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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

It would seem that it was an unusually diverse week in terms of the stuff we wrote about.

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Race

J.C. in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, writes: What with his lack of promised action on immigration, which he totally promised and can do something about, and the messages being put out that he plans to compromise on hard-won gains rather than holding strong on the debt ceiling, and how slowly he's doing everything, I'm beginning to think Joe Biden is totally a Democrat... from the 1980s, though he is currently doing a mighty impression of Microceratops gobiensi—a weak DINO.

I mean, sure, he's better than a guy who would tear apart democracy. But that's a pretty low bar.

M.C. in Santa Clara, CA, writes: You GOTTA see this AI Biden.

(V) & (Z) respond: Note to readers who follow the link, it's NOT safe for work.

D.R. in Omaha, NE, writes: You wrote: "Trump was supposed to hold a rally in the Hawkeye State this weekend, but canceled because of tornado warnings."

Not to be picky (but I am being picky, living in Tornado Alley for the past 40-some years). There was a Tornado watch in the path of Trump's rally last weekend, not a warning, and there is quite the distinction.

A Tornado Watch means that conditions are appropriate for the formation of tornadoes within the affected area. These are quite frequent, actually, and can and do often occur when it is clear without a cloud in the sky at the time of the alert.

A Tornado Warning is when there is sufficient evidence to indicate that there is a funnel cloud (which does not touch ground) or an actual tornado (which does touch the ground) in the area, either by a sighting or by radar indication.

My guess is that Trump needed an excuse to cancel, and he got it.

We now return you to our regular program, already in progress.

Politics: Ron Is Weaselly

G.H. in Melbourne Village, FL, writes: Being a New College alum from 50 years ago, and seeing the Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) takeover of our beautiful small public college, I've also taken an interest in his Disney takeover. Most news accounts concentrate on ideology. True, the predominantly young Disney employees did demand that the corporation make at least pro forma objections to the "Don't Say Gay" bill, and Disney grudgingly did so in the spring of 2022 More seriously (and usually missing from news and your accounts), the employees also demanded that Disney stop making political donations in Florida.

Disney was the largest donor to Florida politicians. Disney's political donations in Florida were around $3 million a year, slightly more than the total official pay of the Florida legislature. Florida laws do not limit how much a corporation can donate to the governor or individual legislators. Campaign funds can be spent on things like cars, mortgages, clothes, and meals. Many of the more powerful state legislators were getting more from Disney than the $18K they get from the state.

How would you feel if the largest portion of your income disappeared? Of course, you also get money from many other corporations, but you really don't want them to get the idea they can, with impunity, cut you off! If Disney doesn't pay, just seize the money! Don't worry about whether it's a legal taking, just shout "woke"! Won by 20 points in the last election, plays well with the votes, winner takes all.

Previously DeSantis had worked as a lawyer at Guantanamo Bay, so he is familiar with the legal rights of those labeled terrorists. Why should the woke have more rights? (Perhaps because Disney has better lawyers? Or because the Republican brand is to attract investment, not drive it away?)

The Democratic win in the mayoral race in Jacksonville, may indicate that voters are starting to see through DeFascist grifters.

J.P. in Marsh Lake, YT, Canada, writes: Ron DeSantis is reaping what he sowed for the state of Florida. Not a huge surprise that Disney decided to cancel the billion-dollar new facility, as a result of DeSantis and the Florida state legislature's extremist MAGA views toward trans people, immigrants, young voters, women, and anyone who's basically not like them. Diz taking their new facility and 2,000 jobs and billions in tax revenue with them is certainly a case of schadenfreude for DeSantis and Florida.

But DeSantis' moves are not only going to affect Florida. Diz is a really savvy company—they're not just looking at now; they're looking ahead 10 or 20 or 40 years. They're not going to invest a billion or more for another park in another state that may start passing all the draconian anti-trans, anti-choice, anti-voter, anti-education, anti-environment laws (Is there a theme running through that list?) that Florida's passing. That would just repeat what's happening in Florida for their states.

Diz may not have started out very progressive, back in the 1920s and 30s, although there's debate about whether that's true. But the fact is they're a pretty progressive employer now. They may well start looking for places to call home that support their core values. So that may rule out a state like North Carolina, which was kind of purple, but is starting to trend red like Florida. They certainly aren't going to call a place like Texas home. Even Arizona is too close to voting for someone like Kari Lake for governor. Same with Georgia, because of MTG. I can't see Diz feeling comfortable spending tons of money there, only to see those states adopt Florida-esque laws in the coming years. But Diz also wants warm climates so they can stay open year-round. Hmmm... New Mexico? Virginia? Oregon Coast? Hawaii?

And the SchadenFlorida doesn't stop with Diz. Workers are deserting the state in droves because they could be charged with a felony just for driving an undocumented immigrant to work or visiting their home? Really? Hard to believe that Florida didn't see this coming and now have no one left to harvest their crops or fill thousands of essential jobs, because of their hatred toward and desire to punish or own, well, everyone who's not like them.

The people of Florida have no one to blame but themselves for swallowing what DeSantis was shoveling and re-electing him in a landslide. And he's so far-right and anti-everything and -everybody that, even if he survived Trump in the primaries, which is looking increasingly less likely, he would have no chance to win most, if any, swing states in the general. Florida is, sadly, reaping the whirlwind. Other states may follow, and sooner rather than later.

S.O. in Springfield, MO, writes: In the death penalty subsection of "Governance, DeSantis Style," you mention Ron DeSantis expanding the death penalty for child molestation. However, that's only half of the story. The ongoing attempt to define drag as a sexual harm against children, and anything non-gender conforming as drag are obvious attempts to make being queer a an acceptable class of people to target with state violence.

J.L. in Albany, NY, writes: Regarding Ron DeSantis' expansion of the death penalty in Florida, my first thought upon seeing that was "How long until he has a bill passed defining all gender affirming care for minors as 'sexual battery against children'?" It would pair nicely (for a very horrific definition of "nicely") with his bill to seize the children of trans parents or of parents who respected their trans kids and sought gender affirming care.

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: I don't know what goes on onboard Los Angeles public transportation or what (Z) experiences there, since there was only a brief reference in the bit on Ron DeSantis' tweet, but I do know what it is like to be trapped in a New York City subway car by a criminal or a dangerous lunatic. In the Bad Old Days, riders feared robbery. Now, it's become crazy people, some of whom are harmless, but some of whom scream at, menace, assault, and terrorize passengers, who cannot leave the car because the end doors are locked and the train is between stations. It is worse than the '70s and '80s, because there is no way to stop a lunatic bent on harming you (when I was mugged in 1979, I wasn't injured because I turned over my cash and watch; you give up your property, and the criminal goes away happy). Nowadays, every week there are stories about the insane attacking passengers, throwing them to the tracks, stabbing them. Here's one from this week updating a story to report that the stabbing victim had just died.

I will tell you right now that if there is a single subway rider on Daniel Penny's jury, he will not be convicted. Indeed, I think there is a good chance that a Manhattan grand jury will not even indict Penny, notwithstanding the Ham Sandwich Rule.

I was on college vacation in December 1984 when Bernhard Goetz shot at four men, wounding one severely. That was no doubt these men were going to mug him. The first grand jury did not indict. The DA tried again with a second grand jury and got an indictment for attempted murder, first-degree assault and unlicensed gun crimes. The trial jury acquitted Goetz of everything but one of the gun charges, and he was a much less appealing character than Penny. Neely was screaming that he didn't care if he died. He was terrorizing the passengers. Penny stopped him before he assaulted someone—which Neely had done in the past to a 67-year-old woman leaving a subway station last year. It doesn't matter that Penny would not have known that; a New Yorker knows the difference between a violent lunatic and a harmless one.

One more thing: Neely's relatives are holding press conferences bemoaning the terrible loss of Neely's life. Where were they when Neely was alive? Why didn't they take in this poor, troubled soul, feeding and sheltering him? Could it maybe be that they were terrified of him and the violence he could wreak on them in their homes? One might go so far as to speculate that they are crying crocodile tears in anticipation of a wrongful death suit against the MTA.

Politics: Pronoun-cements

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA , writes: You wrote: "Is there any argument whatsoever that honoring a request to use 'she' or 'they' instead of 'he,' for example, has ANY negative impact?"

In the real world of evidence-based medicine, no (in fact, the opposite). But in the world in which the anti-trans activists want to live, gender dysphoria is a disease of the mind, and the notion that one's gender is anything other than what is apparent based on what's between one's legs is just a delusion. Using pronouns consistent with the delusion helps perpetuate it, which is considered harmful by those who subscribe to this viewpoint.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have an overwhelming urge to take a shower.

P.F. in Fairbanks, AK, writes: You wrote: "If a teacher doesn't want to honor that request, they can decline without the government's help, just as they can decline to call Timothy 'Tim' or to call Jennifer 'Jenny.'"

I respectfully disagree. The merits of the issue aside, I work in a District that has initiated EEO investigations and issued discipline to educators who have refused to use a student's preferred pronoun, and the same is true of administrators doing the same toward educators or students. Alaska is working hard to implement policies that require disclosure to parents when students express a preferred pronoun, but my most recent training (granted, several years ago) is that the privacy of the student and the validity of their preference cannot be violated. In cases where parents have asked about their student's preferences, we walk a very fine line to respect our obligations to parents and students—to the point where I don't always share work samples at Parent Teacher Conferences and I use the general "we" when contacting parents for some students (we are missing a lot of work, but our test is Friday so we should consider working on that). I have experienced only one case (that I know of) where a student requested that I revert to their given name on the insistence of their parents, but had they not made the request, I am of the understanding that I honor the student's preference to the extent possible.

So, in my District, the Florida Pronoun Bill would have a measurable effect on staff and students.

J.C. in Shawnee, OK, writes: As a retired English teacher, I laughed at the suggestion Florida lawmakers believe they might be able to force anyone to match pronouns with birth certificates or anything else. Formal English requires pronouns to agree with antecedents in number, gender and form of address, but the modern trend seems to be the wrong pronoun where none is necessary. "Anyone" and "everyone" are still singular, and "they" should know that.

Politics: Donald Trump's Legal Woes

T.M.M. in Odessa, MO, writes: Two things.

First, I am not sure that stolen voting machines would be within special counsel Jack Smith's purview. My expertise is not federal criminal law, but generally theft of local government property is a state offense. So I would need to know what federal statute would apply.

Second, unfortunately, how long it takes to get to trial will depend, in part, on which district/division the case is filed in. Some districts are famous/infamous for pushing for quick trials (e.g., the Eastern District of Virginia). Others tend to let cases linger for a long period to allow the parties (usually the defense) all the time that they want to prepare.

Assuming that the case ends up the federal court in D.C., I took a look at their current court calendar and am seeing jury trials in cases from 2019 and jury trials from cases in 2021. I think any judge assigned to U.S. v. Trump, et al. would appreciate the need to expedite that trial, but it would come down to the willingness of the judge to reject the likely delaying tactics from Trump's "lawyers."

G.W. in Oxnard, CA, writes: In your item "Trump Legal Blotter, Part I: His Documents Problem Just Keeps Getting Worse," you suggest that Trump shot himself in the foot legally with his words on the CNN town hall, but I'm not so sure. I'm no lawyer, but it seems to me that Trump's words in a political context like a town hall or a rally would not be admissible. It seems to me that the Access Hollywood recording was admissible because it was in a candid context and could be inferred to reflect Trump's actual attitude about sexual assault. During the town hall and rallies Trump bloviates, spouts nonsense, exaggerates, and tells baldfaced lies. His gimmick is to test several lines on a topic and then goes with the one that gets the biggest audience reaction. In a political context, Trump is interested only in applause and cheers, so even though his fans say that he speaks his mind, one cannot infer what he did or did not do with classified documents, or anything else for that matter, based on what he said.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: Just to make the Trump Illegal Brew even thicker, now-departed Trump lawyer Timothy Parlatore was also the lawyer for Bernie Kerik and Eddie Gallagher, the Navy Seal who was charged with war crimes and was a really awful person that the GOP made into a cause célèbre, à la Kyle Rittenhouse and Daniel Penny. Gallagher took on Parlatore as his lawyer on Kerik's recomendation. Both men received Trump pardons, which Parlatore claimed he was instrumental in facilitating. Of course, Bernie Kerik is a longtime close associate of Rudy Giuliani, who was sued by Noelle Dunphy this week. In her complaint, she accused Giuliani of a scheme to sell Trump pardons for $2 million a pop. A day or two later, Parlatore announces he's quitting. Maybe, just maybe, Parlatore's change of clients had less to do with infighting among Trump's attorneys and more to do with the fact that the pot of potentially boiling water Parlatore is swimming in just got quickly noticeably hotter. Someone should look into that. Oh wait, someone probably is!

K.H. in Boulder, CO, writes: You wrote, in regards to the New York civil fraud case against Donald Trump: "...though many Americans will be disappointed that this will not lead to jail time." True, but I think it bears mentioning that many Americans will be very glad if it results in the entire Trump organization being barred from doing business in New York State for some period of time. I don't know, I'm guessing 10 or 20 years. That outcome is very, very likely if he loses. That would have cascading effects throughout his—I hate to use the word, but I don't have a better one—"business empire." And for at least one American, that result will be as infuriating as anything that has ever happened to him. Some real comeuppance, I wager. My 2 cents. (Hardly worth a nickel.)

Politics: The Debt Ceiling

D.A.Y. in Troy, MI, writes: With all the talk of spending and the debt ceiling, it got me thinking.

The Republicans want to cripple the administrative state to save money. On paper, their cuts would save almost five trillion dollars over a decade (though, they also want to make Trump's tax cuts permanent which would eat up about three-quarters of that savings). However, those numbers are in a vacuum, and the results will probably cost us more.

A lot of America's spending comes in the form of emergencies. A hurricane hits, a wild fire spreads out of control, flooding, earthquakes, etc. We could spend money to harden our infrastructure to mitigate the damage they cause or spend even more when they inevitably strike, along with the human toll from the lack of preparation. The Republican plan would demand the latter.

Joe Biden should really just smack Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and his bill down publicly and tell him to just raise the debt ceiling. The crisis is already costing the U.S. diplomatically (the now-canceled meeting in Papua New Guinea was with leaders throughout the Pacific to curb China's expansion of its sphere of influence). The Freedom Caucus is demanding it is their bill or nothing. Biden should not humor these people and their unrealistic outlook on government spending.

N.G. in San Jose, CA, writes: I was reading your answer to C.B. in Ashburn about work requirements that Republicans are insisting on and it's even worse than "Oh, and the need to 'report in' and prove that benchmarks are being met adds a whole extra layer of bookkeeping and red tape; this sucks up time and resources from both the workers and the government." There is a whole industry that has sprung up to address this need to track the welfare recipients. "A system that has meanwhile funneled hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to private contractors," according to the Marketplace podcast, The Uncertain Hour, which this season is investigating the welfare-to-work industrial complex. This is worth listening to.

I hope the Democrats won't cave to the Republicans' demands to expand these programs to Medicaid recipients.

T.M. in Boulder, CO, writes: In your item on the debt-ceiling discussions, you wrote: "If McCarthy is not willing to yield on any point, then this isn't a negotiation, it's a hostage situation."

I would argue that the fact that budget negotiations are entwined at all with the debt ceiling limit makes this a hostage situation. In a normal, good-faith negotiation, I come to the table with my wishlist, you come to the table with your wishlist, we move forward where our priorities overlap and haggle where they don't. In this situation, Kevin McCarthy and the Republicans are threatening to force a default on the debt (with likely catastrophic economic results), which is not on anyone's wish list. This is the key difference. It exactly parallels a hostage situation (e.g., the movie Air Force One, also mentioned in that day's edition of, wherein the terrorists manufacture a crisis situation that nobody wants, then tries to blame their adversaries if it ends in tragedy (e.g. "Don't make me do this! If I kill this hostage it will be your fault for not giving into my demands...")

Politics: Not So Feinstein

L.B. in Savannah, GA, writes: I can see several obstacles to a conservatorship for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the main being that she's not merely an individual who needs care decisions made on her behalf, but the elected representative of millions of Californians in the United States Senate. Any California resident could file an objection to a conservatorship, arguing that they elected Feinstein to represent them, and not her court-appointed conservator. The conservator would be deciding if Feinstein should resign, a decision affecting not just her, but her constituents.

Another problem is whether Feinstein is cognitively capable of making the decision to resign on her own, and whether that decision could be challenged. Either way, we're in uncharted territory.

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: Many years ago, when I was a brand new baby lawyer (that's what new lawyers were called, at least in Kentucky, back then), my first gig was as appointed counsel for disability petitions. In Kentucky back then (and probably still), when a person has a disability petition filed against them, they are appointed a free lawyer and they are given a jury trial in district court (with six jurors).

There will be testimony from a psychiatrist, a psychologist, and a social worker (all paid by the county). The putatively disabled respondent is sometimes called to testify by their counsel, then the jury retires to deliberate.

The verdict form has three possibilities: We the jury find the respondent (1) disabled, (2) partially disabled, or (3) not disabled. Almost all verdicts come in as disabled, but some are partial.

If the jury finds the respondent to be partially disabled, the judge has to decide which functions to take away and which to leave with them.

They always take the right to make financial decisions, and the right to make medical decisions. They almost always take the right to decide living arrangements. They have to leave the respondent with at least one right—so they leave them with the right to vote.

C.G. in Santa Cruz, CA, writes: I have just written Senator Feinstein to urge her to resign her position based on her health. I think all of our California-registered readers should do the same.

Politics: Graduation Speakers

S.M. in Morganton, GA, writes: Thank you V & Z for your continued notice and coverage of the fascist takeover of my alma mater, New College of Florida.

For you and your readers' enjoyment, here is Neil Gaiman in a video message to the graduates of New College 2023 delivered at the student organized alt-commencement.

T.L. in West Orange, NJ, writes: When I got my master's degree from Caltech, the scheduled speaker was then-President George H.W. Bush.

President Bush had all but bragged about how terrible he was in STEM courses as a student, which was enough that quite a few of us questioned the choice.

Additionally, he had also said that he didn't think atheists should be considered citizens or patriots. As an atheist, that was enough for me; there was absolutely no chance I was going to be attending, and I did not.

Politics: The Big Picture

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: After I read the letter from M.B. in Singapore about the current primary system being a root cause for today's dysfunction in our political system, I had to agree. But I would also add another cause, namely the gerrymandering going on across the country.

There are so many gerrymandered districts at the state and congressional level. More than ever before. The Republicans do this more blatantly than the Democrats, but both parties are guilty of the current deep divisions we see today. With so many state legislative seats and congressional seats in the safe column for each party, no wonder we can't get any agreement on hot button issues like the economy, education, immigration, abortion, gun control, and others. Each side has dug into their trenches and, like World War I, it's just a long slog and a stalemate. That's what frustrates folks like me who consider themselves as truly independent and don't identify with a particular party. The can is kicked down the road some more for future generation to solve.

My solution the gerrymandering issue is a national law, or Constitutional amendment, banning it. Every state would need to draw their districts as equally as possible to reflect the population of the voting public. Some states already do this, but not enough. With more districts in play, and M.B.'s suggestion of getting rid of partisan primaries, elected officials will need to come to the middle and listen more to all voices and not just their echo chambers on either side of the aisle.

Yes, there would still be some ruby-red and sapphire-blue districts remaining. But this, along with eradicating primaries, will once again restore our faith in democracy by electing people of good will and good conscience to serve our needs in addressing the pressing issues we face today so we don't further burden our kids and grandkids. Lord knows they will have a lot to deal with as it is now.

S.L. in Monrovia, CA, writes: You wrote: "We just cannot imagine why anyone would want to be president."

For the same reason one would tirelessly write about US politics: One might be retaining the hope that an educated electorate would eventually support good governance. Or, delusional optimism.

(V) & (Z) respond: Fair point.

L.B. in Ashburn, VA, writes: When I was a child, at least half the people on my street subscribed to the newspaper. Indeed, getting a paper route as a teenager was a well known way of having some nice extra income if willing to get up early. Google suggests peak newspaper subscriptions were about 62 million in 1993, and with 96 million households that year, the math tells us about 65% of households were contributing to the news budgets.

Today the newspaper is pretty much gone; 2022 circulation of print copies is about 3-4 million. Digital subscriptions for the top 40 news sources total around 34 million. However, there are now 131 million households, so even if we combine both digital and print, only 29% of households are contributing to news budgets now.

Now, think about the products liberals buy. While they may gravitate to some brands for their image, they generally demand quality products at a fair price. I spot-checked a bunch of companies from a liberals' love list, and profit margins are 5-15% on average. They have to watch their advertising budgets.

I found a list of largest advertisers on Fox News. The top advertiser is "Balance of Nature," selling questionable fruit and vegetable supplements for $85 a bottle. I'll spare readers the rest, but it appears that these are mostly high-profit products aimed at less discerning consumers. Anyone want to buy a Trump NFT? Isn't that 100% profit? These companies are more than happy to increase ad spending if it increases sales.

And so, with the dollars shifting from a wide cross-section of American households 30 years ago to a relatively small number of high profit companies, news outlets are having to shift their model. Care to guess why CNN is having on Trump for a town hall? I suspect they are chasing advertising dollars trying to stay afloat. They want those "Balance of Nature" ads, but they have to deliver enough rubes who will buy in order to make the sale.

It's a simple case of "follow the money." And if my hypothesis is right, the problem will only continue to get worse. If the Liberal Left wants more reporting of Liberal Left ideas and cause, they need to open up their pocket books and buy some digital subscriptions to the news. That reminds me, this web site takes donations, and I haven't donated yet. Have you?

(V) & (Z) respond: This seems as good a time as any to announce our new corporate partners: Balance of Nature, MyPillow, Home Title Lock, LIV Golf and Tim Horton's. Welcome to the team!

Politics: It Was (Almost) 20 Years Ago Today...

M.B. in Cleveland, OH, writes: In reflecting on the 20 years that E-V has been running, you described how Republicans have gone off the deep end, and then also claimed "The Democrats haven't changed so much. Their goals aren't so different now from what they were 20 years ago." I think that this statement reflects confirmation bias and an internal perspective more than anything. In the last 20 years, American society has shifted dramatically leftward in ways that led directly to today's culture wars.

20 years ago, "don't ask, don't tell" was how the government (starting under Bill Clinton) treated gays in the military. Marriage equality was a pipe dream (and even Barack Obama didn't come around publicly until 10 years ago).

20 years ago, there was exactly one student at the high school where I teach who identified as lesbian, and she was the subject of a lot of whispers. There were several gay and lesbian teachers, but they were all closeted. Now there are nearly a dozen teachers who bring their non-hetero spouses and partners to social events. And the students ... I couldn't begin to count how many LGBTQ+ students there are, out and proud.

20 years ago, no one told you their pronouns. Now, if you are in a group of educators, you are in the minority if you don't have them on your name tag.

20 years ago, all U.S. Presidents had been white men.

A little more than 20 years ago, the Clinton administration passed welfare reform and the crime bill, neither of which would get any Democratic votes today.

I'm certainly not suggesting that any of these are bad trends. But they are certainly radical changes, especially from the perspective of people who don't live in cities and therefore don't see the marginal changes that eventually build up to significant societal shifts.

I would say that from the perspective of much of America, including some of my family members, the country hasn't just shifted to the left, it has taken massive jumps, almost completely fueled by the Democrats.

D.M. in Burnsville, MN, writes: You wrote: "Another big difference is that certified lunatics, like Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) were kept locked up and ordered to sit down and shut up. They were not allowed to run the Party."

I offer, for your consideration, the likes of Michele Bachmann (R-MN) or Sarah Palin (R-AK). (Yes, I do realize that they were newsy only a decade-plus ago, not two, but still...).

E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, writes: I'm sure you're going to get some (or a lot of?) pushback on the idea that former President George W. Bush was not a racist, and I would like to add to that in a way that I think underscores an important point about racism. Bush seems to be quite the avuncular genteel fellow and appears to be truly and deeply religious, so I doubt he has much in the way of personal racist feelings. However, his racism is more of the sinister systemic variety in that he actively perpetuates a highly unequal and unjust system that ends up leading to very disparate opportunities and outcomes for people of different races.

All of this was put vividly on display in Bush's response to Hurricane Katrina, but you don't have to take my word for it. No less than Kanye West already weighed in on this topic in a now (in)famous clip.

My favorite part about this clip is the deer-in-the-headlights look on Mike Myers' face as Kanye spouts off. Finally, although you can see hints at Kanye's future in the clip, wow, what an evolution to go from "George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People" to "White Lives Matter!"

Politics: Funny Republicans

T.G. in Lee's Summit, MO, writes: If D.E. in Lancaster would like a nice throwback to a (sort of) better time, I would recommend the 2008 Al Smith Dinner. After a long, ugly, and exhausting campaign season full of racial tropes and disinformation, John McCain rose up and became once again the maverick that everyone remembers.

Barack Obama is always well-spoken and funny, and his later appearances at the White House Correspondents' Dinner got better every year. I still think McCain carried the night.

There's your funny Republican!

G.W. in Oxnard, CA, writes: I'm surprised that as politically astute you two are that you don't see the political implications of the SNL skits you listed:

  • Leonard Pinth-Garnell was loosely based on Alistair Cooke in PBS Masterpiece Theater. It seems to me that there is little doubt that SNL making fun of PBS and NPR in their skits has been helpful to Republican succeeding to cut funding for PBS and NPR.

  • John Belushi's Samurai was a white man making fun of Japanese stereotypes. Times have changed, and something that racially objectionable would not fly today. Politics has something to do with that.

  • Gumby was a black man who dressed in a silly costume and told offensive racial jokes in a thick Jewish accent. Same comment as the Samurai.

  • As an American of German descent, I see Hans and Franz was a satire on the racist attitudes the rest of you have about my people being arrogant and obsessive. Just kidding, it was based on Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was not a politician at the time.

  • Matt Foley lived in a van by the river and was a commentary on the homelessness crisis.

  • Debbie Downer was that liberal friend or relative who had to ruin every fun gathering with the environment, social justice, etc.

  • "The Californians" was about how the west coast liberal elites are out of touch with reality.

This is exhausting, and I could come up with political angles on the other skits, but it's too much work. My point is that not everything is political, and humor has been a refuge form politics, but that is less so than it used to be. I think that people like Stewart, Colbert, Kimmel, and Bee make fun of both sides whereas the comedians on the right are only making insults to the left. To a right-wing humor fan, if it is insulting to the left, it's funny. That is why I think D.E. in Lancaster believes comedy on the right isn't funny.

(V) & (Z) respond: Of course we recognize the political subtext of these sketches, but the key is that it's subtext. It's much harder to produce quality comedy in volume when it must have the overt message that Democrats/libs/leftists stink.

J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: On the subject of conservative comedy: As a historian of late 20th century film and media I would argue that a lot of the most beloved comedies of the 1980s (think John Hughes and Harold Ramis) are at their core fundamentally conservative. Scholars and critics have published a fair bit on the Reaganism at the core of films like Ghostbusters and The Breakfast Club.

While I'm firmly left of center and love Rodney Dangerfield, it's hard to view the popularity of his schtick as the put-upon husband who can't get any respect as anything but a reaction to modest social gains made by women and others during the 1970s. Dangerfield was a nobody and was mostly out of comedy for a couple of decades until the social situation changed to make his schtick effective and to make him one of the most popular people in America. A film like Back to School (1986), which I personally find hilarious despite my political misgivings, is completely within the paradigm of Reaganism. At the risk of starting to paste in lines from my dissertation, I'll stop there and let readers go back and revisit the films themselves! Rightly or wrongly, Reagan-era comedy configured bureaucrats, cultural elitists, and old-money types as villains to punch-up at and did so effectively.

Conservativism isn't fundamentally unfunny, the problem is that conservatism lacks talented comedy stylists for, say, the last 30 some-odd years. Shooting from the hip, I'd actually say that the decline in conservative comedy may be coincident with its embrace of the culture wars that began with Reaganism but really hit its full-flowering with the Gingrich years. Reagan at least had a sense of humor, even if you didn't agree with him.

Talking about Abortion, Part VI: Reader Comments, Part II

D.L.-O. in North Canaan, CT, writes: Having read all of the contributions from the anti-abortion participants as well as the remarks by readers, I have to say that I'm appalled by the ignorance and callousness expressed, mostly on the anti-abortion side, but also subtly by some of the other comments. What fails to come through in all of this is any concern for the pregnant women, many of them in their teens or twenties, who are faced with a difficult decision that will impact the rest of their lives.

I'm not going to argue when a fetus actually becomes a baby—it's irrelevant. The relevant point is that it seems that the anti-abortion folks have not done any thinking about the realities of an unwanted pregnancy. To them, a fetus is a baby, PERIOD, and the woman who has ended up with an unwanted pregnancy invading her body doesn't figure into the equation at all. One commentator states that if a women consents to having sex, then she has given up her right to bodily autonomy. This is absurd. Women are exercising their bodily autonomy each time they decide whether (or not!) to have sex, as well as each time they decide whether (or not!) to have any of any number of common medical procedures. And, by the way, that commentator did not seem to even consider the fact that the man involved is also exercising or, in their point of view, giving up his own bodily autonomy. However, this apparently produces no reason on his part to face up to any unforeseen consequences. So again the male involved incurs no obligations or censure. And although the fetal heartbeat is key to people of the anti-abortion persuasion, apparently the woman's heart, alive and beating for many years, and her general health and welfare is not worthy of consideration. You can't bargain this issue away. It doesn't matter if the ban is 6 weeks or 12 weeks. The fact is that abortion bans are egregious government overreach, legislating against a woman's right to make medical decisions about her own body and the fetus that is, willy-nilly, embedded in her womb.

Besides bodily autonomy, the other side of the anti-abortion coin is blame. It is the woman's fault for "giving up her bodily autonomy" by having sex, even if she has done everything right to avoid unwanted pregnancy by using birth control. Consider the failure rates of birth control methods, which range from less than 1% (IUDs and implants, which have some severe potential side effects), to 9% (oral contraceptives and patches), up to about 20% for condoms, sponges and... wait for it!... withdrawal. And then there's what they now call "fertility awareness," and we used to call the rhythm method, which has a failure rate of 25%. And there's also the statistic that 10%-20% of pregnancies result in a miscarriage, and around 750-850 American women die each year from complications of pregnancy.

No, the only thing worth considering is that the woman is "guilty" of having sex that produces a fertilized egg, and therefore must pay with her body. Having a baby is not easy and is fraught with possibilities for disaster both for the mother and the fetus. This is especially severe if the mother has pre-existing health issues that make it even more perilous and may make it impossible for her to carry the baby to term, or other factors that may cause a fetus to fail to develop properly in the womb so that it can survive birth. Not to mention no financial or emotional support, including an absent or unwilling father, or unsupportive parents. Disregarding any of these circumstances, the anti-abortion faction is all too ready to force women to have babies but for the most part unwilling to offer any but the most fleeting medical, financial, educational, vocational or any other type of support.

Limiting women's access to health care, including abortion, when they become pregnant is tragic and just wrong, wrong, and wrong again.

J.A. in Austin, TX, writes: Saying that consenting to having sex is consenting to becoming pregnant is the same mistake rapists make when they mistake consenting to a kiss as consent to having sex. Consent for one is not the same as consent for the other. Each requires its own specific and enthusiastic affirmative consent.

A.J. in Baltimore, MD, writes: At least two of the three anti-choice commenters on Thursday endorsed the view that, when a woman has intercourse, she is consenting to motherhood. This just reinforced my belief that a powerful motivator for the anti-choice movement is the Puritanical view that women need to learn having consensual sex is a dirty, immoral thing that comes with serious consequences. Members of the movement would never admit this to themselves, though, because "pro-life" sounds better than "anti-sex."

P.D. in Charlottesville, VA, writes: I was disappointed that several of your anti-abortion readers/respondents insisted that acknowledging that abortion ends a human life is the only "intellectually honest" position. That struck me as arrogant and, ironically, itself intellectually dishonest. The question of when an embryo becomes a human life is foundational to the debate over abortion and there is a great deal of uncertainty over the answer. Moreover, the answer also depends on whether one approaches it scientifically, philosophically, or spiritually, as well as from which discipline, school, or religion, respectively.

I respect different belief systems. But anyone who pretends that the only intellectually honest position is that abortion ends a human life (especially without regard to timing and other considerations) evinces a great deal of arrogance and ignorance.

B.C. in Manhattan Beach, CA, writes: Again, I want to express my appreciation to C.H., M.E., and K.K. for their willingness to express the perspective of those opposed to abortion on various questions about the issue. I feel I must respond, however, to the statement by K.K. that "the vast majority of Christians are pro-life." That statement is true only if you define "Christian" as white evangelical Protestant (among whom 74% believe that abortion should be illegal in all or most cases).

According to survey data from the Pew Research Center, all other Christian groups are more likely to say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Even a majority of American Catholics believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, despite the official position of the Church.

B.C. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: Decades ago, I sat down to discuss the Bible with a group of teenagers who had a strong evangelical bent; what we used to call "The God Squad." I was impressed by their knowledge of scripture, and they were impressed, and troubled, by my knowledge. For many of the interpretations of Biblical verse they presented, I had an alternate understanding of it based on an agreed upon reading of another passage. One young man was especially troubled.

"You sure do know a lot about something you say you don't believe in!" he exclaimed.

"Well, yes, I do," I replied, amused, "What sort of idiot disputes something he knows nothing about?"

Not too long ago, a fellow reader responded to one of my comments by creating a wildly contorted view of the human breath of life. I immediately sent a response which (V) and (Z) wisely did not publish; it would have simply instantiated a royal pissing match the likes of a Twitter thread. Just this week, another reader addressed the point I was trying to make in a manner much less combative and much more effective.

I read because it presents different points of view which challenge my own beliefs. That ain't bothsides-ism, that's constructive debate.

M.H. in Boston, MA, writes: I will try not to say this too harshly because I can see it's a touchy subject for you. But you need to rethink your claim that running anti-trans and anti-abortion views is anything other than bothsides-ism because you are educators and something something. If you are giving space to views that do not have intellectual merit—well, that is the definition of bothsides-ism. Would you publish arguments from assault weapons enthusiasts as an "instructive" exercise? How about white nationalists? (Yes, this was the toned-down gentle version of this comment.)

(V) & (Z) respond: The basic mission of the site is to advance readers' understanding of politics. American presidential politics in particular, but really all politics: federal, state, and local; domestic and foreign; current and past. Trans issues, abortion, and the Second Amendment are among the most significant and divisive issues in modern politics. It does not matter whether we think one side of the argument or the other has intellectual merit, what matters is whether a particular perspective has a significant impact on politics and on public policy. It is clear that the pro-choice view has such an impact, but so too does the anti-abortion view. This is also true with the pro-trans and anti-trans viewpoints, and the pro-2A and anti-2A viewpoints. What follows from this is that you are wrong in supposing we would not publish arguments from pro-gun readers; not only would we do so, we've done some preliminary groundwork in that direction. The white nationalist example is a false equivalency.

All Politics Is Local: The South

S.L. in Glendora, CA, writes: I loved the story of the teacher in Mississippi who turned a teachable moment into such a meaningful civics lesson. This is something her students will always remember. So much more effective than just reading about the process in a textbook. But it made me cry as I realized that students in the state of Texas will never get a lesson like this since the state legislature there has forbidden teachers from giving their students any credit for an activity that involves lobbying for legislation at any level.

M.K. in Sacramento, CA, writes: Ok, I had to dig into your juicy piece around the vote in Mississippi on blueberries as the state fruit. The one "sour" "nay" vote was from state Rep. Chris Bell (D) of Jackson, who said he just did not like blueberries. Got to admire a politician who sticks to his core beliefs!

B.T. in Bogalusa, LA, writes: You recently mentioned Jaylen Smith, the 18-year-old mayor of Earle, AR. I had the pleasure of meeting him today with our 23-year-old-mayor of Bogalusa, LA:

Reader B.T., flanked by the two 
mayors, all of them in suits, standing in front of a sign that says 'Mayors' lunch'

I honestly believe these two men are going very far in life and I consider this photo to one day be a big deal.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: In light of the letter from M.Y. in Charlotte, here you find another fan of Rep. Jeff Jackson (D-NC)!

I want to tell y'all my best Jeff Jackson story... the time I literally broke him up. It was in September 2019, right after the public hearing on gerrymandering where I spoke. Some may remember the week before; Deb Butler and the famous "I WILL NOT YIELD, MR SPEAKER," and I referenced it in my words that day.

Anyway, at the hearing, they refused to show us street-level maps, which I needed to determine what District I was to be in (I live right near lines, and I was planning a run, and in fact DID run for State Senate in 2020). I was told that the only way I, as a citizen and presumptive candidate, could see street-level maps was to have a state senator escort me to the Mapping Room. My own Senator was not available, and so I approached Jeff, with whom I also had a working relationship. He agreed to take me to the Mapping Room.

Now, those who know the Legislative Complex here in Raleigh will know what I mean when I say we had to go across Halifax Mall to the other building. And there are metal detectors on the Visitors door, but none on the Members door.

I had commented to Jeff that it was my dream to get to walk through the Members door one day, and he actually held that door open for me, but the security guards would not have it, and I had to walk back out and go in the Visitors door, and be screened.

So, I unzipped my purse and set it on the belt without being asked, and the guard commented that I knew the routine. To which I replied, "come on... I am a gadfly around here. Y'all know me well enough by now to know the only dangerous thing about me is my mouth, and y'all can't take that from me!"

Jeff, standing to one side, waiting, overheard our exchange and damn near died laughing!

All Politics Is Local: The Northeast

T.R. in Hillsborough, NH, writes: I moved to New Hampshire after graduating college and have lived here the entirety of my adult life, having been a resident for well over 20 years. Before moving here, the only thing I knew about the state was that it held the first presidential primary every cycle. Of course, New Hampshire has a lot more to offer, but given its small area and population, it doesn't have many opportunities to grab the nation's attention. As such, its presidential primary is a deeply-entrenched part of the identity of the state and its residents.

It was lunacy for the DNC to think New Hampshire would readily give up its main claim to fame. To those who say that the state is not representative of the larger U.S. electorate, I agree, yes, you are correct. However, I will also say that it doesn't matter. You can make all sorts of reasonable, evidence-backed arguments in favor of other states going first, but it's not going to change the fact that New Hampshire will do whatever it takes to remain the first presidential primary state. This will be true in 2024, this will be true in 2028, and will remain so indefinitely. And it's not just Republicans who feel this way, New Hampshire Democrats don't want to lose this privileged position either.

The DNC inflicted a completely avoidable self-inflicted wound here, with an outcome obviously predictable to anyone who has paid even a small amount of attention to New Hampshire politics and culture. It seems likely that they will come away from this fiasco without the primary schedule they wanted, while also alienating some voters in the process.

M.B. in Windsor, CT, writes: You suggest that voters in New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania should keep raincoats and umbrellas handy for an April 2 primary. Better they should make sure their snow blowers are gassed up and that they have their boots and parkas on hand. Snow in April is not at all infrequent in Connecticut (where I have experienced it!) and I'm pretty sure that upstate New York has an even whiter record.

M.D. in the Poconos, PA, writes: Regarding the question from R.S. in Ticonderoga about the Democrats' 1-vote majority in the Pennsylvania state House: Although we have secured the Pennsylvania state House for now, 101-100, two Democratic representatives won primaries for other local positions (John Galloway, Bucks County, running for magisterial district justice; Sara Innamorato, Allegheny, running for county executive). If they win in November, they would have to resign, special elections would have to be held, and presumably, for a time, we would be outnumbered by one. Galloway won on both the Democratic and Republican ballots in the primary since these local judge races are cross-filed, so unless an independent files for the November election he becomes a judge in January and has to resign his state House seat.

Would the Republicans seek to change the rules and ram through their constitutional amendments for next year's primary ballot? You know they will if they get a majority, even a temporary one.

T.M. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: I wanted to bring to your attention another primary election result that seems to have flown under the radar in state/national media but I believe does have significance. Allegheny County is the second-largest county in Pennsylvania, home to Pittsburgh but also many suburban communities (unlike the City of Philadelphia, which is highly urban). Here, both an incumbent district attorney (Stephen Zappala) and establishment-backed county executive candidates (Michael Lamb and John Weinstein) were beaten by very progressive candidates (Matt Dugan for DA and Sara Innamorato for CE) by healthy margins. It is interesting that more progressive candidates were able to secure victory in a county which has not generally been known for highly liberal tendencies and is home to a much less urban Democratic voter base. Especially considering that the progressive candidate for Philly Mayor was beaten by a more establishment candidate. To add a twist, the county GOP waged a last minute write-in campaign to get Zappala on the general election ballot as a Republican, so he may not be done quite yet, if he can cobble together a coalition of Republican and conservative/moderate Democratic voters in November.

All Politics Is Local: Colorado

C.R. in Pelham, AL, writes: While I agree with your assertion that "The city of Colorado Springs, CO, is pretty red, consistent with the fact that it's home to the Air Force Academy," I believe you are confusing causation with correlation. As someone who served on the faculty there for 6 years, I can attest that the school is quite conservative and has had numerous run-ins with religious freedom, sparking an entire organization led by an alumnus (Mikey Weinstein's Military Religious Freedom Foundation) to serve as a watchdog over the school in particular and the entire military in general.

But the real driver of political winds in the city has been the exodus of conservative evangelicals from Orange County, California, and their religious organizations, including James Dobson's Focus on the Family and disgraced evangelist Ted Haggard's New Life Church. Some of these organizations caused the religious tolerance issues at USAFA through their efforts to evangelize cadets, who would then serve as "global missionaries" in their future assignments. For a full explication, see William Schultz's Princeton dissertation (expertly advised by Kevin Kruse) and the forthcoming book Jesus Springs from UNC Press.

G.W. in Dayton, OH, writes: Colorado Springs' political redness devolves not only from its hosting of the Air Force Academy. It is also home to many evangelical organizations. Cause IQ lists 540 of them. Colorado Springs has become a Mecca for such organizations.

(V) & (Z) respond: A Mecca? No pun intended?

International Affairs

E.C.R. in Helsinki, Finland, writes: On May 8 and on April 14, Thomas Friedman eloquently but unconsciously expressed the arrogant belief in American exceptionalism that forgets Matthew 7:3-5 (beam in thy eye). His analysis is that Vladimir Putin has no Plan B and may go nuclear, while China has squandered Western trust. But trust is two-way street and past U.S. actions, including the detachment of Panama from Columbia, 60 years of regime change sanctions on Cuba after promising not to invade, and NATO's eastward expansion across the Black Sea, do not inspire trust. China is right to worry that the U.S. will foment a color revolution in Taiwan and that NATO will ultimately expand across the Caspian Sea into central Asia and up to China's western border.

As for Russia, if Putin is a war criminal, then so is Bush II based solely on the WMD lie, Abu Ghraib torture and Guantanamo renditions. While Putin underestimated the Ukrainians and overestimated his military, Joe Biden also has no Plan B. In fact, U.S. strategy in the Ukraine conflict is being driven by Eastern European NATO members who are perfectly content to risk a nuclear exchange that will only peripherally target them since they are not nuclear states. Leaving aside nuclear escalation, that the Russian military has been corrupt, poorly trained, ill-equipped and incompetently led could also be said of the Red Army in 1939, '40 and '41, and in fact accounted for Finland's surviving as many months as it did in 1939-40. What should worry the West is the prospect that someday soon the Russians may field an army as capable as the Red Army of 1943 and '44, which was almost exclusively armed with Soviet tanks, since Sherman tanks did not even arrive in the USSR until mid 1944.

The commentators from D.C. portray as positive the assumed result at years end, a stalemated battlefield with a DMZ such that Russia's land corridor to Crimea is in artillery range of Ukrainian forces just as downtown Seoul is now in artillery range of North Korea. This view neglects the inconvenient truth that by forgoing negotiations, Biden drove Russia into the arms of China and the Russian nuclear umbrella now covers China. Since China, the primary U.S. adversary, is years from nuclear parity it was previously vulnerable to a nuclear decapitation strike, something explicitly within U.S. strategic planning parameters, Biden's posturing about non-usability of nuclear weapons aside. This served to moderate Beijing's behavior but not any more, hence the missile volleys that greeted Nancy Pelosi's visit. Biden now warns Putin about WMD while relentlessly arming Ukraine. Previous warnings failed, and Thomas Friedman is right to be worried. I worry that the hubris of the D.C. military, press and governmental complex will eventually land us in a two-front war with two or even three nuclear powers.

J.M. in Silver Spring, MD, writes: So, I think that the Russian invasion needs to be stopped and the Canadian invasion supported. In other words: We need less Putin and more poutine!

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: Good news on the Canadian invasion front. While the wily Canadians continue to plot their subversive ways, this week was a big triumph for the good ol' USA. For the 30th straight year, America has guaranteed that the Nades' beloved Stanley Cup will remain on U.S. soil!

We have to take our small victories where we can get them.

History Matters

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: I wish to protest in the strongest terms this recent takeover of the web site by Civil War buffs. In my youth (well, not exactly my youth... in fact, it was my early old age, but from my current age, it now feels more like my youth), one could depend on this site to feature clean, wholesome, family-friendly topics like abortion, Donald Trump, Congressional sausage-making, and Rasmussen polls. Now the site has been degraded to evaluating generals of the Civil War. What if my grandchildren read the site and conclude it is morally and socially acceptable to become a Civil War Buff? What next? I have to watch my grandchildren become Civil War re-enactors? Heaven forfend! (Full disclosure: I am a member of a Black Death reenactors group and prior to that, a Roman orgy reenactment group.)

While I'm here in the Complaints Department, I just want to say to O.B. in Los Angeles, who noted that Theodore Roosevelt closely resembled Wilford Brimley: Any man who lives long enough eventually looks like Wilford Brimley. Wilford Brimley is to old guys what Winston Churchill is to babies. We're born looking like Winton Churchill and we live until we look like Wilford Brimley.

(V) & (Z) respond: Wait. What kind of reenactment group?

W.S. in Austin, TX, writes: The photos you ran of Russell Crowe and U.S. Grant remind me of my favorite quote about the latter, attributed to a colonel: "He habitually wears an expression as if he had determined to drive his head through a brick wall, and was about to do it."

You can see in that photo that Grant has just, that very moment, detected a brick wall. In current parlance, we might refer to this expression as "resting brick face."

T.B. in Leon County, FL, writes: I'm grateful for the comments of B.K. in Bath and J.B. in Hutto. If "total war" caused the American Civil War to end "early," and we've suffered 150 years or so of "the war isn't really over," then maybe a few thousands or tens of thousands of war deaths with a "kid gloves" war would have ended the war "later" but prevented 158 years (so far) of repercussions.

I'm not a big fan of wars and fighting with outward weapons, and wonder how the horrors of being Black in America could have been mitigated and healed effectively. Given the number of Confederate battle flag symbols I see in "liberal" Tallahassee on a daily basis (on the days I go into the city), the horrors of slavery have barely been mitigated at all. Is race-based hate much different between today and 200 years ago?


A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: Do not get me wrong, Widmer is a class act and an excellent libation. I frequently enjoy their beverages. You can find their offerings in any grocery outlet around here or on most restaurant menus.

We have other excellent purveyors of adult beverages—Deschutes, Rogue, Ninkasi, Pelican and Boneyard to name a few—and this is not an all-inclusive list. They are on this list because I, personally, have consumed and enjoyed each and every one of them. Not their entire list of offerings, but at least one selection from each one. They usually also have specialty, or seasonal, or limited editions available from time to time. Like Widmer, they can be found in most grocery stores, and/or on many menus. Oregon also has numerous local independent "brew pubs," many of which brew their own specialty on premises and can be quite good.

However, GAWD's and my favorite is the local McMenamins watering hole. McMenamins is between a local brew pub and a major brew house. There are over 60 locations between Everett, WA, and Roseburg, OR, centered in the greater Portland metro area. Their offerings are, to the best of my knowledge, available in-house and via shipping, but not in stores. A couple of the standards, Hammerhead, Ruby, or Terminator Stout, are available in cans, many of the seasonal or specialty offerings are available in limited bottlings, most pubs can fill a growler with whatever is on tap to take home. To maintain their prowess as entrepreneurs the McMenamins also produce their own wines, ciders, and (hand crafted) spirits.

GAWD is insistent that she will not cook on Friday evenings, and my culinary skills are severely limited, so, hoppy hour is from 3pm to 6pm. Good old 'Murican comfort food, Hamburgers, sandwiches, fish & chips, house made fries, excellent clam chowder on Friday. We have never gone away hungry. A menu that will satisfy the plaid shirted logger or the sissified liberal tree hugger:

Fish and chips, a menu, and a glass of beer

"You can come and visit but don't stay," to paraphrase Oregon Governor Tom McCall, a "liberal" Republican.

G.M. in Laurence Harbor, NJ, writes: Having lived in California during a particularly hot summer, I can only imagine the aggravation of (Z) during his college graduation. I, too, missed my high school graduation, not because my legs are particularly daunting in shorts (my wife thinks my thighs are my best feature) but because they made a really stupid miscalculation school.

In freshman year, I failed algebra. Since my high school didn't have summer school I went to another high school. I took the course, passed it, and went on with the ensuing 3-year saga. A week or three before my graduation, I was called into my guidance counselor's office. He informed me that the school had made a mistake and I didn't have enough points to graduate. My high school would have awarded 1¼ points for that failed Algebra course but the school, Tenafly High School, NJ, at which I took the replacement, awarded 1½ points. The authorities determined that for the following 3 years they were incorrectly awarding me 1½ points for the replacement Algebra course and now I was ¼ point short of graduation. The irony of not being able to attend my graduation because a school official could not correctly add was additional frustration.

One slight comfort is that the algebra teacher in the class I failed was fired (even with tenure) for his frequent harassment and improper attention to women in his class. He would often tell them they weren't good looking enough to get jobs in positions that required advanced math knowledge. One particular benefit in going to that summer algebra course was often seeing a young woman, with a bodyguard, who apparently had not paid enough attention to her courses while she was lamenting "It's my Party, and I'll Cry if I Want To." Yep, Lesley Gore.

M.M. in Charlottesville, VA, writes: As an avid scholar of the Bard, and with the American Shakespeare Center just down the road from my town, I couldn't help but notice the false choice you offered your readers in the item "A Court Hearing Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing." When you said, "If you prefer Shakespeare to Faulkner, it's Much Ado About Nothing," you made it seem like the title was a reference to William Faulkner's masterpiece The Sound and the Fury. If you had consulted with the staff dramaturg, I'm sure she would have advised you that the quote, especially as articulated in the title, is already Shakespearean: it is, of course, part of Macbeth's "Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" speech. Perhaps it would have been more accurate to offer the choice between Shakespeare's comedies and his tragedies. All's well that ends well, I suppose!

P.M. in Edenton, NC, writes: Now (Z) has added Ford cars to his list of things to bash... shame, shame.

I bought a brand-new Ford Focus on August 17, 2005. It has been faithfully with me for almost 18 years, despite 3 accidents, a deer strike, and the brakes giving out while going downhill inside a tunnel. It is 6 different colors (well, was, but both the primary-painted black replacement bumper cover and fender have faded to grey), and currently stands at 391,104 miles. I still put 100+ miles on it every day. My goal is to make it to 451,246 miles, the equivalent round-trip distance from the earth to the moon, at which time I will write Ford a letter, tell them I got a base model 2005 Ford Focus to accomplish that feat, and ask them: "Where's my new car?"

We'll see which vehicle (your electric jalopy, or my tough Focus) is leaving the other car in the dust in a few years, (Z)!

(V) & (Z) respond: True story—we went to Google to see if anyone had ever referred to a BMW as a jalopy before. And prior to finding a link where a BMW was described thusly, Google gave us five links referring to Fords as jalopies.

D.K. in Glenside, PA, writes: I meant to send this a couple of weeks back, but as I'm sure you understand, it got lost in the shuffle.

Several years ago, this Doberman/German Shepherd dog lover went looking for a pooch after our Beagle passed away (someone to hike with, and play ball with for hours, etc.). Of course, I ended up with the Dachshund-mix and the Chihuahua-mix in the attached picture. Adopted on the same day and, from that moment forward, inseparable:

The dachshund mix lays
her head on top of the Chihuahua mix

I won't go into all of the details of their health ailments—too many to list—but the Chihuahua-mix (T-Bone) passed away two years ago, and the Dachshund-mix (Annie) this past January. Oh, and, resulting in the several tattoos I now have—right at my 40th birthday—definitely not a coincidence/mid-life crisis, right?

The point being, that they pick you. I was handed two malnourished, abused, tiny dogs at the shelter that I absolutely was not interested in, and yet—second only to my precious daughter—have given me probably up until now the best memories of my life.

So, kudos to you, for taking in dogs that need a forever home. Just wanted to share a "Chihuahua and Dachshund" moment with you.

(V) & (Z) respond: Thank you, and our condolences on the passing of T-Bone and Annie.

Final Words

P.S. in Gloucester, MA, writes: Apropos to "Jesus speed," Charles de Gaulle apparently wanted to be buried in Jerusalem, but was taken aback by the high price of cemetery plots there: "Zut alors! So much, for only three days?"

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
May20 Saturday Q&A
May19 DeSantis To Make It Official Next Week
May19 The Perils of a 51-Vote Majority
May19 Democrats Wrestle with Their (Self-Created) New Hampshire Problem
May19 Talking about Abortion, Part V: Physicians Weigh In
May19 This Week in Schadenfreude: Mortarboarded
May19 This Week in Freudenfreude: Now That's a Civics Lesson
May18 A Court Hearing Full of Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing
May18 Talking about Abortion, Part IV: More Questions and Answers
May18 Abortion Appears to Be Wrecking Republicans at the Polls
May18 Trump Legal Blotter, Part I: His Documents Problem Just Keeps Getting Worse
May18 Trump Legal Blotter, Part II: What About the Stolen Voting Machine?
May18 House Punts on "Santos"
May17 The Results Are In
May17 North Carolina Legislature Overrides Governor's Abortion Veto
May17 EMILY's List... Kingmaker?
May17 Progress in Debt Ceiling Talks?
May17 Feinstein Appears to Have Gone from Bad to Worse
May17 Rep. Robert Garcia Introduces Legislation to Expel Rep. "George Santos"
May17 The Greatest Political Movies Ever Made, Part II
May16 Today in Republican Sham Investigations, Part I: The Durham Probe
May16 Today in Republican Sham Investigations, Part II: The Case of the Vanishing Informant
May16 Whaddya Know? Giuliani Is a Sleazeball (Allegedly)
May16 Why Would Anyone Want to Be in Politics?, Part I: Gas Prices
May16 Why Would Anyone Want to Be in Politics?, Part II: Congressman's Staff Attacked
May16 Governance, DeSantis Style
May16 The Greatest Political Movies Ever Made, Part I
May15 DeSantis Receives, Gives Punch in the Mouth
May15 The Trump Problem Returns, Part I: Pollsters
May15 The Trump Problem Returns, Part II: Republican Politics
May15 Today's Longshot Presidential Candidate News
May15 U.S. Senator Denounced as "Profoundly Ignorant Man" over Remarks on Mexico
May15 There Are Some Elections in the U.S. This Week...
May15 ...And There Was One This Weekend in Turkey
May14 Sunday Mailbag
May13 Saturday Q&A
May12 Title 42 Gets Deep-Sixed... Or Not
May12 FBI to Comer: F*** Off
May12 CNN Town Hall: The Day After
May12 Trump and E. Jean Carroll Are Not Finished with Each Other
May12 Another Day, Another Poll (or Two)
May12 Tuberville Doubles Down
May12 This Week in Schadenfreude: Good Riddance
May12 This Week in Freudenfreude: Whitecloud Dispels Storm Clouds
May11 Lucky Number 13 for "George Santos"
May11 Trump Goes to Town on CNN
May11 Interesting Information about "Juror No. 77"
May11 GOP Launches Latest Smear Campaign against Biden
May11 Tuberville's Staff Clarifies His Comments on White Nationalists
May10 Trump's a Loser