This week’s “Free for All” letters.


Reenactors honor the 1863 Civil War battle of Battery Wagner on Morris Island, S.C. (Paul Zoeller/FOR WASHINGTON POST)
A monumental story

Regarding the Oct. 30 news article “Trump names national monument to black troops”:

President Trump’s first use of his executive powers to establish national monuments was to designate 380 acres of parkland in Kentucky as a site to honor African Americans’ role as soldiers in the Civil War.

I, like most readers, would have liked to have seen such a positive and historic step to honor these warriors, who happened to be African Americans, covered in more of a feature news article that could have had greater exposure for all readers, including those who may have lost relatives during that very divisive time in American history. 

This article should have been on Page 1 for all to see and appreciate. 

Such news would be welcome for all Americans, regardless of their political affiliation, be they historians or people who had relatives, of any ethic group, who fought in that most historic war. 

Brian S. Jones, Fort Washington

The casualty at U-Md.

The third sentence of the Oct. 31 front-page article “U-Md. regents side with school’s football coach,” about the University System of Maryland Board of Regents overruling university President Wallace D. Loh’s decision to remove head football coach DJ Durkin, described the suddenly retiring Loh as “the most high-profile casualty” of a months-long football controversy that “began with the June death of a 19-year-old football player.”

Really poor word choice. The biggest casualty of this whole affair is the teenager who was not named until about 700 words in: Jordan McNair.

Chalin Smith, Alexandria

Mean as a Post

I had never heard of or seen Post Malone prior to reading the Oct. 31 Style article “Dumb as a Post.” I get that the writer didn’t think the man has talent, but the piece was totally obnoxious — it ripped the man to shreds on a personal level, which I think is out of bounds for a critic. You are supposed to critique the act, not destroy the man. It was an ugly and hateful article. Malone deserves an apology.

Nancy Bivens, Leesburg

Don't spell it out

Regarding the Oct. 30 Reliable Source item “Ivanka and Jared help Hugh Jackman celebrate the big 5-0”:

Why write “first daughter-slash-special adviser” when there is a perfectly good punctuation mark available to you called the slash?

Would you write “heads turned when Javanka entered the room-comma-according to Page Six-comma”?

Here is a slash mark: /. 

Carole S. Appel, Alexandria

Parties over

George T. Conway III and Neal Katyal  asserted in their Oct. 31 Wednesday Opinion essay, “The Constitution is bipartisan,” that the Constitution is “bipartisan.” That is unsupportable.

Political parties are mentioned nowhere in the Constitution. The Constitution is not “bipartisan”; it is nonpartisan. It does not envision our divisive parties, whose non-constitutional control of Congress has produced a public approval rating often in the single digits — a record of profound failure, lower than that of any other extant governmental institution of consequence. (Federal departments and agencies taken together have a 70 percent approval rating, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index.)

We cannot keep running Congress the same way and expect better results.

Nebraska’s nonpartisan Senate has proved for more than 80 years that a legislature can function without party leaders, partisan caucuses or party structure. (Forget Nebraska’s unicameral aspect — it’s irrelevant to Congress.)

Nonpartisanship is what is suggested by the Constitution. The First Amendment guarantees the right of political parties to exist. But no part of the Constitution envisions parties controlling Congress. Given their abysmal record of stewardship of Congress, we should be looking at other, better, proven models. No other enjoys the success, popularity, longevity and durability of the nonpartisan model of Nebraska.

Dan Bolling, Bethesda

Unsanctioned usage

The Oct. 26 editorial “Saudi Arabia offers yet another version,” concerning the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, said, “If Mohammed bin Salman in fact oversaw or sanctioned the brutal butchering of a journalist . . . the [Trump] administration urgently needs to alter its relationship with [Mohammed].”

In that sentence, I think The Post intended “sanctioned” to mean “approved” or “generally approved of.”

Use of the word “sanction” can easily create confusion. “Sanction” and its derivatives have opposing (antonymic) dictionary definitions; the word can denote either approval or disapproval. Dictionaries commonly define “sanction” (whether as a noun or as a verb) to mean basically: (1) an official approval, permission or ratification; or (2) an economic or military coercive measure designed to enforce a law or standard (for example, a threat or fine designed to penalize a nation that has violated an international law).

In The Post’s editorial, the reader eventually figures out that “sanctioned” means, in that instance, “approved.” However, for example, we commonly speak of “sanctioning,” say, North Korea or Iran, meaning: imposing a penalty in response to a transgression of international law or standards (clearly, an action of disapproval).

I suggest that just about the only time to use the inherently ambiguous, potentially confusing term “sanction” (or most derivatives thereof) in a legal, policy or journalistic context is when the term is preceded by a word such as “economic” or “legal,” which makes the meaning of “sanction” clear in that context.

Please sanction (meaning “disapprove”) use of the ambiguous word “sanction,” to lessen confusion among your readers.

Brooks J. Bowen, Potomac

It means a 'castrated sheep'

When sending personal or business emails, I am always careful to reread what I just wrote, however brief, because the spell-checker identifies only entries that are not in its dictionary. I think I’ve gotten pretty good at spotting errors. I was reading the Oct. 28 obituary of Victor Marchetti, a former CIA officer who wrote a book “resulting in a legal battle over wether the CIA could censor” [“Embittered CIA officer challenged agency’s right to censor past employees”]. I thought there must be a mistake. So I looked it up. “Wether” is indeed a word, so it got past the spell-checker. But it was definitely the wrong word for that sentence.

Brad Chattillion, Germantown

No nuts here, either

As a Sunday-only print subscriber, I had no idea the Nov. 1 print edition of The Post censored “Pearls Before Swine” until I saw Stephan Pastis’s Facebook post about the matter. I read the comics online, and The Post published the uncensored version on its website. If The Post’s intention was to spare younger readers from the risque wordplay, it would probably have made more sense to censor the online version and print the original.

I sincerely hope The Post doesn’t sack Pastis. It was nuts of The Post to censor in the first place.

Dennis A. Coyle, Arlington

All allies are welcome

I was disappointed that the Oct. 30 news article “For American Jews, already split over Trump, divide deepens after attack” mentioned that “leaders of the Jewish community” were telling the president of the United States that he was not welcome here. First, the members of the group Bend the Arc: Jewish Action are not considered by the vast majority of Jewish Pittsburgh to be leaders in the community, and the vast majority do not even support them as a group.

As a rabbi in the community, someone who is in constant contact with the recognized leaders of Jewish Pittsburgh, I would like to say that whether we agree with the policies of the president, we very much welcome a visit to show solidarity and compassion with us during our time of grief and stress. For our children, it sends an important message when our leaders talk about the problem of anti-Semitism and show support.

Please be sensitive to our need for community and togetherness. This is not a time to divide, but to come together. We seek unity with anyone who wants to join our cause in fighting anti-Semitism.

Seth Cook, Pittsburgh


Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper at Nationals Park on April 8. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
Going, going

The baseball season endeth, and so the Bryce Harper Speculathon begins in earnest [“Which team will get Harper’s services?,” Sports, Oct. 30]. I’ll consider the couple dozen articles so far, saying the same thing as the last, as a sort of sports-editor spring training.

Where Harper goes to earn his next couple hundred million dollars will be known in time for Opening Day, and since you’ve covered all the reasonable possibilities, there’s no money to be made here. The real bettors’ challenge is whether The Post’s baseball writers can match the football writers’ record for thumbsuckers, set by the remarkable Kirk Cousins “will he go, where will he go, when will he go, please just go, he’s gone!” tsunami.

Given The Post’s massive football favoritism, I think the Cousins record is safe.

As a kid growing up in Pittsburgh during the 1950s, I and my baseball-playing friends worshiped Pie Traynor. During the 1960s, we worshiped Bill Mazeroski. These men are Hall of Famers who spent entire careers with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

After moving to Maryland, my children grew up worshiping Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken Jr. These men are Hall of Famers who spent their entire careers with the Orioles.

There is a certain magic bond between fans and players who spend their careers with one team.

Bryce Harper has the ability to form such a bond with Washington fans if he decides to stay with the Nationals. If he goes to another team for a few million dollars a year more, that bond can never be created. In fact, many of his current fans will turn against him.

I am a Harper fan who hopes he stays in Washington.

John O'Hara, Bowie

Don't run Forrest down

Lisa Rein’s Oct. 24 PowerPost article describing the removal of the painting of Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest from the Department of Veterans Affairs office of David J. Thomas Sr. left out many historical facts about Forrest that prove he was not the racial villain many folks believe him to be [“Veterans Affairs official removes painting of KKK figure”].

While it is true that Forrest was a slave dealer and owner in and near Memphis, he was considered by locals a “benevolent” slave dealer and owner in that he never sold slaves that would split families, he went out of his way to buy slaves to unite families, and he did not sell slaves to a person whose reputation was that of a mean or cruel master.

Although Forrest had no military training, he had a unique instinct about fighting strategies that made him very popular and enhanced his reputation as a successful general and recruiter of troops. No less an authority than Shelby Foote believed Forrest was one of the two geniuses to emerge from the Civil War. The other was Abraham Lincoln.

After the war ended, Forrest and many others in the South, where local authorities were depleted by the war, organized vigilante groups to protect communities from marauders and scalawags and to guard against suspected “freed slave uprisings” against former slave owners. One of these vigilante groups evolved into the Ku Klux Klan, and, because of his reputation and popularity, Forrest was made the first grand wizard of the Klan. When the KKK began to burn crosses and lynch people, Forrest took action to disband the KKK, directing members to burn their sheets and stop the violence. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, but Forrest’s letter directing the terminations has survived, though this is not well known.

At his funeral in Memphis, in 1877, the two-mile-long procession of mourners contained thousands of whites and thousands of blacks. While it is true that Forrest was a KKK grand wizard for a brief period, it is unfortunate that his whole story concerning race relations is not better known. If it were, perhaps the Forrest painting would be returned to the VA office with the appreciation of all the workers there.

George E. Mattingly, Bethesda


Pallbearers carry the casket of Vickie Lee Jones out of the Church of the Living God in Louisville, Ky., during her funeral. (William DeShazer/For The Washington Post)
Remember all victims of hate

I appreciate that there is a lot going on in the world and only so much space in any edition of the paper. While I’m glad that The Post has covered the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre of 11 human beings as being highly disturbing and the great loss that it is, I am troubled at the lack of coverage given of two African Americans, Maurice Stallard and Vickie Lee Jones, who were killed in an attack being investigated as a hate crime around the same time that an anti-Semitic shooter massacred people at the synagogue.

It is the same magnitude of hate whether the victims number 11 or two. Please correct this situation and pay respects to these victims of hatred in our country. If we ignore some victims, we erase their pain from our consciousness.

Lorna Nogueira, Mendon, Mass.

Too fine a point

The print in the redesigned Washington Post Magazine is too small to read easily. I can read the newspaper and books with ease, but not this new magazine. We have been subscribers since the 1950s and couldn’t start the day without The Post. But Sunday is no longer a pleasure.

Leila Shapiro, Baltimore

Scalawags and . . .

I was troubled to see the use of a politically and historically charged term from the Reconstruction era — “carpetbagger” — in an article about political engagement in Virginia [“Activist ‘carpetbaggers’ travel to swing Va. races,” Metro, Oct. 28]. The use of this term degraded the hard work of volunteers on all sides who have devoted their limited time and energy to enliven our elections and combat the growing influence of dark money in our politics. We know full well that without robust participation, democracy dies.

Christopher Van Alstyne, Rockville