Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Sunday Mailbag

The limits imposed by illness and lack of available time are receding. Today will be the first set of comments inspired by the abortion questions, and by the follow-up item we ran. Next week will be a few more questions and answers, and another follow-up item, and more comments on Sunday.

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Race

R.R. in Nashville, TN, writes: On the question of Joe Biden dropping out, you listed some great reasons why he will run again. I wish to list another that I know piss some off, but it's why, IMHO, we have three justices on the Supreme Court that directly threaten American democracy.

If Biden were out, there would be a free-for-all in the Democratic primary. And one of those complicating the process again would be Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Last thing the Democrats need is his band of pharaisaical cultists poisoning everyone else's well as they did in 2016, making it that much more difficult for the ultimate winner to succeed in the general election.

I think Biden should run because, other than a few glaring mistakes, he's been a good President and will be a good leader for another four years starting in '25. Also, since I, too, am old enough to remember when Jurassic wasn't a Park, it kind of gives me hope that I can still be an active, viable, even productive person even at my in-between age (you know, in between 75 and death).

P.B. in Sønderborg, Denmark, writes: Regarding "A Bad Poll for Biden," I wonder if you guys might be suffering from immersion in a left-leaning media environment. This is revealed by your characterization of Biden as having had only a "few high profile gaffes." That's totally not the point. It's not major gaffes that define Biden; it's the way he speaks and acts on a daily basis. For example, have another look at the video you posted back around Easter time:

If you take off the rose-colored (blue-tinted?) glasses for a moment and try to look at this video objectively, can you really not see Biden as coming across as incoherent and confused? The strange rambling, the way he has to turn his entire body to address Al Roker or the First Lady, blurting out what his advisors have surely told him to wait to announce: this is not someone who is lucid and articulate. The comments on the video seem to confirm that I am not alone in this viewpoint.

Having said that, however, I will totally vote for Biden over Trump again, if necessary. I suspect most Americans feel the same. When Trump says something stupid and/or offensive, he doesn't seem senile. He just reveals—once again—that he is a narcissistic jerk. I think a lot of people can see the distinction, which is why that bad poll for Biden reads as it does.

(V) & (Z) respond: We see plenty of Biden footage, and we don't see someone who has lost control of his mental processes. And we see no evidence of problems in this clip. Have you ever interacted with someone who was having real processing issues? Because we have, and this just isn't what it looks like.

Also, we can think of no worse source for "what people are thinking" than YouTube comments, given the way that site's algorithm works.

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: There are other benefits to the "leak" about Joe Biden's diet: It paints a picture of a healthy marital relationship within the first family. I had a chuckle over it; I thought it made them more relatable. Could you imagine Melania policing Donald's diet? Could you imagine her even wanting to try?

(V) & (Z) respond: Well, we could see Melania encouraging Donald to eat lots of unhealthy foods, for... reasons.

Politics: Trump "Town Hall"

R.M.S. in Lebanon, CT, writes: I agree with about 90% of what you wrote about CNN's interview with Donald Trump, with one major exception. You cited the Lincoln Project and said the interview normalizes Trump. CNN is not normalizing Trump. He is a former president who won the 2016 election. The American public normalized Trump when they elected him. The normalization ship sailed 7 years ago.

The bar has been set so low by his election that conduct that was considered fatal to a politician in the 2000s seems like nothing today. Do you remember when Howard Dean yelled at a rally in 2004 and it was considered a career-ending event? Where has his electoral career gone since then?

Fast forward to now. I would not be surprised if Trump receives 65 million votes next year despite being impeached twice, arrested for financial crimes, and found liable for sexual battery. A huge number of Americans just do not care.

F.S. in Cologne, Germany, writes: I am probably the only reader of who wants to defend CNN for the Trump town hall, at least partially. I mean, CNN has to look at their ratings. They have to make money, otherwise CNN wouldn't exist for much longer. And they can only make money if their ratings are good. Apparently good journalism doesn't lead to good ratings, so they have to abandon good journalism if they want to survive. That's the system, as far as I know.

So, for me, it's an understandable decision to host a town hall for Donald Trump. I also can't understand that some people (like Amanda Carpenter) accuse CNN of normalizing Trump. I mean, about 45% of the country likes him, so for them Trump's behavior is already normal. Some commentators apparently think that their own values are shared by the vast majority of the people in the U.S., but apparently that's not the case. There are two Americas, get used to it.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: Jon Favreau had an interesting take on Pod Save America (starting at 11:45, although I recommend the entire opening segment) about the CNN Town Hall featuring The Former Guy. He noted that the real damage done by this debacle is that the headlines and trending topics were all about what a mistake it was that CNN did this. This drowned out all of the awful things that Drumpf talked about. That he's probably in favor of a national abortion ban. That he would likely switch sides in the Ukraine War and back Russia. That he would bring back family separation at the border. That he still claims that the 2020 election was rigged. That he would pardon January 6th insurrectionists. That he defamed E. Jean Carroll (again) within hours of the judgment against him for defaming (and sexually abusing) her. All of this was relegated to the bottom of the coverage (for those who remember newspapers, the equivalent of page 3) where people who don't follow politics won't see it. That, he posits, is the real tragedy of CNN's decision to give Trump a platform.

Hopefully this stuff will show up in Democratic ads. 2017-21 cannot be lost in a memory hole. People need to be reminded (perhaps daily) what a chaotic disaster his presidency was and that we simply cannot put ourselves through this again.

D.B. in San Diego, CA, writes: While I agree with all of the criticism and commentary about CNN's decisions regarding the town hall, I will offer one potential silver lining: Even for people like the readers of this site who pay an above-average amount of attention to US politics, we needed a reminder of Just. How. Bad. It. Can. Be. We've largely stopped paying attention to Trump's rallies, or possibly even taking him seriously. That town hall went a long way towards changing that.

D.G. in North Sandwich, NH, writes: I live in a small town in central New Hampshire and have attended many "town hall" meetings.

What CNN broadcast and what the nation saw this week was not a town hall. Our meetings are civil affairs where citizens gather to share ideas—and sometimes disagree—but without being disagreeable.

This fiasco was not a "town hall"—it was an abomination and an insult to the citizens of the Granite State.

E.R. in Irving, TX, writes: Only Donald Trump could lose a debate where he's the only participant.

A.M. in Miami Beach, FL, writes: I think CNN's fiasco was just another in a long line of fiascos that are driven by how the corporate parents view CNN. In my opinion, Ted Turner considered CNN a loss-leader, designed to be the icing on the cake of distributing the full suite of Turner programming to cable networks and increasing profit across the board. So it had to be a real news source, quick and mostly accurate, that added enough value overall to sell TNT and TBS but merely had to break even financially. Through the various sales since then, each new owner has seen CNN solely in terms of a profit center, that had to compete for eyeballs and ad dollars against other quasi-news channels, resulting in more and more reality TV and opinion shows, more sensationalism, and a steady decline in journalistic standards. New CEO Chris Licht appears hellbent on putting the final nails in the coffin.

J.B. in Waukee, IA, writes: I'm not at all surprised about the Trump town hall fiasco. Since Chris Licht has taken over CNN, he has stated that he's trying to tack to the middle to attract more conservatives, but today's Republicans only want red meat in exchange for their attention.

I'm 100% convinced that Kaitlan Collins was chosen as moderator to not only appease Trump but because she has no interest in correcting his falsehoods. Collins got her start at the Daily Caller, the right-wing rag that Tucker Carlson founded. Her time there coincides with when Carlson was editor-in-chief, so it's hard to argue that she was unaware of the political slant of the publication she worked for.

Collins put out some extremely degrading dreck while writing for the publication. She wrote an article that complained about the length of Obama's daughters' skirts in a photo they sent out for Easter. She wrote an article likening waterboarding to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge by calling Guantanamo detainees "hipsters" for doing it first. She also wrote an article "convincing" governors to allow Syrian refugees because some are attractive women and included several photographs of Syrian models. That article also contained the pun "Syria-sly hot" which should have been enough to make sure she never worked again, in my opinion.

In conclusion, Collins was chosen because she's a right-wing ideologue masquerading as a journalist, and that's how CNN wants to present the news now.

C.L. in Boulder, CO, writes: You wrote: "What the network [CNN] should have done is send their toughest bulldog in there, someone who can go toe-to-toe with Trump. And, truth be told, that probably means a male moderator (John King?) since The Donald is such a misogynist and CNN doesn't have that many on-air women staffers. That said, there's no rule that CNN has to use someone on its payroll for an event like this. Katie Couric could handle him, we think, and so could Meredith Vieira."

We know that Savannah Guthrie can handle Trump. She did so in October 2020.

E.K.H. in San Antonio, TX, writes: Dumb move on CNN's part, choosing Kaitlan Collins as the interviewer. It was clear that TFG would bully her and talk over her. That's what he does, especially to women. They should have put an alpha male interviewer on the job. Where is Mike Wallace when we need him?

A.S. in Bedford, MA, writes: Oprah could have handled him.

Politics: Carroll v. Trump

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: I hope Joe Tacopina's malpractice insurance is current, or that he got written, signed instructions from his client not to put on any defense. It's one thing to not have the defendant testify—we can debate all day long the merits of that decision—but to not even put on a damages expert is, to use a technical term, insane. E. Jean Carroll's attorneys put on two experts: a psychologist to testify that her response to the attack is very common and a damages expert to quantify for the jury the harm to her reputation. To calculate damages, she took Trump's tweets and looked at the number of views to estimate damages between $368,000 and $2.75 million. That's a pretty big range and could easily be countered by a defense expert. If one otherwise doesn't have a defense, an expert could be the only thing between you and a huge number.

It could be that Trump's play is to deliberately not mount a defense in order to claim the whole process is a sham, the judge is out to get him and it's all just political. Trump's defense has always been in the court of public opinion, not in the court of law. I suppose that's his only shot since he faces liability on so many fronts. But it must be especially galling to him that two women will be taking him down at least a couple pegs. He admitted in his depo that rape is the worst thing he could be accused of. That stigma won't be easily erased and he knows it.

But again, whatever the strategy is, I hope Tacopina has it in writing.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: Why bother hiring a staff attorney, who would just hang out with the staff mathematician, when you can get so much legal advice for free? Wikittorneya, anyone?

(Z) may be right that TFG "doesn't have a leg to stand on" in his appeal of the judgment in E. Jean Carroll's case against him. But "the fact that it only took the jury 2½ hours to find in favor of the plaintiff" doesn't indicate that at all.

When a party appeals a judgment entered on a jury verdict, the appeal is never directly based on an argument that "the jury decided the facts incorrectly." The appeal must be based on some legal error committed by the judge. Depending on the type of error, the grounds for appeal could explain why the jury didn't need long to decide the case.

For example, Judge Lewis Kaplan allowed Carroll to introduce the Access Hollywood recording into evidence. The recording may have made it much easier for the jury to believe Carroll's recounting of the events, and helped them make their decision more quickly than they would have without it.

Trump's lawyers will surely argue that Kaplan should have excluded the recording from the trial. If they can convince the Court of Appeals that: (1) it was error to admit the recording into evidence and (2) the error was prejudicial—that is, it may have made a difference to the jury's decision—then they would win a new trial for their client.

Not likely. But not likely because the judge probably got the rulings right, not because the jury decided quickly.

T.M.M. in Odessa, MO, writes: Actually, Carroll 3 would be a much simpler case now that Carroll 1 is done.

The law has a concept known as collateral estoppel, or issue preclusion. The basic concept is that, if a fact has already been found against you in one case, future cases do not have to litigate that concept again.

So, since a court has already decided that Trump sexually assaulted Carroll and that Trump's claims that he did not assault Carroll are false, those issues will not need to be litigated again. Carroll will be able to use the judgment from Carroll 1 to obtain summary judgment om the "made false statement" element of a defamation claim as well as the "knew it was false" element and the only issue for a jury in the Carroll 3 trial will be damages. Given that Trump was already found liable for defaming Carroll once and repeated the defamatory comments after the judgment, a jury could go incredibly high on punitive damages.

Politics: The Debt Ceiling

B.B. in St. Louis, MO, writes: When talks about raising the debt ceiling come up, the Republicans keep mentioning sitting the family down at the kitchen table to balance the budget. If we accept that analogy, it would be helpful to ask Dad why more than half the family's discretionary spending needs to keep going to his collection of 40,000 Warhammer miniatures, and perhaps request that musty old Uncle Elon kick in his fair share.

L.E. in Putnam County, NY, writes: The platinum coin made to avoid the debt crisis should not be "$1 trillion," it should be the best estimate of the amount added to the national debt added under the Trump administration. It should either have his face on it, if his worshippers in the Ghastly Other Party are willing to waive the ban on portraits of living people on coins ("They made a special coin for me!...the bigliest coin ever!"), or if that is not attempted, it can have his father's, so there is no doubt of who is responsible for the amount it represents.

D.T. in San Jose, CA, writes: I am concerned that Joe Biden may be misjudging the public's reaction to the President using the Fourteenth Amendment to ignore the debt ceiling.

Here's how it currently looks like things will play out: The Republicans will remain childish and uncooperative. They know that no real harm will come, since there are options for avoiding default which do not require cooperation from Congress. Biden will "begrudgingly" come to the conclusion that since Congress won't act, he has to use the Fourteenth Amendment to ignore the debt limit. This lets Biden look "Decisive and Presidential™, which will supposedly score points with the voters.

The problem with this strategy is that it relies on the voters giving Biden credit for "solving" a problem, using a simple solution which he could have used at any point over the past several months. The Fourteenth Amendment solution does not require a floor vote, or any difficult/dramatic victory. It simply involves the President waving his hand and saying "Yeah, we're not doing that." It is anticlimactic.

I feel that there is a very real risk of voters coming to the conclusion that Biden was a co-conspirator in this manufactured crisis. Rather than "getting credit" for decisively solving the problem, Biden may end up sharing the blame for wasting so much time and energy on a non-issue.

M.S. in Alpharetta, GA, writes: I have a picture in my head of Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) holding a gun up to his own head and saying "give me what I want for a debt limit deal or I'll shoot."

Republicans act like only Democrats will endure pain and misery if we default. Maybe I should have capitalized and bolded the word "we", because every American will be affected adversely by a default. This isn't a case of "winners and losers." It's a case where EVERYBODY LOSES. Even red states.

This is why I just have a hard time taking Republicans seriously anymore, especially on macroeconomic issues.

In your abbreviated Q&A on Monday, B.C. in Walpole wrote: "Debt Ceiling Chicken, where are the Republican donors?" You pointed out that in the 21st century, we have digital ways to collect money from small doners. From my perspective, don't try to get the billionaire Republicans to put pressure on them, get the Republican senior citizens to put pressure on them. Start running 30-second ads, saying things like "Democrats want to keep paying Social Security to seniors, but if Republicans cause the U.S. to default, those payments would be halted." Because that will happen. Old people are a big percentage of their base, and messages like that won't make them happy.

Along those lines (but an unrelated topic), I think Democrats should just run 15-second ads with messages like "Democrats want to make abortion legal and Republicans want to outlaw it," or "Are you sick of all the mass shootings? Then vote for a Democrat." It's simple and would get the message across.

Politics: Mouse Trapped

S.C.-M. in Scottsdale, AZ, writes: Your observations about Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) are right on target. It is a remarkable spectacle which DeSantis is very likely to lose because he is so inept.

Normally, I am not a big fan of so called special improvements districts like Reedy Creek or whatever it has been renamed, since they amount to a form of industrial policy where one industry is favored over another. I suspect the biggest advantage Disney has is the districts ability to issue tax exempt bonds which have a lower interest rate than normal corporate bonds. I suspect this saves Disney many millions of dollars in interest cost. It also means Disney World is effectively subsidized by the Federal government since the interest earned by the bond holders is tax exempt.

R.R. in Pasadena, CA, writes: There is another aspect to the Disney fiasco for Ron DeSantis that may be hurting him already, and definitely will hurt him eventually. It makes him look weak that he's not dominating Disney, and dominance politics is all the rage on the Republican side. It especially looks bad to them because he's losing over what started as an LGBT+ issue... he might as well have been beaten up by a drag queen. He's completely open to an attack over this weakness, which would probably be stated pretty vilely by Republican opponents. It also opens him up to attacks from the Democrats if he manages to survive the primary; all it takes is for Biden to declare that "DeSantis tried to destroy Disney and they are whipping him, how do you think he'll do against a real threat like Putin?" to make people think DeSantis can't handle things. Democrats will also take him to task for the lawless authoritarian behavior, of course, but the macho aspect matters just as much in this case, especially since DeSantis has tried to portray himself as a strongman, fighter pilot, and so on. Trump plays the macho messaging game better than everyone (ironic because he's the exact opposite), anyone who wants to play on that field can't show any weakness at all or else they won't win Trump's followers and the nomination.

K.R. in Austin, TX, writes: One of many things that surprise me about Ron DeSantis' fight against Disney is that he's taking on what I believe is a very popular entity, even among most Republicans.

Last year, I took my family to Disney World three times. I was struck each time at the diversity of people who visited. Although I obviously don't know for sure people's political leanings just based on looks, it appeared to me that every race, ethnicity, gender identity, family structure, area of the country, and political persuasion was well represented. I thought to myself many times there that Disney World is still an American institution that can unite most Americans regardless of what issues people may have with Disney.

It's hard for me to see how, "I attacked Disney World, the Happiest Place on Earth," is a good play nationally for running for president. Of course, I also don't see how it's good for running for Governor of Florida. So, what do I know?

Politics: "George Santos"

J.B. in Chicago, IL, writes: Your references to "George Santos" (including the quotation marks) since earlier this year have been prescient. I was greatly amused to see the quotation marks used in the caption of his indictment and in the first full sentence of the document:



GEORGE ANTHONY DEVOLDER SANTOS, also known as "George Santos"

1. The defendant ... also known as "George Santos," was a resident of ...
Politics: The Last Frontier?

M.B. in Singapore, writes: Like many of your readers, I have reached a point of total despair and I just need to vent. In my mind, there is absolutely no way out of this death-spiral of democracy given our current system of primary elections. Primaries create an environment where politicians ignore majority positions of their constituency in order to play to the far extremes of their party. This is good for preventing being outflanked in a primary, which disproportionately attracts extremist voters, but results in a complete erosion of democracy where majority should rule.

I want to be very clear that I am not creating a false equivalency here. Yes... this system has worked to the advantage of some candidates on the left, i.e., Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Joe Crowley would likely still represent New York's 14th congressional district were it not for our system of primaries. But this same system of primaries has resulted in Republican politicians going completely off a cliff to avoid being primaried from the right. Their greatest fear is not only a primary but the threat of a primary.

Is there a solution? Maybe. Alaska, a red state, has given us a blueprint. They have eliminated the traditional primary and gone to a jungle primary system combined with rank-choice voting which requires achieving a 50% threshold of support in order to win office. In this system, extremist politics are not rewarded, they are penalized. Candidates must play to the middle and find some semblance of bipartisanship. In 2022, this resulted in Mary Peltola, a Democrat whom most Republicans can live with, in the House and Lisa Murkowski, a Republican whom most Democrats can live with, in the Senate. I wouldn't vote for Murkowski, but I also don't have an urge to vomit when I see her name. Murkowski even voted to convict Trump in his second impeachment trial and was able to retain her seat. This would never have happened under Alaska's previous system of primaries.

As it stands now, each state determines how to run its own elections. It seems to me that the only way for the blueprint Alaska has given us to be pushed out broadly nationwide would be by amending the Constitution. It's a pipe dream, I know, but I don't see any other way out of the aforementioned death-spiral.

Are there enough—or even any—Republicans completely exhausted by pandering to extremists? Can they imagine a world where they could actually vote their conscience every once in a while, like Murkowski does, and still retain their seat?

Look to Alaska, everyone. Look to Alaska.


B.C. in Manhattan Beach, CA, writes: First, I would like to express my appreciation to C.H., M.E. and K.K. for their willingness to answer questions about abortion.

But I must quibble with a few of their claims.

C.H. wrote: "that the only objective point in time when a separate and unique set of genetic material comes into existence is at conception." While that may be true, it is not particularly relevant. There is a major difference between a "separate and unique set of genetic material" and a human life. No one thinks twice about removing an appendix, but it has exactly the same "separate and unique set of genetic material" as the body from which it is removed. In fact, humans shed cells every day that contain that same "separate and unique set of genetic material" and never think twice about it. The issue is not whether there is some "separate and unique set of genetic material," but whether there is a human life at issue.

Similarly, K.K. stated that "From a biological and Biblical stance, life begins at conception." Again, this is (at best) a matter of opinion. Just as a tomato seed has the potential to eventually result in a tomato, under all the right circumstances, a fertilized human egg has the potential to eventually result in a human life if all of the circumstances fall into place. But that does not mean that (biologically) a tomato seed is a tomato or a fertilized human egg is a human. As for the Bible, it is certainly one possible reading that the Bible says that life begins at conception, but it is by no means the only interpretation of that text. Many religious traditions that arose out of the Bible consider that life begins at birth rather than at conception.

There is a saying that it is hard to see the picture when you are inside the frame. I think that very much applies here. If your frame of reference is that life begins at conception, then it is easy to conclude that anyone that disagrees is simply wrong. But for anyone who believes that life begins at birth, a very different frame of reference applies. K.K. asserted that "Something is right, moral, and just because something outside of myself has deemed it so. For me, that is God." That reminds me of something that was said to me years ago by a professor (who happened to have been an ordained minister among other things), that it is impossible to argue with someone who says that "God told me so." What is the possible response? "God lied to you?" While C.H., M.E. and K.K. each say that their opinions are independent of their religious beliefs, I am afraid that they are each inside the frame and therefore unable to realize that those opinions are a direct function of those religious beliefs.

I appreciate that C.H., M.E. and K.K. each have their own religious beliefs—but they are not mine, and they are not objective facts.

S.N. in Santa Clara, CA, writes: Thanks to the three respondents for their thoughtful replies regarding why they oppose abortion. They all support the idea that life begins at conception, so ending a pregnancy is intrinsically wrong. I can understand the logic in their argument and it certainly has some appeal.

The main problem I have with their approach is that I don't believe in absolutes. Life is simply too complex and many situations involve competing moral values. The ability of someone to raise the child is a really important moral value. The quality of life of a prospective mother is a really important moral value. And it is not like these are extremist examples. Such weighing of competing values affect millions of women when deciding whether or not to terminate a pregnancy.

In addition, I don't think brushing aside the whole idea of viability is realistic even from a biological point-of-view. If someone wants to believe in an absolute about when life begins, the Jewish idea that life begins at birth makes a whole lot more sense.

J.S. in Palm Springs, CA, writes: First of all, I appreciate very much that you solicited these folks' opinions. More of that should happen across the news media. Sadly their responses were entirely predictable, and I have a couple of immediate reactions:

  1. I am wondering how you managed to get Viktor Orban to weigh in and call himself a "libertarian." Any "libertarian" who supports authoritarian government restrictions on freedom is an authoritarian. His assertion that God is a Fact means, I suppose, that there is no reason for faith, since God to him is settled science. Hard to believe this mess of contradictions is a serious thinker. I'd have preferred a theocratic authoritarian who recognizes themselves as such (Samuel Alito) over an unserious Rand Paul-type.

  2. All this "No Exceptions, reverence for human life" is precious. Let me guess: They're not quite as keen on the government doing everything it can to prevent a whole host of other deaths: innocent Black people minding their own business and getting shot in the back by police. Children getting murdered in the classroom. Military operations because Reasons (Does the reason really matter? When it comes to abortion, the reason doesn't matter—they made this very clear). And, I bet at least one of them wouldn't wear a mask to try to save someone else from dying of COVID-19.

So I guess I'd have preferred an actual pro-life thinker who is also a pacifist, who rejects capital punishment, and who prioritizes health care for children and gun control for the sake of children a skosh more highly than these folks.

F.F. in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, writes: I read the reader answers to the abortion questions. I'm also waiting for the finale of Picard, season 3 to drop, and watching an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation to keep me busy ("The Enemy," Season 3).

In the episode, Worf is the only suitable donor who can save a life of a dying Romulan. It would cost Worf nothing, and it would help Picard with a sensitive diplomatic situation. But Worf refuses. The Romulan dies. Picard could not order Worf to save the Romulan because that would be too much of an imposition.

I wouldn't argue this is a perfect analogy, but the point that's missed in a lot of responses is the imposition on the mother. It's not enough that a life (of the embryo) hangs in the balance. We ought not be able to compel the mother to sustain the embryo, just like Worf oughtn't be compelled to save the Romulan. Viability seems a sensible line...

J.R. (USA nomad currently in) Bogota, Colombia, writes: Read the first batch of anti-abortion viewpoints. Didn't learn anything new. No question here. My main retort is still the same on this subject: Since the human created at conception cannot live on its own, it is dependent on the choices of the mother. And, to me, that mother gets 100% autonomy of her body. Her choice. Case closed. Also, my second retort regards how society treats miscarriages, which has always implied that society does not see the embryo/fetus as having all the same characteristics/rights of an independent/viable human being.

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: I want to thank T.C. in Saint Paul for sharing her story. I'm so sorry she had to go through that. And that happened in a state where abortion is legal. In states with abortion bans, women have to endure even more harrowing ordeals. Consider the case of Jaci Statton, who has been courageous enough to share her story publicly. She got pregnant in Oklahoma, which has so many abortion bans that they conflict with each other and no one really knows what penalties a doctor will face for providing abortion care even when a woman's life is at risk, as was the case with Statton.

She was told her pregnancy was not only non-viable but also potentially cancerous. She had cysts that were rupturing but doctors still couldn't help her because a technician detected "cardiac activity," so the doctors told her to come back when she was "crashing." This is positively sick and the very predictable result of abortion bans. Abortion bans do not prevent abortion, but they do kill and disable women. We will see more women with complications during pregnancy be denied the care they need in states with already dismal maternal mortality rates. Those who call themselves "pro-life" need to face these realities.

All Politics Is Local

M.Y. in Charlotte, NC, writes: I admit I have been a fan of Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-NC) since the first time he ran for office in North Carolina from my district. He seems to be making a bit of a splash in Washington as a freshman congressman. First, he was appointed to the House Armed Services Committee. Now, he has declared the voices making the most noise in Congress are faking it. His Twitter account has nearly 200,000 followers. Check him out. What fresh voice he is... and a target for the Republicans.

R.H. in Seattle, WA, writes: Regarding Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) after his term is over: I could see him becoming EPA Administrator should that position come open in a second Biden term.

J.R. in Vancouver, WA, writes: Having been involved in Democratic politics in Washington State and the state AFL-CIO COPE since I the early 2000s, I can tell you Jay Inslee wasn't a shoo-in for a fourth term because he was loved by Democrats, moderates, or the left. He was a shoo-in for the same reason your statement "The most likely candidate(s) are probably former House members, like Jaime Herrera Beutler and Dave Reichert" is so unlikely. The reason why Inslee won in 2020 by so much is more a reflection on Loren Culp than Inslee. Reichert and Herrera Beutler are very unpopular now with MAGA Republicans, who are very unpopular with everyone else. The brand is so toxic that anyone who is not a D or to the left of that is unacceptable to a solid 55% of the state, and anyone not a UltraMAGA is worse than a Democrat to another 35%. It will a Democrat in some form vs bat**it crazy in 2024, and the Democrat will win.

History Matters

J.B. in Hutto, TX, writes: I was baffled to see you give William T. Sherman a ranking of 10-out-of-10 when it came to his skill as a battlefield tactician. His record shows clearly that he was among the worst tacticians among the major figures of the Civil War. Consider these facts:

Sherman's genius as a general lies in his abilities as a strategist and his incredible skill in logistics. He recognized, before anyone else, that the Union had to crush the spirit of the Southern people if it was to win the war. Moreover, he had the iron stomach and hard heart to put the "total war" policy into effect. If the Union had continued to fight the war with kid gloves, the war would have likely lasted years longer, meaning untold thousands more men would have lost their lives.

As I have heard it said, William Tecumseh Sherman is the reason country music is so sad.

B.K. in Bath, England, UK, writes: I love the site, always have, because (V) is a gentleman who makes jokes about poorly crafted zipper management policies. (Z) is not a gentleman. It's not his fault—it's the age we live in. He wrote: "In particular, both men understood that the world had entered into a new era of warfare (total war), and they were willing to deploy both tactics and strategy suited to that era, even if those tactics and strategy were unpopular, unorthodox, and exacted a terrible cost."

That is an apology for terrorism. Please (Z), stop excusing "total war" and other atrocities. The way to win this war is to make civilians suffer. Never ever endorse this.

P.C. in Stony Brook, NY, writes: Thank you for your analysis of Civil War generals.

I am glad you gave Phil Sheridan the credit he deserves. Didn't U.S. Grant say that he'd put Sheridan against the best cavalry officer—including J.E.B. Stuart—the South had to offer any day?

But Patton as a great tactical general? I really don't see it. When I read a book on the North African Campaign, the Sicilian Campaign, or Normandy and events following, as long as that book relies on primary sources, I always come away with a feeling of general disdain for Patton as a leader and a person.

The well known physical assault on battle shocked soldiers in Sicily, the brutish killing of a peasant's mules, the obsession with an infantryman's dress even in the pitch of battle, the constant deification of himself to the press, the insistence that he had fought great battles in previous lifetimes, the insistence that he alone could "fix" the situation time and again... the list goes on.

Omar Bradley, who was a far better all-around soldier than Patton, seemed to only be able to contain Patton by stroking his ego. By all appearances, Dwight D. Eisenhower tried to avoid any interaction at all with Patton.

Patton had been promoted by the media as the greatest thing since sliced bread. Unfortunately, Patton himself believed that. In this he was in the same company as Bernard Law Montgomery and Charles DeGaulle.

Patton was undoubtedly courageous on a personal level. His pre-World War II experiences highlight that. But I have yet to read of one account where his tactical expertise as a general on the battlefield was somehow magnificent.

I was a lowly junior officer in the military. I remember some wonderful superior officers who both inspired and led by example; I also remember some martinets with inflated views of their own abilities and accomplishments.

There is one telling incident in Patton's career: At the end of the Sicilian campaign, soldiers from the 7th Army which Patton commanded were to be addressed by him prior to the crossing at Messina. Patton was so disliked by his own command that the soldiers were disarmed before entering the venue, on the fear that some might take a pot shot at him. That says a lot.

I know I am in the minority in my views on Patton.

E.D. in Dansville, NY, writes: If any reader is interested in a free book on the Civil War, consider The Life of Henry A. Wise of Virginia. He is my great-great-grandfather.

J.M. in Albany, CA, writes: In response to A.S. in Bedford, you described late-19th/early-20th century immigration policy in the U.S. as much more casual than it is today. While this is undoubtedly true when it came to Ellis Island, which you focused on as the historical example of a port of entry, it certainly was not the case for Angel Island off San Francisco; especially post-1882 and the Chinese Exclusion Act. Neither was it the case at the Mexican border from the 1930s onward, when a wave of refugees from the Mexican Revolution helped spark the national origins quotas, which were set in a manner to strongly discourage immigration from there.

The reason, of course, is that European immigrants—even the Eastern and Southern European Catholic ones who experienced a lot of discrimination in the US—were considered white, even if provisionally so. Nonwhite immigrants to the U.S. have been openly targeted by laws designed to exclude them for the last 140+ years in this country, and the current bipartisan freak-out about an "invasion" from the southern border is no different.

White supremacy has been and remains central to U.S. immigration policy, now and then, and the ease with which Ellis Island immigrants came to the USA (my Italian and Slovak grandparents included) was a sharp contrast to those coming through ports that served primarily nonwhite immigrants. I wonder: Are these "sensible centrist" Democrats and Republicans referring to the 217,000 refugees from Ukraine in the past year as an "invasion"? I suspect not, and we all know why.

K.R. in Austin, TX, writes: As you noted, Joe Biden and Donald Trump are far from the only presidents who consumed a lot of media. I was surprised to see that Lyndon Johnson had 3 TVs in the Oval Office when I toured the replica at the Johnson Library in Austin, TX. I found this actual picture of Johnson watching them:

Three identical TVs, installed
in a custom cabinet, tuned to three different channels

Complaints Department

J.M. in Chatham, NY, writes: You wrote, of former state Rep. Bryan Slaton (R): "We are fighting off a desire to express a wish that, if he does go to prison, Bubba and Nails teach him a few things about 'grooming.'"

Next time, fight your desire harder, and skip the comment entirely.

(V) & (Z) respond: That was not intended as a joke, but an expression of how reprehensible his behavior was. That said, we got enough complaints that we went back and removed it.

E.M. in Poughkeepsie, NY, writes: I enjoy reading your site every day, except when you suggest that DeSantis "could benefit from some ads in Poughkeepsie". The Horror! If you need a metonym for small-town America, please try Peoria, or Paducah, or make it clear that you mean the Poughkeepsie in Arkansas.

(V) & (Z) respond: In future, we will likely use Springfield for this purpose. Which Springfield? Exactly.

C.J. in Redondo Beach, CA, writes: I don't know why so much of everything is going to app/phone payment these days. I knew the end was nigh when our laundry machines went that way. I could make this a 10-page rant if I wanted to, but I am just gratified that someone else feels my pain. Seems like when I moan about it most people (other than my wife who is with me 100%) tell me to get with the times.

(V) & (Z) respond:Readers should note that not all complaints in the complaints department are necessarily directed at us.

Sporting Matters

B.K. in Plano, TX, writes: The freudenfreude item about Zach Whitecloud was great. As for the lead-in, I'm not so sure that the University of Georgia declining their invitation to the White House was political, at least in the way of past teams (most notably the Golden State Warriors during the Trump presidency) and individual players. From the AP:

[Georgia Head Coach Kirby] Smart, the former Alabama defensive coordinator, said he enjoyed making White House visits with the Crimson Tide, which he called educational opportunities for his players [Note: Obama was president at this time]. He noted those visits usually were scheduled for January, immediately following the season, when players were still on campus.

Many players from Georgia's undefeated championship team are now beginning professional careers and in June will be preparing for their first NFL training camp. Smart told the Athens paper his coaches will be busy recruiting and hosting the youth camp in June.

"We didn't have a date set and we've got 700 kids at a football camp at our place June 6, 7, 8," Smart said. "It's the number one time for recruiting for football coaches. You've got 600 to 700 kids coming to your campus, you can't leave to go to the White House and have no one on your campus. So the time just didn't work out. There was nothing political about it. I've been before. It's very educational. It's a great experience."

I have no doubt in my mind that certain coaches and players would decline an invitation to the White House because of the person occupying it. However, in this case it looks like logistics and timing truly got in the way. I doubt a later date would work considering 10+ UGA players who were drafted this year will be training with their new NFL teams, along with many of the undrafted seniors who will be training and trying out for professional teams as free agents.

That being said, if Georgia repeats next year (which seems like a foregone conclusion), and Smart declines a visit to the White House come January 2024, I'd be more inclined to believe he's being political.

Who Let the Dogs Out?

A.K. in Eugene, OR, writes: WHAT a great story and Olivia is just ADORABLE. My son's friend often leaves his chihuahua mix Sonny Boy with us for extended visits and he is also VERY mellow. He is the BEST boy. I know Olivia will be a great dog. Thanks for such an uplifting story and also, I LOVE that it's the Chargers since my favorite QB is Justin Herbert (I am an Oregon alum!)

P.S.: Here Sonny Boy is with my other boys!

Four dogs, including one that looks 
German Shepherd-like, one that looks Golden Retriever-like, and two that look Chihuahua-like

D.K. in Oceanside, CA, writes: I love Olivia. The girl's got attitude.

J.S. in Durham, NC, writes: You stated in this that the political connection for the piece about Olivia was "tenuous." Well, while I understand why you say this, I come from the "the personal is political" era. And basically what you are talking about is compassion and empathy.

From my perspective, these are critical values that I look for in my political representatives. And, IMHO, this is what is lacking in the vast majority of Republicans today, and every single last one of the MAGA crowd.

On the other side of this, is the fact that when children are mean and/or cruel to animals, this is a red flag for future sociopathy.

K.N. in Alameda, CA, writes: I was reading this one kind of quickly, but then, BOOM, dog adoption? Whaaaa?? Holy cow, what a great post. My allergies kicked in after I read it! Weird, right? I recently had to put down my 12-year-old retired racing greyhound and I thought "NEVER AGAIN." But your post made me realize, time to find my next doggo. Kismet? Coincidence? Who cares! The right post at the right time!

(V) & (Z) respond: We are very happy to hear that we will play some small role in a dog finding their forever home!


M.C. in Reno, NV, writes: Thank you for your response to G.M. in Laurence Harbor. After reading your website assiduously for almost 20 years, finally, I have found an item that is directly relevant to my interests. I hope you have more Reno-related content in the works.

T.B. in Leon County, FL, writes: Further to your list of reasons a prisoner could do time in one state having committed "the" crime in another, during my years of prison volunteering (in 4 states), I met a man who had been doing life without parole in Texas for killing a Texan cop. Prison guards tried to kill him but failed. After the subsequent trial, those prison guards found themselves in prison, and Texas "offered" the cop killer his choice of prisons to serve the remainder of his sentence. Needless to say, I met this lifer in the state prison system he considered to be the least violent. (No, not Florida.)

J.A. in Rutland, VT, writes: When photographer Jim Marshall asked Johnny Cash why the main character in "Folsom Prison Blues" was serving time in California's Folsom Prison after shooting a man in Reno, NV, Cash responded, "That's called poetic license."

E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, writes: I see you got the Gurkhas, Mossad, and Big Jim Walker, but how could you forget that nobody f**ks with the Jesus?

C.J. in Burk, VA, writes: You probably will get a lot of notes like this, but Slim took down Big Jim Walker pretty easily.

J.R.A. in St. Petersburg, FL, writes: (Z) does well to believe the supposedly urban legend that the wider you make a road the more full it will be.

Transit engineers—like my favorite, Jarrett Walker—document in the books they write that this is referred to as "induced demand;" as you suggest, the result of a widened road causing more people's mental calculus to include it as a way to get to their destination.

Transportation history shows that this is usually the case; though Tampa, FL, didn't learn the lesson and is widening Interstate 275, at great expense in both money and delay... not to mention tolled Express lanes, which work out just as poorly, and tend to kill Troopers in the bargain.

L.M. in Tampa, FL, writes: This is regarding the question by J.D.M. in Cottonwood Shores about the Canadian invasion. They asked: "Has the invasion already secretly succeeded?"

I'm telling you that it's proceeding as planned, but it isn't military. It's slow, financial, and completely legal.

Consider the Canadian banks operating in the U.S.: TD Bank was originally "Toronto Dominion." BMO was Bank of Montreal. CIBC? Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. RBC? Royal Bank of Canada.

The infiltration went very well just after the George W. Bush banking crisis in 2008, which allowed for easy expansion by buying failures. It had a little temporary 3% hiccup just recently. No biggie. Canadian banks tend to be more fiscally conservative than U.S. banks and will survive and continue to expand by buying up a few more weaklings.

I take no great pleasure in transmitting this information, as I am a citizen of both countries, live in the U.S., and have no financial interest in Canadian banks.

But... would you like some poutine?

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: No, the invasion hasn't commenced.

The Land of the Empire Builders has not succumbed to the persistent intrusion of the Dudley Do-rights and the Canadian Mounties.

They are just using us as a route through the beautiful Pacific Northwest to recuperate at the Mouse Capitol in Anaheim.

We hurry them on their way with a couple of Kraft brewed IPA's or Hefeweizen and bid them adieu.

(V) & (Z) respond: So, you Oregonians are merely... collaborators?

S.W. in Detroit, MI, writes: You wrote, of (Z)'s bad reaction to a pneumonia vaccine: "Obviously, he'll now be voting for that visionary Robert F. Kennedy Jr."

Ooooh, that IS a bad reaction to the vaccine!

Final Words

B.C. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: This is my favorite quote about death, and although these weren't his last words, maybe we can call this quote by Bertrand Russell "final-words-adjacent": "I believe that when I die I shall rot, and nothing of my ego will survive."

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

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