, Christie was a moderate governor. He only had 3 to 5 major scandals and didn't pass any anti-woke laws. That makes him a RINO in today's GOP.

He gives a bunch of former Trump voters an out. Since he was "in," and is now "out" he can shepherd the resesenters away from Trump. The Trump voters, who want out, will gladly ignore that Christie was never truly an "in" and was just pretending in order to try and get a job. Most who want "out" are most likely feeling the same way (i.e., they were "in-adjacent" as well).

He's also a dream candidate for the Corporate/Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) side of the GOP. He's extremely pro-business. He will absolutely do whatever is asked by Wall Street.

I know it's too late for predictions, but put me down for "by May 2024 it'll be Christie vs Trump."

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: If anybody is going to smack down a guy from Queens, it'll be a guy from Jersey, no? And much appreciated by the rest of us.

C.W. in Nassau, NY, writes: I love the way Chris Christie is trashing Donald Trump and pointing to his lack of character. However, in my mind it is a new definition of disingenuity.

Trump's character has been on display for, let's see, 40 years or so. Christie has been across a bridge (the one he jammed up) watching this for decades. So now we are to believe that he didn't know who he was dealing with when he was prepping Trump for debates and otherwise aiding him? He's a former prosecutor. He didn't suspect (or know) that Trump was a crook?

Trump is a cancer. Christie is a glib run-of-the-mill politician. It shows the state of our politics that in this moment, Christie looks so good by comparison. But don't forget who he really is.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: First, let me say up front that I loathe Chris Christie. He is petty and vulgar; he punches down (bullying and shouting down teachers who dare to question him, for example); when in power, he abused governmental authority to punish his political enemies (remember Bridgegate!); his policy views and political commitments are appalling.

But, despite the failure of his 2016 Presidential campaign, he is a shockingly effective politician. We all saw what he can do to an opponent like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). And when he was governor, heading up one of the most anti-environmental-protection New Jersey Administrations in recent memory, I was present in person while he absolutely charmed a roomful of the state's most devoted environmentalists. It was—scary.

On the other hand, it's possible to exaggerate Christie's effectiveness. When he says he had to work with a Democratic legislature, that's literally true, but that's hardly like Bill Clinton working with a House controlled by Newt Gingrich. Machine politics being what they are in New Jersey, the legislative majority and leadership have long been and will long be "Democratic." But not all Democrats are created equally liberal, and in New Jersey all Democrats (and Republicans) are created parochial and self-interested. It was not all that hard for Christie to get what he wanted out of "Democratic" legislators like that.

But back to my opening paragraph. Do the traits I describe sound familiar? Christie has a lot in common with the big kahunas of the 2024 Republican nomination competition. And that means he has a real shot at being the dragonslayer he hopes to be, even if there are too many MAGA faithful for him to be nominated this time around. Watch out, however, for a cabinet post should there be a non-Trump-Republican president (shudder). And remember that he's only 60. Things may be different in 2028.

Politics: Congress

C.R. in Pelham, AL, writes: You wrote, with regard to the Freedom Caucus blocking efforts to protect gas stove manufacturers: "The FCers support the legislation; after all, they have great affinity for anything that is full of gas and hot air."

It's hard not to miss the irony of GOP performative theater preventing the GOP from conducting performative theater. Why anyone still thinks this party is fit to govern is beyond me!

P.F. in Fairbanks, AK, writes: I like your use of "FCers "as a shorthand for the Freedom Caucus, but might I suggest a period after the F and C to denote an abbreviation?

I'm thinking something like F*C*ers?

M.F. in Oakville, ON, Canada, writes: I'm not sure I agree that progressives were losers in the debt ceiling deal. Sure, they didn't win anything, but what did they really lose that they wouldn't have lost anyway under any viable deal? Perhaps you could have followed the same path you did with Senate Minority Leader McConnell (who you said was not so much a winner as he was not a loser).

The political reality was that Joe Biden (and Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-CA) needed Democratic opposition to the bill so that the GOP didn't appear to have been rolled. You previously expressed surprise that the usually moderate Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) voted against the bill.

The progressives played the part the administration (and the economy) required them to play.

D.B. in Glenmont, NY, writes: In your answer about the purpose of debate on a bill, the soundbite for playback on social media is probably today's primary purpose for speaking for or against a bill.

There is also the purpose of establishing legislative intent. I have seen, in the New York Assembly, a few instances of one member of the majority asking another a series of questions where the debate is not contentious, but statements are placed on the record in the event that a future court case decides to consider legislative intent.

I am not a lawyer, but my job has given me an inside look at the legislative processes of the Assembly.

Politics: Climate Change

J.G. in Fredonia, NY, writes: You touched on the Climate Change problem (CCp) in your introduction of Gov. Doug Burgum (R-ND) as one more candidate in the primary. You report that he supports continued fossil fuel production and supports capturing carbon emissions to mitigate the CCp. Burgum's "support" is misdirection, in his intent to continue the fossil fuel path. Carbon Capture technology (CCt) may contribute on the margins, but it is not a viable solution to increased carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.

You also mention The Hill's reporting on an article in Science Direct that suggests that "fungi might be a powerful tool for capturing carbon." The article headline does suggest that is the case but headlines tend to be click bait. Mycorrhizal fungi (mushroom producers) are part of the carbon cycle; the article estimates as much as about a third of human CO2 production. The number refers to CO2 FLUX—that is, the CO2 that passes through the fungi biomass. The fungi capture sugars from plants and use that as fuel to drive metabolism with CO2 a product. The actual total fungi mass may increase (or decrease) a bit each year but it can not absorb and store that much biomass.

The science-based article concludes that the study "should motivate an inclusion of mycorrhizal fungi both within global climate and carbon cycling models, and within conservation policy and practice." It does not say that the fungi contribute a net removal of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Reduction of CO2 production can help solve the CCp. Misdirection and wishful thinking will not.

Pat Robertson

É.óhA. in Dublin, Ireland, writes: I was reading your item on Pat Robertson's timely demise, and I had to keep reminding myself that he and Pat Buchanan were different people.

I vaguely remember the former's 1988 run for the nomination, and my awareness of the latter comes from reading so much Hunter S. Thompson. I thought I was alone, though, in regularly confusing the two.

That is, until I read today's bottom-of-the-page quiz answer: "The four states where Buchanan won the GOP delegates are ..."

How I jumped for joy to know I was not alone in having to spent time to distinguish the two Pats in my head! And how that joy waned when, upon refreshing the page in my browser, I saw you have already corrected the mistake.

J.C. in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, writes: You said that if we can find anything in the list of Pat Robertson remarks that is Christ-Like, we are a better theologian than you are. Challenge Accepted.

Robertson claimed Jews are secretly running the world.

Followers of Christ believe he is God and running the world.

Jesus is Jewish.

V.I. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: I, too, struggle with the question of how to refer to people who claim (often loudly) that they are Christian, yet whose speech and behavior belie them. Pat Robertson is just one of a long list of living and deceased Americans who really should be referred to by another label. Allow me to suggest two such appellations: Christianist, and Christianoid.

I prefer the former because the latter is an inelegant word whose suffix suggests something out of the robotics world ("humanoid"; "android"). Christianists are "like Christians"; they use Biblical language, even quote Jesus Christ directly, as they verbally violate true fundamental Christian tenets, especially the Greatest Commandment to "love thy neighbor as thyself." Christianists can be found in many walks of life, but ironically are particularly rife among politicians and ministers of the faith. I include among these former Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). If you read their legislative record, and their public comments, they sound like fervent acolytes of Ayn Rand. Rand's philosophy espouses self-interest as an overarching ideal—an imperative, even—and condemns personal and public altruism as a destructive force. No public safety nets for them! To the extent that Rand's (and Ryan's and Paul's) philosophy is hostile to the ideal of universal social justice, they represent the antithesis of the true Christian gospel. Hence, "Christianist."

J.D.L. in Miami Beach, FL, writes: I work for a Christian organization, albeit one that isn't full of lunatics. We do not like to get into the religious shenanigans going on in politics. For as much as the "Christian" right admires Pat Robertson, his death was not even a blip on our radar. I'm unable to find any communication from anyone—leadership, employees, custodians, etc.—on our platforms about mourning his death. That should tell you all you need to know about his character.

M.A. in Knoxville, TN, writes: As far back as high school, I referred to Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network as the "holier than thou" channel. For those not familiar with the network, it only takes a few minutes of watching to see that it's exactly that. It's all performative Christianity, all the time.

L.V.A. in Idaho Falls, ID, writes: Pat Robertson dead at 93?

"I've never wished a man dead, but I have read some obituaries with great pleasure." - (Not) Mark Twain

G.T.M. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: Your note about Disney and The 700 Club reminded me of radio station KRAB in Seattle. KRAB was a "public access" station and took their remit to provide airtime to anyone who wanted it very seriously. The folks who ran it were also more than "sorta leftover hippie," so they were faced with a bit of a conundrum when the American Nazi Party asked for air time.

They solved the conundrum in a manner that Disney isn't quite able to do. They, like Disney, had control of programming (but not content) so they, like Disney, buried the program deep in the depths of the "Who the hell would be listening at this time" slot. However, they went just a bit further and bracketed the program with "The Gay and Lesbian News" and "The Black Power Hour'"—programs which I'm pretty certain Disney wouldn't actually broadcast.

The American Nazi Party program lasted less than two months before the Nazis pulled it.

(V) & (Z) respond: Not unlike the time that the KKK "adopted" a mile of highway in Missouri. The legislature couldn't stop them, for First Amendment reasons, but it could rename that segment "Rosa Parks Highway." The KKK quickly stopped paying its adoption fees.

Pride Month

R.M.S. in Stamford, CT, writes: I wanted to push back on a point made by D.E. in Lancaster. I am a Millennial gay man in my early 40s and have been openly gay since I was 16. I've been a supporter of full civil and marriage rights for LGBT people for about 25 years now. We've won major victories at the Supreme Court in 2015 and 2020, enshrining most of these rights into federal law, including employment protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. But I have to say there is one letter often used that I do not support: Q for queer. I have never identified as queer and I do not support any groups that engage in queer activism.

For one, the word queer implies sexual deviance, and I have never viewed myself as a deviant. The intimate conduct I engage in is done by tens of millions of heterosexuals as well. For that reason, I don't agree with drawing a line between myself and them.

But even more importantly, I do not agree with the worldview of queer theorists. Their central belief is that being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender is not part of human nature because they reject the existence of human nature. They insist sexuality and gender are socially constructed and performative. Because they view society as a slate of systemic oppressions and sexual minorities as an exception to norms, they define such people by their rejection of heteronormativity. Being queer is about living on the margins and in revolt against society.

To be gay, lesbian, or bisexual on the other hand, is simply to have an attraction to the same sex. Such people can have a wide variety of interests, political views, and religious beliefs. Most gays are not queers. Some gays are even part of the MAGA cult, like Rep. "George Santos" (R-NY) and Milo Yiannopoulos.

Most gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and trans people view their sexuality and gender identity as a biological fact. I think evolutionary science is overwhelmingly proving that human sexuality and gender identity are a result of human evolution and part of our nature. Evolution leads to a wide variety of outcomes in our species. Homophobes throughout history smeared gays and lesbians as "false men and women." Insisting that we were real men and women was a crucial step to achieving equality and becoming liberated. However, now queer theorists insist we're all just performing masculinity and femininity. I beg to differ.

S.B. in Hood River, OR, writes: As a lifelong White Castle craver, I must object to their disparagement by D.E in Lancaster. While the management of White Castle could never be mistaken for, say, that of Ben and Jerry's, neither would it be acceptable to the anti-woke boycotters. You can read their annual report on Diversity and Inclusion here. And their celebration of Pride Month is surely a deal breaker. And the grease is a feature, not a bug. Why do you think they are called sliders?

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: I would argue to D.E. in Lancaster that a good portion of gay men do not stick up for all the letters in LGBTQIA. Many of them stop at the B.


M.W.W. in Port Orchard, WA, writes: I thoroughly enjoyed "This Week in Freudenfreude: The Sultan of Slowjamastan" and the "whole 'I'm creating my own country' shtick." Since this is Pride Month, I thought I should point out that you missed a big one, the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands, which coincidentally was founded the same year was. It was dissolved in 2017 because its purpose had been achieved (marriage equality and equal rights in Australia), but its founding and existence seemed to be legitimate based on both British Common Law, and with some foundation also in international law. I actually had started the process of applying for citizenship and a passport many years ago.

P.S. in Gloucester, MA, writes: All hail Slowjamastan! However, it is far from alone as a micronation.

I had a previous favorite. Back in my college days, summer of 1977, the story of "Montmartre, Government of" and its struggle with New York Telephone to remain listed in the blue (governmental) pages of the Manhattan phone book unfolded in the newspaper. ("What's a phone book?" say the youth of 46 years hence. "What's a newspaper?" "You mean, Paul McCartney was in another band before Wings?")

The details in the well-organized Wikipedia article regarding the Most Serene Federal Republic of Montmartre (as it's officially known, in contexts less terse than a phone book listing) are a total hoot. Don't neglect the footnotes!

G.M. in Salt Lake City, UT, writes: You missed my favorite country/not a country: Moosylvania. It was in Lake of the Woods, that tiny bite that the US took out of Canada just before the 49th Parallel became the US-Canadian border. It was championed by the creators of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show. They actually had an appointment for a light-hearted visit with JFK to make their case, but as fate would have it, the day of the appointment was the first day of the Cuban Missile Crisis. They never got rescheduled.

W.S. in Austin, TX, writes: Was surprised not to find the Empire of the United States, as founded back in the 19th century by Emperor Norton.

The only instance of an imaginary country, to my knowledge, that issued currency subsequently treated as valid by businesses that did not consider themselves as falling within that country's jurisdiction.

S.S. in Portland, OR, writes: Back in the '60s, Winneconne, WI, declared itself a sovereign state when it was accidentally left off the official road map of Wisconsin. For a town relying on tourism, this was a big problem, so the town declared itself independent. They had a navy (1 fishing boat) and an air force (1 small plane). Their flag featured poison ivy, a skunk, a dodo, and a sheep's head. I believe they petitioned Lyndon B. Johnson for recognition. They put a toll booth on a bridge, charging you to enter the country. It was a brilliant PR stunt. To this day, the town celebrates Sovereign Days.

A.P.B. in Ljubljana, Slovenia, writes: I would be neglecting my duties if I did not add the NSK State In Time to the list.

It is a state in time rather than a space, formed by the Slovenian NSK collective and was a social/art comment on the nationalisms that caused the Yugoslav carnage in the 90s. Allegedly, there are even cases of citizens of Sarajevo using NSK passports to be able to evacuate the besieged Bosnian capital.

The state still accepts citizenship applications, with a large number of applicants apparently coming from Nigeria as of late.


B.C. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: I was happy to see that the site-meisters at don't really care for golf. I actively hate golf, to the extent that there are moments I wish that George Hayduke truly did live and had moved to Phoenix.

Golf is a despicable retired rich guy's game which has devastating consequences for the Sonoran Desert flora and fauna. Water is gold in the desert. Last year, The Arizona Republic published an article about Arizona golf courses and water usage. Some main points of the article:

New housing developments in Phoenix are no longer being permitted because developers have no way to guarantee water availability. And I'm not sure the recent Colorado River water agreement is going to do very much to keep that vital resource from going dry. Human beings can live without a lot of things like cell phones, the Internet and golf courses, but water isn't one of them.

Then, when I read about the PGA and the LIV sharing the same bed, I remember that the Saudi leadership knows a lot about living in the desert, and the golfing industry bigwig dirtbags obviously know very little.

J.S. in The Hague, Netherlands, writes: In further news about the PGA-LIV merger, they will change each tournament:

The PGA will take care of holes 1-8 and 12-18.

Saudi Arabia is responsible for 9-11.

D.M. in Burnsville, MN, writes: This is personal... and, at age 80, I'm old enough to remember it all, with my young self sprawled on the living room carpet before the great post-World War II console radio that received, on the AM band, ABC, CBS, NBC, Mutual, and assorted local stations. The quiz show was originally known as Take It or Leave It. Later it became The $64 Question.

(V) will certainly recognize the binary progression inherent in the "magic number" 64, which is also known as 2^6, or 26. There is absolutely no need for further inflation of the original value of 2^6. Not only does $(2^6*1000) fail to fall gracefully from one's lips, but it fails to carry the (presumably original) intent of that show's later (TV) producers of a newer, more original, grander, inflated and self-aggrandized version of the original radio show—and with isolation booths, too, no less.

2^6*1000 has several extra and unnecessary syllables, would you not agree? Why not return to our roots and use the simplest possible inquiry, namely "the $64 question"? Yet even here I see my beloved authors pandering to the memory of a show not only long dead, but subject to a federal investigation, and even the (fictional) scandalous subject itself of a movie?

So, I beg of you—lose the superfluous thousand!

P.B. in Gainesville, FL, writes: To B.D. in St. Agatha: My sympathies on your squirrel troubles re: feeding songbirds. Here is a solution that worked for us:

A bird feeder, topped with a 
white shade, which is itself topped with a black cylinder.

Note, the bird feeder originally came with the smaller, hard plastic shield, and was adequate to defeat the squirrels from climbing down via the chain (hidden in this snap) to the ledge with the seeds. For a while (a few weeks). But they eventually figured out how to stretch themselves past the shield, while dangling from their hind legs, and get onto the ledge anyway.

Then we added the large (dark) baffle to prevent them grabbing the chain. This again worked, but only for a few days. The little bastards discovered they could just drop onto the ledge from all the way at the top of the chain, while literally twisting in mid-air so as to not collide with the hard shield very much, and still grab onto the ledge. From inside the house, we saw them do this a couple of times, and couldn't believe our eyes.

After much thought and aggravation (I'm a part-time rocket scientist, god**mit!), I convinced myself that if the shield were only a little wider, they wouldn't be able to dodge around it on the way down. So I got some flexible plastic sheeting and cut it into a circle, then put it between the hard shield and the dark baffle so that it retained a little stiffness. And it worked!

They've now mostly given up, but for the past few months when they still occasionally try, we laugh ourselves silly when they try their drop trick, or even try leaping from the side of the house, only to bounce off the wide sheet and flop into the ground. I'm hoping one day one of them lands on its head on the concrete, and I can use a shovel to fling its miserable little body over the fence.

High fives all around. If only political problems were this easy to fix.

P.S.: There are also the squirrel-spinning bird feeders, which are a scream to watch, but supposedly more humane than me.

J.M in Arvada, CO (though high school was in Western Washington), writes: Since we're talking about infamous high-school play stories I guess I'll tell the one from my high school. My best friend was in the drama club and they decided to perform The Breakfast Club. The administration was fine with that, as long as they sanitized the language. They agreed to that, but for the final performance they decided to go for it and used the unsanitized lines. The vice-principal in charge of discipline, well known for his lack of humor or anything else, was not pleased. For their punishment they received... Saturday school. Sadly there was no indication that the vice-principal was familiar with the plot of the movie/play, and thus understood the irony of that punishment.

Final Words

F.B. in New York City, NY, writes: This appeared in Central Park for a short while, and seems apropos for this week:

It's a faux Trump 
headstone with his name, year of birth, and the memorial message 'Made America Hate Again.'

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

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