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DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have an old friend from high school, and we carry on a very cordial correspondence via email and social media.

Most of our exchanges are lighthearted and brief. We are both very busy, and I, especially, do not want to get bogged down with the need to read and respond to very long emails.

The problem for me is that my friend loves to travel — and even more than the travel itself, he loves to write excruciatingly long, detailed trip reports. He emails these out with the expectation that everyone read them and comment on them. And even though he can’t travel anymore due to COVID-19, he still writes up reports from decades-old trips! Every time he sends one, I want to pull my hair out, and I am already mostly bald!

I don’t want to hurt his feelings, but I can’t think of a tactful way to tell him I would rather read a book in the small amount of spare time I have rather than read and respond to another of his voluminous travel emails.

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GENTLE READER: It is not often that Miss Manners has the chance to relieve people of the obligation of responding. You do have to respond to invitations with a definitive acceptance or expression of regret. You do have to respond to presents with letters of thanks. You do have to respond to your friend’s personal messages if you want to maintain the friendship.

But guess what? You do not have to respond to social media postings or mass emails, as these are not tailored to the recipient. They are more like press releases, widely distributed in the hope of catching some interest.

But if that seems callous to you, simply reply with “Nice trip!” This can be done without having to read the accounts.

Or tearing out your remaining hair.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I know that dinner rolls and butter are not traditionally part of a formal dinner service, but if I do want to serve butter at the dinner table, how should I do so?

I have a collection of antique butter pats in various patterns that I would love to use, but I am wondering exactly how these were traditionally used. When I have tried to search online for “how to use butter pats,” most of the results refer either to slices of butter from a stick, or to implements for making and shaping butter — not how to use these tiny plates.

GENTLE READER: Did you bookmark the link about shaping butter? Not if it’s about sculpting a chicken out of butter as a centerpiece, that is. But it may be useful if it has to do with making tiny shapes — roses or pleated balls, for instance — to put on those little plates, confusingly themselves called butter pats, which are for serving individual portions of butter.

You can just whack squares from a butter stick, of course. But such plates were generally forgotten, or pressed into humiliating service as inadequate ashtrays, and Miss Manners presumes you would like to make them proud again.

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Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

News Source: mercurynews.com

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What Joe Biden could do to truly make a difference on homelessness

President Trump’s approach to homelessness was mostly unsuccessful. He had decent instincts but no clear vision, and anyway, most of the crucial policy levers on homelessness are state and local. The street crises in, say, San Francisco or LA were beyond his policy grasp. He made some good appointments, but not where it mattered the most. Ben Carson, secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, was no match for his agency’s deep-state elements.

So what will Joe Biden get to do? He inherits a system mostly unchanged from when he left office as vice president. And the biggest questions on federal homelessness policy depend on the outcome of the Senate races in Georgia on Jan. 5. Biden proposed an ambitious housing agenda whose splashiest ideas, such as a universal housing-choice voucher program, would need congressional support.

The main instrument of federal homelessness policy is the “Continuum of Care” program, overseen by HUD. At around $2 billion, the program’s cost seems trivial next to a $4 trillion federal budget. But the offer of free money has empowered the feds to exert great influence over homeless services in communities across the nation.

President Bill Clinton set up Continuum of Care with markedly localistic intentions. Washington would raise money and distribute it to communities who’d decide how best to spend it. But throughout the Obama years, HUD abandoned localism to insist on conformity with a philosophy known as Housing First.

Housing First has two premises. First, permanently subsidized housing is the only solution to homelessness, and, second, all housing benefits should be provided unconditionally. Housing First proponents are notorious for their intolerance. Their rise to dominance has led to funding cuts to high-quality service providers. The ideological proclivities of HUD’s career staff forced those cuts: They had nothing to do with any local assessment of community conditions.

Team Trump tried to roll back heavy-handed Obama policies pertaining to transgender access to shelters and sobriety requirements. Homeless-shelter managers deal with volatile situations. Someone running a domestic-violence shelter, whose traumatized clients want some time away from biological males, might not want to always accommodate trans individuals.

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Housing the homeless in hotels has cost NYC $299M The price tag for Mayor Bill de Blasio’s program to...

It may not be a problem, or only a problem in some occasions. But it’s a call best made case by case, by experienced managers who know their business and their people, not DC-based advocates who believe that biological-sex-based eligibility protocols are tantamount to Jim Crow.

Sobriety requirements are anathema to Housing Firsters, who reject placing conditions on the receipt of any benefit like shelter. Prohibiting sobriety requirements harms many ex-offenders on parole, who often wind up in shelters or similar temporary housing programs. Surrounding them with active users tempts them into violating the terms of their release.

Then, too, homeless shelter managers trying to support former addicts on their path to recovery are doing heroic work that merits the unqualified support of the feds. Under the Housing First regime, shelter managers who want to make use of sobriety requirements jeopardize their access to HUD funds.

When Georgia voters head to the polls in January, most will be scarcely aware of the runoffs’ implications for domestic-violence shelters in West Virginia and street conditions in Frisco. If Biden gets what he wants, he will expand the Obama system, giving it billions more in funding. His plan wouldn’t “end” homelessness, but it would bail out the failed systems in New York and California, who’ve been pouring cash into the problem without much to show for it.

There is a real question as to how deeply the federal government should involve itself in homelessness at all. Many of the leading drivers of homelessness, such as housing regulations and misguided mental-health policies, are mainly areas of state and local responsibility.

Just as it’s hard to blame Trump for all COVID-related harm, it’s hard to blame the feds for the homelessness crisis in a handful of big cities — and not an issue most other places.

Stephen Eide is a Manhattan Institute senior fellow.

Filed under barack obama ,  department of ​housing and urban development ,  homelessness ,  joe biden ,  policy ,  11/27/20

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