This week’s “Free for All” letters.


The damage on Oct. 13 in Mexico Beach, Fla., after Hurricane Michael made landfall. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
If you read the forecasts, Hurricane Michael wasn't an ambush

Regarding the Oct. 11 front-page article about Hurricane Michael and, specifically, its headline, “Michael’s late strength ambushes Fla.”:

According to Merriam-Webster, the verb “ambush” is defined as “to attack by surprise from a hidden place.” The headline failed to take into account science, continuity of hurricane warnings, evacuations, and national and local preparations in the days leading to Hurricane Michael hitting the Florida Panhandle.

The storm that became Hurricane Michael first drew attention almost a week before hitting the Gulf of Mexico, as a small circulation of showers off the Yucatan Peninsula. By 5 a.m. on Oct. 8, Michael (then a tropical storm) was forecast to have winds of 110 miles per hour as it hit the coast. The next day, the forecast increased winds to 125 mph and storm surge to more than 10 feet. Outstanding forecasts and lifesaving communication by the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center prepared everyone for this catastrophic, once-in-a-lifetime event — except The Post, which, it appears, was “ambushed.”

Robert Ryan, McLean

The writer, retired chief meteorologist for
WRC-TV, is a fellow and past president of the American Meteorological Society.

Getting it right on trikes

As someone, at 82, whose enjoyment of retirement has been greatly enhanced through the discovery of recumbent bicycles (20 years ago) and tricycles (10 years ago), I was surprised and gladdened to see the trike article in your Oct. 11 Local Living section [“Recumbent trikes: Why adults are loving these hot wheels”]. Although the article was generally informative, there were some misleading statements. To say that trikes “are easier to balance” is like saying that a go-kart or a sports car is easier to balance. There’s no balancing involved, except for leaning into high-speed turns to keep from rolling over (not likely to happen unless the rider is being very reckless). There is also zero loss of lateral or directional stability on a relatively low trike at high speed.

It is true that trikes are predominantly ridden by older or physically encumbered riders. I find this sad, because younger people don’t get exposed to the joys of riding a high-performance version of one of these marvelous machines. What’s not fun about riding a human-powered go-kart? It’s a shame that these rather complex vehicles are necessarily priced at a level that is beyond the resources of many bike riders.

Len Thunberg, Alexandria

UFC doesn't qualify as a sport

Regarding the Oct. 8 Sports article “Post-match melee has UFC world still reeling”:

How does two human beings beating the hell out of each other qualify as a sport? There are too many examples of man’s inhumanity to man throughout the United States and the world. The public shouldn’t be supporting this example. Ending UFC would be a social good. History condemns the barbarism of the Roman Forum, yet here in the United States we honor an equivalent with newspaper ink, TV coverage, commercial sponsorships, corporate status and salaries.

Ken Fredgren, Reston


Megan Rapinoe of the United States controls the ball against Adriana Leon of Canada on Oct. 17 in Frisco, Tex. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team celebrate a goal against Canada. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
The gap between the women's and men's national soccer teams

The Oct. 15 Soccer Insider article “U.S. women seal World Cup berth, will face Canada in Concacaf final ” affirmed how easily the U.S. women’s national soccer team breezed to yet another victory at the Concacaf qualifying tournament, securing its spot in the 2019 Women’s World Cup. The team will travel to France next summer to defend its first-place title.

So where was the U.S. men’s national soccer team this past World Cup? About a year ago, The Post ran an article detailing the stunning loss of the U.S. men’s team to Trinidad and Tobago [“U.S. will miss World Cup,” Sports, Oct. 11, 2017]. But was it really stunning? The U.S. men’s national team has never won a World Cup title; however, the women’s team holds three wins and is now returning to preserve its title.

While the U.S. women’s national team’s path toward its fourth world trophy has been a breeze thus far, it does not go unchallenged. The team will not only face fiercer opponents but will also continue to deal with unequal pay compared with the men’s national team, despite the fact that it has not lost a game so far this year.

Michelle Pham, Oakton

Chief Wahoo isn't the only cartoon logo

Regarding the Oct. 15 editorial “Good riddance to Chief Wahoo”:

It seems The Post is having some difficulty with distinguishing a cartoon character from the real thing. Spewing lavish praise for the banning of Chief Wahoo, the beloved logo of the Cleveland baseball team for decades, the editorial conveniently overlooked the fact that The Post does the very same thing. All the time. If the fictional Wahoo is offensive to Native Americans, then why isn’t The Post’s constant use of the fictional Pinocchio drawing offensive to Italian Americans? What about banning all cartoon characters?

It is all so silly, so misplaced. The Washington football team’s owner wisely realizes this, even if The Post doesn’t. Daniel Snyder deserves praise, not condemnation, for refusing to give in to the pressure. Besides, what was conspicuously absent from the editorial was any criticism, or even mention, of the Atlanta Braves. What about Atlanta fans doing the tomahawk chop so enthusiastically at home games? The appearance of the “grinning, red-faced cartoon” Wahoo pales in comparison with the appearance of this bloodthirsty display by thousands of people. 

Marty Morrison, Chestertown, Md.

I was pleased to see The Post taking a stance against the now-retired racist logo Chief Wahoo. But I could not help but notice that the first word in the paper, on the front page and above The Post’s name that day, was a racial slur still used by Washington’s National Football League franchise. The Post should follow its own advice and stop printing this hateful word so casually. Or, at the very least, stop throwing stones until it has moved out of that glass house.

Chris Davis, Vienna

Fans of Birnholz's crosswords

Count me among the fans of Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post Magazine crosswords. I like the level of difficulty — challenging but not sadistic — and I enjoy the creative “meta” features. Figuring out that I had been “Rickrolled” was especially memorable. That breathtakingly intricate April 1 puzzle was the highlight of my puzzle-solving year. Please do not let Mr. Birnholz get away.

Harley Cahen, University Park

Once again I must address the criticisms of Evan Birnholz’s Sunday crossword puzzle [“Choice words,” Free for All, Sept. 29]. (See my earlier Free for All letter, “Enough with the cross words,” on Oct. 15, 2016.) Mr. Birnholz’s puzzles are always challenging and interesting, if sometimes outside the box. What are “dorky clues,” “borderline English,” “silly games”? I advise his critics to show patience and imagination in approaching his puzzles. It may take more than one sitting to finish the more challenging ones, but what’s the hurry? An old-timer such as myself (83 years old) helps to keep his mind sharp by wrestling with and eventually solving Birnholz’s puzzles. I ask those people who feel as I do to let The Post know that we appreciate his work. Let’s not let uninformed and unjustified criticism lead to “pulling the plug” and dumbing down the Sunday puzzle.

Bob Cullen Sr., Bowie


Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), second from right, on Capitol Hill in Washington on Oct. 4. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
Watch where you're going!

The photograph accompanying the Oct. 14  Fact Checker column, “Setting the record straight: Collins’s claims on Planned Parenthood and justices,” showed an extremely important national decision-maker and her entourage walking down a very winding and very steep staircase. Almost every single person in the photo is using a phone — men, women, all ages — not paying any attention at all to where their feet are; and not one single person was holding the railing. This succinctly summed up everything that is wrong with our society today, if only anyone could see it, other than I.

Chris Sullivan, Alexandria

What about nuclear energy?

Regarding Robert J. Samuelson’s Oct. 15 op-ed, “On global warming, is it mission impossible?”:

May I ask why a non-fossil source of electrical energy that has been around since the 1950s was not even worth a mention? Samuelson claims that “we don’t have the technologies” to reduce fossil-fuel emissions. Given that I have been involved in the nuclear power industry in various capacities since the 1960s, including being the responsible operator at the controls of a power reactor, this is news to me. This isn’t the place to debate the pros and, yes, cons of the generation of electrical energy using nuclear fission as a source of heat for a steam-cycle power plant. There is much to be said, and considered, on both sides. But how is it reasonable to simply discard this source of energy, as if it never existed?

William C. Evans, Germantown

Language is not a competition

The Oct. 13 Free for All page seemed to be a forum for linguistic correction, with no less (sorry, “fewer”) than three letters about slight word-choice errors. All made mistakes, but their meanings were completely understandable, so what purpose does it serve to correct them? The phrase “had ever drank” is perfectly acceptable, although regional [“Drink, drank, drunk”]. Old English had two past tenses, singular with “a” and plural with “u,” so there are variations.

I still find it irksome, however, that Post writers continue to use the word “homogenous,” when more careful writers would have chosen “homogeneous,” but language changes. Language is a communications mechanism, not a race to see who can most pettily be correct by their own standards.

Robert Edwards, Falls Church


A female fawn in Mechanicsville, Md. (Linda Davidson/The Washington Post)
There's a name for that

The Oct. 12 news article “Answering the calls of injured wildlife” referred repeatedly to “baby deer.” Can someone please tell the editors that readers know what a fawn is? Please. A young tiger is a cub. A young cat is a kitten. A young dog or wolf is a pup. For the love of Pete, I have read letters written by people asking The Post to dumb things down (not their words). Stop it.

Linda Mooring, Fairfax

Double-check word order, we must

Writing is Yoda your headlines now, apparently [“Mainstream are ads still appearing on fringe Web sites,” Business, Oct. 7].

Jennifer DiGiovanna, Frederick

The Supreme Court's role

In “When did the Supreme Court become so political?,” her Oct. 14 Book World review of David A. Kaplan’s “The Most Dangerous Branch,” Deborah Pearlstein questioned the author’s view that the justices take and rule on cases they have no legitimate role in deciding. While the court cannot enforce its own decisions, if it feels it has sufficient political support, it may decide any case that it wishes, even if there is no specific authority in the Constitution to do so.

Max Pieper, Burke

Deborah Pearlstein’s Oct. 14 Book World review said the author provided an argument to show the Supreme Court justices take on and rule on cases that they have “no legitimate role in deciding.” As the Supreme Court is not one in which cases are first filed but a court of appeals, does this mean that, should a case be appealed to the Supreme Court, the justices should let the decision of the lower court stand, whatever it may be? Or does it mean that they should rule that the lower courts should not have taken on the case in the first place? That would, in effect, be a denial of whatever complaint was first filed and a ruling in favor the defendant. Either way, once a suit is filed and reaches the Supreme Court, whatever the justices do or don’t do has an effect.

George H. Spencer, McLean