391 Comments

Re: the NYTimes article: HCR, it is time to own your importance in the international discourse on the state of the world and its historical context. But I admit I am not congratulating you on the article, because it is far less than you deserve, especially since the author, Ben Smith, is clearly not well versed in historical writing and cannot be bothered to treat what is happening on these pages of your newsletter and comments as a significant turning point. Snarky remarks about 58-year-old women are designed to undercut the relevance and innovation of this community--because as we all know, "old" women (sigh) are useful only as Golden Girls caricatures. Clearly Benny isn't aware that some of the most incisive minds in public today--Rebecca Solnit, Elizabeth Warren, our own HCR among them--are women over 50 (as is Kamala Harris, although she has not yet hit that "magic" number of 58). The little lad just thinks that it is amusing to undermine what HCR is saying by stating that he lives "today" on Twitter and doesn't understand how important historical context is (or, indeed, that the adjective 19th-century is supposed to be hyphenated, although the Times copyeditors should know this) in understanding the tipping point we are experiencing today. The nineteenth century is the era that has shaped us all, and we continue to interrogate and debate its ethics, its visions of the world, its crimes. Failure to understand that means a failure to understand why we have to acknowledge, apologize, and change.

What HCR deserves is a serious journalist in the Times producing a major Sunday Magazine-cover-quality interview and essay (repeated in all the important outlets), not some mimsy little media columnist with mommy issues (sorry I can't resist) saying "wow, an 'older' woman with a public internet following: who'd a thunk it?". Give me strength.

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What I'd like to see is Heather's Letters from an American and her video histories in a collection at the Library of Congress.

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There are three things I follow daily:

1) HCR's Letters From an American;

2) Kiser's "What the F**ck Just Happened Today?"

3) Siskind's "The Weekly List."

The combination of these makes for a fairly accurate lens with which to view both the short- and long-term effects of governmental activity, and how it affects us all.

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I also follow and subscribe to Dan Rather’s, News and Guts.

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I love PBS Nightly News. It's all I actually watch newswise, that is. Thanks for the ideas of other reading sources!

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Agreed!

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I discovered this newsletter in the Times article, so credit where credit is due., I suppose. Ironically, it was Mr. Smith's admission that he rarely opens the newsletter and "lives on Twitter where yesterday is old news." that prompted my immediate subscription. This 64-year-old female (yes, I fit the profile) has come to understand the value of context. Without it, people feel panicky and powerless, a poor foundation for purposeful citizenship. Thank you, Dr. Richardson. I've been searching for you.

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Thank you for the great review, Linda. Ben showed us that he is a member in good standing of the patriarchy. And a twit.

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Quite!

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I agree. Professor Richardson's rank and importance is very high and should have high quality journalism written about her both to honor her and to inform the wider public.

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Your comment made me laugh, but then I read the article again. I think it's pretty good. I like the last bit, where Bill Moyes good-naturedly chastises the author: "You live in a world of thunderstorms, and she watches the waves come in."

And FYI, for anyone who has not seen it, here is a link to Moyers' podcast of December 10, "Democracy on the Edge," in which he interviews Heather together with lawyer Steven Harper about threats to democracy: https://billmoyers.com/story/podcast-democracy-on-the-edge-cox-richardson/

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Thanks for the link. It was/is a good discussion.

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Damn, Linda! Yaaaassss to everything you said! Nailed it!

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I was not as offended by this article but for a writer who is somehow so established, he kind of phoned it in. Something I am sick of is bad newspaper writing and lack of proper editing. Here's my comment on the NYT page: "Really? You are a writer who wrote a whole article, and expects people to stop and read the whole thing, and you "rarely open" HCR's newsletter and read it while doing research on said topic? And the "letters" are much shorter than any NYT article. Hey NYT, maybe you should hire a writer who reads. Unbelievable. Newsflash Mr Smith, I read your WHOLE article, also read HCR's newsletter daily, also interact on social media, work in media arts, AND I'M UNDER 58 years old."

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Brava, Jennifer.

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Jennifer, you are fab!

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Way to go.

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I agree - "living on Twitter" indeed is nothing to brag about - especially coming after the statement that he even tho he gets HCR's letters in his inbox - wrote this "article" without even reading one! Seems to me anyone who claims to be a reporter would do his research and not put his own inaccurate theories into his writing!

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Sorry one too many "he"!!

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I wrote him an email telling him to make time to read the letter. Especially with his nose up in the BS on Twitter. I cannot believe he can't pull himself away from Twitter to read what typically takes me 15 minutes and gives me more info than most NYTimes articles. He did get some things correct. I have to agree with you (Linda) that he put a bit too much focus on the audience (women) for these letters. I also pointed out to him that HCR made significant a contribution to Stacey Abrams' new book about voter suppression. I'm a 48 year old male in NYC and ive told anyone I know who can read and has a brain to get with the program and read thus letter daily.

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Agreed, but the question remains Is there a serious journalist remaining at the times?

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Nicely done. Even the snark is verbally elegant.

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I read the article on-line (only after reading everyone's comments--I learn so much from HCR and then a bit more from all of you), and there was a place at the end to post a comment. You may want to check back and see. Thank you for your comments and have a great day!

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I read all of the 113 (at the time) comments - there were good ones there - mainly from readers of HCR - present and future!

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I just read a bunch of comments--Linda (the other one who posts regularly): you rock!! And I am sharing my comment with you all because often the Times considers my comments too critical of their poor sensitive snowflake male columnists:

I am adding my voice to the other readers and subscribers to Dr. Richardson's Letters website. Ben, my lad, if your attention span is insufficient to read a single-page summary--with extensive sources identified and appended below--then you should consider building up your intellectual stamina to read a concise, trenchant, and eloquent statement of the doings in America every morning. Your failure to value the historical context for today's events in the face of the quick-fix minimalism of Twitter is a failure of character, I would suggest. In addition, your dismissal of Dr. Richardson and her readers as a bunch of "58-year-old women" smacks of white male privilege, and is sexist, condescending, and mean-spirited: designed to minimize the impact of the value of a finely tuned intellect. It really undermines the supposed admiration claimed in the beginning of your interview and begs the question: what are you afraid of? That you might learn something?

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Brava! My husband, who also reads the letters daily, read the NYT article and he thought the same thing about the author not being interested enough to actually open the newsletter e-mails. He agreed that was pretty pitiful.

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I love you! I didn’t have a chance to respond to the times after cleaning up ‘Christmas week without power’, and I was hoping to do so today. Perhaps I will just say, ‘what Linda said!!!’

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Brava!

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Hmmm, I wasn’t offended by the article. As a confident (most days) 67 year old woman, I roll my eyes at snark.

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I was not offended by the Times article, either. I am a 53-year-old woman and am always impressed by the discourse here! If you reread it with the thought that he is stating a fact about Heather’s subscribers, I don’t think he is insulting them or Dr Richardson. In fact, I felt complimented to be among readers who are looking for a straightforward explication of the daily news mess, and who are willing to take the time to read a rich newsletter.

I am guessing Ben Smith might have had to figure out what the average/mode/mean age and gender of Dr Richardson’s 350,000 subscribers actually is in order to have that printed. Still, I like the fire and vigilance of the comments here!

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Thank you, Jeanne. I always appreciate your comments and you said it so much better than I did. And just to be clear, no offense was intended to Linda, or any of you.

I started reading Heather on Facebook last fall, but not daily until probably February. Then subscribed here as soon as available. I am thankful for her everyday and only call her “Heather”because she has said that’s what she likes to be called. I’m also grateful that she is beginning to get the coverage that is past due.

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Cheri, your post gave me courage to disagree out loud, so to speak! I might not have posted if you hadn’t done so first. Brava

I haven’t been a member as long as many of you have. I think I may have started in April or May, but it could have been summertime or even fall and I just want to claim a longer readership. That’s why I still always refer to Heather as Dr Richardson. I think she used to be able to respond to our comments more, and I joined later than others who know she welcomes corrections and being called Heather. And then I wonder if that would still be true for those of us that are newer and part of a growing multitude of followers!

I will read the Times article again to see if I missed some veiled insults, as many here felt insulted. I wonder though, if a majority of Dr R’s followers ARE women in their 50’s, does that make her massive following less important? Does Ben Smith imply that? Maybe just by mentioning it, he does. But maybe many of us automatically feel that, as we are too used to being dismissed. I love that HCR’s Letters and her huge following were worthy of the article, that so many thoughtful men and women read her letters daily, and that Ben Smith might be one young journalist who will be persuaded to read some of her letters now, too.

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I clicked on the words Letters from an American at the top of this blog, and a drop down menu let me look at my account. I joined in late July of 2020!

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I cut and pasted the following from the NYT site. As the founding editor of BuzzFeed, I’m betting he’s considerably younger than I/us. That doesn’t mean his opinion has less value, but maybe hasn’t refined his diplomacy. 🙂

Ben Smith

Ben Smith is the media columnist. He joined The New York Times in 2020 after eight years as founding editor in chief of BuzzFeed News. Before that, he covered politics for Politico, The New York Daily News, The New York Observer and The New York Sun. Email: ben.smith@nytimes.com

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Cheri, I do so as well (as a 64 year-old woman who has spent a lifetime in academia!) because women get snarked at by men all the time. But I admit that I do get offended for others, which I suppose is obvious.

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I wasn't offended by the snark but I'm just so tired of it. As a 68-year old woman I do get tired of being lumped into a group that most people, certainly most men, have rigid preconceptions of. -Uh, not so great preconceptions. We're a cohort which is just as diverse as other ones - teenagers, young adults 18-24 ....etc. So, at this point, I no longer roll my eyes at snark but feel a need to call it out quite emphatically. It's important to not be invisible.

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I certainly don’t want to get off topic here. There’s so many more important things to be concerned with these days. Remember, we’re on the same team. I will continue to choose my battles and roll eyes if it helps my attitude.

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For me, it depends upon from the snark comes. I used to work with a much younger Native American woman who enjoyed nothing more than joking about my age (I was 64 at the time) and pretending to be amazed that I could text, take pictures with my phone and had both Facebook and Twitter accounts. She and I had a lot of fun kidding each other (I won't reveal what I kidded her about - because my own behavior at her age was no "better") and we are still connected on social media. However, when a man my own age begins to question my intelligence and abilities, I do get very hot under the collar and am likely to snap, "Don't talk to me like that! I'm not your wife," because I'm sure that's how they treat their wives. It's very refreshing to me that the younger men in my community that I've come in contact with don't have the kind of issues with older women that Ben Smith has. But I live in a fairly progressive part of my state, too, and their mothers have taught them well!

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Love this, Linda. Thank you.

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I agree 100%. Especially the “give me strength” bit.

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BTW, Heather got a nice write up today in the New York Times, and it’s terrific to see how deservedly well she is doing. It was shameful, though, at the end, when the reporter admitted he gets her Letters in his inbox, but rarely takes the time to read them—an undercutting comment he or his editor should have omitted.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/27/business/media/heather-cox-richardson-substack-boston-college.html

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Yes but i truly liked the last paragraph, thereafter.....

"When I confessed that to Mr. Moyers, he didn’t seem surprised. “You live in a world of thunderstorms,” he said, “and she watches the waves come in.”

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I think that was typically kind of Mr. Moyers. I'd have been much less tolerant.

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We can all learn a lot from the gracious style of critique Moyers has perfected.

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Beautiful.

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Was just coming to link this as well...congrats to Heather!

(and yeah wtf with that comment. Also I'm not a 58 year old woman if that matters, and neither are the dozens of people I've convinced to sign up to the best writing of 2020)

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and what about us men who are rooting with you all?

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Agree. Nobody told me that “Letters” was written for women. All along, I’ve been reading, appreciating, recommending, and delighting in this newsletter as a 70-year old man. I can’t figure out which part is not directed to me; I love it all. (And all y’all too).

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My BROTHER was 61 when he recommended her to me! He was a history buff.

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The journalist, Smith, evidently believes it is for an audience which is not he.

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Yes. I've been a regular reader and commenter since June and I never perceived any kind of "for women"motivation. I do perceive a "for history-minded people of good will" motivation. Whatever Dr. Richardson (see what I did there?) uses as a reason to share her considerable efforts on a daily basis is just fine with this sixty-five year old male.

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I was a little surprised by the quote attributed to HCR that she is writing to women. “What I am doing is speaking to women who have not necessarily been paying attention to politics, older people who had not been engaged,” Dr. Richardson said. “I’m an older woman and I’m speaking to other women about being empowered.”

Did I miss something? I've been reading the Letters daily since February and never, ever did I get the sense that the Letters were directed to one gender or another, or to a particular age group for that matter. A young man 30 years my junior recommended HCR to me.

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Betcha a nickel her reply was in answer to a question that was subsequently not mentioned. I was so excited to see an article on Heather in the NYT. Alas, I definitely detected some misogyny and journalistic envy. The reporter did several things to undercut her. It really galled me that he said she prepares dinner every night and afterwards begins to read, implying read and research the news (like she hadn't done anything else all day except prepare dinner). In fact, her articles are so well informed, unlike anyone else's, because she reads the news all day long, and sits down to WRITE after dinner. She works like a superhuman. Someone needs to write a more accurate article! Or perhaps we should write letters to the NYT editor?

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And the writer missed the context of Heather’s saying “prepare dinner.” She mentioned in last Thursday’s loosey-goosey chat that what she does for fun is cook and bake, so it’s not like a female chore.

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Very good point. Thanks.

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Plus, as 56 y/o I can say that HCR is not an older woman! These are the middle ages.....!

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BTW, how does he know the age and gender of all who subscribe?

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From the article it sounds like Heather told him that many of us are like her, female and wanting the truth, not the hype.

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I believe I am in better-than-average company here.

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(Not sarcastic! I mean it!)

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You guys are great.

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And that’s why we ALL (male, female, anyone looking for truth without drama) come to Heather. She gets rid of the noise.

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I second that!

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Seconding your second! It was a bum ending to a good write-up.

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Third time second's a charm!

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Well that does it, now I'm going to have to dig out the business section which I didn't get to today.

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Day's not over...we'll wait for you!

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I just sent an email to the author of that story. I thought the ending was arrogant and did not portray solid investigative reporting, like he could even be bothered to read a letter or two that Dr. Richardson has written.

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Ok, I'm going to show my own bias here. When I read this -Ben Smith is the media columnist. He joined The Times in 2020 after eight years as founding editor in chief of BuzzFeed News. - although I was vaguely aware of his co-founding Buzz-Feed, which, BTW, I used to read during the Bush years and fell away from, I thought, 'This points to a generational gap'.

Since the dawn of CNN, then Fox and MSNBC, we've lived in this machine-gun-delivery, 24/7 news 'cycle', with no time for nuance or context. Nuance and context aren't sexy - they're not hip, they're not photogenic!

Is it any wonder a large percentage of Americans couldn't find Iraq on a map or don't know diddly about how government is supposed to work? Between starving our public school systems and teaching to the test (and dumbing down curricula), I'm surprised most Americans can find their way home at night.

And that is the universe wherein Mr. Smith apparently cut his teeth. He may not value the depth we do because he's never really been introduced to it properly. (I know, there I go, making assumptions again.);-)

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I agree. Taking time to read, ponder, and think seems to be sadly outdated in many spheres.

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Thanks to social media and the simplistic way people ‘communicate’. Memes, likes, gifs, sound bites. No receptive or expressive skills needed. I crave good conversations after a good read.

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Agreed.

These days, not only do a lot of people not have any training in scientific or critical thinking, many of those do not even know anyone who has any training in scientific or critical thinking.

And of course they will not learn any such skills from our usual electronic sources. Incidentally, I am personally in favor of electronic news and communication, only not the kind that we are currently available to people who desperately need and deserve something far better.

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I also sent Mr. Ben Smith an email on his not-quite-perfect article.

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Great!!! I hope he realizes that you're a male reader. LOL

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I also happen to be male.

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Good for you!

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Excellent!

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Perfect!

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Excellent!

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What the writer of this article left out is the ton of information that Dr. R releases through her followers on this and every page of her Letters. He would do well to read what he writes about.

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not to mention her afternoon FB chats!

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or even just follow her on Twitter for news that matters!

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Exactly. She researches all day long and he totally left that out. He made it sound like she fixes dinner and then starts researching the news after dinner. The article really misses the point in many ways.

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To be fair, I do not read Mr. Smith.

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The NYTimes's sexism and arrant misogyny, despite having some fantastic women as opinion writers and editors, continues to amaze even this longtime reader. Rebecca Solnit would have something to say about this, I expect.

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I was thinking about this in the context of poets like Mary Oliver. For decades she was criticised with claims that her work was for women, and was merely "inspirational" and "accessible". The rare thing Oliver taught me was that attention is a kind of love and is a way of showing gratitude. I learned from her to quietly attend and to stay open to uncertainty. So, too, have I been inspired day-after-day by Richardson in an entirely different arena, in which I am energized and challenged to be more observant! Mary Oliver loved Whitman's poetry. Whitman is also a favorite of Richardson's. Oliver went on to win every imaginable award. Without a doubt, Richardson will do the same.

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Oh! I love this reference to Mary Oliver! I love her poetry and Love HCR’s writings, but never thought of them as analogous as you have. That is poetic itself.

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Perhaps Ben Smith should have read HCR instead of only looking at Twitter in order to put events into perspective. Twitter gives an instant picture, like a snapshot, while HCR is like a short film providing the context, background and implications. Ben might have won a Pulitzer by now if he had.

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Yes! Congratulations on the article! It is beyond time you received such recognition! Like other members here, though, I was annoyed that Ben could not be bothered to read the letters and that we were all cast as 58 year old women. (I’m a 61 year old woman btw) Those two sentiments combined seemed to deminish the importance of Dr Richardson’s writing. Why don’t we all drop Ben a little note suggesting he actually ought to read the letters and the accompanying comments before reporting on them ?

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Yes, I agree and I did.

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I already did first thing this am...his email address is at the end of the article.

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But since he never opens HCR's emails, one cannot be sure he'll bother to read them. I just commented on the NYT's website instead.

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FYI - comments are now open on the article.

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Ellie Kona, I loved that article and saved it in my "collections". I also thought it was interesting the reporter rarely read the "Letters". Probably, as a media reporter he was more interested in her being currently the most successful individual author on Substack. Regardless of that unfortunate comment, it was one of the best profiles I have ever read and I think the author will be reading the "Letters" more often in the future. I was introduced to HCR by a husband of a friend. Subsequently, I shared her "Letters" frequently with my likeminded friends. I like to think I contributed to her following among the progressive members of the dog agility community:). My Christmas commute to my mother's was spent listening to her "free form" session taped on Christmas eve and the first two history chats on "Reconstruction". And like Stuart Attewell, I "truly liked the last paragraph...", it is HCR in a nutshell, "she watches the waves come in." Again it was well deserved recognition.

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I also liked that Dani was quoted in the article:)

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Me, too.

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Took a few minutes off to scan the "Comments" to today's "Letter." As of five minutes ago, judging by their names, 61 comments came from females and 25 from males. So the Times was correct on this point, although I don't know on what he based his determination that the females were middle aged. These numbers are corrupted by those posting several times, using the "Letter" as a chat room, going back and forth with one another (This is my third posting today, one commenting on the Corporate Transparency Act which HCR explains, another emphatically agreeing with someone and lastly, this one).

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350,000 folks get this email. Only a small proportion of us comment. So anyone's guess as to what the group's composition is, other than concerned Americans, eager to learn the facts in the context of our history. Oh, and folks from around the world, too! And their history! Thank You HCR!

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In the Times' piece, HCR is quoted as saying that "“What I am doing is speaking to women who have not necessarily been paying attention to politics, older people who had not been engaged ... I’m an older woman and I’m speaking to other women about being empowered.” I don't think HCR has done demographic studies to back this up and this is just subjective thinking on her part. (and since when is 58 old?)

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I chuckle each time she says she's "old". At 58, one is just beginning to ripen.

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Jan, I know, so do I and I'm 4 years older than her. 😆

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I wouldn't mind being 58 again...it was a good year for me! (I'm now 68)

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At 58, I was getting braces! A second teen-hood. . . . without the angst.

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Me too!! Braces! I am 85 now and female altho Lee is usually assumed to be male.

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Sixties has been my best decade so far. Got married at 64. I'm 66 now and just getting started.

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That is encouraging to me! Thanks for sharing that.

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I grew up very slowly. Still immature in my 40s. When my entire family of origin, all good people, died within 10 years, I felt the opposite of what you might expect. Reborn! Gave everything away and moved back to my home state of VT with just what would fit into my Civic. No money, worked as a live-in caregiver for 3 years. Happy as I have ever been. Met Roger and fell in love just by chance, but it could have been any of many I met. Being happy and secure in myself, giving freely, full of love - that's the ticket.

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Jacob, I hear you yet Heather's thinking is what we desperately need during these times filled with "alternative facts," lies being spread like wildfire. It is her cogent, educated thinking that draws us (my husband and my friends) to looking forward to her letter each day. Who cares about "demographic studies" when the democracy is circling the drain? We are living in a time where it feels like the back of our head is on fire. We don't care what gender the voice of reason is.

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I like this! : Who cares about "demographic studies" when the democracy is circling the drain? We are living in a time where it feels like the back of our head is on fire. We don't care what gender the voice of reason is.

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Of course. Demographics do not matter unless you're using your resources to sell something. "Only the facts, m'am," as Detective Friday would say. I've hooked many of all ages and sexes on following HCR. What bothered me was the Times' article painting "Letters" as a discussion group for older women who had become divorced from politics. And HCR's quote in the article, probably taken out of context, supported this. (Oh, well, , when I was 28, I thought 58 was really old.) So hang in there. Things will eventually be okay.

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I am fine being mistaken for an older woman. It's close.

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Amen to that, at least so long as "old" has the unfortunate connotations it does in this society.... although if age brings wisdom, perhaps it's understandable that older folks, not only women, don't choose to dedicate the daily energy it would take to keep up with the ins and outs of the current political process. That's a large part of the reason why HCR's work is so wonderfully valuable to us!

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Agreed. I am 59 and I don’t feel old at all.

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And, there are a million +/- followers on FB . . . so heaven knows what that demographic is. I agree, the bottom line is those who are reading Heather's letters and watching her videos are hungry and as you said so well "to learn the facts in the context of our history".

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Is it really 350,000? I am surprised to find out that there are so many subscribers, given the much smaller number of comments in this section. MaryPat Sercu Randall, thank you for supplying that number. Where did you find it? And, do you have any thoughts about why there are not more commenters?

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I must confess that the Substack number was in the New York Times article about Heather. As far as why there aren't more commenters? It's probably like any classroom - a few of us are a bit more vocal, and here we don't have to wave our hands and wait to be called on. Helps to be semi-retired, too. During HCR's Tuesday political chat and Thursday's history chat, though, the comments fly almost too fast to read.

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Thanks, MaryPat Sercu Randall. Where and when do these chats take place?

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Heather's chats are available via her facebook page. Political chat is on Tuesdays at 4 pm (EST) and American History one is at 1 pm (EST) on Thursdays. Earlier on Tuesday afternoon she asks her facebook followers to suggest questions ro discuss, and those comments are illuminating in and of themselves. She has also published 5 books, the latest, "How the South Won the Civil War", is one big "aHa!" moment. Welcome aboard!

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350,000 may just be the number of those who follow "Letters from An American." The number who pay the $5 a month ($50 a year) to subscribe and get the ability to comment is less.

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Ah, that explains a lot. I did not know that the $5/month was optional. Thanks!

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Just to remark, chattily and thereby further corrupting statistics, that I am neither a woman nor middle-aged. I am an old white guy who thinks racism and sexism are even more absurd than immoral, and they are very immoral.

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"Absurdity" gives them a break. Like seeing animals at a circus rather than in a more natural environment. (Don't know about zoos?) "Immorality" says it better.

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I just said they (racism and sexism) are very immoral. But even more absurd, to my sensibilities. Anyone who lives their life that way is losing so much of what this world has to offer.

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Glad to see this after reading that inappropriate ending and some snarky comments. HCR has done more to educate & calm the masses than any of those self-proclaimed experts.

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I agree. The end was pompous and patronizing.

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The reporters loss.

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Thank you, Ellie!

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Well, Heather is a woman . . . .

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Glad they included it, (are there any editors left in print media?). More reason to ignore the Grey lady. Seems pretty consistent with how she has failed to adapt to the changed media eco system and what "stories" she chooses to breath life into and what she ignores.

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I am outraged that we are paying for Pence and his entourage to vacation in Vail. He gets the vaccine over frontline workers. In 3 weeks his stint is up. This is not true for the front line workers. We listened to Fauci and CDC and are not traveling across the country to ski at Vail because we are living with a pandemic. We forgo seeing family and friends and our leaders flaunt in our face their life goes unchanged. They get the virus no problem for them as our government takes full care of them. Pence calls himself a Christian. What a joke. Christian to him is controlling a women’s body.

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Yes, it’s reprehensible. Not only that, many of these elected officials were the “hoaxers” and herd immunity pushers but when the vaccine came out they wanted to be first in line. Don’t get me started on the “Christian” part...

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Right on! (That dates me, doesn’t it ...) But you are so on target.

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Couldn’t agree more! Your comment and mine posted at the same time!

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HCR, I was glad to see the NYT article about you this morning, even though the writer stated that he doesn't read your newsletters. I am a new subscriber here after reading the NYT article, wanting to be a tiny part of your income from your outstanding newsletters. I read your newsletter first thing every morning, and find it to be such a clearly stated summary of what happens each day. Months ago I stopped watching nearly all TV "news" as I find it to be mostly speculation and hype. All those commentators on cable channels. I am not a 58 year old woman, having passed that benchmark two decades ago. Both my husband and I think that you are the very best that we have found to give us useful information, enhanced by your historical perspective, during these challenging times. Thank you for your hard work!

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Welcome to both you and your husband, Joan!

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Welcome to our community!

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Yes, I too just subscribed after reading the NYT piece. I had been reading and listening to HCR on Facebook never knowing she was on Substack. I’m happy to pay a bit for all the knowledge and understanding I have enjoyed. Thank-you so much Heather!

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Bravo!

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Welcome, Joan.

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Pence skis, Trump golfs and Nero fiddles...while millions of people fret over their rent and food bills and fear for their lives. How can any person of even minimal intelligence support this callous, self-serving, egocentric cabal?

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Good Question. And Pence calls himself a Christian?

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“Calls himself”being the most important words. I have been terribly disappointed (too mildly put) in those who loudly proclaim their Christianity while supporting trump and being part of his cabal. Weirdly they do not see the disconnect which is glaring to me.

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I just finished reading "Promise Me, Dad", Joe Biden's book about the year his son Beau was being treated for and ultimately died from glioblastoma - the same brain tumor type that took John McCain - and the warmth and true Christianity of the man shines throughout. I am not a believer in any gods, but I can appreciate the goodness of anyone who lives by the compassionate and humanitarian teachings of so many prophets. The more I learn about Joe Biden, the more I believe he is a true Christian.

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Lanita you have spelled out my feelings for me. We need more of the type of person you believe Biden to be.

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They can be of high intelligence, and high education level, and still be temperamentally inclined to follow an "authority." Modern day policy-making is complex. People are busy busy busy. They get tired of feeling out of their depth, and really really want to feel that they are smart. After all, they might well be masters of their profession (lay concrete, build a house, manage double-entry bookkeeping, etc. etc.) but to figure out what's what, especially with a vast right-wing conspiracy blowing smoke? Phew!

"I alone can fix it."

Plus, all their friends like T****. How ya gonna swim against the tide?

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A good analysis...there are also those (including several I know) who think with their wallets and not with their principles.

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Which in my mind means they don't really hold those principles at all dearly.

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A good analysis...there are also those (including several I know) who think with their wallets and not with their principles.

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Simple! You said it. They lack "minimal" intelligence.

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This is the question my husband and I ask each other several times a day.

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Just remember the words of P.T. Barnum

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You mean “This way to the egress”?

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"There's a sucker born every minute"

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Steven - yes, I figured that's the quote you were referring to, but I can't wait till someone tells the orange nightmare "This way to the egress" of the White House.

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Well put. I wonder too. Really wonder.

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Bizarre, ageist, misogynistic NYT piece, but hey, all press is good press, right? I, a 63-year-old man, was compelled to move from following you on free FB/Twitter to substack subscription, so there. Anyway, thank you for clearing the fog around Trump’s NDAA action, so obvious to me now he is panicked over the potentially devastating impact of CTA provisions on his criminal empire.

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me too. paid for the subscription this morning.

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I also saw the NYT article and subscribed today. I also sent word to five other over-60s who would love a deeper and more nuanced perspective on the chaos of the day.

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Me too! Got my subscription today!

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HCR, have also read the piece in the NYT, and though underselling you, I was curious enough to check out your site and read some of your work. I was only too glad to subscribe.

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Welcome to our community!

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Welcome Mark!

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For what it's worth, there is a comment section on the piece, and I just sent this. Since it's moderated, I don't know yet if it will be accepted.

@Paul Guinnessy I don't go to Facebook often, and now mostly to watch the twice weekly talks Dr. Richardson does - one general on whatever and one historical, mostly on Reconstruction.  

I would never have known she was on Facebook, but a friend (thankfully) sent me a link to her "Letters from an American", and, being a history buff (and woman of 'mature years' - thanks Ben), I was hooked.

As for her subscribers there, I have found them to be a group of well-rounded and diverse folks, some of whom are political junkies, and some who have, indeed, fallen away and haven't paid much attention to politics.  She speaks succinctly and

straightforwardly to both groups, always informatively, never talking down to her audience.  Which can't be said of cable 'news' stations of either political stripe.

If Mr. Smith is not reading her, he's missing a wonderful resource and it is his loss.  Twitter just doesn't cut it for me.  I want more substance and less flash-bang, thank you.

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I love your comment. I, too, hope it is accepted. Proud to be among this group...as a 59 year old woman who just wanted to know the facts and to understand the context. I needed Heather's calm voice in the loud cacophony of the chaotic media storm. I do not even do Twitter or any other social media besides FB, and only because I have so many family members and friends across the country I want to keep up with. Of course, during this past year, have found myself more politically involved than I have ever been. Not that I wasn't paying attention before...Trump winning in 2016 was just a gut punch.... just not as involved as this year. Donating, challenging the misleading comments and posts of friends and family with factual cited responses, and finding Heather's letters and all of you. This year just felt like a major shift was about to happen, and that if people did not get involved to help direct that shift, our democracy would be damaged beyond repair. Yes, thank you all for the substance and less flash-bang!

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My late brother led me to Heather and since subscribing, I share her daily letters on FB and Twitter and in emails to friends. Several others have thus become "citizens" of this community, much to my delight. She indeed is the calm within the storm of this time we live in, providing me with a perspective that isn't so terrifying as that presented on cable news.

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I am sorry for the loss of your brother. Yes, I, too, share Heather's letters on my FB page. And forward her emails to friends not on FB. I don't know what will fill the void after Biden's first 100 days, but I know how thinly Heather spreads herself and this pace is not sustainable with her full time job as a professor. Just retiring at 59 after 33 years in the classroom, I know the amount of work it takes to do the job well.

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Kimberly, your comments about involvement reminded me of something I once heard Maya Angelou say - "When they learned better, they did better." (Maybe not exact, but close.) She said it in response to someone's comment on their upbringing, I think, complaining about parents, but it applies to all of us who maybe spent years not being politically engaged beyond voting or maybe working the polls once in awhile.

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Love that quote from Maya Angelou, "Do the best you can until you know better then when you know better do better" - Maya Angelou. I had this quote at the ready as a teacher.😊

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There shouldn't be any reason for your comment not to be accepted - they accept all of mine :) I'm just not sure if you have to be a paid subscriber. I have also found the NYT's comments to be quite interesting and informative.

I first found the "Letters" on FB (one of the few reasons to remain on FB), signed up to receive them by email, and recently added the paid subscription (for myself and gifts for my kids). Like discovering the game of pickleball a few years ago (which was derailed this year), I was instantly addicted. My husband is a collector of historical newspapers and a history buff and he was immediately hooked. I also tune into and pass along the Tues/Thurs video links. Did quite a bit of gardening this summer while streaming the history lessons and my husband and I occasionally eat dinner "with" Heather! I passed along to many friends who were grateful for Heather's calm, rational, educational pieces vs. my rants on FB and the golf course!! The "Letters" really helped all of us regain some sanity in a world that definitely careened off its axis.

Heather's pace over the last year+ is definitely not sustainable - I have been trying to figure out how she has been able to do it all (once I hit my late 50's the speed demon, multi-tasker in me disappeared)- evidently, the "key" is "falling" asleep at the table! Instead of a daily letter, she might consider moving to a once/twice a month newsletter.

The one thing we all have learned is we can never be complacent when it comes to politics - there is always something going on! I hope Heather will continue to publish as there is also great value in bringing this community of readers and learners together!

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I share your concerns about sustainability and hope that Prof. Cox will extend her efforts beyond the first hundred days of the Biden administration. Her perspective during that time in beyond will be just as important as it has been during the Trump years because it seems predictable that the major news organizations will continue to focus on liberal/progressive fights within the Democratic Party as well as Republican efforts to make a comeback, in other words horserace politics rather than policymaking for the good of the country.

My hope is that she will create an organization to assist her in producing her newsletter so that she can get some sleep! I wonder if she has graduate students who assist her in her academic responsibilities. If so, that would be a potential model going forward. There's no reason why she cannot hire a small staff to take care of the day to day administrative issues, help with the editing and reporting, and having interns who will both benefit the newsletter and enrich their experience at a pivotal time of their nascent careers.

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If I lived a little closer, I'd volunteer to cook dinner for her and Buddy once a week.

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Rachel Maddow's year end program gave thanks to her staff which was a cast of dozens, if not a hundreds!! Part of the charm of Heather's daily letters and videos is they are not a "polished production". But, a little assistance with a few people could go a long way to lightening up her load and to ease the delivery part to accommodate the numbers and forum options. Also, a great platform for mentoring students (content and production).

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I hear you. That's why I emphasized "a small staff." What starts out well can so easily get out of control. Arianna Huffington comes to mind.

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Great comment, Sandra. I hope it gets accepted.

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Thanks. Lynell; I meant every word. HCR and this group are a fabulous resource and a welcome port in these turbulent times.

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Well! I awoke to read about you in The NY Times, and I am so proud! My gang of brilliant friends here in Sherman CT were all ecstatic about this, and your success! I suppose we all feel a bit like the kids in Liverpool when the Beatles hit the ‘big time’! So we’ve been texting each other, sending the article to everyone we know, reminding them about you and making sure that they have signed up!

But I don’t know what I will do after your 100 days of Biden’s presidency comes to an end!?! No!!!! Please, you have imprinted us and we can’t be deserted! Please!

I’ve been in media (as my husband is) my entire career. I will personally volunteer to do whatever it takes to get you to do a podcast! We understand that you can’t keep up this pace. But this might be a way to keep us informed and you can do even a weekly summary!

But whatever you do we will follow you and support you every inch of the way! You have saved my mind this year... and clearly you have saved hundreds of thousands!

This is only the beginning!

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I felt exactly the same! So excited to read the article. Although I was amazed that the writer confessed to not reading your letter each morning. It is the very first thing I read, every day. I scroll through whatever email has come in to find the latest Letter From an American. I can’t imagine being able to make sense out of the seemingly nonsensical that happens day after day after day, without them.

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Perhaps we could persuade her to go to a weekly message rather than to drop it entirely. The same conditions will persist after Biden takes over. We need the ongoing appeal to better angels.

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I find myself saying nooooo when Heather says it’s time to wrap up one of her videos. I want to hear more :) I thought about adding adult ed courses to my retirement schedule but that ended up being an unappealing endeavor and not relevant.

Colleges have not figured out how to capture life long learners who have a myriad of interests. They continue to work off an old model that doesn’t expand to or entice those over 25 years old. The upside of Heather taking this online has ended up being brilliant for all of us. Her passion is contagious and the relevance of the videos and letters have reached and captivated a far bigger audience than is possible with brick and mortar classroom lectures and seminars. And, it is a whole lot more convenient. Higher education has needed a big shake up for a long time and this just might be the catalyst for some new directions.

Regarding what I assume may be a mortified Ben Smith from the NYTs .... George Bernard Shaw put it succinctly "Youth is wasted on the young “ and I’ll add .. in so many ways. 😉 We all have been young, but not everyone is lucky enough to make it to the “golden years”!

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After I started reading Heather’s letters, and soon eagerly subscribed. And I have bugged my friends about her until we finally have a great little fan club here! I even started entertained the idea of trying to enroll in her classes! Remote learning would work for me just fine with or without our current circumstances! She’s fulfilled a yearning for my restless intellect. Since retiring, a few years out of commission due to the big ‘C’, and then this year!! Just worrying about staying alive seems to have been the best I could accomplish. She’s given me a little lilt in my step just to understand what is going on, and how it devolved into this. My husband has been working from home, our house is about as big as a minute, and he has the tv on almost all the time! MSNBC or CNN. So I put on my headphones most days, listen to Heather when she’s there, I gobbled up her books, and have become an insatiable reader... history, the Black experience, and on... I don’t know what I would have done without her!

You are right on the mark about education... maybe someone will notice but she is so exceptional I’m not sure if anyone could come close. So glad to meet you Janet! I will be psychically bonding with you later today!

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Yes! I feel the very same way!

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The two sentences below from today’s “Letter” jumped out at me. I think “national arson” is the perfect description of what we have been experiencing for the past 4 years. It also gives the unfortunate visual of how much work is ahead. And, having suspected the use of shell companies on a local level (being lambasted for-unsuccessfully- trying to connect the dots meant I probably was on the right track), I was unaware of the magnitude of its use.

We have allowed ourselves to slip precipitously from the intent of democracy and the increasingly unregulated capitalist economy has allowed those with unsavory intentions to operate with impunity.

One last gripe (maybe) for this morning is that Pence and his wife symbolically cut the vaccine line and are now vacationing in Vail while D.C. “burns” and the rest of us are told not to travel. Time and time again, the republicans just stick it to the masses. No different than how the oligarchs operate in Russia.

- - - - - - - - -

From Senator Chris Murphy “‘....But his goal is actually national arson—chaos for the fun of it. So he sits on the budget—does nothing—in order to guarantee a government shutdown....’”

“America is currently the easiest place in the world for criminals to form an anonymous shell company which enables them to launder money, evade taxes, and engage in illegal payoff schemes.”

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Senator Chris Murphy is spot on, and there have been many others observing that narcissist Trump will trash everything before he goes out, like a sulking destructive toddler having a meltdown, with his sticky little finger on the nuclear button. I do think Trump's behavior after the election has opened more eyes to just how far he is willing to go and depths of his selfishness. Perhaps we will win a few more people who, while perfectly willing to vote for a racist and sexist, draw pause at the thought of wiping out Democracy altogether. I happen to prefer the characterization of Trump's term as that of a domestic abuser. Petulant, demanding, undermining, unpredictable, blaming the victim, and always projecting, projecting, projecting what he himself is doing to America. And, of course, continual undercurrents of threatened violence if America does not "behave", delivered by Proud Boy bully boy types and Karen scold sessions. America needs to walk out on their abuser and his sycophants and never look back.

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Living with him and his minions is indeed a situation of living with an abuser.

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And, a domestic abuser often considers his actions as ‘disciplining’ the errant family member, the punishment warranted and corrective.

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Thanks Janet. Funny we wrote the same message at the same same time!!

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Question: Why was the Corporate Transparency Act included in the NDAA now, and how did it garner bipartisan support?

To the extent that the CTA can and will be enforced, it seems passing this is way overdue. However, the cynic in me says it also appears counterintuitive. Putting aside for a moment shell companies created for non-political reasons, I'm guessing politicians of all stripes have received money through such vehicles (well, maybe more Rs than Ds). I'm also wondering what portion of campaign money enabled by the Citizens United decision has flowed through these entities. So again, why now?

Additionally, if the CTA covers existing entities, will FinCEN, or whomever is tasked with enforcement, pursue investigations into deals like Kushner's that allowed individual political contributions to be funneled into Trump's personal enterprises, as it seems to have done? How will enforcement be funded and staffed? Will it take more work by the likes of the Investigative Journalists to highlight the laxity of US laws, or will future Administrations and Congresses see this as an essential element of national and political security?

I'd like to see additional analysis of this issue if you have it.

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All excellent questions, Scott. I had no idea this was embedded in the Defense Appropriations bill until HCR revealed it and it explains volumes as to why the Cheeto vetoed it, but it is not clear at all how the CTA will be run or maintained. But it sure will be fun to see what happens if it remains in the bill. And will be more fodder for those of us who are appalled by the Citizens United decision and the level of dark money in political campaigning if it is stripped.

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HCR has included links about the CTA. The first time it was proposed was 2017. Apparently other countries already have something similar. And there are penalties included in this bill.

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Thanks for the catch. I started responding while the question was fresh in my brain. I also was a little surprised this particular group of Republicans would be willing to pursue this.

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Good observation and question. I have this on my list of things to look into more closely.

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Me too!!! I’m new. After seeing the article in NYT this morning I followed the link and read the post about shell companies...I had no idea that was in there...great info!! Thanks!

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It’s nice to find all these new followers here as a result of that piece which I have yet to read. The author may not appreciate HCR the way we do, but he can be credited with increasing her readership which is terrific!

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Welcome!

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Glad to see you are getting more recognition with the NYT article, Heather. As a NYT subscriber I looked for a place to comment but could find none. It is ridiculous that this person states he never reads your newsletter even though he gets it daily. His loss. It is also unfortunate that he focuses on the financials so much. If that’s his only metric then that is truly sad. IMHO, you deserve every penny and I hope his mention of the subject doesn’t bring any backlash. I don’t see the point in emailing him as he obviously doesn’t bother much with email but it might be worth getting back on twitter to let him know what I think. He should have taken his cue from Bill Moyers, who he quotes, and done better. Very revealing, though, that the comment he quotes from Moyers is not especially flattering to him. My guess is that he didn’t realize it and just stuck it in as a ‘sound byte’ to close with. Please keep doing what you’re doing, Heather. At least for a while. You have helped so many of us survive these past 4 years that it’s hard to imagine going on without you.

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Karen, I agree on his focus on the financials, but that just screamed 'generational divide' to me. That, and his comments about pretty much living on Twitter..............

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Karen-FYI I just went back to the article and comments are now open.

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Congratulations to you, Heather! I don’t know if you remember our conversation so many months ago, Heather, but I was delighted to see this in the NYT this morning: Heather Cox Richardson Offers a Break From the Media Maelstrom. It’s Working.

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/12/27/business/media/heather-cox-richardson-substack-boston-college.html?referringSource=articleShare

I am so very happy for you! ❤️ Nancy

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But I don’t like to read you are falling asleep at your desk!

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Me neither. Please take care of yourself, HCR.

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Thank you for sharing this Nancy - I had missed it.

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I’m a new subscriber, Heather, on recommendation from my go-to source for real USA news, The New York Times. I love your work! EB in Newhaven, VIC Australia

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Welcome!

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welcome to the world-wide "Heather's herd" from France.

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Welcome aboard, Cactus! Happy New Year!

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Glad to have you here.

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You have entered a wonderfully woven recap of daily events with anecdotes of facts from our past. Welcome!

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There's still more to come. President Worthless Piece of Shit will continue to demonstrate his worthless shittiness until the final minute.

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Happy New Year, TC! I must say you do have a way with words!

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