Pres map

Previous | Next

Idaho, Michigan, and Missouri Voted Yesterday

Three states voted yesterday. All of them screwed up. As Leo Tolstoy pointed out (more or less), all competent states are alike, but each incompetent state is incompetent in its own way. Here is what happened:

What a mess. Today there will be an actual primary election in D.C., and Nikki Haley might have a small chance to win it. If she pulls it off, it would be her first win this year. And very possibly her last. (V)

Sunday Mailbag

We think this is an unusually strong set of letters. We shall see if the readers agree.

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Election

E.F. in Baltimore, MD, writes: You wrote that possibly Nikki Haley was hoping to get a plurality in five states, because RNC rules would then require she be given a speaking slot at the convention. Don't be silly. Donald Trump owns the party, perhaps more securely than any of the properties that AG Letitia James is hoping to seize. Rules are for losers. If Haley ever manages to get to the podium, and says even one discouraging word about Trump, the lights will go out and her mic will get cut.

As for negotiating concessions, ask any contractor Trump has stiffed over the last 50 years what an agreement with him is worth. Platform? Just like 2020, it'll be whatever Trump wants.

J.B. in Westwood, MA, writes: I grew up in Needham and now live one town over, where the housing is (slightly) less expensive. The Nikki Haley event will be held at 8:00 p.m. at a local hotel with participants needing to reserve admission. Not the best way to garner votes. Needham is something of an outlier in that it has no town-sponsored trash collection. One either hires a private service or makes a trek to the recycling center, usually on Saturdays. Anyone who wants to win an election in Needham knows to spend their Saturday mornings at that state-of-the-art recycling center where one will be able to meet a continuous stream of potential voters and have a ready-made opportunity to discuss the environment. Or set up shop outside one of the local supermarkets, usually in late afternoon to catch commuters on their way home. Incidentally, there are almost no lawn signs or bumper stickers supporting any candidate of either party; early voting is well underway.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: Although it remains a mystery why Nikki Haley is still in the race, one thing for certain is that competing in Super Tuesday does a huge favor to the Biden campaign. Jon Favreau, of Pod Save America, has pointed out that a sizable chunk of Haley voters in the four states that voted before Michigan have stated in exit polls that they will never vote for Donald Trump. However, those are all open primary states and some of those voters are Democrats who are almost certain to vote for Joe Biden in the fall. Since many of the Super Tuesday states have closed primaries, her participation will provide the Biden campaign with a wealth of data on who these voters are and what message might persuade them to vote for the President. It seems unlikely that she will endorse Biden, and only she knows why she is remaining in the race. But either way, she is doing the Biden campaign a huge favor by staying in.

One more thing: Why hasn't the Supreme Court been on the ballot yet? Melissa Murray, of the Strict Scrutiny podcast, has been sounding the alarm that if Trump (or any Republican) wins in November, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito will resign so fast it will make our heads spin. The new Republican president would nominate 12-year-old clones of these two men, guaranteeing a super conservative court for generations. There are a ton of issues to consider, but I'd really like to hear pundits talking about this as yet another reason why we can't afford another Trump term.

A.G. in Scranton, PA, writes: I am now, again, getting that feeling that, unless something truly miraculous happens in Israel, like a sudden two-state solution being announced within the next 2 months or so, that Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) is going to end up being called upon by Joe Biden to step in and run in his place.

I know it's not that easy, and a lot would have to happen and not happen for that eventuality to occur, but Newsom is being very public on the Sunday talk shows that liberals watch. I still believe he told the California Supreme Court to allow the former President to stay on the ballot so the Governor would be guaranteed the win were such an eventuality to occur, and, due to the feckless nature of people since COVID, President Biden's accomplishments and his message simply can't break through.

Every time—every time—I go the grocery store, I hear people making comments about voting against the President. I live in a crazy red area, mind you, and they'd probably be saying that anyway, but do you really trust a common American to not look beyond grocery store prices?

To many, it's a very real issue. That they're making more does not matter one bit. If one makes more but is forced to spend all of the gains just to eat... "What was the point of getting a raise?," they think to themselves.

Either Biden lurches incredibly far to the populist left and starts calling out these prices for what they are: gouging, and doing it in a way that looks energetic and as if he really understands... or he'll probably end up losing this thing to the former president, especially if the young people forget, yet again, what happened when they stood on principles and lost women and Black people and queer folk and [insert "other" person type here] their rights by voting for that nice lady Jill Stein in 2016.

I know, panicky Democrat side of bank robber A.G. in Scranton rears its ugly head again...

Americans are stupid. They'll let despotism win just to prove a point because they've never experienced what it is like to live without rights. They don't get how bad things can get when someone is allowed to kill you simply for disagreeing with them or living unlike them. It's all black-and-white photos to them.

They'll let it happen... then wonder why it is their Republican neighbor is allowed to rape their daughter. I wish that were hyperbole.

Politics: Old Joe Biden

D.B. in Athens, GA, writes: What will happen when the general public starts paying closer attention closer to the election? Imagine how bad Joe Biden would look in a debate, or even a town hall, at this point? He can maybe make it through something scripted like the State of the Union.

A little background: I am a professional poker player for some 27 years now. A huge portion of my job is observing people and assessing their intelligence and decision making abilities. Just comparing Biden on video now vs before it is so obvious to me the cognitive decline.

Perhaps it can be hidden enough to win the election, and other people can help Biden successfully govern. But this is such a big risk when the alternative is Donald Trump. I would like to see people close to Biden convince him to step down for the good of the country.

A.G. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: This grandmother you wrote about (Susan Titus) is older than Donald Trump and a year younger than Joe Biden. Yet she speaks and acts 20 years younger than either one of them. It's quite a shocking difference in wit and energy between her and Biden, especially. It's not so much that the President is old, it's that he acts and talks like he is nearing 100. If he spoke and behaved just like Titus, not one reasonable person would say a word about his age.

D.M.F. in Ann Arbor, MI, writes: To your commentators who wanted to point out cognitive differences between Biden 2014 and 2024, the most conspicuous difference to me is how much less grabby he is now. It was almost cringy to see him hug and touch Amy Poehler in 2014. He seemed sharp in both videos, though his speaking and diction are slower now.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: God, I felt beyond old this week! I was quickly scrolling through my Google suggestions when I saw a photo of an old man entering a courtroom, and I thought to myself, "What's Joe Biden doing going into a courtroom?" I read the headline to the article and discovered that old man was Don Henley of the Eagles!

Now you have to understand that when I was a teenager in '76-'77, Don Henley was my Rock God! To me, he was a master musician, lyricist, philosopher and thinker. His influence on my life was seminal and still is to this day, although a few others have since joined that pantheon. In high school, I taught myself literary techniques of allusions, allegories and symbolism by studying his lyrics. For one assignment, I drew a picture book where I compared the words of Henry David Thoreau to Henley and Glenn Frey's lyrics—not knowing at the time that Henley was greatly influenced by Thoreau and would later be a major patron of the Walden Woods Project. In college, my English professor asked the class to read out loud their favorite poem as an assignment and I read "The Last Resort" (my professor thought it trite, but it caused half of the class to cry). In fact, I'm praying that neither Henley nor his associates read this in that, to this day, despite his infamous acerbic manner, I would still give a lung, kidney, liver and arm for the chance to hear him answer my unworthy questions and would hate to think he thought me a fool.

By the way, the reason Don Henley was going into a courtroom is because the trial of three men accused of stealing the pages where he worked on the lyrics of "Hotel California" and other great songs had commenced and Henley was the... ahem, star witness. I think I have read every article about his testimony and certainly both his passion and biting wit were both on view. Although I think my favorite line in the trial goes to the judge, who, when the prosecution objected to the relevancy of questions going into the process of the creation of "Hotel California" overturned the objection with this reply, "I don't know the relevancy, it's just fascinating." Amen to that!

Speaking of relevancy, you must be wondering what all that has to do with politics, besides me mistaking Henley for Biden. I did some quick Wikipedia research and discovered that Henley is 76 years old. From his testimony in the ongoing trial, he clearly still does not suffer fools and has the mental agility to do battle with a pack of lawyers. In addition to the trial, Henley is also in the midst of the Eagles' massive final tour, "The Long Goodbye." Every show is a sold out within minutes of the tickets going on sale, with both young and old paying big money for a chance to attend (the cheapest tickets will cost you $180 to $300, and that is for a seat in the nose bleed section; when I last saw them for their "Long Road Out Of Eden" Tour in Washington, DC, tickets for decent seats sold for $1,000 to $3,000!). Their tour is easily competing with Taylor Swift and Beyoncé, performers who can't even imagine what 56 feels like, much less 76. As the lead singer of the band, Henley is on stage for the entire length of the show. Yet if Henley was being judged in the political world and the GOP echo chamber that is our legacy media, he's close to senile. If you add 5 years to his age then he becomes, like Biden at 81, an old fool and a dotard that the young folk can't stand.

It all just smacks a bit of out-of-control ageism and hypocrisy. Our society looks with reverence at our aging rock stars but with scorn with our aging leaders. Yes, Henley needed a throat loungze because his voice was fading during his testimony. Yes, Biden moves slower and with more awareness of his movements than someone in their twenties. And yes, Trump leans on the podium when he speaks—I find myself doing the same thing when the arthritis in my knees starts screaming (and yes, that will be the one and only time I ever defend the Tangerine Terror!). News flash, as you get older, your body humiliates you at every chance it can get by nagging you with the scary truth you ain't a spring chicken anymore. At 62, I count how many times it takes me to stand-up from a sitting position as a barometer of whether it's a good day or no.

What matters most is that Henley still has that sharp tongue and Biden still has the kindly bon mots of Uncle Joe. Trump, on the other hand... his non-sequitur salads have becoming increasingly strange and frightening, but I fear that has less to do with his age and more to due with his brain rotting from a profound lack of curiosity and a disdain for intellectualism. If he is experiencing an onset of dementia, we should remember that the early onset of Alzheimer's can start in one's thirties and forties. In fact, the fastest growing segment of Alzheimer's diagnosis is the ages 30-44 at a 407% growth. Let's stop projecting age onto our dissatisfactions with politics. As everyone will discover in their own time, it's a bitch growing old and the dark desert highway beckons to us all. You can't leave the physical advancements of age until you get to that final checkout. I will defend the wisdom that experience brings to a few, but not all, with all the energy I can muster! But I'll tell you a secret, and it won't come as a surprise... If given the opportunity, I would leap at the chance to being 15 again and hearing those magical haunting guitar arpeggios as I made my first trip to the Hotel California.

E.K.H. in San Antonio, TX, writes: Thanks for posting the links to Joe Biden in 2014 and now. There is definitely a difference, all right. But here's another factor to consider: Then he was VP Biden and now he is the president. He has to consider every word he says six ways to Sunday. He can't clown around like he did in 2014. Nor would we want him to.

And yes, he is 10 years older and over 80. We're all 10 years older. Cut the guy a little slack.

C.Z. in Sacramento, CA, writes: Thanks for providing the links for President Biden's recent appearance on Seth Meyers and his appearance in 2014. Yes, he looks 10 years older, as do we all. In his 2014 appearance, he was more humorous, but in his 2024 appearance he provided numerous economic facts off the top of his head. His stiffened walking gait was explained in detail in his doctor's medical review last month. He has spinal arthritis and peripheral neuropathy in his feet. So do I, and I am 10 years younger than Joe! He may walk slower now, but I saw no evidence that his thinking is impaired. On the other hand, I just found out that I'm 2 inches shorter than I used to be. So it's not just my imagination that those overhead light bulbs seem further away than they used to be. They ARE! (Reluctantly reported by a woman who is now only 5-foot-2. Dammit!)

B.R.D. in Columbus, OH, writes: In response to those who compared this year's Joe Biden's appearance on Seth Meyers to one ten (10!!!) years before, and concluded President Biden had "slipped mentally," I would like to remind people that yes, aging happens. If I compared my appearance and mental agility to my 10-years-ago self, I would certainly notice a difference. Does that mean I can no longer think, act, work, do my scholarly research, write, present at conferences, attend zoom sessions, LEARN? No! Does it mean I have "slipped mentally"? No! Speed is not the same as mental prowess.

I would also challenge anyone to compare presidents' appearance and quickness before their first term began and before their second term began and conclude that aging hadn't occurred. Being president is a heavy load, as is being vice president, which Joe Biden ably did for 8 years, and to assume it shouldn't leave a mark is foolhardy. Of course it does! Especially if you actually care about people, which I think this president does. That's a whole lot of worrying to carry. And he has managed several huge crises with the help of a very competent team of the vice president, his cabinet, his advisors, and many other workers we know nothing about.

And that's my final point. This president is intelligent enough, and emotionally confident enough, to surround himself with lots and lots of intelligent, competent, savvy, and hardworking others. Younger others. He has clearly been training Kamala Harris in foreign affairs. He's experienced and wise, people! Take that gift and run with it. We need to be wise enough to praise what he's achieved, support him in his efforts to accomplish more, and understand what a fine candidate he is. He's human, he's aging. OK. You know what else he is? A good man. Who hasn't slipped at all in what really matters...

Politics: Trump Legal

J.L.J. in San Francisco, CA, writes: Something to file away whenever discussing the Supreme Court's decision to delay a decision on Trump's immunity claim: They did not accept cert from Trump's appeal of the appeals court ruling. Their one-page grant reads "[T]he Special Counsel's request to treat the stay application as a petition for a writ of certiorari is granted." Meaning, they accepted the motion the Special Counsel filed back in December, asking the Court to intervene before the appeals court heard the case.

We all thought the Special Counsel's move was brilliant at the time (mistakenly assuming the court would accept it... then), but they've now used it against him by accepting it now. This matters because to get a stay in a proceeding, an appeal must have a plausible chance of success. If they accepted Trump's appeal, then they would either have to say Trump's "absolute immunity" claim has a chance of success, or they'd have to let the stay on the D.C. trial expire on the appeals court verdict. By accepting the Special Counsel's writ from December, they're, in effect, grandfathering in the stay from the trial court that existed when the writ was filed in December. Hence, they write, "[w]ithout expressing a view on the merits, this Court directs the Court of Appeals to continue withholding issuance of the mandate until the sending down of the judgment of this Court. The application for a stay [from Trump] is dismissed as moot."

All of this is to say, they could have taken up the case while also allowing the trial to proceed. But they couldn't issue a stay on the trial if they accepted Trump's appeal, so they've pulled a procedural stunt to give Trump what he wants—more delay. They've stopped time in December and are moving as if it's, like, the day after the Special Counsel filed his motion, ignoring that the appeals court did anything because, well, it's still December. If this isn't a deliberate, naked, overt, transparent effort at running interference on Trump's behalf, I do not what is. So, file this away if and when commenting on the Supreme Court in the future.

J.N. in Columbus, OH, writes: You wrote: "We do think it is well within the realm of possibility, however, that AG Merrick Garland will put aside the DoJ policy about not holding a trial 60 or fewer days before an election, offering one or both of the following arguments: (1) Donald Trump is the one responsible for dragging things out, and/or (2) The American people must know whether or not Trump is a criminal before they cast their ballots."

There's a growing number of people who have realized that, like most Regressives, Merrick Garland is a "conservative" first and loyal to America second (or last). There's not even a snowball's chance in hell that if it comes down to the 60-days-or-fewer until the election, that he will continue the case against Trump. For someone like him, that policy will be a godsend and he will absolutely use it. I really hope that Biden is watching this stuff and has privately sworn to fire that lousy bastard the minute the election is settled.

J.L. in Paterson, NJ, writes: You mention the argument that the U.S. Supreme Court is trying to be fair because, if the case in D.C. against Trump "was being treated like any other, they wouldn't hear it until late this year and they would not rule on it until sometime next year."

If this case were being treated like most others, they wouldn't hear it at all. The number of cases in which disgruntled litigants seek SCOTUS review greatly exceeds the number that the Court can hear. Of necessity, the vast majority of petitions for certiorari are denied. In Trump's case, with the District Court and all three Circuit Court judges in agreement, SCOTUS could simply have denied cert and allowed the trial to go forward. Another factor is that Trump brought an interlocutory appeal—that is, an appeal from an order that is not the final judgment in the case. He might be acquitted at trial. In that event, SCOTUS would never have to clutter its docket with an appeal from him. That's why federal appellate courts, especially SCOTUS, usually don't hear interlocutory appeals at all.

The argument that the Court was being fair is weak. This is definitely a pro-Trump course.

J.M. in Portland, OR, writes: In response to the widespread and general grousing about SCOTUS taking up its second case this term for TGF, I offer the following:

SCOTUS has roughly 85 days to rule on 60+ cases where any one case can have fundamental impacts to American society and may be felt most sharply by litigants. As an example, City of Grants Pass vs. Johnson: This small Oregon tourist town has more homeless citizens than shelter capacity, forcing some number of people to sleep outside regularly. The city responded to this state of affairs with municipal codes ultimately criminalizing the act of sleeping outside, particularly in public spaces. The question before the Court is whether the Eighth Amendment prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment has been violated. Whatever they rule will affect everyone.

Yes, I'm one of many who would find it soul-satisfying to watch SCOTUS issue a ruling at Twitter speed against TFG that amounts to "Lol, get fuct! Srsly." I know it would also be entirely indefensible as upholding Constitutional requirements like Due Process, so I wait patiently.

R.C. In Eagleville, PA, writes: Many people are losing their composure over the Supreme Court delaying Trump's federal cases. I'll admit, Trump in an orange jumpsuit would be extremely satisfying. However Trumpism, not Trump the man, is the existential threat to our nation's democracy. Trumpism must be defeated through the ballot box, not in the courtroom. So come on people now, let's get together and defeat Trumpism.

B.W.S. in Pleasant Valley, NY, writes: So help me God, if SCOTUS affirms Trump's (and Nixon's) claims of immunity from prosecution for acts committed while holding high office, then the American Experiment is finished—dead, buried, sprouting dandelions. The whole point of our nation's existence will be rendered moot.

On the bright side, that would also mean the Northern Invasion could finally begin. I, for one, would welcome our new Canadian overlords.

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: Executing on real estate assets to satisfy a judgment is somewhat time-consuming, as you point out in your answers to J.H. in Boston and J.U. in Surprise. However, I think you may have overlooked an easier path in the Trump case: executing on cash in Trump's and his companies' bank accounts. In New York, judgment creditors can issue Restraining Notices to financial institutions where they reasonably believe the debtor has assets. That prevents the financial institutions from disbursing the account funds up to the judgment amount, at risk of being personally liable. Trump's testimony was that he has $400 million in cash; the A.G. can restrain those funds, assuming she can find them. One avenue is to see who the lenders are, because many times lenders also have deposit accounts for the borrowers. Moreover, the AG can issue Information Subpoenas requiring disclosure of account information—if I were doing it, I'd send one to the Monitor, Barbara Jones, asking for all the information she has about where Trump and his companies have assets.

Now, Restraining Notices and Information Subpoenas are not filed with the court, so the public wouldn't necessarily know if the AG has done this. But if she hasn't yet, why that is would be a really good question to ask her (not that she would answer).

(V) & (Z) respond: Thanks, as always, for the benefit of your expertise. Our only point was that by not posting bond, Trump isn't really taking a risk that he'll wake up tomorrow and discover Trump Tower has been sold out from under him.

Politics: Mitch-Slapped

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: Early this week, a news story pushed out from The Hill talked about how pressure was building on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to make a decision about endorsing Donald Trump, now that Trump is essentially the party's presumptive nominee. It's a tricky decision for McConnell because he's been a little outspoken about some of Trump's transgressions. It would be hard for Trump and McConnell to bury the hatchet given their history, so the reporting says. But McConnell's nothing if not pragmatic so will probably come around. McConnell will make his decision soon, they reported.

That story came through my notifications in the morning, then in the afternoon came the news that McConnell had decided to step down as caucus leader.

Your writeup fingers this relationship, and McConnell's recognition of the loss of his party to Trump, as the undisclosed reason. Surely that's right, but it's a much more sharp. The Senate Republican caucus was pressuring McConnell to endorse Trump. Reading between the lines, I think McConnell decided he would refuse to endorse Trump, as he could not credibly do so, but anyone who can't endorse the party's presidential nominee cannot serve as caucus leader, so he had to step down, and he had to announce it in that timeframe.

R.L.B. in Bridgton, ME, writes: Let's get serious. History will show that Mitch McConnell was one of the finest, greatest manipulators of Congress and violators of the American people... EVER! We owe him thanks to his manipulations for the death of Roe v. Wade and for the mere existence of the current Supreme Court! McConnell's cynical, immoral manipulating should have every woman in the world dancing on his not-soon-enough grave.

Also, note that Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), another master manipulator, was standing right behind McConnell for his announcement as she, sycophant of sycophants, pontificated on his greatness. She is another one of the clever ones to whom we own NO THANKS for her helpful set up of the un-Supreme Court.

And we wonder why other nations don't trust us? Here's a pair dancing in the Hall of Shame!

R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: I just missed being represented by all three Johns in contention for Senate Republican leader, as I left South Dakota for Texas just before Sen. John Thune (R-SD) won the race for South Dakota's lone house seat. Far be it from me to defend a Trumpy Republican, but of the three people who currently represent me and my fellow Wyomingites in Congress, Sen. John Barrasso's staff is the most likely to respond to my e-mails with something that was probably written by a human and also seems to be the most sympathetic (or maybe least willing to actively offend me). But if I had the choice, I'd definitely vote for Thune. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) isn't even in the running.

Politics: The Alabama IVF Decision

A.J. in Baltimore, MD, writes: I think there has been some misunderstanding about what the Alabama Supreme Court ruled and what it did not rule. Comments on this site and elsewhere have mischaracterized the decision. While I think it is a horrible decision, it is more limited than many people seem to think. The Alabama Supreme Court did not rule that embryos are people in all contexts without exception.

Courts are sometimes asked to make rulings on the scope and implications of our constitutional rights. Such a decision may create a rule of law that applies in a variety of different contexts, and is not generally a rule that can be overturned through legislation.

Other times, courts are asked to make rulings on statutory interpretation. When the legislature passed this statute, what did it mean? What is the scope of this legislation? Such a decision might provide some clues as to how the court may rule in other contexts, but by its terms, the ruling only applies to situations arising under the statute being interpreted. If a legislature doesn't like how a court interprets a statute, the legislature can always amend the statute to clarify that a different meaning was intended.

The Alabama Supreme Court's decision was an example of the latter. It ruled that Alabama's Wrongful Death of a Minor Act allowed for civil wrongful death lawsuits to be brought on the basis of the destruction of an embryo. It did not rule that an embryo has a constitutional right to life. It did not rule that the destruction of an embryo can be the basis of a criminal prosecution for homicide. In fact, the IVF clinic attempted in its defense to argue that Alabama's criminal-homicide laws would not allow a homicide prosecution for the destruction of an embryo, and the Alabama Supreme Court explicitly referred to that as a "question we have no occasion to reach" because it found "nothing in this Court's precedents requires one-to-one congruity between the classes of people protected by Alabama's criminal-homicide laws and our civil wrongful-death laws."

Might the Alabama Supreme Court rule in the future that an embryo has a constitutional right to life, or that destruction of an embryo could be the basis for a criminal homicide? It's possible, but those results have not been created by its decision on the wrongful death claims.

So, as to the question from B.H. in Greenbelt, I think a more accurate answer would be: The Alabama Supreme Court did not declare frozen embryos to be persons, with all the accompanying rights. The court has simply interpreted the legislature's wrongful death statute. It has made no rulings thus far on the whether destruction of an embryo can be criminally prosecuted. The Alabama legislature, if it wanted, could amend its wrongful death statute to clarify that embryos existing outside of a uterus cannot be the basis of a civil wrongful death claim. And the legislature could also amend its criminal homicide statutes to clarify that embryos existing outside of a uterus cannot be the basis of a homicide prosecution. Neither of those decisions would constitute overruling the Alabama Supreme Court.

G.M. in Orrville, OH, writes: I watched the pundits on the Sunday morning news shows following the Alabama decision regarding frozen embryos being children. None of the pundits even mentioned the language of the ruling, which was explicitly fundamentalist Christian. The ruling was clearly theocratic. Among the most evil regimes in history are theocratic. Religion has proven over and over that it can justify all manner of atrocities. It seems this decision sits at the head of a terrifying slippery slope. It is equally terrifying that the political pundit class does not seem to recognize the threat of theocracy.

R.E. in Birmingham, AL, writes: If anyone is wondering what to expect next from the Alabama Supreme Court, the short answer is "more of the same."

All nine justices are Republican. Five of the seats are eligible to be contested this year, but four of them are unopposed. The only seat with a race is the Chief Justice seat (which is open because the now-infamous Tom Parker has to retire due to his age). The candidates are Sarah Stewart, a current member of the court who joined the IVF ruling, and Brian Taylor, a former state Senator. Taylor is billing himself as "Trump tough" and says "if you love Trump judges, you'll love Brian Taylor." (He also says, with a total lack of self awareness, that he would never "legislate from the bench.") There is a Democratic candidate for Chief Justice, too, but they don't really matter.

I never thought I'd miss Chief Justice Roy Moore, but the ridiculous Ten Commandments monument kerfuffle almost feels like the good old days here in the Yellowhammer State.

D.M. in Burnsville, MN, writes: Three-parent babies? I, too, was flabbergasted. I often wondered what happened as a result of those many-on-many orgies in the Valley and in Czechland. But I digress. I happened to know nothing of any such procedures until today when your article led to this one. And I'd say that the procedure (as documented) would be a boon to humanity if properly used. The "if properly used" part is where the U.S. Congress comes in: its job is not to ban all progress, but to be wise enough to allow those parts that benefit humanity to be used.

Clearly, Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS) did not read her Congressional Member's Handbook when she took office.

Politics: Nazi GOP

G.K. in Portland, OR, writes: "The Republicans Are The Nazis' Party" reminded me of a quote I heard, attributed to a professor from Germany named Jens Foell, "If there's a Nazi at the table and 10 other people sitting there talking to him, you got a table with 11 Nazis."

R.R. in Nashville, TN, writes: It would seem we need to ask each Republican to which wing of the Republican Party they belong: the Hitler Wing or the Putin Wing?

Politics: Polls

B.R. in Eatontown, NJ, writes: I'm writing with regard to the question posed by L.S. in Ann Arbor regarding polling. Having worked in market research for a number of years, I think the following may help explain what L.S. encountered with Emerson.

It's commonplace for polling companies to first ask a few screening questions, prior the starting the full survey, in order to determine if the respondent in question: (1) meets the criteria for the poll in question, and (2) fits into a group of which they already have enough respondents.

So, for instance, if the survey in question is about auto purchases commissioned by an auto manufacturer, the primary criteria might well be people who drive autos, since non-drivers are not very likely to purchase autos and so would not be useful in determining how best to structure advertising that would lead prospective purchasers to buy the vehicles of the manufacturer in question. To put it in political terms, the criteria might well include whether the person is a citizen or registered voter (particularly in a state where registration has already closed), since the others can't vote and so their statements about who they would vote for simply aren't relevant.

With regard to the second element of the screening, to go back to the survey about auto purchasers, the designers will probably only want in the final survey panel a certain number of respondents who already purchase autos from each manufacturer (probably corresponding to current market share). The same is typically true of a host of other criteria (income level, age, gender, other factors that prior studies have demonstrated tend to impact auto purchase decisions). While they could handle all that by, as you suggested in your response, taking all respondents and then weighting the different groups, there are a few problems with that. First, every additional respondent adds to the cost of the survey, and those who commission polls aren't interesting in paying open-ended sums of money to the polling companies.

Second, and maybe more important than the money, is that the fact that if a group is underrepresented in the final panel, it can skew the results. Say Toyota has a 10% market share, and the target panel size is 1,000 respondents. But say further that the surveying process only gets responses from 10 Toyota purchasers (1%). This raises a real concern of underrepresentation—a concern that the Toyota purchasers who were surveyed might not be sufficiently representative of Toyota purchasers overall. For instance, at those small numbers, it could happen that the 10 actually surveyed might include too many of the Toyota purchasers who got lemons—something that with a larger group would come out in the wash. This is similar to one of the rationales underlying the concept of margin of error, but at these small sizes margin of error is meaningless.

Applying these concepts to political polls, the developers of a poll would likely want the number of respondents to be similar to the overall population in terms of party registration (or lack thereof), and the likelihood of voting, and perhaps other characteristics that can be established by published statistics. They also know from the start of the process how many respondents they want in the final panel. So if they already have sufficient responses from persons registered with a certain party, who say they are likely to vote, they will likely based on the responses to the screening questions to pass on using that respondent in the final panel, and attempt to find other respondents who are in the underrepresented groups.

Hopefully, this discussion shows why pollsters would not agree that "extra data can never hurt." Contrary to your response, having extra data (in this context, responses to the full survey from more respondents from one subgroup than another) is more likely to draw into question the legitimacy of the results, not enhance them.

A.P. in Kitchener, ON, Canada, writes: I would suggest the most likely explanation for the Emerson Poll rejecting L.S. in Ann Arbor is they had already hit the quota of male Democrat likely voters. (Perhaps they had some other demographic data they already knew about you, too.) When I do online polls—I am a professor engaged in the occasional study—and I use quotas to hit demographic targets reflecting the population. This is pretty standard now in online polls or else you end up with significant skews and very thin cross-tabulation. It is interesting to me that after asking partisanship and vote likelihood they asked in which primary you planned to vote. This implies they had a prior sense of how many Democrats they thought would cross over, or else they were trying to get a sense of the number or they discounted you as a "speedliner" who wasn't paying attention to your answers and were disqualified.

J.P. in Glenside, PA, writes: Thanks for your detailed analysis of the Harvard CAPS/Harris poll. I saw that and was more than a little perplexed.

A dead give away is the issues summary: Immigration is #1, which is true ONLY with republican voters in pretty much every other pollster survey I have seen. Also, I agree that Trump approval is also a dead giveaway as his 4-year average was 42% and was NEVER above water. Likewise they report his favorability above water which is 7-10% off from the 538 average. So their pool is Republican-biased by a long margin Your insights on all the other stuff, like NOT polling the GOP nutters, was icing on the cake.

This look more like a talking-points survey for the GOP. Harvard CAPS/Harris is now on my **it list.

Politics: Foreign Affairs

N.E.L. in Eugene, OR, writes: I've been skeptical of the Hamas-controlled statistics about Gaza casualties being "70% women and children." As a retired primary care physician and a volunteer disaster responder, I wondered how that disparity could be physically possible. After all, rubble doesn't discriminate.

A little research was eye-opening. In fact, worldwide, women, girls, and boys are 14 times more likely to die in disaster. But why? No, rubble doesn't discriminate. Rescuers do.

Researchers at the London School of Economics found that "in societies with existing patterns of gender discrimination, males are likely to be given preferential treatment in rescue efforts," (my italics). Gaza, and Muslim societies as a whole, practice rigid gender discrimination. The LSE researchers, and others, find that not only are women and children, especially girl children, far more likely to die in disasters if they live in societies that discriminate against them, but, in societies where women have equal rights, the disparity disappears.

The heartstring-tugging statistic that most Gaza casualties are women and children is true. But it's not because Israeli engineers have somehow invented a rocket that selects for them. It's because the rescuers in Gaza don't try as hard to save them.

G.S. in Doylestown, PA, writes: It's my understanding that Israel has pretty much admitted that their defenses failed them on October 7. With what now seems to be Israel's disproportionate response in terms of the number of lives lost, I'm wondering why Israel doesn't try to learn from its mistakes and do whatever can be done to strengthen its border defense against further terrorist incursions rather than continue with what is becoming to more and more look like needless and counterproductive punishment of Palestinian civilians. I would think the United States and other western countries would be pleased to help with such an effort.

P.W. in Springwater, NY, writes: Periodically, you hear Trump and/or his supporters talk about the "sacrifices" Donald Trump has made for this country, either as president (or before), or that he's making now in order to run again. So I thought I'd just pass along the last paragraph from Heather Cox Richardson's most recent Letters from an American: "A woman at Alexei Navalny's funeral compared Navalny and Putin: 'One sacrificed himself to save the country, the other one sacrificed the country to save himself.'"

I think it's pretty obvious where Trump falls along this line.

All Politics Is Local

R.V. in Pittsburgh, PA, writes: New York Democrats had a second chance to create a very favorable map and get some payback for what Republicans did in North Carolina. So what did they do? Opt for a mediocre map.

WTF do Democrats continue to want to play nice with Republicans? These aren't the nice and normal Republicans from yesteryear like Jacob Javits, John Heinz, Nelson Rockefeller, etc. The 2024 brand of Republican is an ultra-militant Trump loyalist. There is absolutely no reasoning with these people...

Republicans are basically John Kreese in The Karate Kid, bullying and showing no mercy, whereas Democrats continue to be Barney the Dinosaur, singing "I Love You, You Love Me," hoping for this return to the era of bipartisanship that simply no longer exists.

G.A. in Nashville, TN, writes: For the first time ever, Rep. Mark Green (R-TN) will have a well-funded Democratic challenger, former Nashville mayor Megan Barry. Barry has a somewhat checkered past, as she was forced to resign in disgrace in 2018 after an affair with the police officer who led her security detail. Nashvillians loved her, though, and she is remembered quite fondly among both Democrats and Republicans in the city. She considered running for her old job last year before ultimately deciding not to run. Had she run, I am confident she would have been re-elected. She is probably the most popular political figure Nashville has seen in the last 25-30 years.

This district is significantly different after the 2022 redistricting. For all of my 45 years, Davidson County (Nashville) had been within one Congressional district. Population wise, it should still be one district. Those in charge of drawing the maps decided that a 7-2 GOP majority in the delegation was just too nice to those damn Democrats, so Davidson County was cracked into 3 separate districts. The portion assigned to the 7th District is a heavily minority and Democratic area. The district also includes Clarksville, which has a large military vote from Fort Campbell. I am going to guess those Army wives are none too pleased with Dobbs.

Green is definitely favored, but his opponent's skeletons are fully known and honestly, nobody who would consider voting for a Democrat cares that she had an affair. She is very charismatic and likable and will be a tough out for a Congressman in short supply of both charisma and likability.

S.C. in Mountain View, CA, writes: In "Today in Republican Shenanigans," you write: "One thing [Gov. Gavin] Newsom [D-CA] could do to end this [endless recall] nonsense once and for all is ask the state legislature to pass a law stating that whenever the office of governor is vacant (for example, after a successful recall election), the lieutenant governor becomes governor."

I don't know if Newsom asked the legislature or not, but SCA-1, a California Constitutional Amendment, will do just that and is already making its way through the legislature. (It passed the State Senate by the necessary two-thirds vote on February 1, and I expect it to similarly pass the Assembly this Spring and be before the voters in November.) The sponsors of SCA-1 are Secretary of State Shirley Weber, California Common Cause, and the League of Women Voters of California. It is the result of informational hearings on the recall process held by the legislature in late 2021 and early 2022, after the unsuccessful attempt to recall Newsom in September 2021.

Also a result of those hearings, the recall process for other than state offices was changed in 2022 to eliminate the successor election. That only required a change in state law, but changing the recall process for state offices requires a state constitutional amendment.

History Matters

R.M.S. in Lebanon, CT, writes: You have written several times over the past few years about how much the Republican Party has changed over the past decade. I recently found this clip of Ronald Reagan speaking about immigrants at the White House. This was the final speech of Reagan's presidency, and it is one of the best speeches of his career:

The speech brought a tear to my eye. He really made me feel proud to be American because he described how people from all over the world strive to be part of the American Dream. People from different backgrounds enrich the country economically and culturally.

The message in this speech sounds much more like something Joe Biden might deliver, not today's Republicans. It shows how nativist the Republicans have become under Trump. I could not even picture Nikki Haley, who is the daughter of Indian immigrants, giving a speech like this in today's GOP.

R.S. in Ticonderoga, NY, writes: B.W. in Easton asked about the inscription of "Friend of the slave" found on a gravestone near Ticonderoga, NY. While I don't know the extent of the his involvement in the abolitionist movement, I can provide some more information about the person. Benjamin Warner (1757-1846) was a veteran of the American Revolution, originally from Connecticut, who settled in Ticonderoga after the war. The Fort Ticonderoga Museum has his Revolutionary-era knapsack in its collection. As a heavily-used artifact of a soldier's service, this may be one of just a few of these knapsacks that still exist from the Revolution. However, Warner cherished this reminder of his service and passed it down through his family. Not only is the knapsack in the collection, but so is the accompanying note, which reads:

This Napsack I caryd Through the War of the Revolution to achieve the Merican Independence I Transmit it to my olest sone Benjamin Warner Jr. with directions to keep it and transmit it to his oldest sone and so on to the latest posterity and whilst one shred of it shall remain never surrender you libertys to a foren envador or an aspiring demegog. Benjamin Warner Ticonderoga March 27, 1837

Warner's descendants passed it on to the Fort Ticonderoga Museum in 1928.

While the survival of a knapsack makes this an incredible artifact of the Revolution, the accompanying note makes it a true touchstone of Revolutionary thinking (creative spelling and all)! I occasionally wonder what Warner would think of our current "aspiring demegog."

(V) & (Z) respond: Knowing his identity, we can add that our supposition that he was a Quaker and an abolitionist was correct; he participated in the Underground Railroad.

R.W. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: In regard to the U.S. government's treatment of German-Americans during WWII: Yes, undoubtedly many were unfairly targeted and some were interned. But Japanese Americans were treated infinitely more badly. This blatant racism is even more stark given that large numbers of German Americans were publicly supporting Germany in the war, German-American Nazis were proudly parading around major cities in the U.S., and a not-insignificant number of German Americans were actively spying for and conducting clandestine disinformation campaigns for the Nazis. All of the above was well-known to the FBI and other government agencies. To anyone who doubts this, I highly commend Rachel Maddow's brilliant new book Prequel: An American Fight Against Fascism.

D.D. in Portland, OR, writes: As a proud Humboldt (and UCLA!) alum, I was thrilled when you mentioned the work of my History of World War II professor, Stephen Fox: Fear Itself: Inside the FBI Roundup of German Americans During World War II.

Back in the day, we read his first book, The Unknown Internment: An Oral History of the Relocation of Italian Americans During World War II. He brought a joy to learning history, and dare I say, he could make the study of the Platt Amendment compelling and interesting.

Thank you. Your reference brightened my day.

(V) & (Z) respond: Don't think we didn't catch your reference to Mr. Hand (whose every lecture is apparently on the Platt Amendment).

M.D. in Peterborough, England, UK, writes: The interesting points in yesterday's Q&A about the internment of Japanese and German people in the US in World War II echoed a conversation I had with a relative recently. His father was interred in 1940 on the Isle of Man as an enemy alien of German origin (ironically, in hindsight, he was also Jewish—thus probably, in fact, ipso facto stripped of German citizenship, which the British government seems not to have understood or not to have regarded). He was released by 1941, and something obviously caused the U.K. government to change their tune because by 1944 he was a Captain in the British Army, participating in the D-Day landings.

A.H. in Newberg, OR (and Oregon State Class of '69), writes: "This got me wondering how German Americans were treated."

Again, I am not a scholar, nor have I been to Disneyland, or stayed at a Hilton Hotel, but I can provide is a little anecdotal response.

According to my dear departed mother, her parents were second-generation German immigrants. They spoke German at home, although they could converse in English when they went to town. They were dairy farmers in Minnesota, halfway between The Cities and Fargo. Across the gravel road from their farm was a small rural German Lutheran Church that they attended and supported. The church conducted its services in German. One Sunday morning there was a hunting knife with a note stuck in the door. Basically, the note informed the parishioners that if German was spoken in that church again the church would be destroyed.

Now, I can't speak to the veracity of my mother's old wives' tales, but it also does not seem to be to farfetched to doubt.

P.S.: And Lew Alcindor was a pretty decent basketball player for the UClans

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: While Kareem may have a history degree from UCLA, it was the five years he spent in Milwaukee that really shaped his genius!

B.H. in Sherman Oaks, CA, writes: In response to the question from T.B. in Leon County about the meaning and origin of the term "86," my understanding is that the term originated in the restaurant and hospitality industry. Back in the '90s, I worked as a waiter and bartender at a local restaurant, and "86" was the expression we used to mean "Cancel the order," so much so that in the numeric system we used to key in orders to the kitchen (e.g., 34 = french fries, 36 = grilled onions, etc.), "86" was what we keyed in to cancel an item already ordered. This was actually programmed into the system, so I'm guessing it was common restaurant industry parlance.

"86" was also used when referring to the "cancellation" of a customer. This meant first ejecting, then banning that person from returning to the premises after demonstrably bad (or even criminal) behavior, e.g., belligerent drunkenness, disorderly conduct, "dine and dash"-ing, etc.

On a side note, I've always suspected that this was the basis of Maxwell Smart's official agent number being "86" on the old Get Smart TV show. It would be like nicknaming him "Eight Ball" or "D Minus."

J.L. in Paterson, NJ, writes: In response to reader T.B. in Leon County, I agree with your skepticism that "86" arose in the Old West. More plausibly, the term is still in use today, as slang in bars and casinos, for getting rid of an unwelcome customer.

As for the query from B.W. in Grayslake, there are 88 keys on a piano. There have in the past been establishments called "88's Piano Bar" in Manhattan and Myrtle Beach. The Illinois driver with the "H 88" license plate may be a neo-Nazi, but may simply be a pianist named Herb.

(V) & (Z) respond: H88 was also the call sign of the recently decommissioned HMS Enterprise, so the person could be a veteran of the Royal Navy, or a Trekkie.

Complaints Department

L.N. in Springfield, VA, writes: PLEASE do not use crude and offensive language in your blog. The English language is rich enough to describe news, opinions and situations without the use such language.

If you have to use asterisks in place of letters, you should look for other words in its place. You and your staff are smart enough to understand this AND find less offensive language to use. I am SO tired of the assault of such language AND its normalization. Its use is contrary to your thoughtful and informed analysis and presentation.

PLEASE STOP the assault.

B.B. in Newtown, PA, writes: Regarding the term "ratfu**er": Perhaps I am a language prude. Certain nuclear-level epithets bother me when I see them in print or spoken out loud such as the unfortunately ubiquitous word f**k. The word "ratfu**er" is certainly appropriate coinage for dirty political deeds, but the four-letter word in the center of the term grates on my nerves. I regret that what is becoming a common English term relies on a word we avoid using in polite company and certainly in front of young children. Do political commentators feel comfortable using the word "ratfu**er" on air? It is really hard to say ratf...asterisk! I feel the language needs a way to express the meaning of the term without the four-letter baggage.

I propose that we all agree to use the similar and less offensive word, "ratfudger." Perhaps this milder form lacks the full impact of the original, but at least no one has to shy away from voicing it in public. Perhaps one day the OED will cite first use as!

D.M. in Grand Rapids, MI, writes: As a white, Republican man in a mixed-race marriage, I have no qualms about Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) being in a relationship with a white woman. I hope they make each other happy. Why even bring that up? Implying it would be an issue for people like me makes you a race-baiting a**hole.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: I had a tough time choking down the letters from last Sunday about right-wing racism. Both were from New York, so I will allow that there is a difference of perspective there. I have a tough time with liberals claiming expertise in how conservatives think and vice-versa when they really aren't talking to each other. Archie Bunker and George Jefferson talked.

With a lot of self-reflection, courtesy of this site, I identify as a moderate in most things, including race relations. Now, I live in Texas, so here I am seen as a pinko-liberal for the simple belief that there is an appropriate role for government intervention in our lives. If I lived in New York, I guess I would be considered a right-wing racist. Where I have settled in philosophically is that I am all for lifting up disadvantaged people, no matter what they look like. Yes the disadvantaged class is disproportionately people of color, but not exclusively so. Does acknowledging that some poor people are white make me a racist?

Compliments Department

J.D. in St. Paul, MN, writes: Political news is making me crazy. My favorite left-leaning aggregators feed me stories I can't resist. A first-term city council member in East Toadstool says the parents of a child chased out of a school bathroom are the real problem. They're woke, fascist socialists. I click. I'm outraged. If I were the commenting type I'd head to the comments and proclaim my outrage, lest complete strangers think our collective outrage knows any bounds.

These sites don't tell us about any of the tens of thousands of city councilmembers around the country of all political persuasions earnestly going about their jobs with dignity. For good reason. What councilor so-and-so in Fish Lake thinks about the idea of issuing bonds for a new fire station on the west side is not interesting to anybody, maybe not even in Fish Lake. We easily lose sight of the fact that these dutiful people are our political bedrock.

Dipping down to East Toadstool for clicks is egregious, but hundreds of national politicians produce clickbait daily. We've trained them to do it. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) says something designed to goad a right-winger into an outrageous response and we hear about it right away, thrilled by the prospect of the cascades of outrage to come. Left-leaning political news aggregators are careful to include some actual news. Their right-wing counterparts probably do less of that. But either way, outrage pays the bills. My encroaching lunacy comes from the dizzying understanding (please tell me it's a misunderstanding!) that success now in politics and news is mostly about setting bait.

Anyway, I need to do something. This is why I write. I've vowed in March and April to use as my sole source of political news. It's smart, varied, informative, doesn't care about clicks, and you've even taken steps to help us out of the outrage spiral (long live freudenfreude!). I've deleted bookmarks and apps and I've auto-trashed e-mails that would take me back to the spiral. I'll continue reading local sections of the bad print newspaper that comes every morning because, well, it only takes 10 minutes and I like our paper-carrier. Science and arts stories from the Times and elsewhere, no problem. Likewise international news. Yes, I'll see a headline or two from the forbidden zone. But for intentional exposure to national politics these next two months, it's only you.

(V) & (Z) respond: We are ready and reporting for action.

K.R. in Austin, TX, writes: I found the letter about racism from J.E. in Manhattan to be very enlightening. Thank you to J.E.

I was glad they mentioned the blind spot that liberals also can have. "It's worth getting into something here that also a lot of conservatives (and many liberals) miss: It's possible to internalize racist ideas for all kinds of reasons..."

When Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) ran against Hillary Clinton, there were many young white male Bernie supporters who would comment about how they thought Black people were voting for the wrong candidate because they were simply unable to see which candidate was best for them. I thought these statements were racist and condescending. I doubt the people uttering them thought so. It would not have been racist to say, "I'm surprised to find that Bernie doesn't have more Black support. I'm going to find out why." However, these comments never showed curiosity or interest in why. The comments came across as, "I know what's best for Black people, and they do not have the ability to make good political decisions."

D.M. in Wimberley, TX, writes: Dear D.E. in Lancaster: Just read your thoughts on Donald Trump's recent lackluster speechifying, and I gotta say that was the most refreshingly funny thing I have come across in quite a while. "Oh my God, is that truck carrying orphans going to crash into that truck carrying puppies?" You should have your own website, but if you don't, please keep writing in to


D.B. in Mountain View, CA, writes: I thought you might enjoy knowing that Gemini's observation about the Sadie Hawkins dance was plagiarized from Seventeen magazine.

(V) & (Z) respond: Wow. So students who try to use AI might end up committing double plagiarism.

Final Words
F.H. in Ithaca, NY, writes: Last week's Final Words submission from J.C. in Daytona Beach reminds me of a joke making the rounds when I was in grad school in the '80s. Richard Garwin—about whom it is claimed that Enrico Fermi said that "Garwin was the only true genius he had ever met"—was the subject of the joke when I heard it, but it is truly one of those fill-in-the-blank-here kinds of jokes:

It seems that there were three people waiting to be executed by a guillotine during the French Revolution. Garwin was the last in line. The executioner asked the first person "Face up, or face down?" The first person answered "face down". The executioner triggered the machine, but the blade got stuck halfway down. The executioner exclaimed that it was a miracle, and that the first person was therefore free to go. The second person was moved into place. "Face up or face down?" "Face down." The blade got stuck halfway again, and the second person was also free to go. Garwin was moved into place. "Face up or face down?" "Face up, please," said Garwin. A few moments later he announced: "I see your problem!"

If you have suggestions for this feature, please send them along.
Back to the main page