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.


People celebrate Labor Day on the Potomac River in Washington on Sept. 2. (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

Think this looks cool? Think again.

The Sept. 4 Metro photograph of folks enjoying a boat ride on the Potomac River unfortunately showed passengers riding on the bow deck while underway. Most authoritative boating organizations highly discourage this practice as a safety risk. 

Striking an oncoming wake or making an emergency maneuver can toss these unsecured passengers into the water ahead of the vessel, potentially to be run over by both hull and propeller. The bow deck of most pleasure boats is slick fiberglass with only gunwale rails for security. 

A serene scene with the potential for disaster. The Coast Guard offers power-boating courses that every pleasure-boat owner should pass.

Derek T. Havens, Mason Neck

While in Tallinn . . .

I could not believe that Liza Weisstuch did not mention in her Sept. 1 Travel article on Estonia, “For Nordic charm across the Baltic Sea, try Tallinn,” Kadriorg Palace, Catherine I’s palace built for her by Peter the Great. It is such a lovely place, full of history, with absolutely beautiful gardens and great views of Tallinn. Travelers should not miss visiting that great landmark.

Luz Comfort, Woodbridge

Don't whitewash Jim Crow

Talk about euphemisms. The Sept. 1 obituary for Baxter Leach, “Organizer in ’68 strike that drew King to Memphis,” said, “Workers mobilized after two colleagues were killed by a malfunctioning garbage truck.” Fact: Robert Walker and Echol Cole were crushed to death when they took refuge from pouring rain in the back of an antiquated garbage truck because Memphis Mayor Henry Loeb refused to take such trucks out of service. Is this just another piece of Jim Crow history being lost over time?

Christine Gregory, Arlington


Novak Djokovic serves against Stan Wawrinka during the 2019 U.S. Open in New York on Sept. 1. (Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images)

Why the love is lacking

Doubtless many tennis fans echo Chuck Culpepper’s sentiment in his On Tennis column about Novak Djokovic [ “Where on Earth is the love for Djokovic?,” Sports, Sept. 1], but his essay lacked balance. Culpepper noted Roger Federer’s “beauty and grace” and Rafael Nadal’s muscle and grit, but he neglected to include Djokovic’s racket-smashing, childish tirades and obnoxious shirt-ripping.

We longtime fans will never forget Djokovic’s on-court parodies of other players, which he wisely parted with, at least publicly. He has appreciably mellowed a bit with family and more maturity on court. Yet to many of us, he is still an adolescent waiting to graduate. Look at Nick Kyrgios, who may eventually win a Grand Slam or two, but will be remembered as a shallow attention-seeker.

Character and sportsmanship endure. Even if Djokovic ends up winning the most Grand Slams, he will never be first in most fans’ hearts.  

Jason Anderson, Washington

Excellence matters

A Yale professor frets about a waning aristocracy,” Michael S. Roth’s Aug. 25 Book World review of Anthony Kronman’s “The Assault on American Excellence,” dismissed the notion that the university has a distinct role in our civilization: a creative and powerful force for shaping our future. In his disdain for “embracing aristocracy” to “separate out superior individuals,” Roth dismissed the experience of centuries, if not eons, of universities being among the proven best creative and powerful forces for shaping our future.

Universities, along with research laboratories, research hospitals and the like, try their best to prepare students to devote their lives to causes greater than themselves. Something about these “beautiful souls” distressed Roth. Ridicule them if it serves your purpose — but that is choosing egalitarianism over excellence. Here’s to our future if Roth has his way.

John E. Mansfield, Ashburn

The Wright place to bowl

The wonderful Aug. 31 House of the Week article about a house in Alexandria owned by Ken and Judie Elder, “A 1939 home that never stops being modern ” [Real Estate], noted that, although it was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, it could not have been designed by him because it has a basement, which Wright never permitted. On the contrary. Wright’s Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Ill., not only has a basement, but Wright also put a bowling alley in it.

Martin Klest, Oak Park, Ill.

Priceless scholarship

Kudos for the Sept. 1 Metro article on the Valley Scholars program at James Madison University [“ ‘Our dream is actually coming true’ ”]. I’m impressed that the university recognized the need in the Shenandoah Valley and is providing a path for young people who might not make it to college otherwise.

The article made the experience real by profiling several students. My entire professional life was in education: teacher, school counselor and college professor, always an advocate for young people, so I was particularly gratified to read this inspiring story.

Barbara Sutton, Kensington


A reader wants to remove this ink stain, caused by a wet newspaper bag, from their floor. (Reader photo)

That stubborn Washington Post

I read with interest the Aug. 29 Local Living “How to” column about removing ink stains from a Post newspaper bag from a wood floor, “A stubborn Washington Post logo won’t budge from a wood floor.” This is because we have several ink stains from wet Post bags on our dining room table.

I’m not sure why the ink is needed at all. The vast majority of people who look closely at the bags are readers who are already subscribers. I’d encourage The Post to switch to plain bags for its papers. It would save The Post money and save the floors and tables of subscribers.

Stacy E. Beck, Washington

Not all ideas deserve a public airing

I read with great interest the Sept. 1 Outlook essays by Eve Fairbanks, “The ‘reasonable’ rebels,” and Donna Zuckerberg, “It’s presumptuous — and often sexist — to demand that someone ‘debate’ you.” I flashed back to an argument with my college boyfriend: He was always more agile than I during oral discussions, and, frustrated, I told him that just because he could rationalize faster, that didn’t make him right (not in the political sense). He actually paused before launching into his next point. 

That’s how I feel about online debates: They are more about scoring points and proving superiority than actually examining the truth of the issue or considering justice or fairness. It’s how I feel about rhetoric, stoic debates and using quotes by classic philosophers to support one’s position: They’re all artificial constructs people can play with to defend indefensible positions. 

I believe in the use of logic and reason to discuss and decide possible solutions to social problems. However, it is wrong to posit that all beliefs or all points of view are valid, that they all deserve a hearing. For many years, the media would trot out talking heads for all sides of the climate debate until many news organizations realized they were giving legitimacy to the “It’s not happening” side. I think the same thing is happening with the right. Just because some conservatives are not white nationalists, that should not mean they have to defend the ones who are. Not all ideas have a right to be heard in a public forum. Conservatives have to separate their issues, and they have to disavow those groups that are on the wrong side of justice and history.

Leslie Backus, Silver Spring

The perfect storm coverage

While reading The Post’s excellent and comprehensive coverage of Hurricane Dorian, I was reminded again of how much I appreciate its expert reporters dedicated to weather coverage.

Because I live in Raleigh, N.C., I am only occasionally directly affected by severe weather. However, I have family in New Bern, N.C., Wilmington, N.C., and Miami, so I follow many weather events closely.

Thanks for spending the time and resources on this important beat.

LaRhe Spell, Raleigh, N.C.

A scandal in the making

Regarding the Sept. 3 front-page article “W.Va. scandal muddies legacy of Vatican’s fixer”:

The Post provided a service to the Roman Catholic Church with investigative journalism of the institution’s behavior. Such analysis would not be allowed in bishop-controlled Catholic media.

While the hierarchy may not desire transparency, Catholics do.

One serious issue overlooked by The Post is Archbishop William Lori withholding $3,000 as “compensation related to two special Masses.” This appears to be simony, which is covered extensively by centuries of canon law. It is a most grievous offense. Simony is the act of receiving something temporal (money) for something spiritual (Mass). While a stipend is allowed, it is determined by canonical statutes and usually something minimal, such as $10. If Lori said it was a “gift” and not “compensation,” he might skirt canon law. But even that perception violates the spirit of canon law. Consequences for simony are severe, including removal from office. Dante consigned Boniface VIII to hell for simony.

Committed Catholics need to contact their bishop and the papal nuncio. Ignoring canon law regarding clerical sexual abuse led to the current lack of confidence in the institution. Simony is another nail in its coffin.

Emmett Coyne, Ocala, Fla.

The writer is a retired Catholic priest.

McConnell's cynical use of McCarthyism

Dana Milbank rightly chastised Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for complaining that calling him “Moscow Mitch” was “modern-day McCarthyism” [“A new McConnell moniker: Muzzle Mitch,” Thursday Opinion, Sept. 5]. But Milbank’s tepid definition of “McCarthyism” wasted an opportunity to call out McConnell for his utter cynicism in making the charge.

McCarthyism is more than a kind of defamation using indiscriminate and unsubstantiated charges. It is the organized government-based attack on innocent citizens using baseless allegations of unpatriotic behavior or sympathies. Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R-Wis.), aided by the likes of Roy Cohn, was responsible for dozens of innocent Americans losing their jobs and careers at the height of the Red Scare.

And not all of those victims were well-known Hollywood writers and such. Many, such as my father and his civil service co-workers for the Army Signal Corps at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, after helping develop the radar systems that aided the Allies’ victory in World War II, found themselves summarily fired as “security risks,” mainly because they were (mostly) New York Jews who had gone to City College of New York. Although they ultimately prevailed in their suits for wrongful dismissal, they were hard-pressed to defend themselves and bore the brunt of the full weight of the U.S. government’s questioning of their patriotism.

It’s a shame Milbank didn’t point out how cynical and hypocritical it is for a U.S. senator — the majority leader at that — who is well able to defend himself against media commentators to try to put himself in that group of loyal Americans.

Daniel P. Ducore, Silver Spring

A free-speech threat remains

The Aug. 31 The World article “In Poland, a WWII issue that remains unresolved” referred to the “Holocaust bill” in a critically misleading manner. It was incorrect to characterize the legislation as abandoned. Rather, falsely accusing Poles of crimes perpetrated by the Nazis was downgraded from a criminal offense to a civil offense that can be tried in civil courts. The law continues to threaten freedom of speech and publication of academic research and discourse.

Melissa Urofsky, Bethesda

We'll call this experience

The Sept. 2 editorial “Our labor debate is rife with hypocrisy” began with this sentence: “A cynic, says a character in one of Oscar Wilde’s novels, is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” As quoted, this is a line from one of Wilde’s plays, “Lady Windermere’s Fan.” There is a similar line in Wilde’s one novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray.”

Deborah Odell, Alexandria

Japan can still learn from its brutal past

The Aug. 28 obituary for Jan Ruff-O’Herne, “Sought dignity, recognition of abuse of fellow ‘comfort women’ of WWII,” reminded us that the Japanese government has never fully apologized for its actions during World War II.

The 1937 Rape of Nanking was followed by similar atrocities across Asia, including in Indonesia and the Philippines. Hundreds of thousands of women and girls were used as sex slaves; millions were enslaved by the Japanese army; and hundreds of thousands died from overwork and malnutrition. The death rate of Japanese-held prisoners of war was eight times greater than those in German hands.

Recently, a report stated that in 1952, Emperor Hirohito was stopped from apologizing for his role in World War II. Had he issued that apology, it would have been only to the Japanese for allowing them to be led into war, not to the millions who suffered at the hands of his army.

The Nazis committed even more atrocities. However, successive German governments have apologized, admitted guilt, educated their children about the sins of their forefathers and paid billions in reparations.

Although it’s nearly too late for Japan to apologize to the few surviving victims, it is not too late for Japan to teach future generations about the crimes of its “greatest generation,” so those crimes aren’t repeated.

Paul L. Newman, Merion Station, Pa.