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      •  Sunday Mailbag

Sorry we're late; this one took unusually long to put together.

Sunday Mailbag

We got a pretty massive response to the list of influential artists. So today, we are only going to run comments, questions, and criticisms of our list. Perhaps not surprisingly, that section has the most "V & Z respond" of any section we've ever run. Next week, and very possibly the week after, we will run suggestions for additions to the list. So, if you have one, you can still send it in. If you do, please remember to explain your reasoning—i.e., how the person's influence went beyond the world of art.

In Congress

A.B. in Denver, CO, writes: Maybe Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is actually playing 3D chess here with the debt limit: The red team will scream that the blue team are reckless spending socialists, regardless of what the blue team actually does. What, the red team will lie and say absurd things? I'd be shocked...if they stopped lying. So the blue team can include the debt limit and funding in their reconciliation bill, or not, without any change in what the red team screams about.

However, Pelosi has a different problem: Getting the progressive and moderate wings of the blue team to both vote for the "small" and the "big" infrastructure bills. If she: (1) forces the red team to show they won't support the debt limit and funding as standalones, then she (2) has "no choice" but to put the debt limit and funding into the big reconciliation bill, and the moderates won't be able to oppose it without destroying the U.S. economy—which, I would hope, they aren't stupid enough to do. Even Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) then have not just cover to vote for it, but massive pressure that they must.

Strangely, then, everybody gets what they want: Republicans get economy-juicing spending for their capitalism-loving donors, and they get to complain about Democrats; the Democrats get their projects to make progressives happy, and in a way that the moderates can complain afterwards they were forced into by the evil red team and/or evil progressive wing (their choice; but it's still spending for projects they secretly love). A win-win-win-win!

M.B. in Cleveland, OH, writes: You propose that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and the Republicans have the weaker hand in the game of debt-limit chicken going on in Washington, but I'm not so sure. You might be basing your analysis on a flawed sample of people who follow politics, read, and understand nuance.

If the competing narratives are "The Democrats control the entire federal government and can't even keep the government open or pay the debts that they rang up" vs. "Yes, we could technically have avoided this by using reconciliation, but we didn't want to, or could have eliminated the filibuster but didn't, because we didn't have the votes to do that, and so it's the Republicans' fault," it's pretty clear to me which side will resonate with the majority of the public. I suspect that McConnell and the 45+ members of his caucus who follow him blindly will happily take that bet.

M.O. in Elsinore, Denmark, writes: The Democrats will fold and raise the debt limit before things get too serious, without GOP votes. Mitch McConnell knows this, so he won't budge an inch. Democrats lose again.

M.W. in Kula, HI, writes: Isn't the grand total of new spending in the reconciliation package to fund new programs, or to expand existing programs, for just ten years, because the Senate rules allow no budget changes longer than ten years in the reconciliation process?

If so, can't the package be thought of as ten $350 billion annual budget increases, so that the Dems could still fund every new program for 5 years, yet cut the total headline amount to $1.75 trillion?

Then the Obamacare politics imply that in five years, when all the new programs are about to expire, it will be politically impossible to let that happen.

The Democrats get all their new programs, and Manchin/Sinema get a huge win.

P.S.G. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: You wrote: "And if turnout is what matters, and winning 'undecided' voters really doesn't because there aren't many of them, then it suggests that what a party should do when it is in power is try to get lots of things done to get its base excited, and that it should not worry about 'reaching across the aisle' or 'bipartisanship.' Any questions, Sen. Manchin?"

With all due respect to Senator Manchin, he is a corrupt political hack who uses "bipartisanship" as a cover to support his donors and his own financial interests! Obviously, I am totally disgusted!

G.V. in Belmont, CA, writes: You wrote that if the Chamber of Commerce or corporate CEOs call Democrats, the Democrats will say: "You have never donated to me and I don't expect you to ever do so, so have a nice day. Click." While this simplistic view seems reasonable, it ignores a lot of realpolitik.

If the Chamber targets a member of Congress, they are not going to do it through anything quite as obvious and transparent as endorsements and fundraising or lack thereof. The real stick is using a PAC to place issue-based ads in the relevant district, and doing the opposition research to find the ads that will make a difference in that particular place. That is the threat the Chamber really has, and that most members of Congress understand. Even someone like Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) or Ilhan Omar (DFL-MN), who are publicly outspoken, need to have good relationships with local businesses in their districts and with their constituents. Having the Chamber target you is plainly aimed at disrupting those two things. If a mechanic who owns their own shop would consider voting for an incumbent Democrat, but sees an ad targeted at how that incumbent ruined the economy on the debt ceiling, that will make a difference. Same with an ad about coddling illegal terrorist immigrants of the wrong skin tone. That works the same way for a small business owner and a Republican incumbent too, so the Chamber can use the general playbook with the usual theme and variations just about anywhere.

This means that even the most truly left-wing or performatively left-wing representatives will listen to the Chamber, at least to be diplomatic. Where they go with their choices thereafter depends on what the ask is and how they perceive the threat.

L.E. in Putnam County, NY, writes: You forgot to mention that "present" is also the vote the Speaker of the House customarily casts, if she is present and her vote is not needed to break a tie.

V & Z respond: Generally true, though not as true as it once was. For the Iron Dome bill, for example, Nancy Pelosi cast a "yea" vote, even though it passed easily. The only "present" votes were AOC and Hank Johnson Jr. (D-GA).

J.B. in Hutto, TX, 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.


L.B. in Savannah, GA, writes: Concerns over the national debt are, to put it mildly, overstated. First, a significant portion of the national debt consists of one part of the government owing money to another part. For example, the General Services Administration owns most government buildings, so any rent on leased space in these buildings owed by the government agencies that occupy them are owed to GSA. It's literally like having money in one pocket that you need to move to another pocket.

Another misconception is that the national debt is saddling future generations with an obligation they won't be able to fulfill. In reality, the debt is being paid off all the time (e.g., whenever anyone cashes out a government bond). This brings up another aspect of the debt, that as long as inflation is in effect, money borrowed today will be paid back in cheaper future dollars. Of course, if we ever go into a long-term deflation cycle, this will be a problem. Same if confidence in U.S. currency as a medium of exchange is ever lost.

You also mentioned assets that the U.S. government holds. When debt is incurred to purchase products, services, and infrastructure, what this does is exchange potential assets (i.e., money) for actual assets. Other than gathering interest (and employing people to keep track of it), money that isn't spent doesn't actually perform a function, while roads, bridges, tanks, and janitors have a tangible value and net positive effect on the economy, either directly or through externalities.

This is why Republicans don't make an issue of the national debt or government spending when a Republican is in the White House, because they know it's irrelevant other than as a cudgel to use against Democrats when they're in power.

F.C. in DeLand, FL, writes: Let's start off with the fact I agree with you that crystal balls predicting when we reach the fiscal cliff are notoriously unreliable. When Barack Obama was elected president, if you had asked me what would happen if the national debt doubled, I would have predicted armageddon. Obviously, that didn't happen. So much for my crystal ball.

On the other hand, your statement that we're nowhere near the breaking point suffers from the same factors that make predicting where that breaking point is problematic. We are in uncharted waters with our debt and our economy. It's impossible to determine how close we are, and we don't know what the warning signs would be. We could be very close to the cliff, or it could be decades away. We can say with good confidence that we're getting closer with our increasing debt-funded federal spending. But that's not all that helpful. (If I leave my house and walk west on Florida route 44, I can say I'm getting closer to California. But that's not saying all that much, either.)

The problem with your mortgage example is that a mortgage is a single one time incident, and then over the next fifteen to thirty years the total debt will shrink. A better example would be that we have a low-interest credit card with an unknown credit limit that we keep piling on more debt. A mortgage is used to acquire an asset that we will have the use of for the length of the term of the loan. Our credit card is being used to buy groceries.

Moving on to the fictitious nature of the debt. To get to the bigger $70 trillion number, you have to include debts which aren't legally collectable. Looking at the most obvious example (Social Security), the law is very clear about what happens when the Retirement Trust Fund hits zero. (This is forecast to happen in about ten years, so most of us have that to look forward to.) When the trust fund is emptied and all the IOUs that are in there are cashed out, Social Security goes to a pay as you go system. Payments to retirees will be equal to the amount taken in from workers. This works out to about an immediate 25% drop in benefits, and a very slow decline in benefits from that point forward. There is no "debt," because there's no obligation that isn't paid out of current revenues, no matter how small they are. (Yeah, if all the Gen-Zers say "screw this" to the whole idea of work, retirees may not be happy with the size of the check.)

There are a bunch of ideas proposed to fix the problem. Unfortunately, none of them produce enough revenue to do so. This is a problem we should have fixed decades ago. But it's easier for a politician to kick the can down the road. (There's an aphorism that says a politician's horizon is as far as their next election. Even now, the "Trust Fund is Empty" day is beyond the horizon of a newly elected Senator.)

D.A.Y. in Troy, MI, writes: All this talk of inflation and shortages ignores the fact we designed the system to work like this.

In my accounting classes, we were taught inventory is evil. Inventory represents assets expended and liabilities incurred but not converted to revenue and to generating profit. Inventory needs to be stored, protected, and tracked, all of which costs money. Inventory is vulnerable to spoilage and theft, which are losses. Long story short, keeping inventory eats away at profits, which is a massive no-no for companies interested in the size of their quarterly earnings, which in turn determines the size of stock portfolios and dividend checks of their shareholders. That's why you see frequent sales for cars and furniture: they want to move that inventory of big-ticket items as quickly as possible.

Enter "Just in Time," a system where you only make just enough to satisfy short-term demand with minimal inventory. It solves all your inventory problems. You simply make a prediction of how much your customers will order over whatever time period you're looking at and order that (with a small amount of extra, just in case), subtracting what you have on hand. You don't need as much in terms of warehouse space, guards, or inventory tracking, and you minimize the chances of theft and spoilage. This is all great.

However, by minimizing inventory on hand, you remove redundancy and your possible contingencies should things go wrong. If your predictions are way off, you can find yourself drowning in unwanted inventory or running out of an item with higher-than-expected demand. Enter a global pandemic. How we live is upended and what we want and need changes completely. Companies suddenly can't sell their commercial-grade products because their commercial customers are shuttered, but can't keep up with the demand for their retail grade products as people are stuck at home. Cars aren't selling but Nintendo Switches are flying off the shelves.

We removed the flexibility in our system to adapt. Food was dumped despite the demand, because processors didn't have the ability to convert their commercial production to retail. Paper products were scarce for the same reason. Then, as the limitations were eased, the opposite happened, which hit things like building materials and cars. In those sectors, demand shot up but the suppliers had been idle and need to start from essentially scratch, which will take months to pull off. The auto industry didn't stock up on microchips while their production was down, so the chip makers didn't make car chips and now need to completely retool like they had to when demand for chips for phones and game systems spiked.

The pandemic has exposed how unprepared we have made ourselves for disasters and crises. And we've made ourselves unprepared because those preparations eat into profits. Probably, once we get past this, nothing will change. Companies will claim this is a one time thing and they shouldn't go to the expense to prepare for the next time. And even if they did prepare for the next time, it would not be quick and easy as companies have structured themselves around Just in Time.

So, when someone claims that government spending is leading to inflation, respond that prices are what they are because of short-sighted business practices we've allowed to dictate the fundamental structure of supply chains.

Time for Change

M.H. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: In your recent post discussing the debt ceiling, you wrote, in regards to the trillion dollar coin: "Would this cause inflation? Of course not. Inflation is caused by more demand than there is supply and this stunt affects neither demand nor supply."

Ah, but it would affect supply. It would affect the supply of the dollar. Inflation is not rising prices. Inflation is the expansion of the currency supply. Rising prices are merely a symptom of inflation. When a loaf of bread at the supermarket is twenty cents more expensive than it was a week ago, it's not because bread has become more desirable or more scarce, it's because there are now more dollars in the world chasing the same amount of bread. Of course the coin would not go into circulation, so it wouldn't have the same effect as running the printing presses. But it would undermine people's faith in U.S. currency. They may begin to realize that it's just an imaginary construct and start trading it for harder assets. The careful reader may note that I haven't used the word "money" at all in this letter, but that is for another discussion.

H.S.W. in Ardmore, PA, writes: I was so happy to see a reference to the 1933 Double Eagle coin in Saturday's Q&A.

This coin has such a colorful history, and I am proud to have played a small, if tangential, role in that history.

Back in the 1990s, a 1933 Double Eagle surfaced in the hands of a British coin dealer, one Stephen Fenton. At the time, it was believed that only two Double Eagles had ever existed, and that one of the two had been melted down. The U.S. Treasury Department contended that the surviving Double Eagle had been stolen from the Philadelphia Mint and—on the theory that one can never acquire good title from a thief—Treasury took the view that Fenton could not be considered a lawful owner of the coin. The Secret Service seized the coin from Fenton in a sting operation. Fenton argued that he was indeed the lawful owner of the coin through a chain of possession that stretched back to King Farouk, the last king of Egypt. The dispute landed up in Federal court in New York.

Although the circumstances surrounding King Farouk's acquisition of the coin are a bit murky, and it was never clear exactly how the coin made its way from King Farouk's hands and into Fenton's hands, it was known that King Farouk exported the coin from the United States in 1944. We know this because the King applied for—and was granted—an export license to remove the coin from the United States. The parties disputed whether the U.S. Government acquiesced to the King's ownership of the coin when it granted the export license, or whether the license was granted in error. But because the coin spent time in Egypt before it resurfaced in Fenton's hands in the 1990s, the legal team reached out asking me to research Egyptian law to see if that could provide any help.

Working closely with a former colleague, who is a lawyer in Cairo, I helped develop an argument that—whatever the status of the coin under U.S. law may have been before it left the United States—after it arrived in Egypt, the coin eventually became, under Egyptian law, the lawful property of King Farouk or some person or entity that held it after him. If so, then successive owners/purchasers of the coin and ultimately Mr. Fenton could have had good title to the coin.

We came up with three grounds for this position. The first two are based on "ordinary" principles of Egyptian property law; it was the third—based on a specific event in Egyptian history—that I found most fascinating.

First, under longstanding principles of Egyptian law (which derive from the Napoleonic Code), the rights of the original owner in stolen or lost property are extinguished after three years. So even if the coin was originally stolen from the Mint as the Treasury Department contended, King Farouk would have acquired good title by sometime in the late 1940s so long as, when he bought it, he didn't know the coin was stolen property.

Second, even if King Farouk wasn't a good-faith purchaser—in other words, if he knew when he bought the coin that it had been stolen from the Mint—the King or his successors could still have acquired lawful title to the coin under the doctrine of "acquisitive prescription" (analogous to what we U.S. lawyers call "adverse possession").

Third, and perhaps most interesting, was the argument based on Egyptian Law No. 598 of 1953. Law 598 was issued by the Revolutionary Command Council that governed Egypt during the interregnum between the overthrow of King Farouk in 1952 and the inauguration of Gamal Abdel Nasser as President of Egypt in 1954. That law seized and impounded all assets belonging to or in possession of the Royal Family, declared those assets to be the property of the Egyptian state, and set a deadline for any third parties who claimed an ownership interest in the seized assets to lodge their claims. So, we said, by operation of Law 598 the Government of Egypt became the lawful owners of the coin regardless of the circumstances under which King Farouk acquired it.

Within a few days after we finished our report, the Treasury Department decided to settle the case. I was never privy to confidential details, but the media reported that Treasury reached an agreement with Fenton whereby the coin would be sold at auction and the proceeds would be split 50-50 between the two parties. I always like to tell myself that Treasury decided to settle because it found our research on Egyptian law compelling, but of course there are probably counter-arguments that Treasury could have made in rebuttal. Since the case never went to trial and the legal team never told me what went on in the settlement discussions, who knows?

As another interesting note: When the coin was seized, the Treasury Department stored it in a vault under the World Trade Center. In a lucky development for numismatists around the world, after the settlement was reached, the coin was transferred to Fort Knox in July 2001, so it was not lost in the 9/11 attacks. In 2002, the coin was sold to Stuart Weitzman at auction for the record-setting amount of $7.59 million—the sale price of $6.6 million, plus a buyer's premium. In addition, Weitzman was required to pay an additional $20—the face value of the coin—directly to the Treasury Department, so that the coin could be "monetized" and declared legal tender. That's why Weitzman was able to sell the coin, which he did at an auction through Sotheby's in June 2021 for $18.87 million.

The Double Eagle has such a colorful history. It's always fun for me to remember my small role in it.

V & Z respond: We thought Weitzman still had the coin when we wrote that answer yesterday, but we went back and corrected our answer thanks to this message and several others we got.

Foreign Affairs

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: In response to B. R. in Cotonou, Benin, in 2016 France agreed to sell Australia diesel-electric submarines of an existing design for $50 billion. France doesn't expect to lay the first keel for another three years and the price is now $89 billion. On the other hand, the Virginia class nuclear submarines will be built in Australia with local labor, expanding the number of nuclear submarine shipyards from the U.S.'s two, plus adding weapons depots in the South Pacific. If France had wanted to keep the contract, maybe it shouldn't have been glacial in fulfilling it.

R.E.M. in Brooklyn, NY, writes: I find tres amusant the French outrage over the AUKUS submarine deal, including as embodied in last week's comment from B.R. in Cotonou. So the French were trying to fob off their obsolete diesel subs on Australia. Why weren't they offering Australia the technology from France's nuclear subs? [Gallic shrug.] So the U.S. came in and offered sub tech that is much better, which both helps Australian and U.S. security in the Pacific as a further check on Chinese military aggression. In a shooting war, those diesel subs would have lasted not quite as long as did the Maginot Line. (Who could possibly have foreseen that the Germans would go around the wall and through Belgium? It's not like they ever invaded France through Belgium before, right?) Let me help out B.R. with a slight tweak to their second sentence: "To me, the AUKUS deal is a sign that France is utterly irrelevant to anyone not living in France" (except maybe as relates to runny cheese, wine—from vines imported from California, BTW—and keeping lit the eternal flame of Jerry Lewis's comic genius).

C.L. in Durham, England, UK, writes: B.R. in Cotonou writes they have a hard time understanding why the British government regards the AUKUS deal as a victory. Ever since the U.K. voted to leave the E.U., the government has been determined to show how much we do not need the E.U. If that means a bit of self-flagellation in the form of food shortages, gas shortages, or labor shortages, that is a price well worth paying, in their view.

The bottom line with the Tories is the bottom line. Once they see they are getting hit in the pockets they will be in favor of rejoining the E.U. It might not be called E.U. membership, but that will be the effect with a few minor cosmetic differences to give them a fig leaf behind which to hide.

P.B. in Gainesville, FL, writes: In your item about the AUKUS submarine deal, you made a good argument for why this was a Very Big Deal in terms of its strategic impact on the Indo-Pacific and the U.S.'s relations with China. I can't help but wonder, though, if the impact is more (merely?) political and/or for show, and less strategic. For example, in The Sydney Morning Herald and other Australian news outlets, many serious questions are being raised about whether Australia can actually join such a "big boys club" like the Quad. With a population only 7% of the U.S., Australia's GDP is small: only the 13th-largest in the world, and 1.6% of the world's total, much smaller than Japan and India (the 2 other Quad members). Consequently, Australia's military capabilities are quite limited, with only 16 combat-level warships and no aircraft carrier. Also, I've seen reports that the first new AUKUS submarine won't be commissioned until maybe 2030. So, I'm just confused: What is this going to actually achieve?

Don't get me wrong: The thought of China's military expansion is scary to a lot of people, not least Australians, whose military often have nightmares about defending a 16,000 mile long coastline with the aforementioned navy (yep, that's 1,000 miles of coastline per combat vessel, and in terms of area, well... the Pacific is pretty damn big). But really, are the Chinese going to be deterred from military adventurism by the Quad? Maybe at some level, but in my view, not because of Australia's participation. Meanwhile, the deal has managed to piss off both China and a strong ally, France. This prompts the question: Where was President Biden's diplomatic experience in the way this was handled? I would say, though, this is consistent with Australian prime minister Scott Morrison's arrogance.

M.G. in Wendell, CA, writes: I have often thought that (V) and (Z) were highly unfair in criticizing Canada. But after observing the five-week-long Canadian federal election campaign, I must conclude that our neighbors to the north are equally witless.

The statements from the leading politicians were harsh, accusing their opponents of terrible policy and/or performance. But they did not include personal attacks on each other. Don't these people realize that a politician's job is to "define" the opponents? This starts with giving them cutesy nicknames. Why didn't anyone talk about "Sleepy Justin" or "Crazy Erin" or how "Jagmeet should go back to his sh**hole country?"

And if you wish to make Canada great again, you start with border security. Yet nobody has proposed building a beautiful wall along the Ottawa River, to keep hordes of Quebecois from pouring unchecked into Ontario. Many of them don't even speak English!

When it came to voting, they marked paper ballots, which election officials counted by hand. Since no voting machines were used, nobody demanded an investigation of Venezuelan algorithms shifting votes from one candidate to another. Quel dommage!

They could do this because each voter voted on one office—a member of Parliament. You can't call yourself a democracy if the voters don't select provincial governors, attorney generals, partisan election officers, members of the Board of Equalization or water district etc., sheriff, assessor, dogcatcher, judges, and others. Plus California voters get to decide on a dozen or more densely worded propositions. It's good that American voters have a far greater attention span than Canadians, and don't allow themselves to be distracted by silly stuff.

This is the second straight federal election in which the Conservative candidates got more votes nationwide than the Liberals, but the Liberals won more seats. Where were the protests on gerrymandering? Why didn't anyone call the election rigged? And who would stop the steal?

Finally, it appears that Canada has no counterpart to our beloved electoral traditions. Where is their electoral college, filibuster, budget reconciliation, unanimous consent, or Supreme Court that decides which laws can be enforced? I ascribe this abject failure to procrastination. After all, it took four score and eleven years after our Declaration of Independence for them to sort of separate from Britain. And an equally long time thereafter to replace the Queen's portrait with a loon on their paper money. Perhaps in another 91 years they will adopt some of our great traditions. Eh?

V & Z respond: Finally! Someone who gets it! Though we should warn you that a person could read your message as sarcastic, and not actually critical of the 'Nades. We know better, though.

R.H.D. in Webster, NY, writes: Last Monday night, I was watching the returns from the snap elections in Canada. It was worth it considering the alternative was watching the Lions and Packers.

What I saw was amazing! Results were coming in pretty quickly and updated constantly. The ruling Liberal Party (led by PM Justin Trudeau) won re-election. But the best thing was there were no complaints from former mayors, fringe lawyers, or pillow makers about voter fraud, rigged machines, or corrupt officials. No calls to provinces or territories to "find" votes. Every party leader gave speeches. Trudeau was gracious in victory while the opposition didn't blame the media or the voters. Instead, they self-reflected on what happened with their campaigns and promised to honor the will of the people. It's safe to say there won't be a storming of Parliament in Ottawa by fellows wearing Viking hats, who carry offensive flags while beating up police officers.

Canada, you've exported to us hockey, maple syrup, and the likes of William Shatner, Michael J. Fox, and the late, great Alex Trebek. Do you mind if you can also export your election system, but leave out that parliamentary part? We've got enough of our share of Joe Manchins, eh.

V & Z respond: Not surprising that a New Yorker isn't in the mood for NFL football these days. Well, a New Yorker who doesn't live in Buffalo, at least.

P.S. in Plano, TX, writes: You wrote: "Most countries of the Western Hemisphere are very poor, many of them—at least in part—due to American foreign policy choices."

This is unfair. Yes, the U.S. opposed Marxist movements in South America, sometimes supporting authoritarian governments to do so. However, the Marxist governments the United States opposed would invariably have been authoritarian as well and would invariably have pursued poverty-creating economic policies, since every Marxist government in history has, over time, become authoritarian and poverty-creating.

Look at Venezuela. A Marxist won office, the US did not intervene, and the Marxist government ruled for 20 years. The wealth redistribution from the Marxist policies did temporarily help the poor, since you can actually get a nice meal out of killing the golden goose. Back in 2005 and 2006, my left-wing college classmates were telling me how awesome Hugo Chávez was. "Look how well socialism works!", they said. I took the position that the long-term outlook of Venezuela was bad, but I was dismissed. To them, Chavez's Venezuela was proof that socialism was the right choice, and that anyone who said otherwise was simply the victim of the greedy capitalists' propaganda.

But, of course, the long-term outlook of Venezuela under Chávez was bad. The Venezuelan economy predictably grew more corrupt and less efficient after Chávez's nationalization of key industries suffocated the market forces that would otherwise have prevented such decay, and, eventually and inevitably, the Venezuelan economy collapsed entirely. Chávez and his successor predictably held onto power through authoritarian means, and now Venezuela is just another shi**y left-wing dictatorship in crisis. The Marxists never learn.

Was the U.S. right to try to intervene in other countries' governments to steer them away from doing stupid communist sh*t that history has proven over and over again is a terrible idea? I don't know. Self-determination and all that. Did the U.S. hurt other countries' economies by doing that? Certainly not.

R.M.S. in Lebanon, CT, writes: Someone recently sent me this clip of an Australian senator giving a TV interview about a change in their parliament's policy banning relationships between members and their staff:

This woman is an absolute riot and she has my sense of humor. Can you imagine an American senator talking like this on TV? Instead of having Donald Trump boasting about kissing and groping women because he's famous, they have a senator who boasts that she doesn't have time for hanky panky.

V & Z respond: Wow. They're even calling it the "bonk ban."

Vaccine Nation

J.L.H. in Los Altos, CA, writes: I recently returned from a trip to Europe and found they take COVID much more seriously than the U.S. does. Masks were required to enter any public buildings. Also, proof of vaccination was required for major museums, castles, and many restaurants. We were even refused entry once because our proof-of-vaccination cards were the wrong type. Traveling in France, Germany and Czechia required three different kinds of masks. And our tour provider required even more—that we be COVID-tested daily.

D.E. in Lancaster, PA, writes: I fear this letter is going to seem redundant, but lately I feel like I'm on some really bad carny ride. Instead of the Tunnel of Love, I'm trapped in the Tunnel of Dumb or the Wheel of Despair. A nightmare of the absurd and unnecessary is distorted in some deranged fun house mirrors.

I used to work with a young woman who is bright, vivacious and the epitome of a go-getter. We'll call her Jerri, although that's not her name. While I don't know the exact circumstances of her family, I will go out on a limb and suggest her background is not wealthy or affluent and probably struggling lower-middle-class. When Jerri worked with me, she was holding down two jobs while putting herself through school. She was studying to be a nurse and after graduating she landed a job working with young children in a local hospital. This was her dream job and she fought so hard to get it.

She came into the store about two weeks ago and, as always, I was glad to see her. I asked her about her job and Jerri informed me that she had been let go. I was shocked. While Jerri was always opinionated and tenacious, she was also smart enough to know where the line was, or so I thought. She went on to explain that the hospital had required her to take the COVID vaccine and that she had refused. Something about mumble mumble Freedom mumble mumble spy on us mumble mumble. The hospital then proceeded to terminate her employment. My mouth dropped open in disbelief; she had always seemed so intelligent and driven. As Jerri continued to speak, her voice was filled with righteous indignation. She added that she was going to get a lawyer who would get her reinstated because what the hospital did was against the law. I shook my head and said, "No, Jerri, the hospital is completely within the law to make being vaccinated a condition of employment. I once worked for a company that required all their employees to have the Hepatitis vaccine and they were firmly within their right to do so. Soldiers, teachers and other professionals are all required to be fully vaccinated for a variety of diseases. No lawyer worth their degree is ever going to take your case." She reacted like no one had bothered speaking the truth to her and indignantly went away.

This week, Jerri came back in to the store. She had evidently been to some attorneys who had advised her of the hopelessness of her case. The righteousness was no longer in her voice. Instead there was a tremor of someone grasping for justification. She said that she had never been without a job since she was 14, and she didn't know what to do with herself. She explained that every job she applied to had promptly turned her down on finding out why she had been forced to leave her last job. She added more for herself that she guessed she would just have to wait it out.

I didn't say anything, but I wanted to say there's no waiting this out. Time will only prove that the vaccine was right and the antivaxxers were on the wrong side of history. I felt such deep sadness that this young woman who was so bright and so focused had just thrown her career away and for what? There was another part that was angry and wanted to tell at her, "You work with sick young children, what did you expect? That the medical field would indulge your deluded fact-free fantasy just because someone told you it is impinging on your freedoms? You should know better!" There was still yet another part that felt disgust in knowing this delusion didn't sprout on its own. Trump, McConnell, Greene, DeSantis, Abbott, Carlson, Hannity and all the rest are playing their little games of deceit and death. Their hands are clean and they're sleeping soundly tonight. Jerri is paying the price for their lies. She has lost her dream job and more than likely will never be hirable in that profession again. If her family was lower-middle-class as I suspect, she will likely not rise any higher. For her the American Dream is dead, and by a self-inflicted wound. What a waste. I've watched the American Dream die for me in that I used to be comfortable middle-class but now struggle to live a poverty-level existence. That is personally depressing, but to see it die for one so young and so full of promise... well, it is dismay on a whole other level. It didn't have to be this way. Decisions were made for all the wrong reasons. Sweet dreams, Trump, McConnell, Greene, DeSantis, Abbott, Carlson, Hannity and all the dreary rest of your infernal lot!

D.J.M. in Salmon Arm, BC, Canada, writes: I have long wondered if needle phobia was a common reason (hidden) to remain unvaccinated. I completely agree with T.C. in Tokyo, Japan that "They are afraid of the needle, and the constant talk about freedom is just a way of avoiding embarrassing admissions." It is interesting to lay this beside the claim from D.W. in Evans City that Trumpists "are so convinced of their utter, complete, and total superiority... because they are strong." I recently asked a doctor friend who vaccinates a large number of patients if he encountered needle phobia. His response was "Absolutely!" In one case, the patient requested to lie down, saying that he would probably pass out during the procedure. He did.

J.C. in General Trias, Cavite, Philippines, writes: I read with interest your brief discussion of fetal-cell lines being used to make the COVID vaccines. In that I am pro-birth (and also pro-choice), and had a number of students who felt the same, I did some research on this last year, and I thought this might assist your readers who were given pause at what they read, if they feel the same way as I do:

  1. No fetal cells were used to make any vaccines, only cloned cells from two fetuses back in the 70s and 80s.
  2. The above applies only to three COVID vaccines: Sputnik V, J&J, and AZ.
  3. However, all COVID vaccines have some testing done on them using these fetal clones.
  4. As you alluded to, the MMR and chickenpox vaccines used these same clonal lines.

As someone who believes abortion is wrong (but is still pro-choice), I would not have felt comfortable if it was actual fetal tissue being used. However, while recognizing most of the readers here do not feel as I do, I think there is a difference between direct use of something I object to and indirect, and good things can come out of bad. With this information, I had no moral qualms, and was excited to fly out to Washington for a day to get my first dose of Pfizer, and then therefore able to get my second dose three weeks later here in the Philippines.

V & Z respond: Congrats on being vaccinated!

News from the Red States

J.H. in Boston, MA, writes: A lot of outfits, including, wrote that the Arizona audit report is out and that it contains no evidence of fraud, and that its count increases the win margin for Biden. As you might expect, MAGA world is giving this a bit of a different spin. In fact, the report shows tens of thousands of voters whose addresses can't be verified, or who appear to have voted in multiple counties, or exhibit various other possible bookkeeping errors which are taken as suggestive of fraud. Enough to swing the state for Trump.

They also claim to have video showing people deleting votes from the voting machines, and proving that the machines were connected to the Internet, contrary to the claims of the mainstream election staff.

The state Senate has referred the matter to the AG Mark Brnovich (R), who has promised to prosecute. And state Sen. Wendy Rogers (R) has called for a vote to decertify the election in Arizona, and released a letter signed by dozens of state legislators from across the country calling for forensic audits followed by decertification in all 50 states.

Funny how the two sides saw completely different things come out of this audit. I guess it's not over yet.

C.P. in Amherst, NH, writes: Cyber Ninjas release their findings and give the bare-minimum of extra votes to Joe Biden's victory. So now they appear "legitimate." This seems like the prelude to their eventual "finding" that Arizona (or other states) were actually won by Biden's opponent in 2024. "You can't argue NOW (in 2024), because we already found that Cyber Ninjas are a reputable source!"

C.R. in Pelham, AL, writes: You're missing the point on Arizona and Texas. It was never about the 2020 results. It was always about gaining access to election processes, equipment, data, and people in order to commit actual fraud in 2024. They are targeting big, democratic cities, like Phoenix, Dallas, and Atlanta. All part of the same playbook.

W.K.D. in Houston, TX, writes: In announcing an election audit within hours of Donald Trump's demands, Texas leadership is perhaps not quite as pathetic as you have suggested, at least not in the precise way you suggested. Don is raking in money hand over fist while election audits are ongoing. It's the gift that keeps on giving. Therefore, officials in Texas probably see his exhortations as less of a demand and more of a spectacular idea to get in on the grift. You don't think Texas politicians won't start raising huge sums to "Stop the Texas Steal"? They are probably kicking themselves for not having thought of it previously. Look for every state Republican Party in every state to start doing this. Since the depth of the gullibility is unlimited, the amount of cash to be raised is also probably unlimited. This is too spectacular an opportunity to be passed up!

P.S.: What the Republicans are now doing with election audits is absolutely identical to what Democratic politicians have been doing for years (stop the Republicans from destroying the planet, etc.). The depth of gullibility on both sides is identical. What is different is that journalists do not believe that Democratic politicians are swindling them and therefore don't write stories about it. Hopefully every reader of is now equally pissed off at me.

V & Z respond: We almost cut the second paragraph of your response, because it is not well explained. However, we decided that would be an unacceptable breach of your authorial intent. That said, we suggest you write in with a followup, explaining whether you think: (1) global warming isn't real, (2) global warming is real but the politicians can't stop it, or (3) global warming is real and the politicians could stop it, but that's not what they actually plan to do with the money they collect. Because as it stands, the two situations don't seem at all analogous.

R.L.D. in Sundance, WY, writes: When the question is "Has Texas thought this through?" whatever "this" is, the answer is almost always "No. They haven't." Electric grid, homeless camping bans, abortion laws, you name it.

G.F. in Dorset, VT, writes: My apologies to those with sensitive funny bones.

In your item about Dr. Alan Braid advertising the fact that he performed an abortion so that someone would sue him, you discussed the Mississippi law that is going to be taken up by the Supreme Court. You said, "And with a hot potato like this, SCOTUS is sure to wait until the end of the term (late June or so) to announce."

So what you're saying is that the Supreme Court will be making a late-term abortion decision.

V & Z respond: We backed right into that one and didn't even notice it.

All Politics Is Local

K.R. in Austin, TX, writes: I remembered that when Paul LePage was elected, there was a significant 3rd party candidate. I looked it up, and his first term, he won with only 38.1% of the vote. He did better the second time with 48.2% of the vote, but a third party candidate got over 8% of the vote in that election.

Maine did have an independent governor in Angus King in the late 1990s and early 2000s, so it's not surprising that an independent would have a strong showing. I wonder how LePage would have done in a two-way race.

V & Z respond: We will likely find out in about 13 months.

M.M. in Plano, TX, writes: After the El Paso massacre, Beto O'Rourke made a passionate gun-control statement in which he threatened to come for gun nuts and take the guns away. If Beto is the Democratic candidate, there will be millions of dollars of Republican ads showing this statement. Matthew McConaughey is polling points ahead of Gov. Greg Abbott (R-TX). Beto is still behind. Not yet mentioned is Rep. Collin Allred (D-TX), football hero and civil rights attorney, potentially the brightest Democratic star.

Do not bet on Beto. Bet on Allred or McConaughey.

M.C. in Newton, MA, writes: As a long-time reader of, I'm well aware that in the modern political world the day after an election is the start of the next cycle, but I was surprised by something I saw today and wanted to share it with my fellow readers. Today, September 19, 2021, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) ran an ad on primetime TV, more than a year before the election and with no declared opponent in the race. It was a pretty bland ad, touting the Senator's support for veterans and referencing her father's World War II service, but I guess that's somewhat expected given that she's not really running against anyone yet. My biggest takeaway is that her campaign must have plenty of money in the bank if they're not worried about what seems to me like a huge waste.

I think it's going to be a long year.

P.S.: If anybody's wondering, the Boston TV and radio stations apparently reach far enough into southeastern New Hampshire that we regularly get campaign ads for New Hampshire elections. It's most obvious in January of presidential election years.

V & Z respond: Hassan technically has opponents, including Brig. Gen. Donald C. Bolduc (ret.), who was presumably the target of that ad without being named. However, she hasn't drawn an A-lister yet, or even a B-lister.

Lexico-Political Battles, Continued

A.C. in Zenia, CA, writes: To J.O. in Raleigh, who wrote, "They are fine being called 'female,' but object to being called 'a woman.' Mis-gendering them this way is an assault with words just as real as punches."

I can only say, as a person who was repeatedly beaten as a young teen for gender nonconforming, that J.O. must never have been punched. A word is a sound made by a mouth or with symbols called letters on a page or a screen. They are a symbol system that is understood and is—due to words' fundamental inadequacy—much more often misunderstood. We try with words, but they often fail to transmit how we feel and think, which is their primary function. When the bullies smashed my head against the locker again and again, that was different, that was real.

While I always try to use the language someone would prefer me to use when I am talking about them, I also feel that language policing on the left (and I am farther to the left than almost every person who comments on or writes for this website) is an indication of how damned powerless we feel, as though that is the only battle we feel like we might win. In my opinion it is also a profound misunderstanding of how important real political and judicial and social and economic and psychological power is for marginalized and oppressed people.

A.B. in Wendell, NC, writes: Ok, I need to take a sister trans, S.B in New Castle, to the woodshed here (congrats on your upcoming surgery by the way; mine was 19 years ago). I have to take exception to this: "I'm happy to sit in the second row and cheer on the people defending women's rights to own their own bodies at whatever minor expense that costs the transgender community in the way of lexiconic accuracy."

I would ask S.B. to familiarize herself with the case of Robert Eads. He was a trans man, and the subject of an HBO documentary, "Southern Comfort" (in which I play a small cameo role, incidentally—even if you know where to look, if you blink, you will miss it.) Anyway, Robert was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Nearly twenty oncologists, and his insurance company, refused him the treatment necessary to save his life—namely, a total hysterectomy (which would have been given to a cis-woman without question in the same circumstances)—because "such a procedure would be aiding and abetting his quest to become a man."

For this, Robert was allowed to die. I'd ask S.B. to consider whether the price Robert paid was "a minor expense in the service of lexiconic accuracy." When we start to allow any minority to be not considered at all, in the pursuit of some "larger goal," we create suffering, and we create invalidation... and we excuse it in the name of political expediency. I was privileged to briefly know Robert in his life, and he was the epitome of a gentleman. There are those in our community who knew him much better and longer than I who feel his loss even more keenly than I do, even though he died over 20 years ago.

I do not know about S.B. but I am never willing to create a "minor expense" for another person who is a minority. Ask the person who pays the expense just how "minor" the cost is!

K.Y. in Olympia, WA, writes: I don't know if the "what's a woman" discourse will continue in the next mailbag. But I couldn't help noticing that just in the past week, we've seen (at least) two viral tweets related to this topic. The first, from the ACLU, alters a Ruth Bader Ginsburg quote to use gender-neutral instead of female-specific language, rendering her words nonsensical. The second, from The Lancet, refers to women and girls as "bodies with vaginas," which is dehumanizing and insulting.

It's worth pointing out that, as I write this, the two tweets together have around 4,500 "likes," over 12,000 replies, and almost 7,000 quote tweets. As the Twitter aficionados know, this is called a "ratio" and it's evidence in support of (V)'s initial point: "People," especially "women," really do not like language like this.

L.C. in San Diego, CA, writes: D.C. in Birmingham writes:

Your item Lexico-Political Battles, Part II: What's a Religion? seems to be both inappropriately flippant and conceptually misconceived. The key difference between Pastafarianism and Christianity is sincerity of belief: Pastafarians are wise-asses who made up a religion to mock the religiously observant, whereas Christians tend to be people who sincerely believe in the tenets of their faith (whether or not those tenets are true or sensical). Your conflation of cynicism and sincerity is unhelpful and perhaps says more about you than about the religions in question.

Please spare us your religious indignation. The "religiously observant" have done far worse to their perceived apostates and the non-religious than mere mocking. Spilt oceans of blood in crusades, jihads, pogroms, witch burnings and suicide bombings come to mind.

Moreover, sincerity has no bearing on whether "tenets are true or sensical." Carl Sagan said "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Tenets without evidence [e.g. Creationism, Adam and Eve, the Great Flood, etc.] are no different from flat-earthism, astrology, or prayer-healing. Belief in nonsense or bronze-age mysticism—no matter how sincere—is no virtue. It's childish, often contemptible and potentially deadly, as anti-vaxxers and purveyors of "The Big Lie" have recently shown.

Religionists mock, or at least dismiss, thousands of ancient and new-aged gods in favor of their chosen "true" god. Amazingly, it's nearly always the same one worshiped by their parents. Pastafarians may be wise-asses, but the key difference between them and Christians or any religionists is not sincerity—it's belief in one less god.

D.M. in Oxnard, CA, writes: D.C. in Birmingham argues that the hallmark of Christianity is the "sincerity of belief" of its followers. Here is what Jesus himself said to His followers, from Luke 6:46: "Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?"

So, what did Jesus say to do? His answer, Matt 25:34-40, briefly: "feed and clothe the stranger; and visit the sick and those in prison." That right there is the hallmark of Christianity.

R.S. in San Mateo, CA, writes: You suffered a production error when posting the comment from D.C. in Birmingham, which said, "Christians tend to be people who sincerely believe in the tenets of their faith." After "who," you clearly dropped the words "purport to." Had your staff editor not been drunk, they would have realized that D.C., being from AL, must know plenty of Christians who voted for Trump, and therefore that D.C. knows full well that such people cannot actually believe in the tenets of their faith.

V & Z respond: It's the staff mathematician who is a drunk. The staff editor sniffs glue. Try to keep up.

Other Word Choices

G.W. in Oxnard, CA, writes: I've noticed that you refer to former President Trump as "Dear Leader" a lot more recently. I'm not disagreeing with the term, but it got me to thinking about how terminology is used as a shorthand for both conveying where you stand politically and to irritate the other side. The right used to refer to President Obama as the "liberal messiah" to convey in two words pretty much their whole political position and to irritate liberals with the implication of calling all liberals godless heathens. The use of "Dear Leader" conveys in just two words that the right has a fanatical devotion to former President Trump, and that Trump may not be a true authoritarian, just an authoritarian wannabe.

To write this, I used the traditional "President Obama," where a person is referred to by the highest office they held even though they are no longer in office, and "former President Trump" because to use just "President Trump" may imply that Trump is still the rightful president. It will be necessary to call him "former President Trump" for the rest of his life to avoid implying that he is currently the rightful president.

V & Z respond: Trump has abrogated the norms of governance so much that it is indeed necessary to be extra precise when referring to him. We've been test driving "El Donaldo," and we often use "the former president" or "#45" or "Biden's predecessor." On those occasions where we use "Dear Leader," however, it's not to express a political opinion or to irritate anyone. It is because you have to be economical in writing, particularly on a deadline, and that is a good way to communicate it when his followers' responses seem to be governed by blind devotion rather than anything else. So, "McConnell pushed back against Trump" or "Joe Biden said he would release documents from Trump's presidency," but "Texas wasted little time in acceding to the Dear Leader's demand for a recount."

L.R. in Bethlehem, PA, writes: P.M. in Currituck writes:

You note that Friday marked "the 6-month anniversary" of the Dutch parliamentary election. Ugh. An "anniversary" can not be for a period of 6 months. I would expect this sloppy description illustrating the passage of time from a 24-year-old former student posting something on Facebook...but from such esteemed academicians as yourselves? When I saw that, I literally cringed.

And you responded:

So, we can't say something was "decimated" unless exactly one in ten people were killed, we can't speak of someone's "accent" unless they are singing, something cannot be "confused" unless unlike substances are being poured together, a person cannot be "eager" unless they smell bad, and a letter-writing reader is only full of "manure" if they own or manage property?

Oh, dear. I agree with you that P.M.'s complaint is silly (in common parlance, people frequently use the word "anniversary" for periods of time other than a year, as acknowledged even in the online version of Merriam-Webster). But with the exception of "decimated," I do not at all understand the examples you gave in your response. What am I missing?

V & Z respond: Usually, the Sunday mailbag is not for questions, but we'll allow it. "Accent" derives from the Latin canere, "to sing;" "confused" derives from the Latin confundere, which is composed of the roots com "together" and fundere "to pour;" "eager" derives from the Latin acris, "sharp," and originally connoted something sharp-smelling or foul-smelling; and "manure" derives from the Latin manu operari, "to operate by hand," and referred to people who managed land or property, since such folks generally hosted lots of animals who produced lots of waste. Note also that we judged P.M.'s letter to be snarky in a not-hostile sense, and so adopted the same tone in response.

B.D. in Cocoa, FL, writes: Concerning your response to P.M. in Currituck about the use of the word, "anniversary," the word you're looking for is "mensiversary." A 6-month anniversary doesn't make sense.

V & Z respond: If we used "mensiversary," we would get many e-mails asking what that is, while many more people would undoubtedly be compelled to do a Google search to find out. When we wrote "6-month anniversary," we got zero e-mails asking for clarification, and we think it unlikely that anyone needed to look it up. Isn't clear communication supposed to be the purpose of language?

State Mottoes, Continued

J.F. in Ft. Worth, TX, writes: I think that the motto proposed by J.L. in Los Angeles for Rhode Island ("It's true: "we're not really an island.") works even better for California.

V & Z respond: That is a very historically literate observation.

A.R. in Los Angeles, CA, writes: Response to J.L.'s alternate mottos: Wow! Had me totally rolling on the floor; now I really need to meet J.L. at Tara's.

Response to P.N. in Austin: Everyone is always bragging about their peninsular size. Sigh.

D.K. in Oceanside, CA, writes: Responding to P.N. In Austin: To those of us born in the Paris of the West—San Francisco, California—the area to the rear of "The City" is "The Peninsula."

V & Z respond: And to those of us born in the Los Angeles area, it's San Pedro.

L.V.A. in Idaho Falls, ID, writes: Ok, I've heard enough of this peninsula debate. One word: ALASKA.

V & Z respond: They do have large peninsulas up there.

K.H. in Ypsilanti, MI, writes: One more on state mottos, if I may.

Given the Ohio State Highway Patrol's aggressive enforcement of speed limits, its history of producing carnage-packed driver's ed films like "Signal 30" that my generation was exposed to, and because my friends and I are Michiganders, we always thought Ohio license plates should bear the motto: "The Police State."

T.J.S. of Monmouth, IL, writes: I am surprised, in your response to the question about Virginia's state motto (Sic semper tyrannis), you did not mention John Wilkes Booth's use of that motto as he assassinated Abraham Lincoln. After all, that probably makes Virginia's motto the most historically important of all the state mottoes.

By the way, you showed your ignorance of the Latin language when you wrote the following: "Virginia adopted that motto in 1776; presumably it's obvious which power-hungry tyrannis they had in mind..." because the correct Latin form of the word in that sentence is tyranni (nominative plural), not tyrannis (dative/ablative plural).

V & Z respond: We were asked about origins, and felt that including that factoid made the answer less clear. As to your critique, when the choice is between (1) correct Latin grammar, and (2) making the joke work, we always choose the latter.

F.H. in St. Paul, MN, writes: In keeping with the spirit of the recent state mottos, I submit this sort-of-correct license plate from Manitoba (a.k.a. Northern Minnesota):

The plate describes Manitoba as 
'Canada's most underrated province'

A while back, I had a girlfriend who, through no fault of her own, turned out to be Canadian. During the day, she was a special education teacher but at night, she kept tabs on the area's ball-bearing output and train schedules for the Twin City area for "future reference." Weird hobbies, eh? Still, she's a kind and intelligent woman who moved back to Winnipeg to take care of her parents.

About a year ago, she emailed me an article saying that Winnipeg has become a destination with its many great restaurants and entertainment options. If that's the case, they need to change their current license plate.

For the record, while her parents didn't see the humo(u)r in it, my friend got a kick out of it...

The Art Is the Deal, Part I

J.M. in Seattle, WA, writes: Just wanted to let y'all know I loved your artist response today! I've spent a lot of time looking at more art as I make my way through the list—really powerful.

V & Z respond: We had hoped that, in trying to think outside the box a little, we might bring people's attention to some of these folks, or to different ways of looking at their art.

J.T. in Marietta, GA, writes: As an art historian, I naturally feel compelled to address your response to the question about the "most influential artists in American history" Given the restrictions you gave yourself ("influence on the U.S. and not influence on art/artists"), I am pleased to inform you that you did pretty well! Here are my own suggestions for revision, however:

Replace John Trumbull with Gilbert Stuart. Stuart gave us the portraits of George Washington that are used literally everywhere. He painted important portraits of many other early American luminaries as well.

I would argue against Flagg, Miller, and Fairey, the poster illustrators, simply because I don't believe they had the strong influence that you suggest.

Grant Wood probably belongs on the list because of the popular fame of "American Gothic." However, most people don't know that the bulk of his work is quite different, or the many interesting things about this work's iconography (it's actually his sister and his dentist, and they were not a couple, etc.).

Grandma Moses—no. She held an important position in the mid-twentieth-century popular imagination, but has had no lasting influence. Many young people have never heard of her nor seen her work. She did not create a greater appreciation for folk art in general—that happens later.

I would argue that Maurice Sendak's work was too singular to be put on this list. The same could apply to Gutzon Borglum, but I believe Mt. Rushmore's impact has been far more widespread and important.

Jean-Michel Basquiat—no. I think this is an example of "recency bias." His influence on the U.S.—as you've defined it with your other choices—has been minimal. He's just an artist that a lot of people have heard of. Keith Haring, on the other hand, really popularized graffiti art and spawned many imitators. His designs thoroughly penetrated popular culture.

V & Z respond: While recognizing your expertise, (Z) wrote the bit about Grandma Moses while sitting 10 feet from a painting created by his then-93-year-old Great Aunt Dot, who took up painting at 85 due to Moses' example. So, even if the influence is muted today, it was real for a fair number of years.

Here, incidentally, is the painting if anyone is interested:

A rural scene with several 
farmhouses, a well-traveled dirt road, and several horse-drawn carts loaded with hay

D.H. in Boulder, CO, writes: Wow. Other than Grandma Moses, your list of influential artists contains no women. Is that bias on your part, the rules structure, or simply the sad state of women not being recognized for their contributions?

V & Z respond: The latter. We looked very carefully for possible additional women artists, possible additional Black artists, possible Asian artists, and possible Native American Artists. Until very recently, the opportunities just weren't there. Had we included another woman, it would have either been eight-time-Academy-Award-winning costume designer Edith Head or designer Coco Chanel, but we thought we were already pressing our luck with the definition of "artist."

That said, there is a type of artist that we were willing to consider, and that would have added another woman to the list, if we had thought of her. But we didn't. We don't want to step on suggestions that people might send in, so she will remain a mystery for now, but next week we will reveal what woman we're talking about, and we'll also reveal the last five names that were cut from the list.

L.B. in Savannah, GA, writes: You criticize John James Audubon for owning slaves, while not mentioning the fact that Gutzon Borglum was an unrepentant white supremacist, whose second-best known work is the Stone Mountain relief in Georgia that honors several Confederate generals (and is the subject of some controversy as to whether it should be removed). Arguably, Borglum's views had a greater effect on society than Audubon's, since Audubon didn't create any overtly white supremacist or racist artwork.

V & Z respond: Well, our focus was actually more on issues that potentially compromise Audubon's work, namely his killing of his specimens, and we just tossed the slavery bit in there as a "bonus," if you will. We also felt the portion about what Rushmore symbolizes today indirectly included Borglum's reprehensible politics. At least we can all take solace in the fact that Borglum is spending eternity entombed about 200 feet from Michael Jackson.

E.M. in Poughkeepsie, NY, writes: I wholeheartedly agree Charles Schulz should be on your list of influential artists, but you missed one of the most important lessons he taught: "everyone deserves a seat at the table" (Franklin).

V & Z respond: Oops, you're right.

D.F. in Northcross, GA, writes: Your inclusion of Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz in your list of most influential artists in American history intrigued me. (Your inclusion of Bob Kane [Kahn], Jerry Ess [Siegel] and Stan Lee [Lieber] also intrigued me as someone of Jewish faith and an avid comic book reader as a kid, but that's another story.)

Anyway, Schulz's inclusion brought to mind a comment and a question. The comment involves the fact that while you included many great examples of underlying messages of major social importance, you left off one very big one, in my view. You apparently forgot about the very important (and somewhat controversial at the time) message sent by the introduction of the Black character, Franklin, not to mention how his introduction came about.

The question involves the note that you made that Schulz's inclusion on your list at the expense of someone you referred to as "one of the great political cartoonists of the 20th century." I'm curious about who you were referring to.

V & Z respond: Yes, we meant to go back and work on that list a bit more and forgot. If we had, we would have certainly included Franklin and Schroder ("Make time in your life for some art"). And we were thinking Garry Trudeau.

S.M. in Milford, MA, writes: I concur with your selection of Bob Kane, Jerry Siegel, and Stan Lee. But these three men didn't create Batman, Superman, and Spider-Man alone. Only Kane was an artist and Bill Finger is now credited with co-creating the Caped Crusader. Siegel and Lee were writers and needed Joe Schuster (Superman) and Steve Ditko (Spider-Man) to bring their creations to life. Jack Kirby (Kurtzberg) helped Lee create most of the other characters (Hulk, X-Men, Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, Black Panther, and many others).

V & Z respond: We were operating under the presumption that nearly all art has many fathers and mothers, either because it was created collectively, or because the artist relied on people around them for financial/emotional support, or because the artist was standing on the shoulders of those who trained/influenced them. We focused on those three because of their fame and because we wanted to make the point about how they helped introduce subtext about the Jewish experience into the work. That said, we should have included Kirby, as well, since he checks the boxes that the other three do.

M.M. in San Diego, CA, writes: So glad you included Jerry Siegel as influencing the country because when I met my husband in 1981, he claimed that Superman was his most influential role model and he sported a Superman T-shirt a size too small to give it that "nearly ready to burst" look. Furthermore, he grew up to be one of those guys that goes around righting wrongs professionally, but enough said about that.

J.M. in Stamford, CT, writes: Among all your choices for historically influential American artists, which I very much agreed with, I was a little shocked to see Howard Miller's "We Can Do It!" poster of a so-called Rosie the Riveter.

Because I teach a lesson on this subject, I internalized a number of years ago the fun discussion point that this Rosie poster was used for two weeks in a Westinghouse factory during a campaign to suppress formation of a union. It was only seen by the workers in that plant, for that period of time, and then lost to history. Lost, that is, until the 1980s when a feminist scholar uncovered it, fell in love with it, and gave it its prominent place in America's "false memories" of World War II and women's history ever since.

One could argue that Howard Miller's work has since the 1980s "inspired" millions of young women to assert themselves at work while still looking damn good and fit. But his then-obscure poster had basically nothing to do with the winning of the Second World War.

The real Rosie the Riveter poster that "a lot" of younger women may have been inspired by, and which may (!) have made a critical contribution to winning the war, was by Norman Rockwell. Featuring a bruisingly dismissive working-class Rosie with an industrial size shipyard riveting gun, Rockwell's memorable poster first appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post and went on to be adopted by the federal government to publicize its bond drives. And of course, you've got Rockwell on your list already, and correctly so for his up-to-date political work. Fun stuff to combine art history and social history. Thanks for the piece.

V & Z respond: Yes, we knew about Rosie. However, Miller was certainly part of an artistic conversation that included Rockwell, and the folks who created the song "Rosie the Riveter," and many other people. Further, as with the comic book guys, we were looking for someone who could serve as a face for the group of artists who so effectively marketed World War II to the American people. Finally, as you point out, Miller's "Rosie" has had enormous postwar importance.

D.T. in Parsonsfield, ME, writes: I appreciated your list of the most influential artists in U.S. history. I think it is important that it be understood that art and artists do not exist as "culture" in a vacuum but that they influence real life and people's perceptions of themselves and our country and our traditions.

It is necessary to provide some clarification concerning Grant Wood's "American Gothic." It is a common mistake to view this painting as one of a farmer and his wife. It is not. The subjects are a farmer and his daughter. The image is not of a wife subserviently standing behind and supporting her man but that of a daughter showing respect and taking position behind her father ready to continue family and cultural traditions. Most likely the man was a widower which was not uncommon considering the hard life on a farm.

Nevertheless, it can stand as the original MAGA painting, as you wrote, even more so since it portrays the idea that the next generation will adhere to what the patriarch considers the proper values.

V & Z respond: (Z) has been teaching that painting for more than 20 years, as he uses it along with Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag," and Kanye West's "Gold Digger" on the very first day of class to start introducing students to how historical interpretation works. So, he knows who those people really are (Wood's sister and dentist) and who they are supposed to be (father and daughter), but he also points out to students that the artist does not get to tell people how they should understand his art, and that most people who saw the painting in its original showing definitely saw husband and wife. Also, the farmhouse wasn't actually a farmhouse and—ironically—actually served for several years as a bordello.

C.Z. in Sacramento, CA, writes: You wrote that Bob Ross: "preached the message that making art is for everyone, not just the chosen few."

Actually, it was Bill Alexander, who preceded Ross on PBS and who created the painting style that Bob Ross plagiarized and then made a mint on. Bill was also the one who coined the phrases starting with "happy," as in "happy little accident." I can still hear him demonstrating how to add "happy little clouds" to his paintings, in his charming German accent. Bill was truly interested in sharing art with the masses. Bob was more interested in making money off of the elderly Mr. Alexander. Ross was as phony as his permed hair.

V & Z respond: Yes, this story/controversy has been all over the place recently, thanks to the Netflix documentary that just came out. Regardless of the ethics of the situation, or who invented what, we chose Ross because, in the end, it's his show that had far and away the most reach, and it's his show that lingered for decades beyond his death. Recall that we were not judging these folks as artists but instead as influencers of American society.

History Matters

C.J. in Redondo Beach, CA, writes: In the American World War I enthusiast community (which is much smaller here in the States than overseas), the line is usually: "World War I paid the debt for the Revolution and World War II took care of the interest."

P.R. in Madrid, Spain, writes: I would just like to call BS on that vision of the U.S. saving Europe in World War II that Hollywood has managed to push in the last decades. The USSR did the heavy lifting, and seeing how that vision has changed since the 50s is a master class in marketing.

Plus, I'm still miffed about how the western "allies" left us to rot for almost 40 years just because the Generalísimo (may he burn in hell) provided them with some cheap labor.

R.C. in Des Moines, IA, writes: It may interest readers of the answer yesterday about pivotal years in U.S. history that while the year of 1898 was one of the most pivotal to the United States, it was also very consequential to Spain. There, 1898 is often referred to in Spain as "the disaster" and changed Spain profoundly. Although Spain had endured many decades of turmoil following the Napoleonic invasion in the early 19th Century, the events of 1898 allowed Spain to free itself of its self-made prison of imperialism. Losing the remnants of its once great empire destroyed any political viability of imperialists and finally allowed Spain to move on from the past and look to the future. Of course it would have to rid itself of the scourge of Franco in the 20th Century and Spain still has ongoing conflict internally. But 1898 was just as consequential for the Spaniards as for the Americans.

If readers want to explore the more about the events of 1898, this book is a good read: The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire.

A.T. in Seattle, WA, writes: I would say 1896 is the most pivotal year between the end of the Civil War and 1932.

The reason why is the repudiation of the Bourbon Democrats at the national level and the merger of Populism into the Democratic Party due to the People's Party nominating William Jennings Bryan. This did kill the People's Party, but it also allowed the Democrats to move left, since Bryan's faction came to dominate the party at the national level in the Fourth Party System, and Bryan himself was one of the major leaders of the Progressive era. In addition, much of the People's Party platform—from an expansionary monetary policy, to a graduated income tax, to direct election of Senators, to a shorter work week—was eventually enacted.

J.T. in Greensboro, NC, writes: We have a pretty good summary of pivotal years in U.S. history, but what about in world history?

The other day, in one of my classes, I was making the pitch that 313 AD was potentially the most pivotal year in the history of Western Civilization due to Constantine and Licinius's (everyone forgets Licinius!) issuing the Edict of Milan legalizing Christianity in the Roman empire. The legalization of Christianity not only made it a major political force, touched off the brewing conflict between the Arians and Trinitarians that wracked the first century of legal Christianity but also ultimately set the church's theological trajectory. While Christianity certainly wouldn't have disappeared without the edict, it was immensely consequential. Would Julian the Apostate, for example, have had an easier time re-establishing pagan practices in a world where Christian practice had never been legal to begin with?

I'm curious to hear the thoughts of others.

V & Z respond: But what was Licinius' position on abortion?

We kid, of course. If readers have suggestions, accompanied by explanations of reasonable brevity, we would like to hear them, too, and would definitely run some.


M.G. in Chicago, IL, writes: I find your comments on how to teach American history a bit silly. Do the Italians split their history into two sections? Do the English/British/Saxons? After seeing (Z)'s weekly outline it is clear he has left out much... probably due to the fact that what is "taught" is subjective. I understand that history teachers would prefer that each decade have its own semester but I would classify the split into two sections as more of a "summary" of American History. As a product of the American educational system I can attest that if it were not for the Discovery Channel (and a few books) I would know next to nothing about American history... though still far more than students from Texas and Alabama.

V & Z respond: It's not clear if you're criticizing the general schema, or (Z)'s particular interpretation of the schema. However, (Z) will pass along that while he has some latitude, there is also a general course outline provided by the university that he's supposed to follow, and there is also an expectation that students who go on to advanced coursework will have some familiarity with key material. Also, (Z) can't speak for any other teacher, but if you signed up for his class, attended lectures, and did the work, you would most certainly learn things.

E.W. in Skaneateles, NY, writes: As a fellow professor, I found (Z)'s syllabus to be a very interesting breakdown of U.S. history, and I can empathize with the tight schedule. In my Intro to Psychology course, I need to survey my vast field in a similar, twice-weekly format (I have 80 minutes each session rather than 75 though).

Here's my (rough) schedule, which is pretty standard in the field:

Week 1: Introduction to Psychology as a Science (History of Psychology, Research Methods)
Week 2: Biopsychology
Week 3: Sensation and Perception
Weeks 4 and 5: Learning
Weeks 5 and 6: Memory
Week 7: Developmental Psychology
Week 8: Thinking and Intelligence
Week 9: Motivation and Emotion
Week 10: Personality
Week 11: Social Psychology
Week 12: Psychological Disorders and Treatments

The semester is, of course, longer than 12 weeks, what with exams and break weeks, but that's an approximate guide. It's sometimes a race to the end of each unit though, especially when the students pose many thoughtful questions, which (fortunately) happens often. I often remind students that each of those topics can be (and is, at my institution) a full semester-length course. I've taught over half of those courses (ones from Week 1 to Week 8). Part of the issue is that, like in history, there's already so much to learn and more knowledge is being created all the time.

I am curious: do each of those weekly topics then become an upper-level history course for (Z) as well?

V & Z respond: (Z) can teach those subjects as upper division courses, and he has taught many of them (the ones close to/involving the Civil War), but he does not generally do so. Because he attracts large enrollments, he is more useful teaching large, general classes rather than small, focused classes.

...and Petagogy

D.H. in Marysville, WA, writes: Okay, I think Otto and Flash need to become regular contributors to the site. Their contributions are much appreciated and help reduce my anxiety after reading every day about how our country is retreating from democracy. Here's a picture of our own Otto who lived to the ripe old age of 17. Long live the dachshund!

Brown dachshund, with a textbook 
example of puppy-dog eyes

V & Z respond: What a handsome pup he was! And yes, long live the dachshund!

M.C.A. in San Francisco, CA, writes: So Otto and Flash don't work? Sounds an awful lot like your staff mathematician.

V & Z respond: As a reader pointed out, they do take (Z) on walks at least five times a day, so that wasn't entirely correct.

B.L. in Hudson, NY, writes: The Beatles can wait. I'm glad that you (Z) have your priorities straight, and thank goodness that Otto is doing well. It's only love, and that is all! Give him all the time and attention he needs!

V & Z respond: That's what the staff veterinarian said, too. She doesn't come up much as the staff mathematician does, but we had to add her to the team a few years back when it became clear we'd need someone with expertise in tuft-headed American asses, and white-haired Indiana weasels.

K.H. in Maryville, TN writes: Otto is a cutie! I'm certain he is a Very Good Boy. My felines and I send our very best wishes for a complete recovery.

V & Z respond: Thanks, and (Z) and the doxies send good wishes in return! And yes, Otto is indeed a Very Good Boy. Flash, on the other hand, waits until all the humans are gone and then turns into the Harry Houdini of finding and gaining access to treats that have been hidden away. This bag was on a four-foot-high shelf, inside a cardboard box, inside a closed closet. And yet:

A bag of treats has been 
gnawed open and partly consumed

How a one-foot-tall dog reached a doorknob and a shelf that are four feet high is quite a mystery.

D.O. in South Park, PA, writes: I see you just used the old, "My dog ate my homework" excuse.

V & Z respond: True.

Notes on a Blog

M.G. in Stow, MA, writes: I've been a reader of since the beginning. I think the current format with readers' questions on Saturday and readers' comments on Sunday is great. The Saturday format is one of my favorites. It's also nice to hear other readers' thoughts on Sundays, and though it's not my favorite, I almost always read through all of them eventually. Last week, A.L. in Highland Park's "But hey, I'm glad y'all had your moment of unity" and J.L. in Los Angeles' "Florida: America's schlong" made reading the Sunday comments all worthwhile. Pure gold. Very well said to both of you.

V & Z respond: We have a pretty good nose for what will be of interest to readers, but it's not perfect, which is why we sometimes err on the long side. For example, who knew that a brief question about state mottoes would catch fire?

J.L.G. in Boston MA, writes: I used to skip reading the Sundays altogether but it turns out you've done an amazing job of creating the Salon you'd hoped for. Kudos. I learn a new perspective every week.

V & Z respond: We regard it as a work still in progress, but are glad that you like it!

J.C. in General Trias, Cavite, Philippines, writes: I like the new format. More appearances from the Q Continuum would be preferable, however.

V & Z respond: If ever there's a site that is well set up to add him as a contributor, it's a site already written by (V) and (Z).

P.N. in Austin, TX, writes: I've been reading your site since 2004 and never has the writing made me as angry as the letter from D.W. in Westport, Canada last Sunday. Surely I've read of things that made me angrier on your site, but not the writing itself.

First off, to (Z): You clearly recognized the rudeness in the letter, and you're an adult, I'm sure you already know this, but it's worth saying it out loud to reaffirm it... Your body is for you, and no one else. The opinion of some yokel from Ontario is irrelevant. You offer us your mind and your craft, and it's a gift for which many of us are thankful.

To D.W.: I'm looking at you. It seems to be from the letter I've read that your style is dangerously similar to Sean Hannity. You may consider this an outrageous thing to say based on the paltry evidence of a few words...

See? The insult is still there. The damage is still done. If you have any respect for (Z), you should apologize.

And to everyone else: Please, take this as a chance to learn. Our bodies are for ourselves to judge, and not anyone else except our doctors. Judge people for their work and their actions, not based on some shi**y snap judgment about their appearance. And don't use ad hominem rhetorical attacks.

V & Z respond: Very kind of you! We ran that because we try to give a sense of the breadth of messages sent in, and we often get letters that appear to be well-meaning, on the whole, but are also rude or otherwise problematic. So, we thought we'd share one of those. We also very occasionally share examples of the absolutely vitriolic messages we get. You should see the guy, for example, who is 100% convinced that (Z) is an observant Jew, and that the best way to express criticism of his writing is through outlandish antisemitic slurs. We can but hope that guy's using us as an outlet spares an actual Jewish person some of that nastiness.

B.C. in Northampton, MA, writes: I was angry and sad to see D.W.'s ad hominem attack towards (Z) this week as "dangerously overweight" in pursuit of their "yes, you really did miss it" argument about the coverage of Justice Breyer.

My dad would have been considered dangerously overweight by D.W., too. He, a college professor, was also the best teacher I've ever known in my life and shaped the way I think about the world. As do both of you through your time, expertise, and wonderful insights day after day on Electoral Vote.

Thank you for doing what you do. Our world is better for it.

V & Z respond: Thanks to you, too, for the kind words!

S.S. in Detroit, MI, writes: I know it's none of my business, but if I were you guys, I would immediately offer W.R. from Tyson's Corner a contract as Staff Mathematician and demote that other guy to Beverage Consultant.

E.K.H. in San Antonio, TX, writes: If the "huge hack" of Epik doesn't qualify for Schadenfreude, I don't know what does.

V & Z respond: The Arizona audit result, too, but some stories are too big to limit to that feature.

C.G. in Nashua, IA, writes: Thank you from myself and the many others like me who enjoy your work, but have been anxiously anticipating the pay wall everyone, it seems, is erecting. Many fixed income people are slowly being squeezed out from accessing worthy work on the web. The horror of it is that some will fall victim to the rampant disinformation available since it will remain freely available.

Thanks for bucking the trend.

V & Z respond: Yep, we would not cut people off just because they can't pay. Put another way, there will be no unwanted erections around here.

M.G. in Chicago, IL, writes: I suspect you have a very susceptible audience for grifting...if you ever need funding. And not that you need a "how to" guide; it is clear you have read the Trump playbook.

V & Z respond: We didn't want to reveal too much quite yet, but you've forced our hand. So let us take this opportunity to announce the Stop the Steal '76 PAC. We are going to recount the ballots cast in Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina in the presidential election of 1876, we are going to prove that Samuel Tilden won those states, and we are going to insist that he be rightfully inaugurated as president. You can be a part of making history—well, remaking history—for the low, low price of $500. Or, for $1,000, you get an "Uncle Sam '76" hat and a one-on-one meeting with the true president-elect (you must supply your own Ouija Board and medium). Either way, please ignore the little box that says "make this a recurring donation." That's not worth your trouble to pay attention to.

Gallimaufry, Gluten-Free Edition

L.S. in Warsaw, IN, writes: You wrote: "[I]t's probably lucky for us that, as of January 1, we're shifting our focus from election analysis to quilting patterns and gluten-free pizza recipes."

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.

V & Z respond: Well, that line was a blend of the titles of the last two books of David Letterman Top Ten lists, to wit: David Letterman's Book of Top Ten Lists and Wedding Dress Patterns for the Husky Bride and David Letterman's Book of Top Ten Lists and Zesty Lo-Cal Chicken Recipes. We replaced the wedding dress patterns with quilting because there had just been a quilt appraisal on "Antiques Roadshow," and we replaced the chicken recipes with gluten-free pizza because (Z) had just gotten a gluten-free pizza crust recipe from a (male) friend of his who has celiac disease. That request came because (Z) was thinking about trying to re-create a pizza he had at Pie For The People in Joshua Tree. Anyone who visits that part of town and is gluten-intolerant (Z isn't, but was with someone who is) should consider giving them a try.

E.L. in Dallas, TX, writes: For over 10 years, I have come to for insight and analysis. At times I have disagreed with some of what you have said, but I have always understood your point of view. Now it seems as though, to borrow a quote from my favorite website, your "cheese is not squarely on the cracker." Perhaps I should say "pizza" instead of "cracker." You wrote: "[W]e're shifting our focus from election analysis to quilting patterns and gluten-free pizza recipes." I have no problem with you deciding to change the focus of your website to home projects and cooking. My disagreement is with you referring to something gluten-free as "pizza." The entire process of kneading dough to form a pizza is in order to form gluten strands. You cannot hand toss gluten-free dough, and it is therefore not a true pizza.

Pizza is a food of the people, and it should be defined by a more democratic source of knowledge. For this definition, I prefer the definition provided by Wikipedia: "Pizza is an Italian dish consisting of a usually round, flattened base of leavened wheat-based dough topped with tomatoes, cheese, and often various other ingredients..., which is then baked at a high temperature, traditionally in a wood-fired oven."

It is not by accident that the dough is described as "wheat-based." Clearly something "gluten-free" is not a pizza, but is another type of food altogether. As a longtime reader, I will support and follow your new blanket-making and culinary website, but I will never refer to the cheese covered gluten-free objects that you create as "pizza."

Disclosure: I have no financial interest or affiliation with Wikipedia or gluten.

V & Z respond: In fairness, the dish referred to in the previous comment came off as more of a flatbread than a pizza. We wouldn't want to run afoul of the powerful gluten lobby that you're "not" a member of.

J.S. in Durham, NC, writes: I am very excited about the shift from election analysis to quilting patterns and gluten-free pizza recipes. Be careful with the quilting patterns, they can be tricky. And don't forget, there are the patterns of quilting pieces together, and then there are the patterns of the actual quilting (the stitches that hold all the layers together).

Now, in terms of gluten-free pizza crusts, I would love to know how to make my cauliflower pizza crust hold together. The one I made tasted good, but it really just fell apart.

I wish you well in your more domestic (as in related to the home) pursuits!

V & Z respond: Keep reading for a suggestion, albeit one without cauliflower.

K.L. in Chattanooga, TN, writes: In reference to note on switching the site to focus on quilting patterns and gluten-free pizza recipes, I thought I'd get an early jump and share my favorite gluten-free pizza dough recipe:

1 cup warm water (about 110F)
1 tablespoon sugar or honey
1-½ teaspoons instant yeast
1-¼ cups Gluten-Free 1:1 Baking Flour (210 grams)
¼ cup almond flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon psyllium husk powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
Combine the warm water, sugar, and yeast in a glass measuring cup. Whisk to combine.

While the yeast is proofing for 3-4 minutes, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and psyllium husk powder in the bowl of a stand mixer.

With the mixer running on low, slowly add the yeast mixture and oil. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat for 3-4 minutes.

Using an oiled spatula, press the dough off the sides into a ball. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425F. Oil a 12-inch round pizza pan. Using oiled or wet hands, press the dough into the pan. The dough will shrink slightly as it bake, so press the dough as thin as you can to cover the pan. Let rise for another 10 minutes.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and add your desired toppings and sauce. Bake for another 10-15 minutes depending on your toppings. Let cool for a few minutes before slicing. Enjoy!

V & Z respond: And so our transformation begins.

If you wish to contact us, please use one of these addresses. For the first two, please include your initials and city.

To download a poster about the site to hang up, please click here.

Email a link to a friend or share:

---The Votemaster and Zenger
Sep25 Saturday Q&A
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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
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Sep22 Trump Sues His Niece, The New York Times, and Three Times Reporters
Sep22 (Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part IX: The Economy
Sep21 Norma McCorvey (a.k.a. "Jane Roe"), Meet Alan Braid
Sep21 The Hard Truth about "Stop the Steal," Part I
Sep21 The Hard Truth about "Stop the Steal," Part II
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Sep21 (Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part VIII: The Pandemic
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Sep20 Biden Cares about the Quad, Not the Squad
Sep20 The Midterm Electorate Shift May Not Hurt the Democrats This Time
Sep20 Voting Begins in Close Virginia Gubernatorial Race
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Sep19 Sunday Mailbag
Sep18 Saturday Q&A
Sep17 "Justice for J6" Quickly Turning into a Fiasco
Sep17 And Then There Were Five
Sep17 This Week's 2022 Candidacy News
Sep17 This Week in Schadenfreude
Sep17 Election Day, Eh
Sep17 (Back to the) Back to the Future: Reader Predictions, Part VII--Congress, the People
Sep16 Takeaways from the California Recall
Sep16 Boston Will Soon Get Its First Elected Female Mayor
Sep16 Biden Is Talking to Manchin and Sinema