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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

Boy howdy, did we get a lot of comments about abortion. That was predictable, of course, and is part of the reason we chose that subject as our test case. We're still thinking about how to organize that sort of content into the most effective presentation possible. Then, we'll run a couple of test cases (abortion and education), and thereafter see if readers want to continue with the approach as a semi-regular feature. Anyhow, we are only going to run a few abortion letters today, but there will be more during the week, as well as another set of questions and answers from the anti-abortion readers. Again, please keep in mind that this is a work in progress.

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Race

M.F. in Oakville, ON, Canada, writes: In responding to J.L. of Paterson about longshot candidates, you rightly make the point that Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) was briefly in a position to "pull it off" in 2016. However, in the process, I think you've paid short shrift to J.L.'s point. Sometimes candidates do run for reasons other than seeing a viable path to the nomination. The two most likely are: (1) to build up their profile for a future run, or (2) to shape the debate.

In 2016, there were five more-or-less-credible declared candidates for the Democratic nomination:

  • Former New York senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton
  • Sanders
  • Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley
  • Former Rhode Island senator and governor (and former Republican) Lincoln Chafee
  • Virginia Senator and former Navy secretary (and also former Republican) Jim Webb

In the end, both Chafee and Webb dropped out before the Iowa caucuses, and O'Malley dropped out the evening of the caucuses after a poor showing.

I don't think there's any doubt O'Malley, Chafee, and Webb all saw themselves as viable candidates for the nomination and the presidency, and all three quickly dropped out when it became apparent they weren't.

But Sanders was in a different category. Indeed, I suspect Sanders entered the race with no expectation there was any viable path to the nomination. And given his age, it was unlikely he was setting himself up for the future. He famously had only a handful of journalists bother to cover his announcement in May 2015. Sanders was there hoping to shape the conversation.

Yes, there was a brief period, after his unexpectedly strong showing in Iowa and his romp to a win in New Hampshire, where he looked like he could win, but that largely evaporated after Super Tuesday (although he was still mathematically in contention for several more weeks).

But even that success was predicated less on the qualities of Bernie Sanders as a candidate than on the fact that he was the only remaining alternative to Hillary Clinton. Indeed, I suggest the Sanders phenomenon was indirectly caused by the strategic decision of the Clinton campaign early on to suck all the large money out of the system, thus starving out any candidate who was running to win. It drove Webb, Chafee, and O'Malley out of the race, and would have done the same to Sanders if he had been a "normal" candidate.

The result was that Sanders was able to shape the debate because he was Clinton's only remaining debating partner. The rest of the Sanders phenomenon is all dependent on that. And that, in turn, is dependent on the fact that (at least until that brief shining moment between Iowa and Super Tuesday) he had no illusions that he could win.

W.H.K. in Salt Lake City, UT, writes: I saw Robert F. Kennedy Jr. give a speech on the environment in person in Ogden, UT, in December 2007. The talk was very well received by those in attendance. Likewise I attended a campaign rally in Salt Lake City for Robert F. Kennedy Sr. shortly before his untimely death in 1968. I must say that Jr. has all the fine speaking qualities that his father had; his problem is not his ability to orate but rather being branded as an "anti-vaxxer" by Big Pharma. If Biden falters I would not be surprised at all if Robert F. Kennedy Jr. makes a good run at filling the void.

N.M. in West Chester, PA, writes: Regarding "Iowa Could Get Very, Very Interesting," I could see a 4th choice. Fieldfu**ing: Vote for Trump in droves. He is probably the weakest choice for Republicans in 2024, and giving him a lead out of the gate may be a smart move.

Politics: Ron is Weaselly

M.E in John's Creek, GA, writes: I think you missed one of the biggest problems with HB1617. It will be devastating to small businesses. Even though politicians don't like to say it out loud, they all know that certain industries depend on undocumented workers. Take roofing, for example. If you've ever hired a roofer, you may have noticed that they all arrived in one truck. This is standard operating procedure in the industry. Generally, everyone meets up at the office and the owner drives the whole crew to the job. Conversely, he may swing by Home Depot or Quick Trip and hire a few day laborers (all of whom will be undocumented). If you make it a felony for a contractor to drive his crew to the job site, you've effectively driven him out of business. It's not practical to have everyone drive themselves (would you be happy if 10 cars were parked at your house for 3 days?), and it's not practical to stop hiring undocumented workers (for a whole slew of reasons).

And that's just one example. There will be similar problems throughout the construction industry and beyond. If HB1617 passes (and actually gets enforced) it will throw the Florida economy into chaos, which may tick off a voter or two. It's all good and well to bloviate about illegal immigrants, but will you feel the same way when you can't find anybody to mow your lawn or clean your pool?

A.A. in Austin, TX, writes: In "DeSantis Is Making a Deal (or Two) with the Devil" you wrote: "But the "highlight" of the bill is verbiage that makes guilty of a felony anyone who 'Conceals, harbors, or shields from detection, or attempts to conceal, harbor, or shield from detection, in any place within this state, including any temporary or permanent structure or any means of transportation, an individual whom the person knows, or reasonably should know, has entered the United States in violation of law.' The bill also criminalizes the knowing and willful transport of undocumented immigrants. The maximum penalty is five years in prison, five more years' probation and a $5,000 fine for each offense."

So, wouldn't DeSantis be criminally liable for the transporting of undocumented immigrants from Texas to Florida to Massachusetts if the law had been in place then? Ah, the devil is in the details!

J.F. in Sloatsburg, NY, writes: Having sat down at the table with The Lawyers of Disney (and having lived to tell the tale), I can tell you the following:

  • Disney's lawyers are, indeed, the very best that there are in their fields. They are sought out for this reason, and Disney has the budget to get their pick of experienced and skilled counsel. DeSantis' "I went to Harvard therefore I am smart" self-image is nothing compared to the competence and and ability Disney Law brings to the table.

  • They know the law, the regulations, the realities, and their client's needs and flexibilities backwards, forwards, and sideways. DeSantis and his stooges manifestly do not—they're relying too heavily on PR and control of the legislature without considering that Disney might do anything in response.

  • Not only does Disney pay for the very best lawyers, they do the same for their staff. A lawyer is really only as good as their assistants, and Disney understands this. DeSantis does not, judging from the people he appointed to the new CFTOD board.

  • Disney's lawyers are utterly implacable, and they are impeccably detail-oriented. Everything gets addressed; nothing is left to chance; all conceivable contingencies are accounted for. This has not been the case for DeSantis and his vendetta.

  • As a result of all this, Disney is a joy to work with from a professional standpoint—the legal equivalent of getting to cooperate with a master painter or a top performer. At the same time, they're also exhausting, since there's no letup.

They are also people I never, ever want to be on the wrong side of.

P.N. in Austin, TX, writes: You wrote: "You can't call him Führer Ron, as that would offend people. But how about Generalissimo DeSantis? Or Chairman Ron?"

Il Dookie DeSantis?

J.P. in Lancaster PA, writes: I saw an article about TFG exercising his penchant for nicknames and trying out a new one for Ron DeSantis. The new nickname is "Tiny D." Apparently, the former president hasn't given this one much thought. I realize that I am ignoring the fact that thought in any quantity is not something that he does. However, my advice to him, if I were inclined to give it, would be to remind him gently that his given name, Donald, begins with the letter "D" and that the word "tiny" in this context could be taken to mean some part of his (Donald's) body (e.g., his hands or perhaps some other protuberance in the general vicinity, as was apparently noted by a former acquaintance of his).

A.B. in Torrington, CT, writes: Back in 2007 during the Democratic debates, then Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) quipped that every sentence that emerged from Rudy Giuliani's mouth included "a noun, a verb, and 9/11." At what point do we take a look at everything Ron DeSantis does and says and just realize it's nothing more than a noun, a verb, and "woke"?

Politics: The Biden Administration

S.T. in Philadelphia, PA, writes: I'm disappointed that you chalked up Julie Su's nomination to "Biden ... felt he had to add an Asian American to his cabinet. Again, that old identity politics thing."

Julie Su is a Wisconsin-born attorney, whose groundbreaking impact litigation and activism led to the creation of the T-Visa for victims of human trafficking. She has served as United States deputy secretary of labor since 2021. Before that, she was the California Labor Secretary under Governor Newsom. She also headed California's Division of Labor Standards Enforcement under Governor Brown. Su was Walsh's top deputy, and now serves as acting labor secretary.

Acting Secretary of Labor Su is not only the most qualified candidate to succeed former Labor Secretary Walsh. She is also next in line for the job, given her experience.

I see no reason to ascribe her nomination to tokenism.

(V) & (Z) respond: We did not ascribe her nomination to tokenism; we wrote that Biden knows it will be a tough sell despite her qualifications, but he took his chances with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (I-AZ) because of the importance of diversifying the Cabinet.

M.S. in Williamsburg, VA, writes: You suggested the intriguing possibility that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) might appoint VP Kamala Harris to the Senate if Sen Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) resigns, arguing that it would position the VP better for 2028. One reason that would never happen is that it would make Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) first in line for the presidency. It would take months for a new VP to be confirmed (and longer if McCarthy slows it up in the House). There's no way Joe Biden would risk that.

Politics: In Congress

R.V. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) must have been a professional comedian in a past life, because it is amusing that he thought Senate Republicans (of the 2023 variety!) would actually allow Team D to replace one Democrat with another to be able to confirm judges.

Republicans have long had a deep sense of entitlement regarding the federal courts. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) would throw his mama, Katy Perry and Clayton Kershaw in front of a bus if it would help confirm a Republican nominee or prevent a Democratic nominee from getting a federal judgeship.

Also, In the last 2 years, when a nominee was tied 11-11 in the Judiciary Committee (which happened many times) a time-consuming move would at least allow that nominee to be able to be moved to Senate floor for final vote, but this is not the case in 2023. It is now much harder to move 11-11 nominees, because discharge petitions now require 60 votes. During the previous Congress, they only required 50 plus the tiebreaker.

D.R. in Hillsboro, VA, writes: In "Former Bragg Lieutenant Must Obey Jim Jordan's Subpoena," you wrote: "Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) is the leader of the House Trump Apologist Committee (Note to staff researcher: Confirm that name is correct)."

Although I am not the staff researcher, I felt that I could shed some light on the issue. I quote from Wikipedia: "James Daniel Jordan (born February 17, 1964) is an American politician serving as the U.S. representative for Ohio's 4th congressional district since 2007."

Rep. Jordan goes by "Jim," which is a widely accepted nickname for people named James. Therefore, I can state with some confidence that the name is indeed correct. Beyond that, I can find nothing of concern in regard to your statement.

Politics: Outfoxed

M.B. in Cleveland, OH, writes: I'd like to gently push back against your statement that "Dominion's victory isn't going to reach the ears of the hardcore Fox fanatics, but those folks are lost to DVS anyhow."

I recently spent a week with family in small-town Louisiana. Deeply red, but also deeply caring people. Pretty much everyone I spent time with, family or not, were decent people who go to church on Sunday and who walk the walk, volunteering to help others and caring deeply about faith, family, and the future of the country, for the sake of their children and grandchildren. They are environmentalists because they spend a lot of time outdoors, including hunting and fishing. They get pretty much all their news from local broadcasts with almost no national news. And also from... each other.

Much if not all of this chain eventually filters back to Fox for national news. But if one of the trusted people in their circle learned that Fox personalities had admitted to intentionally spreading disinformation and to hating Donald Trump, I do think that their worldview would change. Not overnight, not quickly, but each bit of information opens the door just a touch wider.

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: I wanted to expand on your mention of shareholder suits involving Fox, and why it will be an uphill fight. A derivative suit occurs when the shareholder sues directors or officers of a corporation for some kind of malfeasance (e.g., breach of fiduciary duty, waste, self-dealing). The corporation is only nominally a defendant, and the suit is on behalf of it. The allegation is that the offending directors/officers harmed the corporation and thus should personally pay for the damage they caused. Of course, because they control the corporation, they'd never sue themselves. Hence, the law permits the shareholders to sue "derivatively" on behalf of the corporation.

These claims are always an uphill fight (absent evidence of self-dealing) because Delaware (and other states) have the "Business Judgment Rule." If the directors/officers make a business decision about a course of action, they are not personally liable just because it goes wrong. Here, I can imagine a defense that would boil down to: "We decided that the financial harm to Fox from losing viewers by telling the truth was likely greater than the risk of defamation payments, particularly given the First Amendment defenses." By analogy, if directors/officers cause a company to breach a contract because paying damages would likely be cheaper than performing, then that is their Business Judgment, and no derivative action would prevail. "Lying was a legitimate business decision when we made it," looks awful in print, but I think it may well prevail in Delaware Chancery Court, and of course Fox has no shame.

One more wrinkle: The Fox defendants undoubtedly have a D&O insurance policy, so their insurers will foot the litigation bill and will pay any judgment to the corporation if the directors/officers are found to have breached their fiduciary duty negligently, though not if the breach is intentional or reckless (and that's a different issue from whether the falsehoods were negligent/reckless/intentional).

C.T.M. in Boston, MA, writes: Fox News has a market capitalization of about $17 billion. It has about 556 million shares outstanding. The $787 million settlement calculates to a litigation cost of $1.42 per share. In 2022, Fox News earned $3.24 per share, so this settlement represents just under half a year's profit. Earnings for 2023, estimated around $3.08, will likely end up being closer to $1.66. On the morning after the settlement announcement, the stock was trading down slightly in the premarket. Preliminarily, it looks like this settlement is not is going to rattle shareholders or unduly stress the company finances.

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: Look at it like this: Someone hands you $787.5M and a single six-sided die. You can keep your $787.5M or you can roll the die. If the die comes up with a number from 1-4, you get another $787.5M, but if it comes up 5 or 6, you lose the $787.5M and you get nothing.

Would you roll that die? I would not.

For those who are insisting that Fox should have aired retractions: Even if the case had gone to trial and withstood appeal, there still would have been no retraction or apology—juries don't award those.

T.S. in Memphis, TN, writes: You wrote: "Perhaps Dominion Voting should rebrand."

Next question: And call themselves what?

  • Out-foxed Voting
  • Dominion over Vixen Voting
  • Dominate the Vixen Voting
  • Fair and Balanced Voting
  • Own the Foxes Voting
  • Cha-ching Voting

What do you think?

B.B. in Dothan, AL, writes: I suggest: Don't belieVe fox newS

Politics: Abortion

C.W. in Carlsbad, CA, writes: I held back when you first began organizing the conversation with anti-abortion readership, just to see where the discussion would actually go. But based on the initial interactions, I don't see any benefit to continue. Reading the column to my spouse only upset her, and it reaffirmed what is already known: There is a very clear religion-based, masculine voice in all the arguments, and a convenient muddying of the boundary between what seems to be "God's Will" and a woman's choice.

Some of your volunteers seemed to be amenable in the surface to medical intervention to save the life of the mother, and yet they actively vote to install lawmakers who shape much more aggressive laws—seemingly because of a deeply-instilled hatred of 'all things blue.'

To be honest, I'm not sure how the public feels about this topic, polls aside. But I am certain we won't learn anything listening to these volunteers. They are no better than the trolls we see on social media. As long as they insist their philosophy applies to everyone, and that it must be enforced through laws that victimize women and their circle of support, we have no common ground on which to base an actual discussion. We're just lobbing softballs into their court so they can pontificate at their leisure. It's not solving any problem.

So I vote to discontinue this discussion, at least in this fashion. And whether or not you publish this letter, at least take this point seriously: It was very hurtful to some of your readers.

(V) & (Z) respond: We have committed to this particular sequence of entries, and we have to trust our judgment in terms of what content to include on the site. Also, while there were some letters like this one, there were many more (by about a 3-to-1 margin) expressing appreciation for exposure to a differing perspective. Some of these were from right-leaning readers, yes, but many of them were from folks we know to be very lefty and very pro-choice. In any event, we'd ask that you wait until the series has run its course before judging its utility.

G.T.M. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: The current U.S. Supreme Court situation with respect to mifepristone reminds me of a situation that a friend of mine once found himself in.

A very senior judge of the B.C. Supreme Court had made an order that adversely affected my friend's client. On research, my friend found several incredibly excellent reasons why the order should be set aside—starting with the person who had obtained the order knowingly swearing a false affidavit in support of it, and some violations of the rules of court which should have had the originating application tossed immediately.

When appearing to support his application my friend laid out all of those objections. The judge who was hearing applications that day happened to be the most junior member of the B.C. Supreme Court bench and in order to grant the application to toss out what was patently an order that had been wrongly applied for and which should never have been granted and to use any of the clearly adequate reasons that my friend had given the court to set the order aside, that (very junior) judge would have had to overturn a decision made by a very senior judge. Obviously that placed the (very junior) judge in a bit of a "collegial bind."

What happened?

Well, at the end of the presentations from both my friend and the party that had obtained the order that was sought to be set aside, the judge (holding an entered copy of the order in his hand) looked counsel for both parties in the eye and declared that there was no need to set the order aside as he was ruling that it never existed.

The decision was patently ridiculous, but saved face all around and gave my friend exactly the relief he had been seeking so no one actually snickered at the "learned decision."

It wouldn't, in the least, surprise me to see the U.S. Supreme Court come to a similar "learned decision."

A.R. in Raleigh, NC, writes: In response to J.E.L. from Cincinnati: Methotrexate would be effective at terminating a pregnancy, and was studied a fair bit back in the 1990s. However, as you might expect from a chemotherapy agent, it can be toxic to multiple different organ systems. Ultimately, the safety profile of misoprostol and mifepristone are much better.

For a medical abortion, I would need to know the patient's blood type and also if they had anemia. Best practice when administering methotrexate is to also order laboratory studies to assess the baseline function of the kidneys, liver, and bone marrow. Methotrexate also is contraindicated in the setting of peptic ulcers, pulmonary disease, and immunodeficiency. Thus, more pregnant people would be unable to receive methotrexate (due to underlying medical problems), it is likely that more will have complications due to the methotrexate, and there are additional financial costs from ordering more laboratory studies. While it is true that methotrexate is better than nothing, having to transition from mifepristone or misoprostol to methotrexate would represent a step backwards in delivering quality, evidenced-based care. This, of course, is a goal of the anti-abortion movement in forcing providers to offer a less effective, less comfortable, and less safe pregnancy termination in order to dissuade patients from obtaining an abortion at all.

Politics: Trans America

C.A. in Cincinnati, OH, writes: You guys have been doing a great job with highlighting the recent attacks on trans people and their rights. I think it's really important to understand what's happening to that community so good on you guys for sharing this issue with your readers.

I wanted to share with you both an article that analyzes the electoral impact of anti-trans policy and messaging. The upshot here is while the issue unites the right-wing, candidates who look to beat up on trans folks almost always underperform in general elections. The issue just doesn't have salience with most people. When asked what they think about transgender issues, the median voter's response is either "that's odd, but that's their business, not mine" or "Huh? who cares, just make gas prices go down." It's a long read, but very well researched.

W.P. in Vinings, GA, writes: Friday, you wrote about three "boxes" attacks on trans people check that make this a good wedge issue for Republicans. One of them you labeled the "think of the children" angle: "Understandably, people get extremely protective when it comes to their kids. And the three big policies that anti-trans politicians tend to focus on—bathroom bills, high school sports, and banning gender-affirming treatments—can be and are framed as attempts to protect children."

I think you missed a nearly identical, and arguably more potent, angle in "think of the women." Just as with children, anti-trans bathroom and sports-team policies can be (and are) framed as protecting women and women's spaces from predatory men. This has potential appeal to not only centrists, but certain segments of the feminists movement also. "Damsels in distress" is the oldest trope in the book for a reason, after all.

K.Y. in Tumwater WA, writes: (Z) wrote that "there are three pretty clear "boxes" that anti-trans stuff checks," and listed Christians, old people, and children. But you missed one: feminists:

  • Feminists object to being called "menstruators" and "birthing people."
  • We object to having women's rights events disrupted by aggressive shouty men while the police look the other way.
  • We object to cervical cancer screenings being advertised to "people with cervixes" while prostate cancer screenings are advertised to "men."
  • We object to being dismissed as bigots for wanting fair sporting competitions.
  • We object to awarding Woman of the Year, International Women of Courage, Women's Prize for Fiction, and the like to people who have identified as women for a hot minute.
  • We object to rapists being housed in women's prisons.
  • We object to teenage girls being encouraged to undergo horrifying surgeries in order to pass as men, while middle-aged men are celebrated as women for nothing more than wearing lipstick and donning prosthetic breasts.
  • We object to teaching first-grade girls that girls like ribbons and dolls (bad enough!), and that if they don't like ribbons and dolls they must be boys (even worse!).
  • We object to the redefinition of "sex" in civil rights law to refer to a nonsense word salad.
  • We object to lesbians being told that if they don't welcome penises into their sexual encounters, that makes them "sexual racists."
  • We object to the posthumous "transing" of impressive women from history on the grounds that if they were able to accomplish X or Y, they must have been men and not really women. (This is SO INSULTING.)

And we certainly object to receiving torrents of sick, misogynistic, violent verbal abuse for opining that it's wrong for a woman to lose her job simply for stating that she knows how sexual reproduction works. Read that link. I insist. Scroll through it. How do you think that makes us feel?

J.M. in Chatham, NY, writes: You wrote: "Understandably, people get extremely protective when it comes to their kids."

This is a disingenuous apology for anti-trans bias. The exact same argument can be applied to earlier forms of segregation. Otherism is alive and well, and this week it has chosen transgenderism as its foe. To give air to these arguments is to intentionally ignore pretty much all of history. You can do better.

P.W. in Valley Village, CA, writes: The issue for the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) was preventing gay marriage. And when that battle was lost, one would think that NOM would just slink away. But no. They just moved on to be a generic anti-gay group. And since all the fun to be had these days is with the trans issue, it's no great surprise NOM is all over it.

How the National Organization for Marriage can legitimately feel that weighing in on trans is within their mission is a feat of world-class contortion But here we are.

My expectation is that trans is going to be on the front burner for NOM and their ilk for many decades to come. As you wrote, trans does a great job of checking all of the checkboxes.

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: You wrote that among older people "it is entirely plausible that one could have made it to the first, or even the second, decade of the 21st century without having heard of trans people." Well, I was born in 1955, and in the mid-to-late 60s it was impossible not to hear about the fictional Myra Breckinridge or the very real life Christine Jorgensen. Both the author Gore Vidal and Ms. Jorgensen were frequent guests on afternoon and evening talk shows and regularly featured in newspapers and on newscasts.

Furthermore, in the 70s, both regular and sporting news were full of mentions of Dr. Renée Richards and her ultimately successful quest to play professional women's tennis (so you'd think this issue was already long decided).

It may be that people younger than I, perhaps those currently in their 40s, may not have heard of trans people until more recently. But anyone my age or older would have to have been completely cut off from the worlds of news and entertainment not to have heard of trans people many years ago.

I'll admit that trans men have only more recently entered public discourse, with Chaz Bono probably being the first to get wide attention, such that even today many people seem to think that trans women are the only trans people that exist rather than only half of the trans population. But certainly the idea of trans people in general is hardly a recent entry into the public consciousness.

Politics: Crimes against Math?

S.M. in Pratt, KS, writes: When I saw your item on Monday showing the scattershot graph of congressional results by income, I was surprised by your comments. I had looked at the graph before I read your thoughts, and I had come to a different conclusion. You had stated that the Republicans have become the party of poor people and the Democrats the party of the rich. While it is true that the Republicans have more districts that fall below the median income vs. the Democrats, I feel that you are missing the bigger takeaway.

Using two of the arbitrary lines that the graph makers added, at $50K and $100K, I noticed something that their analysis and yours seems to miss. While there are 12 Republican districts below $50K, there are 14 for the Democrats. And yes, the Democrats represent the wealthiest districts, but they also represent 29 of the over $100K districts vs. 12 for the Republicans. In fact, the Democrats have a uniform distribution of support all the way thru the income range, indicating a very broad coalition of voters. In contrast, the Republican support is extremely clustered in the $50K to $71K range, indicating that their base of support occurs only in a narrow socio-economic grouping.

I would add that, in most locales, a teacher married to a policeman will have a household income north of $71K. I doubt that this couple would consider themselves rich, or even upper middle class.

So, my takeaway from the graph is that the Republicans have the problem. The Democrats have a wide and varied coalition of voters. In contrast, the Republicans have a narrow base of support. Having a narrow base is always problematic, because if the opposition begins making any inroads, the loss of voters can become large very quickly.

Y.A. in Newton, MA, writes: Your item titled "Democrats Won Rich Districts, Republicans Won Poor Districts" was disappointing. As a scientist, I can tell a weak correlation when I see one. There may be something here, but it's not clear-cut and would not fare well by standard metrics of statistical significance. You note that "correlation is not causation," but ignore the lack of convincing correlation to begin with. Fully expected at the source (Axios) but I've come to expect more from ElectoralVote.

K.T. in Oslo, Norway, writes: I have a comment regarding the Axios analysis you shared under the heading "Democrats Won Rich Districts, Republicans Won Poor Districts." The conclusion (and plot) offered by Axios is somewhat misleading, as it doesn't correct for or comment on the fact that red states in general are poor, and blue states in general are rich. If you look at the data state-by-state, it often shows the opposite pattern.

The apparent contradiction here (the data appear to give one conclusion when seen all together, but the opposite conclusion when divided into groups) is the well-known statistical phenomenon called Simpson's Paradox.

I hope you will share this with your readers, as it is a useful lesson in how hard it is to do statistics right, and how easy it is to use the numbers to mislead.

All Politics Is Local

D.R. in Stebbins, AK, writes: To S.B.A. in Minneapolis about the comment that "The Tennessee Three threw a temper tantrum." You seem to be buying into the Republican talking points. I agree that proper decorum and social norms have eroded in the Tennessee legislature as well as other places.

But it started with the fact that whenever Democrats were talking in normal debate and discussion, their microphones were often shut off when they had the floor. It's one thing to defeat the opposition when matters come to a vote because you have more votes. It is quite outside proper decorum and social norms to forcibly silence the opposition when they are properly voicing their opinions. The megaphones were the only way for their voices to be heard.

P.T. in Saco, ME, writes: S.B.A. in Minneapolis wrote: "[I]t's my sincere belief that one of the few bright lines you don't cross as an elected official is to disrupt a legislative proceeding. Because once you start allowing for that, the whole system... starts to collapse."

Has not a bright line been crossed when 9-year-olds are shot and killed? If not for that, at what reason should etiquette and procedure be discarded? Not even when evil has become so commonplace that decent people behave as if they are helpless? I cannot believe S.B.A. means dem uppity Negroes should shut up because 9-year-olds aren't worth the decorum of a state house. When 9-year-olds die at school, the system has collapsed. It's not decorum be damned, it's us.

L.S. in Richland, WA, writes: Just a note to express my appreciation for your making Senator Patty Murray the subject of this week's Freudenfreude feature. I've voted for her every six years since 1992, and I hope to vote for her again in 2028 if she runs for a seventh term.

S.P. in Wheaton, IL, writes: Yes, the 10,000-vote club has 32 members... but most of them are stiffs.

Sorry. Couldn't resist.

Commerce: Anti-Woke Shopping

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: You were wondering about the business model behind the "anti-woke text service," and your supposition is almost certainly on target: Just think of the value of a database containing the cell phone numbers (and surely e-mail address and other information) of the most gullible people in the country!

If you have a company which sells "natural male enhancement" pills, you wouldn't advertise it in Scientific American, but how much would you pay to be able to spam these people?

R.H. in Seattle, WA, writes: Reading about Conservative Dad's Ultra Right Beer brought back memories of W Ketchup that was introduced during the 2004 election. I viewed that product with derision too.

J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: The Bud Light conflagration simply confirms what I've often said: If they're still awarding PhDs in history in 100 years, some enterprising graduate student is going to write a dynamite dissertation about how the American Republic collapsed because the Baby Boomer generation aged out of the lucrative 18-49 demographic so appealing to advertisers.


M.F. in Oakville ON, Canada, writes: I'm sure I won't be the only Canadian writing in to remind you of the ancient Canuck joke:

Q: Why is American beer like making love in a canoe?

A: Because it's f*****g near water.

J.Z. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: I thought you might be interested to know a couple more details on Ultra Right Beer.

First of all, the founder is the founder of and has tweeted multiple times about how guys shouldn't drink beer. He tweeted about how beer decreases testosterone and increases estrogen a mere 11 days before launching his so-called beer company. Paste Magazine has the evidence here.

Secondly, Ultra Right Beer's entire business model appears to be illegal. According to its website, it's brewed in northern Illinois—a state that bans its breweries for selling directly to consumers.

And speaking of Illinois, if URB is a real product at all, the most likely business partner for them is Goose Island. That is a company owned by AB-InBev, producer of, you guessed it, Bud Lite. Here's a good video recap.

M.M. in Atlanta, GA, writes: The silly woke free beer was dumped by the company they claimed was going to brew their beer.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: I see two stories from this week tying together: People getting shot because they accidentally went to the wrong place and right-wingers losing their sh** because Bud Light is looking for another revenue stream.

Regarding Bud Light, this is an example of right-wingers perhaps understanding the pain that Progressives feel everytime those of us who still put gas in our cars give money to Big Oil. Or when we find ourselves on the side of Big Pharma in the Mifepristone situation. Or when I get pissed off at AT&T over their support of anti-abortion lawmakers, finally switch to Verizon 8 months later, and then regret it because the coverage sucks.

I once had a conversation with my financial advisor about this. He pointed out that a corporation's only job is to make money. A corporation that always acts from altruism is rare indeed (Patagonia comes to mind). He suggested that in deciding what to invest in, I would be wise to take a "least bad" approach. My point is that if the right-wingers want to trade their Bud Light piss water for Miller Lite piss water, more power to them. It's just weird to me that the supposed "party-of-business" doesn't seem to understand that this is simply a corporation seeking out a previously untapped market for their product. Everyone's money is still green, ya know. Lots of corporations also have expansive benefits, even for LGBTQ people, and put rainbows on their products in June because this is good for business. Good luck right-wingers finding a way to reject all of them.

The other story is way more tragic, but I see a through-line. It seems like every day last week there was a sad story of someone accidentally ringing the wrong doorbell or pulling up on the wrong driveway and the homeowner showing up with a gun, shooting first, and asking questions later. Who shows up at their door with a gun in hand? Whatever happened to asking the person what they are doing there and offering directions to the right place? How about finding out if they are a threat before brandishing a deadly weapon? Why is it that their first instinct is to shoot?

Oh wait, I know. Remember how Kid Rock got mad at Bud Light and took a shot at some bottles. Why is it that their first response is to shoot something? I guess that's gun culture in America. There is blood on their hands for every mass shooting and every "wrong driveway" shooting. Our nation is going down an ever-darker path concerning guns and this is one area in which I am not optimistic.

Commerce: Woke Shopping

L.E. in Putnam County, NY, writes: If you want to spotlight a right-wing boycott-boosting site try

S.D. in Plymouth, MA, writes: There's a website (and corresponding app) called Goods Unite Us that's pretty handy. It allows you to browse and search a company's reported political donations, and provides a surprising amount of info in an easy-to-grok graphical format: the percentage of Republican vs. Democratic donations, percentage of donations made by the company itself vs. senior employees, whether a company has halted PAC donations to election deniers, and a bunch more. It's usually one of my first stops when checking out a company's profile.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: There is a smartphone app I use called BuyPartisan. This ranks many companies according to political views. It does not specifically list blue/progressive companies, but rates companies along the political spectrum.

Commerce: Other Matters

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: My wife said that the SpaceX rocket launched today exploded in the air. Then I watched CNN. According to the crawler, SpaceX said that the rocket "experienced rapid unscheduled disassembly." I'm glad for that clarification.

(V) & (Z) respond: Elon Musk's rocket exploded extremely prematurely. Our sneaking suspicion is that at least a few women from his past saw a metaphor in that.

S.Ó-C. in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, writes: When you warned, after asking about the number of corporations chartered at 1209 Orange Street in Wilmington, that our guess would be low, I decided, "OK, let's just think of a ridiculous number then," and I guessed 40,000 in my head. Then I scrolled down to the bottom to see how silly I was and, WOW, were you ever right when you said I was going to lowball it.

R.C. in Newport News, VA, writes: Let me add to (Z)'s problem in moving large amounts of money. I recently used Angi's List (now Angi) for home improvements. They take credit cards only for payment. I used my local credit union's bill-paying facility to pay a $12,000 credit card bill. The CU's response was that the payment would be delayed at least a week. Normally the bill would be paid the next day. So I canceled the bill pay and made two $6,000 payments using the same credit union. They both got delivered the next day as usual. 10 and over == bad. 2 * 6 == OK.

As far as knowing your customer, we've been using this credit union for four decades.

Altered Beast

F.L. in Denton, TX, writes: H.F. in Pittsburgh asked about electrifying "the Beast" (i.e. the ride for the PotUS) and, as a (retired) licensed electrical professional engineer, I would be glad to put in my tuppence.

To start, the AM radio does not interfere with the motor—that would be like the fabled gnat apologizing to the bull for sitting on his horns. It is the motor that would interfere with the radio; AM radios are receivers, not transmitters. There are workarounds, but some manufacturers simply don't wish to go to the expense, which is a bit of a shame, as AM provides emergency broadcast information. That said, I freely admit that I haven't listened to AM radio in decades, and I doubt the PotUS would have any reason to do so. As to jamming the motor with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP), that would take something along the lines of a tactical nuke—in which case the U.S.S.S. would have more pressing concerns.

As to the battery exploding if being shot by a gun, the same could be said for a tank full of gasoline. In fact, the latter is even more risky. It's a simple matter to bulletproof the batteries.

As to range and performance... weight, at this scale, is not an issue. There are EV semi tractor-trailers and electric motors can have a higher power/mass density than fossil-fuel motors, and they're also far more reliable.

Now, expense might come into play, but that's a different discussion.

G.T.M in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: I rather suspect that VMC would be more than pleased to provide the President of the United States of America as many (within reason) fully electric "Presidential Limousines" as required.

In fact, I suspect that they might even eat the "customization costs" and also do it at no charge provided that they received "The Presidential Warrant" got to advertise as "Official Limousine Supplier to the President".

(V) & (Z) respond: VMC, a company headquartered in... Canada. And so Phase II of Operation Maple Leaf begins. How long until the "helpful" suggestion of replacing the U.S.S.S. with Mounties?

History Matters

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: I was thrilled to see Ishi's name on your California history syllabus. I found that getting good discussion going took a couple of weeks and it wasn't going to happen on the first day of classes. Also, most faculty seemed to use the first day of classes for rules, procedures, syllabi, information about grades—nuts and bolts stuff. I wrote all that out and handed it out the first day. I used the first day to catch (or release... or catch and release) their imaginations. I wanted their minds wide open and for them to leave from the first class thinking, "This is going to be a great course... an interesting course... a course with energy."

To accomplish that I utilized a wide variety of pieces of history, but a go-to favorite was the story of Ishi, how a stone age man walked into civilization and quickly adapted to it (and died of its diseases, having survived its genocide). The story is so rich, there are so many things you can do with it, and it generates lots of questions from the students. Plus, there are some great pictures you can use to illustrate the story.

Very occasionally, the name Oroville pops up in the news and my ears prick up.

L.R.H. in Oakland, CA, writes: (Z)'s outline of the lectures in his California history class fascinated me, for a few reasons. I know that it's a pain to rewrite lectures and redo the reading list for a class, but here are some thoughts.

  1. Regarding Steve Jobs, (Z) might consider subbing in Bill Hewlett and David Packard, the founders of the eponymous company. They're of an earlier generation than Jobs, of course, but they also epitomize Silicon Valley culture. They were Stanford graduates, they started out in a garage, they were engineers before they were businessmen, they created an immensely successful company. "Management by walking around," their personal style of running the company, remains legendary and earned them a place in Tom Peters' best-selling In Search of Excellence.

  2. Regarding Frank Gehry, it's not a secret that I adore one of his most visible California buildings, Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. But Gehry has two strikes against him: he graduated from the USC School of Architecture and he spent the first 18 years of his life in Canada. Besides this, there's a California-born woman who could take his place, the great Julia Morgan, a pioneering female architect who designed hundreds of buildings in this state.

  3. There are only so many weeks in a semester, and there's a good chance that (Z) covers the gay rights movement in his class. Stonewall or no Stonewall, the history of gay America can't be written without California. Harry Hay started the Mattachine Society in Los Angeles, and Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon started the Daughters of Bilitis in San Francisco. Regardless of what the biographies say, Julia Morgan is a potential pivot point here: A friend of mine knew or knows people who'd known Morgan and were aware that she was a lesbian.

(V) & (Z) respond: The difficulty is not so much in rewriting the lectures, per se, it's in finding the supplemental material you refer to (readings, video clips, etc.). As to Jobs, the focus on that entire lecture is on Apple Computer as a representation of the larger story of Silicon Valley. It works very well, and there's lots of useful material (speeches and interviews and Apple ads to use for the reading assignment, video documentaries like Triumph of the Nerds, etc.). Plus, students still know Jobs, and are interested to learn a fuller story. Hewlett and Packard would work a little less well, and with considerably less supporting material to draw on for readings, visuals, etc. As to Gehry, it was hard to find a reading for that lecture that was engaging, reasonably short, and relevant to the lecture subjects. (Z) eventually located an interview with Gehry (from Playboy) that checks all the boxes. Morgan is a possibility, but there'd have to be a reading from her (interview, book excerpt) and that might be tough. He'll take a look over the summer and see. As to LGBTQ, there's a whole lecture on LGBTQ Californians, but it's the one that gets flexed out if the schedule doesn't work out because of holidays. In the cases where it's flexed out, LGBTQ material shows up in several other lectures. In those cases where it is included, it's very, very difficult to justify starting with anyone other than Harvey Milk.

M.S. in Westchester, NY, writes: Alternative to Steve Jobs? Grace Hopper.

(V) & (Z) respond: Remember, it's a California history class. (Z) is unaware of any evidence that Hopper ever even set foot in California; certainly she's not a key part of the story of California's tech industry. Ultimately, if he decided that Steve Jobs simply had to be replaced with a woman, then the three plausible options are Roberta Williams (early video game developer), Joanna Hoffman (key figure in the early history of Apple), and Elizabeth Holmes (useful illustration of the dark side of the tech industry). But a swap has to be intellectually justifiable; (Z) isn't willing to do it purely to perform "diversity." And don't forget that of the 14 lectures in the class, four begin with non-white men, two begin with white women, and two begin with non-white women. That's a pretty good percentage.

Education Matters

M.A. in Knoxville, TN, writes: O.Z.H. in Dubai asked if students from red states attending top universities could serve as great emissaries for red state residents. As someone who lives in a red state (Tennessee), I can tell you that this won't work with most people here. There's an ingrained belief that going to college is completely worthless and that anyone who goes wastes their time and money. Best case is they'd listen to the former student politely, but ignore everything they had to say. Then talk about them behind their backs.

To give you an idea what they're like, I worked for a while in the IT department for the county school system, the one I grew up attending. My coworkers didn't have degrees, while I did (in computer science, from The University of Tennessee). They regularly bashed college degrees as worthless while I was around, even though they knew I had one. It would be fair to say they were deliberately being a**holes to insult me, because I'd been "dumb enough" to get a degree.

Frankly, I don't think anything will change their opinions on colleges and liberals.

Note: The "the" is capitalized for The University of Tennessee, because it's part of the official name for some reason. It's weird, but accurate.

The Sporting Life

B.H. in Frankfort, IL, writes: After fighting in the Pacific as a Marine in World War II, and losing a leg from a combat injury, Bill Veeck became the owner of the Cleveland Indians, and made Larry Doby the first African American player in the American League. Veeck received bags of hate mail for signing Doby, and he responded to every writer. He would handwrite a response on each piece that included this sentence: " I want to congratulate you for choosing parents whose race was so much to your liking." That sentence puts all bigotry in perspective.

P.K. in Marshalltown, IA, writes: Have you even read my application materials for Staff Nitpicker? Recently I corrected you on incorrect information about Earl Butz. Today I must point out that, in response to D.E. in Lancaster, you talked about the Disney lawyers winning straight sets 40-0, 40-0, 40-0. Those are game scores (and not even the winning score for a game). In tennis one wins a set by winning six games (seven for tie breakers, with some exceptions to that number spelled out in the rules set for Grand Slam events). Disney folks have won 6-0, 6-0, 6-0. I have updated my C.V. to include my two high school letters in tennis.

(V) & (Z) respond: (Z), who wrote that, knows how tennis scoring works. But the post was running very late, and he was trying to write something that would be clear to non-sports-fans. We got many letters about that, including one person who wrote in four times in four hours. Eventually, we went back and rewrote it using racquetball rules.

R.C. in North Hollywood, CA, writes: In your item on fundraising, you mentioned that Ohio and Montana have the same number of Super Bowls. Actually, Montana has four more, all from when he was with the 49ers.

(V) & (Z) respond: You're right, of course.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: My only beef with your Chicago Bears season ticket holder jokes is that you should replace Chicago Bears with Detroit Lions. The Lions have been demonstrably worse over the years. Their most recent championship occurred 10 years before I was born—and I'm 56! Their playoff victories since then can be counted on one hand. Give us former Detroiters some love!

(V) & (Z) respond: The important thing is that both teams have championships, and have the pictures to prove it. The main difference is that the Bears' pictures are in color.

Oh, and the Lions' playoff victories since their last championship can not only be counted on one hand, they can be counted on one finger. Staff

A.B. in Lichfield, England, UK, writes: I was slightly taken aback to read that the staff mathematician had been celebrating the feast day of Saint Apollonius the Apologist on April 18. From this we can surely deduce that the staff mathematician is Catholic, as all good Orthodox Christians know that the feast day of Saint Apollonius is actually on July 23, and Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, atheists, and various others presumably wouldn't be celebrating the feast day of a saint in the first place.

Are you absolutely sure the staff mathematician wasn't in fact celebrating the Orthodox feast of the Venerable Euthymius, Enlightener of Karelia, Finland and the Righteous Anthony and Felix? Poor Finland—so sadly neglected and often ignored.

(V) & (Z) respond: The staff mathematician says: "Apollonius the Apologist... Venerable Euthymius, Enlightener of Karelia, Finland and the Righteous Anthony and Felix... to-MAY-to, to-MAH-to.

M.W. in Ottawa, ON, Canada, writes: You wrote, of the staff mathematician: "He also will only eat cake on March 14, for some reason."

Surely your staff mathematician would more accurately eat cake only on the 22nd of July?

K.H. in Maryville, TN, writes: If my Patreon contribution has had anything to do with bringing (Q) on staff, I'm going to have to rethink that budget line.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: While I am usually supportive of all your innovations to make the site fresh, informative and fun; I have to say I'm a little trepidatious about this new (Q) guy you've added to the staff roster. Do we really need another letter of the alphabet? Frankly, this guy seems a little too anonymous for me. The next thing you know, he'll be transporting us to some Farpoint in space to either sit in judgment of us or introduce us to a race of deadly semi-robotic beings (a cube full of Mike Pences, a terror to freeze our souls!). Frankly, he should just stick to weaponizing watches, pens, cuff links and Aston Martins!


S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: I would like to reply to B.C. in Walpole, who wrote of your Dirty Dancing reference: "Saturday morning, and there's only one news source out there referencing everyone's favorite movie of all time."

You keep using that word ("everyone"); I do not think it means what you think it means.

J.M. in Kalamazoo, MI, writes: There is nothing worse than someone completely missing the joke, and then critiquing the humor. I've been enjoying your site since 2004 and particularly like the daily commentary of the past few years. I have a couple of quotes that capture my feelings toward S.S.H in London:

Daniel Tosh: "If you've ever said, 'There's nothing funny about [blank],' know that I hate you to your core."

William Shakespeare: "The [person] doth protest too much, methinks."

J.C. in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, writes: As a lifelong follower of Jesus, I loved your comparison of him to Trump.

K.C. in West Islip, NY, writes: You wrote: "'[Rep. George] Santos [R-NY]' should be able to raise that much by standing in Times Square in his underwear and playing the guitar for 2 hours."

Surely you are aware that "George Santos" is the guitar virtuoso who trained the Naked Cowboy in the first place.

(V) & (Z) respond: You seem to be confused. "Santos" never met the Naked Cowboy. The guitarist he trained is Jimi Hendrix.

Final Words

P.B. in Gainesville, FL, writes: Ned Kelly, infamous bushranger (a.k.a. outlaw) of colonial southeast Australia, was reputed to have said "Such is life" before he was hanged for murder in November 1880, although stories of the veracity of that quote vary. More interestingly, when he was sentenced to death at his trial by Sir Redmond Barry, and Barry concluded with the customary "May God have mercy on your soul," Kelly replied "I will go a little further than that, and say I will see you there where I go." Barry was to die of natural causes only twelve days after Kelly's execution.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr22 Supreme Court Keeps Mifepristone Legal, For Now
Apr22 Bragg Backs Down
Apr22 Saturday Q&A
Apr21 The War on Trans, Part I: Politics
Apr21 The War on Trans, Part II: Commerce
Apr21 Updates, Part I: Yesterday's News
Apr21 Updates, Part II: Shady Judge Behavior
Apr21 2024 Presidential Race News
Apr21 This Week in Schadenfreude: What Goes Around, Comes Around
Apr21 This Week in Freudenfreude: 10,000 Is a Big Number
Apr20 Supreme Court Needs More Time
Apr20 Anti-Abortion Q&A, Part I
Apr20 Former Bragg Lieutenant Must Obey Jim Jordan's Subpoena
Apr20 McCarthy Has a Budget Bill?
Apr20 Lindsey Graham Makes It Official
Apr20 RFK Jr. Makes It Official
Apr20 Guess Who Wants Mastriano to Sit This One Out?
Apr19 Dominion Settles with Fox...
Apr19 ...But the Trump Defamation Case Marches On
Apr19 Today in Judicial Dishonesty, Part I: Another Skeleton from Clarence Thomas' Closet
Apr19 Today in Judicial Dishonesty, Part II: Matthew Kacsmaryk Under the Microscope
Apr19 Q1 Fundraising: Ten Storylines
Apr19 Iowa Could Get Very, Very Interesting
Apr18 DeSantis Is Making a Deal (or Two) with the Devil
Apr18 DeSantis vs. The Mouse, Round 3
Apr18 New York Waste of Time, Part I: Jordan Hits the Road
Apr18 New York Waste of Time, Part II: "George DeSantos" Is Running for Reelection
Apr18 Senate Republicans to Senate Democrats: Buzz Off
Apr18 Fox-Dominion Case Is a Go
Apr17 Alito Freezes the Abortion Pill Decisions for 5 Days
Apr17 Pompeo Is Out
Apr17 Let the Politicking Begin
Apr17 Trump Is Deposed Again
Apr17 Glenn Youngkin Is Probably Not Running for President in 2024
Apr17 Tomorrow Is the Big Day
Apr17 Another Top Biden Pick May Bite the Dust
Apr17 It's Spring and Thus Lamb Time
Apr17 Democrats Won Rich Districts, Republicans Won Poor Districts
Apr16 Alito Freezes the Abortion Pill Decisions for 5 Days
Apr16 Pompeo Is Out
Apr16 Let the Politicking Begin
Apr16 Trump Is Deposed Again
Apr16 Glenn Youngkin Is Probably Not Running for President in 2024
Apr16 Tomorrow Is the Big Day
Apr16 Another Top Biden Pick May Bite the Dust
Apr16 It's Spring and Thus Lamb Time
Apr16 Democrats Won Rich Districts, Republicans Won Poor Districts
Apr15 Saturday Q&A
Apr14 The National M&M Debate Is No Longer about Spokescandies
Apr14 The End of the Line for Feinstein?