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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

As we've noted, we got quite a response to the question about trans hate. We're going to run some of the responses to those items today, take a day off from this subject, and then have one more round of comments (Tuesday-Friday) and responses to those comments (next Sunday).

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Race

S.M.G. in Seattle, WA, writes: In your item on Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R-FL) presidential campaign themes, you mentioned he emphasized that "Florida is doing great and people are flocking here."

We can surely all expect to hear a lot about this in the coming year. But it seems to me there's a pretty straightforward explanation for this, something that was set into motion before DeSantis was even born: Lots of retirees always move to Florida, and the biggest cohorts of the Baby Boom are hitting retirement age right now. Of course Florida is seeing a surging number of in-migrants. You know who isn't moving to Florida? Gen-Z, i.e. the people who are getting their education and starting their careers. As per this article, they were the one generation with net out-migration from Florida last year.

Seems to me the Democrats will do well to figure out how to turn this into a soundbite that can be understood by folks quickly, to be used as a retort every single time the "Florida is growing" claim gets made. It has to avoid sounding wonky and detailed, because we all know that those are things that Democrats generally love and today's Republican rank and file do not.

R.C. in Des Moines, IA, writes: I find the No Labels Party to be so disingenuous because they are targeting swing states that Joe Biden won in 2020. No third party has any chance whatsoever to win any electoral votes. Ever. Nor is there a chance that the winning party in 2024 will give them the time of day, especially if that winning party is the Republican Party. Putting these swing states in the Trump column in 2024 will confirm that this entity should be known as the No Brains Party. If they truly wanted to become a viable national party, they would start with local elections and do the hard work of actually building a party. A cynical observer might say that they are trying to create a business that tilts at windmills and stokes folks fed up with both parties to send in their money.

M.S. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: I think you hit the nail on the head with Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders' (R-AR) lack of qualifications to be president on a moment's notice. However, I think it is worth saying that Kari Lake is even less qualified—at least Sanders had a job in the West Wing and grew up around powerful people! Kari Lake has never held elected office and her qualifications for Governor of Arizona include... bupkis. Prior to her run for office here, she was a polarizing news anchor (who got fired from her network for being a bit too crazy). That's it.

If Trump suddenly went the way of all the earth, Lake would be about as ready for the nuclear codes as Kanye West's massage therapist. Maybe less.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: I hate to say this but here is another reason why I think Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD) is the frontrunner to be Trump's running mate. She is arguably the most attractive of the four women you mentioned. This shouldn't matter, but it certainly matters to Mr. Central Casting.

Besides, Kari Lake isn't qualified to run for VP because she is already the Governor of Arizona.

Politics: Fox "News"

P.M. in Port Angeles, WA, writes: Responding to several readers, such as O.Z.H. in Dubai and K.E. in Port Angeles, when Tucker Carlson says he believes there is fraud, he is being quite duplicitous. Yes there is always some fraud in elections, but as former AG Bill Barr has stated, it is not sufficiently widespread to influence the outcome of elections.

This is both true and not true. There are two distinct frauds, voter fraud and election fraud, which are very different things. For some decades now, Republicans have touted voter fraud as rampant, but have produced a glaring paucity of actual examples. In fact, a surprising majority of the instances discovered have involved Republicans (!), but still not at a level sufficient to change an election outcome.

However, election fraud has been widespread, rampant and blatant and has been affecting the outcome of numerous elections. By "election fraud," I mean gerrymandering, large-scale purging of voter rolls and ridiculously difficult voter ID requirements. We see that Republican-dominated states have gone to extreme lengths to retain death grip control of their various constituencies. Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida and North Carolina come to mind as states demonstrating egregious examples of the anti-democratic control exercised in them.

We should focus on these anti-democratic practices and proclaim loudly that it is Republicans who subvert democracy and at nearly every turn it is to the detriment of their own people. This is a form of criminal corruption that has overwhelmed Republican/conservative ideology and rendered the Republican Party as a party of criminal behavior and intent. It is time that the American justice system at all levels must assiduously prosecute and bring to justice this behavior. If there are bad actors also on the democrat side, so be it. They must be brought to justice as well.

J.A. in Forest, VA, writes: My son (30 years old) can't understand why no one has picked up on how Tucker's stepmother is an heir to the Swanson frozen foods fortune. He thinks Carlson should be referred to as Fryer Tuck.

I told him that, so far, TFG hasn't been derided as Trumpy Dumpty, despite his rotund figure and a fall partly due to a wall. So maybe us wokesters aren't good at coming up with mocking nicknames.

M.I. in Jenkintown, PA, writes: I had to read the question by S.P. in Harrisburg three times before I was satisfied that I wasn't hallucinating. (V) and (Z)'s response pretty much covered the writer's questions but the comment of, "Why is there no video evidence to rebut Carlson's position?" was hyperstunning, a word I've just made up and with which I will stick. This must be proof of how unaware the MAGA right is as a result of the deeply whitewashed data presented to Fox viewers. It really seems impossible, in 2021+, that S.P. really has not seen the endless coverage of the violence? It seems unfathomable but if that's the mechanism, then one can see how this group of citizens is so vociferous in their opposition. They're completely hornswoggled. It happened in Germany, it has now happened here.

B.K. in Hell's Kitchen, New York City, NY, writes: In your answer to S.P. in Harrisburg, you write that you prefer to believe what you saw with your own eyes. It made me realize that the insurrection-deniers have borrowed their defense strategy from Chico Marx. In one movie, Chico claims something that Groucho exclaims cannot be true because he saw what happened with this own eyes. Chico's response: "Who are you going to believe: me or your own eyes?"

D.E. in Lancaster, PA , writes: I have been considering the solution to cable "news" programming, with Fox being the worst, but CNN and MSNBC having their faults as well. You can close to hitting the mark with your analogy of McDonald's and the crispy chicken salad with buttermilk ranch dressing. Movies, television shows and music have ratings to let consumers know all manner of things they contain, from strong language to violence to cigarette smoking. Most packaged food items have a comprehensive list of their nutritional value plus a list of all ingredients and assorted unpronounceable chemicals. Infomercials have blurbs before, warning that this is "paid advertising." Election ads and public service announcements all identify themselves as such. Pharmacutical ads have to list every possible side effect from death to ingrown toenails. So, why doesn't propaganda organizations hiding behind the label of news have to do the same?

Several times in legal proceedings, Rupert Murdoch and other powers that be at Fox have stated under oath that they view their primetime talking heads as entertainment. Part of the reason they are so believed is that they hide behind the banner of "Fox News." They loudly proclaim themselves as a part of Fox News and maintain the appearance with chyrons and news crawlers. It would not affect anyone's right to free speech if Carlson, Hannity, Ingraham, et al., were labeled as "entertainment." Each host of these hour long screed-a-thons should start their show and every return from a commercial break with a warning that what they are about to watch should be viewed as entertainment and not the news. Every cable news channel should be required to do so, as well as radio programming and podcasts.

If I was Dominion, after a trial finds Fox guilty of defamation, it should then offer Fox a deal. In exchange for a reduced fine, they would have every Talking Head that spread the Big Lie confess on camera every half-hour, for a full month, that they willingly lied and that there is no voter fraud of significant amount to change the election results. They would have to do that with the at least semblance of contrition or they have to pay the full amount of the settlement. Shoot, if one of our judges had any backbone they should order this on top of the monies awarded! Disinformation needs to be curtailed but without squashing freedom of speech and discourse. Proper labeling would help with the former while infringing on the later!

P.M. in Edenton, NC, writes: I wanted to write in with a quick defense of Fox News. No, not the TV network—that is nothing but pure propaganda, and I cannot stomach watching more than a few seconds of it. Where Fox does have decent news reporting is their top-of-the-hour radio broadcasts. They last only a few minutes, but are factual, informative, and unbiased. If you ever catch it on the radio, give it a listen. It proves that someone at Fox is capable of actually reporting real news, even if the garbage spewed on their TV channel is anything but that.

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: In your overview of propaganda, from Thomas Paine to Fox, you wrote: "The editors and writers of those papers would say things about the political opposition, and about the editors and writers of the other papers, that would turn your hair white."

I assume that you have read Mark Twain's piece "Journalism in Tennessee." Personal favorite. I'm also a fan of his piece "Curing a Cold."

Politics: CPAC and Other Extremism

R.M.S. in Lebanon, CT, writes: Have you seen the Lincoln Project's video montage of CPAC talking points? It is only 2 minutes long, but I laughed the hardest I have all week. Even though these people are serious, they sound like they are villains from a science fiction movie:

R.R. in Wiesbaden, Germany, writes: Regarding your comment on Matt Schlapp ("rhymes with crap"), I'll point out that schlapp in German means "tired, worn-out, or, ahem, limp, and schlappschwanz means exactly what you think it means.

B.J.L. in Ann Arbor, MI, writes: Struck by the just shocking flame-out up in Aryan Coeur d'Alene, ID, where the recently elected neocon trustees of North Idaho College orchestrated a leadership coup and have been doing a master class on how to ruin existing support structures for a community.

There were two lawsuits against former presidents by the trustees, and one of those has already backfired, as a federal judge has forced the board to rehire one of the former presidents who was let go without cause. He's going to win. They also replaced the president, provost and several other admins with lackeys and, as of Sunday, the lackeys are gone. The accreditation board threatened to pull its accreditation of the school due to the shenanigans.

I will point out that NIC patron saint and alum Sarah Palin has been silent on all of this. What's most impressive is to hear the community members, students, and other supporters taking the board to task for the crazy invective they seem to be filled with. It's worth checking out; the trustee meetings are all archived on YouTube. Hats off to the reinstated president, and power to the people.

Politics: ERIC

M.C. in Newton, MA, writes: Isn't it obvious why the Republican-led states are moving away from the Electronic Registration Information Center? They'd probably prefer a Database of Overwhelmingly Noninformed Jerks and Racists. Even better would be the Inventory of Voters Allowing Narcissists, Kleptocrats, and Antisemites.

In other words, they're following Donald Trump's lead, and shunning ERIC in favor of DONJR or IVANKA.

R.S.B. in Palm Springs, CA, writes: You wrote: "It also helps purge dead people from the voter rolls since many people forget to de-register just before dying."

In the almost 20 years of reading this site, never have I actually had to stop and laugh at the shear absurdity of a statement, while also understanding that this statement is absolutely hilarious and absurd, there are actual politicians in Washington, D.C. who would probably wonder why and then blame the Democrats for stealing elections with dead people's votes.

Politics: SALT

E.D. in Saddle Brook, NJ, writes: Your SALT deduction explanation misses another key piece. In 2017, there was no SALT limit and the standard deduction for a married couple was $12,700. In the portions of New Jersey near New York City (read: the expensive parts), a typical family was paying around $9,000-$10,000 in property taxes and a couple thousand in income taxes. Add in things like mortgage deductions and you're probably coming to $15,000-$20,000 in tax deductions, which meant itemizing your deductions could save you thousands of dollars. With these numbers, the SALT cap sounds like a loss for a typical family. However, the Trump tax changes also greatly increased the standard deduction. In 2022 it's now $25,900. Even without the SALT cap, most families aren't going to be able to come up with enough deductions to beat the standard deduction.

Within the states that the $10,000 SALT limit impacts, it's not going to impact very many people. I suspect the list of states where this matters a lot might just be California and New York. You'd need to do basically revert all of Trump's tax changes to make the SALT limit worth repealing in the other impacted states.

C.C. in Palo Alto, CA, writes: You wrote: "Put another way, the SALT limit is largely only of concern to voters in a small number of states (most obviously California, Connecticut, Maryland, New York and New Jersey). As a general rule, it is not wise for presidents to do things that will be popular in a small number of states and unpopular in a large number. Especially when most or all of that small number of states are already in the bag for the president's party."

I think there is also the matter that Democrats are split on this issue, and more progressive Democrats don't see it as a priority.

If the shoe were on the other foot, would it make sense to say that as a general rule, Republican presidents avoid doing things that are popular in a small number of states loaded with their supporters? They don't seem to worry about this so much, for some reason.

Politics: Expanding the House

F.L. in Denton, TX, writes: In regard to your item on expanding the U.S. House of Representatives, I think there are arguments both pro and con to be made. Personally, I think that the number of seats should only be expanded when a new state is admitted, but that's a discussion for another day.

What this does remind me of is the House of Commons in the United Kingdom. They have 650 constituencies (what we would call "districts"), yet the actual House can sit just south of two-thirds of that. The number is approximate as they actually have benches, rather than seats.

And then you have people like Jacob Rees-Mogg (C-NE Somerset) sprawled out, taking up space:

Rees-Mogg is occupying an entire bench by himself
and appears to be sleeping

With that said, I think attendance by U.S. representatives far exceeds that of U.K. MPs, so we get a bit more bang for our buck.

S.C. in Mountain View, CA, writes: In "Time to Expand the House?" you suggest (and state that others also suggest) that the size should be scaled by the increase in population since 1929, when the size was fixed at 435 members, so that today the size should be about 1,175.

There is actually a better formula, first developed by Rein Taagepera in 1972 and expanded upon by him and Matthew S. Shugart in Chapter 15 of their book Seats and Votes: The Effects and Determinants of Electoral Systems.

That formula states that the best size of a legislative body is roughly the cube root of the size of the population the body serves. With a 2020 census figure of 331,449,281 for the population of the United States, that would put the size of the House at around 692 members.

The derivation is quite simple. It is based upon minimizing the number of communication channels a legislator has to monitor. In an ideal legislature, each legislator communicates with each of their constituents and with each of their colleagues. In addition, each legislator is aware of the communications each of their colleagues has with one another. So as the size of a legislature increases, the number of constituents each legislator has goes down inversely, but the number of colleagues each legislator has goes up linearly, and the number of colleague-related communication channels goes up with the square of the size. First-year calculus and some simplifying assumptions gives a minimization of the number of these channels at the cube root of the size of the population.

S.S. in Miami, FL, writes: The size of the House should be based purely on population and reset at least every census. To correctly size the House, divide the U.S. population by the population of the state with the smallest population. In this case, Wyoming with 585,500 into 332 million. So the number of voting seats in the House should now be 567. This would provide equal representation to all districts.

Politics: Kind of a Drag

M.A. in Knoxville, TN, writes: As someone who's lived in Tennessee their whole life, I'm certain the recent law banning drag shows is going to have unintended consequences. Cross-dressing events aren't all that rare here.  For example:

  • My church had a mock wedding with men dressed as women and vice-versa.  I believe this was part of a fundraising event.

  • My high school had a role-reversal day during homecoming week one year.  People went around class by class and counted those who participated from each grade to determine a winner.

  • When my parents were going to high school in the 1960s, there was a powderpuff football game every year. For this event the girls were the football players while the cheerleaders were guys wearing female cheerleading outfits.  While the high school didn't still do this when I was in school, other high schools in east Tennessee did.  I'm pretty sure some schools were doing this event up to last fall.

Now all these events are illegal, criminally so, instead of silly bits of fun.

L.R.H. in Oakland, CA, writes: Will attempts to ban drag mean that opera companies in those states be unable to perform Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier and Ariadne auf Naxos, Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and Idomeneo, Massenet's Cendrillion, Berlioz's Les Troyens, Humperdinck's Hansel und Gretel, and dozens of Baroque operas where male roles are sung by women because there are mercifully no longer castrati to sing those parts?

Responses to Trans Hate Comments

J.R.B. in New York City, NY, writes: I am very impressed by your coverage of transgender hate, especially in giving those directly affected by it the chance to speak out. The conservatives have chosen the most marginalized group in our country to fearmonger and have made their lives a living hell for political gain. People will die because of this. We have to combat this, and I think you are helping many of my fellow readers learn/unlearn to get there.

I also want to share two videos that actor/singer/teacher/transgender activist/icon Alexandra Billings (who is newly tenured at USC), reposted that I, too, found to be terrific. This speech by Peppermint (who competed on RuPaul's Drag Race and was the first openly transgender person to originate a lead role on Broadway) is FANTASTIC. She covers so much in such a short, kind way:

The other video should be especially delightful to you. PJ Adzima, who is currently in The Book of Mormon on Broadway, has been finding more than a few truths about the U.S. Army that stand in stark contrast to Tennessee's drag ban. This one is about a film starring a Republican Party God:

@pjadz I win the American Drag debate #usa #usa_tiktok #america #usarmy #usnavy #army #navy #drag #dragrace #broadway #dragqueen #usairforce #usmilitary original sound - PJ Adzima

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Thank you for soliciting and printing letters from trans readers. They pegged my empathy meter. I so admire A.B. in Wendell. If anyone can move mountains by sheer force of will, she can. (And girlfriend, if it comes to physical attacks, you've got my sword, or Louisville Slugger, or fireplace poker, whichever comes first to hand.)

J.M. in Silver Spring, MD, writes: S.B. in Winslow suggested that they look forward to the day when a common reaction to finding out someone is trans is, "You're trans? That's awesome!" I think a better prevailing attitude would be where, upon learning that someone is Trans/Cis/Black/white/Jewish/Catholic/Protestant/Muslim/Atheist/Male/Female/Old/etc, the reaction would be "You're [whatever it is]? What difference does that make?" We're all people and the problem is that those who peddle hatred try to pretend that some of us aren't and don't deserve to be treated as people. The [whatever it is] rights "agenda" is really just a human rights agenda.

K.Y. in Tumwater, WA, writes: I'm not defending Matt Walsh in general, but I have two comments on your item on Walsh.

First, you wrote that Walsh, in his movie, "tricked trans interviewees into sitting for "gotcha" interviews." I don't know if you have watched Walsh's movie, but I have. Your comment makes it sound as if the bulk of the movie is Walsh tricking trans people. In fact, he interviews a lot of people, maybe three of them are trans, and the non-trans interviewees come off quite a lot worse.

Second, you mentioned Walsh's comments on Dylan Mulvaney. I have nothing to say about the passage you quoted. But I direct your attention to one of Mulvaney's "days of girlhood" TikToks. As a woman, I cannot feel anything other than deeply offended by this. Mulvaney appears to believe that acting like a simpering airhead makes Mulvaney a woman. It's sexist and regressive and it's way past time everyone understood that.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: I must take REAL ISSUE with L.E. in Putnam County. RARELY have I been more offended than I was reading their words concerning trans hate.

One time that was ALMOST as offensive as L.E.'s words was when now-former Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison compared trans people like me to head lice, speaking in support of "warning" parents that a trans child was in their child's class!

So... what was so offensive to me about L.E.'s words?? Comparing us to ALCOHOLICS!

L.E.'s ACTUAL WORDS here: "It is concern for their well-being, no matter how bitterly resented, just as an alcoholic may hurl charges of 'hatred' at those who withhold his liquor bottles."

I am here to tell you I was RAISED BY AN ALCOHOLIC FATHER. There is NO comparing this. The harm and the hurt my father did to me and to the rest of the family FAR OUTWEIGHS any subjective "harm" that MY VERY EXISTENCE might be doing to anyone.

FIFTY-PLUS years on this planet... 24 years after my father DIED... and I still bear the scars of his abuse, and the hurt he inflicted on every one of us in our family, most of it directed at me.

FIFTY-PLUS! That L.E could EVER compare trans people like myself with ALCOHOLICS... well, let me tell you there is ONLY ONE TIME in my life I have EVER been more offended! And it was when my state legislators, who have a sworn duty to PROTECT ME TOO, as a citizen, instead chose to imply that trans people like me were all pedophiles and predators. This, of course, happened during the HB-2 fiasco here in NC in 2016.

Even Donnie Harrison's hateful and hurtful words, comparing trans people like me to head lice, was less offensive than L.E comparing us to alcoholics. I doubt that L.E. from Putnam County is either MAN ENOUGH or WOMAN ENOUGH to own the hurt they caused... and apologize.

R.J.J. in San Francisco, CA, writes: I was surprised you didn't include an allergy warning with L.E.'s letter; there were so many straw-man arguments in it, anyone with hayfever would have sneezing fits all day long. Inferring that an individual's gender choices should be lumped in with drunk driving, stealing, or former President Trump's election theft claims was specious to say the least.

L.E. identifies themself as pro-abortion rights, so I am surprised they take such a paternalistic (at best) view of denying medical choice to individuals in this area. People are able to make decisions about their own bodies; each person can elect to listen to the counsel of their choosing be it parental, medical, religious, or simply their knowledge of their own self. Imperfect as it may be in L.E.'s eyes, the United States has a long history of self-determination at its core. Laws are brought into play to set the playing field and (in theory) make it fair for all. When we espouse laws to "protect people from wrong choices" whether we justify the law based on religious or scientific grounds we set self-determination aside for totalitarianism.

K.B. in Hartford, CT, writes: C.Z. in Sacramento was frustrated that the trans discussion took place on International Women's Day, noting the substantial step backwards for women thanks to the Dobbs decision. Their observations about women's rights is spot on. But I think it's worth noting the common ground women have with LGBTQ people.

I agree that Dobbs serves those who want to police women's bodies. But many of those same people want to police queer bodies as well. They want to erase trans people entirely and push gay people back in the closet and outlaw how we love.

The urge to oppress women and queer people springs from the same source—the desire to maintain the gender hierarchy with cis het men at the top. Same-sex couples generally eschew traditional gender roles, as do nonbinary and nonconforming folks. Trans people reject the gender role assigned to them at birth. Those in favor of the patriarchy cannot tolerate such rebellion.

J.O. in Williamsburg, MA, writes: HOORAH for C.Z in Sacramento! I had briefly noted this omission (International Women's Day) and thought, well, the trans discussion is interesting and valuable, so OK. But the note from C.Z. was excellent and quite pointed. I am a ¾-century old white female, so no longer personally concerned with reproduction issues and am in a privileged class. But my heart hurts for those who are not in my position. I get angry at hate and racism and economic inequities, but as I age am getting angrier at the male white power network in general. We are making headway with more and more female governors and mayors and members of Congress, but until we can align courts better with the general population, we will continue this foolishness. Makes me want to go to law school and become a judge!

R.S. in Houston, TX, writes: Good point, B.C. in Phoenix, about reserving "they", "them" and "theirs" for groups, not individuals. Thou are quite correct; our society would never accept discarding a singular pronoun in favor of it plural counterpart.

All Politics Is Local

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: I don't understand Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO). She barely won re-election by the smallest margin of the 2022 cycle (554 votes). She has drawn Adam Frisch (D) as a challenger once again in 2024. He is going to get sh**-tons of support (i.e., money) from the DCCC in '24. She may well be the most endangered Republican in Congress. Yet she continues to behave as crazy as her safe-seat compatriots, Empty-G (R-GA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and the other nuts. Does she not understand that every time she opens her mouth she further endangers her re-election chances?

D.G. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: "George Santos" is going to hang by his nails to his position. Where else will he get a $174,000-plus-per-year job, especially with his reputation?

Not even a crime syndicate would hire him, he is too exposed.

Legal Matters

T.M.M. in Odessa, MO, writes: Three things to note about the fact that the Supreme Court is taking the case about the funding for the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau.

First, the fact that the Supreme Court took this case does not necessarily mean that the Court is trying to undermine the CFPB. The Fifth Circuit found that the funding mechanism was invalid, which forced the CFPB to ask the Supreme Court to take the case. Declining this case would have left the Fifth Circuit decision intact. Most of the time, the Supreme Court reverses the lower court decision when the Supreme Court opts to take a case. (In the last two terms, the reversal rate was around 80%, but, some years, the reversal rate can be lower.)

Second, the big thing about this case is not what happens to the CFPB but what happens to other agencies and to specific programs. If the Supreme Court interprets the Appropriations Clause as requiring an annual appropriation for all government spending and forbidding dedicated revenues, that would call into question many entitlement programs including Social Security and Medicare. I can't see groups like AARP missing the potential significance of this case. They will get involved.

Third, the case will likely be argued in October. It is likely that the opinion will come out in February or later, after the presidential campaign starts. If the Supreme Court were to issue an opinion which could potentially put entitlement spending in question, the need to reform the Supreme Court would certainly become a major issue in the 2024 campaign. Supreme Court justices know their history. And when the Supreme Court has gotten so far out of touch with the voters that proposals to change the Supreme Court gain traction, the Supreme Court has normally decided to cool things down until the heat passes.

History Matters

M.C. in Newton, MA, writes: In response to the question from T.M.S. in Benton and its answer: A rebel who loses is a traitor. A rebel who wins is a patriot. A cheater who wins is a different kind of Patriot.

P.C. in Helena, MT, writes: In your response to T.M.S. in Benton, on the topic of traitors, you missed a chance to quote a little poetry, namely "Of Treason," by John Harington:

Treason doth never prosper; what's the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.

M.G. in Chicago, IL, writes: Do you, do I, do most "liberals" confuse anti-slavery with anti-racism? How many Northerners were anti-slavery—the idea, the method, the dehumanizing effect—but were still outwardly racists if not what we call today closeted racists. How many Northerners were anti-slavery but would witness snow in hell before their white daughter married a Negro man? Your answer to M.G. in Stow assumes racism was a Southern problem. Slavery was a Southern problem. Racism was national problem and a human problem.

M.F. in Oakville, ON, Canada, writes: The question about how the Civil War might have been avoided reminded me of the 1992 anthology Alternate Presidents. The 28 short essays are each based on someone else becoming president, either through a different election result or through succeeding to the office.

Three of the stories are relevant to the matter of the Civil War, assuming different results in the elections of 1848, 1856, and 1860. In all three stories, the Civil War ends up happening anyway, although in the first two stories it is the North that secedes and the South which preserves the Union.

The first story includes a particularly creative twist, in that the narrator refers to an alternative history dime novel describing the real events of our timeline. The narrator thinks it ridiculous to suggest someone like Abraham Lincoln becoming president. He then relays that Lincoln was killed by some actor named Booth in a dispute over theatre tickets.

T.B. in Leon County, FL, writes: The most famous secession movement in my experience was led by Reies Tijerina in New Mexico. I remember reports of the courthouse shootout and at-gunpoint toll collections on remote sections of highways. (When police came after citizen complaints [remember, no cell phones in those days], the toll collectors rode off on their horses and were never caught.)

M.S. in Cupertino CA, writes: Have you ever wondered why the public radio station in southern Oregon is named "Jefferson Public Radio?" According to Wikipedia:

On November 27, 1941, a group of young men gained national media attention when, brandishing rifles and pistols, stopped traffic on U.S. Route 99 south of Yreka, the county seat of Siskiyou County, and handed out copies of a Proclamation of Independence, stating that the State of Jefferson was in "patriotic rebellion against the States of California and Oregon" and would continue to "secede every Thursday until further notice.

The state split movement ended quickly, though not before Del Norte County District Attorney John Leon Childs (1863-1953) of Crescent City was inaugurated as the Governor of the State of Jefferson on December 4, 1941.

The first blow was the death of Mayor Gable on December 2, followed by the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7. Those in favor of splitting the state focused their efforts on the war effort, which crippled the movement...

Many years later, in 1989, KSOR, the National Public Radio member station based at Southern Oregon University in Ashland, near Medford, rebranded itself as Jefferson Public Radio. It had built a massive network of low-powered translators earlier in the 1980s. By the time KSOR began building full-power stations later in the decade, it realized that the combined footprint of its translator network was roughly coextensive with the original State of Jefferson. It thus felt "Jefferson Public Radio" was an appropriate name when it decided to rebrand itself as a network.

When we drive up I-5 through northern California we see a large barn roof with the letter "JEFFERSON" spelled out in contracting colored shingles.

There continue to be political efforts by the counties involved to form their own state.

D.A. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: You chose Richard Nixon as the #2 anti-democracy president, and then offered up James Buchanan and John Adams as possible contenders. I wonder what why you left out Woodrow Wilson? After running on a supposed peace ticket, he jumped into World War I, possibly to save Wall Street banks their loans to Britain and, worst of all from an anti-democracy point of view, he pushed through the Espionage Act of 1917, which laid the foundations for a anti-democracy security apparatus that we suffer from to this day. He used it to imprison Eugene Debs and many other socialists, syndicalists, and pacifists for expressing their views. So much for the First Amendment. At least Nixon eventually resigned.

Complaints Department

D.M. in Helena, MT, writes: Your blog has changed dramatically in recent years and has now lost its "soul." Introduction of silly games, weak attempts at humor, and excessive use of reader comments have made your efforts unreadable.

I.M.O. in Norman, OK, writes: Just please stop it with the bracket approach to things (and World Cup, et al.). Your political commentary is great, but this tendency toward nonsensical lists is surely costing you several extra hours a week, and I am probably not alone in skipping them.

(V) & (Z) respond: Has it not occurred to you that sometimes WE need a change of pace? Also, the bracket competitions have attracted tens of thousands of reader votes, which argues that they are certainly of interest to many readers.

M.A.K. in London, England, UK, writes: In response to the suggestion of a famous last words item, I would be very strongly against this. Last words are inherently impossible to verify with the source, and are extremely prone to being written in advance, or written/altered/touched up later to what people would have preferred that person to say.

They're fine for casual chat down the pub, but I've always seen as the place that cares about facts and evidence before anything else, and last words are usually not either of those things; they're unusually vulnerable to truthiness.

I'm not meaning to deliberately piss on your chips here, but unless you're also up for a detailed analysis each time on whether the person actually said the words, and if they didn't why the words were then attributed to them, I think it'd be better to do without.

(V) & (Z) respond: We think our readers are more than savvy enough to know that, in many cases, "last words" have to be taken with a few grains of salt. Also, even if they are not spontaneous and/or "accurate," they still capture certain truths about the person or era.

T.H. in Bluffton, SC, writes: You have now lost all credibility with the comment about heading down to Durham, NC, for their delicious BBQ. I truly detest North Carolina BBQ and it's obvious neither of you have had the great pleasure of dining on South Carolina mustard-based BBQ. I suspect one of you is undercover working as a forward agent planning the Canadian invasion of the U.S. and thought it a good plan to weaken a great portion of the population by poisoning them with the "alleged" BBQ served by our northern neighbors in NC.

(V) & (Z) respond: It's spelled "neighbours," eh.

Complaints about Complaints Department

B.W. in Snellville, GA, writes: I understand the point from T.F. in Banks about how the phrase "a person of color" is not accurate and objectionable to some. I sympathize, but I don't see an obvious solution. I don't see that the suggested alternatives are any more accurate. The only words I can think of are "not acceptable or non-complaint in the view of the [X]." Kind of rolls of the tongue doesn't it? (snark)

I'm a software engineer and have had the privilege of working with a number of engineers from India in my career. Many of them I have become close to. One young man I was mentoring back in the 1990's came to me one day and asked "what causes pink-eye?" (he had it). As a joke, I said it comes from masturbation. Unknown to me, this was a great insult and he complained to management. The story goes on and has an even funnier conclusion.

I did not mean to insult him in any way. I did not understand how insulting that was to him. If I had understood, I would not have said it. All has been made well between him and I since then.

I have Welsh ancestors that settled in American in the 1600s. I suspect anyone Welsh was not looked upon fondly by the Anglo dominated European population of Virginia of the time. I'm certain my Irish ancestors of the 1800's were not always treated well. I could go on, but that is not the point. Haters will always find some group to despise and find a label for them (list of derogatory labels omitted).

I don't know what "woke" means, but I think this complaint might fit the within the idea of "woke." The intent of the phrase "a person of color" is well understood in modern culture. I think understanding the intent is very important for communicating. Until a better phrase is found, I accept its usage and I understand my skin must grow a little thicker. Thank you T.F., because I now know that the phrase can be offensive to some. Going forward, I will look for other words to communicate the intended idea, but I won't let that hinder my desire to express my thoughts. Choosing "least bad" is better than not communicating.

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: I am under the impression that "people of color" is the preferred terminology by the most culturally sensitive left-leaning identity-politics practitioners. The latest variant I've seen is BIPOC. I'm highly surprised at the request from T.F. in Banks to throw this semantic treadmill a mile down the road, and apply Hispanic-based terms to an Asian-American. I think adopting the proposed change would take your language out of step with political correctness standards, and harder to understand.

Also, A.G. in Chicago is quitting the site over your remark about blaming the addicts? I have to smirk, because I found that line offensive enough that I also wrote an e-mail, before I finished reading the paragraph, criticizing that language. Then when I finished reading, I felt kind of stupid for having sent it. Taken together, it's clear that "blame the addicts" is an attitude you are ascribing to the racist finger-pointers, and one which should be corrected. Which is of course the same point that I made, and so did A.G.

What can I say? Reading is hard. Sorry.

Gallimaufry: No Comments Edition

J.R.A. in St. Petersburg, FL, writes: Having been involved in computer-mediated communication since I joined Usenet (in 1982, when I could still read the entire feed), and both as a participant and a moderator, please count my vote, too, against you having discussion fora attached to your pages.

I'm sure I speak for everyone (who thinks it's a bad idea) when I say we prefer you invest your energy they way you are now, not in moderating user contributions in real-time.

J.D. in St. Paul, MN, writes: Here's another reader thanking you for resisting creation of anything like a comments section. I was interested that Taegan Goddard, specifically, told you that moderating these can be a nightmare. I've been reading Taegan Goddard's Political Wire from the beginning and subscribing since that became an option. The comments section there has undergone an interesting evolution over the years, which might be inevitable on a site such as yours, whose audience skews educated.

Early on, intelligent, earnest, open-minded, modestly proffered contributions resembling discussions in a graduate seminar were the norm. Or, at very least, there were a lot of these. Gradually, a different breed of reader settled into the Political Wire comments. Now they dominate and make it worthless. It's mostly the same 50 or so people, back and forth dozens of times a day, commenting glibly on everything, as if going to that site and saying something is their hobby. They're familiar with each other. They wish each other good-morning and good-night, for heaven's sake. Perhaps these are intelligent people. Certainly they claim to be. Their contributions, however, are predictable little knee-jerk snippets of performative outrage, responses in kind to the latest published outrage summarized and linked by Taegan. They lack any thought value. More and more, instead of writing, the gang just upload photos and video clips and then congratulate each other for inserting these trenchant pearls.

Where did the interesting people go? They went silent, I suspect, as happens when a seminar turns bad. Why I still look occasionally at Political Wire comments, I do not know. Anyway, I applaud your reticence about moving in that direction.

E.S. in Maine, NY, writes: You wrote: "The weekly Schadenfreude/Freudenfreude items have, to our surprise, turned into one of our most popular features."

Just FYI, I post a lot of political stuff on Facebook. And I have re-posted your Schadenfreude and or Freudenfreude on multiple occasions.

Yes, they get lots of positive responses. On the hopeful side, the Freudenfreude gets about the same positive responses as Schadenfreude.

P.S.: The separate page makes it much easier to re-post. And I always make sure add a link. I have no clue if anyone else does this but putting a link in the text would ensure that people could get to your site.

(V) & (Z) respond: There is a link at the bottom of each item. Did you mean something in addition to that?

Final Words

We got a lot of final words suggestions, many of which will show up in subsequent weeks. But today's entry comes from (Z), who is in the habit of visiting notable gravesites, and who lives just a few miles from this particular grave:

Mel Blanc's headstone has a Star of
David, his name and years, and the quote 'That's all, folks!'

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

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar11 Saturday Q&A
Mar10 Biden Unveils His 2024 Platform... er, His Budget
Mar10 Bragg about to Win Trump Indictment Marathon?
Mar10 Still More Trouble for "George Santos"
Mar10 The Daily Wire Is Trans Hate Headquarters
Mar10 Why the Trans Hate?, Part IV: Trans Readers Weigh In
Mar10 The World Cup, Part XIV: Group C vs. Group G
Mar10 This Week in Schadenfreude: He Who Lives by the Sword...
Mar10 This Week in Freudenfreude: When Life Hands You Lemons, Run a 5K
Mar09 DeSantis Previews His Presidential Campaign in His State of the State Speech
Mar09 Biden Proposes Increasing Medicare Tax for High Earners
Mar09 Trump Is Considering Four Women for Veep
Mar09 Republican States Are Leaving ERIC
Mar09 Supreme Court May Cripple the CFPB
Mar09 Newsom Boycotts Walgreens
Mar09 Poll: Trump Crushing DeSantis in New Hampshire
Mar09 Democrats Are Worried about a "No Labels" Third-Party Ticket
Mar09 Doug Mastriano Is Weighing a Senate Run
Mar09 Why the Trans Hate?, Part III
Mar08 You've Aggravated Everyone and His Mother, Tucker
Mar08 Time to Expand the House?
Mar08 Don't Doubt that DeSantis Is for Sale
Mar08 The Decline and Fall of Twitter?
Mar08 Tennessee Bans Drag Shows
Mar08 Why the Trans Hate?, Part II
Mar08 The Word Cup, Part XIII: Group F vs. Group H (Presidential Candidates, 21st Century)
Mar07 Who Is Winning the Capitol Hill Game of 3-D Chess?
Mar07 Let the Foxlighting Begin
Mar07 The First Rule of the Insurrection...
Mar07 Republicans Are United on Their Views of Transgender People
Mar07 Why the Trans Hate?, Part I
Mar07 Johnson Who?
Mar07 The Word Cup, Part XII: Group F (Presidential Campaigns, from World War II to the End of the 20th Century), Round Two
Mar06 How Trump Will Deal with DeSantis
Mar06 DeSantis Attacks Potted Plants
Mar06 Trump's Opponents Take Swipes at Him at CPAC
Mar06 Trump and Fox News May Soon Be at War
Mar06 Republican Field Grows... and Shrinks
Mar06 Manchin Won't Decide about Running for Reelection until December
Mar06 Minnesota Expands Voting Rights for Ex-Felons
Mar06 Democrats Rebut Weaponization Subcommittee
Mar06 House Republicans Introduce "Parents' Bill of Rights"
Mar06 2024 Has a Couple of Anniversaries
Mar06 Walgreens Won't Distribute Abortion Pills in Republican-Controlled States
Mar06 Biden Had a Basal Cell Carcinoma Removed Last Month
Mar06 The Conways Are Splitting Up
Mar05 Sunday Mailbag
Mar04 Saturday Q&A
Mar03 Schumer, Jeffries to Fox: Knock off the Propaganda
Mar03 CPAC Is Underway