This week’s “Free for All” letters.


Items on the REsolute Desk where President Trump works in the Oval Office of the White House. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Trump's big, red, horizontally viewed button

The picture of the Resolute Desk in “The Year in Photos” [Dec. 5] showed a pair of phones, a glass of soda and a nondescript wooden box featuring the presidential seal — and a red button. The caption helpfully identified the glass of soda but showed a distinct lack of priority and curiosity about that button. 

Thomas M. Sneeringer, Washington

Kudos to the staff and wire photographers and the photo editors whose superlative work was displayed in The Post’s annual “Year in Photos.” As the eyes of the newspaper’s readers, they bring stories both big and small to life every day. Jabin Botsford particularly served the readers well this year with his coverage of the Trump presidency and national disasters.

One observation from a longtime photojournalist/photo editor: For at least the second year in a row, all of the photographs were horizontal in format. Have the Internet’s design constraints killed the vertical, or are today’s digital cameras not capable of functioning when turned sideways?

Jym Wilson, Washington

Never say forever

I was nonplussed by some of the nomenclature in the Dec. 3 front-page article “Trade terrain forever changed” regarding U.S.-China trade relations. The subheadline further explained that the “U.S.-China relationship has irrevocably shifted.” In the first paragraph, the article again stated that “the economic relationship” between the two countries “has been permanently altered.” Really? 

As one songwriter wrote, “forever is a long time.” Let us think one second more about these statements. Forget these two particular countries; all countries are dynamic and therefore obviously not static. Then, let’s contemplate relations between two countries; they are also dynamic. Within my lifetime, the United States went from being an enemy of the hermetically sealed China to opening the door to China to trading with China to again, for different reasons, being threatened by China. President Trump will not always lead this country. Neither will Xi Jinping always lead China.

As Lord Palmerston observed in the 19th century, “it is a narrow policy to suppose that this country or that is to be marked out as the eternal ally or the perpetual enemy of England. We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” Or stated another way, nothing lasts forever. The language used in this article was unnecessarily hyperbolic.

Marc Chafetz, Washington

Take note

The Dec. 1 Metro article “The conversation starter” about Lily Qi was informative. I would add that in 2007, she was president of the Greater Washington Chapter of the Organization of Chinese Americans. In spring 2007, Qi ran a retreat of perhaps 20 officers and board members, including me. I recall that she spoke for four or five hours with a page or two of notes. Qi clearly showed that she owns a highly disciplined mind. I expect that mind will now produce interesting results in the Maryland House of Delegates. 

Wilbur H. Friedman, Rockville

'Elderly' is antiquated

Regarding the Dec. 1 Metro article “Elderly woman killed while crossing street”:

Dona Cicy H. Amarasekara was only 74 and worked as a nanny. That’s hardly what I would consider elderly. My mother is 87 years old and has the social life of a teenager. It’s time to retire the word “elderly.”

Cara Hannan, Winchester


From the Dec. 1 “Mark Trail” (James Allen/North America syndicate)
'Mark Trail' brings the world together

“Mark Trail” often offers many realistic drawings of animals even though the story tends to be agonizingly long and slow in its development. But the Dec. 1 strip either featured an animal escaped from a zoo or else the continents have drifted together without our notice. 

As Mark’s vehicle sped through the jungle at speeds that probably exceeded safe limits for the bumpy road, it flushed out a howler monkey (native to South and Central America) along with a Malayan tapir, native to Southeast Asia and characterized by the white body shown in the panel. The tapirs (a relative of horses and rhinos) native to Central and South America, such as the Brazilian, Baird’s or mountain species, are all mono-colored. That Malayan tapir must have taken a long plane ride to get on that trail, Mark.

Frank Kohn, Fairfax

Let the miracle endure

Wow! Seeing an op-ed by Charles Krauthammer seemed like old times [“The enduring miracle of the American Constitution,” op-ed, Nov. 30]. I miss his keen insight and prose. When reading him, I felt like I was getting my money’s worth out of my Post subscription. Would The Post print more of his timeless masterpieces? 

Jerry Laffey, Manassas


Trees line the East Colonnade during the White House Christmas preview in the East Wing of the White House on Nov. 26, 2018. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
Ocean Spray, not Type A

I found Alexandra Petri’s Dec. 1 op-ed, “You are in Melania Trump’s nightmare forest. Keep to the path,” offensive, petty and hateful. It is clear that she despises the Trumps and that they can do nothing right. But to make fun of the name “Be Best,” Melania Trump’s anti-bullying initiative, was beyond contemptible.

My father-in-law was an immigrant and a brilliant engineer who spoke four languages and lived in the United States for more than 60 years, yet he did not always use English syntax correctly. Melania Trump is a wonderful example of an immigrant success story. She was a success long before she met President Trump. She is beautiful, talented and very intelligent. The media makes fun of her, her accent, her clothes and everything else. No wonder she rarely makes public appearances. I wouldn’t if I knew I would be attacked just for being out in public. No other first lady has been subjected to such ridicule.

By the way, my friend volunteers at the White House and has seen the cranberry (red) trees. She says they are gorgeous and cranberry red, not the dark (blood) red that is showing up in the pictures printed in newspapers. She sent me a couple of pictures she took, and they are beautiful. And the hall they are in? It is bright and cheerful.

Marie Miller, Centreville

Working-class heroes of all colors

The Dec. 4 Style article “Mr. Rose goes to Washington,” about Rep.-elect Max Rose (D-N.Y.), said “moderates from the red part of the map are trying to persuade the party to focus on the ‘working class’ ” (inexplicably in quotes), then followed up with an aside that managed to be naive and cynical: “(read: white).”

The Democratic Party has at least a 75-year history of standing for the working class as exemplified by being pro-union, pro-workplace safety, pro-Social Security, pro-Medicare and, more directly, being willing to put limits on the political control by the extremely wealthy through limits on election contributions — now gutted. These stances help all ordinary working people whether they are white, black, Hispanic or from any other group. After the civil rights movement, the failure of the Democratic Party to remind people that we are all in this together played a big part in the defection of working-class white Americans from the coalition and into the arms of the very wealthy.

To foolishly think that acting for the working class is somehow giving white people special attention is to forget that minorities are disproportionately working-class. Does The Post think that people of different races can never band together? It’s time for The Post to drop its reflexive cynicism and remember that sometimes economic issues can transcend race.

Spencer Hines, Germantown

One click won't move 18 wheels

Regarding the Dec. 2 Business article “An innovative way to gauge invention”:

It is hard to understand what kind of algorithm would rank the invention of one-click buying over the invention of the lightbulb or telephone. The diesel engine — technology patented in 1895 that drove much of the Second Industrial Revolution and is still the prime mover for more than 15 sectors of the global economy — didn’t make the cut, either. Go figure.

Allen Schaeffer, Frederick

The writer is executive director of the Diesel Technology Forum.

Geppetto has a lot of work ahead of him

The Dec. 2 Fact Checker article, “Do the Trump tax cuts give 83% of the benefits to the wealthiest 1%?,” focused on a congressman’s argument that 83 percent of the benefits of the GOP’s tax cuts went to the wealthiest 1 percent. The Fact Checker said that statement would be true only if Congress didn’t renew middle-class tax cuts in the future.

This analysis ignored the fact that Rep. David N. Cicilline’s (D-R.I.) statements are much closer to economic reality than journalist Maria Bartiromo’s rejoinder that “the tax cut plan lowered all income levels.” What nonsense. An across-the-board cut in tax brackets might produce a “tax savings” of a few hundred dollars for most taxpayers and hundreds of thousands of dollars for top-tier taxpayers.

In addition, lowering corporate taxes, curtailing the alternative minimum tax and reducing estate taxes produced major additional benefits for the upper tier of taxpayers. In both the short run and over the years, these extra dollars help the upper-tier taxpayers accumulate more of the country’s income-producing assets, widening the economic divide between the top tiers and the rest of us. Cicilline’s percentages might be overstated, but they are much closer to reality than the fiction that the tax plan benefits us all equally.

Three Pinocchios for the Fact Checker.

Steve Schoen, North Bethesda


Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) in St. Paul (Hannah Foslien/AP)
Leave the insults to the president

How clever, cute — and inappropriate — Dana Milbank was in assigning Trump-like pejorative characteristics to many Democrats mentioned as potential presidential candidates [“The 2020 field: An exercise in name-dropping,” Sunday Opinion, Dec. 2]. While I’m almost certain his tongue was firmly planted in his cheek as he wrote that column, I believe he took the Trumpian low road in labeling and stereotyping public figures with insults such as “boring,” “combative,” “showboat,” suffering from “overexposure,” having a “lack of toughness,” not being “the person you’d want to have a beer with,” “retread,” having a name that “makes everybody giggle,” etc. That’s lots of easy fodder for President Trump as he cynically incites his waning political base.

I’d much prefer a serious assessment of the “good stuff” each would-be candidate might bring to us. I want to know if the candidate is knowledgeable about American history, our Constitution and the practical roles of government at all levels. I want to feel that he or she understands the potential value and goodness of human beings and has respect for their basic needs. I also would like the candidate to remain calm in the face of crises and criticisms. A strategic worldview also would be nice, as well as the ability to keep ego in check.

Right now, based on my observations, I’d vote for several individuals on Milbank’s list. And I’d cheer a presidential election ticket of Rep. Adam B. Schiff (Calif.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), with either of these clear-thinking, articulate and pleasant people at the top of the ticket.

Ed Nanas, Reston

'Doonesbury' divides

The Dec. 2 “Doonesbury” cartoon calling Supreme Court Justices Brett M. Kavanaugh and Clarence Thomas “perjuring sex offenders” was contemptible. Fact: There was no conviction except in the fevered imaginations of activists and journalists shouting “Guilty, guilty” from the rooftops despite the proven sterling characters of the judges and no corroborating evidence.

Mary Kay Stine, Reston

Do you know what a 'macher' is?

I wonder if the majority of the readers of the otherwise fascinating Dec. 2 front-page article “How Manafort and Stone helped spawn Trump’s white whale” know what a macher is. Moreover, it’s hard to imagine a stalwart Connecticut Republican (i.e., white gentile) ever being called a macher. Fixer or dealmaker, maybe, but a Yiddish moniker? Probably not.

Diana Wahl, Arlington