This week’s “Free for All” letters.

He'll be the judge of ageism

At 90, I think I’m a better judge than Meg Ogea of whether it was “irresponsible” of Richard Cohen to describe in his March 19 op-ed former vice president Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as “too old” to run for president, as Ogea claimed in her March 30 Free for All letter, “Enough with the ageism.” Even if one is in full command of his or her mental faculties, energies flag in the 80s, and stress takes its toll.

I like Biden quite a bit, Sanders less so. But I consider it quite legitimate to question whether a candidate is too old to serve. The late president Ronald Reagan, younger when first elected than Biden and Sanders are now, faded significantly in his eight years in the White House. The current occupant at 72 isn’t exactly a model of intellectual vigor or curiosity.

Though individual exceptions occur, I can testify from personal experience that age matters quite a lot.

Norman Gelman, Potomac

Six questions that could save a life

The March 26 Politics & the Nation article “Parkland again in mourning after two apparent suicides,” about two recent deaths in Parkland, Fla., omitted a central piece of information. The article said, immediately following the second apparent suicide, school officials, community leaders and six parents who lost children in the massacre came up with “a list of six questions that parents can ask their children every day about mental health and suicidal thinking.” It is to be part of a campaign called “Just ask, and just listen.” Nowhere was that list of six questions. Why not? To this reader, it was an inexplicable omission. 

Maureen Shea, Washington


A tardigrade of the class Heterotardigrada. (William Miller/AP)
Tough as a micro-critter

The March 26 Health & Science article “These micro-critters are amazing survivors. Are there lessons for humans?,” reported on creatures called tardigrades being exposed to the cold vacuum of space. “If you were put into that same thing, you would explode,” said biologist Randy Miller.

Really? A human being exposed to the vacuum of space would explode? Nonsense. This point was argued more than 50 years ago between science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke and science fiction magazine editor John W. Campbell Jr., the latter arguing for an explosive decompression. Clarke got the last laugh in the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Think about it: The pressure differential is only 14 pounds per square inch. Humans have endured much greater differentials. A man working on a tunnel under New York’s East River early in the 20th century was blown up through the silt bed in a waterspout — and survived. He experienced a decompression of greater than 30 pounds per square inch. He did not explode.

Ted White, Falls Church

Lodged, then logged

Regarding the March 24 Metro article “D.C. pothole troubles deepen as complaints pile up”:

Unless D.C. residents keep an account of pothole complaints, I believe about 20,000 of these were “lodged” rather than “logged” over the past five years.

Susanne Lazanov, Fredericksburg


Fred Malek at RFK stadium in 1998. (Juana Arias/The Washington Post)
Tip your Nationals cap to this D.C. baseball champion

Regarding the March 27 obituary for Fred Malek, “Role in Nixon’s ‘Jewish cabal’ crusade shadowed executive”:

Baseball season is upon us, and I hope all Washington Nationals fans will take a moment to celebrate the life of Fred Malek. Without him, Jeff Zients and the rest of the Washington Baseball Club, Washingtonians would still be doing the seventh-inning stretch in our living rooms or at Camden Yards in Baltimore, not at Nationals Park. 

In 1999, Malek hired me to be executive director of the Washington Baseball Club. Back then, the mere mention of bringing baseball back to the District brought guffaws. How could I blame the accusers? The District had already lost two Major League Baseball teams (to Texas and Minnesota), and notoriously litigious lawyer Peter Angelos owned the Baltimore Orioles just 35 miles away.  

Despite the odds, we battled major headwinds and spent six years and more than $6 million to convince MLB, the media and the public that the third time would be the charm. In September 2004, MLB rightfully anointed the District as the new home of the Montreal Expos. We worked closely with then-Mayor Anthony A. Williams, the D.C. Council and the D.C. Sports & Entertainment Commission to make the case with site and demographic studies, a publicly financed ballpark plan and public rallies. During those six years, no one else lifted a finger or put a single dime into the effort.

Why did Malek and the other members of the WBC take on this challenge? Did we want to be owners? No doubt. But we always saw this quest as a doubleheader. First, let’s get a team for our hometown. Second, let’s operate a franchise that celebrates the rich history of the Homestead Grays and the Washington Senators and revives baseball in the city. 

If you go to a Nationals game this year, I hope you’ll raise your cap to Malek and the rest of the Washington Baseball Club. Without them, there would be no Curly W.

Winston Bao Lord, Washington

Fred Malek was a wonderful man in every regard: a veteran, an outstanding businessman and a dedicated public servant, generous philanthropist and loving family man.

What a shame that the obituary of his distinguished life featured an unfortunate episode involving the Bureau of Labor Statistics when Malek served during the Nixon administration. That aberrational matter did not warrant such attention.

Stephen Ornstein, Washington

Despite Fred Malek’s lifetime of contributions and achievements, including military service in Vietnam, business, philanthropy, public service and nonprofit leadership, his March 27 obituary chose to besmirch his memory and legacy by emphasizing — out of all reasonable proportion — one unfortunate mistake he made five decades ago. Whereas his “Role in Nixon’s ‘Jewish cabal’ ” was noted in large type below his photograph, his work with the America-Israel Friendship League and his award from the Anti-Defamation League were referred to only at the end.

Not mentioned in the obituary were Malek’s tremendous pride in and service to his Czech heritage. As chairman of American Friends of the Czech Republic, beginning in 2000, he invigorated Czech-U.S. relations, raised the funds to rebuild the Woodrow Wilson Monument in Prague and led the rebuilding of the community gymnasium in the Czech-heritage town of West, Tex., after the disastrous industrial explosion there in 2013. He was honored in November with the Vaclav Havel Award for the Advancement of Civil Society, which was presented by former U.S. secretary of state Madeleine K. Albright.

We who knew and admired Malek can only wonder what was The Post’s agenda.

Robert W. Doubek, Washington

Phillip M. Kasik, Alexandria

The writers are founders of American Friends of the Czech Republic


Tacos at Hyattsville’s Tqueria La Placita. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)
This taco review gave a reader indigestion

The headline on Tim Carman’s March 29 Weekend column, “10 tacos that will leave you stuffed,” raised my hopes that it would help me find good tacos locally. Imagine my dismay when I was confronted by virtue signaling and moral judgments.

He asked whether readers would drive out of their way for a “good taco,” and, after admitting he sees “inherent bias buried in the inquiry itself,” he answered: If you aren’t willing to go out of your way, you are obviously prejudiced against doing so because of your “casual racism.” Offering other excuses is only a ploy of “the privileged” to “justify their disregard for a cuisine.”

If I decide eating good tacos can be accomplished by patronizing a vendor closer to my home than another, strictly on grounds of personal convenience, how is that “racism”? My more convenient choice is almost certainly of the same ethnicity as the less convenient one. Carman’s scolding aroused criticism from many readers, as it should have. He should examine the “inherent bias” in his own message.

R.J. Friedman Jr., South Riding

As chaos spiraled in Charlottesville

I take issue with the way the deadly Charlottesville riots were described in the March 28 Metro article “Man pleads guilty to hate crimes in Charlottesville car attack,” about the hate-crime guilty plea by the neo-Nazi who plowed through a group of peaceful protesters. After referring to the violent clashes, the article said, “Police eventually dispersed the groups.”

No one should ever forget that the Charlottesville Police Department and the Virginia State Police allowed mayhem to spiral in the streets before their eyes for several hours before making any attempt to disperse the groups. After allowing hours of violence to ensue unchecked, further incompetent policework allowed the street where Heather Heyer was murdered and peaceful protesters maimed to be open to this murderous individual when all side streets to the downtown mall were supposed to be closed to traffic. Please do not elide these facts.

The events of that terrible weekend are forever seared in the minds of those who witnessed them, and they have damaged beyond repair my own belief in the utility of local democratic governance.

Cathy Clary, Afton, Va.


Robert S. Mueller III walks to his car after attending church services in Washington on March 24. (Cliff Owen/AP)
Mueller: The blank screen onto which we all project

I enjoyed Robin Givhan’s March 26 Critic’s Notebook, “Robert Mueller and the look of blessed relief ” [Style]. It’s good to hear that special counsel Robert S. Mueller III can finally relax.

But the piece said Mueller’s looking tired was “also, perhaps, a bit of emotional transference. Mueller seemed fatigued because we were exhausted.” The idea was that we projected our feelings of fatigue into him. The defense mechanism involved was “projection,” when one unconsciously projects one’s feelings onto another. “Transference” is not a defense mechanism but when the patient unconsciously experiences the female or male therapist as mother or father. The unconscious feelings of transference can be positive or negative. Positive and negative transference are almost always discussed as occurring in a therapeutic relationship but can occur in any relationship.

In the case of Mueller, positive transference would be when someone unconsciously attributes to him positive qualities such as generosity that are not evident in Mueller’s behavior.

Steve Harvith, Rockville

Roseanne: From 'rebel' to 'victim'

The March 24 Arts & Style profile of Roseanne Barr, “Roseanne Barr won’t give it a rest,” neglected to comment on what to me is the only interesting and telling element of the entire ugly saga. That is the glaring disconnect between the actual content of the rebooted “Roseanne” and the tweets sent out by Barr.

What does it say about modern Trumpite “conservatism” that it is unable to directly articulate its views of society in actual artistic content and instead relies on a passive-aggressive strategy of trying to bait liberals into reacting to meta-commentary on platforms such as Twitter?

Why is it that Barr apparently never even attempted to insert actual Trumpian tropes into the show itself? Why did she never attempt to show Mexican rapists or “paid protesters” or pizza pedophiles on screen? I suggest it is because even she knows that these lunatic fantasies are so empty that they cannot ever be directly presented, that their entire role is to remain coyly hidden and serve their purpose of marking Barr first as a “rebel” and then as a “victim.”

In a way, this vacuous dance is more repulsive than the old-style propagandists who directly presented their poisonous beliefs within their art.

Shonin Anacker, Mount Rainier

'Gripes' doesn't cut it

Trump continues Puerto Rico gripes” [news, March 27] was the headline on an article when Puerto Rico is dealing with the aftermath — still — of a devastating hurricane? With no help from an uncaring and indifferent person in the White House. Gripes?

Susanne Clawson, Silver Spring

Inquiring for Miss Manners, gently

A Gentle Reader has found Miss Manners’ columns sometimes missing from the paper and hopes she is not in poor health. Some word on her whereabouts or when we might see her column again would relieve our worry. 

Anne McKeithen, Charlottesville


Maryland’s Taylor Mikesell shoots in the Terps’ NCAA Tournament first-round win over the Radford Highlanders. (Katherine Frey/The Washington Post)
Overwhelmed, uncovered

I was aghast and deeply disappointed on March 24 when reading the Sports section to see news about the Maryland men’s basketball team’s loss, “Cries of March,” totally overpower and dominate the adjacent article about the Maryland women’s team’s victory, “Mikesell digs deep as Terps win opener.” Let’s be clear about the message The Post was reinforcing so blatantly: The men, who lost to a team that was ranked higher in its NCAA Tournament bracket, got 85 percent of the above-the-fold space, while the women won their game and got 15 percent. As a father and coach of two young girls, I was left to explain to my daughters why the overwhelming and continued success of Maryland’s women was so overwhelmed by the men’s loss.

Justin Pollock, Washington

Spotlight issues, not politics

A subheadline on the March 27 front-page article “Health-care issue thrust back into political spotlight” read, “Democrats see opportunity in Trump’s new focus.” Repealing the Affordable Care Act would affect people, and President Trump has no alternative to propose. Please focus on issues and substance, not “all politics all the time,” which I am weary of, as are many people.

The potential ramifications of eliminating the ACA were not mentioned until close to the end of the article. In the past few years, too many headlines in The Post have followed this trend, even declaring a “win” for one politician or another, when in fact it is the American people who generally lose at the hands of our elected political leaders.  

Lisa Reilly, Silver Spring

What's the point of Brexit? Really.

Regarding the March 29 news article “On day Britain was supposed to leave the E.U., it will still be debating how”:

The reports about the Brexit “plan” do not inform readers what purpose such a plan hopes to accomplish. For a while going forward, please inform us with each new Brexit plan article so we can understand better.

Jan Polissar, Bethesda