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‘A Six-Week-Long Media Extravaganza’

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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

Don't infer anything from the fact that the first letter is from the Great White North. We have not sold out to our future Canadian overlords—no way, no how, you hosers. It would take a lot of loonies and toonies to purchase our favour, eh.

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Race

T.C. in Calgary, AB, Canada, writes: I've followed for many years, at least since 2004. In those 20 years, I never thought the "low information" (read: stupid) voter could get any more "low information" (read: more stupid), but here we are.

You recently changed your front page to project the Electoral College vote. I was shocked (well, not really). Are Republican voters really that stupid or are they really that brainwashed? Can't they see they're being played? Can't they see they're part of The Big Grift? Can't they see the Republicans care not one ounce for their well being and are pawns in a game to make the rich richer and the poor poorer? I know that the White Christian Nationalist Trump voter is in a cult, but this is ridiculous.

This is a "you stand with us or you stand with the terrorists" election. The Republicans are standing with domestic terrorists. That they are standing with terrorists is rich, considering what happened in 2001. A vote for Trump says you condone domestic terrorism, insurrection, treason, and abject stupidity, and accept Trump's criminal activity including racketeering and conspiring to obstruct justice, racism, adultery, buffoonery, criminal charges to overthrow a democratic election... etc. etc. etc. How is any of this okay with ANY voter? It boggles the mind.

Never before (especially since the failed insurrection by a bunch of domestic terrorists) in this century has there been such a clear cut choice—democracy or dictatorial fascism.

It's the type of election where a 1964 or 1984 Electoral College result should happen—a clear and absolute result that should put an end to the lunacy the world has witnessed in the US since 2016.

But it won't. People are far too deep in the cult. Barring a revelation they may have and/or their fake Christian savior going to prison where he belongs, the only thing that will snap these people out of their indoctrination is cult deprogramming. Remember that time in the 1960s and 1970s when parents were afraid their children were joining cults, so they sent little Johnny and little Suzy off for cult deprogramming. The U.S. desperately needs those cult deprogramming programs back. Now. Or at best, make civics and politics mandatory in high school before they're sent off into the world as a stupid voter who end up voting against their own interests for modern-day World War II fascists.

M.S. in Las Vegas, NV, writes: "Willow's Box" is without question one of the best political ads I have ever seen, for several reasons, but the biggest by far is the blunt and brutal ending: "Donald Trump did this." This is exactly the kind of messaging that the Biden campaign needs to hammer on the airwaves.

The Biden campaign should also create a similar ad with people who lost family members to COVID after those family members believed Trump's bulls**t about the virus. The family members should make it clear the person listened to Trump and then died and then the ad should simply say "Donald Trump did this."

I understand they have to walk a very fine line to get it on the air but they managed with the Willow's Box ad and I'm sure they can manage with a similar COVID ad.

D.M. in Alameda, CA, writes: Five major news outlets are calling for presidential debates, and The Don is ranting about wanting debates. It strikes me that a dignified way for Joe Biden to tell Donald to stuff it would be for Joe to say: "I will debate if Donald accepts beforehand that I am the duly elected President, and if he agrees to call me 'Mr. President' throughout the debate." Another approach would be for Joe to announce that appearing on stage with and debating a person who has been found criminally liable for sexual assault is beneath the dignity of the presidency. I would love to see either of these happen.

S.R.G. in Grecia, Costa Rica, writes: I think that Joe Biden should agree to a pre-debate drug test when Donald Trump agrees to a public pre-debate weigh-in.

R.W. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: I think it is worth noting that while Donald Trump's Mar-A-Lago fundraiser brought in roughly twice as much as Joe Biden's Radio City fundraiser, the New York City event was attended by more than 5,000 people (for an average donation of a bit over $5K). I can't find an attendance figure for Trump's event (it is simply described as "sold out"), but allegedly attendees paid between $250,000 and $814,600 per person. Doing the math, that means that anywhere from 60 to 200 fat-cats were there. So the bottom line isn't that Trump out-raised Biden, it's the image of thousands of people going wild for three presidents versus a few dozen plutocrats fighting to stay awake during Trump's snooze-fest.

J.B. in Aarhus, Denmark, writes: I wish people would stop using TFG as an alias for Donald Trump. Whenever I see it, I think of this guy first:

The Family Guy from the animated sitcom

Trump is a prick and a moron; no euphemisms are necessary.

Politics: Polling

F.S. in Cologne, Germany, writes: P.H. in Mayo wrote: "Polls with less than 5,000 participants in a population of 330 million are useless". That's not true. A higher sample size only means that the margin of error (MoE) is smaller. In many polls with less than 5,000 participants, the MoE is about 3%. If Joe Biden wins 45% of the votes in such a poll, that means that his true number is between 42% and 48% (with a probability of 95%). If the sample size is far higher, you would have a smaller MoE, for example 1%. If Joe Biden wins 45% of the votes in such a poll, that means that his true number is between 44% and 46% (with a probability of 95%).

M.W. in Ottawa, ON, Canada, writes: P.H. in Mayo is certainly entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts. I was taught in Grade 8 statistics that the size of the underlying population is irrelevant to the size of the sample. As long as the sample is unbiased, a poll of 1000 people is accurate to ±3% 19 times out of 20. It doesn't matter whether there are 100,000 voters or 350 million.

The advantage to using a larger sample is that: (1) you can reduce the margin of error and (2) you can more credibly report on subgroups (gender, age, race, geography, etc). But requiring a sample size of 5,000 to treat a poll seriously is unsupported by mathematics. It is far more important to spend the extra money on ensuring the sample is unbiased than simply calling more people.

A.G. in Scranton, PA, writes: There has been an interesting lack of reportage on this Siena Poll. Ever since the transcendently talented Tina Fey found her own use of the word "reportage" to be somewhat silly in the movie Whiskey Tango Foxtrot I've wanted to use it myself, so I just did.

It is interesting to me how this poll, one wherein the duly elected President, and the pretend one that lying people who lie all the time like to lie about, are tied, is not being breathlessly reported upon.

Also, I was watching the massive, titanic, apocalyptic fallout from Arizona's rather interesting choice (used that word on purpose) to go back to a law made before women could vote, when they could still legally be beaten, and when Black people could still be enslaved on news channels that report things like news and then I switched to Fox News... which was playing over and again the moment when a Black woman who, after probably being paid to do so, hugged the pretend president that all of those lying liars lie about and told him "We don't care what the media says about you, we love you, Mr. President."

All that was lacking was some softshoe.

It is fun now to be around my family, who suddenly are very quiet about politics in America. My blowhard, loveable and generally decent brother now specifically says he doesn't want to talk about politics and my dear mother has no commentary about all of these wonderful developments in the progress that the anti-abortion movement has had in making raped children bear their rapist's rape baby to term.

It's nice to not talk about politics with people who will only lie about it anyway. My dad and I like talking about canals, railroads, bridges and stuff like that. My mother and I don't really talk all that much, but we do laugh at things now and again. My brother is super intelligent and has so much to say about so many things that aren't memes and easily repeated lies about politics. This is what life should be like in America... screw you, former President Trump for taking that away from us all.

Politics: Abortion

E.M. in Milwaukee, WI, writes: The recent changes to reproductive rights law in Arizona, Alabama, and Florida have stimulated lots of commentary. One of the more interesting is a column by The New York Times' David French headlined "The Great Hypocrisy of the Pro-Life Movement." French is staunchly pro-life, but somewhat practical and not anywhere near MAGA-land. He points out that the GOP has shown that they don't really believe that life starts at conception, since they were so fast to protect IVF when the Alabama Supreme Court ruling threatened it. After all, if a zygote/embryo is a full person, then frozen ones are clearly people who deserve the full protection of the law.

I think French's point is correct and that it calls out the deep fundamental impracticality of the fetal personhood idea. In fact, a central problem the GOP has with their reproductive rights positions is impracticality. Processes that are effectively abortions are performed regularly to reduce risk to the mother or to avoid pointlessly birthing a child that cannot possibly survive, because it is a straightforward path to a better practical result. IVF creates extra embryos because the process is difficult for the woman and has unpredictable results. Women seek abortions because a child, be it a first child or the latest of several, will disrupt their lives in various ways, such as forcing them to care less well for the children they already have or curtailing their career plans. Sometimes, perhaps, their practical concerns are not this honorable.

I get the emotional appeal of arguing that embryos are people, and it makes for a simple formulation of principles... but only until you face the practical consequences. If an embryo is really a person, then there is good reason to argue that:

  • Frozen embryos must be preserved for all eternity.
  • A woman who knows she is pregnant needs two passports to cross a U.S.-international border.
  • Any miscarriage can result in a coroner's inquest.
  • All women must be treated as pregnant at every moment between puberty and menopause, since most women don't know they are pregnant during the first few or several weeks of the process.

Furthermore, if an embryo is a person, there is no clear reason to give priority to the mother's life. Well, perhaps if either the mother will live or they will both die then the decision is clearer. But that is already a decision based in practicality.

The Roe v. Wade decision's principle of using fetal viability as the point at which abortion is prohibited was practical. At that point in time, the fetus can become a newborn and survive by itself. It is separable from its mother and there are paths forward for it regardless of whether the mother wants the child. Science and medicine reflect practicality in their terminology which moves from zygote to embryo to fetus to newborn to baby. If the GOP can find a way forward based on fetal personhood that is practical, then perhaps they can get the upper hand in this debate, but I struggle to see how they will get there.

J.C. in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, writes: With respect, I disagree with your response to T.J.R. in Metuchen. While recognizing that my argument displays clear bias for making me look good, I think I hold the moderate position on abortion. Human life has a unique blend of 46 chromosomes, so there is no question that human life begins at conception, and I would further say that the person is morally a human. However, I had a change of heart some 15 years back and now support a woman's right to choose. I would wish that all/most women would not choose abortion, but I think that should be done with gentle convincing, and not with an act of law. Seeing how well it worked with the Civil War in convincing the South that Black people were equals, I think that ultimately that is the only way we convince a population of anything.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: It must be said that "exceptions for rape, incest or to save the life of the mother" are B.S. There have been multiple cases of women having to leave their state for an abortion because they couldn't get approved for their exception in time. There's the harrowing Biden ad that you highlighted. I recall another Texas woman who recently made the news after suing the state and then travelling to New Mexico because the lawsuit wasn't going to move fast enough. If a woman is requesting the rape exception, how does that work, given that the rapist hasn't been convicted yet? How many 10 or 12 year old girls have we heard about who were obviously raped (a minor can't, by definition, give consent) and yet still had to travel out of state? Exceptions are B.S. and everyone who supports abortion rights (perhaps we should start calling it Women's Reproductive Health Care) should be saying this out loud.

You wrote that later-term abortions are more often the result of a fetal anomaly. Typically there is a discovery that either the fetus won't survive, the woman's health or future fertility may be compromised, or both. However, these anomalies usually don't show up until the 20th to 24th weeks of pregnancy. 15 weeks is too early to know if there is going to be a problem. This is why any limit at any number of weeks is completely arbitrary and does hold up to actual reproductive science. A 15- or 16-week ban shuts out every single wanted pregnancy that has gone wrong and puts women who want babies at risk of not being able to bear another child.

Weeks of pregnancy is an arbitrary measure, counting from the woman's last period. I assume there is a national association of obstetric doctors. They could really mess up these draconian laws by redefining when pregnancy starts. If I recall my biology, the next egg is produced roughly 2-3 weeks after a woman's period (women in the room, please correct me if I'm wrong; I don't want to be a mansplainer here). Knocking 3 weeks off the count would turn 6 weeks into 3 and buy a woman a little more time. It's a band-aid on a major wound, but also makes the point that all of these arbitrary cutoffs are just that, made up and not grounded in science, compassion or trust in a woman, her doctor and (sometimes) her partner.

P.J.S. in Portland, ME, writes: With all this talk of abortion, I remind the readers that most (something like 70-75 %) of pregnancies lead to the loss of the embryo and the natural termination of the pregnancy. It is simply the way the system works. This termination is usually either unknown to the mother or incredibly traumatic to the mother. The notion that life begins at first breath is the belief of most Jews and is what is written into the Hebrew Bible (Genesis 2:7). This concept protects the mother from all the legal issues, but more importantly the incredible trauma of being a murderer. My mother would always say "You take care of the living first," and oh, how right she was.

R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: Your comment that in the upcoming court battles over abortion "some will win and some will lose" is so true. In the current environment, it makes sense for individuals and organizations to be paying anything to roll the dice just one more time. And some of them were born to sing the blues. All we know for sure is the movie never ends; it goes on and on and on and on.

B.D. in Niceville, FL, writes: You wrote, in the item on Monday's abortion news, "Also, for many of these voters, economic issues may dominate and some of them may remember the Trump administration fondly..."

Abortion IS an economic issue. Your staff statistician will probably have more exact numbers, but just off top of my head, I recall seeing numbers like a cool quarter-million dollars that will be spent to raise one child until the age of 18. If that is not a huge economic impact on a person, then I don't know what is.

I can see the abortion restriction crowd spinning this into something like, "Oh look, you get to be (forcedly) pregnant for free! How cool is that?" But even if the $250k sounds abstract to someone, surely the expenses of prenatal care and labor and delivery are not abstract, and these expenses are being incurred in real time, even before the said $250k comes into play.

I can only hope that the choice crowd already knows of this economic aspect, and will put this info to good use.

P.C. in Yandina Creek, QLD, Australia, writes: For the longest time I was torn... did MAGA really mean Make America Great Britain Again? Ex-president Trump (NOT "former president") seeks coronation and all of the unchecked power that comes with being a king. MAGBA doesn't quite fit on the Made in China hats and embroidered letters are expensive! I think this question has been answered for me after Arizona gave precedent to its Civil War-era ban on abortion. MAGA means "Make America Gilead Already." Gotta love those bigly states rights... Handmaids, get ready!

Politics: Fascism

J.K. in Portland, OR, writes: As with many people, I take my definition of fascism from a Free Inquiry article by Lawrence Britt. Here they are, with reference to the topic at hand.

  1. Powerful and continuing nationalism. MAGA. Yes.
  2. Disdain for the recognition of human rights. "Vermin." Yes.
  3. Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause. MAGA again. Yes.
  4. Supremacy of the military. To enforce what he wants. Qualified Yes.
  5. Rampant sexism. $91 million worth. Yes.
  6. Controlled mass media. Hatred of NYT, etc. Yes.
  7. Obsession with national security. Border wall. Yes.
  8. Religion and government are intertwined. At one with Jesus. Yes.
  9. Corporate power is protected. Fer shur. Yes.
  10. Labor power is suppressed. Stiffing workers. Yes.
  11. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts. Modern stable genius. Qualified Yes.
  12. Obsession with crime and punishment. Kill enemies of the state. Yes.
  13. Rampant cronyism and corruption. Hundreds of millions of dollars. Yes.
  14. Fraudulent elections. The main message. Yes.

So 12 out of 14 are a clear yes, while the other two could go either way depending on how generous one is (even Adolf Hitler admired Richard Wagner's music along with German art, especially if it served his purposes). My conclusion: If it walks like a fascist and talks like a fascist, then the odds are pretty high that it is a fascist. The take seems to be something along the lines of TFG being a wannabe fascist who doesn't have what it takes to fully rule that way. That doesn't make me sleep any more soundly.

W.M. in Philadelphia, PA, writes: Anecdote: In the aftermath of the 2016 election, I was involved in a discussion of the impending disaster that the Trump administration would inevitably be, when one of the other participants said, "Yes, Trump is terrible, but he's not Hitler." My response, "Well OK, but even Hitler wasn't always HITLER."

We were interrupted, so I never got a chance to explain what I meant. My point was that, when that famous example of authoritarianism ascended to absolute power in 1933, even Hitler did not know all the terrible things that would follow. He managed to go from "Economic dire straits in his country, and people voting for his party due to frustration with the status quo" and "What have they got to lose?" to "The complete physical devastation of his own country (including millions killed), not to mention the devastation and millions more killed across Europe and Western Asia" in 12 years. Not only did he not marshal support on that "platform", and did his voters not realize what was coming, but neither did he. Hitler evolved.

Trump isn't Hitler. Trump doesn't have the fascination with conquest that the first-generation fascists had. He did want a military parade in his own honor, but probably that was just so that he could bask in the adulation. But that doesn't necessarily make him "better." In practice, all it really means is that the devastation that he could bring would just take a different form.

This comment could go on and on, but to keep it "brief," I'm going to limit myself to three observations:

  1. A cult of personality inevitably replaces competence with sycophancy. Either the leader finds certain subordinates "difficult to work with" (because occasionally they raise objections), or ambitious junior underlings (seeking to get closer to the seat of power) undermine their less-sycophantic bosses by calling their "loyalty" into question. Either way, and even without consciously meaning to, the mechanism of the cult purges expertise, leaving it completely unequipped to cope with a crisis (e.g., COVID). (I remember explaining this phenomenon to a group of junior colleagues at work even before COVID.) So once the cult is established, when the crisis comes—as something inevitably will—the mechanism of the cult inevitably turns the crisis into a disaster. Thus all cults of personality certainly "contain the seeds of their own destruction," but generally they take a lot of other people down with them.

  2. Fundamentalist movements—which Trumpism is, and which it has also allied itself with—inevitably evolve to become more fundamentalist, not less. That's why the Taliban becomes more and more draconian, and the anti-abortion movement insists on doubling down on more and more extreme restrictions (e.g., illegal to drive through this county for the purpose of seeking an abortion somewhere else), even when polling indicates that this is costing them support. (By the way, this isn't limited to right-wing movements. People deciding that a Lincoln School must be renamed because Honest Abe was too squishy on slavery are doing the same thing.) Just like the cult of personality cannot help themselves, neither can the fundamentalists. Ascendancy in a fundamentalist movement is always accorded to the ones who dare to push the limits; anyone with less conviction is clearly not a "true" believer and thus unfit to lead the movement. One consequence of this is that a titular leader of such a movement is actually borne along by the movement, without any way to turn back, even if they wanted to. You're seeing this today with Trump and abortion.

  3. Trump is an absolutely terrible person, with no compunctions. Once he is surrounded entirely by yes-people, there is nothing they would not be capable of (shooting protesters, pretending the Twenty-Second amendment doesn't exist and daring the Supreme Court to do anything about it, etc.). I don't know what they'll actually do—and, in fact, neither do they (yet)—but it will be terrible. I made this "discovery" on March 9, 2016 (when I saw the video of the protester at the Trump rally being assaulted by rally-goers as he was being dragged out by security, and Trump egging them on). Trump gained nothing (from a campaign standpoint) by going on the record in favor of gratuitous violence against political opponents, but he couldn't help himself. That was an unmistakable glimpse into the abyss where his soul should be.

Bottom line: Trump isn't Hitler, but we should take absolutely no comfort from that. And he will evolve.

R.N. in Manassas, VA, writes: You wrote: "Anyhow, plotting to put your political opponents in jail, even if they committed no crimes, and using government power to try to intimidate private corporations who do not follow the party line? That's Fascism 101."

That course is Fascism 102, and the prerequisite course, "Effective use of propaganda to control the masses through the spread of disinformation and fear" is Fascism 101. How far could Trump have gone if no-one believed that he had actually won the election?

Why are people so reluctant to invoke the ghost of Hitler and Nazism when we see it on display publicly (Charlottesville, VA) and on TV every day? At least is willing to compare him to Mussolini, which does fit the goofy aspects of his personality/behavior, but discounts his evil traits.

D.B.G. Minneapolis, MN, writes: "Anyhow, plotting to put your political opponents in jail, even if they committed no crimes, and using government power to try to intimidate private corporations who do not follow the party line? That's Fascism 101."

Thank you for writing it.

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: You wrote: "Trump either doesn't know what a communist is, or doesn't know what a fascist is, or doesn't know what either is."

The answer is "ALL OF THE ABOVE."

The Mango Monster doesn't know his arse from a hole in the ground. How could he know the difference between political/economic philosophies?

Politics: Trump Legal

B.J. in Arlington, MA, writes: You wrote: "Being on trial for a crime is not likely to help [Trump's] campaign," and that certainly seems likely to be true. However, it also seems likely to me that being acquitted in that trial will be incredibly helpful in his campaign. He will of course spin it as him being VINDICATED and EXONERATED of all of his crimes, and the low-information electorate will buy it. He seems unlikely to face any other trial before the election, and with the "humiliation" of having failed to beat him blamed on Biden, Trump will have a much better chance of winning. Once he wins, of course, he will never leave office while alive and thus will never face trial again.

So there is kind of a lot riding on Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg. I hope he doesn't have any skeletons in his closet.

(V) & (Z) respond: He better not be dating Nathan Wade.

J.R. in New York City, NY, writes: You wrote:

This trial stuff is starting to be serious. About 500 potential jury members have been sent notices to be at the Manhattan criminal court next Monday. This is a staggering number. They may or may not know that they are in the jury pool. All of them will be asked to fill out extensive questionnaires in an attempt to eliminate people who are overtly biased. One of the questions is "Do you believe the 2020 election was stolen?" The judge and all the lawyers will look at the answer to this and related questions quite keenly.

The Trump jury selection you describe is very similar to a mafia trial in which I was in the jury pool. For the mafia case, there were about 300 of us in a big room. We were given ID numbers and told to fill out an extensive questionnaire that was about 25 pages. Then we were sent on our way. We were told not to discuss anything about the case, or questionnaire, to anyone. We were given a phone number and a specific date when we should call that number. We would then provide our numerical ID to find out if we were impaneled. I was not chosen. It's not surprising that the are using mafia protocols for the Trump case. In that mafia case, incidentally the jury ended up being deadlocked.

Politics: In Congress

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: You wrote:

The corporations [Jim Jordan is] targeting, like Procter & Gamble, Mars Inc., and Unilever are members of several consortiums that share information on advertising strategy. These consortiums, backed by much number-crunching, have concluded that association with crazypants content is not good for the brands. And Jordan declares that, in acting on those conclusions, the various corporations are guilty of violating the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. Bet you didn't see that coming.

Actually, I saw that coming the moment you wrote "consortium." To the Trumpy conspiracy theory crowd, the word is practically synonymous with "collusion."

To be honest, I kinda see his point. By cooperating on the research behind their advertising strategies, these companies are likely to come to similar conclusions, and therefore are less likely to compete on advertising strategy. It's probably structured in such a way as to be technically kosher, but may be an end-run around the spirit of the Sherman Act.

Of course, even if Jordan is successful here, it probably won't change these companies' strategies; it will just make them do their research to support those strategies individually (i.e., at greater cost) than collectively.

R.L.P. in Santa Cruz, CA, writes: Kudos on your metaphoric consistency in your item on the Johnson/Trump Mar-a-Lago hookup.

(V) & (Z) respond: Saturday Night Live had a cruder version of the same basic joke last night, involving the soreness of Speaker Mike Johnson's (R-LA) jaw.

S.A. in Seattle, WA, writes: Former representative Ken Buck labeling Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) "Moscow Marj" is the best thing to come from a Republican in some time.

J.M. in Boulder, CO, writes: I wonder what Marjorie Taylor Greene would say if someone suggested that the eclipse and earthquake are God telling her to repent for ignoring Christ's teachings about loving her fellow man?

Politics: Protest Votes

A.T. in Oviedo, FL (formerly A.T. in San Francisco, CA), writes: To answer the question raised by several people, it won't lead to me voting for Joe Biden, but I will vote to support the initiatives on the ballot to protect the right to an abortion and legalization of weed.

A.C. in Zenia, CA, writes: The thing that the people responding to A.T. in San Francisco/Oviedo have been missing—and I say this as an anarchist with a Marxian economic analysis—is that people like A.T. almost invariably are not the ones whose children will be put in cages, or be forced to give birth in a pregnancy that may kill them, or be shot at a traffic stop if Donald Trump regains the presidency. Politics is an intellectual game and they have no skin in it. James Baldwin constantly reminded us that politics is about power.

Having said that, I think much evidence supports the conclusion that when enough people like A.T. make credible threats to withdraw their votes in locations that matter—see "uncommitted" in Wisconsin and Biden's (incremental) shift in stance on Israel—the Democratic party will adjust its policies to the left. So A.T's threats and actions are not totally irrational, or totally ineffective. But the rest of us should know that A.T. is A-OK with other people's children being put in cages.

T.R. in Hillsborough, NH, writes: Recent Sunday mailbags have included comments from readers (most recently D.A. in Brooklyn, among others) who self-identify as "progressive" and offer commentary on how progressives feel about Biden, Israel, third-party voting, and what the Democratic party needs to do to earn their support.

I submit that these readers who presume to speak for "progressives" at large do not speak for me. I also self-identify as progressive. My votes in competitive New Hampshire presidential primaries include Bill Bradley in 2000, Mike Gravel in 2008 and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) in 2016 and 2020.

My general election choices for those same years? Al Gore, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden.

How can this make any sense, when I claim to be a progressive? I agree with almost everything I hear from Bernie Sanders, and would be thrilled if the U.S. would elect a person like him as president. However, I understand that the electorate is nowhere close to supporting someone with these positions for president. So I take what I can get. Better to have a Democratic president as part of a governing coalition which includes left-wing progressives, than a Republican president who will oppose progressive priorities each and every time, guaranteed.

When I want to send a message about my progressive preferences during presidential elections, I vote for like-minded candidates in the primary. However, when the general election rolls around, I will always, always vote for the Democratic candidate, including Biden in 2024.

I am a progressive voter. I am also a pragmatist who lives in the real world. And I vote for Democratic candidates for president because I understand that elections have consequences.

L.E. in Putnam County, NY, writes: D.A. in Brooklyn thinks that more votes would be gained than lost by the Democrats caving in completely to the far left, but I think it could be suicidal to motivate 2% on the fringe and scare off 3% or more in the center. Selling out Israel alone could and should lose support, and in the face of the threat of Trumpism this is not a sane risk to take.

S.M. in Pratt, KS, writes: I have re-read the comments from D.A. in Brooklyn several times, because I wanted to be sure that I was reading it correctly. Sometimes, in the written word, a main point can be glossed over or missed. Sometimes, a work is parody or high-level satire. After re-reading, I am certain that D.A. is legitimately concerned.

I'm sure there will be others willing to challenge D.A.'s points. My only comment is that I don't think D.A. is recognizing the various levels of political strength in the American body politic.

I view the political spectrum in America much like a normal distribution (bell curve). While not a perfect analogy, I think it works. Starting on the far left we have Communists, Progressives, Liberals, Center-Lefts, Centrists, Center-Rights, Conservatives, Libertarians and Fascists. These groups don't all have equal strength. I think we all know that the three center groups have the vast majority of American voters.

D.A. notes the policies that the Democratic Party could pursue to win progressive votes. But it is obvious from election results that the Democrats are as far left as they can be, and still win a majority. In fact, given that they don't have a Congressional majority right now, one could argue that they are slightly too far left. I don't feel that that is the case, as they had majorities after 2018 and 2020, and probably will again after 2024, but it does argue that the Democrats can't move further left and not alienate the centrists who make their majority possible.

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: D.A. in Brooklyn writes on behalf of the progressive movement that the Democrat mainstream needs to demand all the progressive policy concessions, in order to court the progressive vote. Policies like bold action on climate change, minimum wage, and card-check (I am setting aside the Gaza war question, which was not an issue in the last election and is currently badly fracturing the Democratic coalition).

Um, hello? All of those concessions happened. You didn't mention student loan forgiveness, but that was one of the biggest dividers between the centrists and the progressives in the last primary, and Biden, who ran in the primary against student loan forgiveness, eventually got on board and gave it to them. Biden drafted a bold student debt forgiveness program, which the SCOTUS struck down. He implemented a more limited program, which was still bolder than what he campaigned on. He also had a bold legislative agenda (killed by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-WV), a federal minimum wage increase (killed by Sen. Kyrsten Simena, I-AZ), and what is card-check, is that a gun control thing? I can't remember but probably he did, or would be willing to, float that past Congress to be shot down, too.

The point is, progressives got nearly everything they wanted from the Biden legislative coalition, within the confines of possibilities of our political system, and they still hate him for being too centrist. Here is the answer to achieving progressive goals: re-elect Biden, increase the Senate majority, and retake the House. Then reform the SCOTUS. Biden will deliver, if he can. Step 1, vote for Biden, who has turned out to be the most progressive president of our lifetimes. He's showing all the signs of moving, albeit slowly, to the left on Israel, just like he did on student loans, just like he did on gay marriage back in 2010.

S.R. in Knoxville, TN, writes: On Sunday, D.A. in Brooklyn NY wrote about progressive causes and the Democratic Party: "Demand that they stop issuing fossil-fuel leases, demand a federal minimum wage of $18/hr, demand card-check."

I suppose, snarky progressive know-it-all, that you'll have to explain to "solid Democrats" what the hell "card-check" is because personally I have no clue what you're talking about. Generally speaking, that's why progressive wants fall flat with the majority of Democratic voters: We have no clue what you're talking about. I just asked my non-political-junkie, network-TV-news-watching, reliably Democratic voting spouse what "card-check" is, and she has never heard of it. And that's also why progressive ideals don't play at all in rural areas. They have no clue what the hell you're talking about.

(V) & (Z) respond: We probably should have added a comment to that letter last week. Card check is a means for allowing laborers to organize as a collective bargaining unit.

Politics: Israel

E.S. in Maine, NY, writes: Reading the various letters about Gaza was depressing. You did a excellent job of picking letters with non-hysterical voices. But still the divide, with its anger and hurt, is hard to bridge. W.M. in Philadelphia hit the nail on the head with the understanding that no president is without constraints. I ask all to repeat after me: There is no easy solution. There is no easy solution. And, finally; There is no easy solution!

I am glad we have an old guy who has the experience, the wisdom, and temperament to calmly move as needed to push to stop to the war. No one can impose their will on the many countries and people involved in this conflict. Even Vladimir Putin could not get Belarus, a true client state, to join in and send troops to help in Ukraine. This is not an action movie where the hero swoops in and saves the day.

The horror and brutality of the Hamas attack made it impossible for any Israeli leader to not respond with extreme force. And Hamas's desire to kill all Jews, and their responsibility for their attack, must not be forgotten. But, of course, being victims of that horror does not give Israel leave to do just anything. Blind anger, and lashing out, never serve over the long term. There are no saints anywhere.

No one is without sin. A Buddhist version, which I prefer, is: "No one is pure." This applies to all people and all countries.

T.R. in Vancouver, BC, writes: I realize you can't be expected to fact-check every comment you publish, but it really is a disservice to your readers to post comments like the recent one from D.G. in Los Angeles, since practically every factual statement D.G. makes is wrong.

The term "Palestinian" was not "invented by Yasser Arafat in 1968." It seems to have been first used in 1898 by the Palestinian scholar Khalil Beidas (a cousin of Edward Said), became current in the early 20th century with the beginning of the Palestinian nationalist movement, and has been standard ever since.

Israel did not "offer the [West Bank], along with its occupants, back to Jordan"; on the contrary, almost immediately after conquering the area in 1967, Israel annexed the most culturally important part of it (East Jerusalem) and began building settlements in the remaining part. In the early 1970s, Jordan's King Hussein made an official offer for peace conditioned on the complete return of the West Bank to Jordan, but this was rejected by Golda Meir.

Israel did not offer the Palestinians "full independence" at Oslo. On the contrary, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin stated that the final outcome of the process would be a Palestinian entity that was "less than a state," and that East Jerusalem would remain under Israeli sovereignty.

It is not true that "Gaza was always treated separately." The very first stage of the Oslo accords entailed handing over security control of Gaza and the West Bank city of Jericho to the newly formed Palestinian Authority. Gaza is geographically and culturally inseparable from the rest of Israel/Palestine, as should be clear from a glance at the map and from the fact that most of its population is descended from refugees expelled from what is now Israel in 1948.

A.B. in Lichfield, England, UK, writes: The assertion by D.G. in Los Angeles, CA that there is no 'P' sound in Arabic as some sort of rhetorical gotcha punctuation mark designed to help undermine the concept of Palestinian national identity is one of the strangest things I've read on your website in many a year.

I've worked in the UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Egypt, and can confirm that there is indeed no "P" in standard Arabic (though the sound can be written with the Farsi "پ," which is how Seven-Up gets around the problem). But then the original Arabic for "Palestine" and "Palestinian" uses an initial "F" sound. So the Arabic for "Palestine" (فلسطين) is typically transcribed as "Filastin," and the Arabic for "Palestinians" (الفلسطينيون) is typically transcribed as al-Filastiniyyun (give or take an accent mark). Whatever the rights and wrongs of Palestinian national identity formation after 1948, this is hardly news to anyone familiar with the history of the region. Coins of British Mandate Palestine between 1920 and 1948, for example, clearly use the فلسطين form, in line with the traditional Arabic and Ottoman Turkish name for Filastin.

The fact that the English name for the region and people uses a sound that doesn't feature in the older Arabic name for the same is therefore immaterial. It's not precisely an earth-shattering revelation that different languages often use different names, pronunciations, and/or variants for the same place. The Welsh name for England is "Lloegr," and English doesn't have any equivalent to that Welsh initial "LL" sound; that doesn't obviate the existence of England or the English.

J.C. in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, writes: D.G. in Los Angeles is absolutely correct that there is no "P" sound in Arabic. We use the "P" sound where Arabs use the "F. "They are called "Filistiniun" in their homeland. Which is not at all to suggest that today's Palestinians are related to the Biblical Philistines. Only that the people have been living there for an awfully long time, Christians and Muslims, along with Jews, until they were forced out of their homes. While the concept of being Palestinian as such arose only in the early 20th, a word invented long before Yasser Arafat was born, do we truly need a word or ethnic label to affirm that people in an area have a culture, and that it's wrong to force people (or "highly encourage" them) to leave their homes?

Politics: Muslims

I.H. in Jakarta, Indonesia, writes: You wrote: "No Indonesian has even been pulled off a U.S. airplane because the other passengers were uncomfortable."

I want to share some of my experiences. I've been working for a U.S.-based multinational IT company since 2008 and therefore travel a lot to the U.S. (once or twice a year) for business. Based on my personal experience, what you said is true. People don't even look at me suspiciously when I fly U.S. domestic flights, either alone or when traveling with my wife or with my wife and children. I never really thought about it until it appeared in your writing. Perhaps because most Indonesians can be easily confused with a Filipino or Thai? Maybe because our language is Indonesian and not Arabic? Maybe because our clothes are indistinguishable from most Americans?

We did have unpleasant experiences after 9/11. Just like most other Muslim nations, male Indonesians were required to go through a secondary check by CBP officers, regardless of our religion (I'm Christian). That usually meant an additional 2-3 hours in the immigration check when we arrived, filling out long forms. That meant we could miss our connecting domestic flights if we didn't plan carefully. We also had to report ourselves before leaving the U.S., to a special officer in the airport. Unfortunately, the officer was not available 24 hours, and the location of their office was not obvious. So again, we could miss our international flight if we don't plan carefully. These additional checks were gone only after Barack Obama was elected.

J.B. in Aarhus, Denmark, writes: Thank you for the interesting and valuable explanation of the term "pbuh."

In the Wheel of Time series, whenever the Empress in mentioned in dialogue or thought, it is always followed by the phrase "May she live forever." I don't know if the author, Robert Jordan, meant it as an inside joke; but after reading all fifteen books in the series, I found it to be hilarious.

Politics: Workers

C.S. in Linville, NC, writes: I second your observation that the U.S. needs more migrant workers. Just yesterday, I employed six HB-2 visa holders who were in between winter ski work and summer golf course work. I have to pay cash when I do, due to their visa rules, but they are the hardest-working and most decent group of men we know. Four of them have been helping us for over a decade and have become family. They regularly will do the jobs no one else will for half the pay and couldn't be happier. As a growing small-business owner, access to cheap labor is a fundamental part of the capitalist system.

All Politics Is Local

J.D. in Cold Spring, MN, writes: I couldn't let three mentions of Minnesota election forecasts in a couple days pass without a (brief) comment. Polls offering a head-to-head choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump miss a very important fact about Minnesota in 2024: Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-MN) will be running for reelection. For many here in the Gopher State, Amy is the "top of the ticket" and she will have significant coattails. She will very likely get 60% of the vote (or more? At this point, there is no known Republican even considering a run!). I can't imagine a possible world in which she gets 60% and Biden loses. Her coattails, especially among women and reasonable Republicans (not a totally extinct species in Minnesota), also means that two potentially flippable Democratic seats (MN-02 and MN-03) will remain D, and two longer-shot Republican seats (MN-01 and MN-08) may be in play.

A "tip o' the hat" to Tip: All politics is local, indeed.

S.K. in Bethesda, MD, writes: I have to disagree with your argument that Angela Alsobrooks (D) would be the stronger candidate against Larry Hogan (R) in the Maryland Senate race because of her impact on the Black vote.

Hogan's two gubernatorial wins both came against Black opponents, Anthony Brown and Ben Jealous, who both attracted high turnout and margins from Black communities, particularly in Baltimore and in Prince George's County (Alsobrooks' home base). The problem is that Maryland elections tend to be won and lost in three counties: Montgomery and Baltimore (county, not city), which are reliably blue but need to be dark blue for a Democratic statewide win, and Howard County, which is a swing county that tends to go with the winner. These are relatively wealthy counties with high percentages of college graduates. They are definitely not MAGA, which is why current governor Wes Moore (D) became the first Black governor in 2022 when he ran against a very MAGA opponent. But Howard County and the swing voters in Montgomery and Baltimore counties are primarily white, fairly moderate and are the voters who put Hogan in the governor's mansion. David Trone (D)—whose base is in the swing portion of Montgomery County—does better in polls now, and he would do better against Hogan. Alsobrooks would probably pull it out, but it would be very close and a costly race. The smart primary vote is for Trone (who, in addition to being the stronger candidate, is very wealthy and can self-fund).

J.J. in Johnstown, PA, writes: To add to your Friday item "Republican Senate Candidates: Liars, Cheaters and Carpetbaggers," it turns out that Connecticut man who wants to play senator from Pennsylvania also did some shady things while he was raking in cash from Bridgewater Associates.

It really flabbergasts me that the GOP can so easily give aid and comfort to America's enemies.

D.T. in Columbus, OH, writes: I am loving the irony of Sen. Ted Cruz's (R-TX) response to questions about him violating campaign laws.

Cruz went on a rant about how "the media" is corrupt and out to oppress Republicans... but the original question was about him receiving illegal contributions from Clear Channel/iHeartRadio, the biggest broadcast company in America. If they aren't "the media," I'm not sure who is.

But poor little Ted always needs to play the victim himself.

L.G. in Wimberley, TX, writes: I think the Democrats should blanket Texas with billboards showing the photo of Ted Cruz's dog during the February 2021 Texas electrical grid failure, along with the caption "Remember, Snowflake." When the Cruz family decamped for Cancun, they abandoned Snowflake to stay alone in a cold, dark house. An enterprising photographer captured an image of her at the door looking quite forlorn about her absent humans. That should remind voters that Cruz's callousness extends to his dog as well as his constituents. Maybe that will help rid us of Cruz for good.

W.V. in Andover, MN, writes: Congratulations to B.J. in Arlington for being elected to the local Town Meeting. And, you have my sympathies for the very reason you posed your question. Beyond the divisiveness of issues like installing roundabouts, bonding for a new community center, or destroying someone's beloved tree stands to build a new housing development, your Town Meeting is venturing into the divisive national debate over Israel and Hamas.

I see that Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) represents you as part of MA-05, and has done so for about a decade. She and her staff have undoubtedly forged many ties with community staff and elected leaders since before taking office in 2013. I think they would listen to you as a newly-elected community leader, individually, but will especially listen to the voice of the Town Meeting, whichever direction your majority votes. The decision on the resolution will indeed be an amplified voice showing either a very split community, or a clear-cut opinion that Rep. Clark can use in working with her fellow Representatives. Members like to maintain a close relationship with local leaders, with whom they work on things like infrastructure improvements.

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: 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. I would make it clear that I am not voting against it because I necessarily oppose a cease-fire, but because I do not consider it an issue properly under the jurisdiction of a Town Meeting. I'd also make it clear that I would also vote against a resolution in support of the IDF in the war. 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.

History Matters

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Further to the question from C.P. in Fairport and comment from R.R. in Pasadena, part of the confusion may be that the Army Air Corps became the Army Air Force in March 1942. My father would correct me on this point if I referred to the "Air Corps" during World War II, as he volunteered for and was honorably discharged as a Private First Class from the Army Air Force. Volunteering to beat German Nazis and Japanese Imperialists—Dad was Old School Antifa.

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: On Wednesday, you referenced our favorite pre-Constitution law, the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Hearts of U.S. History teachers everywhere are all aflutter. If you ever reference the Land Ordinance of 1785 as well, I think I'll just die of excitement.

M.R. in Atlanta, GA, writes: I know I'm really late for this segment, but I was surprised nobody mentioned Julius Rosenwald as an unsung hero (I guess that's the definition of "unsung!"). After making his fortune with the Sears Roebuck folks, Rosenwald worked with Booker T. Washington in devoting his life to improving Black education in the South. A Jew, Rosenwald drew a direct line between anti-Jewish pogroms in Europe and the Jim Crow South. By Rosenwald's death in 1932, some 5,357 of the informally named Rosenwald schools had been built. They comprised about one-third of all elementary schools available for Black Americans prior to Brown v. Board of Education. Growing up in segregated Alabama, Representative John Lewis was a notable alum, describing his childhood school as "a beautiful little building, it was a Rosenwald School. It was supported by the community, it was the only school we had." Rosenwald schools have been shown to have improved not only literacy of Black folks who attended them, but life expectancy as well.

M.S. in Knoxville, TN, writes: I rise in defense of the name of Pat Paulsen, nominated by reader G.W. in Oxnard as the worst potential president in American history.

Note I did not say "the good name," only "the name," as Paulsen initially ran from his platform on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1968 on the Stag Party ticket, explaining that he was looking for a small motel in which to throw the party. To each of the allegations G.W. makes against Paulsen, I say, as Paulsen would have himself, "Picky, picky, picky." When asked if he was liberal or conservative, Paulsen explained that he was "middle of the bird. Too much left wing, too much right wing, you just end up flying around in circles." A staunch defender of the right to bear arms, Paulsen nonetheless opposed the sale of ammunition. For those who argued they just wanted the thrill of the hunt, Paulsen said "Think of the thrill of sneaking up behind an 800-pound grizzly bear with no bullets in your gun." When asked if he would solve all the country's problems, Paulsen said, "Sure. Why not?"

Far from the worst potential president in U.S. history, Patrick Layton Paulsen stood tall among the also-rans of American politics. Once he stated, when pretending he wasn't running, that "all the present candidates once denied they had any intention of running. But the fact that I am also a liar, doesn't make me a candidate." I rest my case.

(V) & (Z) respond: He's upped his standards. So, up yours.

Complaints Department

J.M. in Portland, OR, writes: I assume (V) or (Z) was trying to make a point in a hurry about a theoretical exploit by the People's Republic of China against US government employees via the TikTok app, but picking gay men as an example is factually unsupportable. Given the long history of discrimination, it's also in rather poor taste.

Historically speaking, the civilian Federal government didn't have a consistent anti-gay discrimination policy until EO 10450 in 1953, courtesy of President Eisenhower. As the U.S. Navy's Crittenden report observed, there was "no sound basis for the belief that homosexuals posed a security risk" and also noted no agency was able to produce supporting factual evidence. (It was promptly buried by declaring it a national secret.)

President Billl Clinton rightly recognized being gay is no security risk and removed it from consideration via EO 12968 in 1995 across the civilian Federal government. In fact, if you want to look at security from the perspective of sexual orientation, it's heterosexuals who are the worst risk group. As a classic example, the 1987 recall of the entire U.S. Marine guard attachment from the Moscow Embassy because one man was seduced and turned into an asset by a female KGB agent.

Almost 30 years later, in the era of explicit non-discrimination policies and marriage equality, the hypothetical of someone getting blackmailed by Chinese agents and turned into an asset because TikTok showed them watching gay-themed videos is extra absurd. How's this supposed to work, exactly? Watching a gay-themed video makes you gay by association? And someone is such a closet case (i.e., not openly gay and actively trying to stay "hidden") they'll betray their country rather than have anyone contemplate they might not be heterosexual?

LGBT people are no more a security threat today than they were in 1950 or any other point in history. It's ignorance and social stigma that are the problem, not the people it's directed against.

P.T. in Houston, TX, writes: Why do you insist on calling pro-life forces "anti-abortion"?

It seems to me that the very essence of unbiased reporting is calling an organization what they call themselves. These people call themselves pro-life. You refer to them as anti-abortion. Because psychologically it's better to be pro-something than anti-something, your use of "anti-" shows a clear bias.

It's not a good look.

(V) & (Z) respond: First, we usually use "anti-choice," which we believe to be as accurate a term as is available. Second, while we generally give people and entities the courtesy of using the name they themselves prefer, that is not a universal policy. In particular, we do not do it when we believe the courtesy is being manipulated by the group or individual in service of spin or dishonest branding. We are persuaded that "pro-life" is spin, and is not representative of that faction's true position. To take another example, we generally call the cable network "Fox" rather than "Fox News," because it is not primarily a news operation.

J.K. in Sussex, NJ, writes: I usually just ignore the headline trivia bits, because it really isn't relevant to me. But I wanted to throw my shoe at the computer when I saw that last week's headline theme had to do with professional sports players.


I read your site for news about politics, which actually matters in my life. I am not some drooling idiot who cares about overpaid athletes.

Obviously it's your site and you can do what you want on it, but man, I thought you were better than that.

P.P. in Cherokee Village, AR, writes: 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. I don't have all day to access ANY site.


S.J.Z. in Darien, IL, writes: You wrote: "Everything we write exists in the context of something on the order of 50 million words we've published over the span of close to two decades."

The Mahabharata only has 1.8 million words, the Bible [KJV] has 0.8 million, Proust's In Search of Lost Time has 1.267 million, and the Iliad and the Odyssey 182,750 words.

Think of what you could have written instead of this website!

(V) & (Z) respond: The 2020 Republican platform, an infinite number of times?

D.M. in Burnsville, MN, writes: If I were a Dean at either of your respective institutions, I believe that I would require each of you to enroll and pass an undergrad Marketing 101 course.

I'm amazed that you have created a subscription model, and (presumably) have implemented it. Frankly, I would really like to support your work with dollars so you in turn can hire undergrad interns to better your research and your presentation. But I see little-to-no advertising, and the result is that there is no way to subscribe.

The key to success, as any American entrepreneur will tell you, is advertise, advertise, advertise.

(V) & (Z) respond: We don't understand your critique, exactly. We do place ads to drive traffic to the site, as the election draws closer. If you mean the opportunity to make regular contributions, the link to our Patreon appears at the top right, next to "Today's Headlines" every day.

C.O. in East Lansing, MI, writes: In your response to the question from D.R. in Phoenix about how you use AI in your work, I'd like to suggest another technique that I make use of frequently as an academic: After I write a complicated section of a paper, I will often ask ChatGPT to highlight the main takeaways from it. If it gets it right, I can feel fairly comfortable that I made my point. Of course, if it gets it wrong it doesn't inherently mean I did a poor job, but I certainly pay special attention to its mistakes in my next critical re-read and often see issues that might have led human readers similarly astray.

That said, I fully agree with your other concerns about using AI.

G.M.K in Mishawaka, IN, writes: The eclipse in this area lasted 4 minutes and 28 seconds. Or, about three times longer than Aaron Rodgers lasted with the Jets.

(V) & (Z) respond: Everyone knows that God is a Packers fan. Although it's not clear if that's because he likes the team, or just because Satan roots for the Bears.

D.R. in Grayling, AK, writes: As a graduate of the University of Chicago, I would be remiss if I didn't express my appreciation for your acknowledgement that the best UC is in Chicago.

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: You wrote: " are not supposed to say that in polite company."


I never imagined I was in polite company, reading I thought we were all a bunch of wild eyed radical free thinkers!

(V) & (Z) respond: Yeah, how polite can it really be when we have readers from Newberg, Walpole and Scranton?

Final Words

G.T.M. in Vancouver, BC, Canada, writes: An astronomer was traveling through the jungle when he was set upon by the locals. Bound tightly, he watched them as they prepared the pot to cook him in. Desperately, he tried to think of some way out of his predicament. Then he suddenly remembered that there was going to be an eclipse that day and thought that he could overawe the locals by claiming to have the power to turn off the Sun—if only they didn't kill him before the eclipse.

"Are you going to eat me early in the day, or late?" he asked the only one of the locals who spoke Flemish (the astronomer's first language).

"Late in the day," responded the local.

The astronomer heaved a sigh of relief.

"About an hour after the eclipse," the local continued.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr13 Trump Gets His Man
Apr13 Saturday Q&A
Apr13 Reader Question of the Week: Dodged That Bullet
Apr12 Mike Johnson: An End to the Heartburn?
Apr12 Biden Campaign Hones Its Abortion Messaging
Apr12 Third Party Candidates: The State of Play
Apr12 Republican Senate Candidates: Liars, Cheaters and Carpetbaggers
Apr12 I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: The Purple Rose of Cairo
Apr12 This Week in Schadenfreude: Dumb and Dumber
Apr12 This Week in Freudenfreude: The Need for Speed
Apr12 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr11 Trump Says He Wouldn't Sign a National Abortion Ban
Apr11 What Does Alvin Bragg Have to Prove?
Apr11 Things Are Looking Better for Biden and the Democrats
Apr11 But Young Voters Are a Problem
Apr11 Keep an Eye on the House
Apr11 McConnell Supports Forcing ByteDance to Sell TikTok
Apr11 Allen Weisselberg Is Sentenced to Prison--Again
Apr11 Becerra May Leave Cabinet to Run for Governor of California
Apr11 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr10 Arizona Supremes Uphold Anti-Abortion Law
Apr10 Indiana Court of Appeals also Weighs in on Abortion Access
Apr10 Trump Legal: So Good at Being in Trouble
Apr10 Trump Campaign Is Getting Nervous about Radical Fu**ing Kennedy
Apr10 Impeachment Slow-Walk Just Got a Little Slower
Apr10 Alabama Also Says Biden Has a Ballot Problem
Apr10 Fong Can Double Dip
Apr10 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr09 Trump Announces His "Position" on Abortion
Apr09 The RNC Continues to Circle the Drain
Apr09 Saying the Quiet Part Out Loud
Apr09 Fascism Watch: Enemies of the State
Apr09 Biden Announces More Student Loan Forgiveness
Apr09 Ohio Threatens to Leave Biden Off Its Ballot
Apr09 Looking Forward to 2024, Part VII: Reader Predictions, Congress Edition
Apr08 There Is a Solar Eclipse Today
Apr08 The Money Is Flowing Like Water
Apr08 Time to Swing
Apr08 Today's Abortion News
Apr08 Jury Selection Process for Trump's First Trial Is Beginning
Apr08 Democrats Will Spend $186 Million to Retake the House
Apr08 Boebert Will Be Listed First on the CO-04 Primary Ballot
Apr08 FCC Will Restore Net Neutrality This Month
Apr08 Mississippi Can't Count to Five
Apr08 What Happens If an Election Is a Tie?
Apr08 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr07 Sunday Mailbag
Apr07 Today's Presidential Polls
Apr06 Saturday Q&A
Apr05 Trump Legal: Funky Judge