Best Spider-Man Stories By Decade

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This was something I did for a message board a while back. The challenge was to list the best Spider-Man stories by decade. It’s obviously very subjective, although it was a useful exercise in considering what made the character tic, and in getting a variety of approaches to the character.

1960s…
1. The Master Planner Saga- Amazing Spider-Man #31-33
2. Spider-Man- Amazing Fantasy #15
3. Disaster- Amazing Spider-Man #53-59
4. Spider-Man No More!- Amazing Spider-Man #50-52
5. Madness Is All In The Mind- Amazing Spider-Man #24
6. Spider-Man and the Green Goblin-Both Unmasked- Amazing Spider-Man #39-40
7. Horns of the Rhino- Amazing Spider-Man #41-43
8. The End of Spider-Man- Amazing Spider-Man #17-19
9. The Sinister Six- Amazing Spider-Man Annual #1
10 (Tie). Bring Back My Goblin To Me (Amazing Spider-Man #26-27) and The Goblin Lives! (Spectacular Spider-Man Magazine #2)

The 60s marked the one decade dominated by one writer, Spider-Man co-creator Stan Lee. I have heard arguments for counting the Lee/ Ditko collaborations as a separate writer due to Ditko’s contributions to the plots, which would give the decade a 50/50 split.

1970s…
1. The Night Gwen Stacy Died (Amazing Spider-Man #121-122)
2. Return of the Burglar (Amazing Spider-Man #193-200)
3. Enter…Morbius (Amazing Spider-Man #100-102)
4. The Punisher (Amazing Spider-Man #129)
5. The Longest Hundred Yards (Amazing Spider-Man #153)
6. Spider-Man…Murderer (Amazing Spider-Man #89-90)
7. A Matter of Love…and Death (Marvel Team-Up #59-60)
8. And Then Came Electro (Amazing Spider-Man #82)
9. The Green Goblin Lives Again! (Amazing Spider-Man #136-137)
10. At Kraven’s Command (Marvel Team-Up #67)

In contrast to other decades, it took me a long time to come up with ten worthy stories for the 70s, although it was interesting how much of what we’d think of as 1960s or 1980s Spider-Man came from these years, with the end of Stan Lee’s Spider-Man, and Chris Claremont/ John Byrne’s Marvel Team-Up.

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1980s…
1. The Kid Who Collects Spider-Man (Amazing Spider-Man #248)
2. Nothing Can Stop the Juggernaut (Amazing Spider-Man #229-230)
3. Kraven’s Last Hunt
4. Spider-Man VS Wolverine
5. The Death of Jean Dewolfe (Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #107-110)
6. The Hobgoblin Saga (Amazing Spider-Man #238-239, 244-245, 247-251)
7. Venom (Amazing Spider-Man #300)
8. The Owl-Octopus War (Peter Parker the Spectacular Spider-Man #72-79)
9. The Commuter (Amazing Spider-Man #267)
10. Hyde…In Plain Sight (Amazing Spider-Man #231-232)

Honorable mentions are too many to name. Tom Defalco would likely have made the top ten in any other decade with the Alien Costume saga, and the return of Crusher Hogan.

1990s…
1. Best Enemies (Spectacular Spider-Man #178-200)
2. The Gift (Amazing Spider-Man #400)
3. Amazing Fantasy #16-18
4. Arachnomorphosis (What If? #89)
5. Torment (Spider-Man #1-5)
6. Spidey Battles Hawkeye the Marksman (Untold Tales of Spider-Man #17)
7. Revelations Part 4 (Spider-Man #75)
8. Spider-Man/ Spider-Man 2099
10. Ye Gods (Spider-Man 2099 #17)

 

Even compared to the 70s, it was tough to come up with enough good stories for this decade. Though I guess I could have split the Harry Osborn saga into multiple stories. This was probably the decade with my most unconventional choices (Todd McFarlane’s writing debut, and a really obscure dark What If? issue in the top five.)

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2000s….
1. Learning Curve (Ultimate Spider-Man #8-13)
2. Down Among the Dead Men (Marvel Knights Spider-Man #1-12)
3. One Small Break (Peter Parker Spider-Man #30-32)
4. Spider-Man Blue
5. Unscheduled Stop (Amazing Spider-Man #578-579)
6. Spider-Man/ Human Torch: I’m With Stupid
7. Coming Home (Amazing Spider-Man Volume 2 #30-35, 37, 38)
8. Field of Dream (Peter Parker Spider-Man #27-28)
9. The Ultimate Clone Saga (Ultimate Spider-Man #97-105)
10. Behind the Mustache (Tangled Web #20)

This ended up being another really good decade for the Spider-Man comics.

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2010s….
1. Superior Spider-Man #1-10
2. Matters of Life & Death (Amazing Spider-Man #655-656)
3. Shed (Amazing Spider-Man #630-633))
4. Gauntlet: The Rhino (Amazing Spider-Man #617, 625)
5. Spider Island (Amazing Spider-Man #666-673/ Venom #6-9)
6. Superior Foes of Spider-Man Volume 1
7. Amazing Spider-Man: Renew Your Vows #1-5
8. Death of Spider-Man (Ultimate Spider-Man #156-160)
9. Dying Wish (Amazing Spider-Man #698-700)
10. Spider-Gwen (Edge of Spider-Verse #2)

I’ve decided to chunk the first ten issues of Superior Spider-Man as one story since there is a beginning, middle and end (even if it functions well as part of a larger story.) The decade’s not over yet, but this marks a respectable showing (although for this decade, I’ve read almost every comic, while it’s possible that there are some obscure 1970s and 1990s comics that are quite good, but I’ve never managed to read.)

 

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Favorite Movies For Every Year

1933-duck-soup-marx-broth-010

A frrend of mine did something like online, and I thought it was an interesting idea. It’s a selection of my favorite movie for every year. The gimmick was to do it for every year you’ve been alive, but I’m clearly too insane for that.

I’m starting with 1931, because I wasn’t familiar enough with the notable 1930 films. ’31 had City Lights, the Fredrich March Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and the Universal Horrors classics Dracula and Frankenstein, in addition to the winner, so I felt comfortable that I had seen enough to make an intelligent selection, and that was the case for every subsequent year.

1931-M

1932-Freaks

1933-Duck Soup

1934-It Happened One Night

1935-Bride of Frankenstein

1936-Modern Times

1937-Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

1938-The Adventures of Robin Hood

1939-Gone With the Wind

1940-Pinccochio

1941-Citizen Kane

1942-Casablanca

1943-The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

1944-Double Indemnity

1945-Brief Encounter (this is not a year I’m very familiar with in film)

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1946-It’s a Wonderful Life

1947-Black Narcissus

1948-Treasure of the Sierra Madre

1949-The Third Man

1950-All About Eve

1951-The African Queen

1952-High Noon

1953-Tokyo Story

1954-Rear Window (very good year)

1955-Rififi

1956-The Searchers

1957-The Seventh Seal

1958- Vertigo

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1959- North by Northwest

1960-Psycho

1961- Yojimbo

1962- Lawrence of Arabia

1963-The Great Escape

1964- Dr. Strangelove

1965- Doctor Zhigavo

1966- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

1967- Bonnie and Clyde

1968- 2001: A Space Odyssey

1969- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

1970- Patton

1971-A Clockwork Orange

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1972- The Godfather

1973- The Exorcist

1974- The Godfather Part 2

1975- Jaws

1976- Taxi Driver (Very good year)

1977- Star Wars

1978- Days of Heaven

1979- Apocalyspe Now

1980-The Empire Strikes Back (damn good year)

1981-An American Werewolf in London

1982- ET (damn good year)

1983- Terms of Endearment (there were some notable films I hadn’t seen from thar year)

once-upon-a-time-in-america-the-boys-gang-roams-the-streets-of-the-lower-east-side-of-new-york-in-the-1920s

1984- Once Upon a time in America (technically, the version I liked best came out later)

1985- Back to the Future  (there were some notable films I hadn’t seen from that year)

1986- Ferris Bueller’s Day Off

1987- The Princess Bride

1988- Grave of the Fireflies

1989-Henry V

1990- Goodfellas

1991- Silence of the Lambs

1992- Unforgiven

1993-Schindler’s List

1994- Forrest Gump (not a knock on Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption)

1995- Toy Story

1996- Trainspotting

1997- Wag the Dog

1998- Saving Private Ryan

1999- South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut

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2000- Requiem for a Dream

2001- Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring

2002-City of God

2003- Lord of the Rings: Return of the King

2004- Kill Bill Volume 2

2005- Munich

2006- The Lives of Others

2007- There Will Be Blood

2008- The Dark Knight

2009- Up

2010-The Social Network

2011- Hugo

2012- Zero Dark Thirty

2013- The Wolf of Wall Street

2014- The Grand Budapest Hotel

2015- Mad Max: Fury Road

2016- Moonlight

It was an interesting exercise. There is an element of randomness as there are some years where I’ve seen quite a few notable films. For example, 1954 had On the Waterfront, The Seven Samurai, La Strada, Sancho the Bailiff, and the beginning of the Samurai trilogy. Other years represent major blind spots for me. I went with Brief Encounter for 1945, but I hadn’t seen a few that I’ve heard good things about (Children of Paradise, Mildred Pierce, Blithe Spirit, They Were Expendable, Rome Open City.) From 1985, I haven’t seen The Color Purple (Ebert’s #1 film of the year), Out of Africa (the Best Picture winner), The Goonies, Witness or Curse of the Spider-Woman, so Back to the Future‘s reign may be brief.

I often find myself relying on the memory of something I’ve seen once years ago, so some of the choices are subject to change. For 1988, I made a snap judgement that Grave of the Fireflies was better than The Vanishing, a very different film that’s almost as good . Coming up with the list does allows for a greater appreciation for a few films. If I compare Ferris Beuller’s Day Off to other major and good films from 1986 (Platoon, Blue Velvet, The Fly, Aliens) and it comes out ahead, it’s worth acknowledging its staying power.  The South Park movie also shines with this kind of spotlight. It’s not a slight on American Beauty, Fight Club, The Matrix, The Sixth Sense, The Green Mile, Being John Malkovich, Toy Story 2, The Insider, The Iron Giant, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Office Space, Galaxy Quest or Bowfinger. I just liked the South Park film with the penis pun in the title better. Though, if I ever finish Magnolia I might change my mind on what the best film of that year was.

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Novice Teachers

mallard 2

This was part of a piece I wrote for a class when I was going for my Education Masters. It was in response to a scholarly article on the role of empathy in education.

The first thought I had reading Wender’s piece (33) was that I’m not looking forward to the inevitable situation of teaching a kid teachers in the school don’t like. I did co-teach for a summer school, and the cooperating teacher knew the students, but the warnings I received were relatively mild. I had the sense that the teacher legitimately liked the students, which was a fortunate experience come to think of it.

Tying into my comments on observer bias in the last reflection, I am automatically skeptical of any anecdotal evidence meant to prove a point, so there is the question of selection bias in the story of students Wender had failed to help. (33) Maybe the stories she remembers aren’t that illustrative. I do admire her willingness to consider mistakes that were made, which has been rarity in writings about education policies.

Wender has a good point about the difference between empathy and pity/ approval. (34) I think I can be empathetic, although it may sometimes require a deeper understanding of a student’s situation, in order to appreciate their priorities. Her impromptu letters (36) are an interesting idea, although I don’t know if it’s practical enough to lose so much time in the curriculum. It’s the type of stuff that can add up. I’m intrigued by the idea of making empathy part of the teaching culture, although I do have some questions.  How does that work? How is it practical? And how would it be assessed (which might not be something anyone worried about excessive testing wants asked)?

Wender has another strong point on how students tend to have multiple literacies, and how schools have a tendency to ignore most of them. (35) The ELA Supervisor who rejected a student’s use of Spanish in a piece still meant for an English-speaking audience seemed to have more empathy for unqualified graders who wouldn’t know how to handle something like that than for the students, which shows a significant problem in the system.

She describes how beginning teachers tend to focus more on content than on students (36) although this does make sense. Educators who are just starting out tend to be less experienced, and tend to know their content area more than the nuances of how children learn. To fix this, it might not be enough for the standard education programs to change, since there will be some teachers who start out without significant education training. When I was in Teaching Fellows, they had everyone in the class co-teach a summer school after a six credit basic course, and another course that was essentially a book club for Dan Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion. I believe Teach For America has similar training, and a few private schools don’t require much of a background in education in order for a teacher to be employed. So even if education programs got better at teaching people how to teach, it might not be enough.

The consensus is that teachers get better as they spend more years at it. But in my year at this university, I haven’t seen anyone address the elephant in the room: What students should be made to work under novice teachers? Whose kids will be the guinea pigs? I guess there’s the claim that teachers need more preparation so that no one is a novice on their first day, although that seems very expensive for a profession with such high turnover.

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Skepticism on Middle School Solutions

mallard

This was something I wrote for a class in my education masters program.

One of the most surprising things I read for any of the classes this year was the notion that Middle School is often less cognitively demanding then elementary school. (Kennedy-Lewis, 101) That seems like something that has to change, and would be a top priority of mine as a middle grades teacher. I’ve made the observation a few times that there are some policy problems that individual teachers are unable to change, but this seems to be one where one teacher can make a significant impact, even if working in the framework of strict curricula. It’s something new to keep in mind when making lesson plans in the future: Is the material sufficiently cognitively demanding? The article was written in 2013, and that section references material in 2012, so it should still be relevant. It’s an indication that there should be a healthy skepticism for business as usual in any school where I’d be lucky enough to be employed, if this remains a national problem.

I’m a big proponent of evidence based methods in teaching and elsewhere. The numbers for Positive Behavior Interventions and Support (Cramer and Bennet, 19) although in my attempt to summarize what exactly it means if 95% of students are helped in the first two tiers, I realized that there are additional questions. Students in the first tier are probably less likely to act out in class, so an understanding that 80% of students will respond to Tier One intervention might mislead a teacher who believes that this means 80% of situations will be resolved by Tier One intervention. In addition, distribution in schools is likely to be unequal. When reading about Special Education programs, I was reminded about statistics I had seen in another class about the low graduation numbers for African-American Special- Ed students in New York City, and arguments that it was a system with perverse incentives for administrators.

The article mentioned a problem with “one size fits all” solutions although there is an advantage (23) in perceived fairness when everyone is treated the same (IE- the same offense gets the same punishment.) There might be a perception of favoritism if students with disruptive home lives are less likely to be suspended. I could probably argue for hours about the implications of the articles with friends and family (it may very well end up happening anyway) although I still have more questions than answers. I don’t know if it’s realistic to get biased teachers to admit their own bigotry, (19) given how socially unacceptable blatant racism is. The backfire effect (the way people often double down on an issue when they learn they’re wrong about the facts) is also going to be a factor. I’m also curious about whether there’s an observer bias in interviews with persistently disciplined students.

The articles provided some food for thought in terms of what middle grades teacher I’d want to be. I certainly don’t want to be the type of teacher who says “Go and leave the classroom. I don’t care.” (Kennedy-Lewis, 104) While reading the papers, I made a note that “Man, advisory would have helped out here” as students dealt with their struggles adjusting from one kind of school to another. I remember having these kinds of problems as a student, and once crying in a school office because I didn’t know where to go for my next class, the first time I had lost my program card. I’ve probably complained about the administrators in my Intermediate School (officially not a Middle School or Junior High School) but they were relatively nice about that. It’s hard to imagine them responding otherwise, but I suppose that happens, and that has to be heartbreaking for a struggling student.

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Skewed Results in Education

school2bstaffing

This was a reflection I wrote for one of my classes in my education Masters program. It was a response to a series of articles about new efforts at improving middle schools. One of those was an example of project-based learning, as students worked on a larger project in lieu of traditional classes. Another was a program in which teachers spent more time planning for the coming academic year.

I don’t know if Hill feels guilty about the “betrayal of traditional pedagogy.” He seemed more concerned about the response of parents and teachers, than about self-doubt. He was aware of the risk when deviating from the standards. This We Believe does provide reassurances for any educator devising an integrated program, so there are certainly good arguments for it. He shouldn’t feel guilty, because he’s making an effort at positive change. However, there are still legitimate concerns for educators to be cognizant of.

When reading articles in academic journals, anecdotes in larger education texts, or works of journalism dealing with new teaching strategies, we are much more likely to read about experiments that teachers take that end up being effective than the things they try that don’t work. A noble experiment that turns out being a disaster is less likely to be written about, even though there can be tremendous value in demonstrating to teachers the things that they shouldn’t try, and in determining why something was ineffective. A counterargument is that the floor is so low, especially in high needs schools, that an effort at change is unlikely to make things noticeably worse.

The Strive Prep model was demonstrably successful, and it has a few advantages. One aspect is that they go for low hanging fruit, especially with summer vacations and curriculum planning. The effects of “summer learning loss” have been known for some time, but other systems haven’t managed to solve it. It’s also well-known that teachers benefit from spending significant time planning curricula and working together.

The article discusses the advantages of the system being new, and there’s a lot to be said for that. When making major changes, as in adopting an year-round model or giving teachers four weeks to plan the academic year together, they don’t have to worry about bureaucratic sclerosis or systems (and employees) set in old and often outmoded ways. They’re able to put the needs of the students first.

What stands out about the methods that work in the three articles is that these are based on the needs of the individual students, rather than the set curriculum to one specific class. Asking kids to make a project about their heroes or the touring schedule for a hypothetical band allows them to use what they’ve learned in ways that are relevant to them. The hero project fosters community involvement, and helps students consider who their models for ideal behavior are. Sometimes, parents aren’t adequate role models, while community leaders, sports stars, singers and actors can have significant personal failings, leaving children without a strong example to follow. The project is one step towards providing that, helpful in Middle School where children are making key decisions about the types of people they’re becoming.

The Tour Across America project requires students to develop their understanding of research skills, math, public speaking, writing, art, and geography. Working together in small groups also prepares them for the professional world. It should work better with teachers working together, rather than a Language Arts teacher using his time with the students to reinforce material learned elsewhere. The Strive Prep model eliminates most of the transition time, with teachers being the ones to switch classrooms, which does provide an integrated curriculum with a significant advantage of block scheduling as the children are educated by specialists in the content area.

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5 Series Where Anything Goes

Doctor Who city of death

One of the things I like about Doctor Who is that the story engine basically allows the series to tell any kind of story in any setting. The basic conceit is that in every episode, an ancient time traveler and his companion (usually a contemporary human) find themselves in a completely new location. Typically, they’ll find themselves in the middle of an existing conflict.

The very first storyline took the characters to the caveman era. The next saga was a planet full of dangerous Nazi-inspired aliens that hated all outsiders. Some of the most popular storylines in the series’ 50+ year history have included a conspiracy during the moon landing, the lead’s friendship with Madame De Pompadour, a Sherlock Holmes pastiche in Victorian England, an encounter with a strange child in London during the blitz, in addition to sagas in the far future or on alien worlds. Enemies include evil robots, shadows that can devour flesh, replicas of soldiers from various eras, mad scientists, and rogue time-travelers.

You could probably start with any type of story, and stick the Doctor into it. What I started wondering about is what other series allow for this type of variety.

Cloud Atlas

Cloud Atlas/ The David Mitchell Verse

David Mitchell’s done something interesting with Cloud Atlas, and Bone Clocks, featuring connected stories from different eras. The end result is that there can be stories that seem to feature different genres. Cloud Atlas has a maritime adventure with a poisoned businessman who learns about the horrors of slavery, a drama about a young musical genius’ conflict with an elderly composer in the 1930s, a 1970s journalism caper in California, and a literary satire in contemporary London as a foolish old man is tricked into being committed to a nasty nursing home. A bold twist is that the last two stories are set centuries in the future, featuring a sci-fi rebellion, and life after the apocalypse. The Bone Clocks has stories about a woman caught in a conflict between two immortal races, starting in 1984 when she’s fifteen years old, and ending in 2043, when global warming has taken a bad turn. With Mitchell, there’s tremendous variety in the same book (or the film adaptation) allowing for a mix of literary fiction (with chapters inspired by Melville and Pyncheon) and sci-fi. This is allowed by the exploration of the future, as well as the past. Without the genre expectations of an ongoing series, he has greater flexibility in that he can do stories without action or bad guys, as well as stories in which that’s all handled very well.

Silver Age Marvel/ Marvel Cinematic Universe

The Marvel films have made a fortune with 2-3 movies an year, as well as various TV spinoffs, but they managed to avoid overexposure by keeping each series distinct. Iron Man is high-tech action. Thor is high fantasy. The Captain America sequels are military/ espionage, while the first was throwback action-adventure. The Guardians of the Galaxy is Star Wars with more Han Solos. The Avengers is a team series. The Hulk is a monster film. Antman is a caper. Doctor Strange is urban fantasy. Spider-Man is teen drama (and also the one film character with a secret identity, which used to be the norm for superheroes.) The Netflix shows feature street-level vigilantes.

This has its toots in the source material, as Stan Lee and company created a shared universe of explorers (the Fantastic Four), weirdos in a boarding school (the X-Men), an elite World War II military unit (Nick Fury and the Howling Commandos) in addition to all the characters in the MCU.

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Sandman

The series is mostly about the individuals affected by their encounters with the lord of dreams, but because he’s been around for a very long time, that allows for stories set in many different eras. And the nature of dreams means that other stuff can happen, as the dreams of a young woman in contemporary America might include a fully realized fantasy world. When you add this to the DC Universe, a  world of superheroes and demons, anything can happen. Sometimes Dream is the protagonist, but it’s often someone else’s story. It kinda makes sense how creator Neil Gaiman ended up writing such a good Doctor Who episode given his practice here.

Planetary

Every issue of Planetary features a riff on something, as super-powered archeologists explore the secrets of the Wildstorm comic book Universe. These secrets tend to involve takes on something that was popular at the time a story is set (a James Bond-esque spy’s adventures in the 1960s, Sherlock Holmes, modern Hong Kong action) so that in the end, they’ve basically encountered every type of adventure fiction of the last 100+ years in a world and a profession where that makes a lot of sense.

 

 

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The Next Presidential Succession

Nixon

Even with Donald Trump in the White House, there has been a remarkable stability with Presidents. In the last 40 years, no one has left office through unnatural means. Presidents have died in office in 1841, 1850, 1865, 1881, 1901, 1923, 1945 and 1963. Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace in 1974. You could argue that we’re due for something weird happening and a Vice President getting a promotion (even if the concept of things being due is based on a misunderstanding of statistics, but I digress.)

This got me thinking about how the next presidential succession might happen. There is an argument that death is less likely than severe health problems or a President resigning in disgrace.

The secret service has gotten very good at avoiding assassinations, and Americans are living longer (to say nothing of Presidents, who tend to have excellent medical care.) Although in a world where Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders are considered potential Presidential nominees the next time, and a seventy year old man won the White House in his first campaign for political office, it’s possible that we’ll have an older President, which comes with a greater chance of death. In 2013, the Onion had a piece with “Donald Trump” reminding readers that, due to the actuarial math, he’ll likely be dead in 15-20 years.

Things that were fatal decades ago might not kill Presidents now, but could leave them incapacitated. That could lead to a resignation for medical reasons.

Only one President has been forced to resign in disgrace, but that may be something we’re going to see more of in the future. There’s more surveillance and less media gatekeepers, so if a President engages in wrongdoing, the odds are higher that there will be some kind of proof, and that would reach the general public. On the other hand, a presidential candidate was caught on video saying he’s a rich, powerful man and can grab women by the pussy, and it didn’t prevent him from getting into the White House.

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