Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Sunday Mailbag

We still have only about 10 correct responses to the weekly headline theme.

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Race

A.G. in Scranton, PA, writes: As I was attempting to watch my weekly update from Rex Hangar (some Aussie guy who gives in depth details on the lesser known aircraft of history) I was hit by two—diametrically opposed and with very different views on America—ads of a political nature.

For President Biden and his reelection bid I got a nice, Black steelworker from Pennsylvania talking about how he likes to tell his story about meeting the President and what the President will do, and has done, for the economy. It is a positive message, there was no mention of the former, Fake, lying, raping President, it was in full color, full focus, and was underscored with positive strains of music.

Switch to the Trump Ad: America in chaos. Mad Max and his enemies (brown ones) roam the streets to dystopian and discordant strains. There were low-focus scenes of mobs, rioters, looters, and that man with the deep voice that sounds like a B-movie version of the "in a world" guy (cinema cliché) telling us about how an MS 13 (that's the white-people term for a scary Latino gang that is mentioned all the time on Blue Bloods) gang member was stopped at the border but personally helped across the Rio Grande by Biden, who handed him an inflatable raft (which Biden blew up for him because Democrats don't make brown people work) and a paddle. This scary, brown, MS 13 member might have been arrested, but Biden uncuffed him and brought him to your house, showed him your daughter, and said, "Do whatever, esse. Anything you want. Give her a rape baby that she'll have to carry to full term because states' rights works to punish women for original sin." There was even the purposefully injected graininess of the film, suggesting that many of the rioters and looters were probably white folks.

Ah, campaign season is on in Swing State, USA.

S.B. in Winslow, ME, writes: You probably keep up with The Lincoln Project, but if not, they've raised the bar with this one!!! Biden's team should make sure it gets boosted on every social media platform!

A.S. in Black Mountain, NC, writes: You wrote: "Trump has always been infuriated by people who make him the butt of jokes. There is a theory, and it's not crazy, that his whole decision to run for president in the first place was prompted by the jokes that Barack Obama made at his expense during the 2015 White House Press Correspondents dinner."

YUP! I have thought this all along.

Politics: Trump on Trial

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: No matter how old or distinguished a man is, he will always be at his core a 8-12 year old boy. As such, there are certain subjects that are irresistible to preadolescent boys and draw their attention like flies to... well, I let you fill in the blank. Subjects that boys revel in but make the female population shake their heads in disgust and wonder why they have to live in such close proximity to the little heathens. Keep that in mind, as this week I was finally given a chance to gleefully say a line that has been percolating in my brain for over two decades—a case of coming up with a punch line but not the joke...until now.

It has been reported, although the sources are uncorroborated and dismissed by others, on Day 4 of the Trump Trial, that the ex-president, and hopefully soon to be felon, has been napping, he has also been breaking wind, loudly. There is no word if Judge Juan Merchan or the jury have heard Trump's flatulence outbreaks. Even so, according to these unnamed sources, the stench is so awful that Trump's lawyers are struggling to keep their composure while sitting beside him. Personally, I don't know why this should have caught his lawyers so off guard, for they must know that even in his sleep, Donald Trump would be pootin' for Putin!

I can die happy now.

J.K. in Silverdale, WA, writes: D.B. in San Diego asked about Donald Trump falling asleep during the trial and whether it could be a sign of dementia. I have spent considerable time in the presence of a narcissist, and I can tell you that this person has tremendous energy and is "the life of the party." That is, as long as he has rapt attention while he bloviates, he has tremendous energy. If anyone else has the floor for more than ten minutes, he nods off. Consequently, as this trial started I thought to myself, "I bet Trump nods off during the trial." Sure enough.

D.C. in Portland, OR, writes: I agree with your answer to D.B. in San Diego that it is a stretch to claim Donald Trump's sleepiness is evidence of dementia.

However, the alternative explanations you offered missed I think the most obvious one, which is that Trump believes sleep is a sign of weakness and so maintains a poor sleep schedule; it's part of his brand that he doesn't need much sleep.

This fits the facts of the late-night tweet rages he's known for. It's also supported by the giant pillowy bags under his eyes and that "well worn" look that he has.

So I bet what we're seeing here is par for his course; he probably nods off a lot on any given day and we're just getting a glimpse of it.

B.D. in Niceville, FL, writes: I just came across this tidbit reported in The Washington Post on Wednesday afternoon, courtesy of one of Donald Trump's lawyers, Susan Necheles:

Trump lawyer Susan Necheles told the potential jurors that they should be prepared to hear falsehoods in the testimony against Donald Trump.

"Would you use your common sense while looking at this... and understand that if two witnesses get on this witness stand and say two diametrically opposed things, someone is lying?" she asked, adding that "some of the witnesses that the people may be putting on the stand may be lying here in this court."

She said she particularly wanted jurors to agree that "if somebody tells a story a number of different ways over time and changes the details, that might be a sign that they are lying."

That last sentence struck me as beyond rich. I mean, isn't that a textbook definition of Trump himself?

R.R. in Wiesbaden, Germany, writes: I see what you did there with the Beatles songs! Great job, prompting two remarks. I would've stuck with the canonical catalog, by choosing: (1) "I'll Cry Instead" or "Cry, Baby, Cry" instead of "Crying, Waiting, Hoping," and (2) "Mean Mr. Mustard "instead of "March Of The Meanies," especially since the boys had nothing to do with the latter. The instrumental music was written by George Martin, and nary a Beatle plays on the track.

Nonetheless, a fun surprise! Thanks!

Politics: The Trump Jury

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Having one or more lawyers on a criminal jury isn't necessarily a bad thing for a defendant, particularly if the lawyer is smart (which is no sure thing!). Yes, good lawyers can cut through nonsense, less-than-credible testimony, and in general will be hard to mislead or fool. But good lawyers also understand what "presumption of innocence" and "beyond a reasonable doubt" mean.

Much to my surprise, I was selected for a state criminal jury back around 1996-97. I'm a civil litigator, but a decade earlier I had done pro bono appeals both for the DA's Office and for a criminal defendant in another county. This case was a street robbery with a white male complainant and a Black male defendant. I didn't ask the lawyers afterward, but my guess is the prosecutor thought that as a white professional, I would take a dim view of street crime and be inclined to think the defendant guilty. I think the defense counsel thought that I understood presumption of innocence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and as the identification by the complainant had some issues, that I would be inclined to acquit. Defense counsel was right. I thought the defendant probably did commit the robbery, but that it wasn't proven beyond a reasonable doubt—I wouldn't want a friend or relative to be convicted on that evidence.

For Trump's case, the business record falsification misdemeanor is likely easily provable beyond a reasonable doubt. But the felony aspect, that it was done as part of or to cover up another crime, is going to depend on the judge's instructions: Do federal crimes count? If not, what is the state crime? Suppose it was a mixed motive, both to conceal a crime but also to hide an affair from his wife? A good lawyer would parse that and the judge's instructions carefully and could lead other jurors to the lawyer's conclusion.

J.D.M. in Cottonwood Shores, TX, writes: With regard to all the commentary about the jury selection in the 2016 election interference trial, I would like to push back against the incredible power of normalization that comes from simply not having enough pixel space to mention it every day, but people: This is not normal!

As legal analyst Joyce White Vance noted, jurors' fear for their safety was a concern normally seen only "in a case involving violent organized crime."

M.D.H. in Coralville, IA, writes: You wrote: "In many places, alternate jurors aren't chosen (or aren't told of their alternate status) until AFTER the courtroom proceedings have concluded."

That is how Iowa does it. Recently I was on a jury for a trial that took one week from jury selection to verdict (we found the defendant guilty and the guy will get out in about 3 years if he behaves himself in prison).

The judge picked 13 of us and said "if we still have 13 when it's time for deliberations, then I will pick one at random to be the alternate." Indeed there were still 13 of us after the closing statements and instructions from the judge, so he had a clerk bring him a bowl with 13 slips of paper. His Honor closed his eyes, picked one slip, opened his eyes and read the name. "Thank you for your service, and now the other 12 go into the Jury Room to deliberate."

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: In your answer to J.A. of South Salem, you note that alternate jurors do not participate in deliberations. I was on a jury this year, unfortunately too late to participate in the reader write-in series about jury experience that had a year or two ago. Your answer is, of course, correct: The alternates were identified after the trial ended, the alternates were escorted to separate room to do nothing while the main jurors deliberated. The alternates took no part.

However, we felt a little bad that they were completely left out and had no voice in the deliberations, so after the deliberations were over and the verdict delivered, we rejoined the alternates, walked them through all the points we considered in reaching the answer, and asked them to share their thoughts, just as a matter of courtesy, a recognition that they too had served.

It didn't mean much and I'm not sure how/whether the logistics of other court procedures would even allow for that, but it made us feel better, and hopefully the alternates too.

E.R. in Irving, TX, writes: Regarding Trump Juror #4, you wrote: "It's possible he works in cybersecurity, though that would be unusual without a college diploma."

This is such a ridiculous assumption, it should be corrected.

Many people I know from my 25+ year career in software and technology who work in "security" either don't have a degree, or their degree is as useless to their profession as one in Underwater Basketweaving would be. And from personal experience being a senior member of an infosec group at a $10B valuation public company, I'd put the population of "no degree" in cybersecurity at better than 25%.

In fact, I venture to suggest that there are less people with college degrees in "security" than any other area of IT, given that academia simply cannot adapt a curriculum fast enough to actually educate people in the subject matter. My experience is that the best practitioners are those who eschewed college; many because they realized what a financial scam most technology educational tracts are.

You can't teach in college today what was developed in the industry last week.

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: Regarding Juror #4, the non-college "security engineer": I'm going to go with "installs home security systems for Brinks."

Politics: "Truth" Social

D.H. in San Francisco, CA, writes: A common theme of most reasonably sane analysts is that based on fundamentals, Donald Trump's media stock, DJT, should be trading as a penny stock at best, since it has no apparent growth prospects nor any immediate path to profitability. On the other hand, I think that reader R.N. in Manassas has the right of it that the media pathway to influence Trump is indeed worth billions of dollars to foreign governments. But it is not just foreign governments who will want to make use of such a conduit; it's really any entity that does business with or has any interest in influencing executive branch policy or purchase decisions. Lobbyists are going to look at "Truth" Social as their personal wishing well: Toss a penny in every once in a while and get golden eggs back out.

The concern here that I've most seen expressed is that entities are going to buy influence by buying shares of Trump's failing enterprise. I really don't think that's what is going to happen. They aren't going to buy shares in Trump Media. Doing so would have many challenges, not least of which is having an ongoing impact on the Donald's decision making. Besides, it would be really poor gamesmanship for Trump to allow such entities to buy in because then they'd have him by the proverbial balls. If Trump didn't cooperate, then they'd threaten to sell, so it would cut both ways.

Fortunately for lobbyists, there is a way to accomplish the influence that they want more effectively for less money, and it won't be fraught with all sorts of nosy governmental agencies wanting to look into the propriety of such investments. Instead, lobbying entities are going to advertise on "Truth" social. That's a much more effective way to leverage their "investment." Ten front companies (think Huawei as a proxy for China) each tossing $20M into the media advertising pot could easily drive the stock price over $100/share based on a 100x price-to-earnings ratio and thus be worth many billions of dollars to Orange Jesus. While on the other hand, buying $20M, or even $200M, of stock in Trump's media company would likely do little to prop up his stock price over a more protracted period of time.

If Trump wins reelection, every financial purchase decision that the executive branch has a hand in is going to be viewed through the prism of whether, and how much, they have advertised on Big Lie Social. It won't just be foreign governments funneling cash, even domestic companies will have to pay or be locked out. Any lobbyist who wants something, it's going to be like the line from the movie Goodfellas, "Fu** you, pay me." Trump will daily be looking forward to seeing the continuing advertising stream from his largest account, Pravda, er, RT International. Somewhere before the election in November, DJT stock is going to reach its nadir. From that point forward, what happens with the stock is going to depend upon which way the electoral winds are blowing. If Biden is elected to another term on November 5, I will place my prediction that DJT will open on the 6th down by half of its "value." If we awake to another Trump term, the stock will quickly double, and that will be, sadly, just the beginning.

O.Z.H. in Dubai, UAE, writes: Please keep reporting on the DJT stock collapse. I agree with you that this could be a serious wake-up call for a lot of cultists. It's easy to think someone is the messiah until believing in him costs you your life savings.

Politics: Protest Votes

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: Here is my message to all of the people who are protesting the slaughter in Gaza and are threatening to withhold their vote from President Biden and other Democrats: They are listening to us. Many Democrats, including the President, have moved closer to us on their Israel policy. They aren't where we want them to be... yet, but the pressure we are putting on them is working. Third-party candidates can't impact Israel policy because they cannot win elections. Republicans have demonstrated that they aren't concerned with the slaughter, pressuring Israel towards a ceasefire, or a two-state solution. Donald Trump certainly doesn't give a damn. He has openly stated that Benjamin Netanyahu should "finish the job."

Biden and the Democrats are the best option right now because they are listening to, and subject to, the pressure we are putting on them. The best chance to change U.S. policy towards Israel is to keep electing Democrats and then keeping up the pressure on them. We have to learn to take what is available while also keeping up the pressure for more. Collecting our toys and going home only puts more hawks in charge and then we'll be really pissed. I understand why you are angry at the Biden administration's Israel policy. I am, too. But just imagine what Trump's policy would look like with, say, Secretary of State Jason Miller and Director of National Intelligence Steve Bannon in charge. Have I gotten your attention now?

Voting isn't always a feel-good exercise. Sometimes you have to be pragmatic. So, if Israel/Gaza is what you are voting on, be pragmatic and vote for Democrats!

W.M. in Philadelphia, PA, writes: The way I think of this is that the primary is for playing offense, and the general election is for playing defense. And people who want to make progress need to show up for every contest, and to always play both offense and defense.

Progressives who don't want to play defense (by voting for the Democrat in the general) don't want to feel like suckers, like Charlie Brown always being fooled by Lucy. I get that, but that's not what the struggle is about:

  1. Even if a more progressive President were actually elected—not just a protest vote, but an actual victory—it wouldn't move the needle by itself right now. By definition, a progressive wouldn't govern by ruthless diktat, and without a workable majority in Congress, where is the progress? It's gonna be a long struggle, and electing a progressive would be a minor victory right now (when the country overall is still electing roughly 50% Trumpist senators and representatives).

  2. Overreaching when the rest of the electorate isn't there yet could lead to an avoidable defeat, which would lead to retrograde motion. A proto-Fascist president would be pleased to "govern" by diktat, which could lead to substantial reversal of progress. Just think about the Supreme Court, where a Trumpist President—enabled by a pliant Senate—has already entrenched regressive minority rule. That was intentional, brought about by right-wingers who developed and implemented a strategy. It took them 50 years to tear down the Voting Rights Act, but they got there. Same with Roe. In theory, either could be restored by legislation. In practice, that will take years of battling: one more seat here, one more there, hopefully two steps forward for every step back.

  3. "Short-term pain for long-term gain" is magical thinking. The pain isn't short-term, and the long-term gain doesn't materialize. I'm not saying be satisfied, but consolidate the gains and make plans for the next phase of the struggle (deprogramming the Trumpists).

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) did everyone a disservice by activating a bunch of latent progressives, but not telling them that it was going to be an extended conflict.

Forget about Bernie. Become a devotee of Sun Tzu.

D.S. in Winnetka, CA, writes: Five stars for T.R. in Hillsborough. Most of the far-left doesn't understand that the vast majority of the country isn't as "progressive" as they are. In fact, trying to push the Democratic Party to the left by withholding votes has always failed in the past. The usual effect of a Democratic loss in a general election has been to shift the party to the right, where there are more potentially "centrist" voters available to them than the unreliable voters on the far left.

L.S.-H. in Naarden, The Netherlands, writes: As a New Hampshire native, I applaud the practical progressiveness of T.R. in Hillsborough. None of this short-term pain for long-term gain that never materializes. It's New England practicality, and I think residents of more states could benefit from this approach. Hopefully: As goes New Hampshire, so goes the country!

R.C. in Des Moines, IA, writes: I am a self-described left-of-center pragmatist. I happen to think the current iteration of the Republican Party in no way reflects anything close to the majority of how Americans stand on most issues; most especially the way the GOP has drifted toward authoritarianism. Is the Democratic Party perfect? Heck no. But it actually believes in American democracy and when compared to the alternative the Democrats look like Utopia.

So, I thank T.R. in Hillsborough, NH for their comments published last week. T.R. shows they understand that the only way for progressives to get anything they want and avoid going backwards is for Democrats to control the presidency and Congress and the only way to accomplish this is to vote for actual Democratic candidates rather than third-party candidates who have zero chance of winning. Thank you, T.R. and other voters like you!

I say this to progressives: If you're unhappy with the Democrats, that's OK. Let them know! Reach out to your local party office. Write to Democratic members of Congress (from experience their office will respond... and they keep track of the volume of comments they get on issues). Protest in the street peacefully. Vote for the most progressive candidates in primaries. But please don't hand Republicans undeserved electoral victories by voting third party in the general elections. Please!

Politics: Ballot Access

E.B. in Seattle, WA, writes: While I appreciate your statement that the DNC potentially missing the ballot deadlines for several states (Ohio, Alabama, and Washington so far) seems like amateur hour, it also misses a critical piece of context: This scheduling issue has happened before and it's never been a problem before. This exact issue happens nearly every presidential cycle, and states have always given waivers or extensions to the major parties. For example, Washington will accept a provisional candidate certification from the Democrats, no special law required. It's just a question of whether Ohio and Alabama will give waivers like they always have or if they'll take a new course for nakedly partisan reasons. Does anyone imagine that Ohio or Alabama would deny Donald Trump a place on the ballot based on the convention being a few days late?

P.S. in Gloucester, MA, writes: If the Republicans in charge of the presidential election in Ohio keep Joe Biden off the November ballot, the Ohio Democrats should do what the New Hampshire Democrats did (with some out-of-state get-out-the-vote help) in their presidential primary in January: mount a write-in Joe Biden campaign. That will get people out ...and voting for Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), along with writing in Joe Biden.

D.A.Y. in Troy, MI, writes: I think Ohio's schemes with keeping Biden off the ballot could backfire. It would be seen as the latest example of Columbus trying to silence the will of the people after the antics of last year with the abortion amendment.

Instead of discouraging Democrats from voting, it would inflame them to get out on a write-in campaign. "Write-in Joe Biden" is the perfect jingle for ads, lawn signs, and bumper stickers. Ads will point out how Ohio has made accommodations in the past and will ask what's changed. Independents could even be energized, remembering last year.

Would it mean Joe Biden would win Ohio? I cannot say for sure, but I think Ohio Republicans are putting their hand on the same red hot stove that burned them last year.

R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: Back when I was complaining that the Supreme Court were an assemblage of nine cowards who wouldn't support allowing Colorado removing Trump from the primary ballot for ineligibility because of his insurrection, a number of people, including some on this site, insisted that Colorado shouldn't be allowed to prevail lest red states start trumping up charges so that they too could "play this game" and kick Joe Biden off the ballot.

Now we see several red states threatening to keep Biden off the ballot by changing their minds on whether holding the national convention after the ballot deadline is permissible or not. So now, we have no method for stopping popular insurrectionists from polluting the system AND Republicans playing ballot access games. Good work... not. Make no mistake, these deadline decisions are every bit as valid as Colorado's eligibility standard and all the same arguments apply. The lesson we should be taking from this is that bullies gonna bully. Better to come up with clear guidelines than to hope setting a good example will encourage good behavior. If the Supremes "needed" to undo Colorado's good work, the least they could have done was hold that Colorado had insufficient due process and then lay down standards for what kind of process would pass muster. We're a little bit closer to dictatorship today. I expect an apology.

K.T. in Columbus, OH, writes: I'm not sure how much good Ohio Republicans' attempt to keep Joe Biden off the ballot in that state will do them. Sherrod Brown figures to run ahead of Biden anyway, and Brown's supporters—indeed, most Ohioans other than diehard Republicans—will be incensed at keeping a presidential candidate off the state ballot based on a law that has been regularly disregarded in past election cycles, which may actually drive turnout. I can't wait for Biden's write-in campaign. There will also (probably) be an anti-gerrymandering initiative on the ballot, and keeping Biden off the ballot would serve as a good reminder of why one-party rule is something to be avoided.

M.D. in North Canton, OH, writes: I just spoke with my state representative's office and the person there absolutely assured me that Joe Biden will be on the ballot this fall. The representative is a Republican, but he is also a lawyer, so presumably he is not a complete nut. The aide that answered also was aware that sometimes this happens and that the legislature has in the past done exceptions and will be doing that for this election as well.

Politics: Book Bans

J.H. in Flint, MI, writes: You wrote, regarding the new Florida law limiting residents of Florida with no children in school to one banned-book challenge per month: "It's not clear, though, why people with no skin in the game get any challenges."

Because they do have skin in the game. They pay sales taxes, which go into the general fund, which is used to fund the schools. They also pay local property taxes, which are used to fund the schools. Governments aren't supposed to tax citizens without giving them a say in how those funds are spent. (I realize that "no taxation without representation" is a "revolutionary" idea.)

Don't get me wrong: I don't like Florida's approach to book censorship. But if you take public money for a purpose, you must accept public input into how that money is spent. (Even if that input is wrong.)

R.M. in St, Petersburg, FL, writes: I am a regular reader of your site and a parent of two children in public school in Florida. I am very well versed in the censorship that has taken place in our state. I do not think it is fair to imply that Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is backing down on banning books. While there are a few prolific book challengers in our state, the vast majority of books in our state have been removed because our school districts and media specialists are following the guidance of Florida Department of Education (FLDOE) to "err on the side of caution" or risk being charged with a felony or losing certification when deciding which books should be available in our libraries.

Additionally, the FLDOE sent guidance to all of the school districts in October of last year stating that books that depict or contain sexual conduct should not be available in a school or classroom library. This guidance led to confusion and caused each district to interpret what is permitted in vastly different ways. In Escambia County, 1,600 books were removed (including the dictionary and a few Bill O'Reilly books) and over 600 books were withheld from classroom libraries in Orange County Public Schools (The Color Purple, Paradise Lost, East of Eden, Love in the Time of Cholera). If the governor truly wanted to "back down on banning books," he would clarify the guidance that his administration has provided to the school districts. Instead of allowing the governor to pretend that he is helping to solve the problem, a site like this one should provide its readers with the truth about what is happening in Florida.

Politics: Israel

P.K.W. in Chicago, IL, writes: You pointed to the notion that the "Iranians deliberately blew it" in ineffectually bombing Israel. You dismissed this theory as "...a little hard to accept, since wouldn't 20 missiles and drones be enough for that?"

On Friday, we learned that Israel launched an attack on Iran, firing at least one missile. On the BBC website it was reported that, "While US officials confirmed the strike happened to the BBC's partner station CBS News, the response from Tehran has been muted and mild."

After Israel killed a top Iranian general, the lion had to do more than roar so it showed its claws. Did it send out the missiles and drones in waves knowing that most would be shot down? Was Israel's response muted in kind for that same purpose?

It all does sound like "kabuki theater," as you have often described politics. But let's not forget that a family lost little girl for this display.

E.F. in Baltimore, MD, writes: Count me among those believing the Iranian attack was calibrated to be enough to get the world's attention, but not enough to instigate a forceful Israeli response. Why else give everyone 2 or 3 hours' lead time to react to the launch? Their faster missiles would have taken minutes, not hours.

But in answer to your question "why 300 missiles?", I'd point out that Iran has been mass producing missiles for decades. Their earlier models are rather ineffective, by current standards. What better use than expending them in an attack that wasn't intended to do much physical damage? Ours and Israel's intel people aren't likely to crow about how the missiles we shot down were old, slow, and ineffective. While our missile defense systems are way ahead of anything the Iranians could have used, we would not have achieved a 99% kill rate on their newest systems.

Add to that, we probably paid at least 10x their cost, to shoot down each of those missiles. I'm sure our defense contractors our celebrating.

A.G. in Scranton, PA, writes: I wanted to comment on why it probably was thus that Iran launched 300 drones and missiles instead of only 20.

Had Iran only launched 20 drones or missiles, it would have been of no intelligence value to the Iranians when their military intelligence people assess the capacity of Iron Dome. They already know, from Hamas and Lebanese attacks, that Iron Dome can easily handle a small barrage of incoming missiles/rockets.

Now, after having launched 300, they know, judging from probably pseudo-misleading remarks by Israel, that Iron Dome came close to reaching the limits of its capacities. I can't imagine a nation as militarilized as Israel, one with such an insanely effective (generally speaking) intelligence apparatus in place, would speak very frankly about Iron Dome's capabilities as to do so would only let Iran know that the next time they should launch 400 missiles and drones... so it was probably just a way for Israel to play its part in this little charade, making Iran and its leaders in the Revolutionary Guard think that they came close to doing anything worse than hurting some poor, little Bedouin girl in an errant moment of their strike.

But now, Iran does know they'll need to launch a lot more than 300 drones/ballistic missiles in order to pierce Iron Dome.

D.M. in Boston, MA, writes: You wrote: "And then, just as importantly, Israeli Cabinet minister Benny Gantz announced yesterday that there would be no 'imminent' response to Iran's attack. This has Biden's fingerprints all over it; the White House demanded de-escalation. There was wisdom in it for the Israelis, as well, since they are not in a great position to be fighting multiple wars at once. But the White House's strong words sealed the deal. In short, it appears that the Biden administration's diplomacy has managed to de-escalate a situation that could easily have spun out of control."

I am genuinely confused how you have arrived at the conclusion that Joe Biden is a skilled diplomat. You keep pushing this narrative despite all evidence. It is possible to oppose Donald Trump and simultaneously criticize Joe Biden's longstanding pattern of running head first into nightmarish foreign entanglements that he loses control of? Being less reckless than Donald Trump is not an acceptable standard for judging a president.

All Politics Is Local

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: This past week, former Democratic Senator Bob Graham of Florida died at the age of 87. He had a great career in public service, including serving two terms as Florida governor and three terms in the Senate.

I should note that Graham was on the short list to be Al Gore's veep in 2000. To me, Gore should have picked Graham, even though had he'd been elected, it would have meant the governor at the time, Jeb!, would have picked his replacement.

Had Graham been on the ticket, there's no doubt the Democrats would have won Florida and the election, and history would have been quite different.

J.K. in Stanhope, NJ, writes: You wrote: "... ruling that anti-Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) stories from the National Enquirer would be allowed..."

I had to read that a couple of times before I realized that you weren't referring to Ted Cruz as an anti-Senator. But actually I think that's the best possible title for him.

A.D in Toronto, ON, Canada, writes: Not a correction exactly, but just couldn't believe you folks missed the opportunity: "When it comes to baseball and taxes, there is no greater Dodger than Steve Garvey."

P.L. in Denver, CO, writes: I take some issue with your comment regarding Colorado congressional districts. I have lived in the Denver area since 1981. I think we have the gold standard for conducting elections.

We have a large population of independent voters, then Democrats, then Republicans. Independents can vote in Republican or Democratic primaries.

We have an independent redistricting process. Like many states, our urban areas are more liberal than the rural areas. And really, the two large Republican areas (Districts 4 and 5) would require significant gerrymandering to make those more purple, in my view. District 3 (Rep. Lauren Boebert's, R-CO, current district) has occasionally gone to the Democrats but mostly to the Republicans.

So, really, I think the map does a fair job of representing the electorate.

J.C. in Peabody, KS, writes: I now live in Rep. Jake LaTurner's (R-KS) soon-to-be-former district in Kansas. As a previous worker for the state, I had the opportunity to meet LaTurner in person a little over two years ago while on a work trip to DC. He's ambitious, and a little smug, but which politician isn't? He hasn't received too much attention during his tenure in Congress, but he was present at the beginning stages of the great Marion Record newspaper raid of 2023, just 15 miles from me.

The entire debacle started because LaTurner was giving a public speech at a restaurant in the town of Marion. A reporter from the Record showed up to cover the event for the paper, but things got heated during some questions, and the manager got the reporter kicked out. The raid was orchestrated a few days later by the police chief, a constant target of the paper, after he received a complaint by the manager on an unrelated issue, but was more than happy to stick it to the local press. All of the rest of the details are available online.

But regarding LaTurner, mark my words—and you can put this down in your long-term predictions for 2026—he will be running for governor of Kansas. For the past several decades, the political party of our governor never has held the seat for more than two consecutive terms. It is widely believed that Governor Laura Kelly (D-KS) will step down or take a position in a second-term Biden Cabinet or senior level position, or possibly just retire early, allowing Lieutenant Governor David Toland (D-KS) to ascend and run as an incumbent.

Historically, and statistically, it is unlikely that Toland will win. LaTurner, if elected, is likely to become our Brownback 2.0: killing any attempts to save abortion access, ruining the economy and gains the state has made over Kelly's term, and furthering Kansas's eventual downward slide towards the bottom of the barrel (a.k.a. Diet Texas).

I grieve for the eventual reputation that my beloved home state has so nearly avoided over the past decades, but it appears that like most things, Kansas will be forced to pick sides and throw neutrality and nuance to the wind. And it will likely make the wrong choice.

K.F. in Framingham, MA, writes: I want to respond to B.J. in Arlington, who recently won a seat as a member of the local Town Meeting, which is now considering a resolution on a possible Israeli cease-fire.

I used to live in his town. First, congratulations on your Town Meeting victory! Second, I am definitely of the opinion that international issues have no place on the agenda for a town of just 40,000 residents. This just underscores one of the problems with the very outdated New England town meeting form of government. It is billed as the "legislative body" of the town. While that's true on the surface, the Select Board is effectively the executive and legislature rolled into one. Town Meetings' "legislative actions" largely rubber-stamp what the Select Board puts on the agenda, with a few exceptions. Many of the same Select Board members also double dip as elected members of the Town Meeting. This would be like allowing the President to serve in Congress at the same time. Town Meeting is also exempt from ethics laws, unlike a real legislative body like a city council. Town Meetings are often way too large and unwieldy relative to the population of the town. Arlington has about 250 town meeting seats for a town of just 40,000. Town Meeting meets for only a few weeks during the year, unless there is a special town meeting called. And many members don't even bother showing up every night. They may show up only for the few votes they care about. Town Meeting is a place where a few big talkers like to hear themselves talk and play "Congressman". Hence, that's why useless resolutions like the one B.J. mentions are put on the warrant. It gives members another means by which they can feel important. They aren't just discussing the issue—they get to cast a vote on it!

I don't want to discourage my friend, B.J. It sounds like they joined the Town Meeting for the right reasons and the very fact that they wrote in asking whether this resolution was a legitimate one to include speaks to a level of critical thought and sensibility rarely seen by Town Meeting members. I wish you good luck! Maybe it's time that Arlington became a city and eliminated Town Meeting. B.J. for mayor!

L.C. in Boston, MA, writes: L.S. in Greensboro wrote: "I don't know if B.J. in Arlington is looking for any advice from readers, but if I were in their position I would vote against the resolution... Town Meetings should concern themselves with issues directly impacting the town (zoning, trash collection, sewer and water issues, etc.). Leave international affairs for the federal government and international organizations like the UN."

I disagree with the conclusion. While Town Meetings do need to concern themselves with issues directly impacting the town, international issues can definitely be among those. While this does not give the Town Meeting the authority to set international policy, it is perfectly legitimate for the Town Meeting to pass a resolution up to higher levels of government to let them know their concerns about wider issues potentially impacting their constituents.

History Matters

D.G. in Fairfax, VA, writes: This prediction deserves more bonus points:

R.B. in Portland, OR: Jimmy Carter will pass away in the first half of the year. All former presidents except Donald Trump will attend his funeral. (Potential Bonus Points: 30)

As it doesn't specify all living former presidents, clearly R.B. expects George, Abe and the rest to attend; this predicts a zombie apocalypse.

F.D. in Portland, OR, writes: And you guys claim that Donald Trump doesn't understand history. Quote below from a rally in Schnecksville, PA, last Saturday, according to Newsweek. I think you owe him an apology:

"Gettysburg, what an unbelievable battle that was," Trump said while addressing the crowd in the town and wearing a Make America Great Again hat. "It was so much, and so interesting, and so vicious and horrible, and so beautiful in so many different ways—it represented such a big portion of the success of this country," he continued.

"Gettysburg, wow—I go to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, to look and to watch," he said. "And the statement of Robert E. Lee, who's no longer in favor—did you ever notice it? He's no longer in favor. 'Never fight uphill, me boys, never fight uphill.' They were fighting uphill, he said, 'Wow, that was a big mistake,' he lost his big general. 'Never fight uphill, me boys,' but it was too late," Trump added.

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: Every American should be required to watch Donald Trump's remarks on Gettysburg. I can't imagine any more conclusive proof of his mental decline and unfitness to return to the White House.

I'd request that the resident Civil War historian do a point-by-point analysis, but it would be too cruel to put you through such torture.

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: Just a note to thank you for mentioning the Rural Electrification Act. Before the REA, 90% of America's farms were without electricity. Rural Americans were effectively still living in the 19th century, and more people in the Tennessee River Valley had malaria than had electrical power. Private enterprise was not addressing the problem. The REA reversed the figures: When the program ended in the 1950s, only 10% of America's rural areas lacked access to the grid. Anti-government nuts don't get this.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: Loved the description from R.E.M. in Brooklyn of World War II veterans as "Old School Antifa." Do you think the Veterans of Foreign Wars would wear it embroidered on their hats?

Well-Qualified to Represent the LBC

M.A.K. in London, England, UK, writes: You wrote: "Truss was on LBC, which in California means 'Long Beach, California,' but in Britain apparently means Leading Britain's Conversation. It's basically the Brits' version of NPR."

LBC is absolutely nothing like NPR. The NPR equivalents in Britain are on BBC Radio, particularly Radio 3 and Radio 4 (unsurprising, as both are publicly funded). LBC is a private rabble-rousing controversy-causing station which has mostly wall-to-wall politics talk shows and phone-ins, often hosted by distinctly right-wing figures such as Nick Ferrari, Iain Dale, and Tom Swarbrick. Most notably, from 2017 to 2020, they gave a show to Nigel Farage, which is probably the closest thing we've ever had on radio to the likes of Sean Hannity or Glenn Beck.

N.P. in Santa Rosa, CA, writes: If you are from the U.K. you would know LBC means London Brick Company, which was stamped on their bricks. They provided many of the bricks used to build houses especially in the post-war housing booms.

Video Killed the Radio Star

G.R. in Tarzana, CA, writes: As someone who indulged in a couple of meals on Drew Carey's credit card, and—as he pointed out in his speech at the WGA Awards Ceremony—didn't just have a meal, but decided, "Oh yeah, I'm going to get a shake and a dessert," his generosity, both financially and in the acknowledgment of how writers contributed to the success of he and others, can never be adequately acknowledged. In fact, one of the reasons his tab was so large was that many of us went, not because we needed the free meal, but because we thought it would disrespectful to Drew to not eat on his dime.

More important, though, is your comment regarding the assumption that we all in the entertainment industry are liberal Democrats. Walking a picket line every day with hundreds of others, you meet and befriend many, and you find out that the only thing we have in common is our love for our business, which overrides the fact that their political opinions are diametrically opposed to your own. And it wasn't just elitist writers and actors, as we were joined on the picket lines by Teamsters and autoworkers and hospitality workers, as we are now joining them as they engage in their contract negotiations. Ultimately, what you discover, once you take a step away from the politics of blue and red, is that whether white-collar or blue-collar, college-educated or high-school dropout, highly paid or just getting by, we all actually have much more in common that what separates us, and if it takes labor disruptions in order to find that out, then at the end of the day, we've all achieved much more than just a new contract.

J.G. in Farmington, CT, writes: I'm sorry, I have to contest the assertion that the monologue from The Newsroom is great. I've seen a lot of Aaron Sorkin writing over the years, and if left unsupervised, he's a one-trick pony. The best script he ever wrote was one where three other writers had to doctor the hell out of it (Moneyball, itself based on a somewhat false premise, considering a big part of the A's success during that period was due to pitching). The worst? Probably Jobs or the third season of The West Wing, where his utter disrespect for women really surfaced.

Want to write a Sorkin dialogue? Here goes:

Character 1: I'd like Character 2 to do or say something so straw-man objectionable the audience will recoil.

Character 2: I see, you'd like me to do or say this outlandish thing, paraphrased so I'm not repeating your words. Then, I'll do another fantastic thing, from a well-known piece of literature or television, to paint how ridiculous the first thing is.

Character 1 (looks down, sighs, grunts, or otherwise nonverbally objects to the conversation going this way): Character 2's name...

Character 2, rudely interrupting: Let me assault you with statistics that no human being could have possibly memorized to illustrate why I reject your premise. And before I forget, let me liberally pepper my words with casual misogyny. Decisions are made by those who show up, including and especially those who expect opponents to change their behavior on the basis of a stern talking-to by their opponent, because that's how politics works. Fix it. Fix it now.

Later, during an interview where a fawning host asks me how I write such witty men (not women; women exist as foils): "My allegiance isn't to the truth. It's to captivate you for as long as I've asked for your attention."

I'd like one Emmy, please.

Counter-Complaints Department

J.T. in The Villages, FL, writes: This is a response to J.M. in Portland. First, as a gay guy myself, I want to thank you J.M. for sticking up for gay men, and I mean that, end paragraph.

I assume (call it profiling, if you must), that you did this as a self-respecting gay man yourself, defending his people, which I respect. But apparently you've never been in a bathhouse or used Grindr, and are not aware that most of the straight-acting, closeted tops, with FBI/CIA/military intelligence/Log Cabin Republican-personality types, don't know that it's 2024, or even that we've passed 1995, and are definitely vulnerable to blackmail. What can I say? Since I was 16, they've always been my personal kryptonite, despite being the dead-end I always knew they were. (But as I've recently turned 40, I think I've finally aged out of that, for the most part, thank God. I no longer waste my precious few years of testosterone left on guys like that who are too crazy and internally conflicted to ever be husband material.) Most of the closeted ones I've known were just flings or hookups, but I've even seriously dated quite a few of them over those 24 years, and I don't pretend to understand their psyche. Never have, though not for lack of trying.

But you're right that gay men hardly had the monopoly on blackmail vulnerability in the 50's, and may very well in 2024 be less vulnerable than your run-of-the-mill "straight agent just hiding an affair." (Not sure; it'd be hard to pin down stats on something like that.) And you're right, singling out gay men as the pre-eminent blackmail example is a misleading and unfair continuation of that long-running historical practice. I think (V) & (Z)'s total daily work output leaves us all in awe, and I would defend them that it's only natural for rushed, "off-the-top-of-their-head" writing to churn up a popular image like gay-blackmail as a sole example, thus making it out-of-context, inadvertently perpetuating a misconception. But it did need to be called out, and I applaud you, J.M., for doing that.

And you're right that it's society's doing, to have made gay blackmail even possible in the first place. And so shame on society. But blame aside, it's still a reality that has to be considered, though as just one item on a long list, and you're right that it shouldn't be singled out. And purging China from TikTok is a very different thing from purging gay men from the government. Unlike back then, when it was an excuse for persecution, this time it's just one more good reason to pile on for the good cause of national security.

E.P. in Bilbao, Spain, writes: When I read the complaint from J.M. in Portland about your proposition that China might use a closeted gay man to gain access to American secrets via blackmail, I immediately thought of one name: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

And beyond him, there are plenty of others who, if credibly accused of being gay, may have a serious conundrum on their hands. While the risks of being outed today are not the same as they once were, it is patently false to suggest that there is no risk for anyone, or that there are no people out there who would be vulnerable to such attacks.

Let us hope that Graham doesn't use TikTok.

L.G in Thornton, CO, writes: P.P in Cherokee Village wrote: "I have to say I really enjoy reading your posts daily. But since I am usually on my computer early, I do NOT appreciate waiting half (or more) of the day for your site to be updated, when most of the time it's available during MY allotted time on the computer. HOURS later than normal, to me, is not acceptable."

Not acceptable? I can only hope you are joking. (V) and (Z) have pumped out millions of words of excellent political analysis and commentary 7 days a week for almost 20 years FOR FREE. We all enjoy and are better educated for their service. And you have the audacity to tell them being a bit late (usually on weekends) is unacceptable? You have just demonstrated the meaning of ingratitude. Shame on you. For each P.P. out there, there are thousands of us who hold them in extremely high regard. Thanks, (V) and (Z)! When my daily blog arrives a bit late, it causes me to realize how dedicated you both are and to be grateful for your service. When you miss something that much, you should realize how valuable it is to you and be thankful it comes at all.

(V) & (Z) respond: We appreciate the kind words!

B.P. in Pensacola, FL, writes: The objection by P.T. in Houston to the site not using the term "pro-life" is unfortunately not supported by the facts.

The "pro-life "moniker is problematic because the vast majority of those who claim to be "pro-life" are in fact only pro-birth. Most of them support the death penalty and care little for what happens to children born into difficult situations. The exception to this are those who are also Roman Catholic, because the Catholic Church also vehemently opposes the death penalty and typically stakes out strong social justice positions regarding assistance to underprivileged families and particularly children. The rest are at best only "pro-birth" and a significant contingent are really only protective of "white life." And, of course, the "life begins at conception" idea is entirely without biblical support, as I have written before.

C.E. in Clifton Park, NY, writes: Poor J.K. in Sussex. Must be a Mets fan.


A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: You called it Fox "News."

I will forgive your inaccurate statement, It should be referenced as "Faux Noise."

(V) & (Z) respond: Oh, no, the noise is very real.

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: I take umbrage at your insinuation that Satan roots for da Bears, when it's clear that Tom Brady sold his soul for Super Bowl rings. (Deflategate... 'nuff said.)

Final Words

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: "There are those who argue that everything breaks even in this old dump of a world of ours. I suppose these ginks who argue that way hold that because the rich man gets ice in the summer and the poor man gets it in the winter things are breaking even for both. Maybe so, but I'll swear I can't see it that way."

Bat Masterson's last written words.

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