Every week, The Post runs a collection of letters of readers’ grievances — pointing out grammatical mistakes, missing coverage and inconsistencies. These letters tell us what we did wrong and, occasionally, offer praise. Here, we present this week’s Free for All letters.


Tour guide Maricar Donato speaks about the Marquis de Lafayette in D.C.’s Lafayette Square on July 5, 2018. (Astrid Riecken/For The Washington Post)
The true American ally was France

John Kelly’s July 18 Metro column, “ Spaniard who helped win the Revolutionary War has new statue,” was misleading.

There is incontrovertible documented evidence that Spain categorically and persistently refused to support American independence. At most, Spanish diplomats negotiated with the British for “something less than independence” for the American colonies. As explained by one of its ministers, the aid Spain provided the Americans was “to keep the war going until both the British and the Americans would be exhausted.”

Bernardo de Gálvez was not sent to New Orleans to fight for American independence but to secure Spain’s claims in North America. In raids along the Mississippi, he captured British posts of minimal strategic importance. He did share some of his very limited resources with the Americans. But numerous American patriots, including George Washington, expected much from Spain, not realizing that Spain’s resources were limited and that it had ceased to be a significant military power.

It is false to claim that Spain’s alleged contribution to American independence has been overlooked because, as one person told Kelly, “history books were written by East Coasters,” who, Kelly wrote, “tended to focus on the contributions of French figures such as the Marquis de Lafayette and Count Rochambeau.” These Frenchmen actually fought for American liberty, whereas the Spanish did not. Without Marie-Joseph-Paul-Yves-Roch-Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, the victory at Yorktown, which brought about American independence, would not have occurred. Lafayette earned his nomination as honorary citizen of the United States and his many statues, whereas de Gálvez earned Spain’s highest honors.

J.P. Cap, Silver Spring


Comics genius

The Post’s July 20 comic strips included a triple comic — three strips that involved the same theme. The theme was wordplay. “Non Sequitur” involved a woman named Miranda giving a warning to a bar patron. “Mother Goose & Grimm” involved King Arthur at a “Meet the Arthur” (author) event. “Rhymes With Orange” involved a cobra who experienced trauma during snake charming and was declared to be a “basket case” — a term that may have been offensive to some people.

In my Nov. 7, 2015, Free for All letter, “A rare ‘double’ in the comics pages,” I wrote that I doubted I would ever see a triple comic in my lifetime. That item has been removed from my bucket list.

Unfortunately, the comics missed by only one day a quintuple comic. On July 21, “The Argyle Sweater” and “Frazz” also involved wordplay.

Next up is a full house comics page — a triple involving one theme and a double involving another theme. A double comic comes every four to six weeks, and a double double every one to two years.

Please note: Doubles and triples cannot refer to a common external event such as Halloween because that artificially increases the likelihood that comic strips would share a common theme.

Scott Price, Washington

Pelli's 'sleek' Washington gem

I was disappointed that the July 21 obituary for César Pelli, “Architect whose work was noted for sweep and harmony,” did not mention the Investment Building at 1501 K St. NW in the District. This historic office tower, whose redesign was unveiled in 2001, was celebrated by then-Post architecture critic Benjamin Forgey, who saluted “its sleek double atrium hiding behind the renovated facades of a 1920s landmark at 15th and K Streets NW.”

Pelli excelled at marrying historic with modern, and there is no better example than the Investment Building.

Marina Ein, Washington

Naval gazing

A fine point, I admit, but the first sentence of the July 19 front-page article “U.S. ship downs Iranian drone in Strait of Hormuz” described the USS Boxer as a “U.S. naval ship.” The USS Boxer is not a “naval ship” but a “Navy ship.”

A naval ship is a noncommissioned ship that is property of the U.S. Navy. As example, most of the ships of the Navy’s Military Sealift Command are naval ships and have the prefix “USNS,” which stands for “U.S. Naval Ship.” These ships may have a small contingent of Navy personnel, but they are crewed by civilian mariners with a civilian master. The term “naval” also refers to commands that have both Navy and Marine Corps components. The U.S. Naval Academy educates young men and women to be officers in the Navy and in the Marine Corps.

Alan P. Goldstein, Springfield

It's not about optics

Regarding the July 25 Style article “The gentleman’s time has expired”:

Please explain how lines such as “A hangdog Mona Lisa before a gallery of bobbleheads” and “He looks like he smells of Vitalis and Old Spice” and “an old man in a charcoal suit who didn’t want to talk” are acceptable when talking about former special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, a man whose integrity should be revered.

There’s too much focus on optics and not nearly enough on the bottom line, which is that President Trump doesn’t do his duty, has failed his oath of office and subverted our electoral process. What does such an article say about us as a society? 

Ineke Lavoie, Arlington

The Style headlineThe gentleman’s time has expired” was shameful. Planning any insulting headlines based on gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation? I thought not.

Lynn Marble, Rockville

A newsworthy kindness

The July 26 Metro article “After a child’s meltdown, an ‘immeasurable’ kindness” should have merited the front page of the paper.

I could feel the young mother’s helplessness and embarrassment turn to surprise and relief as a Metro Transit Police officer, Dominic Case, came to help her and her little boy, who has autism.

We need stories such as this to be front and center to inspire us and restore our belief in the kindness of our fellow human beings. We need more Officer Cases.

Kathleen Hirsch, Olney


President Trump on July 17. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
The glory of vainglory

Photojournalist Jabin Botsford is a master at his craft. His photograph that accompanied the July 21 front-page article “A Twitter storm and its aftermath” captured President Trump in all his vainglory. 

Botsford’s photographs lift my spirit as much as the comics “Pickles” and “Mutts.” I look for them first each morning before reading about our chaotic world.

Bonnie Boyle Côté, Washington

Before Boris, there was 'Matilda'

The July 21 front-page article “Want to understand ‘Mr. Brexit’? Read him.” asserted that BBC correspondent James Landale “wrote a poem” that goes “Boris told such dreadful lies / It made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes.” Landale actually adapted the start of a well-known poem by the late Hilaire Belloc: “Matilda told such dreadful lies / It made one gasp and stretch one’s eyes. / Her aunt, who from her earliest youth, had kept a strict regard for truth, / attempted to believe Matilda. / The effort very nearly killed her.”

Mary E. Butler, Ellicott City

Not our forte

Musicians all over the area cringed at the incorrect usage of the word “crescendo” in the July 22 front-page headline “Puerto Rico’s unrest has built to a crescendo.”

Teddy Klaus, Bethesda

Four articles, one point of view

The front page of the July 21 Outlook section had four articles, all opposing various aspects of President Trump’s policies and his purported racism. In addition, there was an image depicting a man of color with an American flag serving as a gag.

Because many Americans do not see things this way, would it not be in the interest of basic fairness to have had at least one of these articles speaking to an alternative point of view? Or, in light of this omission, might it not be more appropriate to show the gag around the mouth of the Republican elephant?

Tom Hafer, Arlington

Put the person first

Among the horrors in the July 24 report of two women with intellectual disabilities who were raped by an employee of the MVLE day program, “Guilty plea in rapes of 2 disabled women” [Metro], was that, throughout the article, the victims and others were referred to as “the intellectually disabled.” I thought we had finally stopped identifying people by their situation in life. Please, please: “women with disabilities,” “people with intellectual disabilities.”

Becki O'Loughlin, Dale City


Patty Wudel of Joseph’s House on July 17. (Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post)
More to an amazing story

Thanks for Theresa Vargas’s July 21 Metro column, “After 30 years, she’ll leave her spot at the table,” about the amazing Patty Wudel and her 30 years of service at the awe-inspiring Joseph’s House in Northwest D.C. It was also good to see that a photograph caption highlighted Wudel’s appearance in Street Sense, the worthy newspaper produced by members of the homeless community. However, it should also have been noted that Wudel and other staff and residents at Joseph’s House can be seen in the very moving documentary “The Messengers,” by Pulitzer Prize winner and former Post staffer Lucian Perkins. 

Glenn Marcus, Washington

Disagreement is not an attack

One of the “In the news” items on the July 16 front page said, “Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders attacked each other over health care.” In reading the news article that item teased, “Democrats’ health-care fight intensifies as Biden, Sanders go head to head,” I saw no evidence that former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), both candidates for the Democratic nomination for president, “attacked each other” — although their ideas clearly clashed. There are far too many ad hominem attacks in politics already. The Post should distinguish disagreements over ideas from the personal attacks that are typical of the current president.

Scribner Messenger, Columbia

Music and the glue

Colman McCarthy reminiscing in his July 21 Local Opinions essay, “From talking glue with Joan Baez to the Black Cat,” on his ongoing friendship with Joan Baez and her impact on American society through her music, reminded me of a time when a song seemed to matter more. McCarthy quoted Baez, who recalled a high school student from a discussion back in 1984, saying “You see, you guys in the sixties had everything. You had the music, the issues, the symbols, the momentum. You had each other; you had glue. We are missing that. We don’t have any glue.”

Of course, there were issues back in the 1980s. Today we are faced with an overabundance of issues, each crying out to be prioritized.

Music that moved and identified America,” Allison Stewart’s July 21 Book World review of Jon Meacham and Tim McGraw’s book, “Songs of America: Patriotism, Protest, and the Music That Made a Nation,” highlighted the unifying force that song has always been in this world of ours.

Where are today’s anthems? Today’s protest songs? We need another Pete Seeger. Someone who does not simply perform music but who uses that exquisite talent to engage. To inspire. To expect us to sing along — together. Music is an ingredient for the universal glue recipe.

Irene Q. Powell, Gettysburg, Pa.


Piotr Gajewski leads the National Philharmonic at Strathmore. (Joshua Cogan)
Why strike a sour note?

I am not sure why Anne Midgette would, in her July 20 Critic’s Notebook, “An orchestra is closing. Did you support it?” [Style], encourage the public not to care when an orchestra such as the National Philharmonic closes. Why write about the orchestra only when posting a death notice? To tell our audience they should now look to fund shoestring opera companies or orchestras such as the Alexandria and Fairfax symphonies was frankly insulting. These orchestras pay so far under scale that it is not even a reasonable wage. The National Philharmonic was a main source of income for many local full-time professional musicians who will now have to figure out how to survive.

The reason the orchestra failed was not a lack of interest but management not raising enough funds and lack of support from the Montgomery County Council. The concert hall is quite large — it seats 2,000 — so even at three-quarters full, that’s 1,500 people. That’s much more than the smaller halls where Alexandria and Fairfax play.

This orchestra has been around for 36 years, and what’s truly sad is that it is allowed to die not because of audience apathy but because of the apathy of elected politicians. The same can be said for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra , also at Strathmore. The state has the money to save the orchestra, but the governor won’t release the funds, saving them for a rainy day. That orchestra has been around for more than 100 years.

Please do not help destroy our musical institutions by putting the tombstone on them and urging audiences to move on.

Leslie Silverfine, Silver Spring

The writer is president of the National Philharmonic Orchestra Committee.

Don't try this at home

The July 18 Local Living article “Affordable fixes that will transform your rental bathroom” had suggestions that many renters would be unable to apply. As a renter, homeowner, rental-unit owner and now, again, renter, I can attest to the fact that many such changes are simply impossible or highly inadvisable.

Begin with a thorough reading of the lease and then progress to what repairs and changes may be needed in a rental unit and a good way to approach the owner for the maximum cooperation. Having been an owner, I have been amenable to changes and certainly immediately responsive when something affects safety or quality of life. And having been a renter, I have always consulted the owner before attempting any changes, even down to replacing an existing but malfunctioning ceiling fan. 

Wall painting is possible, but it should be done by a professional. Priming, correct painting and edging are all important and not necessarily in everyone’s bank of talents.

And hanging wallpaper? Walls need careful preparation before just slapping paper on them. Again, call a professional. Wood cabinets, once painted, are painted forever. The owner needs to approve this. Removal of a countertop and replacement should be done by a professional. Contact paper on wood cabinets may, in fact, be there forever. I know, because one of my renters did just that, and the cabinet finish peeled off. The wood had to be replaced.

If a door is removed, keep it, because it is attached to the unit and is the property of the owner.

Re-tile a floor? Get it done by a professional. I have lived in a unit where an unqualified person replaced the parquet floors as a “gift.” Every time the humidity rose, the floor joined it, giving the floors the appearance of gently rolling water. The work should have been done by someone who knew what he or she was doing.

Pen Suritz, Arlington