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To all the fathers reading, happy Father's Day!

Sunday Mailbag

By a country mile, the subject that generated the most e-mail this week was... the letter from R.H. in Colusa (and the response from Z). The messages we include below are less than 10% of the total.

Politics: The 2024 Presidential Race

B.B. in Newtown, PA, writes: Germane to the several letters noticing fewer Trump for president roadside signs this election cycle: My wife and I have been traveling a bit the past few weeks and noticed the same thing. We spent a little less than 2 weeks traveling between Gardiner, MT, and Jackson, WY, (Yellowstone and Grand Tetons) and saw few signs of support for Dear Leader. In fact, we saw more Ukrainian flags than anything MAGA.

In the last week we have been traveling through rural Vermont and into the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Particularly in the more rural parts of New Hampshire, we have seen a few Trump signs, but just a few. Interestingly, we HAVE seen many signs for Chuck Morse, Republican candidate for governor, displayed by many local residents without any accompanying signs for Trump. I recall in previous years in my home territory (Bucks County, PA) nearly every sign for a Republican for pretty much any state or local office would be accompanied by a Trump sign; apparently, not so this time around.

Our trip to New Hampshire coincides with the 101st Laconia Motorcycle Week. Lucky us. We may be the only people in our campground who do not ride. As we moved around the area, we observed thousands and thousands of motorcycles, 3-wheeled roadsters and some more exotic vehicles. We were fascinated by the number of riders and passengers who do not trouble themselves with helmets. We estimate that about two-thirds of riders and passengers go helmetless, while some of the remaining third don headgear of dubious merit.

I bring this up because lacking helmets, it is easy to observe the demographic of the Motorcycle Week participants. Not surprisingly, the vast majority are male, and we estimate most are in their 40's to well into their 60's. It may be that a week-long festival taking place before school ends may skew toward retirees. Regardless, this is a group that by age and gender should fall in the middle of a Trump-favorable cohort. In the past when I have seen similar collections of motorcyclists, there have often been flags, emblems, vests or other paraphernalia proclaiming support for Orange Jesus. We saw not one such display.

So our non-scientific survey of the rural places we happen to pass through found few public displays proclaiming support for Trump. Perhaps that is meaningful and, admittedly, perhaps not. Just thought I would share our observations.

D.S. in Palo Alto, CA, writes: You wrote, when discussing whether the former president's mental state would be an issue in the campaign, "there is nothing Trump can do to lose the 40% of voters who are True Believers..." I wonder if this remains 100% the case. Just as at his rallies, many are seen leaving early to mid-rant, having had enough of their fun, isn't it possible, or even likely, that there is some attenuation at the saner fringes of the base? All it requires is that this attenuation exceed the number of new voters joining the base, and there could be a significant change. Possibly some of these folks are of the kind who will poll positively for Trump, but in the privacy of the voter booth not pull the lever. Or maybe fruit can fly.

J.G. in Chantilly, VA, writes: You described Stephen Miller as a "budding fascist." I beg to differ. He's a fascist in full bloom!

P.R. in Arvada, CO, writes: It doesn't seem like it was that long ago when talk of Dictator Trump seemed like a bit of a paranoid fantasy. Every couple of weeks, though, we hear something that makes it seem as though it is much more of a potential reality. All we are missing at the moment are the plans to suspend the Constitution. Whether people claim that would be impossible, because there is no legal mechanism to do that, is kind of irrelevant. No matter what you think, the law isn't what is written down on a piece of paper somewhere, it is what a tiny unrepresentative and unelected group of people decide it is.

Consider this scenario: Disaffected voters vote for a third-party candidate and Trump wins the election. Trump gives the green light to Benjamin Netanyahu to do what he wants in Gaza. The aforementioned disaffected voters decide to up the protests. Trump and his minions rub their hands in glee and say "Thank you!" while invoking the Insurrection Act. Things get nasty, causing Trump, et al. to suspend the Constitution. People cry foul, but the Constitution is suspended, so nothing they can do, particularly if the Supreme Court (willingly or not) rules it is legal. Good luck getting it back.

Still think this is far-fetched? If they are actively making plans for this, then it is a very real possibility. The irony of the situation is that the people who will not vote for Biden will be the first to feel the effects of a Trump victory.

R.M. in Bryan, TX, writes: It was widely reported, including on, that Trump said: "Milwaukee, where we are having our convention, is a horrible city."

There has been a lot of wondering why he would say such a thing. The city population is 38% Black, with 20% more being Latino. This is sufficient for Trump to classify the town as a "sh**hole city." Horrible!

Still wondering?

B.K. in Champlin, MN, writes:

Trump Bashing Milwaukee a non-event because the belief is shared by many Wisconsinites.

As we all know, Trump is running a base-first campaign. As a born-and-raised Wisconsinite who decamped to Minnesota, I would argue that "Milwaukee as a horrible city" is a non-event based on this strategy and the beliefs of many Wisconsinites.

I grew up just south of Lake Winnebago in the 1980s and 1990s, one of the reddest areas of Wisconsin. In my lifetime, my family's Congressperson has been one of two people: Tom Petri (R) or Glenn Grothman (R).

Growing up, we received both Green Bay and Milwaukee TV. This created a dichotomy in the circles I was raised. As early as the 1990s (the earliest my memory goes where I had a real opinion), I can remember getting the sense from the adults in the room that Green Bay was a safe, wholesome place to visit and Milwaukee was "rough."

As I moved away in the 2000s to go to college and start my career, I came to discover this was not a common opinion for all "out-state" people in Wisconsin. At the time, those that lived in places like Stevens Point, La Crosse, and Eau Claire held a neutral viewpoint of Milwaukee, by my estimation.

However, after I moved to Minnesota and I interacted with former friends and family throughout Wisconsin during the 2010s, the southeast Wisconsin negativity started to spread.

One of the campaign features of Scott Walker and the Republicans that took control of Wisconsin's government was to assail and assign blame to Milwaukee. I now hear similar phrases from friends in all three above cities that I heard from my hometown neighbors while I was growing up. They are using the same language and probably worse than Trump to disparage Milwaukee.

Sadly, as we have entered the 2020s, I am also seeing the same attitudes starting to bubble up in rhetoric here in Minnesota about Hennepin County and Minneapolis.

I hope I'm wrong and that the Milwaukee slight will be looked back as a sign of why Trump does not win Wisconsin the same way the Lambert Field gaffe is still talked about in Wisconsin. I'm not confident it will be, based on the current rural-urban climate that has been baked into our politics so deeply the last decade and a half in the upper Midwest.

J.B. in Waukee, IA, writes: In your assessment of Gov. Doug Burgum's (R-ND) pros and cons as a potential running mate for Donald Trump, I think you missed a big negative in relation to his support for carbon capture pipelines. When landowners don't agree to carbon capture companies building pipelines across their farmland, these companies often attempt to get states to allow them to use eminent domain to acquire the necessary land. Here in the Midwest, there have been many clashes between farmers and elected officials about this topic. Often, carbon capture companies plan their pipelines to go through rural areas—the very areas where Republican voters are most plentiful and where owners are most resistant to the use of eminent domain. Even in North Dakota, the Republican party is split on support for pipelines vs. support for landowners' rights. If you've ever driven through rural parts of the Midwest and have seen the "NO EMINENT DOMAIN" signs, you would quickly understand how the Democrats could hang this like an albatross around Burgum's neck.

D.L. in Uslar, Germany, writes: The analysis of Doug Burgum's pluses and minuses as a VP candidate are fine from a traditional perspective, but I think a couple of them switch categories or don't matter at all from a Trumpian perspective, which is what matters here.

The fact that Burgum's an unknown who would garner a lot of media attention is more likely to be a negative to Trump. Getting more attention than the boss is a huge sin as far as Trump is concerned. (I'm pretty sure you've mentioned this yourselves in a couple of VP analyses.) This could be counterbalanced by his blandness, as long as nobody points out the media attention thing to Trump, but if there are a bunch of "Who Is Doug Burgum?" headlines before the final decision is made, Trump could easily make a last-minute change.

Burgum's billionaire status does mean he can make major contributions to funding the campaign, but could also emphasize that Trump is, at best, a billionaire only on paper. That could push this point into the negative column for Trump. On the other hand, the Donald might enjoy being able to make a real billionaire dance to his tune. Burgum's ability to pump money into the campaign could also allow the diversion of even more campaign funds into the legal fund, so maybe this one is a wash.

Burgum's lack of suitability as an attack dog doesn't seem to matter much. Trump is more than happy to play that role; indeed, it seems to be the one role he can play well.

Finally, Burgum looks a little nerdy (I say that as someone who self-identifies as a nerd; it's not meant to be a slam). Trump seems to like his highly visible appointees to look like they're from Central Casting, and Burgum may not fit that particular criterion.

R.K. in Lafayette, IN, writes: A few weeks ago, responding to a Sunday comment about Robert F. Kennedy Jr's voice, I wrote that RFK Jr. has a neurogenic voice disorder known as spasmodic dysphonia. You did not publish my comment. Fair enough, it's your site; you get lots of reader submissions and you can't include all of them.

Now two more readers have weighed in to hate on the candidate because of his voice, the most recent characterizing it as "preposterously evil, in a Hollywoodian, Emperor Palpatine sense, that it sounds AI-generated for that purpose." So I'm writing again.

Spasmodic dysphonia interferes with the opening and closing of the glottis during phonation resulting in a harsh, rough vocal quality. As with stuttering, the cause is unknown, and there is no cure. Also, as with stuttering, there is no correlation between spasmodic dysphonia and a person's intellect or moral character.

I offer this information in the belief that most readers of this site are not intentionally ableist, and that the comments you have published can be attributed to ignorance rather than malice.

Please understand that I am not defending RFK Jr. as a person or as a candidate. There are plenty of reasons other than his voice to dislike him.

(V) & (Z) respond: We actually ran several letters pointing out that Kennedy's voice is the product of a disability. However, there is no reason to believe that voters will know that. More importantly, there is no reason to believe that, even if voters do know that, they will give him a pass. Fair or not, it's a liability for him.

Politics: A Tale of Two Trials

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: As we celebrate Father's Day, I can't help but wonder how our president, Joe Biden, is observing this occasion. He lost his infant daughter years ago to a terrible car crash. One of his sons died 9 years ago from brain cancer. Now, his other son has been convicted of federal felonies due to his drug addiction.

I've never been a father, so I can't speak to what it's like to see your children suffer and hurt from inside. But we've seen this man endure such personal pain under the glaring public crucible for decades. I'm amazed with his ability to do his job while at the same time be a devoted family man and withstand all the crap heaved at him from his critics.

President Biden is absolutely taking the right approach by not discussing any possible pardon or commutation of Hunter's conviction. Any talk will just play into the Republicans' hands about the justice system being rigged and will give TFG ammunition to self-pardon himself if, heaven forbid, he gets back in. We don't know yet what the judge in Delaware will do. Let's see what happens there along with the trial Hunter faces for tax evasion in California come September. Depending on the sentences and the circumstances in these cases, perhaps a Democratic president in 2029 will either pardon or commute Hunter as one of their first official acts in office.

We don't elect people to office solely based on their parenting skills. However, how they act towards their children is a good reflection of their overall character. President Biden may not be a perfect father, and his children may not be perfect. But he's a good person and worthy to hold the office he currently has.

J.P. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: The difference between Joe Biden and Donald Trump... is that Joe Biden is a caring father. Don Jr. and Eric beg for their dad's approval, and have turned into vicious ego monsters corrupting the minds of impressionable, otherwise kind people in the country who want to care for their families and feel that anger at the "left" (which is a fictitious concept) is the way to do so. Love, not anger, is the source of bliss and a strong family.

This image brought me to tears:

Joe and Hunter Biden hug

Joe Biden is a good person with a warm heart. I love him for that—shouldn't that matter most, not the silly ideas and stories we tell ourselves in our mind? Thoughts and narratives, as the Buddha taught, are the source of suffering...

M.S. in Sterling, NY, writes: I couldn't help but notice the two items related to Clarence Thomas and Hunter Biden regarding lying on federal forms, both of which are federal crimes. Biden, a sick drug addict, gets slammed with a huge federal prosecution, undoubtedly costing tax payers millions of dollars, gets found guilty for lying on a form when buying a gun. No doubt he was guilty, but the crime is rarely prosecuted, no harm to anyone, and seems to me to be a classic case of overreach by the Justice Department.

Thomas, on the other hand, lied on a federal form about all the bribes (let's call them what they are) he received. Nothing wrong with having a conservative viewpoint, but getting freebies from billionaires show him to be the political hack in black robes that he's always been. Zero consequences, but the same crime.

P.K.W. in Chicago, IL, writes: The item on Hunter Biden appears to have a misunderstanding of the expression, "once an addict, always an addict." I am a recovering alcoholic. I have not had a drink in 40 years. If I had been addicted to an illegal substance should I have to check that box? What if I had been clean for 3 years? How about 3 months? Or 3 days?

I used to work at a commodities trading firm. On Fridays, after the exchanges closed, a big plastic can would be put out with bottles of beer inside. It was not uncommon to enter the restroom and see a half empty bottle of beer on the urinal. The alcoholic in me would think, "What a waste of good beer!" That shows the difference between an alcoholic and a non-alcoholic.The phrase is meant to give the addict an understanding that they have crossed that line. I have control over taking that first drink. I do not know what would happen after that.

Getting back to Hunter Biden, I can believe that he was not attempting to deceive. He actually may have felt proud that he could leave that box blank. Had he discussed it with a counselor or a sponsor, they would have probably said, "Why the hell do you need a gun? If you still feel you need a gun in a year then we'll talk about it." Shortly after buying the gun, he used. He obviously also had not gotten an understanding of that phrase. If one person on that jury had understood the nature of addiction, the outcome might have been very different.

M.I. in Jenkintown, PA, writes: Notice how, last year, Hunter Biden was about to be exonerated, rightly or wrongly. Then the Republicans made sure that the deal was rescinded and they could put him on trial. Their goal, one has to assume, was to find him guilty, which they have successfully done.

Their reaction to their exact goal? "It's FAKE!", "It's a sham!", "It was rigged to try and prove that Biden wasn't in on the Trump verdict!".

Ask yourself, "Self, what do I suspect their reaction would be if Hunter was found not guilty?" (hint: vehement, bloody outrage).

It is generally a hallmark of insanity that the affected person can not recognize his insanity himself. Friends, I give you: The Republican Party.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: Having had plenty of time to ponder it, I think it is time to say out loud that the Trump prosecution was, in fact, politically motivated and it was also the right thing to do.

Harry S. Truman said it well: "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen." Anyone who aspires to be in a position of leadership or authority should expect to be watched more closely than an average person and to suffer greater consequences for their missteps. This is true in government, academic institutions, business, churches, media, military, and everywhere else. It is a price of high office, balanced against the privileges of high office. While anyone who comes before the bench of justice should be judged fairly, we have a lot of laws that are only relevant for people in high office: bribery, influence peddling, insider trading, open meetings laws, etc. Not everyone has the opportunity to commit those crimes.

So, someone like Trump, or any other high leader, should expect to be treated differently and should be treated differently. It is right for district attorneys, journalists, auditors, and inspectors general to focus preferential attention on the top people because their transgressions affect the public the most and pursuing them discourages bad behavior by countless subordinates. The watchers are motivated by the political impact of the situation and thus are politically motivated, but that doesn't mean that they are politically biased, or doing the wrong thing.

D.S. in Salem, OR, writes: There have, of course, been many, many takes on how the Trump conviction might affect the election. Most attempt to assess how certain voters will view the conviction in their decision making about whom to vote for with an attempt to understand how many voters could shift one way (towards Biden) or another (towards a third party candidate or not voting). But I think there may be more subtle undercurrents that are worth a look. Informed analysts and pundits have observed that if this election turns out to be a referendum on Biden, he's in big trouble. This is how incumbents lose (see Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Trump). On the other hand, if it is a choice election, Biden is in much better shape. The Trump conviction gives Biden and the Democrats a great opportunity to characterize the election in this way. This will be difficult to measure through polling or focus groups. But it could change the entire tenor of the campaign if Biden & Co. don't let it get memory holed.

Finally, the January 6 case could end up enforcing this dynamic if the Supreme Court actually issues a cut-and-dry decision. With the case starting in September, the timing would be perfect for Biden and the Democrats, even if there isn't a final verdict, because it will shift the focus on Trump and highlight the choice. This is not a prediction because we will have to see how things play out. But it's one very possible way things go.

Politics: Today's Republican Party

L.C. in Brookline, MA, writes: Your otherwise excellent analysis of the Department of Justice's response to the Republican-controlled Congress has the minor blemish of an apparently accidentally-omitted word: you wrote "We don't think this will penetrate the minds of voters beyond the hard-right Trumpers, though, if only because there's so much 'Biden crime family' stuff out there that it all kind of blends together, and turns into white noise."

This should be: "We don't think this will penetrate the minds of voters beyond the hard-right Trumpers, though, if only because there's so much 'Biden crime family' stuff out there that it all kind of blends together, and turns into white power noise."

Fixed that for you.

A.G. in Scranton, PA , writes: I belive, with pretty decent evidence, that you have it all wrong when you posit that Republicans won't vote for Black candidates.

Republicans LOVE an Uncle Tom. He tells them that everything they've been told about themselves by us on the left, that they are horrid and vile racists who think horrid and vile things, is wrong and by voting for a Black person... I mean, come on! How could they be racist if they vote for a Black person? Stupid libs. The logic is blindingly obvious...

I have been informed of this logic so many times in my life I have stopped counting: "If we run a Black person, the Black voters will have no reason to vote for the Democrats. " That Black folk might vote on ideas and policies? Not even given a passing thought.

"If we run a Black person, the liberals cannot say we're the racist ones." That running a self-loathing person who looks down on his own people is kinda super racist? Totally lost on them.

Skin color. That is all that matters to them and that fact just proves they're racists who think, speak, and do horrid, vile, and unforgivable things.

D.S. in Winnetka, CA, writes: At a small pro-Trump protest against Liz Cheney in Thousand Oaks, CA, in January of this year, the leader of the group of about 20 people was chanting that Democracy is evil and against "God's will" because "there are no democracies or presidents in the Bible." Only kings, pharaohs and Caesar.

The irony of "God" approving of pharaohs and Caesar apparently being lost on her. She also claimed to be an Iranian who converted to evangelical christianity when she "escaped" from Iran and moved to the US, so...

B.B. in Dothan, AL, writes: You wrote, of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis: "Once he was dead, on the other hand, there was no problem, and it was easy to break away from his movement/cult."

My prediction is that a substantial minority of Republicans will remain in the thrall for decades. Their votes will continue to influence Republican politicians and elections for that time. I don't know what that means for the Republican party per se, but I don't think its good. Perhaps one of the factors that forces the GOP to reconfigure themselves for real this time.

Politics: Israel (or, You Can't Please Everyone)

N.H. in Merrill, WI, writes: The item "Sinwar, Sherman, Grant, and Wilson" is one of the best pieces of on the Israel/Palestine conflict that I have read to date. Kudos on connecting multiple historical references to the modern situation and offering analysis on the conflict without resorting to proclaiming one or another side unequivocally good or bad. Indeed, you carefully outline the difference between morality and efficacy in a way that has rarely been done on this issue. You've done a nice job of casting yourself forward in time so that you can look back on this conflict from the perspective of someone who is trying to look at the past objectively. Hopefully the historians of the future appreciate you giving them a head start on their work.

R.K. in Highland Park, NJ, writes: I've been visiting your site since 2004, and reading nearly everyday for many years. Your recent piece "Sinwar, Grant, Sherman and Wilson" is almost surely the worst item you have published.

Sherman's "Total War" strategy, while surely controversial, was meant to cripple the Confederacy's ability to wage war, and to end the war as soon as possible. Sinwar/Hamas's strategy has absolutely no similarity to that. Rather than trying to end conflict, they always seek to exacerbate conflict, and do that by sacrificing their own people like sheep, with absolutely no interest in reducing casualties on either side. I do not understand what inspired such a tortured analogy.

Your argument that Israel "played into this" is not novel, but you also don't seem to want to consider the idea that they don't really have much choice in the matter, as simply sitting on their hands is not going to prevent Hamas from waging further massacres on Israelis. You also write "History makes pretty clear this cannot work" but surely you are aware that history also includes examples where complete defeat or unconditional surrender did work?

The cherry on top was when you ended this article by laundering Hamas's false claim that they accepted the cease fire proposal. They did not—they proposed amendments—another way of not accepting the proposal. Of this Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: "At some point in a negotiation—and this has gone back and forth for a long time—you get to a point where if one side continues to change its demands, including making demands and insisting on changes for things that it had already accepted, you have to question whether they're proceeding in good faith or not." It is fine to point out that Hamas said one thing, but you don't bother to clarify?

You have said on multiple occasions you are not experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. You should heed your own words and stop trying to be analysts of it. You should also apologize for this article.

K.H. in Maryville, TN, writes: I just finished reading "Sinwar, Grant, Sherman, and Wilson." Wow. You gentlemen have written many, many great articles over the years, but this post has to rank as one of the best ones ever produced on this site. It has really "stopped me in my tracks" and given me an awful lot to think about. Thank you.

R.W. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: I am appalled that you would leave it up to your readers to decide for themselves whether Yahya Sinwar is evil. The choices that Grant and Sherman made, while they may have led to horrible deaths, were made in the context of legitimate military operations. The choice that Sinwar made—to rape, massacre, and mutilate innocent civilians in acts of butchery so savage that they almost defy description—was the very incarnation of evil. Will you next be polling your readers about whether Osama bin Laden was really evil or maybe just misunderstood?

W.F. in New York City, NY, writes: (Z)'s comparison of Yahya Sinwar to the U.S. Army's two most ruthless Civil War generals was a far different take than the analogy I've been making. To me, the Hamas commander isn't the one comparable to Grant or Sherman. Rather, it's the Israeli war cabinet.

When I look at Gaza, Khan Younis or Rafah, I see Vicksburg. The Israeli Defense Forces, like the Army of the Tennessee, had complete freedom of movement while Hamas, like the Southern Army of Mississippi, was under siege in town. Both Vicksburg and the Gazan cities experienced famine and other deprivations. And both Hamas and the Army of Mississippi dug out a network of tunnels.

The difference is, the defenders dug those for the safety and comfort of the civilians. The soldiers didn't use the tunnels—or the civilians—to protect themselves. And when the battle was lost, Confederate Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton raised the white flag. As a result, the number of non-combatant deaths from the Siege of Vicksburg was surprisingly low.

Which raises the question: What if the civilian casualties at Vicksburg were much, much higher? Even orders of magnitude higher? Would you expect anyone who grew up believing slavery is wrong to be horrified by the loss of life? Does any American, Brit, Frenchman/woman, Russian or Canadian today care that at least one out of every three Germans killed in World War II was a civilian? Maybe we should, but we honestly don't, by and large.

I'm not letting the IDF off the hook. Clearly, more should have been done, and can still be done, to minimize civilian casualties. But I have no clue what those fixes are. If anyone has specific recommendations short of a Hamas victory, I'm open to ideas.

Politics: It's the Stupid Economy

M.P. in Leasburg, MO, writes: Readers, including myself, tend to write in about yard signs and banners that cross our paths. But today, I am feeling compelled to write in about what I am see from a boots-on-the-ground perspective as it pertains to the economy. You know, the economy that many Republicans claim to be so terrible. I live in a rural area and travel daily to urban areas as part of my job. This may not be as noticeable in an urban area due to the normal concentration of cars, but it is most definitely discernible in the rural parts where I live. I have traveled the section of I-44 from Rolla, MO, to St. Louis regularly for over 40 years. Since the end of the pandemic, I have never, ever seen the number of vehicles I see now on a daily basis. We used to just be annoyed by the holiday weekend traffic because it was so congested. But now, every weekend is similar to a holiday weekend. Even the weekday traffic has increased at least threefold, if not more. Anyone who wants to work has to be working. If people were not working and/or spending money they would not be out in droves such that they are to this degree. We are also seeing a huge increase in the number of accidents occurring in this stretch of highway. So much so, that I tend now to use the old Route 66 "Mother Road" for most of my personal travels and even sometimes on my way home from work, particularly on Fridays.

But the real economical barometer for me is the literal swarm of tractor trailers. My dad was a career Teamsters Union truck driver, so we have always paid attention to trucks on the road. There was a time as kids that, on occasion, we would pass a tractor trailer here and there and would make that motion in the car window to get them to honk. The ratio of cars to tractor trailers on the highway back then was at least 25 to 1 and that might be a conservative estimate. Since the pandemic ended, I literally have to drive a gauntlet of trucks that are clogging up the highway everywhere I go. It is not uncommon for there to 10 to 12 of them directly ahead of me and 8-10 of them in my rearview on any given day of the week at anytime during the day. In fact, I have had to add 10-15 minutes to my commutes toward the city just to account for being stuck behind them when they take up both lanes for miles. They are packed into the rest areas in the evenings and all of the overpasses in that section of highway are lined down both sides with parallel-parked trucks. I pass a Menard's warehouse early in the morning and there tend to br trucks lined up the road for about a mile waiting to get in. It wasn't that way before the pandemic. If things were not being mass manufactured and purchased, trucks would not be hauling them. The number of trucks I am seeing have to be moving a monumental amount of product to be so prevalent. Clearly, products are being purchased and demand has to be high.

To entertain myself on some of my longer drives, I decided to start counting them in different ways; from overpass to overpass, from one town to the next and in backed up traffic. Consistently (again, on any given day of the week) I am counting about 70-75 trucks from overpass to overpass which on average are about 5 miles apart. Closer into St. Louis, one-lane traffic had the road backed up for about 6 miles. In that stretch, I counted 302 trucks sitting idle! I don't think I ever saw 300 trucks in 2 or 3 days on my travel path before the pandemic.

I feel like this supports changing that expression to: "It ain't the economy, stupid!"

S.K. in Bethesda, MD, writes: A.T. in Oviedo and L.S. in Bellingham both criticize you for your commentary on the economy, offering somewhat different versions of the same argument about the economy—essentially that while some economic indicators look good, others don't, and the ones that do look good are averages, and that the averages are covering up what is really going on.

But the core of the argument—that people at the bottom are doing worse than people at the top and that is why people feel bad about an economy that looks good according the typical indicators—is simply not supported by the facts. The actual fact is that wages at the bottom of the income distribution have risen faster than inflation (the lines crossed in late 2022, and while it is fairly well established that there is a long lead time before wage gains are felt by households, we are well past that lead time at this point). And, in fact, because of the tight labor market, wages in the bottom quintile have risen faster than any other quintile, which means that for the first time in a very long time, income inequality is actually decreasing right now in America (that's income, not wealth—wealth inequality continues to increase because home prices and stock prices keep rising).

A.T. listed a bunch of metrics that look scary, and I could go through each of them (except one, which I'll get to in a minute) and explain why economists do not tend to rely on them, but suffice it to say that surveys consistently show that most people think that they are doing fine, but that the nation's economy is doing badly. This is similar to the data regarding crime, in which most people think that while things are OK where they live, the rest of the country (particularly the scary cities) is suffering from a crime wave—when the actual data shows that crime is down sharply. I don't have an answer to what is behind this dynamic. It is surely somewhat related to how the media reports on the economy (and crime). When inflation came in lower than expected this week, The Washington Post headline said that inflation was down slightly, but still "higher than normal". The 1970's and 80's beg to differ.

I do think a big part of it is probably related to one piece of data A.T. included, about household savings. The fiscal stimulus during the pandemic improved household balance sheets in a meaningful way. But most households have now spent the extra savings down. While they might complain that Biden's spending was inflationary (because the media said so, even though it turns out it really wasn't a significant driver of inflation), they miss those stimulus payments. The special circumstances of the housing market (unaffordable for those who don't own, large increases in value for those who do, but a lock-in effect where people are reluctant to move because they don't want to give up their low-interest-rate mortgage) are probably also a driver of some bad feeling.

But the bottom line is unemployment is low, the stock market is high (and if it weren't, you can be sure people would be complaining about that) and inflation is pretty close to the long-term average already, and still falling. Historically, when these things are true, the majority of people have felt good about the economy (even though the poor have always been poor). But now they don't, and if that doesn't change, a lot of election models that rely on economic fundamentals are going to have a bad year.

R.N. in Katy, TX, writes: Last weekend there was a discussion of what the economic numbers mean and whether people are feeling good or bad.

The Living Wage Calculator estimates what salary would be livable in each county of the U.S. One cool thing about it is that it breaks down a livable wage by the number of children and the number of working adults in your household. It also estimates typical expenses (food, housing, Internet, etc). It is produced by the Living Wage Institute at M.I.T..

The two caveats of this very helpful resource are: (1) it assumes full-time work hours (but doesn't take into account if you are working 20/25/30 hours per week) and (2) it assumes that the full-time work is uninterrupted. I (like many others) do a lot a short term and contract work, and there are always gaps between gigs.

Politics: She Blinded Me with Science, Redux

I.T. in Orlando, FL, writes: I disagree with R.R. in Pasadena. I believe that physicians, iPhone developers, and yes, even Rand Paul, should be considered scientists (although that last one is indeed a stretch). I would argue that the term "scientist" tends to be used in everyday conversation to mean "a person who works with science." When I, a layman, see my doctor take my blood and run it through a mini-centrifuge to test its iron count, I feel that I am witnessing science at work. If my friend told me they were working on a project with Apple to improve storage technology, I would say, "Hot damn, you're a scientist!" And I would argue that the latter example certainly demonstrates someone who is contributing to the field of knowledge as a whole, since such a technological improvement will have a far-reaching impact. I believe that R.R.'s definition seems to limit the term "scientist" to those who are directly involved in theory, research, and experimentation, and while I can understand why such a scientist would feel the title applies more exclusively to themselves (perhaps they feel their methods and motivations are more pure, like the Newtons and Eulers of old), I personally find such gatekeeping to be distasteful.

That being said, even if I am wrong and R.R. is 100% correct, it seems they missed your point. Even if there are far fewer scientists in politics in the United States than there are women, and even if we assume that the same is true in Mexico, surely they are aware that, up until this election, there were zero female presidents in both countries. Now the same may be true about scientist presidents, but would any person argue that "scientist" is as significant of a demographic marker as "woman"? I dislike the implication that W.H. in San Jose made with their initial question. It seems to me that they were attempting to make a point, something along the lines of "the act of pointing out the gender of this president-elect is sexist in and of itself." I think this is bollocks. Whether R.R.'s statements are meant to endorse that opinion is unclear, but they do at least seem to think that it is just as significant, if not more so, that this president-elect is a scientist than that she is a woman. I believe this is also bollocks.

If we accept R.R.'s figure that 25% of the workforce in the USA is of a STEM background, and compare that to the 50% of the entire population that is female, which of these two groups should have produced a president by now? If we narrow it to R.R.'s preferred 3% figure (only "true" scientists) then the answer is even clearer. "The first scientist president" does not turn heads because only 3% of the workforce falls into that category. "The first female president" turns heads because, finally, this massive demographic has been given representation in the highest office in the country. To attempt to say that pointing that out belittles her other accomplishments seems foolish.

K.H. in Albuquerque, NM, writes: I came across this too late for last week's mailbag. The Nature Briefing reviewed five well-known international leaders with STEM backgrounds: Herbert Hoover, Margaret Thatcher, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, Angela Merkel and Yukio Hatoyama.

All Politics Is Local

S.W. in New York City, NY, writes: In response to I.K. In Queens: People in New York are thrilled that Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-NY) paused the congestion pricing program. I begin by asking a question: Who would implement such a plan in a major election year? The answer: Only the MTA, which has developed an art of making poor decisions and mismanaging funds, projects and its employees. If the MTA needs money so badly, it can start repairing its budget by stopping all the farebeaters who simply walk through the subway turnstiles or board buses without paying (upwards of 40% of the ridership). The majority of people in the New York Metro Area were against this cash-cow plan by MTA to institute a repressive/flat fee on working class people, resulting in many lawsuits challenging congestion pricing and filed by labor unions, trucking associations, the state of New Jersey and others.

Why is the MTA in such debt? One major reason is because public officials from both parties (from Rudy Giuliani to Bill deBlasio and from George Pataki to Andrew Cuomo) have robbed MTA's coffers to fund non-MTA projects and otherwise assisted MTA in its own mismanagement. For a historical perspective, please read: "How Politics and Bad Decisions Starved New York's Subways."

E.F. in Baltimore, MD, writes: As another [former] Queens resident, and a former NYC cabbie, my 5 cents worth on the comments from I.K. from Queens. I doubt Gov. Hochul's last minute veto of congestion pricing was driven by any electoral math.

The commuters who brave the arduous drive into Manhattan in rush hour traffic every day are already paying through the nose in time, aggravation, gas, tolls and parking. An extra couple of hundred bucks a month is just part of their cost of doing business. Like the already sky-high bridge and tunnel tolls, it'll be factored into their next salary increase. It won't make Archie Bunker of Flushing start voting GOP, because he was already voting GOP. And by the way, Archie took the subway.

But the real losers in congestion pricing would be the Manhattan parking garage magnates. Parking a car in midtown Manhattan is already insanely expensive. Into the hundreds of dollars per day. Congestion pricing would destroy that price-gouging business model. My brother-in-law's late father in law owned several garages. He lived exceedingly large. It may be hard to believe, but people like him have ways of persuading politicians.

And those mythical cranky suburbanite commuters? Tell them that if they insist on continuing to drive into Manhattan, their commuting time will be halved, and their parking fees will drop by more than the cost of congestion pricing. Everybody wins, except the parking garage owners.

M.S. in Westchester County, NY, writes: Regarding the congestion pricing change of heart from Gov. Hochul: As a Democratic Party leader in neighboring NY-16, I can tell you that congestion pricing is a major issue in neighboring NY-17, which Democrats have to flip to regain the House. North of Westchester County, there is scant mass transportation to the city. Electeds there have been screaming about the unfairness of extra levies to drive into the city forever. All this is exacerbated by the fact that Andrew Cuomo refused to put in a dedicated bus lane when the Tappan Zee bridge was rebuilt. So, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) was being level headed about the issue, although I personally hope congestion pricing is reinstituted soon to save the planet.

C.S. in Westchester County, NY, writes: I live in Westchester—we've been inundated with postcards/placards for the race in NY-16 and honestly aren't sure about who we are voting for.

That being said, thought your readers might be interested in the nastiness we just received about this race (some consultant must have told all the candidates that these 8 by 11 postcards/placards work because that is all that we have been getting daily)is from something called "" It's almost enough to make us vote for Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-NY) just because the ad is so negative:

It says that Bowman doesn't
believe women because he is critical of the Israeli version of events in Gaza

The other interesting part of this race is that, back on Memorial Day, people from the George Latimer campaign were ringing my doorbell. I thought that was an odd day to pick to have people going door to door.

C.V. in Minneapolis, MN, writes: In regards to the poll of Minnesota this week, I think there are some observations worth noting here.

First, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. pulled 6% in that poll. While Minnesota has been the Land of Opportunity in the past for third parties, that number will almost certainly shrink dramatically. He also isn't even on the ballot yet here, and both GOP and DFL have demonstrated already this year that they are not forgiving of attempts. Both supported the ultimately-successful lawsuit to strip Legal Marijuana Now of its major-party status. It's entirely feasible that every vote in that 6% is up for grabs.

Second: As luck would have it, all four of the northern route states have Senate races in which one of three things are true:

  1. The Democrat/DFLer is the incumbent, a good fit for the state, and reasonably popular (Amy Klobuchar in MN; Bob Casey in PA).

  2. The Democrat is the incumbent and is not a terrible fit for the state. (Tammy Baldwin in WI)

  3. The Democrat is competing for an open seat, is a good fit for the state, and is favored to win. (Elissa Slotkin in MI)

In three of the four cases, the Senator will likely have some coattails to goose turnout, with Klobuchar probably being the most solid and then Casey, then Slotkin. Baldwin is a tossup, but Wisconsin turnout may be helped along by the newly un-gerrymandered legislature maps making people feel like their vote actually matters. I have several friends in Wisconsin who have made comments specifically about this.

As a lifelong Minnesotan, I think the 4-point spread number is believable, especially given the messy end of the legislative session this year that's still leaving a bad taste in voter mouths. However, that will fade over the summer, and while greater Minnesota is Trump country, the numbers come from Minneapolis-St Paul and the college cities. Minnesota is Biden's to lose and he'll have to work hard to lose it.

Ranking The Amendments

N.E. in San Mateo, CA, writes: I found your reply to D.H. in Portland interesting, but wanted to suggest that it under-weights the Fourteenth Amendment, and that it is, in fact, the most important.

In practical terms, the Fourteenth Amendment is what applies the Bill of Rights to the states. It strongly limits the ability of governments at every level to play games with who qualifies for those rights, and establishes birthright citizenship. Without it, many of the other amendments would be far less impactful.

In symbolic terms, it is the closest thing to a constitutional recognition that the United States is a singular entity and not a plural.

A.C. in Kingston, MA, writes: I was a little shocked not to see the Fourth Amendment among your "Top 10" list. I'm not a lawyer, but as a staunchly pro-choice woman, I've long closely followed the right's tactics for getting rid of abortion, and one of the biggest points I saw made, even by some on the left, was that the Fourteenth Amendment seemed like a flimsy foundation on which to base a right to privacy.

Meanwhile, unless I'm getting something majorly wrong, the Fourth's protection against unreasonable search and seizure does seem to protect privacy. Government agents can't enter our homes without a warrant. We can't be stopped on the streets and asked for our papers. (As an aside, as a young Gen-X theater nerd, you can imagine how confusing the opening of Les Miserables was to middle-school me when I listened to the soundtrack and read the book. Why was anyone asking Jean Valjean for his papers just for entering a town?)

I'd probably tie the Fourth with the Fourteenth in fourth place.

T.N. in Nashua, NH, writes: I suspect you're going to get absolutely hammered with comments about your ranking of amendments, so I'll comment about the Fourth Amendment, which didn't make your list.

The Fourth is the essential protection against abusive police officers/departments. It's listed as protecting against unreasonable seizure, but the requirement of documenting probable cause to persuade an official from another branch of government to issue a warrant, is the foundation that causes police to enforce rule of law rather than rule of local strongman. The Fourteenth does not itself provide this framework, it only prevents states from writing laws doing so.

I'd place this one at #3 or #4 in the rankings, about where it is in the Constitution.

R.M. in Portland, OR, writes: Personally I am a big fan of the Third and Twenty-First Amendments. I do NOT need a bunch of soldiers in my house drinking all my Pacific Northwest IPAs...

J.L.G. in Boston, MA, writes: Clearly you didn't consult the Staff Mathematician when it came to ranking amendments. I'd expect them to have lobbied hard for a certain Number 21. But perhaps they weren't yet awake when you wrote the list on Saturday morning.

Gift Taxes

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: In your answer to S.P. in Redondo Beach, it should be noted that in the U.S. gift and estate taxes are combined, and while total gifts in a year over $18,000 (in 2024) must be reported by the giver, no taxes are actually due until the total gifts paid during one's lifetime surpass the lifetime estate tax exclusion of $13.61 million (also as of 2024). Thus gift taxes are rarely due prior to death, at which time they are included in estate taxes if the combined totals of all gifts given during one's lifetime plus the value of the estate exceed the exclusion.

Thus, it is highly unlikely that Harlan Crow has actually paid any gift taxes yet, even if he is reporting the gifts properly.

History Matters

C.J. in Redondo Beach, CA, writes: To me, the main thing that allowed the post-World War II world to be created with more stability than after World War I can be boiled down to... not as many countries involved.

Yes, the main players at Versailles were France, Britain, and the U.S. (one can sometimes throw in Italy, too), but basically every entity on Earth (sans the defeated powers) were at Versailles clamoring for things and attending meetings. The bureaucracy made it overwhelming and all but certain that it would never work. Most people don't realize how complicated that treaty was. Along with the treaties that dealt with the remains of the Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman Empires, it tried to solve all the issues of the world. Hell, Versailles even discusses the skull of a Tanzanian Chief and where it should be housed.

The new world order after World War II was hammered out much more simply between the key Allied powers.

M.M. in San Jose, CA, writes: In "Sinwar, Grant, Sherman, and Wilson," you wrote: "....Wilson recognized that the leaders of the victorious European nations, particularly David Lloyd-George of the U.K. and George Clemenceau of France, would be out for blood" and "Wilson also knew that the Allies' plans for Germany were an unwise play, long-term..."

This is exactly correct. An important fact, though, is that while at Versailles, Wilson contracted what was then known as "Spanish Flu" (so called because the Spanish press was the only one able to report on it, because they were not under wartime censorship). In John M. Barry's book The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic in History, he relates how this allowed Lloyd-George and Clemenceau to have their way and impose reparations on Germany (plus some redrawing of the map), thus creating the unrest that led to World War II.

Wilson never really recovered. He had a stroke 6 months later, while lobbying unsuccessfully for Senate ratification of the treaty of Versailles (they didn't like the idea of a League of Nations). By some accounts, his wife Edith ran the country for the rest of his term, since he was medically incapacitated.

R.K. in Bloomington, IL, writes: I am a daily reader of your site and find your analysis of both contemporary politics and history to be persuasive almost all of the time. Your comments about Woodrow Wilson, however, were off the mark and reflect a highly debatable interpretation of the Paris Peace Conference.

Wilson readily supported all of the disarmament provisions of the Versailles Treaty (Part V of the treaty). Indeed, he thought they were a crucial precondition for the success of his vision of a new world order free from arms races. Secondly, Wilson supported the principle of inflicting financial penalties on the Germans for supposedly starting the war. The Fourteen Points, for example, included a call for Germany "to restore" Belgium and France. The president wanted to fix a definite figure for Germany's liability and tie it to Germany's capacity to pay, but that does not mean that he expected reparations not to weaken Germany. He did—he just wanted a defined settlement that would leave the door open for Germany's future economic recovery.

The French and the British wanted an inflated reparations liability (for domestic political reasons, as you pointed out). In the resulting negotiations, a compromise was reached in which Germany's liability would be determined at a future date. On other issues, Wilson agreed with all of the Allied proposals regarding Germany's borders, including the border with Poland. Indeed, Wilson opposed British efforts at the end of the conference to modify the border settlement in the east in Germany's favor. The only serious dispute Wilson had at Paris with the Allies over German's European territory involved the Rhineland, which the French wanted to detach from German sovereignty. In intense negotiations, Wilson successfully resisted this proposal. He was hardly out-negotiated by the French. In short, the image of Wilson as a "moderate" at Paris, outmaneuvered by the wily Europeans, is not at all accurate.

Come in out of the Draft, Redux (or, Boomers Gonna Boom)

D.C. in Delray Beach, FL, writes: Regarding the questions raised by D.H. in Peoria and D.B. in San Diego about the Vietnam-era military draft, I am in agreement with your answers and will suggest that those who want to know more about the effects of the draft on individuals and society might want to take a few minutes to read chapter 3 of the Gates Commission Report from 1970, which maintained an all-volunteer army was preferable to the Vietnam era draft inconsistencies.

B.R. in Eatontown, NJ, writes: First, I thought your response to D.H. of Peoria was perfect. Old men complaining about young men—what a novel discussion... not! of course, the other side of that was I believe once addressed by Pete Townshend.

That said, I decided to write with a more serious response to the conversation.

Having been alive and well back in the 60s, I have no idea how anyone could think that everyone pulled their weight back then, that there was no welfare state, or the rest of it. Indeed, a rudimentary knowledge of the politics of the era disproves that nonsense.

At the same time that Lyndon B. Johnson was making the draft a necessity due to the increased military manpower needs imposed by the Vietnam War, he was also pushing a domestic program that he called the Great Society. One of the key elements of this was the War on Poverty. If, as some of D.H.'s friends state, everyone pulled their weight and there was no need for welfare and all that, why exactly did we need a war on poverty? The answer, of course, is that there were lots of people who were falling behind in society, whether because of racism, lack of education, lack of economic opportunities, or the many other reasons that are always a factor in these situations. I don't know what world these guys were living in that they didn't see that there were lots of folks less fortunate that they apparently were, and that the Great Society served important needs of our world back then. But it was perfectly obvious to me growing up in urban New Jersey.

Indeed, I particularly think it's bizarre that any Baby Boomers could think that the draft was the panacea to society's ills. The one thing I will never criticize TFG for is his efforts to avoid the draft. That's because I and most everyone I knew back then were doing the same damn thing. People who didn't live in that time frame cannot begin to understand just how much we felt that this War was completely unjustified and served no rational purpose, and that the lives of our friends and classmates who couldn't avoid service were being wasted, not to serve a national interest but instead because of a series of fallacies that built upon each other to create a myth with no connection to reality. Given those opinions, it is of course no wonder that those of us who had that point of view also believed that avoiding the draft was not disloyal to the country or any of that crap, but rather was in fact the moral and proper thing to do.

The point is that most of us back then thought the draft was a nightmare, not something good and productive. And like any nightmare, all we wanted was to wake up and learn that it was no longer real. What D.H.'s friends were smoking to think otherwise must have been some really good sh**. And all I can say is I'm mad as hell they weren't sharing it with the rest of us.

Besides, back then, draft or no draft, there were plenty of kids who were "lazy, out-of-shape, selfish, and lack any kind of sense of duty." So even when the draft was in effect, it didn't prevent at least some segment of the population from having these characteristics.

R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: I do think there are a number of young people who could benefit (or would have benefited in the many years since the draft was ended) from military service, but wouldn't voluntarily put themselves through that. I know there are a number of things about my military service that I value and am quite certain made me a better person than I would have been otherwise. But my service was in the (mostly) peacetime military of the late 80s/early 90s. Desert Storm happened at the tail end of my enlistment and not entirely coincidentally, I decided to call it good after 7 years.

With all the forever-war stuff that's been happening for the past couple of decades, I wouldn't recommend a draft for the purposes of "setting the kids straight." The costs are just too high. That said, my two gay brothers (who at the time would never have been allowed to serve if drafted) and I all had to register for Selective Service or face a number of punishments, including ineligibility for Financial Aid in college, while my two sisters (one of whom would have done well in any number of positions in the Army of the time, just as my female comrades did) had no such swords hanging over their heads. If we're going to keep mandatory Selective Service registration (and I don't see any good reason why we should) we should absolutely extend the requirement to everybody of the appropriate age, male/female/trans/NB/whatever.

P.M. in Port Angeles, WA, writes: Thank you so much for referencing that Hesiod quote from long ago. I had remembered some of it, but I couldn't recall the issuer nor any relevant context. Essentially he is decrying the deterioration of his perceived "Good Old Days" (or society, if you prefer) when men were men and women knew their place! And the youth he disparages didn't have boom boxes, cell phones, bell bottoms, free sex or electric cars. This diatribe is excruciatingly familiar and similar to the rants of today's reactionary right-wing nut jobs trying to restore a past that has passed (MAGA).

Emeritus Status

D.N. in Hyattsville, MD (and professor emeritus, University of Maryland), writes: You wrote: "So, for example, a professor emeritus/emerita is generally still "on staff" at the university they retired from, and is still drawing a paycheck, and could plausibly be recalled to teaching."

Wow! I don't know what Emeritus status is like at Vrije Universiteit or other European universities, but at the American universities that I know of, it's an honorific status that the university can confer to retired faculty who have made noteworthy academic contributions. It conveys a few privileges—for example, I have an office that's shared with several other Emeritus faculty—but I certainly get no paycheck, nor can they require me to teach.

Since one of you is at UCLA, I checked UCLA's Emeritus policy and it's as I stated above. It does talk about "recall to service," but this appears to refer to a contract, not a summons.

J.D. in St. Paul, MN, writes: Regarding your discussion of Nancy Pelosi as "Speaker Emerita": You had a long day answering lots of questions. You're excused. But this little error can't be left dangling because there's enough skepticism of universities out there already. Emeritus status implies a continued minor connection between retiree and former employer, slightly benefiting both sides (library privileges, a university e-mail account, continued mention on the departmental website, etc.), but "drawing a paycheck?" Nah. Not unless the person has been brought back to teach for a semester or something. A university that paid its retired faculty would soon be pricing out the elite, never mind the middle classes.

Men Who Like Wieners

L.S.-H. in Naarden, The Netherlands, writes: You wrote, in an answer about Nathan's Hot Dog Contest, "In a world and a country where many people don't have enough to eat, we find it distasteful that there are people making a living by showing off how many hot dogs or chicken wings or oysters or pancakes they can shove down their gullets in a short period of time."

I agree, but I would also add that in a country where obesity is the top health risk, we don't need to egg people on to eat more than is normal.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: To put the Nathan's Hot Dog Contest in perspective, cultural anthropologists observed traditional hunter gatherers, who did not consume meat frequently, would eat up to 25 pounds in a sitting when the group managed a large kill. Also, prior to the Irish potato famine, adults ate approximately 12 pounds of potatoes per day, which was why their children under 4 years were typically malnourished because they were too small to consume enough to get sufficient nutrients. Such is the human capacity to "consume mass quantities."

(V) & (Z) respond: We hate to break it to you, but you just might be dating yourself with the Coneheads reference.

Complaints Department

R.H. in Colusa, CA, writes: Well (Z), I think my assessment of what soured the site was spot-on! An ignoramus AND an asshole!! Heady stuff, indeed, and, coming from such as you, I wear both titles with honor, especially the latter.

I was imprudent, and you were wise, to eliminate the "a" word from the comments. Not something to be taken lightly. But, what ARE you to do? You have a (presumed) candidate who is (or, at the present rate of decline, will be) unelectable, and a veep who is even worse. The Democrats are going to be vigorously scrutinized for any flubs in the vote counting. Millions of serendipitous Blue 'kan-ban' ballots at 3:00 a.m. will not be swallowed this time around.

FWIW, at 86, I have both empathy and sympathy for Joe at a personal level, but he is NOT fit to be the "leader of the free world," and anyone who believes that he is, is far out beyond my simple ignoramusness.

Watched a fascinating video of Newt Gingrich (a REALLY intelligent man) speaking at Hillsdale College, on the subject of the "deep state" and how entrenched it has become. Trump has indicated that he will wreak havoc thereupon—he does not need to play "Mr. Nice Guy" this term. Cornered rats are capable of terrible things, and there is plenty of precedent in our history.

(V) & (Z) respond: We run this letter only because it's a response to what was written last week. But don't expect us to give space to any more of your trolling.

J.O. in Portsmouth, NH, writes: I agree with your determination that R.H. in Colusa is objectively an ignoramus and an asshole. Not often have I read that kind of characterization on your site. Someone really has to earn it. Seems to me R.H. went the extra mile.

J.P. in Rockland County, NY, writes: Are you from New York, (Z)?

I finished reading your reply to R.H. in Colusa about 30 minutes ago. I would have sent this sooner, but first I had to stop laughing and then clean my morning cup of tea off the screen. Really a perfect metro New Yorker's reply to a total butthole!

C.D. in Akron, NY, writes: While reading the letter from R.H. in Colusa, I assumed it was satirical. But your comments after suggest that was, in fact, a real letter from a real reader of your site. I know people out there with such ridiculously warped perspectives exist—these are, I assume, the occupants of the houses in my small town that fly numerous obscenity-laden pro-Trump and/or anti-Biden flags—but I wouldn't have thought to put them in the overlap of a Venn diagram with people who read the site. I tried to figure out if their name/location was an anagram or if looking at Wikipedia for someone with the initials R.H. affiliated with Colusa was an Easter egg but came up empty. I can only assume that they are someone who hate-reads your site to disagree with what you say, since it always seems to be rational and fact-based. What a sad, sad state of mind...

(V) & (Z) respond: Several readers had similar suspicions. We do not produce fake letters, nor do we commission phony letters from friends just to stir the pot. The letter from R.H. in Colusa was 100% real.

A.B. in Delray Beach, FL, writes: Being a long time (15+ years) reader, but infrequent commenter, I felt it important enough to write and commend (Z) for his concise and important response to R.H. in Colusa, CA.

Unfortunately, many of these folks have consumed so much Kool-Aid in their calling out the "Biden crime family" they have become blind to any and all reality. Hunter Biden has been wracked with an addiction, one that has profoundly impacted many of his life choices. While trading upon one's family name can be a too-common occurrence, it is not illegal. That said, we know many have lost their way when they are incapable of similarly calling out the three eldest Trump kids, their respective partners, and the damage left in their wake. Sad!

K.P. in Cumming, GA, writes: One last thought for R.H. in Colusa, although the response from (Z) really said it all. Hunter Biden is NOT an elected official. He is a private citizen. His behavior will not affect millions of Americans. He will not be able to use the government to get even with his enemies or go on television to spread lies and hatred. There is no comparison between the two.

D.N. in Waltham, MA, writes: I want to thank you for your unfiltered response to R.H. in Colusa last week. One of the things I love about reading your opinions and analysis is that with American (and worldwide) politics as hideous as they are at the moment, you're not afraid to stand up and say when things are wrong—it's a responsibility more news sites should take up, instead of pretending that having a felonious rapist as a major presidential candidate is at all comparable to the Biden family's issues.

I hope R.H. enjoyed your coverage of the Hunter trial. I wonder if they would like to tell us what they find "lunatic" about current leftward beliefs—thinking that it's wrong for someone to break a ton of campaign finance laws? Respecting trans people's choice of how they want to be addressed? Asking the police not to shoot quite as many Black people?

J.T.M. in Phoenix, AZ, writes: In response to R.H. in Calusa, CA, in wonder why (and much of the media) is giving so much oxygen to the Hunter Biden story at all? This is such a false equivalency. The Trump felony trial involved—wait for it—the presumptive nominee of the GOP, Donald Trump. The Hunter Biden trial involves—wait for it—a family member of the President.

Joe Biden was not on trial. Joe Biden was not even remotely implicated in any aspect of the Hunter Biden trial. The coverage of it is absurd, in my opinion. It's not even whataboutism or bothsidesism because it's well beyond an apples-to-oranges comparison. The Hunter Biden story is a back page story, at best. The president is no more responsible for his adult son's actions than Jimmy Carter was responsible for Billy Beer, or any other politician is guilty of a relative's transgressions. Again, in contrast, Donald Trump is 100% responsible for his own actions.

(V) & (Z) respond: The answer to your question is that Trump and his supporters were predictably going to weaponize the Hunter Biden trial to either attack Joe Biden or to excuse Trump. That means that an informed reader needs to know something about the Hunter Biden trial, so as to evaluate those claims.

S.J.Z. in Darien, IL, writes: R.H. in Colusa's list of "good, decent men" is interesting. Harry S. Truman, Adlai Stevenson, Hubert Humphrey, John F. Kennedy, and... Joe Lieberman? Picking Lieberman over someone like Robert F. Kennedy Sr. or Martin Luther King Jr. is a bit of a head-scratcher. Joe Lieberman is the reason that the U.S. does not have a public option in health care. Is that scoring one for the good guys? Is giving U.S. citizens health care the agenda of "the lunatic fringe?"

Lieberman endorsed John McCain over Barack Obama for President, suggesting that Obama was unready for the presidency. When you endorse a presidential candidate, you also endorse their running mate. Was Obama really less ready for the presidency than Sarah Palin was for the vice presidency? Another head-scratcher.

J.G. in Covington, KY, writes: While I am occasionally amused, and often frustrated, by the sheer ignorance sometimes displayed in reader comments, rarely have I found myself in such a state of high dudgeon as after reading the comments from R.H. in Colusa.

He wrote about Hunter Biden, calling Biden "a REAL sleazebag." The First Son may or may not deserve that descriptor, I don't know enough about him to say. What left me fuming was R.H.'s clear implication that they hold this belief because Biden is a recovering addict.

I had an uncle who was much loved in the community. He was a hard worker, a talented musician who played in local Christian rock bands, and generous to a fault. He was the sort of person who would give a complete stranger the shirt off his back, as the saying goes. I know for a fact that he lost at least one winter coat that way (and I suspect several jackets as well), giving it to someone he thought needed it more. And there was nothing in this world more important to him than his family, particularly his two small children.

He didn't live to see 30. His body was simply unable to continue with the accumulated damage from years of struggling with addiction. And while the drugs he used were illegal, let us not forget all the friends, family and coworkers lost over the years to the ravages of the legal drugs of alcohol and nicotine.

Addiction is a medical issue, not a moral one. Until people like R.H. wake up to that fact, we'll all continue to bury our loved ones much, much too soon.


B.C., Walpole, ME, writing from my favorite sports tavern, The Uneven Parallel Bar, writes: You wrote: "Maybe so they can host a NASCAR race? The Walpole 400?"

All the people here in Walpole had a good laugh about that... all 501 of us.

D.J.M. in Salmon Arm, BC, Canada, writes: In your assessment of " Who Infiltrates the Infiltrators?" (a legitimate concern), you claim that Canada is not a superpower. I would modify to claim that Canada is not a superpower... yet. According to Hasdata there are 666 Tim Horton's restaurants in the United States as of April, 2024. I'm sure that even the staff mathematician can interpret the meaning of that number for you. Beware.

(V) & (Z) respond: Oh, we noticed that nobody has ever seen Justin Trudeau and Satan in the same room.

P.W. in Valley Village, CA, writes: Re: Gay snark (Lindsey Graham, Larry Craig, etc.).

If Sean Hannity were to say, "He doesn't turn down men" on one of his shows, I'd know how he meant it and would take great offense. But...

If Lady Gaga were to say, "He doesn't turn down men" at one of her concerts, I would also know how she meant it and would be cheering as loudly as the hundreds of gay men standing next to me.

You've more than earned your Lada Gaga stripes. Keep the gay snark coming.

G.K.'s Australian Shepherd in Blue Island, IL, writes: "Leery"? Leery, you say?!? How about "completely and justifiably mortified"?I? I mean, come on:

A person with beard and no glasses,
and then the same with glasses

Tell me those are the same person. They're so obviously not! One is my human, and the other is That Other Guy—the one with the freakishly large eyes that shoot glints of light, and who is very obviously bent on usurpation! My Guy goes into our home office, and That Other Guy comes out, hellbent on suborning the natural order of the world!

This world has a bad infestation of shapeshifters, Sheeple, and only we dogs are calling them out! Wake up before you learn the true meaning of Replacement Theory!!!

(V) & (Z) respond: The staff dachshunds are nodding in agreement.

Final Words

M.S. in Knoxville, TN, writes: I have never seen a Scrabble/crossword? tombstone before. Maybe I need to get out more?

The headstone of Barbara Rubin-Goldstein
is presented in the form of a crossword puzzle, including her name and some of her accomplishments like 'mother' and

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