This week’s “Free for All” letters.


Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Jan. 16 in Annapolis. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
If you have nothing nice to say. . .

In his Feb. 21 op-ed, “Hogan’s example for Republicans,” George F. Will said Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) “resembles a beer keg with an attitude.” Must he be so crude?

I realize that President Trump makes it a point daily to teach people how to name-call and humiliate, but why must Will, who should be a shining example of true journalism, jump on that disgusting bandwagon?

Lois A. Carter, Lorton

Maybe just 'formative' next time

As an amateur wordsmith, I was amused by the use of the word “seminal” in a quotation in Margaret Sullivan’s Feb. 18 Style column, “Sexism is already on display in 2020 race.” To support her assertion that it will be easier for women now because so many are running for president, Sullivan quoted Democratic strategist Celinda Lake’s statement to Politico that “this could be a seminal, turning-point moment” for women.

A quick bit of research produces some definitions including “relating to seed or semen,” “creative or having the power to originate,” or “influential” and “pioneering.” I imagine these definitions, derived from the word’s Latin origin, are from the days when women were thought to be vessels or receptacles for the male seed, which had the sole power to create.

While I understand how “seminal” is commonly used now, I do wish Lake and Sullivan could have found another word to define the “turning-point moments” they both hope for regarding the future of women in politics.

Nancy LeRoy, Washington

Setting the stage for 2020

The analysis of the 1992 presidential election in the Feb. 16 news article “Former Mass. governor Weld to challenge Trump for the GOP nomination” suggested that Patrick J. Buchanan’s insurgent candidacy weakened President George H.W. Bush enough to cost him a second term. The third-party run of Ross Perot, who drew more than 19 million votes, is widely accepted as the critical factor in Bill Clinton’s election, but Perot was not mentioned. I would think The Post would be more careful in describing our recent history.

James Backstrom, Wayne, Pa.

In announcing his quixotic presidential run, Bill Weld blasted the “hard heart, closed mind and clenched fist of nativism and nationalism” — the most salient characterization of this administration I’ve ever seen. And yet The Post missed it.

Given the media’s well-documented missteps covering the 2016 election, such an oversight bodes ill for future reportage. Do better, please. See the forest for the trees.

Harvey Solomon, Takoma Park


Washington Nationals pitcher Stephen Strasburg. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)
Can't we wonder?

The Feb. 16 Sports article about Stephen Strasburg at the Nationals’ Florida camp, “Strasburg strikes a tone with first spring pitches,” said it is “safe to wonder” whether the pitcher will regain the fastball speed he had before 2018. I understand the expression “safe to assume,” because ill-founded assumptions may lead to unwise actions and adverse consequences. But when is it ever unsafe to wonder?

I guess baseball writers need spring training, too, huh?

Perry Beider, Silver Spring

Who mattered more?

As a committed fan of The Post’s obituaries section and its talented team of writers, I enjoyed the Feb. 17 remembrance of Lee Radziwill, “Younger sister of Jacqueline Kennedy was a fashion icon,” as well as the obituary for Raymond K. Price Jr., “Speechwriter who crafted some of Nixon’s most consequential statements.” But the page layout confused me. If the staff of People magazine were putting Radziwill above the fold, I’d understand; it’s People magazine. But I’d expect the team at The Post to give Price the higher visibility (and placement), as Price’s work would surely be of more import to The Post’s readership than Radziwill’s. For all of Radziwill’s success, she was most famous for, as the line goes, being famous.

Democracy does die in darkness. And it’s diminished in the shadow of celebrity.

David Boldt, Reston


Zilia Sánchez’s “Lunar negro con tatuaje (Black Moon with Tattoo),” 1975. (Colby College Museum of Art)
Sculptural forms worth seeing

Philip Kennicott’s Feb. 17 Arts & Style review of Zilia Sánchez’s artworks at the Phillips Collection related her sculptural forms to John Donne, the English poet [“Zilia Sánchez, solitary visionary”]. That is a stretch. I saw the exhibit. Her beautiful, shaped canvas forms relate vividly to the female body. Statements such as “it is a trenchant statement of independence, and not just from the art world or contemporary geopolitical forces or the dominate patriarchy of conventional sexuality” told nothing about the exhibit.

Perhaps more telling is that the artist is a more-than-90-year-old woman creating forms of youthful beauty. Don’t be put off by the convoluted critique. The exhibit is worth seeing.

Ellen Berlow, Washington

News for the front page

Have we become so immune to the horror of mass shootings that they no longer warrant front-page coverage? On Feb. 15, a gunman slaughtered five people in a warehouse and wounded five first responders in Aurora, Ill. It was mentioned in a blurb at the bottom of the Feb. 16 front page, and coverage was relegated to A5 [“5 dead in shooting in Illinois; 5 police officers wounded,” news].

The scourge of gun violence is a true national emergency, yet it is now so common that even The Post appears to have become inured to the violence.

Gail S. Coleman, Bethesda


Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe. (AP)
Not a 'shortcoming'

The Feb. 20 obituary for Brooklyn Dodgers pitcher Don Newcombe, “Dodgers pitching star later led substance-abuse program,” said, “Despite his success, Mr. Newcombe was dogged by shortcomings on and off the field. Unlike [Jackie] Robinson and [Roy] Campanella, he never made the Hall of Fame; he failed to win a World Series game in five tries; he lost two years of his prime in the military; and he drank heavily, which he blamed for prematurely ending his career.”

As the father of an Army officer who is deployed overseas, I cannot understand why Newcombe’s two years of service in our armed forces in the prime of his career should be counted among shortcomings on a par with drinking heavily. Like Ted Williams, Bob Feller and other great players of his generation, he should be honored for his military service; indeed, as an African American who was asked to serve a nation that accorded him less than equal status, he should be honored all the more for doing so.

In an interview with the North County Times in 2011, Newcombe described his service during the Korean War as follows: “It was a hard chore, but I went like any other red-blooded American would’ve done. I was four months short of the age limit for the draft, but I went just the same. I was going to fight for my country and my flag if I was so asked. My job was to train new recruits in the Army, and I did that for a year and a half. I didn’t dodge bullets, but I’m proud of my contribution to this country.”

And he should have been.

David S. Green, Fairfax


Maryland Terrapins basketball forward Bruno Fernando, right, and friends in College Park on Feb. 12. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
Capturing pure joy

I am not a big sports fan, but I do skim the Sports section daily. Imagine my surprise when I was greeted on Feb. 16 with a photograph displaying pure joy — not for a big touchdown, not for a winning basket, nor even for a great trade, but just the pure joy of camaraderie [“An Angolan connection”].

Kudos to photographer John McDonnell and to the editor who chose to run it. We need more of this joy.

Lynore Hill, Rockville

More last words

Given the dismal state of U.S. politics today, it is always a delight to read a well-written and cogently descriptive piece on a literary topic. Ron Charles should be congratulated for his Feb. 17 Arts & Style article “Spoiler alert,” about “the 23 most unforgettable final sentences in fiction,” which brought back many memories of enjoyable reading over the past decades.

My only disappointment was that he opted not to include what was, for me, the most unforgettable of all last lines of classic fiction, uttered by Sydney Carton on his way to the guillotine in place of his friend Charles Darnay in Charles Dickens’s “A Tale of Two Cities”: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.”

N. Stephen Kane, Silver Spring

As a librarian, I appreciated sincerely the choice of novels mentioned in Ron Charles’s article about memorable last lines of famous books. One blatant omission, though, was James Hilton’s “Random Harvest,” in which the last sentence of the story — “Oh Smithy, Smithy, it may not be too late!” — completely surprises the reader in its perfect denouement.

Carol Beall, Annandale

Protecting the final frontier

The Feb. 17 Business article “The moon is suddenly white hot” summarized commercial ventures’ planning for exploitation of outer-space resources and compared it to the frontier American West. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said, “Space is the next truly huge frontier.”

Unfortunately, just like the frontier where prospectors were unhindered by rules to minimize impacts, there are few treaties, laws or regulations requiring assessment of actions on the moon or Mars. The adverse environmental impacts we have witnessed on Earth would be expected there: Pipelines will leak and pollute, waste will be “lost” into crevasses, dust from blasting will coat solar panels, precious resources will be wasted by inefficient first users, and sustainable best use will fall to pressures for quick profits.

Regulation through law may be impractical. A better alternative would be for involved companies, such as SpaceX and Blue Origin [Blue Origin founder Jeffrey P. Bezos also owns The Post], to self-regulate by establishing industry standards, best practices and protocols to assess potential impacts, minimize extraterrestrial environmental damage and mitigate where needed. Self-regulation would be quick to initiate, practical to companies’ needs, effective and responsive to novel environments, and it would boost investor confidence, helping avoid a need for government regulation should the public demand it. Let’s not repeat the “frontier” cycle of environmental damage followed by regret.

William R. Kramer, Frederick

The writer is an extraterrestrial environmental analyst for HDR Inc., an architectural, engineering and consulting company.

Transcending the Sports section

The Feb. 20 Sports article “Hijabs and hoops” was informative and moving. The Muslim girls on this high school basketball team are to be congratulated for their courage and dignity in the face of bigotry and abuses from opposing players and their fans. Congratulations are also due to their coach, their teachers and their parents.

The article let the (powerful) facts tell the story. Although the article was published prominently on the front page of the Sports section, it merited front-page placement. This was much more than a sports story.

David Meyer, Alexandria

Stunningly dismissive

What stunning language to describe a U.S presidential candidate who won the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes in the 2016 election, a candidate who is among the best-qualified nominees ever for U.S. president. According to a throwaway comment from Ian Birrell, a British political speechwriter who gave his opinions on Brexit and Trump in his Feb. 19 Tuesday Opinion essay, former first lady, senator and secretary of state Hillary Clinton is “a Democrat who epitomized Washington cronyism” [“Which is worse: Brexit or Trump?”].

Has Birrell been listening to fake news? Perhaps he has never heard about Russian influence in the election. There must be some explanation. Birrell’s words were insulting, unjustified, inaccurate and gratuitously dismissive.

Rose Rosetree, Sterling