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Sunday Mailbag

It's back!

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Race

M.B. in Overland Park, KS, writes: If Joe Biden loses the election, I postulate that the main reason will be food prices. Inflation may be coming down on the wholesale level, but it's not reflected in food prices, which are continuing to rise. Many items at my local store are over 50%, and sometimes 75%, higher than pre-pandemic. When I go to buy milk or bread, it absolutely pisses me off. I do most of the shopping. My wife went the other night to pick up a few items and came back just searingly angry about being gouged by the grocers.

This is what the U.S. consumer feels and sees. They also see Biden doing absolutely nothing to publicly call for prices to go back down. There is obviously price-gouging because the manufacturers and distributors can really just charge what they want at this point, while using inflation as a shield and excuse.

Biden is invisible. He doesn't use the bully pulpit. He doesn't make any statements to the press. He says nothing about the things that are pissing off American consumers while the Republicans slam him for the prices.

My wife is as blue as me, and would not vote Donald Trump even under torture, but she is absolutely furious with Biden for doing absolutely nothing to address or even just acknowledge this issue. Where the hell is he on this issue? We can absorb the cost, but many can't. How pissed off must they be?

Pissed off people who shop and feel gouged, combined with a totally disengaged president and Democratic party will not be voters that are enthusiastic enough to show up, or may just vote for the team that at least acknowledges their pain.

Food prices will determine this election. Mark it on your list.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Joe Biden campaign managers, listen up. Here's your bumper sticker-type, keep-it-simple message: "Donald Trump doesn't want to be President—he wants to be Dictator." Repeat ad nauseam, day in, day out, endlessly. Donald Trump = Dictator must be how the general public comes to perceive him.

E.F. in Baltimore, MD, writes: Donald Trump's Peek-a-Boo games?

Obvious racial slur. No second choice. Consider the alliteration of "Jiga**o James." But "Peekaboo" gives him just enough plausible deniability that he can feign outrage, should anyone call him on it, and accuse him of racism. But it's all about projection. He'd be enraged if someone called him names, and is hoping he can make James blow a fuse and derail her otherwise slam-dunk case against him.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: I think overthinks Donald Trump's intent and planning for his campaign. Of course, he will file motions to delay the Georgia trial, just because his image is "never give an inch." But based on his behavior and actions, he doesn't care about winning over swing voters. The "strategy" is to keep his base motivated with outrage so they will show up at the polls in disproportionate numbers. Although we mock the logic of him saying he is being persecuted on their behalf, he is more right than wrong on that point. The real enemy of democracy is the MAGA base, because they are the ones voting in the crazies at all the levels of government. Trump really is their avatar just like Nancy Pelosi was used as the avatar for progressive/liberal activism. Making an example of Trump by prosecuting him in court is just as much a political act as it is about justice. His supporters are not crazy to see it as political vendetta. (They are crazy to think he can actually govern a country, though.)

So, the only thing better for Trump than a Georgia trial beginning in early August would be one beginning in mid-September, with verdicts coming in at the end of October. The daily heavy-breathing of the news organizations would be more effective for him than holding rallies. The media will be campaigning for him, with little extra effort on his part. It would bring to a crescendo the whole narrative of persecution he has built over the last three years. The subtext of the campaign would be "Vote for Trump so you can stick it to THEM before they can stick it to YOU." He doesn't have to win over the American public, he just has to win over the people that actually show up to the polls.

Sadly, the most effective response of the Democratic party is to do likewise. Don't try to convert marginal conservative voters. Pump up the fear among the Democratic base (e.g., abortion rights, gun safety, etc.). Motivate them to show up in equal or better proportions to the MAGA base.

M.C. in Newton, MA, writes: In the answer to the question from R.M. in Pensacola, you asked: "When was the last time you heard anything about Bobby Jindal, or Jeb!, or Mike Huckabee?"

I can say very definitely: Wednesday. I was getting a haircut and one of Huckabee's commercials shilling for questionable supplements played on whichever right-wing "news" channel my barber had on the TV.

I somehow doubt that's the future career Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is hoping for. I'd also question the wisdom of an advertiser hiring such a widely-DeSpised pitchman, unless it's an ad for boot lifts (in the spirit of "I'm not only the president, I'm also a client" in Hair Club ads, and hopefully the only president Ron will ever be.)

(V) & (Z) respond: We dunno; we think he could be a pretty effective spokesman for ExtenZe.

Politics: Trump v2.0

S.M.S. in Pomona, CA, writes: I read the item about Mike Davis, the AG candidate for Trump's administration. To avoid confusion with other Mike Davises, I think it's best to label him as the douchey one. His comments certainly are among the worst I've read, and the fact that he's proud to pursue such hateful, harmful policies really tells us everything we need to know about him (and the people who want him to run the legal side of the executive branch under Trump). I felt like I needed a shower after reading his "plans" if he is put into office... though a lot of them probably sounded even worse in the original German.

One thing, though: My wife is an immigrant, and we have an adorable daughter together who is an American citizen. If Douchey Davis thinks he's going to deport my daughter, and all of the sons and daughters like her across the nation, he's going to learn that nothing gets between a parent and their child. We will use everything in our power to keep them, and our spouses, with us. As a party that claims it defends "family values," Republicans should understand that fact that they want to deport "anchor babies" just tells us that they don't want non-white babies here. It's really difficult not to compare this garbage with Nazi Germany, simply because they keep spouting the same nonsense that Hitler did in the 1930s. Woe be to us if Trump wins the election and they really do try to implement these policies, as at that point America won't be a nation of immigrants anymore, only one of hate and racism.

G.C. in Alexandria, VA, writes: Just wanted to thank everyone for their responses to the question about thanking veterans. Your advice helps. I too have always had difficulty responding to "thanks for your service," and likely will still feel uncomfortable.

I would ask that you speak to your brothers, veterans, about our choice next election. We served because we felt a duty to the country we love. I served because I believe in the Constitution, the Founding Fathers and their brilliance in creating a government that eventually allowed everyone a voice!

Please vote!

Politics: Trump Medical

M.D. in Peterborough, England, UK, writes: Concerning Trump's supposed "doctor's letter," you wrote: "Who knows what other exaggerations and outright falsehoods the letter contains?"

For one thing, a doctor would never describe someone's cognitive test results as "exceptional" (and if they did, it would be a bad thing). However, I know somebody who would describe the Donald's dubious cognitive abilities as exceptional, and he has the initials DJT.

J.E. in Akron, OH, writes: As a primary care physician, I noticed a couple oddities in the letter from Trump's personal physician. These oddities suggest that—shockingly—at least one of the following is true:

  1. Trump is not as healthy as claimed, and/or

  2. His personal physician has departed significantly from normal standards of care.

The letter refers to "cancer screenings," which are rarely appropriate for patients over 75 years old. The details are complicated, but the basic idea is that the costs and risks of screening accrue immediately, while benefits are unlikely to be seen for a decade or more.

The letter also refers to having "supervised specialist consultations" (note the plural). This is a weird way to describe obtaining input from a specialist. In general, specialists get consulted for four basic reasons:

  1. The patient actually has a serious problem, requiring specialized knowledge or skills.

  2. The primary physician is lazy or incompetent, and asks specialists to handle problems well within the purview of a primary care physician (e.g., "Sprained ankle? You need an orthopedic surgeon!)

  3. The patient is a hypochondriac, and the primary physician needs help convincing the patient that there is nothing wrong.

  4. The patient is a self-important narcissist who assumes that specialists provide inherently better care, and demands multiple consultations to guarantee that he or she is getting the best care.

Any guesses as to which of these options apply to Trump?

Politics: American Jesus

M.C. in Koorda, WA, Australia, writes: A comment on Mike Johnson wanting to have the Ten Commandments displayed in schools. Which version does he want displayed? The Catholic version is different to the Protestant version. (Catholics delete the 2nd and split the 10th into two.)

Also, isn't it a bit hypocritical of Johnson and the evangelicals to want this when they don't follow the Commandments themselves? They ignore the 4th commandment, which commands the keeping of the 7th day of the week as holy. The 7th day of the week is Saturday, not Sunday.

R.W. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Regrading your item on Donald Trump's disdain for evangelical Christians: One of the last words one would think of for evangelicals is "flexible." And yet they are (as you put it) "clearly willing to bend over backwards to excuse any and all bad behavior on [Trump's] part," while simultaneously being willing to bend over forwards for him.

Politics: Partisanship

M.B. in Cleveland, OH, writes: B.H. in Frankfort asked about the possibility of ending up with even more Trumpy representatives in the U.S. House because of Republican retirements in safe districts. You suggested, "There will undoubtedly be districts where two or three nutters jump in, one sane Republican joins them, and the sane Republican wins the nomination with a plurality because the nutters divide up the nutter vote."

Here in Ohio, I'm not as optimistic as you. "Sane Republican" came in third with 23% of the vote in the 2022 primary election for the U.S. Senate. I think the species is Threatened, if not officially Endangered yet.

H.F. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: You wrote: "libertarians are often described as closet Republicans."

I like to think of (some) libertarians as conservatives who want to be able to use recreational drugs without ending up in prison with the poor people and minorities who belong there.

G.T.M. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: I just stumbled across this (which you have probably seen) and got a chuckle out of it:

A Republican and a Democrat are out in a boat fishing.

Suddenly the boat springs a leak near the Democrat.

The Democrat says: "Man, we need to fix this leak before the boat sinks!"

The Republican says: "Why should I have to work on it too? It's not leaking on MY side."
Politics: The Canadian Crash

E.F. in Portland, OR, writes: In your item about the Canadian border incident, you made a remarkably accurate guess: "you see a white car approach at what must be 100+ mph, and launch into the air."

Inspecting the video and reviewing the images available to Google Maps, I managed to identify the "ramp" that car hit to launch it into the air. Intrigued, I viewed the video enough times to identify where the car first appears (out from behind the Punjabi Hut) and where it hits the ramp, got their GPS coordinates and frame numbers in the video. The length of segment turns out to be 0.069 miles, and the time is 2.3 seconds (video is 20 fps). That's 108 mph, so congratulations on your estimate!

P.S. in Gloucester, MA, writes: (Z) wrote: "We honestly do not know why Republican fears about the southern border have now become fears about the northern border, allowing such falsehoods to spread so easily and so quickly."

It's obviously your (our collective, as a community?) constant dissing of the 'Nades. The right wing fearmongers obviously read religiously, but the humor goes way over their heads...

(V) & (Z) respond: It's a pretty good theory.

International Politics

S.C. in Mountain View, CA, writes: It seems that, after every election in the Netherlands, almost like clockwork, (V) writes an article about the problems (as he perceives them) with proportional representation (PR), and uses that as a cautionary tale for those of us in the United States who would like to see PR used here.

However, the Netherlands has an extreme form of PR. Most of the countries that use PR have either a natural or artificial threshold of at least 5%, which eliminates all the tiny (and thus fringe) parties from having representation. The Netherlands have a threshold of 0.67%. The PR proposal gaining the most traction for the House of Representatives, the Fair Representation Act, has a minimum threshold of 16.7%.

The periodic surveys done by the Pew Research Center on satisfaction with government consistently shows that the Dutch are much more satisfied with their government than Americans are with ours. (See, for example, here, and compare the numbers for the U.S. with those for the Netherlands.)

At least six times in U.S. history, no single party had a majority of the House of Representatives and so it was organized by a coalition (the 18th, 34th, 36th, 38th, 46th, and 65th Congresses). No party had a majority in the 31st Congress, either, but they allowed the Speaker to be elected with a plurality instead of a majority so I'm not sure if that counts as a coalition or not.

K.T. in Oslo, Norway, writes: The high level of political fragmentation you observe in the Dutch parliamentary elections is why more sensible countries use some form of electoral threshold. Typically, 4-5% is required for a party to be eligible for seats. Using the Dutch results as an example, with a 4% threshold only the top 6 parties would get in with the current vote totals; I am sure you would agree that is a more practical number of parties than 30, while still giving the voter a good selection of options.

M.C. in Glasgow, Scotland, UK, writes: You wrote: "Next time you wish the U.S. had more parties, think: Is the above situation what you think is ideal? Thirty parties and choice galore?"

Do be careful not to exclude the middle. For example, for all its electoral failings, the U.K. seems to find a better balance than both the U.S. and the Netherlands in this particular regard. The U.K. is not alone in lying between such extremes, though goodness knows by what sneaky tricks Canada manages it also.

(V) & (Z) respond: We've been looking into that. Thus far, we've only been able to learn it has something to do with poutine.

All Politics Is Local

B.K. in Hell's Kitchen, NYC, writes: You ask if New York Democrats can still support Mayor Eric Adams (D).

Well, people frequently ask me what I think of Mayor Adams. And I have an easy answer: In the ranked-choice primary (which, for all intents and purposes, was the equivalent of the general election) we got to vote for 5 people!. Though I only felt strongly about two candidates, I was determined to find 5 people who I wouldn't mind being mayor. So, I voted for 5. And my list did NOT include Eric Adams. Thus, his mayoralty has held no surprises for me, And my opinion and feeling about Eric Adams has not changed one iota.

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: You wrote that you don't understand the DLCC's interest in North Carolina. Actually, it's simple. Republicans currently have barely veto-proof majorities in both houses. They need 60% of the seats to override a veto, and currently have exactly that number in both houses (30 of 50 in the Senate and 72 of 120 in the House). The DLCC's goal is to pick up at least one seat in each house to break the super-majorities. Ideally, they'd like to pick up a few extra to avoid what happened this year, where the Republicans were one seat short in the House, then got a member to change parties and promptly vote against everything she had campaigned on.

There is a very good chance that AG Josh Stein (D) will be our next governor, and the DLCC wants to assure that he isn't completely hamstrung by a legislature that can effectively ignore him. For the first six years of Gov. Roy Cooper's (D) time in office, the majorities were just short of 60% and the governor was actually able to work with the legislature on quite a few issues.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: I have to admit, until you put a definition of "contiguous" on this site, it had never occurred to me to look at Wisconsin's state legislative district map. In my head, I kind of imagined a typical gerrymander, with Goofy kicking Donald Duck or maybe a thin blue line connecting Milwaukee to Madison. It would never have occurred to me to try what the Republicans in the legislature did, which was carve up the cities into enclaves and exclaves, with scattered little island possessions of one district surrounded entirely by another. The map makes a mockery of the concept of a "district" as anything remotely like a "place."

The next obvious move is to create "districts" that don't correspond to any geographic space at all, but just consist of individual names sorted by party affiliation and/or AI-predicted partisan tendencies. They could probably get a 100% Republican legislature that way, if they were careful. And why not? The districts would be perfectly contiguous—on the list of names.

Asked and Answered

T.W. in Baltimore, MD, writes: You asked: None of this is terribly unusual for a fundamentalist Christian like Johnson, though it is unusual for a high-ranking member of the U.S. government. We tried to think of the highest-ranking person in recent memory who might read along with the four paragraphs above and nod, and we came up with former AG John Ashcroft. If there's someone higher in the line of succession that you think we missed, say since 1990, let us know.

I would suggest former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

G.M.K. in Mishawaka, IN, writes: I would think that former Vice-President Mike Pence might well be as extreme as Speaker Johnson. He did promote staunchly anti-LGBTQ+ policies and legislation while governor of my fair state. I was teaching in Indiana at the time, and if it were politically feasible back then, I'm sure he would have openly advocated for prayer in schools. He had to remain satisfied to merely funnel public education dollars into private religious schools instead.

He did not as governor enact any particular restrictions on abortion, but that was pre-Dobbs. It is instructive, though, that since Dobbs, his rhetoric has been for extreme restrictions on the practice, including banning abortions when the fetus is no longer viable.

Although Pence has made no particular statements on the evils of humans, he follows the "Billy Graham rule," and so will not dine in the presence of a woman or attend an event where alcohol is served without Mother present. If that doesn't indicate that men are inherently evil so as not to be trusted to control themselves without their life partner present, well, I do not know what does. Furthermore, are women so wanton that they need to be shielded from The Glory That Is Mike Pence?

D.K. in Stony Brook, NY, writes: Dan Quayle?

L.B. in Savannah, GA, writes: You wondered about Mike Johnson's view of Planned Parenthood:

Johnson has also shared some choice thoughts about abortion, which he calls an "American Holocaust." In a 2022 interview (i.e., last year), he said: "I mean, the reality is that Planned Parenthood and all these big abortion (sic), they set up their clinics in inner cities. They are, you know, they regard these people as easy prey. I mean it's true. This is what's happening across the country now." Inasmuch as "inner cities" is thinly veiled code for "Black people," Johnson's presumption is that Black people aren't clever enough to realize they are being hoodwinked by the folks at Planned Parenthood. Exactly why Planned Parenthood would want to "prey" on people so as to run up its abortion total is not clear to us.

When someone like Johnson is speaking to a sympathetic audience, they have shared assumptions that go unspoken, so if you're unfamiliar with them, statements like these don't seem to make sense. I'm very familiar with pro-life rhetoric, and can explain this. In the pro-life world, Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, was a "eugenicist" and a racist who gave speeches to the Ku Klux Klan and hated Black people (we'll ignore the facts that Sanger was against abortion and that her first clinic was in an Irish neighborhood).

So the thinking goes that Planned Parenthood is a racist organization at its core, and sets up clinics in Black neighborhoods specifically to murder Black fetuses. The "proof" of this is the higher abortion rate among Black women. Don't bother trying to counter by bringing up other reasons for this; it's futile. This argument is used to bolster Republican claims that modern Democrats are "just as racist" as the Democrats of 150 years ago, and that the Black abortion rate is just the modern version of slavery and Jim Crow.

R.R. in Redmond, WA, writes: I'm not an expert on how census block boundaries are drawn, but I do work with digital maps—including census block maps—every day, so I have a guess on why CA-47 and CA-49 look like they do. To make a congressional boundary, you combine census blocks. There are many census blocks that look nonsensical. Some blocks appear to be created using a combination of rural survey lines and lines tracing roads or physical features. Combining surveys from different sources means you will create unusually shaped blocks. In the same way, some census blocks appear to have boundaries created by extending a road or municipal boundary miles over the water. Extending road lines like this means some lines will cross and again you'll end up with triangular census blocks covering only water.

The Dana Point example is a bit different in that it shows evidence of adding blocks at different times. First, you can see evidence of blocks extending about 0.125 and 0.25 miles into the ocean for the entire coast. I think the Census Bureau then drew a single block that extended three miles into the ocean that was bounded by Dana Point and halfway to South Laguna. Later the Bureau drew blocks for the entire coast that extended four miles into the ocean. Rather than extending that original Dana Point block from three miles to four miles, the Bureau drew around it, giving us that odd little shape that now defines the boundary between CA-47 and CA-49. I tried to confirm this by looking at all the older census block files the Census Bureau provides online. Unfortunately, this artifact predates all the digital maps.

(V) & (Z) respond: You included the maps that back this up, and we think you have the right of it. Some readers wrote in to suggest that the lines were drawn to squeeze some islands in, but the islands near that spot (Catalina and San Clemente) are well beyond the boundary lines.

Rosalynn Carter, R.i.P.

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: I was a lowly Airman 1st Class in 1970, stationed at Moody AFB, Valdosta GA. I had a cousin whose husband was at (what was then) Ft. Benning.

I remember Jimmy Carter running for Governor against a character named J.B. Stoner in the Democratic Primary. J.B. was a proud member of the KKK and bragged of burning crosses in rural churchyards among other things. Back then the South was still predominantly Democratic country.

Drove to Columbus once to see my cousin and passed through Plains, just a sleepy little southern community, nothing special or out of the ordinary. But I do remember Jimmy and Rosalynn crisscrossing the state stumping for votes. I did not appreciate then what they would become. Never met them personally. But I do admire what they have accomplished in their lives. They are/were truly great Americans and will be sorely missed when they are both gone.

History Matters

L.B. in Savannah, GA, writes: In your response as to whether it's fair to judge John James Audubon for his support for slavery, you proposed a cutoff date of 1840. I would go back further, as there was a vigorous debate over the morality of slavery going back decades prior to that. Even in the 1780s, when the Constitution was being debated, the Three-Fifths Compromise had to be added to induce the slave states to join the Union, to placate their fear that the more populous free states would outvote them and outlaw the institution. As for Thomas Jefferson, while he did own slaves, his writings show some discomfort with slavery.

I'll give a pass to the Ancient Greeks and Romans, but nobody in the U.S. should be excused for their support for slavery on the grounds of "presentism." Plenty of people were aware that it was wrong from the moment of the nation's founding, and the ones who supported it were well aware that it was controversial.

M.S. in Canton, NY, writes: I don't pretend to have anything like a complete answer to the issue raised by D.H. in Libertyville, but in addition to the issue which you addressed of moral standards evolving over time, there is another relevant dynamic at work. Some individuals (e.g., George Washington, Thomas Jefferson) have been honored for their accomplishments despite their support for and participation in the institution of slavery; others (e.g., John C. Calhoun, all those Confederate generals) were honored primarily because of their actions in support of the institution of slavery. There may come a time when attitudes about even this distinction may change, but I think it represents a dividing line in how many people think about these issues today.

J.C. in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, writes: My vote to replace Audubon would be Rachel Carson. Not only is she the founder of the modern environmental movement, but in that she single-handedly saved the bald eagle and countless other bird species by alerting us in Silent Spring that mothers were crushing their babies in the egg because of our use of DDT.

M.K. in Wilmington, DE, writes: Regarding what John F. Kennedy would or would not have done regarding Vietnam, I've been reading Daniel Ellsberg's Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers and he relates a conversation he had with Robert F. Kennedy Sr. about it in 1967:

Nobody can say for sure what my brother would actually have done, in the actual circumstances of 1964 or '65. I can't say that, and even he couldn't have said that in '61. Maybe things would have gone just the same as they did. But I do know what he intended. All I can say is that he was absolutely determined not to send ground units.

I don't think we'll get a more definitive statement on the subject than that. Apparently, John's visit to Vietnam in 1951 made a big impression and he was committed to not repeating what happened to the French.

Complaints Department

J.B. in Waukee, IA, writes: I think it is in extremely poor taste for Friday's installment of "This Week in Schadenfreude" to highlight the brain drain in red states. As someone who lives in a purple suburb next to a blue city in a red state, it is incredibly frustrating when outsiders write off entire regions of the country because of the way the majority with built-in advantages governs. The absolute gall (V) & (Z) show by making this item the "Schadenfreude" entry is reprehensible. Oh, aren't we delighted that a large chunk of people who didn't vote for this is getting screwed over by the failures of their state government? Isn't that fantastic? I didn't realize that it was the editorial direction of this site to take joy in underprivileged people losing out on needed services.

I hope you take this to heart before you run something this spiteful as your "Schadenfreude" item in the future. When a politician acts foolish and gets their comeuppance, that's schadenfreude. When a bunch of citizens are not being well served by their government, that's tragic; there's no joy to be had.

(Z) especially should remember that there are more Republican voters in California than any other state. The only reason he's not dealing with the same regressive policies is because there are more Democratic voters. (V)'s adopted country just gave a plurality of their votes to a right-wing nationalist party. Should we delight in the fact that this could lead to a regressive government for the Netherlands? Please be a little more sensitive about whose misfortune you're taking joy in.

M.L. in West Hartford, CT, writes: I'm really getting tired of (V)'s ageist mocking of young voters. To hear him tell it, you'd think young people voted third party in huge numbers, when, in fact, voters under 30 favored Joe Biden over Donald Trump by 24 percentage points! (V) should instead aim his condescending lectures toward his own cohort, who voted for Trump over Biden by 16 points. (All numbers from Pew Research Group). I expect better from a site that is committed to following the evidence over touting a preconceived narrative.

(V) consistently insults the intelligence of young people, and suggests that not only are their voting decisions misguided, but that their ideals are silly, bleeding-heart-liberal delusions. The item "Biden vs. LBJ" was beyond the pale. First, (V) blames young people for Richard Nixon's election, ignoring the older voters who not only voted for Nixon but enthusiastically supported the United States' immoral war in Vietnam. Next, he lectures young voters upset at Biden's support for Israel's war in Gaza that "sometimes looking at the big picture is even more important than some issue that seems monumental at the time, but later proves to be less important than the change in leadership it resulted in." (V) should tell the families of the thousands of dead children being pulled from the rubble in Gaza at this very moment that he considers the American presidential election more important than the slaughter of their families. I'm sure they'll agree with him that the price of a gallon of milk in Peoria is a much more pressing concern.

Talking Turkey

S.S. in Toronto, ON, Canada, writes: In response to P.C. in Vero Beach, who asked, with regard to turkey pardoning, whether presidents then go on to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, (V) and (Z) responded in part, "...the point of the ceremony is to remind everyone of all the animals who will give their lives to make Thanksgiving possible, and to remind everyone to appreciate that fact."

I have to say that while I, as a human being, might "give my life," or at least allow my life to be taken, in sacrifice for a greater good, turkeys do not generally choose that option. Their lives are stolen from them quite cavalierly. I kind of wish those presidents (and the rest of us, for that matter) would just opt for the mashed potatoes, roast turnips, Brussels sprouts, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie—with maybe a side of baked beans!

L.E. in Putnam County, NY, writes: I have always been annoyed by the "turkey pardon" ritual. If the turkeys are going to be "pardoned" why send them in the first place,the farmers can either keep them or send them straight to wherever they are to be kept thereafter? It is a waste of both the President's AND the turkey's time to go through a rigmarole at the White House.

D.M. in Burnsville, MN, writes: P.C. in Vero Beach wrote: "We all see the Thanksgiving turkeys get pardoned and shipped off to some exotic location like Minnesota (pretty exotic, if you're a Turkey)..."

Just a moment, Sir or Madam. Just this year my wife and I celebrated our 40th year in this house that we built on the southern ridges of the Minnesota River Valley. A decade before that, a program was launched in Minnesota to reintroduce the species. It has been so successful that wild turkeys can be found everywhere. Yes, even in my garden. Nope, I've been everywhere and settled in Minnesota. There is nothing 'exotic' in Minnesota.

J.N. in Durham, NC, writes: S.L. in Glendora asked why turkeys live longer at colleges than elsewhere. I lived half a mile down the road from the barn at Virginia Tech where Tater and Tot retired in 2016. Pretty nice for a turkey. The barn was part of the Agriculture school:

A picture of the turkey carrier,
emblazoned with the seal of the Turkey of the United States, and a picture of Tater and Tot in their enclosure.

I'm not sure how much having them there contributed to the study of turkey health, but it gained the university a fair amount of publicity.

K.R. in Austin, TX, writes: I thought the staff dachshunds might enjoying seeing my dachshund enjoy his Thanksgiving meal at his boarding accommodations:

A dachshund eats turkey, green beans, and pumpkin/yams

(V) & (Z) respond: The staff dachshunds think that looks pretty tasty, but they are nonetheless happy with the Thanksgiving steak they dined upon.


M.B. in San Antonio, TX, writes: You wrote: "[O]ur prediction is that Cárdenas' successor will be... a Democratic Latino/a."

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, for eschewing the ridiculous and offensive "latinX"! The sooner we consign that linguistic abomination to the dustbin of history, the better!

(V) & (Z) respond: You know who hates "Latinx"? Most Latinos and Latinas. That said, the term is finding new life as a way of referring to genderqueer Latinos and Latinas.

J.K. in Portland, OR, writes: I confess to being surprised by your Wayne Gretzky quote when a translation of a pretty close Johan Cruyff quote was so easily available, especially for (V): "If you don't shoot, you can't score."

M.L. in West Hartford, CT, writes: I was disappointed to see you attribute the quote "you miss 100% of the shots you don't take" to Wayne Gretzky. It was, of course, popularized by Michael Scott, the branch manager for Dunder Mifflin, Scranton.

Final Words

R.M. in Bryan, TX, writes: My grandfather, Charlie, was a trickster and a joker. When fighting his final illness, cancer, he was scheduled for undoubtedly futile surgery on his stomach. Before going to the operating room, he asked the nurse if he could have a few minutes alone. The compassionate but gullible nurse said "Of course." When alone, he raised his hospital gown and used some contraband mercurochrome to draw a horizontal dotted line on his stomach below his belly button. Above this line he wrote "Do not cut below dotted line."

It is told that when the procedure began the surgeon laughed so hard that he said "I'm not sure I can go through with this." But he did. Charlie survived the surgery, but it was to no avail. Had he succumbed during the procedure his last words would have been left in writing, With a smile.

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