Dem 51
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Sunday Mailbag

We get a fair number of complaints. The great majority fall into these general categories: (1) What's with the grammar and spelling mistakes?; (2) Why didn't you write about [STORY X]?; (3) You're biased! and (4) How come the post wasn't up by 7:00 a.m. ET?

About once a month, we run complaints in the mailbag, although we usually pick the more exotic ones, since the garden-variety complaints get boring pretty fast. We had a number of e-mails this week (see below for an example) from readers who say they really like reading the complaints, even if they don't agree. OK, then we'll experiment with making that a more regular feature, maybe running 1-2 complaints a week, sometimes with responses to previous complaints. We'll see how it goes.

Also, with the additional hint yesterday, a handful of folks have identified the headline theme for the week. But only a handful, so we'll give a rare third hint. Originally, the headline "Gosar's New Green Deal" was "Gosar Proposal Has an Unpleasant Musk to It." We switched it because we thought the original version was clumsy, and also that it made things too easy. We remain convinced we were right about the former concern, but it would seem we were wrong about the latter.

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Election

J.B. in Bend, OR, writes: Now that Donald Trump is a convicted felon, I don't see any way he will participate in the debates. He knows he will be referred to as a felon by Biden and likely be asked questions about his conviction by the debate moderators. His demeanor strongly indicates that he is a narcissist, and narcissists cannot admit that they have ever done anything wrong or made a mistake (or lost a contest). We've repeatedly seen that kind of behavior from Trump. In order to avoid having to face the fact of his conviction (and without an audience to play to) he will come up with some excuse not to debate, probably by claiming that he has too much legal preparation to do in order to overturn the "unfair" verdict or by claiming that he's not going to debate the person who masterminded the witch hunt or by simply claiming that the debates are "rigged."

What should the Biden campaign do? Repeatedly use the refrain "convicted by a jury of his peers beyond a reasonable doubt of 34 felonies," emphasizing different parts of that phrase at different times. Use Trump's own playbook: Repeat it over and over until it sinks in, only this time it's a fact rather than a lie.

I also think the verdict will provide additional impetus to the prosecutors in the other Trump trials. In the documents case, Special Counsel Jack Smith is already doing everything he can to force Judge Aileen Cannon to make a ruling that can be appealed. If he runs out of options, he will directly ask her to be removed. And after the Supreme Court issues a ruling on presidential immunity, Smith will pare down the indictment to fit that ruling so that the January 6 trial can go forward without further delay. Finally, Fulton County DA Fani Willis probably has everything ready to go as soon as the Georgia Court of Appeals rules on whether she must step down, but the Georgia trial can't be concluded before the election even if it could resume the normal process immediately—there simply isn't enough time to seat a jury and complete the trial.

T.V. in Kansas City, MO, writes: What's not getting enough attention (so far) is the impact of the 34 guilty verdicts (a moment while I enjoy the visceral thrill of writing those words again—okay, I'm back) on the primary voters who have stuck with Nikki Haley consistently to date.

Let's look at Pennsylvania as an example of what could happen. Haley got 158,178 votes in that primary, or 16.6% of the vote. The Keystone State holds a closed primary, so we know those votes didn't come from Democrats or independents attempting some ratfu**ery. Now, we have to apply some best-guess variables to that vote total, namely: (1) A substantial portion of those voters will come home to Donald Trump on November 5 because they loathe Biden more; (2) Some of those voters will simply not vote for president/VP at all on 11/5; and (3) Primaries turn out more die-hards and partisans, including Never Trumpers, so we can't assume that just as many hardcore Haley voters will turn out on November 5.

Taking those variables into account, let's speculate. Half those Haley voters probably come home to Trump, leaving 8.3% of Pennsylvania Republicans. Half of that total don't vote for anyone for POTUS, leaving 4.15%. I think it's reasonable that number might flip to Joe Biden after the verdict. And that's a substantial number of voters, even presuming lower turnout than 2020.

A total of 1,143,499 people voted in the 2020 Pennsylvania Republican primary. 6,835,903 voted in the general election, a ratio of 5.978:1, which I'll round up to 6:1. 950,870 people voted in the 2024 Pennsylvania Republican primary. If that ratio holds, that means approximately 5,705,220 will vote in Pennsylvania on November 5. If 4.15% of the Nikki Haley Never Trumpers vote for Biden, that's 236,766 votes. Biden won Pennsylvania in 2020 by about 80,000 votes.

Obviously, this is back-of-the-envelope math, and I'm not a statistician. There are 100 ways this could be wrong. But it seems to me that, exact numbers or no, if these 34 guilty verdicts (squee!) lead to anything like this kind of anti-Trump uprising in swing states, Trump is toast.

M.F. in Burlington, ON, Canada, writes: K.H. in Maryville suggested the Biden campaign fundraise off Donald Trump's conviction by asking for donations of $34.

While these sorts of appeals are quite common nowadays, there was a time that the "money bomb" approach was new and creative. The first more or less mainstream politician who commonly used this approach was Ron Paul (R/L-TX).

As it happens, I ran the first "money bomb" political fundraiser in Canada in support of a candidate for the New Democratic Party leadership in Saskatchewan in 2009. One of the principal criticisms leveled against our candidate was his youth, so we leaned into that, comparing his age to the ages of various figures in the party's past at significant points in their careers. We then asked supporters to donate in the amount of the candidate's age.

The $34 donations began to roll in the same day.

J.A. in Monterey, CA, writes: In response to "Trump Begins Vetting the Veepables," it seems that Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), despite not being on the list, is highly likely to be VSIP's (Von ShitzInPants's) VP for the following reasons:

  1. VSIP likes to be a showman, and so, if he is purposefully leaking this list, he probably would not have his top candidates on the list so he can shock people with his ultimate pick. Note that Rep. Nancy Mace (R-VA) isn't on there either. I believe Pence was missing from VSIP's first VP list back in 2016.

  2. Stefanik is a smart and coherent attack dog.

  3. Stefanik, a fairly young mother, would help stem any loss of support from women due to the recent trial focusing on the Stormy Daniels incident, perhaps eliciting a similar reaction as Sarah Palin initially did in 2008... but, in this case, there wouldn't be as obvious an ignorance problem.

  4. The list is at least partly B.S., as selecting Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) would resurface the small-hands issue. (Even Gov. Kristi Noem, R-SD, should have a higher chance than Rubio.)

K.F. in Framingham, MA, writes: Given tight campaign funds, TFG has had to narrow down his VP choices. In order to save money on signs and bumper stickers, he has put his Sharpie to work again:

A Trump/Pence sticker has been
crudely altered to read Trump/Vance

W.S. in Austin, TX, writes: P.R. in Saco wrote: "We believe Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is unelectable on account of his voice, full stop."

I agree completely.

RFK Jr.'s voice is so preposterously evil, in a Hollywoodian, Emperor Palpatine sense, that it sounds AI-generated for that purpose.

His voice beats even the similarly serpentine voice of Trump's lawyer D. John Sauer, which I had previously considered the zenith of audible evil, and unlikely ever to be rivaled as such in my lifetime.

Their voices are to normal voices what Hugh Hewitt's smile is to normal smiles.

Politics: Trump Legal (or, "Everybody Does It")

B.F. in Baltimore, MD, writes: In regards to the letter from V.L. in Grand Rapids, let me first say that I am always skeptical of internet posts where someone states their political bona fides and then make declarations completely at variance with said bona fides.

If you believe in the rule of law, meaning that we are all accountable for our actions, then you can't have much sympathy for Donald Trump or Eliot Spitzer or Harvey Weinstein or any other famous person who asserts an "everybody does it" defense.

V.L provides zero evidence that e.g. almost everyone of a high level of money/power "hire[s] high priced escorts" or that in Manhattan, "hired escorts [are] commonplace." To no one's surprise, if you get caught doing something wrong, like getting a speeding ticket, saying "everyone else does it" is not a viable defense. Further, in traffic court you can't claim "witch hunt" (or if you do, you can't really be surprised when the judge laughs at you).

V.L. closes with the claim that "The only people I know who don't cheat on their taxes are the ones that aren't smart enough to know how." So... is V.L. a tax cheat or lacking in intellectual ability? V.L. then goes on to allege without basis that taxpayers claim random items as deductions. This is a crime; it's called tax fraud. Like any other form of wrongdoing, tax fraud seems to go pretty well... until it doesn't. I know people who have gotten on the wrong side of the IRS and decades later they are still paying off what they owe.

Donald Trump has engaged in risky, unlawful, and, we can now say without qualification, illegal behavior. The euphemistic acronym FAFO applies directly to Trump here: He Fu**ed Around, both literally and figuratively, including daring anyone to do anything to him and threatening those who did, and now he has Found Out (or will on June 11). He alone is responsible for every bit of criminal punishment Judge Juan Merchan hands down.

O.S. in Scranton, PA, writes: I was very disappointed to read the comment from V.L. from Grand Rapids last Sunday. I think A.R. in Los Angeles, your legal consultant, did an excellent job rebutting V.L.'s points. "Everyone does it" is not an excuse to commit a crime.

However, I would like to add that I think the fact that Trump is an ex-president and is a candidate for the next election actually makes it more important that he be tried and convicted for his crimes. Every political candidate, even someone running for local dog catcher, should be tried if accused of a crime. It is even more important that we hold someone running for president, the most powerful political office not just in the country, but in the entire world, to the standards of the law. Voters have a right to know whether or not they are voting for a criminal. The presidency is just too important.

What would it do to the image of the U.S. if it were common knowledge that a candidate for the presidency was likely guilty of a crime, but prosecutors did nothing because "hey, all of our other politicians are corrupt too. They all do it, so why not let our potential next president get away with crimes"? This would destroy the U.S.'s credibility as a free and democratic country, even more than electing Trump in the first place did, both in the eyes of many voters, as well as in those of leaders of foreign countries. How could politicians in countries allied with the U.S. ever trust us again if we did not keep even try to keep our most powerful office sacrosanct? How can voters trust the system if they don't even know whether or not the president committed a crime? The U.S. is supposed to be a shining beacon of democracy. Not prosecuting Trump would run counter to everything this country should be.

Trump's trial was not politically motivated. It is a very rare case that thankfully embodies that very American ideal that no one is above the law.

L.V.A. in Idaho Falls, ID, writes: The recent cynical correspondence from poseur V.L. in Grand Rapids illustrates why I abhor TFG and his minions. It comes down to "You would do the same to me." This "Do unto others before they do unto you" seems the driver of right-wing politics in the last few decades and is highly cynical and is the principle reason I will NEVER be a part of the "personal responsibility" party. I'll stick with the "evil" democrats. ("I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints"—not Einstein)

P.S. in Plano, TX, writes: According to the IRS, which has an interest in getting correct polling data on these things, 88% of Americans believe that it is "not at all acceptable" to cheat on taxes. So, if "the only people [you] know who don't cheat on their taxes are the ones that aren't smart enough to know how," then every single person you know is among 12% least ethical people in the country. I wonder what that says about you, and I wonder what that says about the type of people who share your political views.

K.R. in Louisville, CO, writes: To V.L. from Grand Rapids, who claimed that "The only people I know who don't cheat on their taxes are the ones that aren't smart enough to know how."

V.L., I take it this means you do cheat on your taxes, like apparently all the people you know. Really? I haven't missed a day of reading this blog since 2008, although I hardly ever write in, but your letter struck a chord with me. As a (retired) lawyer, I know people think all lawyers both lie and cheat; it's the old joke that won't die. Happy to report it isn't true, and I am "smart enough to know how." So the next time you file a fraudulent tax return, think about the services our taxes fund and we all rely on. Salaries for federal judges and marshals, funds for FEMA, immigration services, environmental protections, the postal service, consumer protection agencies, USGS (paying my son the scientist to evaluate and protect our water sources), and many other federal expenses for services we can't do without. Hopefully you aren't correct that everyone you know does it. Hopefully I'm correct, and not just wishfully thinking, that most of us don't.

A.J. in Victoria, BC, Canada, writes: V.L. in Grand Rapids wrote that falsifying business records is "as American as Apple Pie" and "The only people I know who don't cheat on their taxes are the ones that aren't smart enough to know how." After my job was transferred from Canada to the U.S. in 2002, one of the less attractive things I discovered about American culture is that many Americans think like V.L. If you believe everyone else cheats, then it's easy to think that only fools don't cheat and you shouldn't be a fool. What a country. Why many Americans think the rest of the world should be looking up to the USA is a mystery in this context. Nonetheless, I write to express my hope that V.L. overstates the case, and that their circle is a poor sample of American taxpayers. Now that I'm a U.S. citizen but back in Canada, I'm pained by having to file with both countries, but I'm not cheating. I continue to hope for American integrity, and I think the outcome of the "hush money" trial is a positive sign.

B.G. of Grayson, GA, writes: I disagree with a lot of what V.L in Grand Rapids said but will limit myself to their statements about Eliot Spitzer because I have knowledge not generally known to the public.

When Spitzer was New York's Attorney General, I had a case in which a family court judge disliked my client long before I entered the case. Suffice to say, the judge took custody from a safe protective mother who was the primary parent and gave custody to the alleged abusive father. I had to leave the case after the custody decision for health reasons.

The judge forced the mother to come to court on short notice without a chance to find a new lawyer. The father was seeking an order allowing the father to move the children to Texas, where she was likely to never see them again. When the judge made statements or findings the mother disagreed with, she would say "Objection!," as she had seen me do. Instead of telling her she had her exception, the judge yelled, threatened, and ultimately held the mother in contempt and sent her to jail for almost a month while she was 7 months pregnant.

I filled an appeal and asked the appellate court to release her pending the appeal. At the initial hearing, the judge said he was inclined to release her but then Spitzer intervened (he was not required to get involved). His subsequent conviction for highly sexist behavior demonstrated he should not have been in a position to promote his biased views.

In case anyone has trouble believing what happened, shortly thereafter, Dutchess County suffered a series of domestic violence homicides. The county legislature asked a group of professionals to serve as a citizens committee to investigate the county response to domestic violence. One of their findings was that the biased court practices, including influence of male supremacist groups, contributed to the series of murders.

P.T. in Culver City, CA, writes: I toured the Iowa State Capital Building in Des Moines over the weekend. It gets my vote as the most beautiful I've seen, but admittedly I've only been to about 20.

Above the entrance to their architecturally spectacular law library was this quotation. There are plenty in the Republican Party who should take note:

BEGINS' - William Pitt

Politics: It's the Stupid Economy

J.N. in Columbus, OH, writes: You wrote: "Democratic strategists, like Brad Bannon, are urging Biden to stop trying to teach Economics 101 to the voters and simply say: 'I know you're suffering, but we're making progress, and we will continue to make progress if I have a second term.' Biden hasn't done this because he (rightly) believes the economy is in good shape—and nonpartisan economists agree with him—and he doesn't want to suddenly start apologizing for a (nonexistent) bad economy. He wants to take credit for the economy actually being so good (although the credit belongs much more to Fed Chairman Jerome Powell)."

Biden doesn't dare do what you and Bannon suggest. The minute that happens, the Republicans will declare: "See, even Sleepy Joe knows the economy sucks and he (has no clue how to fix it) (is the cause of it for [fill in reason here]) (is such a poopyhead [vs. poopy pants, as Trump will not let them use that insult])." At no time will they mention Jerome Powell, or corporate greed.

W.W. in Washington County, OR, writes: On the economy, Joe Biden's message seems to be "Everything is fine. Salary growth is beating inflation, anyone who wants a job can have one." To me, a more nuanced message might be "The economy is growing, which helps lots of people. I'm doing what I can to help everyone, but we're not there yet. The Republican Congress is blocking some of my efforts. Give me another four years and a cooperative Congress, and we'll do our darnedest to help the rest of you."

That's not as pithy, but maybe some message like that could attract some of the folks who are still struggling while also pointing out that we've made progress.

A.T. in Oviedo, FL, writes: The economic picture is more mixed than you're presenting.

The Number of people living paycheck-to-paycheck has increased; depending on the survey, as much as 78% of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck, up from earlier years.

More Americans are maxing out their credit cards and falling behind on payments; delinquencies are at 14-year high according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, and 1 in 5 Americans have maxed out at least some of their cards.

While the stock market has done great, most Americans don't benefit much or at all. Median 401(k) value is about $27,376 as of April, according to Vanguard, and 93% of all stock market wealth is owned by top 10%. Meanwhile, the bottom 50% owns about 1%, yes, 1%, of stock market wealth.

45% of grads are underemployed, even a decade after graduation, according to a study by the Strada Institute.

Median Household savings balance was $8,000 in 2022, and has declined since then, and according to research by Bankrate, 56% of households cannot afford even a $1,000 emergency.

So basically, if you live in the top part of the economy, and particularly the top 10%, you're doing great, and the Biden economy has been wonderful.

Those outside that are not doing so well, and that is reflected in the polling where the majority say things are either only fair or poor and over 50% say things are in a recession, because for them, the economy is going poorly.

L.S. in Bellingham, WA, writes: For several months, you have been writing that the public perception that the economy is not working for them is wrong, but in fact "The economy is very good." On average, your statement is correct. The problem is that many, if not most, people do not live in the "average" economy.

As a telecom engineer, I quickly learned that 'average' is a fictitious value and that individual events or experiences rarely line up with an average reading. Instead, events and individual experiences (lives) tend to fall on one side or another of that average value, often dramatically far away from it! For example, if one person earns a million dollars a year and nine others earn $50,000 a year, the "average yearly earnings" for those 10 people would be $145,000/year. Anyone looking at that might assume that, on average, those ten people are in the upper middle class, have savings, decent health care, and probably own their own home. But your assumption would be correct for only one of those ten.

This is the problem Biden has. Yes, on average things have gotten better for Americans. But I would argue that a substantial number of Americans do not experience an average economy.

Another factor to keep in mind is that for every individual who has seen their position improve (mine, for example), they probably know or are related to many individuals who have not. (I have several hard-working relatives and friends who are just keeping their heads above water.)

This is the pain that Biden needs to address. It's real and it's widespread.

Politics: Israel

D.A.Y. in Troy, MI, writes: The brief letter from S.S. in Durham left me floored. It has to be up there as one of the most cut-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face takes I have seen out of a so-called liberal or progressive, and I have seen plenty. Are they seriously saying they are willing to FAFO with another Trump Administration—an administration many, including this site, have explained frequently at length will be more able and willing to follow through on Trump's even stronger authoritarian impulse—because of a conflict on the other side of the planet? Not only that, but to act like they stand on some kind of moral high ground and say Democrats "deserve" this?

Well, tell me, do women deserve to have their rights curtailed and their health imperiled when Trump spearheads a national ban on abortion, either through new legislation or by enforcing the Comstock Act to its fullest extent? My friend is terrified their hormone replacement therapy will be banned nationally by Trump and they will lose the characteristics of their preferred gender. Do they and other transgendered individuals deserve that? Do gay couples deserve to have their right to marriage, and even intimacy, torn away from them? Because members of the Supreme Court have voiced their desire to do so, and a Trump administration would let them and even encourage them. Do all these people deserve to suffer and even die because of what is happening in Gaza?

And that is just a sliver of the harm Trump will wreak on America and the world if he returns to the White House. God forbid there is another major crisis to give him the opportunity to get people killed through his callousness, like with COVID. Yet, as far as S.S. is concerned, we deserve it.

How can someone's heart bleed so much for Gazans and yet be so closed to their fellow Americans?

P.R. in Arvada, CO, writes: I must admit to being utterly confused by the point S.S. in Durham was trying to make. On one hand, they seem to be trying to convey how much they are upset by the events in Gaza but on the other hand they are telling us they want to throw the Palestinian people to the wolves. It seems an odd thing to complain about the lack of morals of a group of people while simultaneously taking quite possibly the least moral position of all. A Trump victory isn't punishing the Democrats, it is punishing the Palestinian people, it is punishing the Ukranian people, it will punish the LGBTQ+ communities, asylum seekers. How about the rollback of environmental protections?

If you listen to what Benjamin Netanyahu is saying, he is deliberately drawing the conflict out. In part, because it enables him to be in charge longe, but also because he will have free rein if Trump wins. A prediction of the Rafah operation taking 7 months seems pretty convenient...

If you want to be a single-issue voter I have no objection. Don't try and take the moral high ground, though, when the choice you are making will make life worse for the people you claim you care about. Personally, I don't want you to hold your nose and vote for Biden. I don't want to be associated with anyone who thinks the Palestinian people should suffer more. Maybe you don't actually think that, but your actions tell a different story. Instead of telling us what you will not do, how about telling us who you will vote for and why we should also vote for them. Who would be a better choice? Can they win? What will make them successful?

L.R.H. in Oakland, CA, writes: S.S. in Durham wrote "I do not care if Trump wins in 2024, the Democratic party deserves it. There is no morality left on either side anyway."

Thanks, S.S., for letting us know that you also don't care about women's bodily autonomy, LGBTQIA rights, reproductive rights, civil rights, and the survival of democracy in the United States.

A.J. in Baltimore, MD, writes: I will never get the mentality of people like S.S in Durham, who is offended by "moderates" telling them to vote for Joe Biden because they saw horrifying images from a war that Biden didn't start and doesn't want, but also hasn't ended.

I'm not a moderate, I'm a liberal, but I'm also realistic about what our first-past-the-post system means. It means that the only moral choice is voting for the more moral of the two people most likely to win, not to waste your vote and thereby de facto support the less moral candidate.

One might find it (superficially) humanistic to reject the whole system on behalf of those dead in Palestine, but it's more (pragmatically) humanistic to think of the increase in unnecessary death that will be caused by Trump and his appointees' foreign policies, immigration policies, environmental policies, reproductive health policies, public health policies, etc.—not to mention the number of people who will feel less safe due to the bigotry that his re-election will encourage. It's more humanistic to vote for Biden.

Politics: Abortion

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: I was astounded when you quoted Carrie Sheffield saying, "As a pro-life Republican, I believe there's a winning strategy on abortion for the GOP to embrace, one that pushes for a goal both sides of the aisle can support: making abortion rarer."

Although you cite Bill Clinton taking the position that abortion should be "safe, legal, and rare," my distinct memory is that was the position of George H.W. Bush (tell me if I'm wrong), and indeed a number of mainstream politicians hoped that safe/legal/rare would be a position that most Americans would embrace. But NO ONE in the pro-life movement embraced that position, from the mid-1970s on. In fact, that position was anathema to them; they rejected it in absolute terms and everything the movement has done has demonstrated they intend to eliminate all abortions everywhere. There is no middle ground; there can be no compromise. It is hard to imagine any person in 2024 not grasping that fact.

(V) & (Z) respond: You are correct about the elder Bush.

E.S. in Maine, NY, writes: Just a quick note. You are the first ones who have addressed the whole "abortion up to birth" nonsense.

While I would have gotten much more explicit (dead baby, baby without a brain, etc) as to the medical calamities, it was good to see it addressed. And of course you are spot on as far as the activists on the forced-birth side being against most or all forms of contraception.

As a side note, you will have to take all my future e-mails with caution, as I travel this weekend to Toronto for my daughter's wedding to a Canadian! While I will take all possible precautions to keep the Canadian mind virus at bay, I may become infected. So proceed with caution, eh!

(V) & (Z) respond: Just FYI, most of the brainwashing happens while waiting in line at Tim Hortons.

Politics: LGBTQ Americans

R.M.S in Lebanon, CT, writes: Not only does this spring mark the 20th anniversary of, it is also the 20th anniversary of same-sex marriage in the United States. Massachusetts began recognizing same-sex marriages in May 2004 after a state Supreme Court ruling determined it was sex discrimination to withhold marriage licenses from same-sex couples. There has been enough time to conduct analysis of the effects of the decision on the country.

The RAND Corporation recently published a report documenting their research into how same-sex marriage has impacted the rest of society. None of the negative effects conservatives predicted have materialized. New marriages across society increased by about 10% overall. There was no evidence of an increase in divorce as a result of same-sex marriage.

However, towards the other end of the spectrum, many left-wing queer activists still oppose marriage, saying it is a form of "heteronormativity." The study found effects on the LGBT community have been overwhelmingly positive. When states recognized same-sex marriage, rates of sexually transmitted infections among LGBT individuals fell, children of same-sex couples benefited, and same-sex couples experienced more relationship stability. They also had higher earnings and higher rates of homeownership. The benefits of same-sex marriage on LGBT people are overwhelmingly positive.

I always believed the primary goal of the LGBT movement should be to be accepted by others, not to rebel against society's institutions. This study seems to back that up.

D.G. in Jupiter, FL, writes: In response to Gov. Ron DeSantis' (R-FL) "Freedom Summer," thought you might not have seen this interesting tidbit: The bridge in Jacksonville, FL, was lit with a pride rainbow by a large group of volunteers using colored flashlights. It made my day!

Politics: Come in out of the Draft

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: I've got to chime in once again on the draft topic. There is no way the draft is reinstated because, unfortunately, the general public no longer meets the basic skills and education level that the modern military requires. Warfare has dramatically changed since Vietnam, in ways most can't imagine. Further, for every combat trooper, there are 17 support positions, which all require folks who can read, write and do basic math (including algebra) well. Combat positions require vast amounts of training, which requires using and maintaining the advanced equipment deployed. All these considerations make recruiting much more difficult. Signing up boys and girls straight out of high school isn't sufficient. Signing college sophomores who are uncomfortable with huge student debt is much more productive. As an aside, only the Marine Corps easily makes its recruiting goals these days. I don't know why.

Politics: Polling

J.T. in San Bernardino, CA, writes: Your response to J.F. in Sloatsburg reminded me of something that happened a few months ago. I have a cell phone with a Minnesota number that has followed me to Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, and now California. So I get a lot of fundraising texts for states I no longer live in.

This past fall I got a call from a pollster. It was the first time I'd ever actually been contacted by what I assumed was a legit pollster. I went through about a 7-minute call, dutifully answering questions. It wasn't until the end of the call that some question revealed that I lived in California and it was a North Carolina poll and so the data wasn't useful.

Anyway, polling firms might need to think about their scripts.

M.S. in Las Vegas, NV , writes: What's with these lame pollsters allowing results like the one from Florida Atlantic U this week with Wisconsin showing Biden 40% Trump 41% and acting like this actually tells us anything? Excuse me, but does anyone with half a brain actually think 19% of voters are going to vote for someone else? That doesn't happen. In fact that closest time it almost happened was over 30 years ago and even then, Ross Perot didn't get 19% in 1992. Ok, he came very close but you get my point. (And the second time around Perot only received slightly over 8% despite spending his personal money out the wazoo).

Is it rocket science for these jokers to think to ask a question like this: "If the election were today and you had to choose between Joe Biden or Donald Trump, which one would get your vote?"

THOSE are the results I want to see. Because like you, I agree that Trump simply cannot ever break above about 48% support nationwide. So I want to know what those 19% think if they only had 2 choices, is that really so hard to ask? What if three-quarters of that 19% said Biden? Let's them compare the results: Biden 40%, Trump 41% vs. Biden 55%, Trump 45%. Or, just for fairness, if it were reversed: Trump 56%, Biden 44%.

Either of those last two sets of results sure seem to tell me a lot more about the state of the election in Wisconsin than the first one does. But the media LOVES polls like the one Florida Atlantic served up. That is, anything that supports the media narrative that this thing is close and you need to keep us tuned on your TV 24/7, they're on board 100%. We don't even need a poll for that.

(V) & (Z) respond: When a pollster runs a five-way poll and also a two-way poll, we always use the latter.

P.S. in Arlington, TN, writes: The situations you described in "The Price of Disloyalty: Black Balled" are not isolated. Last week, my gardener was venting about the Donald Trump verdict with the usual right wing talking points. I simply agreed with him and spouted off every right wing talking point I knew.

The truth is that for most Trump supporters, nothing would ever change their minds. I view my gardener as a friend and many of Trump's supporters take any dissent from the Trump party line personally. It isn't worth losing a friend, but my vote will be for Joe Biden. I think voters such as myself are more plausible as "shy" voters than Trump supporters who are flamboyant in their support of Trump. Does that bear out in polling? Maybe.

When it comes to polling, most Trump supporters I know think they're supremely intelligent and value being right on any issue. They're the polar opposite of "shy." It may be possible that a small percentage of them weren't "shy" in 2016 and 2020, and were simply lying to pollsters in an effort to be right. Now that polling supports their views there's no need to lie. This could overvalue their opinions in polls.

I realize you'd probably claim pollsters are experts at discovering this, but pollsters clearly missed something in 2016 and 2020. They could be missing "shy" Biden voters such as myself and overcounting "shy" Trump voters.

Politics: She Blinded Me with Science

R.R. in Pasadena, CA, writes: You were asked why you didn't say the new president of Mexico was a scientist, and said that you didn't think there were necessarily fewer scientists than women elected politicians. And you identified a couple of politicians that were physicians as evidence of this.

As a scientist, I'll first state that physicians are not scientists. Your doctor obviously has a STEM background, but studying chemistry and biology doesn't turn a person into a scientist. Scientists do research studies to figure out how things work, while your doctor uses the results of this research to figure out why you are sick. Some doctors do participate in research studies, so they cross into being scientists, and some doctors do nothing but medical research. The same kind of principle holds for engineers as well; a mechanical engineer creating a CAD drawing of a thing is using the results of science to design something, not doing actual scientific research.

Yes, there are some gray areas, and it's not fixed in stone which is which. Product research to create a better iPhone isn't scientific research but its definitely using science research methods to make it happen, and occasionally they may do actual research on something to add a feature, or make the antennas work better. In general, if you're just using the results of science to do something that isn't advancing knowledge of a field, then you're not an actual scientist.

I couldn't find a list of scientists currently in Congress, but I did find a list of people with STEM backgrounds in the Congress elected in 2018. Note that the list includes Rand Paul, who is in no way an actual scientist (and only an ophthalmologist because he created his own accreditation program). I can't say whether any of the people with medical or engineering backgrounds did science, but there are only four people with actual science backgrounds noted (John Hickenlooper was a geologist but left office in 2019). Even if all of the 50-ish people are included, it's less than half of the number of women in that Congress.

Note that the 10% of that Congress with STEM backgrounds is less than the about 25% of the workforce with that background, and the less than 1% of scientists is less than the about 3% of scientists in the workforce. So scientists were underrepresented in Congress, and it may be worse now as in 2020 scientists and STEM people who ran for Congress did worse; 2018 was a record for these members of Congress so it's likely the representation is worse now. This is just the U.S., working this out for politicians around the world would probably be a good research project, though.

S.Y. in Portland, ME, writes: Regarding the question from W.H in San Jose, and why your headline was "Mexico elects a woman" rather than "Mexico elects a scientist" as president, here's an interesting bit of etymology: The term "scientist" was first coined by English philosopher William Whewell in March 1834, when he reviewed the Mary Somerville's book On the Connexion of the Physical Sciences as an alternative to previously-used terms like "Man of Science." While it has ultimately become a gender-neutral term, the initial usage was meant to acknowledge that not all "men of science" were, in fact, men at all.

Politics: Hart Attacks

S.Z. in Parma, OH, writes: That Gary Hart conjecture seems novel, and very inventive. I had a fine algebra teacher, Eugene Oberst. He taught us how to graph equations. To describe some of them, he would say, "It doesn't hold water." That applies there.

R.S. in Vancouver, WA, writes: The shift from economic issues wasn't driven by the Democratic Party. The Southern Strategy and, later, the Moral Majority predated all of that by 10-15 years. (The Moral Majority is part of this because desegregation led to a boom in private, all-white evangelical schools, and Jimmy Carter threatened to take their tax exemptions if they didn't desegregate.) People like Gary Hart and Bill Clinton who appealed to "yuppies" were not the driving force, they were the reactive force. Professionals that believed in the promise of the social movements of the 1960s and 1970s did not have a home in the party of the Southern Strategy and Moral Majority.

The Republican culture warriors started much earlier then the Democratic reaction. Lee Atwater was a staffer for Strom Thurmond during the Dixiecrat campaign. Richard Nixon targeted the South in 1968 and 1972. Ronald Reagan launched his post-primary campaign with a speech about "states' rights" in the same town where Civil Rights Movement workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were murdered in 1968.

To misstate reaction as action provides a poor explanation for behavior. The political party of Lee Atwater, Richard Nixon, Rush Limbaugh, Jerry Falwell, George W. Bush, Karl Rove, Jessie Helms and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) didn't find the reactionary culture war in 2016, and they didn't discover the culture war in response to anything the Democrats did.

All Politics Is Local

I.K. in Queens, NY, writes: I don't know if you've followed the latest debacle coming out of New York politics, but Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) is doing her absolute hardest to be such an abysmal leader as to give Republicans a fighting chance.

At issue is congestion pricing, which would be a toll on cars coming into central Manhattan to help pay for our perpetually broke public transit authority, the MTA. Heaven and earth had to be moved to get this passed into law. Everyone in New York has been working on this for 5 years, figuring out disability exemptions, installing enforcement technology, getting billions in matching federal funds to expand the subway. This week, Hocul announced by fiat that she's canceled (er, "postponed indefinitely") congestion pricing.

It's hard to overstate just how livid 95% of New York City is over this. Our future, in terms of infrastructure, quality of life, and environmental impact, just got sold out to avoid mildly inconveniencing rich suburbanites who can't be bothered to take a Metro North train. Hochul said we'll get a new payroll tax instead to make up the lost funding; our legislative leader, with 2 days left of the legislative session, replied, "Uh, no we won't." I'm sure the lawsuits are already flying, since it's unclear whether Hochul has the authority to do this.

Rumors are that Hochul did this at the behest of House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) in an effort to shore up all those suburban districts the Democrats lost in 2022. True or not, Hochul gets the blame, since the buck stops with her. There's irony in the fact that Hochul has done her level best to screw up the New York congressional delegation since entering office (choosing Brian Benjamin as lieutenant governor, messing up the gerrymandering at every turn, etc.).

Even if those 1% of voters in NY-4 and NY-17 who drive to Manhattan are convinced by Hochul's about-face in 2024, expect a thorough shellacking of the Democrats in New York in 2026 when Hochul is top of the ticket again. In 2022, she got less than 54% of the vote in deep-blue New York; this latest move will cost her several more percentage points. Personally, I will never vote for her again; I can't imagine any governor screwing up as much as she has. Will it be enough to elect a Republican governor for the first time since 2002? Probably still unlikely... but certainly in the realm of possibility.

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: I really hadn't followed the race for the Republican nomination for Senate here in the Garden State—it wasn't like I was going to vote in THAT primary—so I was surprised to see that it was fairly close, with Curtis Bashaw defeating Christine Serrano Glassner 46%-39%, with 16% voting for other candidates (rounding, and using the latest numbers from The New York Times' website, a bit closer than the numbers cited below).

Who were these people? The Times helped out:

Curtis Bashaw, a hotel developer from Cape May, N.J., won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate with about 48 percent of the vote. His nearest competitor, Christine Serrano Glassner, the mayor of Mendham Borough, N.J., who had been endorsed by Mr. Trump, got 37 percent of the vote.

Mr. Bashaw, 64, a political moderate, will face a tough race against Mr. Kim in November.

Well, OK, that helps. But what's interesting about this is the geographic distribution of the votes. In New Jersey, the big divide is North Jersey vs. South Jersey. Bashaw is from the south, generally speaking (but not universally) the more Republican-friendly region. Glassner is from the north. And the county-by-county voting pattern reflected that. Except for Essex County (dominated by Democratic Newark and suburbs, with a few Republican enclaves) and Passaic County (biggest city Paterson, but with swaths of rural Republican-leaning places), Glassner swept the northern counties and Bashaw swept the southern ones.

And when I say "swept," I mean swept. The margins, almost everywhere, were not close. Bashaw's 7-point overall win was built on his crushing wins in 13 counties (margin of victory from 29% to an extraordinary 66%) outweighing Glassner's crushing wins in 7 counties (margin of victory from 18% to an extraordinary 61%).

In short, New Jersey's Republican map looked a lot like the country's electoral vote map: geographically polarized, with units (counties or states) heavily dominated by one or another candidate's supporters, and very few units even close to competitive. All politics is local, especially in a parochial state like New Jersey, so it's possible that in this Republican primary the North Jersey-South Jersey divide was more important than the MAGA-(Relatively) Sane divide. But still it's hard not to view these results as more evidence that the fissure in the Republican electorate is real.

On the Democratic side, at last count Joe Biden had 88.5% of the vote, with 8.7% uncommitted and 2.8% for someone no one's ever heard of. In most counties. Biden pulled 90%+, including urban counties heavily dominated by progressive voters. The big exception was Passaic County, where Paterson has a large number of Arab-Americans. There, Biden was at 78% with 18% uncommitted and 4% for the unknown. This should give a pretty good idea of the upper bound of possible Democratic defection over Gaza.

Finally, the Democrats in the House district of Rep. Rob Menendez Jr. (D), a genuinely nice guy, demonstrated that they can distinguish him from his father Bob.

M.S. in Chicago, IL, writes: Your item on Democrats trying to flip the Arizona legislature has both chambers as R+2. This is accurate, but just flipping one seat in one chamber—making it a tie—will have a significant impact: The state constitution requires 31 votes to pass anything. A single seat flipped to blue in either chamber would mean that a lot of crazy legislation never even makes it to the desk of Gov. Katie Hobbs (D-AZ), not to mention that a moderate coalition would elect the chamber's leadership.

Democrats will have to hold everything they have and flip one or more seats to accomplish this. This is a tall order, of course, but the good news for the blue team is that one seat in each chamber is currently occupied by a Republican elected from a blue district (due to Democratic candidate quality problems in 2020 and 2022). The four competitive districts in the state are having bloodbath GOP primaries over, predictably, abortion and Trumpism.

All in all, I am cautiously optimistic about at least one flipped chamber in Arizona, and very optimistic about at least one tied chamber.

N.H. in Merill, WI, writes: In your post about flipping state legislative chambers, you suggested the Wisconsin maps would allow for Democrats to try and flip the state Senate. While you're correct that the new maps are competitive, and the Assembly is in play (albeit a larger lift due to the margin), not all of the senators are up for election this year, so it wouldn't be until 2026 that Democrats could conceivably flip that chamber.


T.M.M. in Odessa, MO, writes: Actually, the answer to the question from D.G. in Ramsey is simpler.

For most races, like U.S. Senate, the winner of a party's Minnesota primary is the party's nominee in the general. But for the presidential primary, the Minnesota primary merely determines who gets Minnesota's delegates to the national convention. The person nominated by the national convention, who may or may not be the person who won Minnesota, is that party's presidential candidate.

Because the presidential candidate is chosen nationally, it's not possible for the Secretary of State to certify the winner. So the role falls to the state chairs of the individual parties. In theory, the Minnesota Green Party, for example, could decide that they do not like the candidate chosen by the national convention and name their own ticket, but in practice, the party chairs will certify the candidate's chosen by the national conventions.

L.C. in Temple, TX, writes: As a native Texan, perhaps I can add some shading to your answer to the question from G.S. in New Plymouth about why the Texas Legislature only meets every two years.

As we were taught in Texas history class, there was a transcription error at the writing of the state Constitution. They wrote "the Legislature shall meet for 140 days every 2 years." What they meant to write was "the Legislature shall meet for 2 days every 140 years."

With the current state of the Texas legislature, a correction should be made immediately.

History Matters

J.D.M. in Cottonwood Shores, TX, writes: On the subject of the worst U.S. President, since Dick Cheney is ineligible due to a technicality, let me suggest this person:

If his name is mentioned when we are outside, I quietly turn my head and expectorate.

(V) & (Z) respond: Actually, the Soviet Union collapsed during the administration of his successor.

L.B. in Savannah, GA, writes: My jaw hit the floor when you credited Francis Jennings' 1975 book The Invasion of America: Indians, Colonialism, and the Cant of Conquest as "the first major work to suggest that, just maybe, the Natives weren't the bad guys in the story of the conquering of the West." What about Dee Brown's 1970 book, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the Old West? That came out 5 years earlier, and is a detailed description of the westward expansion of the U.S. from a Native American perspective.

According to Wikipedia, a nineteenth-century precursor to Brown was Helen Hunt Jackson's 1881 book A Century of Dishonor, although that might not qualify as a "major" work. But Brown's definitely does, as it has sold over 5 million copies.

(V) & (Z) respond: The question was specifically about scholarly works, not popular works like Brown's. And that is not merely a technicality; in the 1970s, professional historians were as ivory tower-ish as they've ever been, and did not tend to take note of books from outside the academy. So, Brown's book opened the eyes of many everyday Americans, but it was Jennings' book that changed the course of the academic historiography.

A.B. in Lichfield, England, UK, writes: Surely you did Ecgberht I of Kent a disservice when you referred to him as the "Millard Fillmore of English kings."

Æthelwold of East Anglia is a much better candidate; Ecgberht I was more of a Chester A. Arthur.

(V) & (Z) respond: Yeah, yeah, next you're going to be telling us that Æthelred the Unready was the Franklin Pierce of English kings.

History Matters: World War II

T.R. in Exeter, England, UK, writes: Regarding the question posed by A.J. in Ames about the most important date in World War II, it is understandable that we in the west have a bias towards events in which we were involved. But objectively, the most important date was June 22, 1941. This was the day Adolf Hitler, having previously been allied to the USSR, attacked that nation in Operation Barbarossa, thereby deciding his own fate and that of the war.

D.C. in Toronto, Ontario, CA, writes: To me, the most important day of World War II was clearly June 22, 1941, the day the Germans launched Operation Barbarossa and invaded the USSR. By starting a total war of extermination against an opponent they really had no chance of ever fully defeating, the Nazi regime doomed itself. The moment the first German soldier crossed the Soviet border, it was only a matter of time until Germany's ultimate defeat.

M.S. in Canton, NY, writes: Thank you for the detailed explanation of the context of the D-Day invasion. In particular, I had never thought about the possibility of German U-Boats interfering with the landing. That point has a personal resonance for me.

You wrote that "... by 1943, the Allies had sonar and were much more able to defend themselves against these underwater menaces." They were "more able," yes, but the protection was not perfect. On March 21, 1945, the Liberty ship John R. Park was sunk by a torpedo from a U-Boat; it was one of the last Allied ships sunk at arms in the English Channel. I know this because my father was on it. He was the commanding officer of the Naval Armed Guard unit assigned to the ship. I have his personal log from this period of his service; it contains a fascinating—if terse—account of the sinking of the John R. Park, entered in real time. All aboard were rescued safely. (Not so for the crew of the U-Boat, which was sunk by British depth charges a few weeks later.)

J.B. in London, England, UK, writes: You are both, and Zenger in particular, very keen about accurate history reporting. But I'm afraid you slipped a bit in your item on D-Day. You wrote: "Allied forces in Western and Southern Europe (mostly troops from the U.S., U.K. and Canada) were effectively stuck in neutral, having conquered two-thirds of Italy before running into the virtually un-conquerable Alps."

By the time of D-Day, the Allies were nowhere near the Alps. Having raced each other across Sicily in 1943, the Americans under George S. Patton and the (mainly) British forces under Bernard Law Montgomery were struggling from their beachheads in mainland Italy. They were working slowly up the spine of Italy, but by June 6 had not even reached Rome, left alone further north. Their progress has stalled when up against the Germans' Gustsav Line, in particular during the four very bloody attacks on Monte Casino, nearly all undertaken by the British part of the alliance. War graves north of Naples testify to their efforts.

In fact, although Montgomery had been withdrawn months earlier to plan for D-Day, his Eighth Army finally marched into Rome on June 6, just as U.S. troops were landing on Omaha and Utah, and British, French and Canadians were storming Juno, Sword and Gold beaches. Inevitably, news of the triumph in the south was eclipsed by the joy of finally opening a second front in northern Europe.

H.F. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: Watching President Biden at Normandy last week reminded me of this interview his predecessor sat for five years ago:

With American graves in the background, the then commander-in-chief ranted about then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi, then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Hillary Clinton, calling them names as if he was at one his campaign rallies. His performance on that hallowed ground was truly an embarrassment to our country and an insult to the memory of those who gave their lives for freedom and democracy.

S.K. in Bethesda, MD, writes: Reading Dwight D. Eisenhower's statement prepared in case the D-Day invasion failed, I couldn't help but imagine what Trump might have written:

SAD! The suckers who tried to land on the beach in France were weak losers just like I thought they'd be. I always thought it was a terrible idea—and the Europeans should have been paying their share anyway. If they just listened to me, we could have just worked out a deal with Adolf—let him have what he needs and maybe get some beachfront property to put a golf course and a resort. What a WASTE! Great business opportunity RUINED! NOT OUR PROBLEM!


History Matters: True Stories

K.H. in Ypsilanti, MI, writes: You left out the most fundamental reason why filmmakers can get away with using phrases like "based on a true story" in their movies, which is that "based on" is a dodgy term that provides a incredible amount of wiggle room. You could make an entirely fictitious movie about George Washington that has him traveling through time to advise Abraham Lincoln and later Franklin D. Roosevelt on the conduct of their wars and say it was based on a true story because your starting point is that there was a person named George Washington who was a brilliant general and later president of the United States. That's the true story it's based on. Everything else is just fluff.

S.R. in Ottawa, ON, Canada, writes: I thought you gave a great answer to the question from A.G. From Scranton about the use of "based on a true story" (and its related phrases) in film. First, let me start by saying that I teach university-level literature and film courses, including historical and war films (although my bread-and-butter is speculative fiction and monster movies). Anyway, I used to feel like A.G. I remember being especially vehement as an undergrad that Braveheart was an awful film because of things like the Battle of Stirling Bridge not including a bridge. Does this misrepresent the history? Sure. Does it matter narratively? Not really. So, what matters more? It really depends what you're watching it for, and what you hope to achieve or convey. The same is true of dramatic film as a medium—it's not documentary, and it shouldn't be held to the standards of documentary. Different media are... different. For the same reason, it's usually futile to try and directly compare books and movies. Viewers, like you said, just need to take "based on a true story," with a grain, lump or truckload of salt, depending on the case.

On to The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare. I was actually looking forward to this movie, and I watched it the other night. I found it very disappointing. Not only is the history bad, as you note, but it narratively doesn't work either. It tried to be a spiritual companion to Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds, but couldn't pull it off. It's neither over-the-top nor original enough. It tried to diversify the cast, but seriously underutilized both Eiza Gonzalez and Babs Olusanmokun. Til Schweiger's Nazi villain character is a study in clichés. Rory Kinnear—good in so many roles—isn't believable as Churchill. Henry Cavill does a fine job in the lead, but even his shoulders cannot carry this film. Finally, in order to switch from the plotline of sinking the Duchessa to stealing her, they suddenly make her "unsinkable," which doesn't make any sense historically or narratively. Worst case, they could just scuttle the ship after sailing her from the harbor. It's just lazy writing. There are many other issues, but I'll leave it there. I'm willing to overlook bad history a good film... but The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare was not a good film, and I so much wanted to like it.

(V) & (Z) respond: Kinnear looked more like Rush Limbaugh than Winston Churchill. And the "climactic" final act was a just a train wreck.

A.G. in Scranton, PA, writes: In addition to thinking that stupid movie was factual, the same person I wrote in about recently told me that Ohio should stick to its guns about "the sanctity of the law" (or some such stupid phrase) in regards to President Biden not appearing on the ballot. When I fact-checked him by using the data from your site (the only site I never fact check, by the by) he, predictably (because this is the family answer when things don't go their way) said "I hadn't heard that." He then e-mailed me with some hastily done research that was wrong about how Ohio hadn't made such an exception... and then I did a simple Google search and sent him the results.

I'm telling you, most people these days think any stupid crap that is important enough to appear online (which is friggin' anything made up by any moron) is true.

Complaints Department

P.F. in Fairbanks, AK, writes: Honestly, I look forward to the Complaints Department on Sundays. Sometimes, I stop reading when I get to that section so that I can save it for a time I can really savor the entertainment.

I've followed you since Bush-Kerry and have your site as a permanently open tab to read throughout my day. I don't say that to show my platinum-level fandom or anything, I say it because I feel pretty familiar with the work you do, and I have some thoughts on many of these complaints.

Readers are receiving a free service that they self-selected. Even the staff mathematician would have a hard time keeping an account of the number of hours you spend, not just researching and writing, but wordsmithing and adjusting to maximize effect and engagement. And lastly, you are not bound by any rules but your own, as the owners and operators of this site. Criticism around neutrality, vulgarity, and general ownership of this experience is misplaced, as your creative license allows you to create a theme and voice that belongs to you and reflects you.

That's not to say people are wrong to criticize, but criticism focused on the foundations of the site itself seem laughable given the myriad of other places one could find their political fix.

R.H. in Colusa, CA, writes: Do you plan to give the Hunter Biden trial—which involves a REAL sleazebag—the same level of coverage, replete with play-by-play reporting, lurid comments, snide and oh-so-precious little digs, etc., as that of (former and very likely future) President Trump? I'm guessing not.

I'm truly saddened by what your site has become. I am a long-time reader, and, while you were always biased to the left, it was, somehow, a more gentile, more even-handed slant. If I had to put my finger on when the change began, I'd probably point to the merge with Zenger. You two must play off each other, and not in a positive way.

Yes, The Donald is, at least for now, a "convicted felon." Whoop-de-doo! The point that is missed is the fact that NOBODY else on God's green earth would have been brought to trial for what he did. The dog-whistle term used to cover such shenanigans (which go on DAILY) is "sharp business practices." Everyone knows what that means.

Hunter, on the other hand, is a REALLY crooked and despicable person. That said, I'll be watching your comments (or lack thereof) with great interest.

I'm 86 now and have seen a lot of water go over the dam. The Democratic Party has allowed itself to be taken over by the lunatic fringe. Good, decent, men like Harry S. Truman, Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, John F. Kennedy (yes Kennedy, philanderer extraordinaire), Joe Lieberman, etc. must be spinning in their graves.

(Z) responds: We do not normally respond to complaints in the mailbag, except to provide information that only we know, but we're going to make an exception here, because this is not a response to the portions of the complaint that are about us.

If you think that falling victim to drug addiction makes a person more sleazy than someone who is not only a convicted felon, but is an outspoken racist, is a verified committer of sexual assault, has cheated hundreds if not thousands of business partners, is utterly unable to distinguish the truth from a lie, has stolen from his own charitable foundation and, oh yeah, tried to overturn a legitimate election result, then you are an ignoramus and an asshole. Note, incidentally, that word is left that uncensored for emphasis, and also that this comment is signed by only one of us, so you know exactly who to blame.

B.C. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: As I read the condemnations in the letter by M.S. in Van Nuys, I repeatedly had one thought come to mind. Keep guessing about that while I address my other thoughts.

M.S. called you out for "your insistence on focusing so much on polls, polls, polls." Uh, well, that is the stated purpose of to be an aggregator of the current polls. M.S. wrote "you rely upon them, report upon them, to the detriment of real news" and in doing so "in the run-up to the 2020 election, you and the rest of the so-called media gave" the Orange Donny "about 3 billion dollars in free advertising." Pardon me, but I find it hard to understand how the educated and informed snarky comments of (V) and (Z) serve as positive advertisements for Donny.

In concert with the "detriment of real news" shtick, M.S. also uttered the holiest of journalistic names (Walter Cronkite and Edward R. Murrow). Please correct me if I am wrong, but you guys have never claimed to be "journalists," right? One of you teaches computer science and the other teaches history.

Speaking of history, M.S. went on to claim you "both are much younger than I am, haven't followed as many elections, or lived through as much U.S. history." Putting aside the fact that (V) is older than M.S., the substance of that claim is that just because someone is older they have a better handle on wisdom. Well, M.S., in 1969 a young buck who had just gotten a notice to report for his pre-induction physical defiantly told a bunch of skeptical, argumentative, much older World War II veterans that the Vietnam "conflict" would go down in history as one of the biggest mistakes of the 1960s U.S. government. Who was correct?

Last thing: The thought that kept occurring to me was "Wow, you two just can't win. Can you?"

(V) & (Z) respond: In answer to your implied question, it is correct that we are neither reporters nor journalists, nor do we claim to be so. We are academics and educators, and have made clear many times that is the vantage point we are coming from. As such we care about the truth, and let the chips fall where they may.

B.F. in Washington, DC, writes: J.N. in Stockholm writes: "You may think gay jokes are 'cute,' but they are OLD and outdated. Honestly, it is starting to piss me off. You two are smarter than that. Knock it off."

As much as I have often wanted to send a gushing letter for how you two constantly generate the most insightful place on the Internet, and I have followed from close to day one, the praise I am going to send is to tell you to not listen to J.N. in Stockholm, complaining about your gay "jokes." As a gay man, I have long appreciated the acknowledgment of my existence by two straight, academic professors on this page. Indeed, the Larry Craig comment seemed to me as a realistic comment that LGBTQ+ folks exist, particularly in the political world (the whispers here in D.C. never end, and often turn out to be true). Keep up your amazing work. Thank you.

(V) & (Z) respond: We suspect that 100% the very small number of gay "jokes" we've made on the site are not mocking gayness, but instead mock fake straightness.


J.E. in San Jose, CA, writes: It did my heart good to see S.R. in Santa Clara refer to the 510 area code as the nickel dime. When it first came into being in 1991 I would hear it a lot but it's been decades since I heard it last.

T.C. in Stone Mountain, GA, writes: When I entered my favorite bar last night, I saw the staff mathematician surrounded by the remains of many alcoholic drinks and papers covered with calculations. It was obvious he was distressed. I asked him what the problem was. He said, "Every time I calculate it, it always comes out the same. On average, each living U.S. ex-president has been convicted of 6.8 felonies." I hailed him a cab and told him to go home and sleep it off. Hopefully, he will have forgotten by morning.

S.F. in Chicago, IL, writes: Hello Comments,

Following up on whether you would like to exchange links with, as I haven't heard back from you.

(V) & (Z) respond: Truth be told, we only opened your e-mail because we were dying to know why it would make sense for us to exchange links with We were disappointed to see that we'd misread your subject line, and that is not the name of your site.

Final Words

M.W. in Ottawa, ON, Canada, writes: I am fond of strolling through graveyards, but do not often take photographs of the graves. I made an exception for this suffragette and think her decorated grave would make an appropriate Final Words for an election-focused website. It is located in Brompton Cemetery, London, UK:

The headstone says: 'IN LOVING MEMORY OF
EMMELINE PANKHURST, WIFE OF R.M. PANKHURST, MD, AT REST JUNE 14, 1928' and it is adorned with a 'Votes for Women' sash.

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

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