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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Biden Pays "Surprise" Visit to Ukraine
      •  Tucker Carlson May Have a Point Here...
      •  ...And He Definitely Has all the 1/6 Capitol Footage
      •  O'Keefe Gets a Dose of Veritas
      •  Beshear Appears to Be Sitting in the Catbird Seat
      •  It Was Presidents' Day!

Biden Pays "Surprise" Visit to Ukraine

Last week, we had an item about Joe Biden's planned trip to Poland. In it, we wrote: "Will Biden also go to Ukraine? For security reasons, no one in the government is talking about his exact itinerary other than the stop in Poland. If he does go to Ukraine, that is likely to be announced only after he is safely back home." Well, guess what? Yesterday, he visited Ukraine.

The linked article describes it as a "shock trip," while others emphasize how unexpected it was, how much of a surprise, how unpredictable, etc. But was it really? Once it was clear he would be in Poland, didn't you have to figure it was 95% he'd get to Ukraine? He was so nearby, and the benefits of going—boost Ukrainian morale, send a message to the Russians, photo ops, etc.—were quite substantial. Plus, he's been taking heat from both Democrats and Republicans for not having already visited, and he's clearly sensitive to such things (see, for example, his trip to the Mexican border). The only way Biden would have skipped out on Ukraine was if there was an extremely serious, extremely credible risk to his life. Or if there was a light rain.

No, wait, skip that last part. That's the last guy, not this one. Biden was definitely going, as long as it was reasonably safe for him to do so. The U.S.S.S. worked overtime to make sure that was the case, and so Biden went. After a rather lengthy train trip (10 hours!), the President was in Kyiv for about 5 hours. He toured the city, posed for the aforementioned photo-ops, and met privately with Volodymyr Zelenskyy. The dual messages that the U.S. isn't backing down from its support of Ukraine, and that the Russian war effort is not even strong enough to make Kyiv unsafe for a president to visit, were clear as could be.

Naturally, Democrats were full of praise for the president and his boldness in making it to Ukraine. Remarkably, some of the Fox personalities shared in that sentiment. Stuart Varney, for example, said that the visit might be a "game changer," and added "The president suddenly pops up. He suddenly appears in a foreign capital that is under attack. He is sticking it to Putin one year after Russia invaded."

On the other hand, many House Republicans—the same folks who slammed Biden for not visiting Ukraine—were underwhelmed. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) declared that the President clearly cares more about Ukraine than he does about Israel. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) complained that the President clearly cares more about Ukraine than he does about America. Greg Murphy (R-NC) whined that the President clearly cares more about Ukraine than he does about securing the southern Border. Perhaps you see a pattern here. In fact, call us crazy, but we suspect that no matter what Biden did, these fellows would be complaining. It's almost like they are operating in bad faith.

Anyhow, Biden is back in Poland now. And so, as the Romans might say, it's a case of veni, vidi, relicti: "I came, I saw, I left." (Z)

Tucker Carlson May Have a Point Here...

The author Roald Dahl, who lived from 1916 to 1990, was certainly a... product of his times. He wrote numerous things that were antisemitic or, at very least, were antisemitic-adjacent. The same is true of sexism, racism, and colonialism, among other attitudes that are less-than-savory these days.

Still, Dahl remains a very popular children's author, in no small part due to the many movie adaptations of his books. Last year, the literary estate of Dr. Seuss withdrew a couple of his books from circulation because they are no longer PC. That won't work so well for Dahl, as pretty much all of his books are tinged with the various -isms that aren't OK today. And so, his literary estate announced yesterday that they have partnered with Inclusive Minds, which describes itself as "a collective for people who are passionate about inclusion and accessibility in children's literature," to rewrite portions of Dahl's books.

Here's a list of some of the changes that are being made:

  • No more use of the word "ugly." The Twits character Mrs. Twit, to take one example, is now "beastly."

  • No more use of the word "fat." Charlie and the Chocolate Factory character Augustus Gloop, to take one example, is now "enormous."

  • The Oompa-Loompas, in that same book, are no longer "small men." Instead, they are "small people."

  • In Matilda, Miss Trunchbull is no longer a "most formidable female." She's now a "most formidable woman."

  • The books no longer contain any characters who are "crazy" or "mad."

  • In The Fabulous Mr. Fox., the terrible tractors were "murderous, brutal-looking black monsters." They are no longer black.

  • In The Witches, following the revelation that all witches wear wigs because they are bald, a sentence has been added: "There are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that."

This is just a partial list; the complete accounting of the changes runs to hundreds of items.

We are assuming, per the headline, that at least one Fox personality railed against this news last night. We don't have the stomach to check, but we think we are on safe ground with that guess. It's also probably 90% that, sometime this week, Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) will be announcing new legislation banning updated versions of Dahl books from Florida schools. We do know that British PM Rishi Sunak has already blasted the changes.

We have to say, we are basically with Sunak on this. Yes, there are some artifacts of the past best left in the past (e.g., Confederate statues). But materially altering someone's art? As many prominent authors (particularly Salman Rushdie) noted yesterday, that's pretty icky. It's like painting clothes on the people who occupy the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or making the merchant of Venice into the bishop of Venice, or erasing Jim from Huckleberry Finn, or waiting until Paul McCartney has passed away and then changing the lyric from "Well, she was just seventeen" to "Well, she had just turned nineteen." Obviously, the folks who own the rights to Dahl's works are within their legal rights to change the books, but that doesn't mean they should change the books.

That brings us to a second point. Several of the works of the aforementioned Mark Twain are potentially problematic to modern readers, especially those readers who don't grasp the satirical tone. The works of Rudyard Kipling are outright problematic. The works of Alexandre Dumas. The works of Louisa May Alcott. Even the works of J.K. Rowling (let's be honest, the goblins, albeit probably unwittingly, are Jewish stereotypes). All of these books have been on, and continue to be on, children's bookshelves. And there is something to be said for a teachable moment, wherein a parent or a teacher observes "People used to use words like this, and here's why we don't do that anymore."

And beyond that, the changes are so... arbitrary. If someone is upset by being called fat, for example, we can assure you that calling them "enormous" is not an improvement. Or how about the Oompa-Loompas? Yeah, they aren't gendered anymore, but they are still de facto slaves, taken from their homes in Africa, following colonialist logic ("Their lives are so much better now that they've been rescued from their savage, backwards existence!")

Most of the time, we have to roll our eyes at the culture warriors, and the things they manage to get their knickers in a twist about. But once in a great while, they may have the right of it. (Z)

...And He Definitely Has all the 1/6 Capitol Footage

We do not often run two Tucker Carlson items in a day. In fact, we do not often run two Tucker Carlson items in a week. It leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and besides, most Carlson "news" is really just him saying outlandish stuff in search of attention. And we don't want to play his game (kind of like we aren't running an item about a certain member of the Georgia U.S. House delegation who is basically advocating for a second civil war).

That said, we follow where the news leads. And yesterday, it twice led right to Carlson. Well, maybe one-and-a-half times; we could plausibly have avoided him in the above item. In any case, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) has many masters, and among them are Carlson and the members of the Freedom Caucus. And, as part of the deal that McCarthy made to get his hands on the speaker's gavel, he promised to "make public" the 41,000 hours of video footage captured by Capitol cameras during and immediately before the 1/6 insurrection. It would appear that "make public" means "give it all to Tucker." And so, that is what happened yesterday. Fox video editors are eagerly combing through it, probably as you read this, looking for... something.

Just in case there was any doubt whatsoever who is really calling the shots here, Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) sent out a tweet shortly after the Speaker genuflected before the Fox entertainer: "Tucker Carlson now has 41,000 hours of January 6 footage that Pelosi held for over two years. Thank you @SpeakerMcCarthy for following through on this! The public deserves to see everything that was hidden."

Of course, you can't really use video footage to prove a negative. For example, there have been many claims that Boebert led insurrectionist tours of the Capitol days before the violence broke out. There may be proof, in that 41,000 hours, that she did indeed do that. If so, it is not terribly likely that Fox will be airing that proof. But they are also not going to be able to air "proof" that she didn't do it. Carlson can claim that they didn't find anything showing Boebert-led tours, but will anyone besides the true believers accept that uncritically? And even if he was telling the truth, maybe Boebert covered her face, or led tours before the days captured by the footage. Who knows? Point is, there isn't video proof of what someone didn't do.

Presumably, the goal here is to find some juicy stuff with which Carlson can rile up the base. We have no idea what that might be; it strikes us as rather unlikely that, say, then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was helping insurrectionists assess their routes of entry into the Capitol. And even if the Fox staff "found" such footage, would anyone outside the true believers think it was legitimate? Certainly not. Especially in a world where deepfakes are possible.

Indeed, this is very much like Hunter Biden's laptop, redux. The right-wingers are so eager to create a scandal, and are so willing to play fast and loose with the truth, and are so unwilling to submit their "evidence" to external scrutiny, that nobody outside the base is going to take whatever "revelations" they come up with seriously. If there was really something incriminating in that 41,000 hours, as Boebert implies, then the Freedom Caucusers would have already posted it to YouTube, and would have shared it with every broadcast outlet from Fox to CSPAN to Wake Up, East Cupcake Middle School.

Meanwhile, can you imagine what would happen if it was revealed that, say, MSNBC knew all along that Donald Trump's "stop the steal" claims were true, but they buried the story and slurred the former president and his lawyers for fear of alienating viewers? And then can you imagine what would happen if, the day after that story broke, Nancy Pelosi toddled over to the MSNBC offices to grant them exclusive access to video footage that is the property of the U.S. government? And did so at the instigation of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY)? Right-wingers would blow so many gaskets it would put the Indy 500 to shame. (Z)

O'Keefe Gets a Dose of Veritas

Speaking of right-wing propagandists, we noted last week that James O'Keefe, the sleazy founder of Project Veritas, had been placed on paid leave. It turns out that he exposed the organization to a number of lawsuits, some related to illegal business practices, and some related to a hostile workplace environment. The board of Project Veritas was trying to decide if they could soldier on without their founder.

Yesterday, the board decided that the answer to the question is: "Yes, we can." So, they gave O'Keefe his walking papers. He responded to this with a very strange 45-minute video rant, wherein he appears to be under the influence of something. Maybe he hit DT Jr. up for some Bolivian marching powder. In the video, O'Keefe says he has no idea why he was fired, though he acknowledges only that he was sometimes "very hurried" when interacting with underlings. Sounds like a guy who's learned a valuable lesson from all of this.

Presumably, O'Keefe will have no problem catching on with the Republican presidential campaign of his choice. He seems like the sort of staffer that Ron DeSantis, in particular, would love to have. Meanwhile, Project Veritas has lost its heart and soul. Well, OK, it probably doesn't have a soul, but it's lost its heart. Well, OK, probably no heart there, either. Let's just say it lost its primary source of dark energy. We shall see if it's able to keep on keepin' on, especially since O'Keefe drove a huge chunk of the donations the organization. (Z)

Beshear Appears to Be Sitting in the Catbird Seat

As we have noted several times, there are three gubernatorial elections on tap this year. Louisiana is likely to give its governor's mansion to a Republican, now that Democrat John Bel Edwards is term limited. Mississippi is likely to let Gov. Tate Reeves (R) keep his job, despite an apparent chronic shortage of, you know, competence. Add it up, and the Democrats' best hope for a win is in Kentucky, as Democrat Andy Beshear guns for another term.

Although the Bluegrass State is pretty red in federal elections, it dabbles in blueness for state offices, which is how Beshear got elected in the first place. Last week, the first poll of the race was released, and the Governor looks to be in excellent shape. There are four Republicans in the running, and the one who is strongest against Beshear—AG Daniel Cameron—trails by 9 points (49% for Beshear, 40% for Cameron). The other three Republicans aren't even in shouting distance. Former Trump administration ambassador Kelly Craft trails Beshear by 25 points (57%-32%), Kentucky State Auditor Mike Harmon lags him by 20 points (53%-33%), and Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles is down 17 (52%-35%). These numbers are not unexpected; Beshear is actually the most popular Democratic governor in the country by approval rating.

Since this is only one poll, it might be nice to supplement its conclusions with some historical trendlines, but unfortunately there just aren't many data points to work with. Kentucky only ended its one-term limit for governors at the start of the 21st century, and so Beshear is only the fourth governor to try for a second term. The two Republicans who did it before him both lost. The one Democrat who tried it before him, who happens to be Beshear's old man, was reelected. That's a 100% success rate for Democrats named Beshear in gubernatorial reelection bids, but you don't exactly want to bet the house on something that's 1-for-1.

On May 16, we will find out the identity of Beshear's opponent (polls say it will almost certainly be Cameron). The general is on November 7. (Z)

It Was Presidents' Day!

We had a quiz in honor of the occasion yesterday; now it's time for the answers.

1. Which of these four presidents is the only sitting president to command troops in a battle against a foreign enemy?
  1. #1 George Washington
  2. #2 John Adams
  3. #3 Thomas Jefferson
  4. #4 James Madison
You might have guessed Washington, but while he commanded the Continental Army during the Revolution, the only hostiles he faced while a sitting president were Americans (during the Whiskey Rebellion). During the War of 1812, by contrast, Madison briefly took command of some American troops during the Battle at Bladensburg, in Maryland.

2. Which of these four presidents issued zero vetoes during his term in office?
  1. #5 James Monroe
  2. #6 John Quincy Adams
  3. #7 Andrew Jackson
  4. #8 Martin Van Buren
Congress didn't pass all that many bills back then, and the ones they did pass, Adams found agreeable. His father never issued a veto, either, nor did Thomas Jefferson, William Henry Harrison, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, or James Garfield. In the latter four cases, the brevity of their terms in office was part of the equation. Note, incidentally, that Joe Biden has yet to issue a veto.

3. Which of these four presidents never cast a ballot in an American election, including the one in which he was chosen as president?
  1. #9 William Henry Harrison
  2. #10 John Tyler
  3. #11 James K. Polk
  4. #12 Zachary Taylor
As a military man, Taylor moved around frequently enough that he rarely met the residency requirements of his era.

4. Which of these four presidents was the first president or ex-president to publish an autobiography while still living?
  1. #13 Millard Fillmore
  2. #14 Franklin Pierce
  3. #15 James Buchanan
  4. #16 Abraham Lincoln
In the nineteenth century, it was considered gauche for presidents or ex-presidents to presume to tell their own story. However, Buchanan saw which way the winds were blowing, and defied custom to publish Mr. Buchanan's Administration on the Eve of Rebellion in 1866. It was an effort to justify the choices he made in the lead-up to the Civil War, and to salvage his reputation. It didn't work.

5. Which of these four presidents was the first person elected to the White House under something other than his birth name?
  1. #17 Andrew Johnson
  2. #18 Ulysses S. Grant
  3. #19 Rutherford B. Hayes
  4. #20 James Garfield
He was born Hiram Ulysses Grant, but had long since left that name behind when elected to the presidency. He was eventually followed in the White House by Stephen Grover Cleveland, Thomas Woodrow Wilson, John Calvin Coolidge, David Dwight Eisenhower, Leslie Lynch King Jr. (Gerald Ford) and William Jefferson Blythe IV (Bill Clinton).

6. Which of these four presidents was the last veteran of the Civil War to serve in the White House?
  1. #21 Chester Arthur
  2. #22/24 Grover Cleveland
  3. #23 Benjamin Harrison
  4. #25 William McKinley
Grover Cleveland did not serve, having purchased the services of a substitute. But Brig. Gen. Chester Arthur, Brevet Brig. Gen. Benjamin Harrison, and Brevet Maj. William McKinley all did.

7. Which of these four presidents' final words were: "The machinery is broken... I am ready."?
  1. #26 Theodore Roosevelt
  2. #27 William Howard Taft
  3. #28 Woodrow Wilson
  4. #29 Warren Harding
Theodore Roosevelt did not know the end was nigh; his last words were "Please put out the lights" before he laid down to a night's sleep from which he never woke. Warren Harding most certainly did not know the end was nigh; he was enjoying the text of a flattering newspaper profile being read by his wife, and so his last words were "That's good! Go on—read some more." William Howard Taft should have known the end was nigh, since his health was very poor, but he is one of seven presidents (along with Franklin Pierce, Chester Arthur, Herbert Hoover, Harry S. Truman, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan) whose final words are not known. That leaves us with Wilson, who most certainly knew his demise was at hand, and who was prone to being poetic (or trying to be, at least).

8. Which of these four presidents often spoke to his wife in Chinese so that visitors could not eavesdrop?
  1. #30 Calvin Coolidge
  2. #31 Herbert Hoover
  3. #32 Franklin D. Roosevelt
  4. #33 Harry S. Truman
It helps that he spent several years living in China while building a wildly successful career as a mining engineer.

9. Which of these four presidents won an Emmy Award?
  1. #34 Dwight D. Eisenhower
  2. #35 John F. Kennedy
  3. #36 Lyndon B. Johnson
  4. #37 Richard Nixon
Ike won the Television Academy's Governors' Award in 1959 "For his use and encouragement of television." Barack Obama is the only other president to win an Emmy; Donald Trump was nominated but never won. Which means that the Emmy and the Nobel Peace Prize have something in common.

10. Which of these three presidents had 12 of his vetoes overridden, placing him second all-time behind Andrew Johnson?
  1. #38 Gerald Ford
  2. #39 Jimmy Carter
  3. #40 Ronald Reagan
Johnson had 15. In addition to Ford, Harry S. Truman also had 12 vetoes overridden.

11. Which of these three presidents is the only president ever to reach 90% approval in a Gallup Poll?
  1. #41 George H.W Bush
  2. #42 Bill Clinton
  3. #43 George W. Bush
On September 21, 2001, for obvious reasons, Bush the son was at 90%. Just over 7 years later, on October 10, 2008, he also became the only president ever to record a disapproval rating in the 70s (he was at 71%). In case you are wondering, Bush the father's highest approval was 89%, and Donald Trump's highest disapproval was 62%.

12. Which of these three presidents was the first president whose official White House portrait was taken with a digital camera?
  1. #44 Barack Obama
  2. #45 Donald Trump
  3. #46 Joe Biden
It was taken by Pete Souza with a Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

This was pretty tough; if you got even half of them right, you should feel pretty good. If so, you did better than the world's most advanced AI. We'll explain what we mean by that tomorrow. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Feb22 Biden Pays "Surprise" Visit to Ukraine
Feb22 Tucker Carlson May Have a Point Here...
Feb22 ...And He Definitely Has all the 1/6 Capitol Footage
Feb22 O'Keefe Gets a Dose of Veritas
Feb22 Beshear Appears to Be Sitting in the Catbird Seat
Feb22 It Was Presidents' Day!
Feb20 Fox News Hosts All Knew Trump Lost but Lied about It Anyway
Feb20 Republican Losers Want to Run Again
Feb20 McDaniel Wants GOP Candidates to Pledge to Support their Nominee
Feb20 Democratic Leaders Think Biden Is Too Old
Feb20 Gerrymanderers Are Still at Work
Feb20 Right-Wing Extremist Takes over Michigan State Republican Party
Feb20 No More Meatball Ron
Feb20 Jimmy Carter Gets Hospice Care
Feb20 Marianne Williamson Announces an Announcement
Feb20 It's Presidents' Day!
Feb19 Sunday Mailbag
Feb18 Saturday Q&A
Feb17 Somebody Lied to the Grand Jury...
Feb17 ...Meanwhile, Jack Smith Is on Trump like White on Rice
Feb17 More Health Problems for Fetterman
Feb17 Lake Loses...
Feb17 ...And So Does Hector LaSalle
Feb17 Biden Gets Clean Bill of Health
Feb17 Gasping for Oxygen
Feb17 This Week in Schadenfreude: Gimme Some Truth
Feb17 This Week in Freudenfreude: Buzz Off
Feb16 Nikki Haley Would Be a Great Candidate--for the 2016 Republican Nomination
Feb16 Why the Republican Hardliners Don't Care about a Default
Feb16 A Very Early Look at the Electoral College for 2024
Feb16 Poll: Jim Justice Is the Strongest Republican against Manchin
Feb16 All Nine New Governors Have Huge Budget Surpluses
Feb16 The Four Democratic Parties in the House
Feb16 The Other UFOs That Were Shot Down Were Probably Harmless and Not from China
Feb16 Fox Fails to Kill Smartmatic Lawsuit against It
Feb16 Gaetz Walks
Feb15 DiFi Says "Bye-Bye"
Feb15 A "C" for Biden
Feb15 Haley Will Take on Trump
Feb15 Trump Is Desperate for Ideas
Feb15 Oh, And Just One More Thing...
Feb15 Pence Is Desperate for an Excuse
Feb15 Adam Frisch Will Square Off Against Boebert Again
Feb14 Biden Fires Architect of the Capitol
Feb14 White House: These UFOs Are Not Aliens
Feb14 Wheels of Justice Turn A Little Bit More for Trump
Feb14 M&M's Saga Reaches Its Conclusion
Feb14 Book 'em, Ronno
Feb14 Who Needs Child Labor Laws?
Feb13 U.S. Shoots Down Three UFOs