Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron (June)

Jun 24, 2014

Gene Weingarten held his monthly chat with readers.


In the last chat update I excoriated George Will for his egregious column about rape on college campuses. I got some unexpected feedback on one issue, so we shall discuss it here briefly.

Mr. Will referred dismissively to this charge of sexual assault, brought by a student at Swarthmore College. Here is a summary of her charges, from an article in Philadelphia Magazine:

"In the midwinter of 2013, Sendrow says, she was in her room with a guy with whom she'd been hooking up for three months. They'd now decided - mutually, she thought - just to be friends. When he ended up falling asleep on her bed, she changed into pajamas and climbed in next to him. Soon, he was putting his arm around her and taking off her clothes. "I basically said, 'No, I don't want to have sex with you.' And then he said, 'Okay, that's fine' and stopped," Sendrow told me. "And then he started again a few minutes later, taking off my panties, taking off his boxers. I just kind of laid there and didn't do anything - I had already said no. I was just tired and wanted to go to bed. I let him finish. I pulled my panties back on and went to sleep."

Here's the poll.

The second poll is on a completely different topic -- President Obama and the 2016 presidential election.

Here it is.


About this chat:
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Today’s chat introduction is going to be seriously weird.  And more than a little grisly.  And beautiful and ugly.  And of suspect morality.  I can’t really justify it except it’s something obscure that I found, and I found it completely riveting, and it's inappropriate to write about in any other forum.   If you feel I am being ghoulish, feel free to look away at any time.  Violent death is involved. 

It’s a video.  At first glance it seems to be a scene from a movie about a military execution.  It opens with disturbing Third Reich imagery presented heroically, and you're immediately uncomfortable.  What is this?  Who wants me to think what?

It is shot in eerie black and white; there is intricate blocking and camera angles.  The lighting is dramatic.  The shadows are ominous, Fritz Lang-ian.   The music is haunting and mournful.  The situation is cinematic: It’s chilly cold, and you can see the smoke in the breath of the condemned man, and of his captors.  The action is so stylized it appears choreographed.   

The amazing thing is, this is no movie.  This is a vintage U.S. Army film, carefully edited and set to music at some point by people whose motives are unclear. 

The man being put to death was Anton Dostler, a mid-level Nazi general shot by an American firing squad on Dec. 1, 1945, in Italy.   It was early morning; the official time of the execution was given at 8 a.m., but this must have been earlier, just after dawn, because it is clearly mostly dark; though the still photographer is usually out of the frame, had to use a flash, which results in a constant, insistent feel of paparazzi lurking. 

As Nazi war criminals go, Anton Dostler was less guilty than many, and of a less awful offense than most.  During the heat of battle in 1944, he had passed along a higher general’s order to summarily execute 15 American commandos caught trying to blow up a Nazi-controlled train tunnel in Italy.  They were, in fact, executed.  (You’re not supposed to kill prisoners of war unless they are spies, which these men were not; they were dressed as American soldiers.  But the higher general who actually gave the order, Albert Kesselring, served only a short sentence after the war.  Kesselring had supporters in high Allied places; Dostler evidently didn’t.) 

Dostler was a Nazi, but by most accounts he was a professional soldier, not an ideologue, and no one’s idea of a monster.  Clearly, few of the military men carrying out this execution felt too good about it.  Vengeance was in the air, not justice.  The men’s faces (they are best seen in a still I will show you later) attest to this discomfort.  Dostler is certainly stoic in going to his death, though scared witless.

Okay, enough talk.  Here is the video.   Watch it, and when you return, we'll go on.  

I don’t know the provenance of this video – perhaps some of you are more skillful Internet sleuths than I.  Because of the beginning and end, I strongly suspect that at some point, it was hijacked and repackaged by Nazi sympathizers, though this is not completely clear.  The eagle and swasticka work fine as ironic ambiguity, too.

What is clear, however, is that from the beginning, the Americans doing the filming were after something of artistic merit, rather than just an official record of an execution.  Official WWII army films sometimes used multiple cameras, but not with the skill and editing shown here.  At one point in an outtake I found – it's not in this video -  we hear an army voice-over crediting “Camera, Murrow.” Could it possibly be that Edward R. Murrow, as a favor to the military, made a video with which he didn’t want to be officially associated?  He was in Europe at the time, covering the Nuremberg trials.  Probably not.  I’m just speculating.

It's not clear who did what to this film afterwards, or their motives, but the results of the (likely) accidental collaboration are powerful.   Viewed as a whole, I do think this is a highly unusual relic – military footage that becomes art.   As a final product, this is an antiwar message as lucid and articulate as All Quiet on the Western Front.  There is no glory here; this is the shabby, uncomfortable mess at the end of war.

As I said, in addition to the three cameras, there was a still photographer; he appears for a few frames as a ghostly image with a huge camera, maybe a Graflex.  Later, you know of his presence because his flash periodically illuminates the scene.

As I said, there was an army photographer taking still photos, only very few of which appear to have survived.  Here is the main one.

It’s quite a gripping photo, but, perversely, it seems to come even more to life in this colorized version created online by someone with some real skill.

In it you can see the army chaplain standing to the right of condemned man.  (Later, in a longer version of this video showing the full film from all three cameras, it will be the chaplain who presses a hand against Dostler’s chest to certify death.)  Then there are two corporals, who in this picture are beginning the process of tying Dostler to the stake.   There is a fourth man, to the left, who seems to be an authority.   The chaplain and the authority are exchanging what seems to be a deeply doubtful look.   What Dostler feels can only be surmised, but on his face you see both the abject fear and stoicism. 

I first saw this photo, and its near perfect composition, before I had seen the video, and I suspected that the caption writer  had been duped -- that it actually was a scene from a movie, or a hoax.    But then, when I had the video, I compared it, and found the moment that photo was taken.   If you go back to the original video, and watch the first part of it again, you can see the news photographer’s flash for this very frame: It arrives at 1:13.   Here I have frozen it as the flash illuminates it.

So, that’s it.  Spine tingles.  

Good afternoon, as I said. 

Please take today’s polls.    I’m going to be talking right away about that sexual assault scenario, because I disagree with most of you.   It will be an interesting discussion.

We start at noon, eastern time, sharp.


If I'm remembering correctly, years ago you pronounced 'atheist' an unnecessary word. The reasoning was something along these lines: We don't describe someone who doesn't collect stamps as an 'a-philatelist' so why do we describe someone who doesn't believe in a deity as an 'atheists.' The logic was so perfect, my reaction was visceral. So, first, I thank you. Next, I will share this. I was duly exposed to various religious traditions growing up, but I have no recollection of ever actually believing in a deity, an afterlife, or a soul as anything but metaphor. On the rare occasion that someone has asked me in what religious tradition I was raised, I've responded "Darwin." I do happen to believe that morality, far from being a spiritual mandate, is an evolutionary adaptation. But, like one of the update posters, I've had a pretty laissez-faire approach to public displays of religious belief in secular situations...until a recent meeting with my attorney. Before he could declare a trust I was setting to be legal, I had to swear that the information I'd provided was accurate BY PLACING MY HAND ON A BIBLE. I am normally a calm and rather quiet person, but suddenly I was channeling John McEnroe. "You CANNOT be serious!" I refused. For all I know, my documents are therefore not legal in North Carolina. Later, I wondered why I was so bothered. Obviously, I was not going to "so help me God," but I might have conveyed that in a more tempered tone. I think what had me so riled is this: Implicit in the rhetoric around religion is the assumption that civility, decency, and ethical behavior are driven by divinely inspired guidelines and that, as a non-adherent, my word was suspect. In fact, I have what has been described as an over-developed sense of fair play. I am kind to strangers. I help animals. My lack of religion has not made me selfish, opportunistic, or dissolute. The state of North Carolina, apparently, begged to differ. But I'm going to stay. The weather is lovely. And since it all ends for me upon my death, sunshine and blue skies out of proportion to the norm matter.

I am with you all the way, but should point out something.  Requiring someone to swear on the Bible puts all of us who think the Bible is just a book at a distinct advantage...

The thinking is, if you swear on the Bible you must be telling the truth, at the risk of your mortal soul.   Right?  I bet that has terrified some people into telling the truth.

To us, there is no coercion!  It's like asking us to swear on a copy of "Where's Waldo."  Sure!  Bring it on!

While the options are well laid out given the purpose of the poll and the society we live in, it frustrates me to no end that rape is only rape if it's prosecutable. In the case presented, I would ideally say it was rape, but the facts are so tenuous it probably could not be prosecuted.

I would say it is probably not rape.  See next question and answer.

I voted the assault was rape and should be prosecuted. Once one party says a meaningful "no", anything after that is legally and, in my opinion, is morally an assault. How she responds during the assault does not matter, Nor does it matter who she is. She could be a girlfriend or a prostitute. It does not matter how she was dressed or if she was totally naked. The critical issue is prior consent. The issue there is settled. If there are other facts, which I do not see in the scenario, such as see changed her mind and gave consent after the "no" and before the assault, the issue changes I also used the word "meaningful" to acknowledge role players who have prior consent to sex knowing ahead of a parter will pretend to say "no". I do not see that among the possibilities in this case. In sum, the issue is prior consent.

Ah, okay, let's discuss this.

I was surprised how many of the poll respondents thought this was sexual assault or "probably" sexual assault.   I'd go with no assault at all, though I leave myself open to persuasion on "possibly."

You know, I agree with you in virtually all your points.  In the abstract, how she was dressed certainly should not matter,  or even IF she was dressed.  Or what their previous relationship was, or even if their relationship was ongoing.  Even if they were married.   Even if she were a sex worker.  All of that is immaterial, in the abstract.   Boyfriends can rape their girlfriends.  Husbands can rape wives.  Johns can rape prostitutes.  We didn't always think this, as a society, and now we do, and that is good. 

The problem here is that in an ambiguous case like this one, where communication was not very good -- communication, at the moment it most mattered, was terrible -- it comes down to a question of who was thinking what, and interpreting what as what, and who had a right to think what meant what about what was unsaid.  It's messy.

And I think, overall, this is such an ambiguous situation that it makes a lousy charge of sexual assault.   I'm not even sure a  sexual assault occurred.  I think George Will cherry-picked this case for exactly this reason.  This is atypical, and he knew it, but he went with it anyway.  Sexual assault charges are usually stronger than this, whether or not they are strong enough to prove in court. 

Here are my feelings about this one:

I am very sympathetic to claims of rape, but in a case where there is no weapon or threat made,  the woman has a basic obligation to make herself clear, especially in an ambiguous case like this.   

Guy puts a move on her.  She says no.  He says, okay, fine, no problem, meaning he understands that no means no, and is dispositive.   So far, so good!  Rules set, boundaries established, and he's apparently going to respect them.

Then a few minutes pass, and he thinks (I am presuming here, trying to channel a college guy)  "Hey, maybe she's changed her mind!  Oboy, could be! She didn't seem MAD last time, just maybe not turned on!  Maybe she'll be turned on now!"  So he tries again.  He's an oaf: He should have asked verbally, but he asked in a different way, a way that perhaps would have not seemed revolting a few weeks before, when they were still a couple.  But he was still asking a question.  She makes no allegation there was any threat, implied or otherwise.

At this point, I believe she is not allowed to be coy.  He is not making her fearful, he is simply being an insistent male jerk.  She has an obligation here to make the situation clear, again, to show that nothing had changed.   If I pull a woman's shorts down, thinking she wants sex, and she doesn't want sex, I am going to expect a signal, possibly the back of a hand or a knee where it hurts, but at least a stern "no."  I am NOT going to expect that if she has in fact NOT changed her mind, she is going to lie back and let me to it to her.   That's not mixed messages, that's way closer to an okay than to a no. 

She is simply not allowed to roll her eyes, lie back, make no objection, accept his penetration while thinking of England, allow a full sex act to proceed to the end without protesting verbally or physically, then put her pants back on and fall asleep next to him, and then, weeks later to decide this was rape.  Not okay. 

I would feel exactly the opposite if her story was that after saying no she she had fallen asleep -- passed out -- and woke to find her undies were off and her privates were sore, or something.   That's rape, and he does time.    Her prior "no" is not even needed, but with it, the case is ironclad.

But this?  Pressing a "case" like this does no good to the women's movement, and it gives creepy old men like George Will a chance to be an even creepier old man.   That's the real damage done here.   George Will can point to this case and say: See how frivolous and irresponsible women are, willing to destroy men's lives over nothing?

I mentioned this is the update: Did you all see those poisonous stealthy loaded expressions in his final paragraph?  About "they asked for this" and "It serves them right."


I don't understand why that girl didn't just get out of bed. That guy should have listened when she said no, but that doesn't mean she didn't have a duty to herself to do whatever possible to get out of a situation she didn't want to be in (like, I don't know, sleeping on the couch, or kicking that guy out of the bed that wasn't his to begin with).

Or even saying "no" again.   Clearly, he was ready to be told no.   I don't honestly understand people's insistence that this was CLEARLY an assault.  I'm willing to be educated.  I am very sympathetic to rape charges, and give most of them the benefit of the doubt.  I don't think women, by and large,  frivolously charge rape.  The ramifications are too great. 

It would have been interesting to see if there is a gender divide on this one. As a woman I voted no. Come on, you don't crawl into bed and snuggle with a guy even if you have "basically" said no. ( What the hell does "basically" mean? ) You get up and tell him to get his sorry &^% out of your bed, your room, and probably out of your life.

Yes.   One reason I didn't do a male-female split is that in past cases, men and women are very close in how they split in cases of rape -- if anything, men seem to answer more liberally.

It is absolutely stunning to me that this would be considered anything other than consensual sex. What's next? "I had a really good time while it was happening last weekend, but looking back on it he was a little short and I probably wouldn't do it again." To me this illustrates the problem with so many things in our society today. We have expanded the the "definition" of so many wrongs to include everything that might, sort of, be, kind of, included (wouldn't want to miss anyone, would we) that the definition becomes essentially meaningless. I'm sure you and the majority of the chat will disagree.

You are widening this a little too much, I think.   This case is very specific.   It's a very specific set of facts to which I can be reasonably sure of the right answer.

It seems to me that the execution was for very formal and the presence of a cleric suggests this was nearly ceremonial. I suspect Dostler was given this formal militaristic treatment due to his rank and status as being "less guilty than many, and of a less awful offense than most." Otherwise, he may have been shot "in cold blood" anonymously by a draining ditch.

Well sure.   Generals are being judged by generals.  They are going to be treated with dignity.

The item is funny, but it is reviews that make this the highlight of my week

Yes.  Yes, this is worth the read.  I suspect there is a rather small society of very funny people who find odd products and write odder reviews.

Colicky Bollocky Nouri al-Maliki Bum rushed Americans Out of Iraq. Troubled by ISIS, he'd Unceremoniously Save his own neck by in- viting us back.

C'mon, the form is not THAT hard!

People seem to have ridiculous problems with meter, even this talented writer.   For one thing "Unceremoniously" has too many syllables.  It's not a true double dactyl.  Here:


Colicky Bollocky

Nouri al-Maliki

Bum-rushed Americans

Out of Iraq.

Troubled by ISIS, his


Ass-saving gesture? To

Summon us back.

Thanks for exposing us to the video, very powerful, the photos too. If you haven't seen it, look up A Film Unfinished, which shows how a Nazi propaganda movie shot in the Warsaw Ghetto altered reality to fit their goals. Its the most moving (and chilling) piece of film I've even seen about WWII.

Noted.   Will try to find it.  

whether it was rape or not. The column made me so insane with fury at George F. WIll and his too-common ilk that the fact that he cherry-picked such an ambiguous case to illustrate his breathtaking claim that being a sexual assault victim is "coveted status" -- well, I don't quite know how to end this sentence, but I think you get what I mean.

I do. 

The Democrats won't nominate Clinton. They don't nominate the previous election's runner-up. That's what the Republicans do. The Dems come up with a new, exciting candidate who hasn't already lost on the national stage. I'm pretty sure the Democrats will win the next election, but I said I wouldn't take the bet, mostly because of everything happening both abroad with Iraq and at home with the IRS. Too much up in the air and very possible for the Democrats to irreversibly screw up their chances.

Any thoughts as to who the new, exciting Democrat will be? 

I voted "it wasn't rape" on the poll due to this line. She "basically" said no. Well, what did she say "No, I don't want to have sex now." or "No, we are not having sex tonight." With a history and the ambiguity of the "no", I say this isn't rape. My kids know that declarations have to be clear and unambiguous. Say what you mean and mean what you say.


A government agency has the power to fine you a lifetime cost of $1 million. How much due process should a person have when faced with such a fine? Should the accused be able to face his accuser? Should the accused be able to have representation? Should the accused be able to have a presiding judge familiar with law and due process? Should the accused be able to present and challenge submitted evidence? A public college can expell a student, potentially costing that student $1 million in lifetime earnings with minimal due process. This gets to the heart of the Will column. How much due process does the government owe its citizens? My suggestion is tht colleges turn over all potential crimes to the police and only deal with non crimes such as plagiarism or room mate squabbles.

I think I agree.  Others?

The Republican nominee will be Jeb Bush, and he will win. I take no pleasure in saying that.

Anyone else have thoughts on this?

I think you might be right, if the Tea Party has been killed.  

My answer is that it will be a Democrat, but not Clinton.  I think that people will get fed up with her inevitability. 

What exactly was your role, and what was your publisher's, in the titling of Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs? I can't imagine you wanted that colon there. I ask this question because I might shortly find myself with a similar problem--a title-subtitle combination that makes perfect sense on a cover but not when written out with the colon. I've become hyper-conscious of similar titles.

The colon is not part of the title! 

Here is what happened.

Williamson and I wanted the title to simply be OLD DOGS.  Nothing else on the cover.   Simon and Schuster basically said, books need a subtitle.  They help sell it.  They ordered us to come up with one.    So we did.      This is the cover of the book.

You will note, no colon.   The colon is something that Amazon places between book title and subtitle.  It's idiotic, suggesting that the title somehow presents the subtitle.

I shall be ordering Jeff Bezos to change this policy. 

As a comics expert, did you have any clue when you saw the Pearls strips with different art that it might be Watterson? Do you think this suggests Bill might be starting to come out of exile?

I had no idea it was Watterson.  Wonderful coup for Pastis.

In response to the first poster, find a new lawyer. There can't be any requirement under North Carolina law that you swear on a Bible (and some quick googling suggests there isn't). Your lawyer was apparently trying to make a point.

I am not so sure about this.  Remember, there are several states that require you to affirm a belief in God before you can take public office.   They are blatantly unconstitutional, but still in the books. My memory is that North Carolina is one of them.

For the record, I'd happily swear on the Bible, for reasons I said.  No skin off my nose.

You think that because it is easy for you, it is easy for everyone. Not so. You just happen to be quite talented at it. So is my husband. he can come up with a Petrarchan sonnet on the spur of the moment. I couldn't if you paid me.

Thank you, but I contend you could.  If your husband were sitting next to you, helping you see and sing the lines.  It's about singing.    The poetry critic Helen Vendler called it music.

You said, "If I pull a woman's shorts down, thinking she wants sex, and she doesn't want sex, I am going to expect a signal, possibly the back of a hand or a knee where it hurts, but at least a stern "no." " Here's the thing. SHE SAID NO. WHY would ANYONE pull down a woman's shorts when SHE ALREADY SAID NO? And this isn't like she said no a day ago. It was the same night! If you and I engaged in a fight club, let's say, and you and I fought on occasion, in a totally legal way. Then I said, "You know what, I don't want to engage in fight club tonight." and then an hour later you punched me, is that assault or not?

Time had passed.  She might have changed her mind!  Hey, it's worth a shot!

(I am channeling a certain kind of guy here.  I am not saying we should like him, I am just saying IF THE ISSUE IS A CHARGE OF RAPE, she must remind him, uh, no. )

Everyone agrees "no means no". But how long does that last? Are we not allowed to try again? Because when I met my now wife I initially turned down her advances. Later on that evening I gave into her considerable charms and, well, there you have it.

Exactly !

I don't think you need to argue that Dostler was somehow "less" of a war criminal than someone else to make your point. He was absolutely a war criminal, and deserved to be severely punished, independent of the fate of others involved. Capital punishment is brutal and inhumane, and war brings out the worst in everyone, regardless of the validity of their justifications. These facts are independent of one another.

Fair enough.  I am not trying to excuse him.  I agree he needed punishment.  It's more interesting to me that the guy who GAVE him the order essentially went unpunished.

General question:  Are you guys as fascinated as I am with this Dostler video?  Am I nuts to find it amazing?  All thoughts welcome. 

I am shocked at the huge margin that say Hilary will win. I am an independent who leans heavily democrat and live in Maryland. In the past eight years I have heard such vitriol and garbage slung at Obama, and the Republicans have even more ammunition with the VA, IRS, Iraq trilogy wars that I am certain they will win (assuming their candidate is basically competent). Are the chat readers isolated from awareness of all this or am I too negative?

I agree with you.  I don't think it's a cakewalk for Hillary, at all.

I think I agree with an earlier poster that highlighted Will's point that colleges shouldn't be in the business of prosecuting crimes. They should have resources available for victims (like moving people around in housing, changing class schedules, etc.), but leave the investigation and prosecution to the actual legal authorities. But this point got lost in the midst of his final statements about status and privilege. At what time in the writing process (if ever) would an editor have the ability to go to Will and say, "You shouldn't include these last sentences because your actual point is getting lost"?

Oh, at any point.   I think editors failed him here.   Now, the dynamics of this are difficult.  There are two sets of editors: The editors at the Washington Post Writers Group, who are his direct editors, and the editors of the Post Op-Ed page, who are entitled to make suggestions, and certainly entitled to not run a column they don't like, but who are lower in the process.

I don't like to second-guess editors, and I understand that with a trusted columnist, the default should be "let him say it." 

I would have asked for changes in this, and if Will refused, I would not have run it.  It didn't need huge changes to be printable (if still wrongheaded.)   This was mostly a disaster of tone. 

I married a man who identifies himself as culturally Jewish and whose family belongs to a fancy country club. The club was founded by wealthy Jews because they weren't allowed join other clubs at the time. In passing conversations with members of his family, it has come up that so and so would not be extended invitations to this club because they aren't the right kind of Jew. WHAT? Why is is ok for Jewish people to discriminate against other Jewish people? BTW, I am a lapsed Presbyterian.

It isn't.   Be glad you're not in that country club.

When my children were little, in Miami Beach, we lived in a neighborhood populated by many Hasidic Jews.  They would not permit their kids to play with Molly and Dan.   I think they would have felt the same way even if The Rib had been a lapsed Jew like me.  But a shiksa?  Aggh!  Treyf!  Treyf!

I'm hoping to tap the deep wells of your knowledge of quirky medical and psychological issues. My boyfriend, who is generally not prone to sniffles or sneezing fits, and has no known allergies, has a habit of letting loose a single, powerful sneeze whenever he begins...amorous conversation. This of course has the effect of breaking the mood rather comically. Once that sneeze has been unleashed, he can resume speaking and other activities without issue. What do you make of this?

Well, I didn't know the answer, but Wikipedia helped.  The very last point they raise sounds possibly connected: I believe  users of Viagra sometimes sneeze: There is erectile tissue in the nasal passages.

Ignoring this specific case, it's not that hard to tell if the person you're with is unhappy or uncomfortable in the moment and if you don't adjust what you're doing or how you're doing it based on that, you suck.

Agreed, absolutely, but now we are in this very very vague area of what vibes she was sending out...  You cannot base a rape accusation on that.

At the annual WWDC developer conference, where Apple announces the annual updates to Mac and iPhone software, they talked about a new feature where you can send live audio via text message. The background screenshot says "There's an amazing violinist playing in the subway right now." 

50-50 that there was no intended connection.   That happened seven years ago -- an eternity.

I have become aware recently that I am a bit of an outlier in terms of the speed of my digestion. Without going into any sordid details about the evidence, it seems not at all uncommon for me to have a meal (say, lunch) pass completely through my digestive system in 6-7 hours. I was pretty shocked, then, to learn that the typical mean bowel transit time is something like 50 hours! My wife thinks my fast digesting is a symptom of poor eating habits (e.g., insufficient chewing). Can you reassure me that it is possible for a perfectly healthy adult to eat three meals a day and vacate two of them before he goes to bed?

Fifty hours sounds too long.   I am about 16-20. 

Hubert Humphrey. Lost to Kennedy. Nominated in 1968.

But he lost to Kennedy in 1960.   In 64, he became veep.  Not the previous election's runner up.

Gene, just because you find the video fascinating doesn't make you nuts. There are lots of reasons why you're nuts.

Thank you.

I suspect you can't answer this, but is the Post editorial page as infuriating to you as it is to me these days. George Will, Jennifer Rubin, Theissen, Krauthammer. I have no problem with conservatives, but these all border on hackish anti-Obamaism on a regular basis. Give me some reasons, some debate points, not vitriol.

All I can say in answer to this is that I have seen the identical complaint citing Gene Robinson, and E.J. Dionne, and Richard Cohen....

It's hard, being an op-ed editor.

Gene, I'm interested in whether you're following the World Cup. Like you, I grew up a Yankees fan (pretty much spent my college years riding the D train to the stadium), but I gave up on baseball once I moved to DC many years ago. I found out I was a YANKEES fan, with all the sturm und drang of the Billy Martin - Reggie Jackson - George Steinbrenner years, but not a BASEBALL fan. I took up following soccer--Arsenal in the English league, for a host of reasons--and I find the game much more enjoyable, once you learn it. Faster, lots of back stories, and it's over in less than two hours. More and more, baseball at the stadium is a reason to go and eat, rather than watch a game.

I disagree.  I love baseball, but I have come to like soccer (I guess I do every four years.)  Watched that last goal against us with horror.

Soccer is interesting: The team sport that is absolutely simplest in its rules.  It's almost primitive, in how simple it is.  Which is a strength because of the complexity with which that simple game plays out.

Sorry, can't find the link to the polls. Help a sister out?

They're at the bottom of the page (look for: TAKE THE PRE-CHAT POLLS). They start up at the top before the chat, but as we get going they get pushed down.

I answered the same way you did, and for the same reasons (so yay for me!) I almost answered "possibly" because it seemed like the "right" answer, but ultimately went with no. The fact pattern reminds me of a 2010 Supreme Court case, Maryland v. Shatzer. As everyone knows, if you are in custody and request an attorney, the police have to stop interrogating you. The question before the Court was whether police can start questioning you at a later time without an attorney present, requiring you to have to "re-invoke" your right to counsel. The Court said yes -- at least two weeks later. The issue in the sexual assault example was basically whether the passage of time required her to "re-invoke" her right to say no. Does no mean no forever, or just for a few minutes? What if he tried again in two months and she didn't resist? Would that be an assault? What if it had only been 10 seconds later and not 10 minutes -- would her "no" still have been "active?"

Interesting point, and a squishy area.   Ten second would have been bad, and I'd be less inclined to think that he was just "trying again."  

It would be an interesting case to prosecute, if she STILL didn't offer any further no or resistance, but I'd be more inclined to consider the charge valid. 

Okay, I see just wrote "squishy area" without any intent to be funny-gross.  I should delete it.  But it is making me laugh.  Apologies to all decent humans.

This. It is disingenuous to claim that all who committed crimes prosecuted at Nuremberg were equally culpable, equally horrible, and should have been punished equally. Look at how many went untried and unpunished because the Allies wanted them either for scientific or political purposes.

I give you the great Tom Lehrer, on Wernher Von Braun.

Have you read it?

I have.  It's great.

It seems to me that when the GOP nominates someone with a very specific and clear philosophy, that guy wins ala Reagan and W. (Not saying it has to be a good philosophy but they took real definitive positions on issues.) The Democrats win when it is the battle of generic politicians running on platitudes ala Bill and Barack. The exception of course is the elder Bush but Dukakis was so completely incompetent a potted plant would have beat him. This seems to hold true for the other offices where one party isn't in complete domination. So if the GOP nominates Ted Cruz or his ilk and they don't go generic, then Hillary is in trouble. If Christie gets the nomination and runs as a 'conservative that isn't too far right', then lock up the interns cause Bill is back in town.

Ted Cruz has no chance.  He is Joe McCarthy, and it will be clear.   The comparisons are clear.  He is a dangerous demagogue.

Apropos of nothing in particular, and certainly not relating to any article I may have read in the Post regarding Virginia's failure to expand Medicaid, my question is: What are the ethics for a reporter when he is interviewing people who are egregiously ill-informed? Is he supposed to not ask pointed questions that highlight the lack of informedness, so as not to embarrass the interviewees? Does it matter whether the interviewee is a Congressman or a regular man-on-the-street citizen?

There is certainly no obligation to go easy on an ignoramus if the ignoramus is a public official; quite the opposite, we kind of have an obligation to let the voting public know this, within the constraints of also being basically fair.  Things differ with the man or woman in the street, or private people whose lives just became public over a specific issue.

There are no rules, I think, just basic commonsense.  I have mentioned this example before.  It's a case I made up, but if the father of a murder victim says "I was expectorating her to come home at 9," you don't quote him exactly.  Do do so would be cruel, and worse, it would make people laugh.  I would just change the quote to "expecting."

Regarding George F. Will managing to make everyone seem hip and with-it by comparison: I've been hanging on to this 1977 column of his, from right after he turned 36, as an illustration of how long he's been up to that. He just can't stand ice cream flavors and hamburgers insulting his dignity! Comes with a bonus anecdote set in a Burger King that obviously never happened (unless there was once a plague of teenage girls hopelessly devoted to their employers' branding initiatives):

I love this column!  It has way more humour than we see from Will today.   I agree with him on the Yumbo.

Probably outside your purview but...I'm guessing you're familiar with an editorial cartoonist named Ramirez. Is there another working cartoonist so insanely partisan? This guy drew through EIGHT years of Bush/Cheney shenanigans and aimed at nothing but Democrats. Why is he in so many papers? Is there that big a demand for Fox in pen and ink?

Well, he's pretty good. He won a Pulitzer in 2008, with me.

I think your politics are showing themselves unbecomingly.  He is no more strident and biased than, say Toles.   They're both good.

May 5, 2013. Sunday B&C. Honeymoon rhinitis.

May 12, actually. Good memory! 

I am male. When I was in college in the 90s I was invited more than once to share a bed--one of those insanely narrow college dorm-room beds--with a female friend. Under the cultural circumstances in place at that college at that time this was absolutely unambiguously not about sex, and there was never any doubt in my mind about that. Whether we had previously hooked up wouldn't have changed that (frankly, I'd have been less likely to do it, but that's a different question). If she doesn't consent to sex, people, it's rape.

Agreed.  But does she have to SAY yes?  What if she makes no protest when you undress her, is fully conscious and sober, consents to a sex act, allows it to end, puts her clothes back on and falls asleep next to you?   That's rape? 

I'm torn. On the one hand, the child's name is difficult to like, at best. On the other hand, it feels somehow wrong to me - it's elitist, maybe - to mock the name people choose for their children when those names don't fit into what I consider the bounds of good taste. How did you feel writing this column? Do you feel like you made fun of the parents or the child? (A quick Google search indicates that lots of other people seem to have picked up on her name, so it's definitely out there.)

I'd like to generate a discussion of this.  You are writing about my column this past weekend, this one.

I don't want to disparage the ma, here, and it's one of the reasons I played this straight.   In general, I think it's a bad idea to name a child in a way that celebrates your own creativity.    A name is more important than that.

Yeah, they'll probably settle on Biden. That'll be new and exciting.

Well, it will be exciting!  Joe says stuff.

Oh yes, this happens. My mother and father are both Jewish, and we grew up as observant members of a conservative synagogue. At one Passover seder at my Orthodox uncle's house, he loudly forbid my mother from touching the wine bottle, as that would make it not Kosher, according to his standards.

Wow!  Cooties.

I wrote a couple of months ago about my girlfriend who wanted to take me out, dressed as a girl. Well it took some planning but we went to Bobby McKeys at the National Harbor. It was... interesting.

I think you need to elaborate, for an update.  Send to me at gene.weingarten(at)

Hey, why do people do that (at) thing?  I do, but I don't know why.

I couldn't get the video to play, which is not unusual where I work. But anyway, according to, the sun rises at 7:54 a.m. in Berlin on December 1 of this year. It does not do the calculations for years earlier than 1994, but I figure 8:00 a.m. could not be that far off from the real time of the execution.


Gene I met a nice guy recently - we talked for a long time and seemed to connect (he didn't run off, I did - we exchanged names before I left). I looked him up on Facebook and friended him. A week or so later he accepted the friend request. No communication otherwise. I waited a few weeks to see what he'd do and then sent him a quick hello, how's it going message. He saw it but no reply. So, from my end, is that "it"? Totally verboten to try again on any level to contact him until he attempts to contact me, or, give it a long time and try one more time? (Assuming I still care in a month or two that is). I think I have my answer if he isn't bothering to reply but if that were the case, why even accept the friend request? Meeting people is hard. Muchas gracias, Senor Gene.

I am incompetent to answer this, having spent my brief single years in the absence of social media.

Any advice for this lady?

(Generally, my advice is, why be coy? Call him.  Is that wrong?  That's wrong, right?)

Less guilty than most? I find him more guilty than most. i thought most Nazi war criminals were camp guards or other people who did not actively issue orders or actively harm anyone directly. This general issued an order to unlawfully kill 15 prisoners. That is pretty horrific.

Well, c'mon.  He killed soldiers, during wartime, and it wasn't his decision... he passed on the orders of a superior officer. He deserved punishment, but this is really a fog of war thing.

I find people being brutal to, or killing, civilians -- women, children, noncombatants -- to be on a higher level of blame.  And please remember, most guards are not executed. 

So I bought the kindle edition of your book, Fiddler in the Subway. I was disappointed because it didn't have any pictures. I mean, the articles in the magazine had pictures, so I assumed they would be in the book also. Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the hard copy edition has pictures, but not the kindle edition. Great book anyway. That is not why I am writing. This is my question: What is the kindle edition equivalent of autographing a hard copy of the book? Will you autograph my iPhone?

I will autograph your Kindle.

The hard copy of Fiddler has no pictures, except one of Joshua Bell, on a second cover.  Interestingly, the "hard copy" of Fiddler is a paperback.  It was never released in hard cover.   Which explains why it is so cheap.   Cheap.  Hint, hint.

I must admit, Barney and Clyde is a cute strip.

I am publishing this only because it will inevitably lead to denunciations of the strip as idiotic, which I will also publish.

... where were you? When I read the Pastis blog about collaborating with Waterson, I anticipated you would be in the mix somewhere. But the exclusive interview the Post ran with Calvin and Hobbes' dad was by, um, some other writer. Can't remember whom. No saying they didn't do the paper proud, but you're the comics guy, Gene. What's the skinny?

I am no longer the comics guy!

Since I have a comic strip, I have been asked by the syndicate not to do much comics commentary.

I weep for this.

Fortunately, Michael Cavna is smart.

Wow, this make the Pinocchio story a lot more interesting.


How are people answering "no" to this poll question? The bet pays off $25,000 if you're right, and you only lose $5,000 if you're wrong. There are only four answers. Even if you just picked an answer at random you have a 25% chance of being right, which works out to an average gain of $2,500 ($25,000*0.25 - $5,000*0.75). As long as I knew the four answers covered all of the possibilities, I'd take that bet even I was completely ignorant of politics, even if the answers were covered up.

I wouldn't so easily queue up to lose $5,000.

are set up to handle allegations of plagiarism. Not felonies. Those should have always been referred to law enforcement. What were they thinking?

Also -- and this is key to me -- it is in the college's interest for the charge to go away.  To somehow be resolved without attracting undue attention. 

If the R's can nominate someone who doesn't talk like women are incompetent vessels used simply to carry babies, that a kid brought to his county as 1 year old is the undoing of the economy, or that gays are the undoing of the fabric of the family, than they have a shot at winning. If they nominate one of the Crazy folk way on the right who can't stop talking about the needs/limitations on my vagina or who I should pray to - well than they are in real trouble and will be out of the national leadership position for the foreseeable future.

I agree with this.

Women have saved the country in the last two elections.  Please keep doing it, ladies.

Generally, I think the Democratic nominee is likely to win in 2016--the demographics are just tilted against the Republicans in a way that's hard to overcome in relatively high-turnout elections. I recall from the 2008 election results--if you broke down the results by age/race/sex, and then looked at what would have happened if each group voted the same way as in 2008 but with the groups' proportions of the populations matching the 1992 distribution, McCain would have won handily. Basically part of the current polarization is that the number of voters who really swing back and forth is now very small. And all the demographic changes are going in the Democratic direction. In the last 20+ years, the only time the Republican presidential candidate has won the popular vote has been when he was an incumbent and we were at war.

The Republicants have been committing seppuku.  There is no reason they could not evolve with the changing demographics, but ... they hate evolution.

Because bots that go around harvesting e-mail addresses for nefarious purposes are set to look for the @ and doing the (at) thing supposedly foils them.

But why wouldn't they now look for the (at) and do a simple cut and paste?

Hi Gene Thanks for the reply - I don't have a phone number. Facebook is it. No other way to contact him and vice versa.

I am sorry, I have totally lost the antecedent to this.  Please remind me.

Oooh, I'm looking forward to hearing responses to this. I have a similar situation, although perhaps less of a connection. He did accept my friend request extremely quickly, though. And I can't call--I don't have his phone number.

Ah, this explains the previous.

Did you see the recent uproar about a woman who got in trouble for leaving her kids in the car for 10 minutes while she ran into a store? People were outraged that another woman would call the cops. But Gene, after forcing myself to read your article when I had a nearly-one-year-old (and bawling through the entire thing), I think I would have done the same thing. Given all that you know have seen on this topic, what do you think you would have done? If it makes a difference, the kids were in the car on a 50-degree, sunless day with no visible distress.

I have already opined on this.  Basically, you should never leave a kid in a car, but there were several factors here that really militated against charging this woman with anything.   The child was four and a half, not two.   The child was never in jeopardy.    The temperature was not threatening.  The mother knew where the child was, and locked the car, with cracked windows. 

I would not have busted her to the cops as a bystander.   I mean, think about it: The bystander filmed the child, saw there was no distress, filmed the mother coming back, filmed the mother opening the door and greeting the happy child, who was playing with a video device.  

I don't like that bystander.   Maybe she should have gone over and talked to the mom.  Instead she HID, waited till the mom left, and called the cops.  No.

The amendment basically says you can't be jailed or otherwise prosecuted for saying whatever it is you want. It doesn't say that your employer has to keep paying you; or that those around you can't shame you (or try to shame you), or that people can call to boycott your services; or decide to vote you out of office. The right to say something doesn't mean that others have to listen, agree, or support what it is that is said. The irony is that those complaining are calling this kind of action things like "socialism" when the fact of the matter is that is a group of citizens (or association) boycotts a busienss because of how that busienss is run, that is actually the definition of a capitalistic society - people talking with their money - may the best company win.

I agree, but I'm not sure what instant issue you are referring to.

I wouldn't take the bet because I never bet. Loved your story about the culottes. When I was in 5th grade my former 4th grade teacher complained to the principal that I was wearing culottes to school and girls had to wear skirts (yes, I'm that old). My mom talked to the principal and he said he'd never noticed that they were culottes so it was ok with him.

This is in reference to something from the updates, where I recalled the time that Joes Stone Crab refused to let the Rib dine because she was wearing culottes, which they defined as "shorts," which they prohibited.  In order to determine they were culottes the maitr' d made a big show of inspecting her thighs to make sure there was material between 'em.

They offered to supply a wraparound, I believe.  We left.  

No one else will care enough to consider this question. At night, when I take off my bra, my boobs are very itchy. Not at all before then - just when I take it off. Can you explain?

Intuitively, it seems to make sense.  A guess: Freed against the air after a full day being constrained, you are basically being tickled by air? 


I am shocked to see so many people who think he is doing an adequate job in foreign affairs. I like the guy, but he's a disaster when it comes to foreigh affairs. I will never forget the quote in Time magazine from one of his staunchest defenders, Joe Klein, regarding his handling of the situation in Syria: "It was a stunning display of presidential incompetence." It has not gotten any better.

Richard Cohen, in his column today, has the first tentative defense I've seen of Obama internationally: He says the situation is so dreadful in so many places that Obama's passive isolationism sometimes seems wise.

To the extent toilet seats are gross, it's caused by people who hover.

This is an odd story.  It is about hovering but written by a man.  That's like a woman writing about prostate exams.

I am certain that women are 95% more likely to hover.

And yeah, it's not a good idea.

Webb-Warren or Warren-Webb. Hits the right populous note.

Wouldn't this be seen as wildly liberal?  Another McGovern ticket?

Yes, Gene, she has to say yes. YES. YES! If you're not sure, ASK!!!!!!!!!!!! It's not hard (lol). Just... ask. If you're not sure, and you're with a person, ask them, "do you want to have sex." It's 6 words. Don't insert anything anywhere until that person gives you permission.

I think the guy would argue he did ask, just not verbally.And that she answered, just not verbally.

It's a messy case.  I don't like the guy, but, boy, I don't think this is a winnable case. 

Prosecutors often won't touch rape if there's a prior relationship, even if it's clear (i.e., the woman is passed out drunk, which happened to someone I knew). So colleges often feel they have no choice but to handle sexual assaults, and, yes, in a more stringent way than prosecutors do. Usually they do an expulsion but seal the reason, so as not to prevent the person from transferring. I think that's pretty fair, and no, it doesn't ruin the accused's entire life.

I'm not sure there is a good answer here.

"Gene Weingarten : I wouldn't so easily queue up to lose $5,000." Don't. Bet $20,000 on all 4 options (or fewer if you totally know one is never going to happen) and pull in $25,000.


Okay, sold.

I think that rather than repeatedly contacting him, I'd advise you to supply your contact information, whatever you're comfortable with sharing with a relative stranger. Then be brief, but direct. "I enjoyed chatting with you, would like to do that again. Please email/call/tweet/messenger-pigeon/etc. me if you'd like to get together!" Then you're done, unless that person reaches out to you. That's how you play the don't-be-coy card in this scenario.

Okay, sounds good.

Forget him, then. If he wanted to contact you he would have done it by now.

See, I disagree with that.   Social media has made us timid.

Oh for heaven's sake, every hoverer knows that you raise the seat first!

Hoverer !

Evaporation of perspiration.

That's sort of what I meant.

Recent conversation between my wife and me (paraphrased). Me: Want to have sex? Her: No, not tonight. Me: You're leaving on a ten-day trip tomorrow. Her: OK. Am I guilty? I certainly didn't wait ten seconds. I know, I know, context matters. That's the point!


Six syllables for me. Diphthong don't count.

Hm.  Grumble.  Maybe.

Maryland is also one of them: " Article 37: "That no religious test ought ever to be required as a qualification for any office of profit or trust in this State, other than a declaration of belief in the existence of God; nor shall the Legislature prescribe any other oath of office than the oath prescribed by this Constitution."

Yep.  Outrageous.

Hovering because of germs is a terrible idea. Necessary though when you really have to go and after waiting on a ridiculously long line for the restroom, I'd rather hover and wipe down the seat after I go then wipe the seat, put down toilet paper, and then go. The grossness only comes from inconsiderate people who either don't care that other people have to use the bathroom after them or just like purposefully being gross (I've unfortunately have known girls who intentionally don't flush or leave some some sort of mess on purpose) Also, unless the liquid on the seat is yellow, sometimes those droplets on the seat are splashing from when you flush. Which is also gross, but at least it's for a slightly better reason.

Hoverer !

I don't approve, sue me.

Okay, on that immature note, we will part.   Excellent questions today.  See yalls in the updates.

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Gene Weingarten
Gene Weingarten is the humor writer for The Washington Post. His column, Below the Beltway, has appeared weekly in the Post's Sunday magazine since July 2000 and has been distributed nationwide on The Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing.

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