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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

We got a number of interesting responses to yesterday's question about international readers, which came to us from six different continents, so we'll run some today and some more next week. We're also happy to have more responses, particularly from the Antarctic contingent, which has thus far remained silent for some reason.

Oh Baby Baby, It's a Wild World, Part I

G.B. in Canberra, ACT, Australia, writes: You invited readers outside the U.S. to share their reasons for their interest in U.S. politics. I can only give the perspective of one family but, maybe my experience can be useful.

I can remember talking U.S. politics with my parents at the age of 12. We discussed whether Hubert Humphrey was a weak candidate against Nixon. We were a comfortably well-off middle-class Australian family. So, why were we chatting about US politics?

  • The assassinations of John and then Robert Kennedy were quite traumatic for people around the world who were hopeful of a better future. It seemed that evil wins.

  • A great many U.S. service personnel billeted with Australian families during World War II. I think that contact, plus the close involvement of U.S. forces in the Pacific campaigns, left a very strong feeling in Australians for U.S. people and the U.S. generally.

  • Post-WW II Australians saw a lot of U.S.-made movies and TV shows and there were other cultural influences. I think the U.S. had a significant cultural influence on Australians in the 1960s, 1970s and since.

  • By the 1980s, most Australians had a compulsory, quality, free secondary education. New subjects were being taught for which many ideas originated in the U.S. That education increased Australians' knowledge of and interest in the U.S.

  • Australia has long had a worldly-wise news media. There has always been a lot of international and U.S. news in our media diet. The publicly owned broadcaster especially has had many reporters stationed around the world who are also good political analysts. I can highly recommend a popular weekly TV show called Planet America.

  • The Australian economy survives on exports. To succeed, Australians have to know about the world and how the world economy works. Naturally, that includes the U.S.

For myself, I really got interested in U.S. politics through watching the train wreck of the 2000 Presidential election. I still can't believe that so much could depend on so few dodgy bits of card. I saw in 2000 a calculating attitude to politics had taken hold in part of the U.S. polity. By the 2004 U.S. presidential election I was a regular reader of

For some years, I was also keen on The lead author at used to have extremely funny (accurate) posts about Donald Trump. But, then in the 2020 election, because of his religious views, he decided to "hold his nose and vote for Trump." It was a sad demise. The "Blogging Caesar" was perhaps the closest polling pundit of the 2020 election. Now, however, his domain is up for sale.

I remain interested in U.S. politics. One reason is that developments in the U.S. are copied by some politicians in Australia, but, usually, a year or so later. Another reason is that events in U.S. politics can be a lesson for people in countries which, like Australia, have a fairly similar social and political structure. Sorry to say but, looking at U.S. politics and elections over the last 20 years, I have felt blessed that in Australia we have a quite different set of electoral arrangements with compulsory voting, on Saturdays, without gerrymandering and managed by an independent statutory authority created by and accountable to the legislature. On a more positive note, there seems to be a more vibrant and active interest in politics in the U.S. The fact that over 140 million people voted in November 2020 suggests how much interest there now is. That's another reason I continue to follow U.S. politics and read

E.K. in Brignoles, France, writes: Since M.A. in West Springfield asked, I'm one of the (few?) French readers who live, eat and breathe American politics, including at the local level, since 1996. Some things are completely irrational, I guess. I never discuss this with anyone here. I've watched American movies since I was 5 or 6 years old, and I've tried (and still try) to understand your country as much as I can. I still have in my possession many of The New York Times editions after E-Days (the very first being from November 1998 : "Charles Schumer Defeats Sen. D'Amato").

I think the movies have played a major role in the development of this (healthy, in my opinion) obsession. Every time I see a city, a neighborhood, or any scenery in a film, several questions pop up in my head: "How do they vote in this place? Why do they vote this way? What happened there in the past that could explain this?" My favorite books (if we exclude Faulkner's novels, of course) are James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom and Robert Caro's series on LBJ (by the way, please release the fifth volume, Robert!). Every Election Day in the U.S. is literally like doomsday to me: I need two weeks in advance to prepare myself, and one week after that to catch up the sleep deprivation. It's funny to think how some random guy in, say, Altoona, PA, who just doesn't care to vote can ruin my life (and, more importantly, the world) for several months—or even years, if we're talking about November 8, 2016...

As to the second part of your question, I can confidently say that we (unfortunately) have no equivalent to in France about French politics. The most trustworthy source of news remains Le Monde, if you speak French (Libération and Le Figaro are becoming terribly less reliable), but I can't think of an analytical blog made by smart people which isn't just a propaganda platform for the far-left or the far-right. Sorry, it's not very helpful...

L.M.S. in Harbin, China, writes: To answer the reader's question as to why I find U.S. politics so interesting: simply because U.S. is the most powerful, and thus impactful, country of the world. Especially since she could bring real damage to the area where I am located, if a (nuclear) war with North Korea breaks out. Of course, reading the news won't change anything significant, but it is better to get informed than be ignorant.

L.S-H. in Naarden, The Netherlands, writes: I found the question from M.A. in West Springfield, interesting but perhaps M.A. has not considered the fact that there are many U.S. citizens who live outside the U.S. The Netherlands, where I live, counts some 30,000 US citizens. Some are here temporarily and some are more or less permanent residents (such as myself: I am married to a Dutchman and our three children were born in NL, plus I also have a Dutch passport).

Why I'm interested in U.S. politics is thus easy to answer: I always have been, and what is decided in the U.S. affects me overseas (think FATCA). Despite the hassle of having to register to vote by absentee ballot for every national election (presidential, Senate, House), I still do it (and have also registered my voting-age children).

J.M. in New Glasgow, NS, Canada, writes: I've been a regular reader since 2014, intermittent before that. I've had a few questions/comments run on Saturday/Sunday over the years. I'd say I come here every morning for the following reasons:

  • Been doing it this long, it's become a routine.

  • I find Canadian politics terribly boring and the States, by contrast, far more interesting given the larger stakes and personalities involved.

  • The site is an excellent summary of what's going on in the States politically, all in one convenient location and with fun, snarky writing.

  • I'm a conservative and use this site as part of my "getting out of my bubble." I consider the site firmly left, not really center-left and so it contrasts well to what I normally read. I will admit I have "quit and I'm never coming back" 2-3 times after getting pissed at some coverage. But I always come back (and never last longer than a week, ha ha).

V & Z respond: That's why our motto is: "The Internet's answer to crack."


S.S-L. in Norman, OK, writes: In response to the hypothesis from A.L. in Orlando that disabled people don't have lobbyists or lawyers on retainer that would fight back: As both a disabled person and a soon-to-be disability rights attorney, it makes me uncomfortable that our presumed vulnerability is the very thing that makes you willing to subjugate us. I suppose that's why I do what I do. Incidentally, I take some issue with the implication that getting disabled people off the government dole is a good alternative to getting more people vaccinated. Programs like SSI and SSDI are vital for keeping disabled people's basic needs met—and truly only our basic needs. Whether someone collects a check while sitting at home or collects a check while getting an undergraduate degree, master's degree, doctorate, and holding down some form of employment, as I have, both groups of people are worthy of respect. Implying otherwise is... troubling.

J.E. in Whidbey Island, WA, writes: J.L. in Los Angeles asked yesterday for the most apropos adjective for Sen. Josh Hawley's (R-MO) characterization of Joe Biden's concerns about election integrity. I offer "projecting" as perhaps the most accurate choice. Hawley is attributing to Biden exactly what he and other Republicans have been serving up for over a year.

D.K. in Oceanside, CA, writes: P.N. in Austin asked if voting can be made compulsory. You replied that it could and it would be constitutional, but that we are finding it impossible now to compel people to wear masks, and compulsory voting would be equally difficult.

My God! Yes! Make voting compulsory. No MAGA would ever vote again.

M.N. in Madison, WI, writes: I, and I doubt I'm alone in this sentiment, am positively giddy at the prospect of Tucker Carlson and his ilk ranting to their followers about the right to not vote. Convincing the raving nutters that it's their patriotic duty to oppose such an infringement on their liberty by not voting sounds positively divine.

Please Congress, make my happy thought come true. Pass compulsory voting legislation.

D.F. in Norcross, GA, writes: I read with interest your assessment in your answer to the question from M.M. of San Diego about the voice of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and how it might affect the impression he makes nationally if he runs for POTUS in 2024, and for the most part, I agree with it. You wrote that "It's hard to sell 'macho' when you are endowed with a voice like DeSantis'."

That said, I will point out that while it is hard, it's not impossible. Having seen this clip (and others) of old speeches from Gen. George S. Patton, I'd say he pulled it off pretty well. Plus, even though there are no recordings of President Lincoln, I've seen written accounts that his voice was kind of high and squeaky.

V & Z respond: We'll note that Patton swore like a sailor in order to carry off the "macho" bit, which is not really a strategy available to DeSantis. Also, a fellow gets a sizable number of free macho points if he actually has an answer to the question "You and what army?"

That said, you're right that Lincoln's voice was higher pitched than one might expect. And, more recently, Franklin Roosevelt and the Kennedys had fairly nasal voices.

T.C. in Stone Mountain, GA, writes: Now that the Supreme Court has rejected enforcement of either vaccination or daily testing for large employees, I think the Democrats need to turn the spotlight on the Court (a strategy which the Republicans have been using for years). I believe campaigning against this ruling would be popular (73.6% of adult Americans over 18 are already fully vaccinated and are likely in favor). And the campaign would come with a great slogan (which also works for the Build Back Better bill), "America Needs A Shot In The Arm."

S.K. in Bethesda, MD, writes: I've written before to make the point that Critical Race Theory is actually taught in some schools in Maryland (where my daughter took a class in Social Justice that did a half semester on it) and in Northern Virginia (where a close friend teaches a similar class). This article is written by a student in such a class in New York. I would bet that similar classes exist in most left leaning highly educated cities and suburbs across the country.

This fact may be uncomfortable since it would be nice to argue that the people complaining about CRT are protesting a problem that doesn't exist at all, but repeatedly claiming that CRT is not taught in high schools is incorrect and, I think, damaging because there are lots of people who know that claim to be incorrect and it raises credibility questions. It is true that the protesters are either intentionally or ignorantly misrepresenting how widespread the teaching is, and that what they are really complaining about is anything that addresses the concept of structural racism or white privilege. And it is true that CRT is not a standard part of any curriculum I am aware of. But CRT is taught in some high schools, and it is problematic to claim otherwise.

Fili Bust

J.D. in Princeton, NJ, writes: You wrote: "That said, we also struggle to grasp what their real motivations are. It's all good and well to say 'it's about the grift,' but we don't see how blocking voting rights helps line the two senators' pockets."

If you're opposed to BBB then you're likely to be opposed to voting rights, because if the Democrats pick up another two seats in the senate, BBB likely passes. This isn't rocket science—Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) have calculated that the payout from people like the remaining Koch brother is worth betraying their party.

P.S. in Gloucester, MA, writes: Joe Manchin's and Kyrsten Sinema's filibuster votes were about the grift—just a single level of indirection removed: the current filibuster rule allows them more often to avoid having to go on record actively voting to protect their sources of continued ...funding.

J.J. in Johnstown, PA, writes: You wrote "West Virginia is 93% white, so we don't see why voters there—especially Democratic voters—would demand that their Senator hold the line here."

I think you might be wrong with that statement. I think that West Virginia's being 93% white is exactly why voters there would be opposed to Manchin moving on the filibuster.

Being from western Pennsylvania, I think most folks around here are the same as a lot of folks in West Virginia: They are racist.

Talking to conservative Trumpy folks I know, they are outright enraged that minorities get "something." They feel, wrongly, that when anything is "given" to minorities, that something is being taken away from them and given away to "others."

I think that is exactly where Manchin is coming from. I'm not saying he's racist, but if it walks like a duck (or maybe a turtle, in this case)...

J.W. in West Chester, PA, writes: Democrats, and specifically liberal Democrats, need to be very careful in wanting to remove the filibuster. Yes it gums up these huge bills, but conservative Democrats know that the shoe will at some point be on the other foot. People think the GOP is bad now? Wait until the Democrats have no minority protection. Wherever you come down on the issues, if you can't get 7-10 people from across the aisle to vote with you, the bill probably shouldn't pass to begin with. The better course of action is to cut these huge bills up and pass what is mutually acceptable to both parties.

Not So Nice Things

G.R. in Tarzana, CA, writes: Regarding your item about "gotcha" journalism, this has been going on for a long time and not just in politics. As Chico Marx said in the 1933 film Duck Soup, while impersonating Groucho, "Who ya gonna believe? Me or your own eyes?" As a stringer for, the greatest side gig ever, which allows me to hang out in the locker rooms of Dodger or Angel Stadium a dozen or so games each season pretending I belong, I have many times read quotes that completely misrepresented what was said.

My introduction to this phenomenon was just after the turn of the century (2000, not 1900 thank you) while I was covering my childhood, and still beloved, team, the New York Yankees, as they faced off against the Angels.

As was common for many Angels games back then, fans of the visiting team, transplanted to Los Angeles, outnumbered the locals, and never was this more obvious than when the Yankees were in town. I was talking with an Angels player who had been with the Yankees the previous season, and a reporter for The Los Angeles Times asked if it bothered him that the crowd sounded like a Yankee home crowd. He responded that he wished it wasn't the case, but he understood. The next day, a story in that paper appeared claiming the player had blasted the fans. Needless to say, the fans didn't appreciate this and took to booing him. The quote the writer used was word for word, but it wasn't the complete quote and was presented in a manner that was contrary to what the player was suggesting. At that time it was called "getting eyeballs," today it's called "clickbait," but it still has the same intention: It's more important to have a good story that will get attention than a fair story that is accurate.

K.F. in Madison, AL, writes: This is one of the few times when I very much disagree with your analysis. In "This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things," you wrote:

[Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's, R-KY] misstatement simply does not read, to us, as thinly veiled racism. His willingness to carry the water for voter ID laws? Ok, that might speak to thinly veiled racism. But it was his misstatement that the coverage beat into the ground, not the problems with voter ID laws.

I grew up in a small town in the piney woods of east Texas (i.e., the Deep South) during the final two decades of Jim Crow. I can still hear the damned dog whistles. (It's important to note that many of us good ol' Southern white boys now get our hackles up, rather than wag our tails, at the sound.) Rather than a misstatement, "Black American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans" was a Freudian slip, at best.

For some levity, some may enjoy what Trae Crowder has to say (especially if they have a hard time talking about Moscow Mitch without using expletives).

P.V. in Kailua, HI, writes: We will have to agree to disagree as to whether Mitch McConnell's comment that "African-American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as Americans" is racist. As someone who is biracial, I am often asked, "What are you?" My standard answer of, "I am American," always—always—elicits one of the following statements: (1) "But, what are you really?" or (2) "I mean, where are you from?" or (3) "Oh, you know what I mean." Yeah, buddy, I do know what you mean. What you mean is that you can't conceive of someone who looks like me actually being an American. The assumption that non-whites are not "real" Americans is racist. As a bonus, I often get the follow up comment of "Your English is really good!" Which it is—because I am a natural-born U.S. citizen and native English speaker.

I also disagree that it would have been tough for McConnell to properly phrase what he supposedly meant to say. All he needed to say was "African-American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as any other group of Americans"—three additional words—or even "African-American voters are voting in just as high a percentage as other Americans"—one additional word.

The current Republican strategy is to deny the legitimacy of any vote for a Democratic candidate. One way they do this is to deny the legitimacy of Democratic voters—especially the non-white ones—because they are not "real" Americans and therefore should not have the right to vote in the first place. Most of the time I am strongly supportive of not interpreting things in the worst way possible, however in this particular case, I see absolutely no reason to give Mitch McConnell the benefit of the doubt.

W.S. in Williamsburg, VA, writes: To reduce the number of verbal miscues that occur (and that the press overemphasizes/twists), we could/should consider electing fewer politicians who are north of 70 years old.

V & Z respond: (Z) is considerably south of 70 years old, and has still misspoken in many a lecture.

Declarations of Independents

T.B. in Detroit, MI, writes: Over the years I've read with interest the words of S.S. in Detroit, the most prolific "Detroiter" on When they described themselves as "independent, with no lean," in yesterday's mailbag, the words jumped out at me, and I felt as if I had spotted a unicorn. Whether by race, class, or political affiliation, Metro Detroit is one of the most segregated urban areas in the United States, and a person who self-identifies as "independent" is just not something you encounter this side of Eight Mile. That's a much more common sight to the north in suburban Macomb County, where Stan Greenberg coined the term "Reagan Democrats" in the 1980s, and where I grew up. I have older family members there who still split their tickets.

Only two sentences further along, however, S.S. tipped their hand. The public works commissioner that they mentioned voting for in 2000 is a Macomb County position—Detroit's Wayne County doesn't have one. S.S. does not live in Detroit.

Does it matter? I think it does. I moved to the city in 2004, and while my strong opposition to the Iraq War and a desire to be surrounded by more like-minded people wasn't the number one reason for my decision, it was certainly among the runners-up. S.S. has their own reasons for choosing to live where they do. Social scientists debate the extent to which self-sorting by partisan affiliation is a factor in furthering political polarization in America, but it is certainly a factor. At the very least, let's own up to our choices and represent ourselves accurately.

W.K.D. in Houston, TX, writes: S.S. in Detroit proclaimed political independence, and followed up this claim with "there are so few Republicans, I feel, that deserve my vote" and then "In 2020 I voted for two [emphasis mine] Republicans—one a township clerk, and the other a county public works commissioner." Well, gosh. In a city the size of Detroit that may have up to 200 races on a ballot, S.S.'s Republican vote for the equivalent of dogcatcher certainly screams "political independent," don't you think? Worse, (V) & (Z) then agreed that S.S.'s Republican vote for dogcatcher does indeed qualify them as an independent, stating, "That means that you, as a politically engaged person with no lean, are rare, indeed."

Um... where is the independence? S.S. starts off by saying they hate Republicans and then goes 198/200 Democrat on their ballot and you validate that statement of independence? How freaking ridiculous is that? Let's take someone like, oh, I don't know... me, who lives in a very large city and typically votes about 75% Democratic/25% Republican (except for judges, for whom I'm much closer to 50/50). This nonhypothetical person (again, me) would never call himself an independent. Ever. I'm not. I'm a Democrat who won't vote for terrible Democratic candidates and will vote for good Republican candidates. If you don't believe such people exist then you live in some crazy black and white fantasy world that isn't real. Grow up. It is very rare (although it does happen) that I will leave a race blank because both the Democrat and the Republican are too dumb/evil/incompetent to earn my vote.

All Politics is Local

S.S. in Boise, ID, writes: I'm a long-time reader of your site, and one of your mythical female readers to boot. Regarding your item on the Republican civil war in Idaho, yes it is real, and yes it is ugly. I'm a second generation Idahoan and have witnessed Idaho turn from a state that was generally very friendly to a place that has become shockingly bitter and mean. I've had friends screamed at and even spat on in the street for wearing masks. Such behavior would have been unthinkable just a few years ago.

Boise definitely trends to the left and even so, I see "Trump" and "F**k Biden" and "F**k you for voting for him" flags on a regular basis. Walking through my neighborhood last summer, I saw an equal mix of Trump signs and pro-BLM or pro-LGBTQ signs. Now, as I leave my neighborhood to pick one of my children up from school, I see "Let's Go Brandon" signs proudly displayed in neighbors' windows.

Living in Boise, it seems that every other person I meet is from another state. I used to welcome this, but (and this is just my experience) it definitely seems like the people who have been moving to Idaho in the last 5-7 years have skewed extremely conservative, as this article from The Post Register bears out.

The old school Republicans in this state are rural and from ranching/farming communities. Definitely conservative, but in a good ol' boy type of way. This new crop are extremely angry and confrontational. They are playing to their new base of voters who are fueled by a sort of hysterical rage against anything perceived as progressive. They are highly motivated voters who are on the extreme right of any issue you can think of. The atmosphere in this state feels downright poisonous at times, and frankly has me thinking of leaving.

F.C. in Sequim, WA, writes: To go a little deeper on North Idaho, in Kootenai and Bonner counties, you'll need to research Aryan Nations/Richard Butler, Ruby Ridge/Randy Weaver and even Ted Kaczynski/Unabomber. Even though Kaczynski was living across the state line, in Lincoln, MT, it's the same area. When I moved there in 1987, the Aryan Nation was huge. My first summer there I remember driving past the Kootani County fairgrounds and seeing at least 300 fifth wheelers—they were parked perfectly and they were all identical. A sliver/grey color. I asked, and found out it was an Aryan Nation pow-wow. It was the most ominous sight I ever saw. I was one happy camper to leave there in 2013, before the Trump hit the fan. But what still boils my blood is thinking about the high school teachers that taught Republicanism on the side: stopping a science class, for example, to give some spiel on why Democrats are idiots. I raised 3 kids in Kootenai County. Two vote left, one right. All things considered, I am at peace with that.

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: Now that Rep. John Katko (R-NY) has decided to call it quits, I want to offer some local perspective from someone who lives next to his district. For the record, I live in Monroe County and my representative is Joe Morelle (D-NY).

Yes, Katko won in a district that voted Democratic in the last three presidential elections, and the Democrats are gerrymandering the state to make it more blue. But that doesn't mean it's an automatic pickup for the blue team. The current district Katko has includes neighboring Wayne County. It's one of the reddest counties in the state. Part of the reason why Katko won here is because he was able to hold on to the base, but also attract moderate voters in Onondaga County, which consists of Syracuse and its suburbs. He twice defeated a Democratic opponent named Dana Balter, who tried to tie him to Trump and talked excessively about protecting healthcare.

As you know, Katko isn't a Trumpist. He voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill and to impeach Trump for the 1/6 insurrection. He's worked across the aisle and, hence, earned the Donald's wrath.

So the question for the local GOP here is do they nominate someone like Katko, but alienate the Trump base, or do they go all in on Trumpism and alienate the moderate suburban votes needed to win?

For the Democrats, the opposite is true. To win here, they can't go for a clone of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) or Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Someone more of the mold of President Biden will do the trick though.

In any event, I will be bombarded with millions of dollars in ads on my local TV and radio stations in the fall because this is a swing district and one both parties desperately want to win. This is a bellwether district and will say a lot about who controls the House.

In the end, if the Democrats pick this one up, they may be able to hold on to the House. If not, even if they have a great candidate, it won't be pretty for the blue team.

J.G. in East Greenwich, RI, writes: Regarding Rep. Jim Langevin's (D-RI) announcement that he will not seek reelection after serving his 11th term in the House, I thought it might be helpful to hear the perspective of a long-time, loyal reader of who lives in Langevin's district. I've talked with the Representative several times on different issues. He's been a guest speaker I have introduced at the synagogue where I work. I've shared the dais with him a few times at press conferences and public events. I can't call him a friend, but I know something about his character and his political philosophy.

Langevin's announcement came as a surprise to just about everyone in the world of Rhode Island politics. The best sign of that is that there has been a scramble by nearly everyone to figure out who the likely contestants are for his seat. There are no signs that anybody is ready to announce, likely because nobody expected this opportunity to open up. There is a heated race for the Democratic nomination for governor in Rhode Island right now because the current governor, Dan McKee (D), only stepped into the job less than a year ago when Gina Raimondo (D) resigned to serve as Joe Biden's Secretary of Commerce. McKee's not very popular or seen as likely to win the Democratic nomination to run for another term. It is possible that one or more of the people who announced for governor will now take the opportunity to run for the open House seat.

As is well known, Langevin is a quadriplegic, having been gravely injured in an accidental gun incident when he was 16 years old. Anyone who has been around him will tell you that the man has enormous perseverance. Everything is difficult for him. It is exhausting just watching the energy he has to put into everything he does, from shaking the hand of a constituent to handing a document to an aide with hands that barely work. I have no direct knowledge of this, but I have to imagine that part of the reason behind his decision not to seek reelection is that, after more than 20 years in the House (and 12 years before that in state government), he is just exhausted by the demands of the job and wants to give his tired and worn out body a rest.

Politically, Langevin is a very good fit for his district. Rhode Island has a reputation as a deep blue state, but that is only part of the story. The mostly suburban and exurban towns Langevin represents in the second district are more Democratic than Republican, but they are mostly white, middle class, and overwhelmingly Catholic. (The district does include some urban neighborhoods in Providence that are heavily Democratic, but the cities of Cranston and Warwick, also in the district, tend to elect Republican mayors and city councils). On issues like abortion and fiscal policy, Langevin's voters can be on the rightward fringe of the modern Democratic Party. Langevin knows how to speak their language. Despite a fairly progressive voting record, Langevin is very moderate in talking on the issues. Unlike the other members of the state's congressional delegation—Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D), Sen. Jack Reed (D), and, especially, Rep. David Cicilline (D)—Langevin does not indulge in fiery, progressive rhetoric, preferring an intentionally nerdy, subdued, policy-wonk persona.

That is actually who Langevin is. He is a very bright guy who grew up in a working-class family, went to parochial school, and got a degree from the state college that his family could afford. He is a very modest man. If it hadn't been for that gun accident, he would have become a police officer and, I suspect, would have been very happy to spend his career as a bright and friendly detective, solving crimes and keeping his community safe. Langevin is also a very shy man. A few months ago, I saw him at a Lowe's store in the district and said, "Hi, Jim." He was so disconcerted by having to put on his politician persona while running an errand that he barely mumbled, "Hi, Rabbi," back to me. I don't know any other politician at his level who has such a hard time turning on the charm.

Langevin's favorite issue to talk about on any occasion is cybersecurity, about which he is extraordinarily knowledgeable. It's an issue that utilizes his adept mind and which can't get him into much trouble with his constituency. He has championed gun control, but even gun nuts (and there are more than a few of them in the rural part of his district) know that they can't attack him because of his personal history. Langevin also takes great pride in his record on healthcare and disability rights—again, issues that a quadriplegic is expected to take on and cannot be faulted for.

Purely as a matter of speculation, it's possible that Langevin's decision not to seek reelection has something to do with the changing atmosphere in Congress. It's not as easy as it once was to be a middle-of-the-road moderate. He seems to have a personal distaste for partisanship. I stood with Langevin and Cicilline at a recent press conference supporting the Build Back Better Bill. Cicilline was all fire and passion for passing a bill to help Rhode Islanders despite the intransigence of the Republicans in the Senate. When Langevin spoke, it was a 10-minute lecture on the policy benefits of the bill with no reference to politics. He may just feel that there is no room in Congress anymore for a policy wonk who has little stomach for sticking it to the other side. That's my hunch.

There is no clear leading candidate for the seat. Robert Lancia, a former member of the Rhode Island House of Representatives, had already announced his candidacy for the Republican nomination before Langevin's announcement. He lost to Langevin by 18 points in 2020 and is not a very impressive campaigner. It's possible that the open seat will draw some more formidable Republican candidates. It is possible (maybe even likely) that Alan Fung, the former Republican mayor of Cranston, will jump into the race. Fung has run twice for Governor and lost. The Republican nomination may be Fung's for the asking if he wants it, but I don't think he will do well in the general election. The district is D+6. Even a moderately adept Democrat should be able to keep it in the blue column.

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: Just took a look at the map of North Carolina put together by A.B. in Wendell. Not only is it 7-7 in partisan leaning, but the districts actually make sense, being logically shaped and keeping communities of interest together. Yes, reasonable maps will always have some districts that are safe for one party or the other, but they are that way organically and not by extreme twisting of the maps. I think one issue with your analysis is that you keep seeming to forget that the Piedmont Triad cities of Greensboro, High Point, and Winston-Salem are also fairly blue. So Democrats aren't confined to just Charlotte and the Research Triangle. Plus, of course, there are some rural areas with significant Black populations that also lean blue.

C.R. in Pelham, AL, writes: R.E. in Birmingham wrote that Alabama voters will have to choose between Jesus-seeing charlatan Katie Britt (R) and insurrectionist Rep. Mo Brooks (R) to represent them in the Senate next year. Both are already flooding the local airwaves and billboards with ads. A third possibility is former Army helicopter pilot Mike Durant, of Blackhawk Down fame, who is also running as a Trumpy candidate. Durant, of course, is only "famous" for being shot down and captured, and is Trumpy despite Donald Trump's infamous comment on the late Sen. John McCain that "He's a war hero because he was captured. I like people that weren't captured!"

C.Z. in Sacramento, CA, writes: Your item "Travels in Cheneyland" brought back fond (though foggy) memories of the time in the summer of 1976 that I was kicked out of The Whistle Pig Saloon in Wyoming for dancing on the table. Wyoming had just lowered the drinking age to 19, so naturally all of us kids working at Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park crammed into the lodge's John Colter Bar, which had previously been reserved for the lodge guests. Management quickly converted part of our Employee Rec Room into a beer bar exclusively for the employees, which we named The Whistle Pig Saloon. It took Wyoming until 1988 (and only under threat of losing federal highway dollars) to increase the drinking age back up to 21. Probably saved a bunch of kids' brain cells...


R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: A few comments on judicial review: (V) wrote: "SCOTUS gets to veto laws that the president signs. Of course, the latter is not in the Constitution. The Court just decided to do it in 1803 in Marbury v. Madison..." With all due respect, that's flat wrong. Judicial review (i.e., the federal courts' power to invalidate state or federal statutes as repugnant to the U.S. Constitution) was both discussed and implemented well before Marbury. The Anti-Federalists said they opposed the Constitution in part because it was understood to comprehend judicial review. Wikipedia has a good discussion of the history, and for those who love the weeds of constitutional law, there's a 108-page law review article (PDF) that reaches the same conclusion. IMHO, it would have been shocking if the Supreme Court had declared out of nowhere in some early case that it did not have the power to strike unconstitutional laws.

Last weekend, D.E. in Lancaster expressed frustration with the seeming incoherence of the two vaccine decisions, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justice Brett Kavanagh reaching different outcomes on the two mandates. The first important thing to understand is the difference between state and federal power: State power is plenary, and state statutes/actions are valid so long as the U.S. Constitution does not prohibit them (as the Tenth Amendment provides). Federal power, by contrast, is limited. Unless (1) the Constitution and (2) an Act of Congress authorize it, federal action is prohibited. If one believes in judicial restraint (i.e., that the courts should not act as a super-legislature), then the power to declare a law unconstitutional should be used with extreme care, as the only remedies are constitutional amendment or a later overruling (think the federal income tax statute, which was struck down by Pollock v. Farmers' Loan & Trust until the Sixteenth Amendment was ratified, or perhaps Roe v. Wade come June).

However, in considering the vaccine mandates, the issue was not constitutionality, but congressional authorization. For that kind of issue, the Court looks solely at the statutes/rules; it has nothing to do (or should have nothing to do) with whether the federal action is wise or foolish, simply with whether it was authorized. In the vaccine cases, the majority found such authority for the health-care mandate, but not for the employer mandate. The two were based on different congressional authorizations, and to use Roberts' famous metaphor, it's like calling two different pitches, with one a strike and one a ball. The liberals would have liked them both to be called strikes, the conservatives both balls (I've not read the decisions, so I've not evaluated the arguments). Roberts is also right, at least philosophically, that if the majority gets a call wrong, Congress can fix it with legislation—same as passing a new Voting Rights Act or lifting baseball's anti-trust exemption. If Congress is dysfunctional (as it is), that does not mean it's necessarily better for the courts to become super-legislatures or the President to become an autocrat. We'd get more clear results and action that way, but there'd be a serious risk a lot of us wouldn't like them.

Meanwhile, (Z) wrote about the Supreme Court's rejection of Trump's stay application for the turnover of documents to the 1/6 Committee: "[N]obody has put together a compelling legal theory for why the judgment of a sitting president should be secondary to the judgment of a past President." However, Justice Kavanaugh did just that in his statement accompanying the order. Kavanaugh pointed out, correctly in my view, that the precedential rationale for the privilege was that aides might not give fully candid advice if they worried about their remarks being published in the future. That concern would still exist if a later president, perhaps from another party, could unilaterally release the former president's aides' words to embarrass the former president, the aides or the other party. Kavanaugh nonetheless agreed with the order on the grounds that the D.C. Circuit had ruled that there would be no executive privilege even if Trump were still president. Therefore, Kavanaugh wrote, that court's discussion of whether a former president could assert the privilege against the wishes of the current president was obiter dicta—that is, a gratuitous remark not necessary to the outcome, and therefore not binding on lower courts. Kavanaugh's statement is the view of only one justice, but there is certainly legitimate wiggle room—and a legitimate argument—for a former president to make that a successor should not be allowed to waive executive privilege for the former's papers.

G.C. in South Pasadena, CA, writes: Your commentary on t****p failing at the Supremes trying to keep his January 6 papers from people's eyes was not entirely on the mark. There are/were two parts of his actions: (1) was to stay the papers from being seen by the committee, and (2) to stop the papers from being seen by the committee.

The Court has agreed to examine whether a past president can do that, and they have not even started that process yet. Meanwhile, t****p has asked the court to stay anyone from seeing the papers. On the 19th, the Court said that they would not stay the order (like previous courts) in advance of their ruling on the constitutionality of #2. What Thomas was saying in his dissent is that he wanted to prevent the papers from being seen prior to #2.

F.L. in Denton, TX, writes: I frequently see the phrase "balls and strikes," which has been used by Chief Justice John Roberts.

In baseball, a pitch is either a ball or a strike; it's either in the zone or it's not. There is no opinion involved. Umpires could be replaced with cameras for that purpose (and maybe they will someday, but I digress).

There are nine people on the Supreme Court and all of them are (despite public opinion) experts on the subject of law. If every case was a matter of "balls and strikes," they'd always agree. Yet, more often than not, there is disagreement and they render something called—surprise!—opinions.

At that level of jurisprudence, there are no "balls and strikes." There is no "black and white." It's all various shades of gray.

The purpose of a judge is to judge, knowing that sometimes there are extenuating and mitigating circumstances. Also, they must consider that our society changes, not just in public opinion, but in physical, concrete ways like technology, social media, pandemics, and climate change.

This ideology that Roberts espouses is, in my humble opinion, specious and, for that, I suspect history will not look kindly on him.

T.M.M. in Odessa, MO, writes: This week, you ran predictions about the courts for 2022. I think in some of your scores for boldness, you overlooked several relevant facts.

On Justice Stephen Breyer's retirement, I know that many people think that he might retire. While there are some tea leaves pointing in favor of retirement, there are others pointing against. In terms of boldness, predicting Breyer to retire is somewhere along the lines of picking the Green Bay Packers, Kansas City Chiefs, or Tampa Bay Buccaneers to win the Super Bowl at this point of the playoffs. (In other words, a plausible prediction but not a sure thing.)

However, based on recent history, the timing of the announcement is not particularly mysterious. Most recent retirement announcements have come between April 1 and July 15. That timing allows the justice to complete the work on this term's cases (typically wrapped up by July 3) and gives enough time for the replacement to be confirmed. It's not a guarantee that the replacement will be confirmed in time. However, the recent instances in which the replacement were not on the bench for the start of the term occurred for reasons that could not have been known at the time that the retirement was announced. Since 1980, only four replacements were not confirmed in time for the start of the new term. For three of those retirements (Justices Powell, Marshall, and Kennedy), the reason that the replacement was not confirmed was due to issues related to the replacement nominee (Justice Thomas and Justice Kavanaugh having issues arise that required extra hearings and two nominees to replace Justice Powell failing before Justice Kennedy was nominated). In the case of the replacement for Justice O'Connor, Chief Justice Rehnquist died shortly after her retirement announcement, requiring the filling of two vacancies with Chief Justice Roberts (the original nominee to replace Justice O'Connor) being confirmed before the start of the term.

The really bold pick was that Justice Breyer would wait until after the election to retire; on a scale of 0-5 for boldness that prediction should get a 10. Justice Breyer used to work on the staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee. If any justice is aware of the chances that the Democrats will keep the Senate (probably something less than 50-50 given the historical pattern for mid-term elections—which favors Republicans—and the map—which favors the Democrats, it is Justice Breyer. And the reasons why he would opt to not retire in the summer (concerns about the Supreme Court being perceived as partisan) would become even more substantial if he waited until November.

On the Texas Abortion law, any predictions about the Supreme Court doing anything more with the Texas Abortion law this year rates a five for boldness. At the present time, that law is not before the Supreme Court. It ruled on an emergency motion and sent the case back to the Fifth Circuit which then certified questions to the Texas Supreme Court. Unless the Fifth Circuit and the Texas Supreme Court expedite this issue, it is unlikely that the Fifth Circuit will rule before June or July. As a result, there is a slim chance that the Supreme Court will even be asked to look at the Texas law again before October and any final ruling is likely to not be until 2023 at the earliest. Even then, the odds that the Supreme Court will take any particular case is slim (they only hear arguments on about 1-2% of the cases that seek Supreme Court review).

V & Z respond: The Packers aren't plausible any more...

Other Legal Matters

S.G. in Newark, NJ, writes: As regards your reply to H.C. in Santa Cruz who asked about workers possibly suing their employers for not protecting them from co-workers with COVID: There's a reason that the suit you describe, by Matilde Ek against her employer, See's Candies, involved a claim that See's had made her husband sick. The reason? She could not have sued her employer for an illness contracted on the job. Precluding that kind of lawsuit is precisely the point of worker's compensation laws. A worker injured on the job gets compensated through workers' comp, but in exchange loses the right to sue the employer. The upside for the worker is automatic compensation without the expense of litigation and without having to prove that the employer did anything wrong (although the worker still must prove that the injury or illness was job-related). The downside for the worker is that workers' compensation provides far less compensation than a successful tort suit.

So it's not surprising that See's tried to push Ek's claim for her husband's death out of court and into workers' compensation. Both the trial judge and the California Court of Appeal rejected the argument that the claims by Ek and her children were "derivative" of a claim based on Ek's own work-related COVID-19 infection. As a legal matter, those decisions were undoubtedly right, but they are also incredibly narrow. See's lawyers were really reaching here, hoping for a win before the game even started. They didn't get that, but Ek's claim still faces formidable hurdles.

Here are some of those: First, the court will have to decide that See's had a legal duty to use reasonable care to protect from COVID-19, not only their employees, but their employees' family members. If the court holds there was no duty, then there's no lawsuit. Second, she will have to prove that See's behaved negligently with respect to COVID-19 risks. Third, she will have to prove that See's negligence caused her husband's illness and death: that she caught COVID-19 at work and that her husband caught COVID-19 from her. Depending on their other possible exposures, that could be very hard to do. The California Court of Appeal expressly stated that its opinion did not address any of these issues.

There are some similarities between COVID-19 exposure at work and asbestos exposure at work. Employees sickened by workplace asbestos exposure could not sue their employers, so they sued the asbestos product manufacturers instead. But workers' family members who contracted an asbestos-related disease (often a spouse who washed a worker's asbestos-covered clothing) did try to sue the workers' employers. These "take-home" asbestos cases have been successful in some states but unsuccessful in most.

D.T. in Hillsboro, OR, writes: One thing you should note is that the grand jury requested by the Fulton County DA is a Special Grand Jury. As I recently learned, SGJs in Georgia can issue subpoenas but not indictments. They're mainly used for investigations that will last longer than the typical 2-month term of an ordinary grand jury, such as for corruption by high government officials. At their end, they just issue a report.

B.S. in Portland, OR, writes: J.B. in Bend could not have it more wrong in their admonishment to you regarding the consent required to record telephone conversations. You were correct in your assessment of one-party consent for such recordings—that is, the consent of only one-party to the conversation is required to record it. At least on a federal level, and in 38 states and one district, Georgia and D.C. among them. Emily Post may have preferred that one inform all parties to a telephone conversation that they are being recorded, but the law does not require such. Thus, no judge could suppress the recording if it is relevant evidence, nor would Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) be liable for the recording.

J.B. in Bend, OR, writes: Last week you ran my observation that the law against recording someone without their permission contains the nuance that if they know or reasonably should know they are being recorded, then no crime is committed. I noted that Trump might be able to use this nuance to suppress the recording of his Georgia call.

Well, no more! Part of the statement he issued in response to the request to empanel a grand jury contains this line: "Although I assumed the call may have been inappropriately, and perhaps illegally, recorded, I was not informed of that." Not only it is an admission that he assumed he was being recorded, he continued with the call, which would amount to tacitly giving permission for it to be recorded, just like when you stay on the line after being told "this call may be recorded for quality assurance purposes." You haven't been told you are being recorded, only that you might be.

Trump assumed the call was being recorded and stayed on the line. His admission removes any basis for suppressing the recording.

History Matters

J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: Any discussion of Lyndon B. Johnson always touches a nerve for me. LBJ was boorish and abusive, and certainly helped turn Vietnam into a massive quagmire. These are realities that should be talked about.

However, as an armchair historian and political progressive, I tend to think LBJ comes in for undue abuse. It seems to me that in terms of the domestic policies enacted under his presidency he may be (again, on domestic policy) the most progressive president in U.S. history. It seems like he not only had a set of pretty progressive policy priorities (The Great Society surely must be rivaled only by The New Deal), even by today's standards, but he also had the knowhow, conviction, and political savvy to see his ambitious policy ideas realized.

That said, when he's publicly remembered by either side it's usually negatively.

By contrast John F. Kennedy was a serial philanderer, started the substantial U.S. involvement in the Vietnam war for which LBJ tends to be most maligned, was fairly conservative, and—even accounting that his administration was tragically cut short—has a relatively meager resume in comparison to LBJ. Nevertheless, he tends to be popularly remembered as one of the all-time-greats. The nostalgic media representation seems to say: "We had Camelot, things were great, then Kennedy was killed and Johnson took over and that's when our country really lost its way," forgetting that the wheels of 1968 were set in motion during Camelot. Similar are the perceptions among some that somehow Robert F. Kennedy was a shoo-in to beat Hubert Humphrey and then Richard Nixon and somehow history would have been quite different.

I'm sure some of the glow of JFK and RFK comes from the fact that their careers were cut tragically short, which opens an easy path to imagine "what might have been," imaginings that don't always seem to have a basis in what their positions actually were. LBJ continued a war that was begun by his much beloved and well-remembered predecessors ("official" involvement began under Ike, after all) and somehow that's pretty much the beginning and end of public discussions about his policy agenda.

Sometimes I wonder whether LBJ's negative legacy in the public imagination is the product of something similar to the "Lost Cause" ideology. The negatives of his administration have been emphasized because he signed the Civil Rights Act and because he enacted exceptionally progressive programs of wealth redistribution that might seem radical in 2022 (would Medicare pass today?). Pointing out that LBJ was a lout has the added benefit of making JFK and Nixon on either side seem like nicer, better people. People even have the gall to somehow compare Trump and LBJ because they were both crude. The difference of course is that LBJ had principles, knew how to lead, and had an interest in governing and did a pretty good job of it. I want to see the rehabilitation of LBJ the way we've seen the rehabilitation of Ulysses S. Grant recently.

F.J.V.S. in Acapulco, GRO, Mexico, writes: D.K. in Iowa City asked something about arranging an assassination of a foreign head of state. No American president has engineered the assassination of a Mexican head of state, but an ambassador probably did. I learned in primary school that Ambassador Henry Lane Wilson plotted the overthrow of President Francisco Ignacio Madero in February 1913, resulting in the deaths of President Madero, vice president José María Pino Suárez and Madero's brother Gustavo Adolfo Madero. Ambassador Wilson did not pull the trigger, nor wield the club, but his plotting motivated the conspirators to do it.

It is also said, perhaps accurately and perhaps not, that the soon-to-be widow of President Madero, Sara Pérez Romero, asked the ambassador to help her husband, but the ambassador told her that he could not meddle in issues exclusive to the Mexican nation.

J.P. in Horsham, PA, writes: Your defense of the Germans invading Pearl Harbor, at least according to Sen. Blutarsky, reminded me of the minor scandal during the 1988 presidential election, when then-vice president George H.W. Bush gave a speech on September 7 of that year, in which he made a comment about it being the anniversary of the invasion of Pearl Harbor. His son George came to his rescue, arguing that it doesn't make much of a difference if it was September 9 or December 9. This prompted comedian Mark Russell to clarify "for [his] younger viewers" that "it was on December 7, 1941, that the Mexicans invaded Pearl Harbor."

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: When readers wrote in to correct your joking reference to "when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor" from Animal House, it reminded me of Sen. Tommy Tuberville's (R-AL) statement about his father in World War II helping to "liberate Europe from socialism." I think I can hear R.E. in Birmingham sighing deeply again...

R.H. in Middelton, MA, writes: The letter from C.J.A. in Tucson and your response reminded me of a bumper sticker that was popular after Nixon fired Archibald Cox: IMPEACH THE COX SACKER.

V & Z respond: Between LBJ's behavior and all the Nixon jokes, that was clearly a very phallic era of American history.


B.M. in Carlsbad, CA, writes: Your website used to be center-right, but since 2016ish, your site has shifted far to the left. It would seem that your audience is vastly liberal as well (I'm reminded of an e-mail you all recently responded to that basically said: "Please give me hope that Democrats can win the midterms this year)." And sadly, whenever any website is far left (or far right), they lose touch with the vast majority of people.

The best example is your list of reasons why Joe Biden's approval rating is down and trending further downward. Sure, the pandemic and inflation are hurting him. But what is really shocking Americans and making them flip Republican this year are the increases in crime and homelessness. You didn't list either of these as possible reasons.

Even if Biden isn't personally to blame, liberal policies in large cities have exacerbated the homeless problem. These same cities are choosing not to enforce existing laws, resulting in very significant increases in crime.

I'm sure that most Americans realize that the pandemic isn't Biden's fault. Biden is probably at fault at least somewhat when it comes to inflation, but the very concept of inflation is hard to grasp for most Americans. However, rising crime and homelessness are apparent everywhere, and these topics are very easy to understand. As long as the left is, at best, turning a blind eye to the homelessness and crime epidemic, and at worst, escalating each of these, average Americans of all stripes (see the latest Gallup polls) will continue to go with the alternative. And there's only one alternative in a two-party system, so therefore they will vote Republican.

S.P. in Foster, RI, writes: I notice a lot of discussion on your site about whether is becoming more biased towards the left. I don't see that happening. Instead, I think E-V has become more partisan, almost always asserting that the Democratic leadership (Biden, Schumer, Pelosi, etc.) knows what it is doing and will ultimately be successful, despite continued failures on their part. That, to me, is a blind spot or bias that pervades the site these days.

Why don't I see that as a bias towards the left? Because while E-V is often fawning towards the Democratic establishment players, it is frequently dismissive of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. I'm not sure that (V) and (Z) are even clear about who is really progressive, and what they really stand for. A recent case in point was the discussion about whether Biden might face a primary challenge from the left. You wrote: "Pete Buttigieg might make a run of it..." Now, Pete Buttigieg is a smart guy who supports some progressive ideas, and as a gay man he gets points from some liberals, but during the 2020 primaries when he challenged Bernie Sanders, 'Mayor Pete' sounded like an old cold-warrior. No one on the left thinks of Buttigieg as a progressive champion.

Want to know more about who the left is, and what they stand for? Listen to or watch Democracy Now!. Read The Nation, In These Times, Jacobin, and/or Common Dreams. Until then, please don't claim any expertise on the who or what is progressive!

Complaints Department

H.R. in Jamaica Plain, MA, writes: I usually enjoy your snark, but your targets in "Biden Nominates Ambassador to the U.K." really upset me. One of my children, and that child's spouse, are Foreign Service Officers. Several of my college classmates had Foreign Service careers and served as ambassadors in various countries. It annoys me that the diplomatic corps, people who often make great sacrifices to serve our country and provide an alternative to violence in our foreign policy, are either ignored or maligned. FSOs often risk their lives, live in less than ideal conditions and work long hours during crises such as the recent airlift out of Afghanistan. Yet these public servants get very little appreciation and recognition from the U.S. public. They serve the nation, just as our military members do, but they are not acknowledged very often and receive very few of the perks afforded to our soldiers. If you wanted to know what Ambassador Laskaris might do in Chad, a very quick search of the State Department website would lead you to this article, where I learned that the U.S. is working with others to bring about "a peaceful, timely, and civilian-led transition of power to a democratically elected government before October 2022." Previously, Ambassador Laskaris served as ambassador to Guinea during the 2014-15 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. He speaks seven languages in addition to English.

Meanwhile, high school teachers are underpaid, dedicated people who guide our next generation. Probably every one of your readers has had, at some point in their lives, a teacher who inspired and encouraged them. Both of you are teachers, so this attack on high school English teachers is probably subject-based, or else is looking down on teachers in high school, but I fail to understand your point. It was an English teacher, in my case, who inspired me and generations of my neighbors who attended our high school. Whether the challenge is bringing democracy to Chad or bringing critical thought to teenagers, it is no less important to building a better world than what you do every day.

V & Z respond: There were a number of complaints about this, and so we regret that our words were taken in the wrong way. We regard teaching high school as a very difficult job, and an appointment to any of the more cushy ambassadorial posts announced that day (i.e., Denmark) would surely be an easier way to earn a paycheck. However, Chad is a pretty rough nation (see below), so maybe not in that case.

M.G. in Indianapolis, IN, writes: Unfortunately, your site, the media, and perhaps the Biden administration don't appreciate that Chad rests at the fulcrum of counter-extremist issues in Africa, and remains under-resourced given the implications. You may want to keep up with this issue here.

M.K. in Seattle, WA, writes: I have noticed that you don't much care for Narendra Modi. This has been evident for a long time. Sure he has his faults. However, to put him on par with and in the same line with Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping is truly shoddy and shows poor judgment on your part. For one, he is the leader of the largest democracy in the world (where everybody gets to vote!). The other two are dictators. You are doing India a disservice.

Rather shameful on your part! You should definitely apologize for this on your site.

V & Z respond: We've mentioned him on the site a grand total of five times in the last 2 years, almost invariably in passing, such as in this answer to a question about various leaders' security arrangements. So, we're not sure how someone might infer our dislike for him. And as to Putin and Xi, we explicitly noted that the commonality between those two and Modi was that they all lead "large nation[s] with a nuclear stockpile."


A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: In deference to your reputed affinity for snark, and my appreciation of your use of said literary construct, let me provide for you the opportunity to be one of the first purchasers of a "Snark-O-Meter". Today and today only, we are offering this little wonder of the modern technological age for the astounding low price of only $19.95, or 5 easy payments of $9.99 each. If you are one of the first 5,000 callers, we will include at no extra charge a faux fur-lined carrying case to protect your investment. Just clip this little gem to the input cable of your computer to automatically measure the level of SNARK flowing through the internet tubes into your computer. You will be amazed at the levels of SNARK that are captured by this instrument. You will be astounded by the volume of Positive and Negative (conservative and liberal) snark being perpetrated on our unaware citizenry.

Remember: If you don't call me today, I can't save you any money!

(Before I get into too much trouble, please be aware that this is a legitimate product from a company named "Snark" that manufacturers this particular item and it is used for tuning stringed musical instruments. I apologize in advance to the Snark company, this is neither an endorsement or criticism of the company. Hopefully they don't get too mad at me for stealing the picture.)

It's a blue clip with a circlular
gauge on top that says 'Snark!' and produces measurements ranging from -50 to 50. The unit of measurement is not specified.

L.V.A. in Idaho Falls, ID, writes: On September 21, you wrote: "It's probably lucky for us that, as of January 1, we're shifting our focus from election analysis to quilting patterns and gluten-free pizza recipes."

I feel so ... betrayed.

V & Z respond: Well, we have to transition slowly, as it turns out. Luckily, the first step commences with the next letter.

C.L. in Warwick, RI, writes: I thought I would help you out with your promised series of politically inspired quilt patterns by submitting the following question/quiz to you and my fellow readers. I know you haven't forgotten about it, you've just been way busy writing about more important items. Maybe I'm the only quilter among your readership, but I doubt it. So here you go:

It is a grid of nine squares.
The four corner squares are white, the center square is blue. The remaining four squares are made up of four triangles:
a blue triangle that borders the blue square in the center, a white triangle that borders the outside edge, and red squares that
occupy the two remaining quadrants. The net effect is that it looks kind of like a throwing star.

The patchwork block pattern shown is known by several names. Among those are:

  1. A Tale of Two Cities
  2. Tea for Two
  3. Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!
  4. Tempest in a Teapot

Although I am no expert on the subject, political issues, questions, candidates, and/or just about any and every political subject ever examined in America has been incorporated into a quilt by someone, somewhere. Most likely in other countries too. Women and men of every faith, color, and economic standing have used their needles to add their commentary to political discussions for hundreds of years, often during times when their actual voices were silenced, or their votes could not be counted. And not just then, but even more so today. Do an online search for "political quilts" and you'll be amazed at the number of hits, from traditional bed-type quilts to art and artisan quilts that hang in the world's finest museums.

Anyway, just a bit of "not much news today" fun, and the answer to the above is "c." The others I made up.

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, please click here.

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Jan22 Saturday Q&A
Jan21 Rudy Giuliani Is in Trouble...
Jan21 ...Of Course, So Is Donald Trump...
Jan21 ...And Maybe Rep. Henry Cuellar, While We're at It
Jan21 This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
Jan21 Biden's Trajectory, Part I
Jan21 This Week in Schadenfreude
Jan21 Looking Forward: The Readers Predict 2022, Part V: The Supreme Court (and Other Legal Matters)
Jan20 Manchin and Sinema Meant What They Said, and They Said What They Meant
Jan20 Three Strikes and Trump Is Out
Jan20 Biden Has Discovered the Bully Pulpit
Jan20 Build Back Smaller
Jan20 There Is a Mixed Response to the Supreme Court's OSHA Decision
Jan20 Biden Will Make 400 Million N95 Masks Available for Free
Jan20 Abortion Pill Is Tough to Swallow
Jan20 Biden Fills Three Fed Seats
Jan20 Why Is Donald Trump's Big Lie So Hard to Discredit?
Jan20 Biden Nominates Ambassador to the U.K.
Jan20 The Civil War Is Underway in Idaho--Pitting Republicans against Republicans
Jan20 Looking Backward: How Did The Readers Do?, Part V: The Supreme Court
Jan19 The Trump Onion Is Getting Peeled
Jan19 The Heat Is on Joe Manchin
Jan19 Generalissimo DeSantis Wants to Create Election Police Force
Jan19 Two More House Democrats Call It a Career
Jan19 Mehmet Oz Is Down...
Jan19 ...And Bill de Blasio Is Out
Jan19 Looking Forward: The Readers Predict 2022, Part IV: The Biden Administration
Jan18 Time for the Voting Rights Rubber to Hit the Filibuster Road
Jan18 Democrats Take the Plunge on Blue Slips
Jan18 More Trouble in GOParadise
Jan18 Americans Now Lean Republican, According to Gallup
Jan18 Biden-Cheney 2024? Yeah, Right
Jan18 Travels in Cheneyland
Jan18 Looking Backward: How Did The Readers Do?, Part IV: The Biden Administration
Jan17 Sunday News Shows Were All about Voting Rights
Jan17 Talk of Primarying Sinema Heats Up
Jan17 Harris Worked on Voting Rights. Now What?
Jan17 Ohio Supreme Court Tears Up the New Congressional Map
Jan17 Trump Kicks Off the Midterms in Arizona--by Talking 2020
Jan17 DirecTV Drops OAN
Jan17 Trump Voters Are Dying of COVID-19
Jan17 Glenn Youngkin Is Sworn in and Gets to Work Immediately
Jan17 How to Fix the Supreme Court
Jan17 Katko Calls It Quits
Jan16 Sunday Mailbag
Jan15 Saturday Q&A
Jan14 You Win Some, You Lose Some, Part I: The Filibuster
Jan14 You Win Some, You Lose Some, Part II: Vaccine Mandates
Jan14 You Win Some, You Lose Some, Part III: Trouble in GOParadise
Jan14 You Win Some, You Lose Some, Part IV: Justice Drops the Hammer