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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sunday Mailbag

This week, and next, we will run some of the reader suggestions for artists who might have made our list of the 20 most impactful artists in U.S. history. And we will say up front that, had we thought of it, we would have included Dorothea Lange; an oversight corrected below by one of the readers.

Also, we are going to hold off until next week on the responses to the question from J.T. in Greensboro about the most pivotal year or years in world history. So, if readers have ideas, you can still send them in.

Gender Matters

S.B. in New Castle, DE, writes: I have a few thoughts regarding the reply of A.B. in Wendell to my comment on Lexico-Political Battles. First, let me toss into the trash her childish and self-important notion of taking me to the woodshed. Instead, I want to thank (V) & (Z) for another turn at this virtual podium of public debate.

Secondly, let us also push aside the "who had transition surgery first" merit badge and the self-promotion of a film in which A.B. played a fleeting role. While I'm sure Robert Eads' story is a tragic and compelling example of trans healthcare denial that the vast majority of our community continues to deal with today, it is not the topic at hand, and I doubt the misuse of a single word was the root cause behind his sorrows. With that self-serving clutter cleared from the podium, let us be reminded that the topic of discussion was the use of the word "woman" regarding the healthcare issue of abortion. This is a specific instance where the overwhelming majority of persons being denied reproductive health care are cisgender women in the childbearing years of their lives.

I think all of us can agree that "words matter" in both politics and transgender/non-binary identity. A succinct and clear message with unambiguous wording to achieve the primary goal is necessary to garner the public support to correct an injustice. "Women's Reproductive Health Care Rights" covers all persons who have the ability to bear children, including trans men with a functional uterus. The specific women's health care issue discussed in the original post was abortion. There is no need to parse "who is a woman?" in an ongoing media and political conversation on the subject of abortion unless there is a specific trans person who is being denied health care access to an abortion because of their gender identity.

Finally, I will wave at A.B. on her virtuous hill of "never willing to create a 'minor expense' for another person who is a minority." Those are great words for a campaign, and perhaps A.B. even used them for her political run for office. Nevertheless, I will continue to wade through the messy reality that politics is a difficult art of compromise and continue to do my best to advocate in whatever ways I can to ensure as many people of all gender identities can receive the health care they deserve, regardless of what words must be spoken to achieve that goal.

J.O. in Raleigh, NC, writes: To A.C. in Zenia, who objected to my comparison of misgendering words to punches.

I have been punched by bullies, though it has been a few decades! Let me borrow some of your words: "[Words] are a symbol system that is understood and is—due to words' fundamental inadequacy—much more often misunderstood." Let me try to understand yours and explain mine. If you are saying that a punch is worse than words, I'd agree on average, though I might say it depends on the words and the punch. I definitely agree getting your head smashed into a locker repeatedly is worse. If you are saying words don't matter, or they don't matter enough compared to physical violence, then I respectfully disagree.

I don't speak for anyone but myself, but I have seen/heard for myself misgendering causing suffering. So it goes on the list of things to be resisted where/when it happens. Kids getting their heads smashed into lockers for being different? Yup, on the list too. And I try to do what I can to help keep endangered kids safe.

And I hope it is ok to say, with much empathy, that I hope your life has improved since you were that young teen.

L.R.H. in Oakland, CA, writes: L.S. in Warsaw wrote: "It's unlucky for your female readers and their daughters that you could not find one male-oriented "trivial" task to mock. I am sure the research department could find at least one."

It's funny, I didn't see anything sexist in the original comments because I am of an age and, perhaps, educational and political demographic such that everyone knows how to cook. In most of the households I am familiar with, cooking is split about evenly between members of a couple. I think I know of more cis heterosexual couples where the man is the primary cook than where the woman is.

And there is at least one man among my friends who is a quilter. I do acknowledge the historical association between women and both cooking and quilting.

L.S. in Greensboro, NC, writes: I was dismayed to read the letter from L.S. from Warsaw declaring that quilting patterns and pizza recipes are not male-oriented tasks. Here is a website that lists more than 100 male quilters with an online presence. Also, most of the famous pizza makers that I'm aware of are men.

I guess sexism is alive and well in the 21st century.

V & Z respond: Interestingly, we almost went with needlepoint for that joke, because of... football player Rosey Grier.

The Cold Civil War

P.M. in Currituck, NC (but currently in Wilkes-Barre, PA), writes: I wanted to comment on your reply to the question posted yesterday by Q.S. in Holly Springs. In particular, I feel that your characterization that the Cold Civil War being unilateral (from the right-wing) is off the mark. While the left is not engaged in outwardly brazen acts countering those on the right (such as refusing to wear masks), the left does engage in a lot of passive-aggressive behavior, promulgating that everyone must think as they do, because "we're right, and if you don't agree with us, you are bigoted/racist/part of the problem/whatever."

Specifically, I am referring to several gender-related terms I have heard on NPR over the past few months, those being: "gender-affirming care is life-saving care," "chestfeeding," and "birthing person/pregnant people." If a person doesn't agree to the use of these terms/ideas, they are characterized by someone on the left as I described above. For example, a reasonable question to the "gender-affirming care" line might be "if you don't pump a 12-year-old full of puberty blockers, will they actually die?" But, heaven forbid, someone on the left actually engages in discourse on that topic with someone on the right—it's just easier to take on the smug attitude of "we're right, and you're wrong." Given that, when the left throws out terms such as those and expects you to accept them ("or else, we'll smear you"), are the left's actions in the Cold Civil War truly 100% innocent, and totally free of all wrongdoing? They bear no responsibility whatsoever?

One may be tempted to describe what I outlined above as "just politics," but that is a cop-out. People on the right are disgusted at being told they are wrong/biased/racist/evil for holding the positions they do, and are thus lashing out and responding in ways they feel they can (like, for example, passing restrictive abortion laws). If you classify what they are doing as unilateral actions on their part of the Cold Civil War, and do not realize that you (someone on the left) is acting in ways as well where you are "firing shots" at them, then you are just as much part of the problem as they are.

T.P. in Kings Park, NY, writes: In your response to the question from Q.S. in Holly Springs, you asked: "Is there any behavior among the members of the modern left that is equivalent to, say, refusing to wear masks because 'that's what the libs want?'" Several years ago, I stopped wearing my Flying Spaghetti Monster shirt in public and took the Darwin fish off of my car because I came to feel that mocking the deeply held beliefs of total strangers wasn't a very nice thing to do (although I will confess that I happily wore my shirt that says "Sorry About Our President" in about twenty languages whenever I traveled internationally during the Former Guy's term). I recognize that a bit of snark is not the equivalent of defying mask or vaccine mandates and that my change of heart actually supports your point, but the fact that I owned such things in the first place suggests that the desire to poke the other guy in the eye exists on both sides, if not equally.

M.G. in Boulder, CO, writes: A recent mailbag contribution about Justice Breyer contained a personal comment about one of the writers. The comment made me uncomfortable, not because I thought the writer couldn't take the criticism, but because I had written something similar about a well-known politician and sent it to the mailbag. After considering my reaction to the Breyer contribution, I retracted my e-mail, having concluded that my perception of someone's health has very little to do with their ability to serve. John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Theodore Roosevelt were all substantial people and served us well. William Howard Taft survived the presidency and moved on to serve on the Supreme Court. Dwight Eisenhower had an overstrained heart but gave us unity and pride as Americans. Franklin D. Roosevelt couldn't stand on his own but could stand up to Hitler.

If I give up taking cheap shots at the Orange Menace, what happens? Referring to the Cheeto-in-Chief made me feel he is a non-threat, a person of no real importance, a clown. Is that a good idea? Well, if I give up the distraction of name-calling and inappropriate criticism, I'm left with focusing on character, judgment, and decision making. Not a bad trade-off.

J.B. in Hutto, TX, writes: In response to yesterday's query by L.P. in Milwaukee regarding the absence of presidential assassination attempts, I think we should remember that while there have not been any serious assassination attempts directed against any recent presidents (and thank God for that), there was a very serious assassination attempt on Republican members of Congress by a left-winger on June 14, 2017—the so-called "Congressional Baseball Shooting"—in which Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana was shot and nearly killed. The fact that this story seemingly vanished from the news headlines shortly after it happened led me to believe that the media consciously decided not to cover it extensively for fear of encouraging possible copycat attempts.

National Politics

D.A.Y. in Troy, MI, writes: My middle school principal had a saying: "You can have it hard now and easy later, or easy now and hard later." America, when under Republican rule since at least Reagan, has invariably chosen the latter path when it comes to America's domestic needs. They try to roll back our efforts on conserving our environment and de-carbonizing our economy. As much as they profess their concern for the unborn, when a child is born they're uninterested in helping that child. They act like proper healthcare and higher education are luxuries for the rich. They treat the right to have the capacity to kill, based on a bad interpretation of one of the amendments to the Constitution, as more sacrosanct than the right to live, which is the first inalienable right in the preamble. While they claim to be the "Party of Lincoln," they are increasingly hostile towards civil rights and embrace the Confederacy and its traitorous "heroes".

The result is, during Republican rule, America at buries itself in a time capsule, and slides backward on its important domestic matters. So, when unearthed by Democrats, we've essentially wasted 4, 8, or even 12 years. So, the Democrats need to catch up. However, that means needing to bring a decade of change up immediately, which can look scary. The Republicans take advantage of this and scares people about the price tag and the massive changes to their lives and culture that will come. The Republicans take over one or both houses of Congress and essentially sit there and let nothing happen. We fall further behind on things the president can't do on their own.

The thing about "later" is that it eventually arrives and hard stuff will have to be done. We're starting to see the effects of climate change rear their ugly head and it's more like a dam break than a gradual process. We're now seeing how our apathy towards civil rights has affected our society, from policing to voting. On and on, we're seeing the consequences of us putting what needs to be done off because it's hard.

It doesn't help that the Republicans have decided to make it impossible to govern if so much as one of their votes are needed. It would be nice to keep the filibuster intact. However, it no longer serves its intended purpose, as it is nothing but a means to stop governing all together.

The Democrats, including the centrists, need to sit down and realize it's time to play hardball. The filibuster must go. DC and Puerto Rico need to become states. They need to pass voting rights, police reform (which has nothing to do with defunding the police), abortion rights, human infrastructure, and environmental policies. And when the Republicans bemoan the price tag and the change, Democrats should respond with the following: "We should have done this over the past 40 years, but you did nothing but sit there and told us we could do it later. Well, later is here."

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: Democrats made a big mistake in selling Build Back Better with the top-line number of $3.5 trillion. What people don't realize is that this is over 10 years. So, it's really $350 billion per year. By way of comparison, the Defense Department budget of $768 billion per year was passed by Congress last week. So Build Back Better is less than half of the Defense Department's budget (which, by the way, is more than the Biden administration asked for). With that framing, it doesn't seem so wildly expensive now, does it?

Large numbers are hard to comprehend. I wonder how many Americans can even do the math to turn $3.5 trillion over 10 years into $350 billion per year. The context in the previous paragraph makes Build Back Better easy to understand and should make sense to anyone.

There are scores of political operatives and communications directors who have left the Republican party and are champing at the bit for Biden's agenda to be successful. Not because they have suddenly become liberals. In fact, many are still skeptical of such a large social program, but are deeply concerned about saving our democracy. If Biden's agenda fails, Republicans win in 2022 and we turn into Hungary. They understand that. Are Democrats unable to look in the mirror and acknowledge that they suck at both messaging and using every tool in their toolbox to get these bills passed? Is their Washington bubble so thick that they don't know what's going on out here?

D.L-O. in North Canaan, CT, writes: I've been trying to be patient...really trying...but I'm losing my cool at this point. What the frack are Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) thinking? They're all about "bipartisanship" with the crazily obstructionist, right-wing Trump-cum-McConnell sheep in the Senate, but they can't even manage bipartisanship within their own party! I'm fed up with the whole lot of them, but particularly and also Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Joe Biden. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is doing her part, but the two senators are leaving her blowing in the wind. Hey guys, I don't care if you need a cattle prod to get the two in line at this point, but you've gotta get them in line because everything we loyal Democrats voted for is circling down the drain right now. News flash: It's very possible you wouldn't have won the election without the progressives in our party, so you better belly up to the bar and buy at least a significant portion of their agenda. Not to mention passing a solid voting rights bill (it doesn't get more important than that)! I say, get rid of the filibuster and get stuff passed PF-ing-Q!

WHEW! Well I said it and I'm not going to take it back.

P.S.: while I'm at it, I'm retiring at the end of this year so (just in case it comes up) don't fool with my Social Security or Medicare, either.

S.P. in Denver, CO, writes: I've noticed that in a number of recent posts you have stressed the importance of the democrats passing the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill to improve their midterm prospects, but I don't see how passing it will help (or, for that matter, how failing will hurt). If they pass it, the Republicans will hammer Democrats for being spendthrifts and for bloating government with a bunch of entitlements that the Republicans can easily cut in the future and they'll sell it as the biggest tax increase in history.

What I don't understand is why the Democrats don't target a smaller bill ($1.5-$2 trillion), but also add additional taxes to cover deficit reduction that Republicans would be hard pressed to run against.

If we learned anything in 2020, America does not embrace what the conservatives call "the woke left;" that's why Biden won and Bernie didn't. So, it would be foolish to pass that type of legislation and expect it to be a winning recipe in the midterms. Sadly, Biden is losing control of the narrative, partly because he struggles to communicate in the same way Barack Obama or Donald Trump could. This bodes very badly for 2022 for the Democrats.

R.L. in Alameda, CA, writes: I've written before about how former Republican consultants, operatives, and communications directors have been rooting for the Democrats to get Biden's agenda passed—not because they have suddenly become liberals, but because they recognize that without Biden's agenda passing, Republicans will most certainly take over the House and maybe the Senate in 2022 and we would face turning into Hungary or Brazil. In short, our Democracy is at stake and they see passage of Biden's agenda as critical to saving it. In their minds, saving our democracy is a higher priority than stopping Biden's social programs.

Now would be a really good time for moderate Republican elected officials to step up and say the same with their votes. People like Sens. Mitt Romney (R-UT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Ben Sasse (R-NE), John Kennedy (R-LA), and Susan Collins (R-ME) along with Reps. Lynn Cheney (R-WY), Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), and John Katko (R-NY)—and I'm sure there are others—should announce that they are going to vote for Build Back Better for this very reason. Those who are up for re-election are facing Trumpist primary challengers anyway; they would be seen as saviors from people on the left, and Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi would no longer need to kowtow to Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema along with Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) and his ilk.

These lawmakers have already gone all-in on opposing Trump, voting for the second impeachment and speaking publicly against Trumpism. It's about time that they develop spines, get out from under the thumb of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), put their money where their mouths are and prove with their votes that there is a faction of the Republican party that is interested in being a governing partner with the Democrats. And there is the part where my son would be able to tell his children about how our country came this close to devolving into authoritarianism during his college days.

L.C. in Boston, MA, writes: So, it seems that coalition-building is like Defense Against the Dark Arts after all. The existence of the topic and the class is no secret, but anything useful that the class is supposed to teach is secret, most of the teachers are incompetent, corrupt, or both, and bad things happen to any teacher that actually does teach anything useful.

V & Z respond: People really need to know their Harry Potter to understand that comment.

M.M. in Abingdon, MD, writes: At Pat's in Philadelphia a cheesesteak is $12. So Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) could get 833,333,333 cheesesteaks.

V & Z respond: But what if he prefers Geno's?

The Sinemystery

D.L. in Albuquerque, NM, writes: I've been reading from 2004 or 05 through several generations of laptops, from Windows XP to now Windows 10, but have not sent an e-mail until now. After reading yesterday's Q&A, I followed a habit—developed in the 1970s—of trying to read or listen to local news sources before developing firm opinions on a topic.

The article "Why Does Kyrsten Sinema Oppose Drug Pricing Reform? Maybe This Is Why" may help explain Kyrsten Sinema's behavior. It seems her views on protecting the pharmaceutical industry are more inline with Moscow Mitch than with President Biden.

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: I was deeply disappointed to read about Kyrsten Sinema's unabashed attendance at a fund-raiser for groups who openly oppose the reconciliation bill. She seems completely unapologetic about having been bought, and her strategy is pretty transparent: Try to force a vote on the smaller infrastructure bill only and string everyone along on the other bill until it dies a slow death. Then, I suppose she could spin the bigger bill's failure any way she wants—3 years is a long time to come up with some plausible story. And meanwhile, her war chest would continue to grow. But now that Nancy Pelosi has delayed a vote on the smaller bill, the Senator's strategy gets more complicated. If she continues to just stall and not actually negotiate, she'll get blamed for killing both bills for no reason other than to serve her big donors. So, Joe Biden's strategy of delaying both bills to bring those two Senators into line was the right move. I suspect that the play is to find a compromise with Joe Manchin and leave Sinema standing alone. Is she willing to tank both bills by herself? If so, is there a Republican Biden can win over like Lisa Murkowski? Wow, for some reason, I'm getting a real strong sense of déjà vu.

M.B. in Washington, DC, writes: I am sadly coming to the conclusion that Kyrsten Sinema is basically a female, Democratic Donald Trump. She has no appreciation of the responsibilities of her office. She has no knowledge of, or interest in the policies under discussion and she has not hired staff who have such knowledge or interest—in fact, her staff don't even know how to operate in the Senate. She doesn't take her office seriously—for her being a senator is a grift and a vanity project, all about self-aggrandizement. She's Donald Trump in a funky skirt. If somebody doesn't very soon come up with a way to make her think it is in her own best interest to support the infrastructure and election projection laws, she will have no qualms about burning the whole thing down. Just like Donald Trump—and then we will be heading to a very dark place.

D.A. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: I'm guessing that Kyrsten Sinema plans to run and win as an independent. She figures she can lose the progressive Democratic vote in Arizona, such as it is, to her Democratic opponent, and she can lose the Trumpublican vote to her Trumpublican opponent, and win with conservative Democrats and honest Republicans. She'll be bankrolled to the hilt by her corporate masters who hate the worm-thing and who dislike Democratic progressive policy. She could well win. has long derided and disliked Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) for being an "independent," even though he has consistently caucused with the Democrats and generally voted a Democratic party line, working with the party on the inside. If Sinema wins as an independent, well, then you'll learn what "independent" really means.

V & Z respond: We must point out that the only times when we've raised questions about Sanders' party affiliation, they were about his hemming and hawing about whether he was running for president as a Democrat, or as an independent who was seeking the Democratic nomination. There were many occasions when he was trying to have it both ways.

D.E. in Austin, TX, writes: I think Kyrsten Sinema's motivations are not that inscrutable. As long as Joe Manchin is putting the breaks on Democratic plans, it behooves Sinema to position herself to the right of Democratic legislators, since she serves in a purple state where she needs to continue to have some republican appeal. Her position is just of no consequence right now, she can just pick the winning side, she doesn't need to be a part of the Democratic failure to complete their agenda.

R.M.S. in Lebanon, CT, writes: I have read a lot of criticism of Kyrsten Sinema on your site this year, and I feel some of it is misplaced. Yes, she has a voting record to the right of the Progressive Caucus, but her voting record has been very Democratic. She doesn't support a $15 minimum wage and she doesn't support eliminating the filibuster, but neither did President Barack Obama when he was in the Senate or White House. Her political positions are not all that different from Obama's. She supports the Affordable Care Act, COVID-19 stimulus spending, abortion rights, same-sex marriage, a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, and she opposes mass deportations of immigrants. She votes with her party about 75% of the time.

I would argue she was never given a mandate to legislate as a progressive in the mold of Reps. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). Consider this: She won a very close election in a reddish-purple state that hadn't elected a Democratic senator since the 1980s. She ran on her record as a Blue Dog Democrat in the House of Representatives. She won by only about 55,000 votes in a state which has about 1 million Roman Catholics, and about 500,000 Mormons, as a bisexual woman. Both the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Latter-Day Saints have long and well-documented history of persecuting homosexuality and bisexuality.

Biphobia is a real phenomenon and is experienced by bisexuals both from both religious groups and within the LGBT community. Many religious groups have a heterosexist worldview, which teaches that heterosexuality is the only true or natural sexual orientation, so anything else is deviant or a psychological disorder. But there is also disparagement against bisexuals in the lesbian and gay population as well. I have talked to many gay men and lesbians in the United States who have been very disparaging towards bisexuals and try to invalidate their sexual identities. I am an LGBTQ+ man who has exclusively had romantic relationships with bisexual men and I have seen the effects these critcisms have. Bisexual men especially often don't feel welcome being their true selves in this country because of the negative perceptions many people have of them.

With this in mind, I am a huge admirer of Sinema. She's a groundbreaking politician who is the first openly bisexual person to serve in the U.S. Senate. She was able to overcome people's prejudices and earn respect and political support based on her achievements and her character. I am sure she is very mindful of how she is perceived by her constituents and she knows how biphobic tropes will be used against her by conservatives if she is seen as a radical. Progressives who want to primary her should understand this. They should also keep in mind that if she or Sen. Joe Manchin lose their seats, they will be back under the thumb of Mitch McConnell.

All Politics Is Local (Well, Except for the Stuff Above)

R.M. in Williamstown, WV, writes: I was taken by the comments from M.C. In Newton regarding the fact that Sen Maggie Hassan (D-NH) has launched a TV ad more than a year before her election. Clearly, the Senator is a rank amateur. Here in West Virginia, everyone's favorite senator, Joe Manchin, has been running non-stop TV spots for several weeks. And his election is more than 3 years away. Of course, he may feel just a tad more vulnerable than Hassan does.

E.F. in Baltimore, MD, writes: Republicans only win statewide elections in Maryland when the Democrats nominate someone who assumes they needn't bother campaigning (Kathleen Kennedy Townsend in 2002 and Ben Jealous in 2018) or a Black candidate who can't persuade white Democrats to vote for him (Anthony Brown in 2014). Gov. Larry Hogan (R-MD) was fortunate in his opponents.

Maryland voters are somewhat like Massachusetts voters, insofar as they'll elect a Republican governor—knowing that the Democrats will have a supermajority in the state legislature ready to override anything the governor might veto—but there's no way they'd ever vote for Hogan for President. Not that they'll ever have an opportunity to do so.

W.K.D. in Houston, TX, writes: Based upon the reporting in this article from Politico, I concede that Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX) and his team are pathetic for precisely the reason you suggested. The reporting states that Donald Trump made his demands for a recount in Texas the day before the Arizona election results were released, indicating that this particular demand was specifically about keeping the grift alive, which indeed it will successfully accomplish.

R.M. in Lincoln City, OR, writes: Thanks for your analysis of the new Congressional Districts in Oregon. From your distant perspective, I can see why you would say Oregon went from two swing districts to one, but from where I'm sitting—in the newly redrawn 4th District—I'd say all of the seats are safe.

The only real swing district in the last election was Rep. Peter DeFazio's (D) seat in the 4th. You're correct when you say the new map ensures DeFazio's future. (I'm delighted to have my county moved from the 5th—represented by the much more moderate Democrat Kurt Schrader—to the 4th.)

But Schrader's seat, which looks like a swing district to you, has never been seriously threatened by any Republicans. The new map shifts Schrader's population base to the east. He picks up the city of Bend, which had been a somewhat liberal bastion in very red Eastern Oregon.

The heavily Republican 2nd District becomes even more red by losing Bend and picking up some very right-wing parts of southwest Oregon. That's Trump country, gun country, anti-vaccine country, secede from the union country.

However, you identified the 5th District as the new seat. The new district is actually the 6th, which is southwest of Portland. You could probably call this the wine seat. If pinot noir grapes could vote, they would hold a huge majority.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: I saw your item about the DNC working to canvass, by door-knocking, to get more voters of color registered and out to the polls, particularly in midterms. Now, because canvassing is my bag, and what I enjoy doing most (I hate phone-banking and much prefer in-person contact) and because I am an Officer of the North Carolina Democratic Party and the Wake County Democratic Party, I can tell you that in order to volunteer, right now, with WCDP, one must sign an attestation that they have been vaccinated against COVID-19. This goes for any volunteering in which personal contact is made, whether canvassing, registering voters, attending a festival or other event... literally anything involving contact with another person.

I have before expressed some concern though, since vaccinated people can transmit the Delta variant, that vaccine alone does not eliminate risk. As a result, all volunteers are required to also be masked at all times when volunteering in any capacity involving human contact. Thus, our Party is taking every reasonable and possible precaution. I just thought it would be a good idea to point this out for you and the readers.

Trump Club

L.S. in Queens, NY, writes: You wrote:

"We're not sure if the first rule of Trump Club is 'Nobody gets to engage in sexual harassment unless their last name is Trump' or 'If you're going to sexually harass someone, make sure there are no other witnesses.'"

I believe the first rule of Trump Club is "Don't embarrass Trump or cost him money."

J.A. in Austin, TX, writes: The first rule of Trump Club is "Don't endanger Trump's money." I have my staff rules lawyer researching to see if they can find any other rules, but so far, we've come up empty (and my staff rules lawyer is much more dependable than you staff mathematician).

V & Z respond: In fairness, even a broken clock is more dependable than him. At least it provides correct information twice a day.

Vaccine Nation

E.H. in Washington, DC, writes: D.E. in Lancaster writes about Jerri who lost her job in healthcare because of refusing to be vaccinated.

This is so sad that a promising career is ending this way. I would encourage Jerri and anyone else in this position not to "wait it out" but instead to go back with hat in hand and say that they have seen the light and that they were misled. Ask if they can vaccinate now and apply for reinstatement. If possible, decades of your life should not be damaged by a bad decision, especially one made with bad advice that you can now see is wrong. I know that someone who, for example, drinks, drives and injures someone suffers damage to the rest of their life, and nothing can be done. This seems like a case where mitigation is possible if Jerri has a sincere change of heart.

L.V.A. in Idaho Falls, ID, writes: I saw three interviews of medical professionals who were slated to lose their jobs because of refusals to be vaccinated. In all three, there was a lot of rationalization and justification for their stance, but if you listen, it all filtered down to "I was ordered to do it, so I won't." I have worked in security for 14 years and there's always a (small) minority of people who resist everything.

R.G.N. in Seattle, WA, writes: D.J.M. in Salmon Arm wondered if many antivaxxers are simply hiding the fact that they are afraid of needles. D.J.M.'s doctor friend's comment that many people faint when receiving shots brings to mind my experience as a naval corpsman during the Vietnam war. An amazing number of truly brave marines and sailors were deathly afraid of needles. It was usually the servicemen built like football linemen who turned pale and fainted on me. I knew from personal experience that many of these men had displayed extreme bravery in combat. The difference between them and many antivaxxers was that the service required a serviceman to be up-to-date on their vaccinations and the marines I served with would never consider endangering their fellow servicemen. There is a difference between fear and bravery. I agree with D.J.M.'s guess as to the motive of many antivaxxers and have great respect for the marines whose sense of duty overcame their fear.

Then there is this, which is the yin to that yang. The Nisqually Tribe's COVID recovery site near Olympia, WA, had to be evacuated when it was incorporated into the anti-vaxxer activists' fantasy conspiracy theory world. Anti-vaxxer activists have posted videos of the wooded site that contains several cabins and RVs used by the tribe to allow members exposed to or infected by COVID to self-quarantine from family members and receive medical treatment. The Internet conspiracy theory says that the site is a concentration camp being built to imprison unvaccinated Americans, and this has led to threats to burn down the facility. If anyone ever published a book titled Profiles in Cowardice, here is a chapter for them. The site lacks concertina wire and armed guard towers with armed soldiers, but that doesn't stop the conspiracy theorists from hypothesizing that they are threatened with a Holocaust situation. Aside from the insult of comparing anti-vaxxers with the victims of the Holocaust, the number of people on Internet sites requesting the location of the facility and posting threats and encouraging violence is a prime example of people entrenched in a fantasy world becoming so obsessed with fear that they are a danger to both themselves and others.

Legal Matters

R.H. in Santa Ana, CA, writes: B.C. in Soldotna asked why the American Bar Association hasn't yanked John C. Eastman's law license.

Your answer (that he'd have to commit serious misconduct beyond taking silly political positions) is correct, but there is a more correct answer, which is that the ABA is not a licensing or disciplinary authority. That task falls to whatever State Bar Associations (and the Supreme Courts of those States) where he happens to be a member.

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: At the hearing on the preliminary injunction in the DOJ's case against the Texas law banning abortions, Judge Robert Pitman questioned Texas' lawyers about how an injunction could be enforced, since the law allows private citizens to sue if it's violated. The Texas lawyers used that as an argument why the judge should not grant an injunction. In reality, there's a simple solution: The judge's injunction could prohibit Texas courts from issuing a summons if such a suit is filed. Without a summons, a defendant cannot be made to respond to a lawsuit. The California Judicial Council issued just such an order in the early days of the pandemic to prevent mass evictions before Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) issued an eviction moratorium. The Judicial Council prohibited California courts from issuing a summons for any eviction proceedings except those that were necessary to protect health and safety. This was, in effect, a de facto eviction moratorium which bought the Governor some time to craft his own.

The Judge's order could also state that anyone who provides an abortion while the injunction is in place is immune from suit until the case is finally decided. Those who file suit anyway risk sanctions and having to pay the other side's attorneys' fees. So, the judge definitely has some options for enforcement if he decides to grant the preliminary injunction.

R.R. in Philadelphia, PA, writes: Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett decreed: "My goal today is to convince you that this court is not comprised of a bunch of partisan hacks."

In the interrogation business, this is called a "spontaneous negation," an unsolicited comment by the questioned to establish what s/he is not, in an attempt to influence the narrative. A skilled questioner will recognize the attempt to steer away from an area that is potentially sensitive to the questioned, and investigate further. Many times, there is nothing to be found in that exploration, but sometimes, sometimes there is.

Term Limits Are So... Limiting

J.K. in Silverdale, WA, writes: In response to the questions from J.L. in Los Angeles about term limits, here are some further thoughts to add to (V)'s and (Z)'s excellent anti-term-limits arguments. Whenever I've discussed term limits with people who support them, I find that the length of a politician's term is not the actual problem they are trying to solve. What they're really upset about are issues like corruption, campaign financing, and voter apathy that can keep a "bad apple" in a position of power. Shifting their focus to ways to address the actual source of their ire tends to change their perspective, and not just with this issue. In these days of hyper-polarization, helping people to identify the true causes of their anger/fear is a worthwhile challenge.

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: J.L.'s questions on term limits and your answer were refreshing. I have heard the same arguments put forward, and responded with similar answers. I have served as an appointed and/or elected official in my home town/county since the mid-70's. I can't tell you how many times I have seen someone come on board breathing fire and vowing to upset the apple cart and remake the body into something that the people want (?). Some last a few years and undergo re-education and become productive. Some last a few months and realize that maybe the vocal minority wasn't quite correct in their assumptions and exit stage left. But most maintain their performance for their term, and when the electorate sees that which they have imposed on themselves, they are judiciously shown the door at the next election.

You named several national politicians who have served long and distinguished careers. There are probably just as many who have served lengthy careers and exceeded their sell-by date and have been ushered off stage by their respective electorates. I have been doing my thing for over 45 years now. I have won elections and lost elections and life goes on. I have considered retiring and been asked to stay on to preserve the institutional memory that I hold and can pass on to the rest of the body. I don't know if they were being honest or just trying to flatter me.

R.T. in Arlington, TX, writes: Just wanted to throw in a point to follow up on your critique of term limits. In states like Texas, where the legislature has a short session every other year, lobbyists and executive branch politicians spend a year and a half filling the hopper of the sausage grinder by writing the bills and greasing palms to line up bill sponsors, then the legislature spends 4 months furiously turning the crank. Bills that need significant debate get tossed aside for time reasons, while stupid and esoteric bills sail right through. (My favorite example of this was the bill—now law—that said a car license plate frame could not obscure the word "Texas" on the license plate.) It also means no one can afford to be a legislator without enough personal wealth to support themselves, despite walking off their day job for four months every couple of years. So we have an economic privilege bias built into the system as well.

V & Z respond: Don't mess with Texas—especially on the license plates.

S.M. in Bexley, OH, writes: I appreciated your thorough Saturday take-down of the term limit folly. Executive term limits only exist because of Republican reaction to Franklin D. Roosevelt's four electoral successes and, in Ohio, to Frank Lausche's four 2-year gubernatorial terms.

When Ohio bought the rest of this bad apple in the 90s, I reacted in verse, unfortunately without much effect:

"Limitation Lament"

It seems now as the pachyderms
Attempt again to limit terms
They've lost their vaunted memory with
With lessons from their history—
How limitation turned things sour
For Reagan, Rhodes and Eisenhower.

These elephants with addled thought
Do not perceive what will be wrought
From having led this great stampede.
They fail to note how soon the seed
That's bound to thrive in this manure
Will bring the nation to endure,
With limits on the elected slate,
More power to those they loved to hate—
The lobbies, staff and bureaucrats.
They hoped 'twere just the Democrats.

Foreign Affairs, Part I: Iron Dome

M.C. Santa Clara, CA, writes: J.B. in Hutto writes: "I cannot fully express how appalled and disgusted I am by those members of the House of Representatives who refused to support funding for Israel's Iron Dome defense system. Iron Dome has absolutely no offensive component; all it does is shoot down incoming rockets and missiles fired by Hamas and Hezbollah against Israeli civilian targets. Iron Dome does nothing but save lives. Anyone who opposes Iron Dome is saying, in effect, that they want more Israeli civilians to be killed. Given that Israel is the world's only Jewish-majority state, let's just call this what it is: antisemitism."

I cannot fully express how appalled and disgusted I am by this comment complaining about House members who refuse to vote to support an Iron Dome... of a foreign country! It's ridiculous. Do we have an Iron Dome on any U.S. territory? Let's call J.B.'s complaint what it is: naked Zionism*, pure and simple. It is banging the drum for Israel at all costs, even while Israel horrifically abuses the Palestinians. Let Israel pay for its own defense. The U.S. used to be at war frequently with Mexico, then wiser heads prevailed, and now the U.S. and Mexico are productive and good neighbors. Might there be a lesson there for Israel?

* - Zionism is a species of colonialism and racism aimed at appropriating Palestinian land and systematically disenfranchising the Palestinians that remain.

L.O-R. in San Francisco, CA, writes: J.B in Hutto makes an interesting point. Since the Iron Dome is purely defensive, perhaps we should fund the Gaza Strip and Palestinian-held areas of the West Bank to build out their own purely-defensive versions of the technology. If we don't, then we are indeed antisemitic (since Palestinians are Semites too).

J.S. in Germantown, OH, writes: I suspect the interpretation of opposition to the Iron Dome sale from J.B. in Hutto has more to do with J.B.'s personal politics than with an open consideration of the issue. There are those who are concerned that once the hard-liners in Israel have nothing to fear from any attack, they will step up their acquisition of Palestinian land and possibly even launch "pre-emptive" strikes against military targets in Palestine, which will result in far more civilian casualties. Just consider what might have happened during the Cold War if either the U.S. or the U.S.S.R. had its own Iron Dome solution. I would also make the observation that anything with a missile attached can be used as an offensive weapon and I have no doubt that Israeli scientists and military leaders are more than capable of finding ways to use Iron Dome or its components offensively—that is, if they don't mind voiding the terms of the warranty...

On a side note, I believe there is a corollary to Godwin's Law such that any discussion of the Isreali-Palestinian conflict will result in a claim of antisemitism.

E.R. in Irving, TX, writes: J.B. in Hutto thinks the American taxpayer should pay for another nation's defense. And a wealthy nuclear power, at that.

How about Israel pays for its own defense? They can have the tech, but they need to buy it from us, not get it as a gift.

B.B. in Columbus, OH, writes: There are two perfectly legitimate objections to the Iron Dome funding, contrary to what J.T. in Hutto said about it. First, this is an Israeli defense system intended to protect Israelis. That being the case, paying for it should be their responsibility, not ours. Why should American taxpayers be made to pay for Israel's defense when we're trillions of dollars in debt, and Israel has a more than sufficient tax base to do so? Secondly, paying for a strictly defensive system is not morally faultless. Not only does that free up Israeli money for offensive systems, it reduces the incentive they have to come up with a real mutually acceptable solution to the situation there. American unwillingness to make aid to Israel conditional on making real concessions to those who feel that their land has been stolen or is under enemy occupation is, in my opinion, a major cause of the failure to achieve a peace deal.

Foreign Affairs, Part II: AUKUS

B.R. in Cotonou, Republic of Benin, writes: My contribution, about the AUKUS deal from a French perspective, was not very strong. But I disagree with the response from M.M. in San Diego, who deals with the issue solely from a commercial angle. I am not outraged at a commercial deal being beaten by a possibly better deal. Still, diesel propulsion was initially what Australia wanted; it is simply false to claim that France did not offer nuclear propulsion in the first place, and the way another deal was negotiated in the shadows is commercially very unfair. Still, the commercial angle is not what bothers me most here. This chain of events illustrates how the U.S. deals with its so-called allies in a time of alleged "America's Back." Keeping one's allies in the dark while negotiating a major deal behind their backs is not what I call returning to the international scene is a spirit of cooperation.

I won't dwell for too long on the response from R.E.M. in Brooklyn, While my original message was, admittedly, little more than a caricatural expression of French anti-Americanism, I would have expected better-educated answers than "Damn you cheese-eating surrender monkeys." Cooperating with allies is superior to subjugating vassals, even if you are (still) the biggest bully in the room. If it turns out there is no difference with the Trump era in that respect, it most likely will not make America safer, certainly will not make the world safer, and Joe Biden's administration should know better.

Alas, what kind of answers did I expect? Is there still something to say about our common strategic interest or common values? Some of the responses I received show that I am not the only one having serious doubts about that.

C.S. in Duluth, MN, writes: As regards AUKUS, numbers 1-4 are factual statements. Numbers 5 and 6 seem likely. Number 7 is a certainty:

  1. The U.S. SSN fleet is, by most accounts, too small, and the nation's ability to build more is limited by fiscal and shipyard constraints.

  2. A creative solution to the submarine shortage would be nice to have. Depending on how strategic threats are assessed, a creative solution may even be imperative.

  3. It is very expensive to provide 'back office' support for a fleet of anything, especially nuclear submarines. And if a nation can afford to provide the needed support, it would take a long time (more than a decade) to develop the capabilities. A small country with a small military and a tiny navy might not be able to build these capabilities.

  4. The solution: Australia becomes the newest U.S. Navy submarine squadron.

  5. The U.S. or maybe the U.K. provides support to operate a nuclear submarine fleet. This is done at zero cost to Australia. There is no choice. This stuff needs outsourcing. A friend whose submarine experience is more recent and more extensive than mine did a back-of-the-napkin calculation. Operating costs, excluding the considerable start-up costs for a fleet of 8 boats, would be $1.6 billion/year, or 6% of the Australian defense budget. The cost of 8 boats would be about $32 billion.

  6. Who pays for the fleet? Through the magic of trade deals and Congress, the United States pays for the fleet.

  7. Nukes? They will build the boats with the fire control systems to handle future weapons needs. Load the nukes when deemed necessary. Any other scenario is foolish thinking and would be put forth only to manage public opinion.
History Matters

J.K. in Freehold, NJ, writes: In your "Pointing Fingers" item on Wednesday, you gave great examples of presidents correctly overruling the military leadership. But you left out perhaps the biggest one, when John F. Kennedy was the only one in a room full of military and civilian leadership who was against an immediate invasion of Cuba during the missile crisis. Unknown to anyone in the room, there were already Russian nukes in place and ready to attack. Had he not done this, imagine the conflagration there would have been.

C.R. in Pelham, AL, writes: Your response to N.F. In Brussels about the failure of Black communities in the Plains left out one significant factor. As Nell Painter points out in her foundational work Exodusters, racism was not an exclusively southern problem. Oregon, Nebraska, and Colorado all debated either Black exclusion or prohibiting Black suffrage in their state constitutions. At my wife's CU graduation, Commissioner Dwight Jones remembered that, growing up near Sharon Springs, KS, black farmers had to guard their ripening wheat fields at night to prevent their neighbors from setting them on fire in order to force them out of the county. His experience was unfortunately typical for many minorities, as the recent attempt to bomb an apartment complex in Garden City, KS, demonstrates. Sadly, even the "free state" of Kansas can be just as racist as any place in Alabama, if not more so.

V & Z respond: It was, after all, Brown v. Topeka, Kansas Board of Education.

Pedagogy of the Oppressed

M.G. in Chicago, IL, writes: My comments on teaching history are more of a condemnation of the education system as a whole. There is no better example of a failed educational system then one that produces 74 million votes for the Dear Leader. I suspect the American Aristocracy does not want an educated electorate, but their policies and rhetoric may create an ignorant mob (e.g., Jan 6th). Are we the product of the society we have created or is the ugly side of human nature something that can not be defeated and only restrained for short periods of time? That said, it appears that I may be taking out some bottled-up frustrations with the 74 million on unfortunate history apologies.

J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: I don't want to make too many presumptions, but M.G. in Chicago writes like a person who has never had to write a syllabus that tries to distill a century or more of history into 15 weeks of coherent, absorbable lectures/lessons/readings.

You will never deliver a comprehensive history of anything wide-ranging in a semester. I often teach film history and I could probably teach an entire semester on "the long 1970s in the U.S." and still not feel like I've offered my students a comprehensive history (Note to hiring colleges: I would love the opportunity to try!).

"Film" itself is relatively young, spanning just 127 years and counting by the strictest definitions (people quibble over just when it begins, as academics are wont to do), but condensing even that into 15 weeks requires very difficult decisions about balancing "essentials" and "the canon" with a desire to expand traditional definitions of those terms. I include, for example, Indian Parallel Cinema at the expense of including German Expressionism (sorry Dr. Caligari), a decision that would no doubt be controversial to many film buffs/scholars.

As (Z) has seemed to allude to in pedagogical posts before, the solution to this that most contemporary theories of teaching and learning have arrived at is that teaching can't be thought of as a way of just filling students' heads up with facts (what the famous pedagog Paulo Freire calls "the banking model") but instead provide them with tools and habits of mind to forge their own intellectual trajectories (something like Freire's "problem posing model"). What good is it to know that the Compromise of 1877 happened if you aren't able to dwell on how to analyze its causes, consequences, and significance? At a certain point, a teacher can only do so much, and the responsibility for an educated society has to fall upon the agency of individual citizens acting on their own to learn their history. Good teaching prepares the citizen to do that.

Everyone has an opinion about teaching, but few people really understand what goes into it.

M.B. in San Antonio, TX, writes: We musicologists also have to contend with teaching an enormous amount of music in a limited amount of time. Most universities offer some version of Western music history over two semesters, with the dividing date being 1750, conveniently the date of J.S. Bach's death. First semester includes the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque periods (over a thousand years of music), second semester is the Classical, Romantic and Modern eras (and the latter keeps getting longer and longer). Oh, and then there's one semester for all the music from the rest of the world: Africa, Asia, Latin America, Oceania, and the folk traditions of thousands of cultures. So much music, so little time...

V & Z respond: Where do you slot P.D.Q. Bach in?

Artistic Licenses

P.K. in Marshalltown, IA, writes: My graduate degrees are in American Intellectual and Cultural History, for the record. I have almost nothing to add to your list of influential artists from Saturday, which was magnificent. Here is the possible exception: Jay Ward and Alex Anderson, the creators of "Rocky and Bullwinkle." They wrote for kids and their parents (and used the Cold War as a comic background), while providing the inspiration for such works as "The Simpsons." In any case, it is such lists that encourage me to visit this site daily. Thanks (V) and (Z)!

V & Z respond: Glad you liked it!

E.M. in Milwaukee, WI, writes: Your long Q&A item on influential American artists stimulates me to add two entries, though only the first really meets your standard of influence.

First, I propose the Hudson River School. This is cheating, because there might be 20 decent artists in this group, which was started by Thomas Cole. Their landscape paintings are of a piece with the Age of Expansion and may have shaped American ideas about the land and nation. And I just like them. One could make a nice vacation touring some of the many institutions with decent collections (mostly, but not entirely, in the Northeast).

Second, Thomas Eakins was a fine portraitist and painted a fair number of controversial subjects. His portrait of Walt Whitman may be a key element in how we think about Whitman. As a person, Eakins may have been not so nice. And admittedly, Eakins did not have the political/societal influence of the artists you listed.

P.A. in Redwood City, CA, writes: Although you only listed American artists, that is not quite what the questioner asked. They asked for the "most influential artists in U.S. history" and unquestionably that should include Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, designer of the Statue of Liberty. Which, I would argue, is the most influential single piece of art in U.S. history.

J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: I am the husband of a professional art historian, to whom I read this website aloud frequently (I've encouraged her to submit her own addenda to the list!). While her reaction was, "they should have gotten an art historian," I'll personally just submit what I think are three very important omissions:

Dorothea Lange: Her famous photographs for the Farm Services Administration during the great depression became iconic of that event in the public and the historical imagination. She was brought on by the government to influence public opinion and seems to have been successful. Most especially her photo of Florence Owens Thompson, commonly known as "Migrant Mother," which is perhaps one of the most iconic images of U.S. poverty ever constructed and which still circulates almost 100 years later.

Gordon Parks: Like Lange, Parks took photos for the Farm Services Administration, but was instrumental in bringing to life the Black experience during the 1940s. He in many ways defined the Life Magazine style. Parks was a renaissance man who also composed music, and wrote novels, but is probably most famous today for his work as a filmmaker and as the creator of the character Shaft for the 1971 film of the same name.

Jackson Pollock: Love him or hate him, he made abstract expressionism—now ensconced in the public imagination as synonymous with "modern art"—a thing, and really put the United States on the world stage as a place where important, cutting edge art was produced in a way that it simply wasn't before him. Importantly, he may have been helped by the CIA, who—though the story is murky—saw the promotion of abstract expressionism as a way to project American cultural influence during the Cold War. While naturalistic virtuosity as a criterion for greatness was on the wane before him, Pollock's work put an end to it.

J.W. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: I imagine you'll receive a great many comments that Theodor Geisel—Dr. Seuss—is at least as influential as Maurice Sendak (recent kerfuffle aside, which actually had nothing to do with Seuss). I don't know how to measure that, but "The Lorax" is an extremely influential book for people interested in the environment—climate change, biological diversity, endangered species, and human roles and responsibilities in this area. And Mr. Geisel's career also included political cartoons and work for the U.S. government during World War II. A popular artist addressing issues of the time, inspiring generations with simple, direct messages that inspire action. Seems like he makes your list.

K.A. in Miami Beach, FL, writes: I had to double through your list of 20 influential artists, assuming I had overlooked Andy Warhol. His work brought pop art to the mainstream, and his lifestyle created a cultural phenomenon of which this set of words provides a fine example:

What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coca-Cola, Liz Taylor drinks Coca-Cola, and just think, you can drink Coca-Cola, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.
Food Corner

S.S. in West Hollywood, CA, writes: All the talk of gluten-free "pizza" reminded me—and I really wish I had taken a picture at the time—that like so many others, I went to the supermarket at the start of the pandemic to panic shop and stock up. I got there too late. The shelves were stripped bare of most cans, cleaning products and paper goods. The frozen sections were also mostly stripped bare. The only exception was the cauliflower-crust pizzas that filled the shelves, as if frozen in pre-pandemic times.

Regardless of politics and socioeconomic backgrounds, it seems the one thing all Americans can agree on is that cauliflower is not and should never be called a pizza!

A.H. in Newberg, OR, writes: There are a couple of missing items in the gluten-free pizza crust recipe from K.L. in Chattanooga.

Under the ingredients, there should also be at least one pint of Orygun kraft-brewed IPA for medicinal purposes.

Under the instructions at the end, where it says to add your favorite toppings, there should be an additional instruction to toss out the crust and indulge in said Orygun kraft-brewed IPA.

S.K. in Sunnyvale, CA, writes: Before embarking on your new pizza-related endeavors, I think there are some important legal questions you ought to consider. Such as, is it only a pizza once it comes out of the oven, or is it a pizza the moment you put your fists in the dough? And relatedly, by using the term "pizza" for a gluten-free product, could you be opening yourselves, or any of your ingredient or recipe providers, to lawsuit by anyone who felt like suing? Surely, these questions will be appealed all the way up to the Supreme Pizza Court.

V & Z respond: Perhaps the Texas legislature needs to make it possible to sue gluten-free pizza makers for $10,000?


D.W. in Keene, NH, writes: Regarding the item that suggested being from California's passage of sensible legislation was perhaps due to Californians being better lovers. I would add a commonly understood corollary that applies not only to Californians, but the male gender in general:

If a man is losing his hair in the front it means he's a great thinker.

If a man is losing his hair in the back it means he's a great lover.

If a man is losing his hair in the front and back it means he thinks he's a great lover.

I'll leave the science of this to better minds.

V & Z respond: Both of (Z)'s grandfathers had full heads of hair to their dying days. What does that mean?

G.W. in Boca Raton, FL, writes: The only proper response to the desire of J.E.S. in Sedona to slap a Grover down comes from Willie Dixon and Little Walter:

Them dead presidents
Them dead presidents
Well I ain't broke but I'm badly bent
Everybody loves them dead presidents
A little bit of Lincoln can't park the car
Washington he can't go too far
Jefferson is good, played the track
If you think you're gonna bring some big bitch back
Them dead presidents
Hamilton on a ten can get you straight
But Jackson on a twenty is really great
And if you're talkin' about a poor man's friend
Grant will get you out of whatever you're in
Them dead presidents
A hundred dollar Franklin is really sweet
A five hundred McKinley is the one for me
If I get a Cleveland I'm really set
A thousand dollar Cleveland is hard to get
Them dead presidents

B.T. in Bogalusa, LA, writes: So, are you telling us that come December 3rd, congress may just have to Dim All The Lights?

I loved "Hot Stuff" getting a mention, but another Donna Summer song was so obvious.

K.S. in Harrisburg, PA, writes: I'll tell you something I think you'll understand, it's one thing to get an opinion or humorous quip posted on, but now that I see I'm one of your Beatle Experts*, I feel like a lucky man who made the grade.

* - Denotes only semi-expert since unlike the asterisked names posted in EV, I only got 7 correct (and a lovely play at home version of the game).

V & Z respond: We notice you neglected to mention the lifetime supply of Lee Press-On Nails.

B.C. in Walpole, ME, writes: R.B. in Fairfax was quoted in the Beatles contest item: "Younger readers doubtless are aware of the Beatles and familiar with some of their songs, but I doubt they have the vast exposure to the entire catalog as us geezers do!"

Let's not be too hasty here. Perhaps 10 years ago, on a thirteen hour return trip from Georgia to Pennsylvania one day, I was driving a van-full of high school students after a whitewater paddling trip to the Chattooga River. The students had done their homework, napped, and plugged into their personal isolation devices as the day got longer. Then somebody plugged their device into the van's speakers and cued either "Rubber Soul" or "Revolver," can't remember which, and it may have been both. All the students began singing along, and the whole van sang every word of every song on the album, and after the first verse each time, many added harmony. I was so moved to know that they knew and loved the music of the Beatles. And sang along so beautifully.

Meanwhile, C.W. in Littleton noted: "I vividly remember the 1964 'Ed Sullivan Show' episode featuring The Beatles. My dad called me to come to the TV room and asked, 'What do you think of these guys?' I don't think he was particularly impressed with them. I don't remember how I responded, but I likely wasn't nearly as impressed as I should have been."

My older sister nailed this one. My father predicted that within two years the band would be forgotten. My sister disagreed. My father proposed a $5 bet, which my sister accepted. She collected on that bet every couple of years for decades.

K.H. in Maryville, TN , writes: So, I learn from my sister yesterday that the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds are doing an airshow this weekend in Huntington Beach with—wait for it—their Canadian counterpart, the Snowbirds! (Snowbirds? Really?)

(And how bad is it when I hear about this, and my first thought is warning my friends!)

Now we know their plan. (Z), you being in the neighborhood, are on the front line of this hide-in-plain-sight assault. At least those of us east of the Mississippi will have a few more minutes to prepare! Vaya con Dios...

V & Z respond: Our guess is that the aeroplanes are no match for the airplanes.

D.M. in Burnsville, MN, writes: You wrote: It's the staff mathematician who is a drunk. The staff editor sniffs glue. Try to keep up.

Hard to keep up with this. I realize it's all academic, ivory tower (pardon, control tower) stuff:

V & Z respond: Guess we picked the wrong week to quit making references to the movie Airplane.

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---The Votemaster and Zenger
Oct02 Saturday Q&A
Oct01 Right Now, D.C. Is Funkytown
Oct01 Ghosts of Administrations Past
Oct01 "U.S." Is a Rather Larger Stage than "S.D."
Oct01 Hogan for President
Oct01 Time for Liz and Adam to Step Up?
Oct01 This Week in Schadenfreude
Sep30 Congress Averts Government Shutdown
Sep30 Pelosi Is Furious with the Centrists
Sep30 Manchin and Sinema Could Sink...the Centrist Democrats
Sep30 Poll: Sinema Is Deeply under Water with Arizona Democrats
Sep30 Why Can't Democrats Be Like Liz Cheney?
Sep30 Elizabeth MacDonough Rules Again
Sep30 DNC Starts New Program to Register Voters of Color
Sep30 Oregon Wins
Sep30 Lewandowski Gets Fired for Sexual Harassment
Sep29 Pointing Fingers
Sep29 The Budget Ballet Continues
Sep29 Texas Unveils Its District Map
Sep29 Abbott Continues to Flounder
Sep29 What Is Going on with Kyrsten Sinema? Follow the Money...
Sep29 What Is Going on With Chuck Grassley? Follow the Crazy...
Sep28 Budget Ballet Continues
Sep28 Be Careful What You Wish For, Part I: Texas Abortion Law
Sep28 Be Careful What You Wish For, Part II: The Supreme Court
Sep28 Who Says Democrats Don't Learn?, Part I: Vote-by-Mail
Sep28 Who Says Democrats Don't Learn?, Part II: Ratfu**ing
Sep28 Epik Hack Begins to Exact a Toll
Sep28 Though the News Was Rather Sad...Well, I Just Had to Laugh, Part II
Sep27 The Triple Crises, Part I: Funding the Government
Sep27 The Triple Crises, Part II: The Federal Debt
Sep27 The Triple Crises, Part III: Infrastructure
Sep27 Arizona Audit Just Fuels More Conspiracy Theories
Sep27 Democrats Want to Limit Presidential Power
Sep27 McConnell Finally Accepts Reality
Sep27 Walker Is Running -- from the Voters and the Media
Sep27 Trump Drops Another Hint about a 2024 Run
Sep27 Can the Democrats Win Back White Working-Class Men?
Sep27 Grassley Is in
Sep26 Sunday Mailbag
Sep25 Saturday Q&A
Sep24 Biden Wins Arizona
Sep24 Pelosi, Schumer Announce Infrastructure Funding "Framework"
Sep24 And Here Come the 1/6 Subpoenas
Sep24 Grift, for Lack of a Better Word, Is Good
Sep24 This Week's 2022 Candidacy News
Sep24 This Week in Schadenfreude
Sep24 Though the News Was Rather Sad...Well, I Just Had to Laugh
Sep23 Biden Will Have to Referee Democrats' Internal War
Sep23 Jan. 6 Panel May Go Straight to Subpoenas