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TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Taking It to the Bank
      •  Republicans Announce Their House Targets
      •  Mike Pence Reminds Us Why He'll Never Be President
      •  Take That, Will Rogers
      •  Trans Bill on Tap in the House
      •  Why the Trans Hate?, Part VI: Stories of the Trans-Adjacent
      •  Word Cup, Round 3: Presidential Slogans

Taking It to the Bank

The story of Silicon Valley Bank continues to dominate the headlines, particularly the political maneuvering that its collapse has occasioned. So, we shall talk about it some more.

There is, of course, a hotly contested U.S. Senate race going on in California right now. Silicon Valley Bank is is California. And so, the three declared Senate candidates—Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter and Barbara Lee (all D-CA)—are competing with each other to see who can chastise the banking system the loudest, and who will do the most to cut the banks down to size if they become a senator. Not mentioned is the fact that one U.S. Senator can do approximately zero about banks (or anything else) on their own.

Meanwhile, in our item yesterday, we referred to the federal government's rescue of Silicon Valley Bank as a bailout. That was sloppy, and quite a few readers wrote in to take us to task. For example, R.S. in Vancouver, WA:

I object to the constant discussion of SVB as a "bailout." When the FDIC seizes a bank, like SVB, the process is a liquidation according to legally defined asset class. This is the exact same process as a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

There is one primary difference. When a bank fails the FDIC backs some or all of the deposits. The normal order of asset reimbursement in a liquidation are: (1) secured creditors, (2) unsecured creditors, (3) preferred stock and (4) general stock, with $0 dollars of a junior asset class being funded until 100% of all senior asset classes are funded.

When the FDIC seizes a bank and guarantees all or some deposits it creates a new senior asset creditor for reimbursement, the FDIC, thus creating a new schedule for asset liquidation: (1) FDIC, (2) secured creditors, (3) unsecured creditors, (4) preferred stock and (5) general stock. Since a bank deposit is an unsecured debt what's really happening is a class of unsecured debt is gaining preference over secured creditors. This is a fight of the wealthy (large depositors) v. the extremely wealthy (secured debt holders).

However, I know of nobody who considers themselves to be receiving a 'bailout' when going through a Chapter 7 bankruptcy.

Or R.H. in Santa Ana, CA:

The "bailout" of SVB refers to the FDIC extending its guarantee (normally $250K per account-holder) to cover all accounts, no matter how large. This will not necessarily cost the FDIC anything.

SVB has assets, but they're largely longer-term fixed-rate instruments whose "value" dropped when ambient interest rates went up.

I used the quotes around value because those instruments, if held to maturity, would pay off the same face amount whether ambient rates are 1% or 6%—the only sense in which their value fluctuates is the price at which they can be sold—the issuers are still going to pay the face value.

The FDIC doesn't have to sell those instruments—it can hold them to maturity and it will receive 100% of their value.

SVB didn't have that luxury—after Peter Thiel told his funded companies to withdraw their money from SVB ASAP, SVB had to (try to) liquidate some of those long-term holdings to get the cash to pay for those withdrawals.

This was a fire sale—they HAD to off-load those holdings, no matter what price they were offered. This led to their insolvency, which means the value of their assets was exceeded by the value of their liabilities.

One of two things will happen: Either SVB will be wound up, all of its assets will become assets of the FDIC (and the FDIC will pay off its depositors), or a larger bank will "buy" SVB, which means its assets and deposits will belong to that bank. In either case, the FDIC is unlikely to be out a lot of money on this.

A much larger issue looms in the near-to-mid future: What happens when most of these multi-tenant office building REITs default on their mortgages? The pandemic shutdown showed most of those tenants that it's a lot cheaper to give employees a laptop and cable modem than it is to rent expensive Class B and C real estate for them all to work in office buildings. (For now, Class A seems to be mostly unaffected, but that could change).

If you thought the Great Recession of 2008-09 was fun, you're going to LOVE what happens when those commercial loans get marked to market.

We stand corrected, or at least clarified, and we thank R.S. and R.H. and the other readers who wrote in.

Meanwhile, consistent with the logic laid out in the two letters above, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO), who is a former banker and is a member of the House Financial Services Committee, is urging the government to temporarily guarantee all deposits at all banks. His argument is that if depositors at smaller banks are concerned about a repeat of what happened at Silicon Valley Bank, there could be a run on smaller banks. This would not only further risk destabilizing the economy, it could also cause most depositors to migrate to mega-banks that have the capital to ride out tough times. Luetkemeyer believes that bank consolidation like this would be a bad thing. Given the abuses we've seen in recent years from mega-banks like Wells Fargo, we are inclined to agree.

And finally, quite a few readers wrote in wondering exactly how a bank could be destroyed by "wokeness," as claimed by Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and many others on the right. The key to this "argument" is a woman named Jay Ersapah. Well, her and poor reading comprehension.

See, until Ersapah's LinkedIn page was taken down (you can see a screen capture here), it identified her as the Head of Financial Risk at SVB. It was also full of postings from her talking about various diversity initiatives she was working on. The conclusion that many right-wingers reached was that if Ersapah spent less time worrying about diversity, and more time focusing on her actual job (i.e., monitoring risk), then the bank wouldn't have collapsed. The Rupert Murdoch-owned properties have leaned into this angle particularly heavily:

The latter piece does not reveal its core thesis in the headline, but it does contain this sentence: "I'm not saying 12 white men would have avoided this mess, but the company may have been distracted by diversity demands." These various outlets, particularly Fox, have also suggested that Ersapah was so eager to promote LGBTQ hiring because she herself is gay, having received recognition from various LGBTQ organizations.

The only issue with this narrative is... Ersapah works for the British subsidiary of SVB. And that subsidiary is financially healthy enough that it was absorbed by HBSC. Oops! Oh, also, Ersapah is straight. Double oops! It's almost like you shouldn't rely on these Murdoch-owned outlets to report the news correctly. (Z)

Republicans Announce Their House Targets

On Monday, we had the DCCC's high-priority list of seats to defend. Those representatives will get extra money and support (unless they fall way behind in the polls, in which case they'll be put on an ice floe and allowed to drift off into the open ocean, so nature can take its course). On Tuesday, the NRCC released its list of high-priority targets. Whoever ends up as the GOP nominee for these seats will likewise get extra money and support (again, unless they fall behind in polls, or turn out to be some sort of nutter). We combined the two lists; an "X" in the "D" column means the seat is on the Democrats' defend list, and an "X" in the "R" column means the seat is on the Republicans' attack list:

District PVI Incumbent Dem Rep
AK-AL R+8 Mary Peltola X X
ME-02 R+6 Jared Golden X X
WA-03 R+5 Marie Perez X X
PA-08 R+4 Matt Cartwright X X
OH-09 R+3 Marcy Kaptur X X
MI-07 R+2 Open (Elissa Slotkin)   X
NC-13 R+2 Wiley Nickel X X
PA-07 R+2 Susan Wild X X
KS-03 R+1 Sharice Davids X X
OH-13 R+1 Emilia Sykes X X
MI-08 R+1 Dan Kildee X X

District PVI Incumbent Dem Rep
CO-08 EVEN Yadira Caraveo       X X
NH-01 EVEN Chris Pappas X X
PA-17 EVEN Chris Deluzio X X

District PVI Incumbent Dem Rep
VA-07 D+1 Abigail Spanberger X X
MN-02 D+1 Angie Craig X X
NM-02 D+1 Gabriel Vasquez X X
MI-03 D+1 Hillary Scholten X X
WA-08 D+1 Kim Schrier X X
NY-18 D+1 Pat Ryan X X
NV-03 D+1 Susie Lee X X
NC-01 D+2 Don Davis X X
IL-17 D+2 Eric Sorensen X X
OH-01 D+2 Greg Landsman X X
IN-01 D+3 Open (Katie Porter)   X
IN-01 D+3 Frank Mrvan X X
CT-05 D+3 Jahana Hayes X X
CA-49 D+3 Mike Levin X X
IL-13 D+3 Nikki Budzinski X  
NV-01 D+3 Dana Titus   X
NV-04 D+3 Steven Horsford X X
OR-04 D+4 Val Hoyle   X
RI-02 D+4 Seth Magaziner   X
OR-06 D+4 Andrea Salinas X X
NC-14 D+6 Jeff Jackson   X
CA-09 D+8 Josh Harder   X
FL-09 D+8 Darren Soto   X
TX-34 D+9 Vicente Gonzalez   X

As you can see, the Republicans are currently more ambitious to the Democrats. The blue team's list has 29 seats on it, including just one (IL-13) that is not on the Republican list. The red team's list has 37 seats on it, including 9 that are not on the Democratic list. The lists will certainly evolve over the next year, but GOP leadership is making clear they want to be very, very aggressive and expand their House majority. And maybe it will work for them. Or maybe it won't. Everyone remembers what happened to Icarus when he flew too close to the sun, and some of the Republican targets are real longshots (e.g., Harder, Soto and Jackson, each of whom won in 2022 by a dozen points or more).

Eventually, the Democrats will release an "attack" list and the Republicans will release a "defense" list. But they have not done so yet. We wonder if the order in which these things are being announced says something about the cultures of the respective parties. (Z)

Mike Pence Reminds Us Why He'll Never Be President

As we noted on Monday, former VP Mike Pence gave a speech at this weekend's black-tie Gridiron Club dinner. The big news was that he took a direct shot at his former partner in... well, whatever they were partners in, namely Donald Trump.

That said, there is another element to the story that's worthy of some attention. These sorts of speeches are supposed to be fairly breezy, and to have a few laugh lines. And so, among his other bits, Pence uncorked this snide remark at the expense of Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg:

When Pete's two children were born, he took two months' maternity leave whereupon thousands of travelers were stranded in airports, the air traffic system shut down, and airplanes nearly collided on our runways.

Pete is the only person in human history to have a child and everyone else gets postpartum depression.

We can't find video of the speech, and we believe the Gridiron Club prohibits recordings. But the crowd was reportedly underwhelmed by that particular bit.

It's remarkable, but in just 51 words, Pence managed to squeeze in the four biggest things that make him unelectable as president. To wit:

  1. He's anti-LGBTQ: The meat of the joke, of course, is that Buttigieg, as a gay man, behaved more like a woman than a "real man." Ho, ho! When Pence was governor of Indiana, his signature "accomplishment" was securing passage of a bill called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. As is generally the case with bills that have names like that, the legislation was meant to give Hoosiers the right to discriminate in the name of freedom of religion. In particular, the bill was carefully worded in a manner so as to allow discrimination against LGBTQ people. Pence gaslighted for a couple of months, insisting that the bill did not sanction anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Nonetheless, the blowback was so great (very similar to the blowback to the North Carolina "bathroom bill") that it became necessary to pass an addendum that specifically prohibited anti-LGBTQ discrimination.

    In short, Pence was anti-LGBTQ 10 years ago, and he's still anti-LGBTQ. That attitude didn't play in ruby red Indiana in the 2010s, and it's definitely not going to play with a national electorate in the 2020s. And there's no way that Pence could ever convincingly change course on this; his whole persona is rooted in his evangelicalism, and it's not a secret that evangelicals of his type are almost invariably anti-gay.

  2. He's anti-woman: Pence's "joke" was nominally about paternity leave. But we have a sneaking suspicion that women voters who hear about it are also going to see it as pooh-poohing maternity leave. What they will definitely hear is that Pence is a man very much invested in traditional gender roles—man work, woman barefoot and pregnant, grunt. His unwillingness to dine with other women if his wife is not present, which is rooted in the notion that women are all teases and men are beasts who cannot control their sexual urges will not help dissuade folks from this perception.

    Oh, and Pence's other signature legislation was a series of bills that significantly restricted abortion in Indiana. That position isn't going to play with a national electorate either.

  3. He's a hypocrite: Pence's brand, like all evangelical politicians, is that he's about family values. But someone who is actually family values does not shame a father (or a mother) who chooses to prioritize their premature infant over their job.

  4. He's terribly media unsavvy: We have pointed out before that Pence brings to mind Alica Roosevelt's observation about Thomas Dewey, that he looks like "the bridegroom on the wedding cake." The former VP is truly plasticine, and is utterly lacking in charisma. If he and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) somehow end up on the same debate stage, it's entirely possible that the charisma void will be so profound that it will spontaneously trigger a black hole.

    Beyond that, however, is the fact that the Gridiron Club dinner attracts a huge media contingent, in part because it's in Washington, and in part because each year some politician says something really outlandish. Pence knows full well that it's a media-heavy event; that's why he chose the occasion to slam Trump. And when you know full well the media is sitting there, ready to pounce, how stupid do you have to be to say something offensive?

Note that all of this is in addition to the fact that most Republicans hate Pence, either because he "betrayed" Donald Trump or because he hasn't been sufficiently fanatical about the religious stuff. We've already pooh-poohed Nikki Haley's chances in 2024, but she's gotta be 10 times more likely to be elected president than Pence is. (Z)

Take That, Will Rogers

We presume that a fair number of readers are familiar with the old line from the humorist Will Rogers: "I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat." That is also a familiar lament among modern Democrats, albeit in less witty form.

Politico has an interesting piece right now that makes clear this perception is not always reality. It's about the soon-to-be open U.S. Senate seat in Michigan. In essence, the retirement of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has been a finely choreographed ballet. The Senator made her decision several months ago but, before announcing it publicly, did a lot of legwork behind the scenes (as did Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY). They steered ambitious Michigander politicians to other opportunities, and kept the decks clear for Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), the person that Democratic leadership agrees is the most electable person they currently have on the bench.

This process stands in contrast to, say, California. There, the Democratic Senate race has been something of a circus, with two or three candidates declaring (depending on how you count Rep. Barbara Lee, D-CA) even before the retirement of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was official. But in the Golden State, Michigan-level choreography was neither possible nor necessary. It wasn't possible because Feinstein has lost her fastball, and probably isn't capable of doing the sort of legwork that Stabenow did. And it wasn't necessary because California is so blue, and the Republican bench there is so thin, that the seat will remain in Democratic hands pretty much no matter what happens. Not the case in Michigan, of course.

In any case, it's an interesting story. And these machinations strongly suggest that Slotkin is not going to draw any serious competition. In turn, that means she'll enter the general with a pile of money and with the full backing of the Democratic Party. So, this seat does not look to be in serious danger. Unlike, say, West Virginia, Ohio, or Montana. (Z)

Trans Bill on Tap in the House

To provide a foundation for the reader comments on Trans Hate, we're writing up the many and varied news stories on the subject. The idea is to build a list of the various sources and purposes of trans hate, with some evidence. We will definitely do a wrap-up at the end.

Today, it's time to belabor an obvious point, namely that one of the things that is fueling trans hate is conscious efforts by politicians to use trans people as a wedge issue. We've seen plenty of this on the state level, of course, but now it's going national. Specifically, Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) has introduced H.R. 734, which he calls the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2023. That pretty much tells the story, but in case you would like it spelled out, the legislation would amend Title IX to say that a person's sex is based solely on their reproductive organs at birth.

There is, of course, no chance this bill becomes law. It won't come up for a vote in the Senate, nor could it pass that body if it did. And if we were somehow mistaken about that (we aren't), there's no way it would ever get Joe Biden's signature. His administration has already announced plans for guidelines that would tell schools to do the exact opposite of what the new GOP bill would dictate.

Still, the House Education and Workforce Committee took up H.R. 734, and engaged in 16 hours of markup. So, it's going to come to the floor of the House for a vote. And the purpose of that vote, of course, is to force vulnerable Democrats to take a position on the subject. Hence, wedge issue. It's a shame that so many House Republicans seem to be interested in posturing and staging show votes, and that there are so few members like Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Blaine Luetkemeyer, who seem to be interested in, you know, actually governing. (Z)

Why the Trans Hate?, Part VI: Stories of the Trans-Adjacent

We've heard from trans readers, and we'll hear from them one more time before this series is all said and done. But today, we're running letters from folks who are not trans themselves, but have experience of various sorts that gives them insight into the matter. We are using the phrase "trans-adjacent" because if there's a more correct term, we don't know it. We recognize these are on the lengthy side, particularly in the aggregate, but we found them compelling.

  • I.F. in Toronto, ON, Canada: I was bullied relentlessly as a kid in the 80s, at least in part because I did not conform to traditional definitions of masculinity demanded of the area where I grew up in Kentucky. I dressed and behaved in a way that was comfortable for me, which didn't fit any male or female definitions. In the 90s, things started getting better. I found friends who accepted me for me. By the time of university and later, the early 2000s, I feel like I reached peak acceptance. I was regarded as a man who didn't fit masculine stereotypes. I could be a man who liked cars, dolls, fluffy stuffed animals, raceboats and some occasional makeup. I am not, however, even in the slightest, transgender. I am a man, top to bottom, inside and out. I am also gay, which is relevant later.

    Then the 2010s rolled in, and things started to change for the worse. I have transgender friends and I accept them without question. Where things really started to go wrong was when the so-called "non-binary" became a thing. At first, I thought this was great. Fantastic! Finally, a way for intersex people and the few people who are really, truly on the border of transgender as a way to express themselves. Yes, I was entirely on board with they/them pronouns.

    Unfortunately, that didn't last long. The trouble with non-binary, as it turned out, is that the term and the definition were absolutely ripe for abuse. I still remember when "metrosexual" briefly became a thing and I remember what I thought then. "Uh oh. We've reduced sexuality to a fashion trend. I don't like where this is going." As a gay man, I liked that we were gaining acceptance and the nightmare of gay hate might be coming to an end. I did not, however, see much positive in sexuality becoming a fashion trend.

    The metrosexual trend didn't last long but, eventually, the professional victims of the world, the ones who are absolutely desperate to latch themselves to a community they have no business being a part of, found non-binary and sunk their little claws into it. It was perfect. It had a definition that was easy to tease so that it became so overbroad that it would be meaningless. Check. Next, claim the label, which is easy to do now that the definition is so ludicrously broad that it basically includes everyone. Check. As an added benefit, now most of those who claim the mantra of "non-binary" get to respond indignantly and self-righteously to all matters gender and pronoun-related, which is partly the point. These sorts of people live for righteous indignation. It is truly a religion.

    Swinging back around to the beginning of my little tale, there is, once again, a target on my back. "You like dolls!" they say. "Yes?" I respond cluelessly. "You must be non-binary!" they declare. They won't let it go. I've lost three friends because of this because they absolutely will not shut up about it. I just have to be non-binary! My transgender friends can't stand these people. "Transtrenders," they call them. Anything that doesn't rigidly conform to traditional 1950s stereotypes of what a man and a woman should be simply must be non-binary. It is regressive. It is sexist. It is also binary to say that everything must be binary and non-binary.

    These people are poisoning the discourse for actual transgender people, actual intersex people, and actual non-binary people. They fuel the Fox rhetoric and suck all the air out of the room for people who are truly suffering. The moment anyone tells me, "My pronouns are they/them," I immediately stuff myself into the proverbial closet because god forbid they find out I like dolls or cute, fluffy things, because they'll be coming for me again.

  • D.H. in Marysville, WA: Our 16 year old came out to us as nonbinary 3 years ago. We are involved parents. It was hard. Every day has been a swirl of emotions, a need to be flexible and listen, a chance to consider things one has not considered before no matter what side of the aisle you're on.

    Initially our child wanted hormone therapy and to explore surgical options. This was probably the hardest time. They were 13. We went to many consultations together, asked tough questions and had intense conversations with our child. In the end they decided to wait. It was totally their decision. We won't pretend we weren't relieved. Not because we opposed it necessarily, but because there are real physical and mental challenges that come with making a teen body do the opposite of what it has programmed itself to do. In the end, if our child had chosen to go that route, we would have supported them.

    Our child was a caring, thoughtful and beautiful soul before all of this. They are that same person now but even better. They can be who they are and they are truly happy. Not in a trendy, everybody's doing it, look-at-me kind of way. In a peaceful, content, quietly certain kind of way. They know who they are and they have always known.

    The process, the journey with coming out, with being nonbinary or trans or whatever is so much harder than what outsiders tend to boil it down to: in this case, capricious acts by confused or self indulgent kids whose woke parents have brainwashed them or let them run wild or used then as pawns. Even people who are advocates have their own biases and hangups and fears which they often don't recognize and don't have to face head-on because their kid isn't trans. It's not simple and it's not easy.

    In the end, people just want to be people, to be themselves, to be treated with dignity and respect, to have the same opportunities as others and to be free from fear. It's not too much to ask.

  • T.F. in Tulsa, OK: I am a non-binary daily reader of your site, which I absolutely love. Keep up the good work! I'm so happy that you are specifically seeking out trans and non-binary experiences.

    In real life, I mostly present as male because, frankly, those are the clothes I already own (since I am biologically male) and because those are the clothes that wouldn't get me harassed by bigots. But I don't identify with masculinity or male-ness as a part of who I am (nor do I especially relate to femininity or female-ness).

    I'm deeply concerned by the push among the right to enforce traditional gender roles. I worry because there's no clear line (that I can see) where those roles would be entrenched enough for far-right politicians, and they would stop making more laws about it. The trans person's right to use the restroom that matches their gender, the drag queen's right to do a show in a fabulous dress, and the trans teen's right to ask their teacher to refer to them by pronouns that make them feel more like themselves—these rights stand as stalwart protectors of my right to "just not feel like acting like a dude today." To wear a pink scarf or paint my nails. To let my natural lisp work its way into my voice instead of constantly reminding myself to enunciate.

    As someone who feels comfortable being perceived as male most of the time, I have a lot of privilege which helps me avoid harassment and attacks, and ALL of it comes from being "less out there" or "less in-your-face" than the trans activists that some of your readers have been complaining about. By being so extreme, they're putting in the work to make all gender-non-conforming people have easier lives, and I am eternally grateful.

    Sure, being less extreme might be a better political move to make sure those who are uncomfortable are still willing to vote for Democrats. But that isn't the only responsibility a trans activist has. They're fighting for better, safer lives for everyone in the LGBT+ community, and they're doing an amazing job.

  • E.L. in Missoula, MT: I consider myself non-gender conforming, and I'm still discovering/deciding if that means the same thing for me as non-binary.

    Insecurity is the only reason I can see for someone to feel threatened by people that flaunt traditional gender norms, sex, or sexuality. Even though these non-conformists have been around since before Homo sapiens, a large part of society has deemed that not only are gender and sex a core part of a person's being, but they are immutable and unshakable.

    And so if a person is insecure in their gender, sex, or sexuality, this could feel like a very real threat. By changing what it means to be a man or a woman, or going even further and changing from one gender or sex to the other, one could see it as a degradation of who they are and what their place in society is. Or that these non-conformists aren't holding up their end of what these affronted people imagine the social contract to be.

    Granted, a few readers have chimed in to say something like this, but I will go a little further. The reason this issue gets under the skin so much more is that the idea that gender roles and sexuality is absolute is so demonstrably false. Not only does almost everyone flaunt traditional gender roles on occasion, we've also been constantly updating what those roles are.

    We have, over the past hundred years or so, decided that chromosomes and physical sex characteristics have nothing to do with who can vote, or wear pants, or open a credit card, or get a divorce. We're finally coming to a place where men can cry and be emotional and tender. Hopefully soon we'll stop caring what people wear or what set of genitals a person needs to be president.

    So I think people are fearful, and therefore hateful, because somewhere, deep down, they know that these things are worth reexamining about themselves. I'm not saying that everyone is trans or non-binary. I'm only saying that it takes some measure of courage to sit down and think, "To hell with what society thinks, this is the kind of person I want to be." And it's much, much harder to act on it.

  • S.R. in Knoxville, TN: Reading the letters about "Trans is the new abortion" and the point that the Republican cultural warriors totally miss is that many trans people are invisible to the naked eye. Yes, the stereotype of the crossdressing male with lipstick on as obviously trans (they're not, but that's not the point I am making here) is whom they are criticizing. These people don't even know who it is they're demonizing. How stupid, huh?

    My trans child, born female and who now identifies as male and looks like any other 23-year-old male college student, is a case in point. He's at the basketball game. He's out at dinner. He's at the grocery store. He's living his life. You know what he looks like? A non-descript 23-year-old male wearing a T-shirt, blue jeans and glasses. Totally anonymous. He's living in a state that has a Republican governor and that went for Trump in the last 2 elections, after having grown up in Tennessee. By choice.

    Then there are his roommates and his significant other. He lives in a house with 5 other young adults that either are gender fluid or trans. You'd be hard pressed to know it meeting them, as they seem more like a quirky group of 20-somethings arguing over the video game controller or who is supposed to clean the kitchen. I, even with a good eye, wouldn't have picked out a couple of these kids as trans.

    And during the pandemic these young people decided to hunker down and try to protect themselves the best they could from contracting COVID. They had been living in their group house only a matter of weeks at the outset of it and hadn't had a chance to meet any of the neighbors. My son did notice there were 3 or 4 young adults living 2 houses away from them but as the pandemic was raging they naturally elected to keep to themselves rather than interact. It was months later that a mutual acquaintance made a comment about where they were living and said "Hey, do you know X and Y living 2 houses down from you? They're doing the same thing you are."

    Yes, the trans kids and my son in house 1... did not identify the group of young people in house 2 also as trans and gender fluid by seeing them around the neighborhood. They had no idea.

    The coda is they all had a group meeting keeping their distance out in the street to say hello to each other... in front of the house with the Trump sign in the yard that was between them.

  • M.K. in Wilmington, DE: My wife and I are friends with a family that has two kids reasonably close in age to ours, one of whom is transgender. Let's call her John to reflect that she was given a masculine-coded birth name which she is still using.

    Oh, by the way, she's in kindergarten.

    We've known John since about 9 months. From about age 3, we were aware of her preference for colors, toys, and activities that are traditionally coded as feminine. In pre-school, John struggled with this in her peer group, to the point where her dad added pink streaks to his hair to be supportive—"See? Boys can like pink." John has the face of a little boy but all the typical mannerisms of a little girl. And from everything I've seen, they've worked to thread the needle to be accepting of their child without boxing them in one way or another to see where things went.

    About a week before the start of the school year, John began using feminine pronouns and a few weeks after that she began asking others to use them as well. Apparently a majority of her peer group has come to accept this, although her teacher has not and they are trying to move her to a different room. And yes, therapists have been involved throughout the course of this journey.

    Our daughter is a bit perplexed by it all as she knew John before COVID as a boy she would play with once a week and now, after lockdown, John is a girl. I admit that I struggle with a lifetime of name/gender coding and have to pause when it comes to pronouns. But from my vantage point this not a "phase." This kid did not wake up one morning and say "I'm going to be a girl now" as a way of getting attention, and this is not as superficial as deciding Barbie is more interesting than GI Joe.

    This is a six year old who knows she is not like any other boy she knows (apart from anatomy, anyway) who is just trying to interface with the world. I was socially awkward as a kid and I thought I had trouble relating to others. That was absolutely nothing compared to what John is working through, and this is at a school that bills itself as inclusive.

    So when John comes over to play I work on my pronouns and hope she finds her place in the world. Though I do wonder whether that place would be easier to find if our notions of gender conformity weren't quite so rigid.

Thanks, all! More tomorrow, of course. (Z)

Word Cup, Round 3: Presidential Slogans

The end is near! Today, we reveal the quarterfinalists for the political slogans. First, from Group F vs. Group H:

  • Hope (62.4%) defeats Give 'em Hell, Harry! (37.6%)
  • Make America Great Again (50.05%) barely defeats I Like Ike (49.95%)

That means that the quarterfinal matchup here, appropriately enough, is Hope vs. Make America Great Again.

And from Group B vs. Group D:

  • Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too! (75.8%) defeats Let Us Have Peace (24.2%)
  • A New Deal for America (73.9%) defeats The Union Must and Shall Be Preserved! (26.1%)

That means that the quarterfinal matchup here is Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too! vs. A New Deal for America. America's shortest-serving president against its longest-serving.

Here are some reader comments on these various clashes:

  • S.D.R. in Raleigh, NC: "Hope" defeats "Give 'em Hell, Harry!"—"Hope" played a role, however small, in a black man getting elected president, which for most of my pre-2008 life was something I thought I'd never see.

    "I Like Ike" defeats "Make America Great Again"— MAGA got Trump elected once, and even that wouldn't have happened without some help from the Founding Fathers' Affirmative Action for Republicans program (a.k.a. the Electoral College). "I Like Ike" got Eisenhower elected twice. Besides, nothing about Donald Trump is superior to anything about Dwight D. Eisenhower.

  • E.W. in Seattle, WA: One upside of "Give 'em Hell, Harry" is that it gave him a perfect comeback. I heard him do that with great effect in 1957 at a "bean feed" attended by about 500 well-lubricated DFLers in St. Paul, MN. One of them in the back of the hall stood up during his speech and bellowed it out, to which he responded in his nasal twang, "I never give 'em hell, I just tell the truth and the Republicans think it's hell," which got him an enthusiastic wave of wild whoops and cheers.

  • R.B. in Chaska, MN: This one was easy. Seldom has the American voter gotten exactly what they expected out of a campaign slogan. A New Deal for America put the program front and center.

  • F.R. in Berlin, Germany: This matchup between Abraham Lincoln and FDR looks like a match that will go to extra time and a penalty shootout. Personally, I believe that the New Deal, compared with "The Union must and shall be preserved," more precisely encapsulates the kind of momentous change that this candidate's supporters tried to achieve with their votes, i.e. government-driven redistribution of wealth in the U.S. and a federal government actively helping the economically challenged.

  • D.H. in Lake Barrington, IL: Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too!

    As a drummer I appreciate the rhythm of it, the triplet feel (very rare in slogans), and the rhyme. It just rolls off the tongue so easily.

  • S.N. in Santa Clara, CA: I recently rewatched The Hunger Games and appreciated their adaptation of George Wallace's phrase—Panem Now, Panem Tomorrow, Panem Forever.

Here is the ballot for this round. And, of course, we continue to welcome comments.

Also, the thing that clued us into the fact that yesterday's posting did not properly go live was the utter lack of response to the suggestions for the bracket competition. We were flabbergasted that nobody saw fit to offer up a single blunder for consideration. Of course, we eventually figured out what the problem was, and now we've gotten a bunch, but the mailbox is definitely still open. Note that we're going to take the suggestion of several readers, and switch the title from "Worst Blunders" to "Greatest Blunders." As reader T.P. in Cleveland observed: "Think positive! Some of these blunders will be tremendous! Stupendous! Awesome!" Fair enough. Some of them might even be bigly. (Z)

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
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