Needed 1215
Haley 94
Trump 1615
Other 12
Remaining 708
Political Wire logo Hello Darkness My Old Friend
Trump Stock Takes Washington by Storm
Russian Defector’s Killing Raises Specter of Hit Squads
Hackers Stole Russian Prisoner Database
Netanyahu Critics Mobilize in Israel
House GOP Impeachment Probe Nearing Its End
TODAY'S HEADLINES (click to jump there; use your browser's "Back" button to return here)
      •  Sunday Mailbag

Happy Easter!

Sunday Mailbag

It's a close call as to which there were more of this week: letters critical of Donald Trump, letters critical of Joe Lieberman or letters critical of us.

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Race

R.V. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: This will be the ugliest election in history, and the ugliness ratio will be 100% Trump to 0% Biden. Just yesterday, the Trump campaign (NOT a super PAC) showed an image of a bound and gagged Joe Biden on the back of a truck. I read about it, I refuse to watch it, and I refuse to ever watch a Trump speech or ad. It's not even alarming that such garbage is coming from Trump, the alarming thing is that as of Saturday morning, not one so-called reasonable Republican has condemned it.

We are only approaching April. Can you imagine how ugly the ads from the Trump team are going to be around the time the NFL season returns? Wait til you see those ads during the games in September, October and early November. And perhaps by that time, Trump will be a convicted felon, ONLY adding to his rage.

In past elections going back to 2008, I've worn Obama 2008/2012 t-shirts. I had an HRC shirt in 2016. I've worn t-shirts for U.S. Senate candidates in several states. And in 2020, I wore a Biden t-shirt. In 2020, I got a few dirty looks for the Biden shirt, but I also got many more thumbs up and smiles from people. But now, I don't know if I'll wear a Biden 2024 shirt, simply because Trump is making his base more militant and angry by the day. I'll donate to team Biden and certainly vote for him, but I don't want to end up in an ER merely because of the shirt I am wearing. Some of Trump's supporters are 500,000x worse than the worst Cleveland Browns fans from the old Dawg Pound or the Oakland Raiders fans from the Coliseum days, in the way they'd treat you if you wore a Steelers jersey to their stadium.

P.K. in Marshalltown, IA writes: As a cradle Catholic educated in the Catholic school system through high school, the abortion issue has been part of my life and consciousness for a longer period of time than it has for most others. As have issues related to birth control and IVF. I mean, I saw a video of an abortion being performed in a high school religion class. Confession time here ("bless me Father..."), I have been occupying a pew in United Methodist churches for over a decade now. It took a lot for me to get there, as it does for so many "lapsed Catholics." The role of women in the Church, the sexual abuse scandals (my high school principal has been defrocked for this), the turn-away from Vatican II principles. The hypocrisy of the "pro-life" movement and the strange bedfellow relationships with right-wing evangelicals is the all-encompassing issue for me.

All of this is my preface for commenting on the special election results in Alabama this week. Abortions are not like tattoos. Those who have them are not running around, pumping their fists into the air, and sharing with the world that they made this decision. It's very personal and very difficult. The circumstances vary—rape, incest, poverty, viability of the fetus, etc.—but the person who makes this decision does not do so lightly and lives with it for the rest of her life. The Alabama results, like those in Kansas and Ohio, to name just two more examples, show the existence of a new "silent majority." The leaders of the pro-life movement and their red-state/red-region allies do not get this. They want to control women; they want to control the poor. But those folks enter the privacy of the voting booth and think of the privacy of making decisions about their reproductive rights and health and they choose what is best for them as individuals and as a class. The politicos who fret that maybe there is too much focus on abortion need to stop clutching their pearls. Alabama, Kansas, Ohio and other places, in the wake of the Dobbs decision, have shown what the silent majority thinks and wants. Democrats would be fools to take the foot off the gas pedal. The new Democratic majority might be right there in front of them.

J.P. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I read with interest your item on Nicole Shanahan inserting her foot firmly into her mouth. Her quote about morning sunlight and reproductive health, which follows, left me aghast: "I'm not sure that there has been a really thorough mitochondrial respiration study on the effects of 2 hours of morning sunlight on reproductive health. I would love to fund something like that."

As a former biology professor, who taught cell biology for almost 40 years among other courses, including human sexuality, I must admit that the connection she makes among sunlight, mitochondrial respiration, and reproductive health leaves me mystified. Apparently, she has established a private foundation called Bia-Echo (Bia is apparently the ancient Greek goddess associated with energy) that is concerned with "reproductive longevity," the aim of which is to help women become pregnant in later life, extending into their 50s. While this is not impossible, it is highly unlikely that this would be a fruitful area of study given that the eggs of a human female are usually used up by that time. Furthermore, if they aren't, they are more likely to result in chromosomal abnormalities if fertilization does occur. But I digress.

Her interest in sunlight and mitochondrial respiration concerns me for two reasons. First, it makes me wonder if she has confused mitochondria with chloroplasts. Both are responsible for generating energy (back to Bia) in the form of ATP, but it is chloroplasts that do this with the energy supplied by light (sunlight, in particular) during the process of photosynthesis. Second, it makes me wonder if she is aware that while humans have mitochondria, they do not possess chloroplasts. Both of these are facts that few, if any, of my students in all my years in the business have gotten wrong. They have gotten other things wrong but not the difference between mitochondria and chloroplasts and where chloroplasts are found.

I just love it (sarcasm intended) when people who have little or no knowledge of biology or medical science decide that they are experts in the efficacy of vaccines and reproductive health like RFK Jr. and Shanahan. I'm willing to bet that Shanahan never had mumps or many other childhood diseases, because they have been minimized due to vaccines.

T.B. in Nowata, OK, writes: Yes, a platform indeed based only on wealth, not knowledge. Being generous to Shanahan, she perhaps is under the misconception that many people do not procreate because they lack passion. I fully understand what 2 hours (it takes that many?) of morning sunlight does to libido (smell of sweet blossoms wafting on the gentle warm breeze through the open window, rays warming the bed and body), but it does little for fertility even during this estrus/Eostre/Easter season. Maybe Shanahan will claim hares and eggs can supplant IVF as well.

M.C. in Santa Clara, CA, writes: It turns out, there actually are multiple benefits to sun exposure for many systemic benefits; it's one of the reasons I'm a nudist.

This video explains what one should do in the morning, from the well-regarded Dr. Roger Seheult (who had the most up-to-date and accurate info during the pandemic).

In other words, Shanahan MAY be correct that there is some benefit from morning sun vis-à-vis conception; however, her apparent dismissal of IVF as a serious treatment is worrying.

Politics: The Lesser of Two Evils?

T.N. in Nashua, NH, writes: Yesterday, you wrote: "We just don't find it credible that, if someone thinks both 2024 candidates are bad, they truly cannot decide which one [between Joe Biden and Donald Trump] is worse."

Allow me to comment; I did exactly that in 2016. In 2015, I assumed Hillary Clinton had her nomination in the bag, and already had decades of detesting her. Correctly or not, I considered her the very epitome of entitled corruption ("rules are for little people, not for me"). I had long settled on zero chance I would vote for her, and she did nothing during the campaign to make me like her any more. By the way, most of my New Hampshire neighbors, having grown up in Massachusetts (and thus lifelong Democrats), agreed that Hillary had it in the bag, and decided to ratf**k, voting for Donald Trump in the primaries to give Hillary an easier opponent. Ouch.

Prior to the primaries, I knew of Trump as a scummy businessman and obnoxious TV personality—not someone I found acceptable as president. During the primaries, I learned even more to detest about him. So, for the first time in my life, I was faced a general election with two candidates whom I detested so much I wouldn't be able to look at myself in the mirror if I voted for either one. I ended up voting Gary Johnson/Bill Weld, closer to my actual political preference. And then had 4 years to learn how much worse Trump was than my expectations.

I can easily see people finding themselves in a similar quandary as I did in 2016. People often hate apostates more than they hate real enemies, and reading letters to your site, many progressives think Biden has betrayed them. Whether it's out of pique or a genuine attempt to give the Democrats' progressive wing the same kind of hammerlock over their party as the Freedom Caucus acquired over the Republican Party, it's not unthinkable for them to withhold their votes from Biden. People do engage in temper tantrums.

N.E. in San Mateo, CA, writes: Your reply to A.S. in Chicago, "[I]t's no fun to be put in the position of voting for the less bad candidate in a presidential election" left me musing how many of the elections I've voted in—since 1996—where I have been in that situation, and the related riff, how many of them would have been if I'd disliked the Democratic candidate.

The answer to the first is 2000 and 2004. Both times it was 100% a matter of loathing against Bush 43; I nearly voted third-party in 2000, because I thought my vote in California wouldn't matter.

For the second, the only election where I haven't enthusiastically voted against the Republican candidate was 1996. I had no particularly strong feelings about either Bill Clinton or Bob Dole one way or the other, which was more a matter of being barely into my 20s and not really paying attention.

The Florida debacle in 2000, and Bush 43's subsequent presidency, taught me to pay attention.

A.T. in San Francisco, CA, writes: To the claim that re-electing Trump will do damage to "progress," I have to laugh and ask "What progress?" The biggest "accomplishments" of the past 50 years by the Democrats have been nearly all conservative ideas, such as welfare reform, a Heritage Foundation healthcare plan (Obamacare), an onerous crime bill, and helping to promote policies such as deregulation and "free trade" agreements that have done much harm to the middle and working classes. Calling Biden, whose biggest accomplishments are a watered-down infrastructure package and watered-down student debt relief, the most progressive president since Lyndon B. Johnson only shows how little the Democrats have been able to do in half a century.

For example, J.P. in Lancaster talks about the environment as something that Democrats will make so good. A nice belief, but something that hasn't borne out in reality, Sen. Jeff Merkeley (D-OR; Note to V and Z, Merkeley is someone who is actually center-left) has slammed Biden's mediocre performance on the environment, and other watchdogs are saying he has fallen far short of his promises to get the U.S. back on track to meet it's emissions benchmarks. So again, where is the progress?

D.A.Y. in Troy claims that we "need to give the Democrats power in the long-term," but they've had power, many times, and squandered it. The Democrats had both chambers of Congress and the This House during the Carter years, and during the first 2 years of Bill Clinton's, Barack Obama's and Joe Biden's presidencies, and as I said, the biggest thing they got was a Heritage Foundation health plan.

D.D. in Denver talks about "suffering and death for people I love;" well, there has been plenty of suffering and death under Biden, not just in Gaza (where the death toll has soared well beyond 30,000), but in Ukraine (where he has prolonged the war, leading to more deaths and more suffering), and Afghanistan (he may have exited U.S. troops from the war, but not only did it so poorly that many civilians died in the evacuation, many civilians were also killed by U.S. drone attacks).

R.O. in Santa Fe talks of coming back later for more gains—okay, tell me when that day comes that Democrats get more, because it's been over 50 years with nada; they haven't even gotten crumbs, let alone a piece of the loaf. (V) & (Z) say that these candidates are center-left; I would call even that laughable. I noted earlier who a real center-left Democrat is; Obama referred to himself as a moderate Republican from the 80's.

But maybe you are right, maybe it won't push the Democrats further left. But at the end of the day, if all it does is lead to angst and wailing among the moderate Republicans of the 80's (what you refer to as "center-left and centrist" Dems), well, at least that way, some Republicans, even if they are 80's moderates, will have a bad time of it. I'll consider that to be a win.

F.S. in Cologne, Germany, writes: I disagree with several readers who wrote comments regarding the item "Politics: Short-Term Pain?" last week, for example:

J.P. in Lancaster wrote "the Green Party has tried this before, and it backfired in 2000 and 2016, leading ultimately to 8 years of George W. Bush and 4 years of Donald Trump. During those 12 years, any progress previously made on progressive issues was moved further backwards than would have been the case with the election of Al Gore and/or Hillary Clinton." I don't see much progress made on progressive issues during the presidency of Bill Clinton. I mean, were NAFTA, the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, the Crime Bill of 1994 and the abolishment of the Glass-Steagall Act progress? I don't think so. And don't forget that a majority of Senate Democrats voted for the Iraq War during the Bush presidency, so Democrats are at least partially responsible for this disastrous war and therefore at least partially responsible for the disastrous Bush presidency.

J.P in Lancaster wrote "Twenty-four years is not short-term pain, and thus far there has been no long-term gain as a result of that 'short-term pain'". But Democrats wouldn't have been able to pass Obamacare if they hadn't 60 Senate seats then. And they only had 60 Senate seats because George Bush was very unpopular during his second term. So at least when it comes to Obamacare, the short-term pain of the Bush presidency lead to long-term gain.

D.A.Y. in Troy wrote "If Donald Trump is reelected, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito will be replaced with young radicals in short order to ensure conservatives' iron grip on the highest court will continue for decades to come." But Democrats can always expand the Supreme Court when they have the trifecta. They could do this in 2029 if they regain the trifecta after a disastrous second Trump presidency. If a Democratic trifecta has the spine to do this, it can't be stopped.

T.K. in Warsaw, IN, writes: In regards to A.T. from San Francisco; although there has obviously been much response, I want to share my own. Here are three "short term pains" that could happen if Donald Trump becomes president again. I am intentionally only choosing ones that don't endanger Americans at home to any great extent, even though there are many, many other scenarios that absolutely could. Before I begin, remember that:

  • The president is the commander-in-chief, and the military follows his orders, and only his orders.

  • The President gets to select his vice president and his cabinet. Trump will choose a VP and a cabinet that will not remove him from office using the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, no matter what he does, by bribing them with money or power or both.

  • Congress will not impeach President Trump, no matter what he does, as long as Republicans control either chamber, which is likely to be the case if Trump is re-elected president. Two attempts were already made, and failed, further supporting the assertion that impeachment is not possible.

  • Trump cares only about two things: himself, and money.

That out of the way, here are three potential "short-term pains":

  • Vladimir Putin, after consulting with President Trump, uses a single nuclear weapon to destroy Kyiv, ideally killing Ukrainian leadership at the same time. The payload and blast type are chosen for as little radioactive fallout as possible, but still massive destruction. Trump addresses the nation and states that America will take no action in response, that this is Europe's war, and he will keep American soldiers safe at home. Anything from the collapse of NATO to a European nuclear war to the end of Ukraine as a country happens as consequence. Putin can reward Trump with money or property in Moscow.

  • China, after consulting with President Trump, launches their invasion of Taiwan. Trump again orders no action in response and for American forces to withdraw, stating this is an Asian problem and he will keep American soldiers safe. Taiwan falls, or is at least brutally savaged. The entire balance of power in the world shifts in China's long term favor. China can reward Trump with money or property in Macau or Hong Kong for a casino or resort.

  • Israel, after consulting with President Trump, declares that they believe Hamas in Gaza is about to conduct horrific terror attacks that will destroy Christian and Jewish holy sites throughout Israel, and they have no choice but to immediately escalate their war on Gaza in totality. Trump addresses the nation and says that he must ensure Christianity and our Christian way of life/Jesus's ability to return is protected, which he personally does not give a damn about, but knows that this works exceptionally well on American voters, many of whom are religious zealots. Israel, with U.S. material assistance, wipes out the population of Gaza. Millions die. Israel rewards Trump with Israeli/Gaza beachfront property for a future resort or casino.
Politics: Four Years Ago

E.B. in Pembroke Pines, FL, writes: You raised the question of whether we are better off now than 4 years ago. Personally, I can unequivocally state that my household is better now than 4 years ago. Our income is 20% higher, my 401(a) is more than double today, our house value is about $120,000 higher and, to top it all off, there is a higher level of confidence in my household than 4 years ago. We are more confident about our household's finances and about the direction this economy is taking.

I hope that helps.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: Better off than 4 years ago? I will go back, for this, to March 5, 2020 (your item used March 25).

That evening, I was at a local restaurant, at my campaign's election-watch party. While I lost my primary for North Carolina Senate, I did far better than anyone ever expected me to, especially given everything I was working against, but I digress.

March 5 was also the date when the first COVID case was reported, officially, in Wake County, where I live. In fact, the doctor who had the case was a client of my business. I made sure my two clients got face shields and N-95's... that is what I was doing in the immediate aftermath of my election loss.

I was also on lockdown. I isolated right after my election, reasoning that, in the weeks leading up to it, I had been almost non-stop at early-voting locations, meeting with and shaking hands with literally thousands of voters. And I did not want to risk possibly spreading COVID. I had no symptoms, but my actions in the days leading up to that first reported case led me to isolate out of concern for others.

Am I better off now than four years ago? Yes. But not because of anything Joe Biden did, or anything Donald Trump did, but because of things I DID. People who are waiting for politicians to solve all their problems are going to be waiting for a very long time!

In June 2022, my home business, which I had run for 10-1/2 years, failed when one client did not re-up their contract... and did me out of $10,000 by not paying their final invoice. I was faced with a choice: either try to find another client for my business, or do something else.

I chose something else. I dusted off the dream which had been on my shelf for over 20 years. I decided to go back to school, to eventually get a job in police forensics. The dream has required a bit of tweaking now, because of my age (I do not have 4 years to wait) so I decided to go for an AAS in Criminal Justice Technology. I am carrying a 4.0 GPA currently, while working full-time delivering auto parts. I am up for a scholarship right now because of this.

The plan is to get a job as a court bailiff, clerk, or police records specialist, and then continue 2 years of school for forensics, which is where I want to end up.

I am not, at the moment, better off than I was 4 years ago, in the sense that I am working much harder than ever... but I AM better off because I have a direction, a plan, and I am pursuing a dream. NONE of this was made possible by any politician, ever.

I was fortunate, 4 years ago, to already have a home-based job. But I would not go back to four years ago, no matter what. I am here to tell everyone who will listen: YOU are the only one who can make your life better. Trump cannot, Biden cannot, and neither one will.

Politicians CAN make your life worse (and Trump would) but they can't make it better, only YOU can do that! So stop waiting for the politicians to do it for you!

S.K. in Atlanta, GA, writes: As an mid-level airline executive, your response to D.A. in Brooklyn stating "virtually everyone outside of Zoom shareholders was worse off 4 years ago than they are now" brought back some PTSD from that period. There was a time in October 2020 when Zoom's market capitalization was an order of magnitude higher than every U.S. airline's combined.

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: "Were you better off then than now? We ask, you answer."


Please pardon my expletive!

Politics: Trump Legal

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Your answer to R.C. in Des Moines is correct as far as it goes, but the main point that most commentators overlook is that this fraud isn't a crime or a tort, as it usually is, so the concept of "victim" is irrelevant. James's case is brought on a statute that sounds in equity—what is fair. If I steal $100 from my employer and blow it on lottery tickets, one of which wins me $1 million, if I pay back the $100 the next day, the employer hasn't been "victimized." However, I have been unjustly enriched to the tune of $999,900. As a matter of equity, I should have to disgorge my ill-gotten gains: Society should not reward illegal activity, and whether or not my employer was victimized, as you point out, the next person who, encouraged by my example, steals from their employer could very well damage their victim. Therefore here, the judgment against Trump is not to compensate any victim, and discussing the existence vel non of "victims" is a red herring. The judgment under the statute simply forces him to "disgorge" the benefits he got from his fraud.

Regarding your answer to M.T. in Linköping, I agree 100% that the court must have thought that enforcement against non-cash assets (stock in Trump Organization or real estate) would be toothpaste impossible to put back in the tube. It also would mean they think there is at least an argument to be had about the amount of the disgorgement, though I doubt Trump has much of a chance on liability. As for the order itself, Appellate Division orders on motion rarely, if ever, explain the court's reasoning. They state the decision, and that's it.

S.C. in Mountain View, CA, writes: In "Trump Legal News: Good Times, Bad Times," you had a link to the actual appellate court ruling that lowered Trump's bond obligation to $175 million and that made for interesting reading.

If Trump does come up with $175 million by April 4th, the stays that will allow him and his adult sons to continue to do business in New York are also conditioned on his "perfecting the appeals for the September 2024 Term of this Court." Since I'm not a lawyer (and don't even play one on TV), I went hunting for an explanation and found this:

After an appeal is taken by filing a notice of appeal, it must be "perfected." Perfecting an appeal means preparing and filing the requisite documents to place the case on the court's calendar. The documents include a full record or appendix, a brief and a note of issue.

So his lawyers will have to get all the paperwork together and file it by the deadline required for the September 2024 term of the court, something that I am sure they will be able to do. As for the deadline, Trump has until July 8 to perfect his appeal, and if he does then everything continues to be stayed until at least the September 3 hearing. Depending on how long it takes the judge to declare that he lost the appeal, he will be within a few weeks either way of being able to sell his DJT stock to pay the original judgment (plus interest), assuming it is still worth something.

Politics: Stockblocked

M.E. in Seaside, CA, writes: You've written several items recently about the seemingly inflated price of Trump Media & Technology Group stock. I have an account with a major online brokerage and found that I could not enter a short sale order on it today because my brokerage firm is "unable to borrow the shares at this time." (This is not due to the market being closed today because I can do it on more widely available stocks.)

If you're correct that it will never make a profit, and enough investors agree with you, you can be sure that its price will start collapsing once enough shares are available for it to be sold short. Short sellers are not viewed fondly, but we often help markets function closer to the efficient market paradigm.

R.N. in Manassas, VA, writes:


The fact that the DJT stock price has the company valued at $4 billion when it only has $300 million in tangible assets seems absolutely ridiculous, until you add in the intangible assets the company has, namely DJT himself.

I can't put a dollar value on him because when I think of how much Vladimir Putin would pay for a powerful, loyal, useful idiot who can help him neutralize the U.S. and NATO, I run out of zeros to put on the significant side of the decimal point. I would say to him it is worth well over $4 billion.


Putin is not the only person with more money than they could ever spend that could see significant value in DJT's "intangible assets."

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: You wrote that maybe Donald Trump's majority ownership of his social network will raise legal issues with the emoluments clause. I don't know why it being publicly traded matters to that question at all, but anyway we have seen this movie before and already know the answer: No one is going to enforce the emoluments clause. Who has standing? It's unenforceable.

D.C. in South Elgin, IL, writes: If Donald Trump is re-elected, concerns over interpretations of the Emoluments Clause will be the least of our concerns. I'm convinced it is not the only portion of the Constitution he plans to suspend.

Politics: Holey Bible

W.S. in Austin, TX, writes: You wrote: "[Donald Trump's Bible has] the King James text, along with the text of the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence and the Pledge of Allegiance."

I was a bit surprised, given the historian you have on staff, that you didn't mention a hefty chunk of the founders of the nation did not believe in the divinity of Jesus and were therefore certainly not Christians as Trump's base would define that concept. Many were deists.

In particular, Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration, had a razor-edited Bible in which references to the supernatural, such as Jesus' miracles, were literally cut out of the New Testament.

(V) & (Z) respond: We were trying to keep the list of critiques of the Trump Bible from getting too long, and so we actually cut a line that raised that point.

J.C. in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, writes: The Bible's actually pretty clear: God first, nothing else second (including religion). Except that if you don't love other people—particularly your enemies—you can't love God. Loving your enemies is the same as loving God. So, in my opinion, that pretty well excludes patriotism—or pairing documents like the Declaration of Independence with the Bible.

C.C.B. in Beavercreek, OH, writes: I am an evangelical and still don't get so-called conservative Christians' support of Donald Trump (I deal with this from time-to-time in my own congregation).

It's clear he's not Christian or religious, and that he idolizes himself (which covers multiple lines on the "things not to do" list).

I bet he can paraphrase John 3:16 but not much else. If I were to recommend one passage for him, I would suggest Matthew 19:16-24.

M.A. in Knoxville, TN, writes: Since Lee Greenwood's in the political news lately, having partnered with Trump for the Trump "Bible," I thought your readers might be interested in hearing what the man's like in person. I went to college at The University of Tennessee and was in the Pride of the Southland marching band. My first year, 1995, Greenwood came to perform during one of the football season's halftimes. As part of this, he arrived a day or two early so he could practice with us. So, we got to interact with him a bit.

He was, hands down, the biggest a**hole I've ever met in person. He clearly thought he was better than anyone in the band, despite our, you know, providing the music for him to sing to. He treated us like dirt and everyone in the band hated his guts. This is really impressive since we only practiced with him for a couple of hours total.

I was not at all surprised to find out he's MAGA, nor that he's partnering with Trump for that silly Trump "Bible" cash grab, nor that his response to churches being uncomfortable with buying said book is to attack them as "leftists who hate Trump." That's all perfectly in line with the person I met back then.

Politics: Israel

E.T. in Saratoga Springs, NY, writes: In your item about the UN-Israel resolution, you wrote, "We do not think anyone is going to find Hamas to be an upstanding organization, right up until they read some critical comments by the U.N. Security Council. Anyone inclined to think that Hamas is worthy of condemnation has already reached that conclusion themselves." Unfortunately, I think that part of the resolution was badly needed, as there is a surprisingly large amount of sympathy, or at least tolerance, for Hamas's actions.

There has been plenty of noise about the United Nations Relief and Works Agency's alleged Hamas connections, for starters. In the interest of fairness and diligence, it appears now that those allegations are on somewhat dubious grounds. At the same time, though, The Associated Press is currently going through a scandal centered around a photograph from an award-winning collection that may have been acquired from Hamas fighters. The photograph in question shows some of those fighters driving in a truck with the dead body of an Israeli concert-goer on October 7, implying that whoever took that photo knew the attack was coming beforehand. Personally, I would like my international news publications to not be colluding with known terrorists, thank you very much.

On a more personal note, I'm currently in college, where the war in Gaza has been an unavoidable hot topic. The anti-Zionist crowd of students has been disturbingly sympathetic to Hamas ever since the 11-day war in 2021. In my first year of college, I asked my girlfriend at the time if she thought Hamas was an upstanding group, and she said, "Yes." This exchange was followed by an explanation that despite similar color schemes, Hamas is not Greenpeace. In the current war, college students regularly circulate social media posts and articles calling all Israelis thieves living on Palestinian land (despite having also been born and raised there) and give megaphones to speakers that take deliberately inflammatory stances. There is an ongoing investigation at Columbia into a gathering featuring a speaker who praised the people who attacked Israel on October 7.

With all that in mind, a U.N. condemnation of Hamas means nothing to the people who already have a stance one way or the other. But I think it would speak to the scores of college students, left-of-center voters, and international actors who are less informed on the issue. They may not be in the bag for Hamas, but they certainly are exposed to media either downplaying Hamas's evil actions (operating in civilian infrastructure, anti-speech/journalism, October 7, etc) or even encouraging them. The U.N. and the states must reach those people with a condemnation of Hamas.

T.B. in Leon County, FL, writes: I read this on Friday: "The official, Annelle Sheline, who was focused on human rights issues in the Middle East, told NBC News she felt she had no choice but to publicly resign as the death toll in the Gaza Strip has soared past 32,000 people and as warnings of an imminent famine in the Palestinian enclave reach a fever pitch."

My question is, how was 10,000 dead Gazans acceptable when that statistic was reached? Joe Biden appears to have been all-in supporting Israel's killing spree at that time. Now, he appears to be working for a rather more humanitarian outcome, so Sheline's discovered conscience seems more like an ill-timed publicity stunt.

All Politics Is Local

R.M.S. in Lebanon, CT, writes: I think you are being a little too optimistic in predicting there will be many Republican votes to provide Maryland with funds to clean up and rebuild the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Since 2024 is a presidential election year, they are going to do anything they can to avoid giving Joe Biden any political victories, and a bill to fund the bridge would be a win for Biden.

Right-wing opinion leaders are already trying to blame the accident on Maersk's Diversity, Equity and Inclusion program. The implication behind this is that Maersk hires too many unqualified minorities to fulfill diversity quotas, and this contributed to the accident. Next they might try to blame a future Texas winter storm on transgender people, or Hillary Clinton.

The current GOP is too radicalized and bitter to let a tragedy pass without trying to get their gallon of blood over it. Maybe they will link a ban on DEI to funds for the bridge, hoping the current Supreme Court will ignore the violation of First Amendment rights that would entail.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: If the Dali really was traveling at 8 knots in that waterway prior to losing power, it was grossly exceeding the speed limit, especially as it was knowingly about to navigate through such a narrow channel between the bridge pylons. Appropriate speed would have been about 3 knots. As there were two harbor pilots aboard (perhaps one was a trainee?), I expect the agency that employs the pilots might be on the hook for a considerable portion of the damages. However, as the 8 knots has only been reported by the media and not established by a marine investigation, it may be wildly inaccurate.

M.S. in Houston, TX, writes: Once again I find myself highly annoyed by the increasingly weak-kneed federal judiciary. The three-judge panel has been played by the right-wing majority of the Supreme Court and has buckled instead of standing their ground on behalf of the insufficiently represented non-white voters of South Carolina. (I refuse to call them the "conservative" majority because that's far too civilized a label for that sextet of thugs.) Why could not the panel that blocked the racial gerrymander map simply CONTINUE to block it? If the South Carolina legislature complained about the lack of an constitutionally acceptable map on which they could hold valid elections, the appropriate response by the panel would be "Not our problem." Followed perhaps by "Take it up with John Roberts."

I've been an activist lefty-liberal Democrat (and in the Deep South) since volunteering for the Kennedy campaign in 1960, the summer after I graduated high school in San Antonio. I even worked as a researcher for a couple of years in Sen. Ralph Yarborough's Austin office near the end of his career. That means I've witnessed a lot of political maneuvering and shenanigans in the past 60+ years. For several year now, however, U.S. politics has become far more vicious, authoritarian, and—yes I'll say it—anti-American than ever before.

B.B. in St. Louis, MO, writes: Your schadenfreude item this week about state Rep. Matt Maddock (R-MI) reminded me of an incident that happened when I attended Caltech in the late 70s. The football team's game against Tijuana Tech was canceled when the Tijuana Tech team failed to show. Rumor had it that they were turned back at the border because the guards refused to believe that a busload of Mexicans was entering the country to play a college football game.

(V) & (Z) respond: We are reminded of the preferred first down cheer of the Caltech cheerleaders: "Punt, punt, punt, punt, PUNT!"

T.R. in Asheville, NC, writes: This isn't really a correction, but... Looking up Matt Maddock in Wikipedia revealed that his wife is Meshawn Maddock. I thought that name sounded familiar, so I looked her up, too. It turns out that she's one of the 15 Michigan Republicans facing criminal charges for acting as a fake elector in 2020. This is a completely whackadoodle family.

A.S. in Langhorne, PA, writes: I'm not sure "kommie" with a "K" as an insult against the left is intended to reference the Klan. I think it's short for something like kommunizma, the Soviet word for communism, suggesting the person is so far to the left as to belong in the Soviet communist party and not an American one. There's also the implication that the target of the insult is not American, thus the slang foreign word.

In other words, a "kommie" is supposedly further left than a "commie."

J.C. in Shawnee, OK, writes: On the subject of Maddock, he was more ignorant than you suggest. "Busses" are kisses. The large vehicles for moving people are "buses."

Joe Lieberman

C.L.C. in Petaluma, CA, writes: I read your item about Joe Lieberman, and was upset that you said that his legacy is mixed. To me, it is all negative.

I decided to sleep on it before writing, but sleep has not changed my mind. The fact is that he screwed a hundred million Americans with his axing of the public option. This is magnitudes larger than everything good he did combined. Arguing that his legacy is mixed is like arguing that Hitler was not so bad because he liked dogs, was a vegetarian, and was against smoking.

When I read that Lieberman had died, my reaction was "Good riddance to bad rubbish!" Reading what you wrote about him and sleeping on it has not changed that in the least.

Future historians will summarize Joe Lieberman as the arsehole who sunk the public option.

(V) & (Z) respond: Note that your letter speaks to much of the criticism of Lieberman we received, and in a succinct way. However, we thought long and hard before letting through a letter that draws a parallel, albeit an indirect one, between a Jewish man and Hitler.

J.D.M. in Cottonwood Shores, TX, writes: I think that "Ralph Nader" and "Joe Lieberman" should already appear next to each other in the accounts of history, as you proposed they might, because Al Gore's pick of Lieberman as his running mate was the final straw for many Nader voters. Also, this pick may have made some of the 308,000 Florida Democrats who voted for Bush/Cheney decide that there really wasn't going to be much difference between the two potential administrations, so might as well vote for the guy you would rather have a beer with.

M.B. in Windsor, CT, writes: I lost all respect for Joe Lieberman in 2006 when he lost the primary for his Senate seat to Ned Lamont, and then turned to the Connecticut GOP (on the down-low) for help.

By this point in his career he was really a Republican in all but name. He did not support his party, but instead ran for the Senate seat as an independent.

However, the state GOP was backing him: They chose a total non-entity, Alan Schlesinger, who'd already lost races for the House three times. (Schlesinger was, even in high school, the "sleazy politician" type—I taught at the school he attended.) The GOP gave virtually no help to Schlesinger, who finished third in the balloting. Essentially, the majority of the state's Republican voters voted for Lieberman, along with his supporters in the Democratic Party. It was enough to give him the seat once more.

History Matters

S.A.K. in Karnataka, India, writes: Regarding the question about rating American presidents since Bush Sr., it should actually be posed to non-Americans, too, given the broad and wide effect (rarely positive) they have had and continue to have on lives of people almost all around the world.

For example, in your comments on Barack Obama, you failed to talk about the infamous drone strikes carried out during his presidency that killed hundreds of innocents (possibly more). I understand you were not doing detailed descriptions, but those drone strikes are a large part of his tainted legacy.

J.R. in Berlin, Germany, writes: You wrote: "George H.W. Bush: A decent man, but one who was too much in the thrall of far-right elements in his party. He deserves credit for successfully liberating Kuwait, and for standing by his principles even when it wasn't politically expedient, but there was also too much sleaze, including giving the Iran-Contra crooks a pass."

Wasn't it his own blundering that led to the Kuwait invasion in the first place? I refer to the Glaspie memo, that said that the U.S. did not meddle in Arab affairs. I paraphrase Ross Perot in the debate when he said that the Administration said that we would not react if Iraq invaded Kuwait, and that when they did, we went nuts.

Nothing like a good war to distract people from a tanking economy.

J.F. in San Antonio, TX, writes: You wrote:" Nixon was personally uninspiring, notoriously sleazy, had a great legislative track record, and bears some responsibility for the horrors of the Vietnam War. Lyndon B. Johnson was personally uninspiring, pretty sleazy, had an even better legislative track record, and bears more responsibility for the horrors of the Vietnam War. In other words, absent Watergate, the two presidents are reasonably comparable."

I do not believe that you will find film footage of Lyndon Johnson saying, "Communists should be shot like rats," as you can do for Richard Nixon if it still exists from his Pink Lady/House-Un-American days in the House of Representatives.

(V) & (Z) respond: On the other hand, there IS audio of LBJ using racial slurs.

J.A. in Puerto Armuelles, Panama, writes: In your assessment of President George H. W. Bush you left out his most important achievement.

Namely, he handled the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union extremely well. Today, most of the countries behind the Iron Curtain are free and well-integrated into Western institutions such as NATO and the EU. It is hard to remember this now, but things could have gone very differently had things been handled with a less deft hand. Among his many accomplishments during this time, convincing British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher to acquiesce to German unification was but one.

Also, as a resident of Panama, it behooves me to mention that Bush's invasion to rid the country of the drug-trafficking de facto dictator Manuel Noriega was broadly popular in this country at the time and remains so today.

L.C. in Boston, MA, writes: I don't get how you call ANY of the Republicans decent, considering what they did, but what really stands out is your writing "You didn't ask for anyone prior to these six, but if you had, we would have had very positive things to say about Gerald Ford, who has a case as the most admirable Republican president since Dwight D. Eisenhower."

Ford pardoned Nixon and thereby set a precedent that haunts us to this day of letting criminal presidents off the hook. Even if Ford had done absolutely nothing else wrong, that alone is sufficient to earn him a damnatio memoriae.

Complaints Department

C.Z. in Sacramento, CA, writes: I am no fan of RFK Jr., but your answer about his speaking voice was completely off the mark, and smacks of the kind of abuse of the disabled that we normally only expect from Diaper Don and the Creepublicans. You should have noticed immediately that RFK Jr.'s halting speaking voice must be due to a medical condition. In his case, it's a condition called "Spasmodic Dysphonia," which causes the muscles that generate a person's voice to go into uncontrollable spasms. Now, go to your room, you naughty boys, and promise never to do this again.

P.M. in Seattle, WA, writes: You wrote: "our great national nightmare in Florida is over, as the Mouse and the louse are no longer on the outs."

Please, please, please stop using this kind of language to describe political figures with whom you (and I) disagree. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is a loathsome human being, but he is still a human being. Trump and his ilk might refer to people they dislike as "vermin," but there's no reason to ape his language. It's bad enough that TV newspeople on the "left" have started using dehumanizing language to talk about MAGA folks, I expect better from you guys.

Dehumanization is bad enough. Mutual dehumanization leads to very dark places. Please stop. Call DeSantis an authoritarian, a jerk, a neo-fascist, whatever you want—these are accurate descriptions that have the benefit of keeping the reader in mind that he is, in fact, a person, and a dangerous one at that. By dehumanizing the opposition one begins to fall into the trap of "the enemy is at once too strong and too weak," a frame of mind that—to borrow a Bushism—often leads to misunderestimation of one's political and ideological opponents. It's also straight out of the stages-of-genocide playbook—a playbook the American political right have, for decades now, been following quite merrily as they march down the road to their hoped-for reactionary future.

It's not about "holding the moral high ground" or "not getting down in the mud" or any of those tired idioms. It's about keeping a clear perspective on the gravity of the situation and the fact that intelligent, motivated, and capable people like DeSantis exist and pose a threat to civil society.

S.T. in Philadelphia, PA, writes: I was shocked to read, in your opening paragraph: "Ronna Romney McDaniel practically prostituted herself for Donald Trump..."

First off, last I checked, Ronna McDaniel does not go by a compound last name. It's a matter of common courtesy to married females to address them by the combination of surnames (maiden, married, or compound) that they choose to call themselves. No matter what her reasons were for choosing to go by her married surname only, taunting her by referring obliquely to her former boss's dislike of her maiden name is puerile.

Second: "prostituted herself"? Really? Donald Trump uses that kind of offensive, filthy, misogynistic language to refer to female politicians. Let's not stoop to his level.


R.H.O. in Portland, ME, writes: I'd like to add to (V) and (Z)'s fine answers to K.B. in Manhattan regarding unmotivated students and struggling students. Having taught both kinds of students Macroeconomics over a span of 14 years, I have found the key to reaching both is the same: know them and show them you care about them.

This is not a shortcut—to the contrary, it is quite time-intensive. It's also likely impossible in large lecture-style classes. But, boy howdy does it make a difference. I have found that both otherwise unmotivated students, or those who may struggle to grasp the material despite their best efforts, were practically willing to walk on water for me when I put in the time to get to know them and, dare I say, befriend them (in a professionally appropriate sense). Such an approach comes with the side-benefit of developing a cadre of life-long friends. In fact, this June I'll attend the wedding of a man whom I taught some 15 years ago—one of many weddings of former students I've attended over the years.

And I'll second (Z)'s suggestion of offering creative assignments. It not only provides a creative outlet for the student, it honestly makes grading far more enjoyable. I found it a delight to read a critique of monetary policy in Harry Potter novels, the absence of opportunity cost in Groundhog Day, or about the economics of Death Star construction (and destruction).

J.S. in Chevy Chase, MD, writes: I enjoyed your replies to the question from K.B. in Manhattan about teaching, particularly your comments about the differences between teaching in the U.S. versus elsewhere. I am a law professor in the U.S., where it is common for law professors to use the "Socratic method" of teaching. A Socratic class is not a lecture. It may contain some lecturing, but a great deal of it consists of the professor asking questions, the students answering, and the whole class discussing.

One of my colleagues taught a class as a visitor at a British University (Cambridge, I think) and decided to teach in his usual Socratic style. When he first asked a question, there was dead silence. He let the silence go on for a while and then repeated the question. Finally, a student said, "That's what you're supposed to tell us."


W.L. in Mol, Belgium, writes: I found this for you guys to know where the malicious Canucks are invading:

A map that shows the most common nations
of origin, excepting the U.S. and Mexico, for residents of the 50 states. Canada is #1 in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Morth Dakota,
Montana, Idaho, Utah and Arizona

(V) & (Z) respond: So those of us in California need to be keeping a close eye on the Arizona border. This is valuable intel; thanks for passing it along.

M.F. in Burlington, ON, Canada, writes: I am grateful (though moderately surprised) that you chose not to make hay over the fact Kevin O'Leary is Canadian.

In 2017, he was briefly a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada, apparently aspiring to be Canada's Donald Trump, despite lacking Trump's intelligence, oratorical skill, business acumen, and integrity.

(Please note, my e-mail program does not recognize my sarcasm font.)

J.B. in Pinckney, MI, writes: The letter from B.J.L. in Ann Arbor about unsung heroes sparked a memory for me. I was one of those Ann Arbor middle schoolers who was rounded up and driven to Peterborough to compete in the Arborough games. I did it twice and could not tell you at all how well I performed, other than that we won. I do remember much more the experience of staying with a host family in Canada, playing HORSE with my host athlete and experiencing new things like bagged milk. The second year I got to experience hosting two Canadian kids in my house. I am guessing that is exactly what Larry Dishman (who I never heard of before today) was hoping I would get from the experience. He truly is an unsung hero. Thanks for sparking a memory B.J.L.

M.S. in Canton, NY, writes: Thanks for the shout-out to the late Herb Caen! He was an absolute cultural fixture in the San Francisco Bay Area when I lived there, way back when; as near as I could tell, everyone read his column. (Fun fact: Did you know that he once had a bit part in the cold open of Cheers?) But to really capture the spirit of his style, you needed to fill your piece with lots of "..." transitions. "Three-dot journalism," he called it.

Final Words

R.B. in Cleveland, OH, writes: Cleveland is the proud home of the Millard Fillmore Presidential Library, a pretty decent bar. The late president's alleged last words are prominently displayed on the awning in front of the building: "The nourishment is palatable."

The Millard Fillmore Bar; the
awning is as described

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

If you wish to contact us, please use one of these addresses. For the first two, please include your initials and city. To download a poster about the site to hang up in school, at work, etc., please click here.
Email a link to a friend or share some other way.

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Mar30 Saturday Q&A
Mar30 Reader Question of the Week: Unsung Heroes
Mar29 In Da House: Greene's Machinations Likely to Fall Flat
Mar29 Southern Politics: Same Old Song and Dance
Mar29 Election Crimes Have Consequences: The Jig Is up for Eastman, Pritchard
Mar29 Advantage, Republicans: This Time, the GOP Wins the Redistricting Battle
Mar29 Republicans Are Losing Ground on Abortion
Mar29 Shanahan: Open Mouth, Insert Foot
Mar29 Advantage, Biden: Big Score from New York Fundraiser
Mar29 More on the U.N.'s Israel Resolution
Mar29 The Trump Bible: Preaching to the Choir?
Mar29 Joe Lieberman Has Passed Away
Mar29 I Read the News Today, Oh Boy: Bitter Sweet Symphony
Mar29 This Week in Schadenfreude: The World's Stupidest Slur
Mar29 This Week in Freudenfreude: Green Energy on the March
Mar28 South Ocean Blvd Is a One-Way Street
Mar28 Now What Happens with TMTG?
Mar28 Biden Leads Trump in a National Poll
Mar28 The Libertarian Party is Not Wild about Nicole Shanahan
Mar28 Newsom Is Preparing for Trump v2.0
Mar28 Big Oil Is Not Entirely Behind Trump
Mar28 A Trumper Gives Up!
Mar28 Wisconsin Senate Race Is Now Set
Mar28 Kuster's Last Stand
Mar27 Reproductive Rights News, Part I: Mifepristone Looks Safe for Now
Mar27 Reproductive Rights News, Part II: A Big Win for Marilyn Lands in Alabama
Mar27 Trump News Roundup
Mar27 Paxton Gets a Slap on the Wrist
Mar27 Ronna Romney McDaniel: A 1/5th Scaramucci
Mar27 RFK Jr. Has a Running Mate
Mar26 Trump Legal News: Good Times, Bad Times
Mar26 Republican Study Committee Goes Off the Deep End
Mar26 Could Mike Johnson Be Replaced... By Hakeem Jeffries?
Mar26 Ronna Romney McDaniel's NBC Gig Just Isn't Going to Work Out
Mar26 An Interesting Election Today In Alabama
Mar26 UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Ceasefire
Mar25 Today's The Day
Mar25 Of Tulips and Truths
Mar25 What Are the Double Haters Thinking?
Mar25 Biden Is Working on Attracting Haley's Donors
Mar25 Trump Is Inviting Donors to Pay His Legal Bills
Mar25 Republicans Have an Election Strategy: Sue Their Way to Victory
Mar25 Tammy Murphy Is Quitting the New Jersey U.S. Senate Race
Mar25 Lisa Murkowski May Be Quitting the Republican Party
Mar25 SCOTUS Will Hear Arguments about the Abortion Pill Tomorrow
Mar25 Abortion Is Now Affecting Races for the State Courts
Mar25 eX-Twitter Is Bleeding Users
Mar25 Ronna Romney McDaniel Has a New Job
Mar25 Are You Better Off than You Were 4 Years Ago?
Mar24 Trump Crushes Haley in the Louisiana Primary