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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

Donald Trump's legal problems remain a big story, but not the only story.

The United States v. Donald Trump

M.S. in Canton, NY, writes: You reprinted one of The Former Guy's ALL CAPS rants, in which he cited the Presidential Records Act, the "Clinton socks" case, the Fourth Amendment and election interference, along with the usual name-calling directed at the usual suspects. I am reminded of the line from Luke Skywalker: "Amazing. Every word of what you just said was wrong."

D.M. in Orange County, CA, writes: Of all the stolen docs pics, the one with documents strewn across the floor due to a fallen box is the most troubling.

In the background is a brown Gibson guitar case (the very top of the company logo on the case is just barely visible behind the mess). Unless Trump plays guitar, the implications are obvious: A musician at a Trump event was given access to that closet to store their guitar. Anyone who has played a wedding is familiar with stashing your gear in a side room not far from the main hall. This means that someone probably only making a couple hundred bucks that day saw this pile of stuff. It also would not surprise me if the garment bags are from a groom's party. I would think a good investigative reporter could cross-reference the date that photo was taken (Dec. 7) with any weddings at the club and then track down the guitarist and groomsmen to ask if they remember having access to that room. Given that the wedding storage room seldom changes at a venue, the reporter could work out, before and after the 7th, how many unquestionably unauthorized individuals had this same access. It would be a heck of a scoop.

P.M. in Port Angeles, WA, writes: M.B. in Shenzhen wrote: "Since it's obvious the government has Donald Trump dead to rights, and no one wants him to go to jail..."

I agree that jail time for TFG is not what people wish to see, (but maybe some would relish it). I offer that the main issue is not jail time for DJT but that his admission of guilt would be exceedingly gratifying. For a man of his age, prison time would be cruel and unusual and more importantly would be a logistical nightmare for the Secret Service. However, an admission of guilt on his part would be a far more brutal form of punishment to a man who claims he has never done anything wrong! I can think of a no more severe punishment for him than to acknowledge his wrongdoings. This would be his ultimate disgrace.

M.M. in Atlanta, GA, writes: M.B. in Shenzhen writes, regarding Trump: "[N]o one wants him to go to jail..." I beg to differ!

I.M.O. in Norman, OK, writes: In response to your comment that, "Aileen Cannon is in a no-win situation ... [and will be considered either] an in-the-bag-for-Trump appointee of the former president or she'll be a tool of the deep state..."

You underestimate the polarity of the electorate. Cannon will be considered both of those things unless she hands down either the death penalty or a total acquittal, which in either case she could achieve her best potential of a 50% approval rate.

As for myself, I would be happy with any conviction and a big win by Biden in 2024 at the ballot box. Icing would be actual jail time for liddle Donnie. But I would also be somewhat mollified with him serving 1,000 hours of community service as a french-fry cook at McDonald's, plus a billion dollar fine.

T.M.M. in Odessa, MO, writes: You had several questions this week about Donald Trump's cases.

While it was implied in your answer to the question about Judge Cannon doing something weird at sentencing, a key thing that would reduce the likelihood of a weird sentencing ruling is that the government can appeal if it does not like the sentence imposed. If she does something weird at trial that causes a not guilty verdict, double jeopardy precludes an appeal by the government. But double jeopardy does not apply to the decision on sentencing.

On whether Trump was advised of Miranda, he probably was but might not have been. The law only requires that a defendant be advised of his Miranda rights prior to a "custodial interrogation." Even then, the remedy is limited to excluding any statement given if the defendant was not advised of his rights. However, it is normal during an arraignment, for the court to advise the defendant of certain court rights which are similar to Miranda, including the right to counsel and that anything that he says in court can be used against him. Again, the failure to do so does not mandate dismissal.

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: Despite what we've all seen on pretty much every cop show of the last fifty years, people are typically not "read their rights" on arrest, and it's not a get-out-of-jail-free card when they aren't.

Miranda v. Arizona just says that cops cannot use your answers to questions against you if you were "in custody" when they asked, unless you've first been told that you don't have to answer.

As you might suspect, there's holes in this thing big enough to drive a Humvee through, and cops know where those holes are, with the first being "custodial interrogation." When is a person in custody, so as to trigger Miranda? Courts have held that a guy who was in the back seat of a cop car was not "in custody" because the cop testified that if he had asked to leave, the cop would have opened the door for him. (There are no handles on the inside of cop cars—those doors can only be opened from the outside).

Some defendants tried to wriggle through Miranda's holes by confessing everything the minute the cuffs were on. Courts ruled that this was voluntary and not coerced.

There's next-to-no chance that Trump was interrogated while he was in custody either time—why would they bother?

(V) & (Z) respond: The Associated Press confirmed that authorities in both New York and Florida intended to Mirandize Trump just to dot every i and cross every t. We would bet it was recorded, too, though that hasn't been confirmed. In any event, that is what we were referring to.

P.K. in Marshalltown, IA, writes: When you provided an answer Saturday about Trump having been read his Miranda rights, a quip from comedian Ron White (and likely others) came to mind: "I had the right to remain silent, but I just couldn't." That line probably awakens TFG's lawyers in the middle of every night.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: As a former DOJ lawyer, I can assure you that it's not true that Jack Smith's "effectively got unlimited resources." It's true he's playing with tax money (or borrowed-from-bondholders money), but that money's not unlimited. Not even close. Congress doesn't give DoJ a blank check, and DoJ doesn't give any of its lawyers, even prosecutors of a once-in-a-democracy defendant, blank checks. If Trump chooses to outspend the prosecution, he will certainly be able to do so.

Lawyers for parties adverse to the government—criminal defendants, defendants in civil enforcement lawsuits, even plaintiffs who have sued the federal government—are fond of portraying their clients as underdogs facing "the full might of the United States of America." In a sense that's true, especially because the law tends to be stacked in the government's favor. But in terms of resources—dollars—it's wrong to imagine the fight as "$6.3 trillion federal budget versus whatever amount of money the other guy has." Sure, the average criminal defendant is hopelessly outgunned by even a typical prosecution. But when it comes to large businesses and plutocrats? In any given case, those folks will have more money, more lawyers, fancier experts, better tech, than the people representing the people of the United States of America. I know from experience.

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Election

S.S. in West Hollywood, CA, writes: I think you're making a mistake in your dismissal of all the Republican candidates not named Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis.

Yes, roughly 40% of the party is in the Trump cult and nothing will break that grip. However, I'm going to predict right now that Chris Christie will emerge as the alternative candidate. His willingness to go directly at Trump is going to be very appealing for the roughly 60% of the party who are not in the cult and are looking for an alternative to bring them back home. Many who voted Democratic will swing back to the Republicans. All those who remember what the Republican Party was before Trump and want a return to that normalcy. If the nominee is not Trump, it's going to be Chris Christie.

The only way I see that narrative changing is if the other candidates notice Christie's poll numbers growing and suddenly grow a pair, find their spine, and go after Trump in the same way Christie is. It will probably be too little, too late, and obviously not authentic, but it could keep Christie from otherwise getting the nomination.

As much as I like being right, I really hope I'm wrong about this. Biden's only chance is if Trump is the nominee. He has no chance of defeating Christie in the general. Christie is a fighter. People want a fighter. Biden is making it easy for Republicans with his refusal to call out Trump for his crimes and corruption. It's infuriating. People don't want an old man who's barely visible and wont stand up confidently for the rule of law. Even worse is his order that other Democrats not go after Trump over the indictments.

He's making the same mistake Democrats always make. Staying silent and letting Republicans create the narrative, somehow thinking that being a good person who's done good things is enough. Republicans will always fill the void with their narrative when Democrats stay silent. As long as Democrats refuse to act like the opposition party, they will continue to only win because they're the lesser of two evils. People need a reason to vote for a party. I'm sick of winning only because we're the lesser of two evils.

I'm in the Democratic base and watching Republicans shouting all their crazy false narratives about Trump's indictments while Democrats stay silent has drained all my enthusiasm. Once again, I feel like I'm in a slow moving car crash. It's a sad state when Chris Christie is the only candidate I have any respect for. (Not that I would actually vote for him or any Republican. However, my mother, who's a Democrat and hates Trump, has already expressed interest in Christie's campaign.)

Democrats are going to lose because they are once again asleep at the wheel. Maybe it's time for Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) to challenge Biden. That would reignite my enthusiasm. What Biden and the Democrats are doing now is not going to win Congress or a second term.

Politics: Remember, Joe Biden

T.B. in Bloomington, IN, writes: Thank you for the reference to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Pat Benatar. For the past few days, I have seen numerous posts along the lines of "Ignore the negative comments—here are the numerous great things Pat Benatar has done in her career..." and had no idea what the heck she had done to deserve the negative press. Now I know the answer is NOTHING—it's just Ted Cruz being a d**k again.

And if Cruz were intelligent (and a Pat Benatar fan, and a true child of the 80s like me) he would have known that "Hell is for Children" was a song that was attempting to bring awareness to the horrors of child abuse. Not a song about hell, Satan, or child sacrifice. Then again, the folks he was pandering to wouldn't know that either so it's probably easier to focus on the horrors of 80s rock music—which I love, by the way!

E.K. in Brignoles, France, writes: I really appreciate your comments about Joe Biden, whose words can sometimes, when put under a giant microscope, seem to be confusing. As far as I'm concerned, I think your president is still sharp and impressive.

And where are all the people yelling that he's got dementia when his likely opponent, 4 years younger, says this:

Many say, don't punch down when talking about people like Chris Sununu or sloppy Chris Christie or Ada Hutchinson. I call him Ada, not Asa, because of certain reasons or others, but sometimes it's necessary to talk badly about those that for no reason other than politics speak badly about you. Otherwise, the people that love you don't know whether or not they're for real.

Are they saying the truth or not? So sometimes you have to punch down and you have to say what's happening. Otherwise, they won't understand. It's not fair to them. You have to put them in proper perspective. These bad people, you have to put them in their place. People like this are very destructive, and you have to tell the voters what it's all about.

Otherwise, why should they be able to understand it? Thank you very much.

If this is not a double standard, I cannot tell what is...

O.R. in Milan, Italy, writes: Concerning the "God save the queen, man" line by Joe Biden, you wrote "it's not a sign of massive cognitive decay to repeat a phrase that's been correct for the last 70 years of his life and has only been incorrect for the last 6 months." Agree. When even Brits still stumble over that: "God save the Qu... ing."

You also wrote: "It's entirely plausible that the line, far from being evidence of senility, is actually evidence of an active mind. One that is operating at a speed such that the connections being made aren't always evident to outsiders."

Oh, yes.

In another life I used to teach German to Italian university students. One afternoon, a student asked for the meaning of a word, "Vorsehung," that was crucial to understanding the passage we were examining (set in a World War I trench, if I recall correctly). From the looks on their faces it was clear nobody had yet encountered that word. In such cases I would often simply provide the Italian term so we could all move on together. In this particular instance, however, the Italian word escaped me. While I was torturing my brain, I was thinking aloud: "Geez, it's the name of that boat..." And another student immediately offered: "Provvidenza?" "Yes, thank you!," I exclaimed, relieved, and meant to return to our text. "Nah, hang on, wait!," interrupted a third student, looking puzzled from me to the student who had provided the solution and back to me. "What's going on here? What boat? And how did you (the student) know what you (the teacher) were thinking of? Or did you (the student) know all along that 'Vorsehung' means 'providence'?"

It turned out that the student hadn't known the meaning of the German word, and that my mentioning "that boat" just made them think that Provvidenza was the name of the fishing boat in Giovanni Verga's novel I Malavoglia. While this should very much be basic knowledge for any Italian high school graduate, and was indeed the boat I had been thinking of, it is also true that this is by no means the only boat mentioned in Italian literature, and besides, we had been talking about soldiers in trenches, no mention of boats at all there, it could really have been any boat I was thinking of, for all they could tell. It just so obviously had to have been that particular fishing boat, at least as far as I and that student were concerned.

D.F. in Ann Arbor, MI, writes: All the comments about Joe Biden's supposed dementia reminds me of something a doctor once told me about the common fears of normal memory loss as you get older. "Forgetting where you put your keys is not dementia," he said. "Forgetting what keys are for is dementia."

M.C. in Spokane, WA, writes: I've got several very-far-left friends who often parrot right-wing talking points about Biden. They've really latched onto the speech gaffes and recent fall. I walk a lot, as I don't own a car. If every move I made was recorded, it wouldn't take long to get footage pieced together that makes it look I can't walk in a straight line and stumble over seemingly invisible objects. When I see Biden fall, quite hard, and get back up to walk away, I'm impressed that someone his age can do that. Many octogenarians would be in the hospital over that kind of fall.

I'm also an educator and used to public speaking. If every word I said was recorded, again, it wouldn't take long to get enough footage to show me as a bumbling idiot who can't string together a coherent sentence. I recall a class last year where I just could not say "operationalization" to save my life. I finally wrote it on the board and just pointed to it. I can speak just fine and I don't have dementia but sometimes words escape us. I can't imagine having everything I say or do recorded so someone could use anything I ever did wrong against me.

No one says Barack Obama has dementia, but he famously said he visited 57 states. George W. Bush really could barely string together two coherent sentences without mismashing some words (so much so that "Bushisms" are a thing), but no one thinks he has dementia. Biden is old, really quite old (and maybe even too old but he's what we've got). But he seems fairly healthy, and definitely far healthier than many people his age. No matter, I would take Biden with cheese slipping off his cracker over any of the lunatics the Republicans have running.

P.S. in Lanoka Harbor, NJ, writes: I still contend that telling millions of Americans to inject bleach during a pandemic is worse than this drivel.

Legal Matters

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: I think there is no practical way for anybody actually to get a U.S. Supreme Court decision changed because of the involvement of an allegedly corrupted justice. It's a little hard to even imagine how that case would be framed. (I'm thinking about direct judicial action, not something like a pardon or clemency that you mentioned as options for a criminal conviction, nor a subsequent civil suit for unlawful imprisonment, nor legislative action to provide compensation to the loser of a civil case.) I suppose if there were ironclad proof that a particular decision had been bought and paid for (imagine a 9-0 Black Sox scandal), the courts would find some way to do justice.

But I have to take issue with one part of your analysis, in which you say that corruption of a single justice would only matter if that justice had been a member of a one-vote majority. That's not necessarily true, because the Court is a deliberative body that debates and discusses its decisions before rendering them; buying one justice's vote also would, presumably, buy that justice's influence on the other justices. The need for and effectiveness of that influence would be unknowable.

Of course, the courts have never addressed this issue in the context of the Supreme Court, but they have considered it with respect to other small multi-member government decisionmaking bodies. In Cinderella Career and Finishing Schools, Inc. v. Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Court of Appeals threw out an FTC order because it held that public statements of the FTC's Chairman demonstrated bias or at least the appearance of bias. The court noted: "The rationale for remanding the case despite the fact that former Chairman Dixon's vote was not necessary for a majority is well established: Litigants are entitled to an impartial tribunal whether it consists of one man or twenty and there is no way which we know of whereby the influence of one upon the others can be quantitatively measured."

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: In the conclusion of your piece on the fairness of Hunter Biden's plea deal, you write that he was indeed treated fairly, the same as any other defendant.

But the body of your text doesn't really support that. The gun charge is usually only for cases when the gun is used in a crime. To me it sure sounds like most defendants wouldn't have been charged at all. No, Hunter Biden wasn't treated the same as any other defendant. He was subjected to extraordinary scrutiny because Republicans were searching for dirt on the father. Because they did find evidence of criminality, he was forced to plead guilty to a felony for an offense that no one else would've been charged with. That's a pretty significant punishment.

I get that your piece was rebutting the Republican "kids gloves" or "preferential treatment" allegations, and so your argument only needed to be strong enough to show that he was treated at least as harshly as any other defendant (if not more so). But I think you could make the case for the stronger statement, that this is a trumped up charge that no one else would have to face.

It's ironic that an investigation cooked up to give for the Republicans an appearance of fairness has led to them denouncing it as anything but. But expected, I guess. If I were Joe Biden I would probably pardon Hunter on the last day in office. On the other hand, it is good if the President and his family should avoid all corruption and criminality and should be held to the highest standard. So it's fine with me if Hunter Biden, who profited off his father's name, gets popped. Next do Trump.

S.G. in Durham, NC, writes: You wrote: "Among the various items we looked at on this subject, the only one where the legal experts said Biden might indeed have gotten special treatment was the one from Politico."

I didn't see you link the other "special treatment" opinion piece from Politico where Renato Mariotti argues that Hunter Biden's treatment was more harsh because of his notoriety/familial connections.

A.S. in Chicago, IL, writes: I know you like to use songs as a humorous outlet to current events.

Well, have you ever heard of "The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game," by the Marvelettes?

Breathe, Breathe in the Air

M.S. in Newton, MA, writes: You wrote: "Jews believe that life begins when the baby takes its first breath."

As a practicing Orthodox Jew, I can tell you that your sentence is wrong in every facet of Judaism. The fetus is considered a lifeform at conception, and at that point, life begins. Additionally, Jews can break pretty much any of the commandments of the Torah to save the life of the fetus, including some of our most sacred days like Yom Kippur and Sabbath. However, all 3 main "divisions" of Judaism, namely Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform, allow abortions in some instances, going from most strict to least, respectively. All forms of Judaism show precedence to the mother, and allow any abortion at any time to save the life of the mother. This can even be done during normal childbirth. The overall point is that while Judaism allows abortion in some instances, life definitely begins before baby takes its first breath.

J.H. in Lodi, NY, writes: You note that "Jews believe that life begins when the baby takes its first breath." Christians who are fond of saying "The answers in Genesis" should agree with the Jews, since it is in Genesis 2:7 that we are given the answer when life forms: "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."

B.C. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: I'm thinking you are probably going to get some mail from your anti-abortion readers about this Breath of Life issue. As I recall, these folks maintained that the use of oxygen by an embryo constituted breathing, and therefore life begins at conception.

This isn't true, of course. Breathing, for human beings, is an important homeostatic process which requires the use of a pulmonary system consisting, in part, of a mechanical organ called a lung. A lung brings in oxygen from the outside environment and provides it to the body for the production of the energy needed to maintain life.

Human embryos and fetuses get their oxygen via diffusion, the same process by which all the other organs in a pregnant individual's body get their oxygen. This makes an embryo and a fetus the same thing as a liver and a kidney: a piece of living human tissue, but not a living human being.

Biological scientists, medical doctors, emergency medical technicians and even the lifeguard at a public pool all know that if a human body stops using its lungs to breathe, the human being stops living. And it is when a human body starts using its lungs to breathe that a human being starts living.


K.C. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: It was certainly welcome news when U.S. District Judge Jay Moody struck down Arkansas' sinister ban on gender-affirming treatments for minors. But your suggestion that anti-LGBTQ activists are running out of political avenues to pursue would appear to ignore even the most recent history in American politics. Yes, "LGBTQ marriage is now the law of the land," as you stated, but so, too, was Roe v. Wade... until it wasn't. The same can be said about the right to vote. Most of us used to think that once a personal liberty had been won in court, the matter was settled. The right wing, ever in search of a useful wedge issue, never concedes that a right it wishes to deny has been won, even if decades are required to rescind it. We learned the hard way on reproductive rights and voting rights; we had better not rest too comfortably while asserting summarily that LGBTQ marriage is the law of the land.

T.V. in Kansas City, MO, writes: Regarding the (ahem) "fall" of Chick-fil-A, Cracker Barrel and Garth Brooks to the woke mob, the problem is both more widespread and funnier than you know. The website Cancel This Company is a frankly astonishing catalog of companies/brands that right-wingers are supposed to boycott because they are too woke for real 'Muricans to patronize.

The list is so exhaustive that one wonders where poor MAGAs are left to shop! They condemn any brand that has ever done anything as innocuous as donating money to a social justice nonprofit or that supports anything related to immigrants. For instance, two companies they insist that TRUE conservatives boycott: Walmart and Home Depot! Walmart is the Arkansas-based bulwark of all things country and rural, while Home Depot's CEO is a notorious Trump supporter and donor.

One hopes Dollar Tree and Family Dollar won't decide to have Pride Weeks, or we may see MAGAs wearing trash bags. If Trump truly was the brilliant business mind he believes he is, he'd see the real opportunity: opening a chain of Trump-Mart retail stores with the slogan, "If it ain't woke, don't fix it..."

(V) & (Z) respond: "The #1 source for golden toilets and bathroom chandeliers..."

K.R. in Austin, TX, writes: Although Chick-fil-A and Cracker Barrel both have a history of being anti-gay, Garth Brooks never has been.

I was happily surprised in 1992 when the top country artist released the song "We Shall Be Free," and it included the line "when we're free to love anyone we choose... we shall be free." Although it was a hit song when it came out, it was also controversial. Garth Brooks felt so strongly about the song that he refused to play at the Super Bowl if they didn't play the video for "We Shall Be Free" after his performance. If anyone is disappointed by him supporting gay rights and diversity, they haven't really been paying attention to his message since at least 1992.

I also remember Cracker Barrel, on the other hand, firing a cook for being lesbian at about the same time (1991). So, they have definitely evolved.

N.W. in Harrisonburg, VA, writes: To strengthen your economic argument about why conservative brands are becoming inclusive, here is an example of what happens when a conservative brand does not embrace inclusivity. Briefly, VMI is subjected to all the normal demographic and cultural issues plaguing higher education. To counter falling enrollments most schools have embraced diversity out of financial necessity. In contrast, VMI has gone after DEI initiatives, made minority students feel uncomfortable, and in general tried to turn back the clock. This has contributed to a plunge in applicants, resulted in less money from the state, and has put the institution on shaky financial ground. While conservatives hold it up as an example of what anti-woke can look like, it looks to be a pyrrhic victory.

The Pride Goes Marching On

P.W. in Valley Village, CA, writes: A photo from this last Thursday's Disneyland Pride Nite. This is the first time that this has been an official Disneyland event:

Two gay, bearded gentleman
stand in front of a Mickey Mouse made up of a rainbow of colored flowers

At 9:00 p.m., the sound system throughout the park started pumping a disco beat, and all of the lights throughout the park started rotating rainbow colors. Main Street, the Matterhorn and It's a Small World were lit up with rainbow colors. Then to really drive home what the event was truly about, Cinderella's Castle was lit up with pulsing multicolored lights, as the biggest disco ball you've ever seen.

This was a 2-day event, with the first of the two on Tuesday. Gavin Newsom was present on Tuesday, handing out pride buttons. Also present on Tuesday were Bob Iger (Disney president), and Ken Potrock (Disneyland resorts president). They wanted to see for themselves what the event was like. No doubt with a view toward possibly doing this again in future years.

Related to which, there have been Pride Nites in Paris for several years. There hasn't been one in Florida. I don't expect there have been any at any of the Asian parks.

J.L. in Albany, NY, writes: Reading the account from P.W. in Valley Village about the Irish and Pride parades—and how they put faces to groups facing discrimination—reminded me of my usual counter to "colleges indoctrinate kids to make them liberals." This is, of course, a large talking point on the right. And while they are wrong that colleges indoctrinate kids, there is a grain of truth there.

Colleges attract students from many different backgrounds. This means that kids will be introduced to other people who practice different religious beliefs, have a different sexuality, have a different skin color, etc. These kids might have come from small towns where those "others" aren't present (or, at least, aren't visible) and so stereotypes abounded. Growing up in such a situation, it's easy to be drawn into believing the stereotype. But then the kid goes to college and their classmates who should fit the stereotype don't. The stereotypes start to crack until they completely shatter. The kids realize that these "others" are really just people—not stereotypes.

Here's where the "indoctrination" appears to come into play, though. When the kid returns home, they've had a transformative experience. They've seen that these stereotypes don't apply to people. Of course, the other people in their hometown haven't had that experience. To them, the stereotypes still fit. So they think that the college has changed the kid and ascribe it to purposeful indoctrination. Has the college changed the kid? Yes, but not via some insidious plot. It's just via normal socialization with people that the kids never had the chance to meet.

It strikes me that Pride parades (and Irish Pride parades in the past) fulfilled a similar purpose: shattering stereotypes by exposing people to the real face of groups that are discriminated against and that are treated as "The Scary Other."

B.B. in Dothan, AL, writes: The account from P.W. in Valley Village, CA, had me a little (ok, a lot!) verklempt. It's always heartwarming to be reminded of the possibility for humankind, in the face of those who would tear it (and us) down. Thank you, P.W., for reminding us in the good of humanity.

C.B. in Highlands, NJ, writes: Many thanks for all the work you put into EV. We actually share a birthday in 5/24. To give you some background, I'm a long time reader, since 2004. I've also done some number crunching for, back in 2008 when I was employed at Gazelle Global. Since then, I maintain a freelance research company and also own a retail pet supply store. As if that is not enough, I am also the mayor of my town. In 2016, I became the first openly gay council member in Highlands, NJ. In 2019, I was re-elected. In 2020, I became the first openly gay mayor. In 2023, I was reelected.

Highlands has historically been a small fishing town. It's known for its amazing restaurants and breathtaking views. What is not known about this town is how inclusive it is. At any of our watering holes, a clammer sits next to a power bond trader and they talk about just about anything. Our community that was 97% white in the 2010 Census was 87% in the 2020 one. Then COVID and the "great escape from NYC" happened, forever changing our demographics.

So it is that one small town in our country elected its first gay member to council, then mayor, is embracing diversity in great numbers. So great is this inclusivity that, just 2 weeks ago, we held our first ever Highlands Pride event. After I gave my opening remarks, a student from our high school was so moved she hugged me and thanked me for being out and a role model for her and her friends. The feedback from the event was overwhelmingly positive from those in our community regardless of how anyone identifies. There was no violence, no protest and no problems, only how we can make it bigger and better next year.

P.W.'s "Pride: The View from the Street in Highlands" is very optimistic. Hopefully someone will read this and find the hope and strength to carry on and make a difference in their community.

War and Peace

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I want to wish a belated "Happy Birthday" to Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, and, more than likely, ex-friend and comrade to Vladimir Putin. Prigozhin was clearly was born yesterday as based on the agreement he reached with the Kremlin to stop his forces' march on Moscow for whatever the hell he was trying to do or prove. The only other explanation is that Prigozhin is planning to spend the rest of his life, however short it will be, carrying a Geiger counter around to inspect all his food and drink, wearing one pair of underwear for the few months he has left to live and, given the recent trend for Vlad's ex-friends, avoiding all windows not on the ground floor, still with no guarantees. I'm leaning to the first explanation, since he clearly thinks that the distance between Belarus and Moscow is enough to protect him—frankly, if I was in his shoes, I would risk the possible supernova and move to Betelgeuse as being a little more sufficiently distant from Putin's long, patient and deadly arm.

Sheesh, the Russians have become so incompetent lately that they can't even do a coup right—or whatever the hell that was. Seriously, what was that? If I were to put on my Miss Cleo hat, I would predict a lengthy stay in the balmy climes of remote Siberia and a long slow painful death that causes his skin the slough off his body while also glowing in the dark for Prigozhin and his other commanders. As for my prophecy for Putin, I will quote a fictional Russian, Ivan Vanko, "If you make God bleed, people will cease to believe in him. And there will be blood in the water, then the sharks will come."

And speaking of Putin's best buds, I bet our Ex-Fearless Leader had a few squeamish moments on Saturday. TFG was so looking forward to his possible extended stay on the Volga that he's been practicing how to pronounce "skhvatit' za pizdu" correctly for weeks. Ah well, he'll always have Rocket Man to fall back on.

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: Yes, Oregon supposedly produces some notable wines. Not being a "Whino" I have to take their word for it.

Dear daughter, dear, is on active duty with the 142nd wing Oregon Air National Guard. With them she has deployed to the Netherlands and Bulgaria a couple of years ago. Prior to that she deployed with the Georgia J-Stars. to Kuwait, Okinawa, and Crete. She has been airborne over Iraq, Afghanistan, off the coast of Korea, and over Syria.

My penchant for Oregon Kraft Brewed elixir is probably well established by now. I want to give a shout out to Rogue Brewery. A little harder to find but well worth the effort. Rogue is a staunch supporter of America, and particularly of our Oregon ANG. When the 142nd returned home for their deployment with NATO they were greeted with a special bottling. Recently they produced another special batch "Airpower Amber Ale."

Dear daughter, dear, knowing her father's penchant for good amber ale, provided a tasty sample for a Father's Day special gift. These are one off specials. You can't get them in the store. You need a security clearance, a special daughter, and a love of Oregon to be allowed to enjoy these:

Rogue Beer

P.S. No, I will NOT share.


B.C. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: The Drew Patchin story struck a particularly close and sympathetic chord with me. As of today, I enter the last two weeks of proton radiation therapy for prostate cancer. I am pretty certain this is the type of radiation which was used to treat Drew; my understanding is that it was initially developed for the purpose of treating brain tumors in infants.

My doctors have assured me the prognosis for me is very favorable. Even if this first round of radiation treatment fails, I believe I can go through additional rounds. If those fail, a full prostatectomy would seal the deal, and at a greatly reduced risk than the procedure Drew is facing.

Drew is a little guy who has barely begun his life adventure, I'm an old fart of 73 years with a wealth of happy and sad life stories. For me, these facts create a monumental and irrefutable rebuke to the idea of a compassionate and loving entity ruling the universe.

T.L. in West Orange, NJ, writes: Your mention of (Z)'s having been in the courthouse the day of the O.J. Simpson criminal verdict reminded me of my own experience. Although the majority of my life has been spent on the East Coast, I did live in Los Angeles County from 1990-2001 while starting my teaching career.

Picture if you will a ninth-grade conceptual physics classroom the morning of the verdict. I'm about to pass out a quiz:

"Hey, Mr. L, if the verdict comes in during class, can we take a break from the quiz to go watch it?"

"Of course not."

"But this is the trial of the century!"

At this point, I'd heard that phrase about a dozen times too many, and shot back, "No. Nuremberg has a good shot at being the trial of the century. Some former football star hacking up his wife—excuse me, "allegedly" hacking up his wife—doesn't even come close."

The student's response: "Who was Nuremberg?"

Some history teachers and I commiserated over that one later that week...

Final Words

R.P. in Oxford, PA, writes: My favorite last words are all from Civil War generals and, I suspect will be well known to you:

  • "Come on, men, they couldn't hit an elephant at this distance." (John Sedgwick)
  • "Let us cross over the river, and rest under the shade of the trees." (Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson)
  • "Drive those men out of there! Forward! Forward!" (John F. Reynolds)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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