Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron (June)

Jun 30, 2015

Gene Weingarten held his monthly chat with readers.

About this chat:
At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.

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So, after an exciting SCOTUS week, we begin today with a salute to our conservative friends, who won a few and lost a few.   We shall do so in double dactylic meter.

Higgledy piggledy
U.S. conservatives
"Gay folks are human" gets
Grumbles galore.

Health care for everyone?
GrumpyMcGrumperson! 
Torture by poison-drip?
That they adore.

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Here's another one, written as a modified double dactyl.   The title is  A Humble Question for Southerners Who After 70 Years or So Suddenly Found Themselves Realizing to Their Utter, Slap-to-the-Forehead Astonishment That There Might Be Some Racial Insensitivity Going On Downtown, In Plain Sight.

Higgledy Piggledy
Banner Confederate
Proudly flown daily o'er
Statehouses South.

Why'd it take bloodshed to
See that flag's ugliness?
(Or praps you'd prefer that I
Jes' shet mah mouth?)

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Seriously, can conservatives look any worse than they did in the last week?   I have a serious question for conserva-pundits, folks like my favorite meathead, Tim J. Graham of the hilariously unfunny Newsbusters.org.   Ready, guys?  Here goes:

Do you ever despair just a little bit when reading Comments to your articles?   Your articles are deeply wrong, but in general are professional, showing some restraint and whatnot. You are writers.   But what appears below your articles so often veers into open, stupid bigotry that it surely must give you pause about your positions, no?  If you attract this sort of follower?   

I know that the comments to progressive punditry can also be over the top, but it tends to be over-the-top political.  It is excessive criticism of individuals like Limbaugh and whatnot.  It may be ill-informed. And sure, it may be dismissive or contemptuous of pin-headed Bible-thumpers, but, I mean, LISTEN to them.   Whereas when you write humorlessly about my column on Caitlyn Jenner, you provoke reactions like this one, on Twitter, from :  "I just had to look at your last name and knew you were commie."

Does this bother you at all, Tim?

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My daughter, Molly, points out something interesting, vis a vis the Supreme Court's decision to accept the use of midazolam in lethal injections despite evidence that it causes excruciating pain.   Molly, who is a veterinarian, euthanizes animals all the time, and it is painless and instantaneous.   She has never had a single instance of an animal appearing in any sort of distress.   She uses a one-two cocktail of propofol (the sedative that killed Michael Jackson) and pentobarbital, a barbituate that stops the heart.  Why can't/don't we do that with our executions?

There's an answer, and it's appalling.  Propofol is widely used as an anesthetic in the United States -- it is a very, very good product with no distressing side effects.  But it is made exclusively in Europe.   Ready for why we don't use it in executions, and instead use something potentially painful?

We are afraid Europeans will stop selling it to us if we start using it for capital punishment, of which enlightened Europeans disapprove.  Period.  That's why.

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Okay, so make sure to take the poll because at the very beginning of the chat I am going to reveal the correct answers.  But first, let's do the most meta thing ever done in a Chatological Humor chat, and ask you to analyze your own answers to the poll.   TAKE THIS INSTAPOLL NOW.

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The chat begins at noon sharp. 

TAKE THE PRE-CHAT POLL:

Last week was a big one for the Supreme Court. Here are some other interesting Supreme Court decisions. Can you guess how they ruled?

From my reading I believe it is not just "might" not sell propofol, they will stop. In fact I think there is another drug the European drug companies will not sell because of that and they definitely won't sell their drugs that can be used in executions to US prisons. That's why we don't have any good way to kill someone.

That is correct.   Sodium thiopental.

Four years ago, Barney & Clyde addressed this issue for a full week.   It is my favorite week.    Start here and then navigate ahead for five days.

 

Can I be sad that any of your readers didn't recognize the correct ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson

I don't fault anyone for not recognizing that.   I am not sure I would have remembered, on my own, that it was about a railroad car.   Okay, here come the cases:

Okay, here is the breakdown of the Supreme Court cases.

1.  Black man on a train.  This was the infamous Plessy v. Ferguson which had the disastrous effect of codifying the notion that public services could be "separate but equal."   It wasn't till Brown v. Board of Education (1954) this was overturned.  Plessy v. Ferguson was a 7-1 decision for the state, with one of the most important dissents in SCOTUS history:  the great John Marshall Harlan argued, essentially, that "separate" MEANT unequal, and that was exactly the decision in Brown v. Board.

2.  Pamphleteering.   This was Schenck v. United States.   Schenck was actually advising men to resist the draft, which would have been a crime.  The ruling, written by Oliver Wendell Holmes, was unanimous.   It set the standard, still in effect, of free speech being limited if it is urging an illegal act that poses "a clear and present danger of succeeding."   This was the case where Holmes gave, as his example, "yelling 'fire' in a crowded theater."

3.  Antisemitism.   This is Near v. Minnesota, which is probably the most important free press decision in U.S. History, but remains largely unremembered.   As with Miranda, who was a miserable bastard, some of the most important cases involve protecting the rights of disagreeable people.   The court sided with the antisemites and libelists, issuing an opinion that established a ban on "prior restraint."   You can't close a newspaper down because you don't like what they write.  You can sue them for libel, and win, and maybe financially force them to close, but you can't shutter a free press because they write things that offend you.  It was Near v. Minnesota that led to the 9-0 decision against Nixon in the Pentagon Papers case.

4. Japanese Americans.    A lousy decision.  Korematsu v. United States.    Shocking.  Awful.   Essentially said that we're allowed to do absolutely anything to innocent people if we make the case it's in the interests of national security.

5.  Libel.  This was Times v. Sullivan, arguably the second most important free press case.   The court ruled that in order to encourage robust debate about public issues and public figures, it had to be very hard for a public figure to win a libel suit.  Essentially, they have to prove that the publisher KNEW it was publishing a defamatory falsehood (a mere mistake isn't good enough) or was in reckless disregard for whether it was true.  This is still in effect, and it's a huge relief to the media.  

6.  Schools.   This is the one you all got wrong!  San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez.  Yep, the court pointed out the obvious:  Nowhere in the constitution do we mention education.  It's simply not something any state has any constitutional obligation to supply -- so parsing whether one district is better than another is pointless.

7.  Sodomy.   Wow, what a bad decision.  Bowers v. (ahem) Hardwick.     What can I say?  This was a dreadful decision, supporting the police.     This is from Wiki:

The majority opinion, written by Justice Byron White, argued that the  Constitution did not confer "a fundamental right to engage in homosexual sodomy." A concurring opinion by Chief Justice  Burer cited the "ancient roots" of prohibitions against homosexual sex, quoting William Blackstone's description of homosexual sex as an "infamous crime against nature", worse than rape, and "a crime not fit to be named." Burger concluded: "To hold that the act of homosexual sodomy is somehow protected as a fundamental right would be to cast aside millennia of moral teaching." Justice Lewis F. Powell later said he regretted joining the majority, but thought the case of little importance at the time.    It's sad.  The decision was 5-4, with dissents by Blackmun, Brennan, Marshall and Stevens.

So, I was on Southwest Airlines earlier this month, pulled out the in-flight magazine, leaned way back in my seat, and read the article on Dogs v. Cats. There's nothing better than reclining in one's seat to enjoy a well-written article. Thanks much! P.S. I found your argument on why dogs are superior to cats persuasive and I rarely find your arguments persuasive.

I know you are kidding about reclining your seat.  You do not strike me as evil. 

Yeah, SW Mag made Gina and me an offer we couldn't refuse: Paying us to have an hour-long Skype session arguing dogs (me) versus cats. (Gina.)  THEY transcribed it and edited it down.   

My main argument was that dogs are basically Bill Shatner (dumb and goofy, but aware they are dumb and goofy) and cats are Paris Hilton (dumb but conceited and preening and unaware they are dumb.)   Who would you rather spend a day with, Bill or Paris?

I'm trying to find this online, but can't.   Can anyone?

I met a friend of a friend and had a good time getting to know him, but neglected to exchange information, so I asked my friend to pass along my number. My friend did, and I have heard from this other guy, so I'm happy. But my friend said that he didn't get an indication from this other guy when he gave him my number of what he was thinking/feeling. Do guys really not talk about that? If a friend asked me to give someone her number, I would definitely have gotten a feel for how everyone involve felt, etc.

Guys would not discuss how they "felt," except in very superficial terms, if you get my drift, and those terms are not likely to be passed back to you.   So the good news is you are hot. 

This came up in your May chat, but (understandably) got a bit buried in the Hunt foreplay and afterglow. The use of the argument that "being gay is a choice" as a way to support anti-gay bias makes me a bit nuts for several reasons. First, I agree with you that to advance this argument implies that you either believe (or are willing to accept without much reflection) the idea that homosexuality or bisexuality are morally wrong. If you believe that being gay or bi is a neutral thing - like having a preference for redheads or people with nice legs or smart people (sapiosexuals FTW!) - then *who cares* whether or not it's a choice? The "choice" is only relevant because you believe it is a morally reprehensible one. If you don't feel that being gay is bad, then why worry how people got "that way"? Second, since when do we as a country determine that only in-born characteristics are worthy of protected class status? We protect people from discrimination on the basis of religious belief, and though you might have been born into a family that believes one way, you ultimately choose your religion (or lack thereof). We also protect people with a physical disability whether they were born with that disability or became disabled at a later point in life. So yeah, I don't care if being gay is a choice for some or all gay or bi folks, if some were born gay, if some became gay later in life. It's not relevant to the question of whether discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is okay.

I would add that the real bankruptcy of any "choice" argument is that, at least for gay men, it just isn't true.  You have to be willfully, spitefully ignorant to ignore all the testimonials from gay people about when they knew about their orientation -- and also how it totally parallels the experience of straight people.   (I knew I liked girls in a fevered, romantic-like way -- well, one specific girl -- at seven.)

The born-as argument is one that is going to get more complicated in the next few years, I think, with certain scientific realizations, and go beyond the issue of gayness into other areas that might be disturbing.    What if we discover what I suspect is true: That most pedophiles are born that way, that it's genetic?  Will this affect how we deal with them?  Should it?

I've also had some New Yorker captions that were almost identical to the winners or finalists. The guy at the airport counter, looking out at a plane that looks like something the Wright Brothers flew? My entry had the airline employee saying, "You did say you wanted the earliest flight." The winner was, "You did say you wanted an earlier flight." Remember the two cavemen with spears who were crouched in the bushes, looking at animals that looked just like primitive cave drawings of animals? My entry was, "See? And you thought I just couldn't draw." A finalist was, "Me thought Ugg just a bad artist."

This is a reference to this column of mine, about how close I came to winning the contest, and ultimately how lame that achievement was.

I like your caption for the cavemen cartoon better than the winner.  It's slightly better having cavemen speaking the King's English.

 

In your last chat, you expressed amazement that anyone would stand up to wipe. Uh, I'm amazed you can do it any other way?? I'm a 39 year old woman and pretty well potty trained I think. I could see how I could wipe for number one while seated but still usually stand out of habit. But how on earth do you clean yourself from number two if you are seated?? Do you reach through from the front or lift up just enough to reach through the back? I can't see how you can get clean unless you stand and reach through the back (and wipe toward the back of course). Is seated wiping why people get streaks in their underwear? I could never understand how people weren't wiping thoroughly but I guess you can't if seated. So explain to me why standing is so weird?? (p.s. love this chat).

I do, too.

You elevate one side, and wipe from the side.   

Standing seems to me to further complicate the process, with pressings of cheeks together.

If the SCOTUS session was just a smidgen longer I believe Scalia's melon would have exploded. How does someone have such a hard time parsing "established by the State" yet can't understand "well-regulated Militia"?

I am surprised no one has tried to attack Amendment 2 on those militia grounds.  Or maybe someone has tried.   The syntax on the Amendment is terrible.

I disagreed with every opinion/dissent he wrote (and I read them all,) but you got to give Antonin some credit for being a complete wiseass in the way he framed his arguments and dissed his colleagues on the court. I know it's hard to separate content form style (it'd be like saying, "Taney had some nice turns of the phrase in that Dred Scott case") but did you smile at all at some of Scalia's comments?

I did, but you know what?  I think he is in danger of buffoonery.   I think he may have crossed that line.

Gene, All the folks who argue the Founders did not intend the Supreme Court to be "legislative" or active are incorrect. If the Founders did, shouldn't they have fought for a constitutional amendment after Marbury v Madison - which cemented judicial review (i.e., the judicial system decides what's constitutional or not) in the early 1800's.

I've often felt Marbury v. Madison was like the conundrum of whether God can create a stone so heavy he cannot lift it.   The Court declared it was powerful!  So it was!

A lot of conservative gummint folk are pushing to allow individuals to deny service to gay couples. Do you think televangelists and the megachurch pastors should shut down, in case they accidentally provide services to gay couples in the audience?

I think that is a good question.  

Gene, I'm bothered that I'm bothered by Caitlyn Jenner. I'm a woman in my late 30s. I consider myself very liberal/progressive and a feminist. I've always been "normal" looking. Skinny, extremely flat chested. I don't wear make-up, straighten my hair, etc. I hate that Ms. Jenner, in "becoming" a woman, felt the need to have a bust, to wear make-up, to wear a slinky short dress and have a blow-out. I hate it, hate it, hate it. Just wanted to vent. Thanks.

I have not seen this expressed before!  It's interesting.

If it is any consolation here:

You were never a man.   You are a beautiful (I stipulate this) woman of a certain body type.  No one is going to look at you and think "man."  You have nothing to prove to the world.  Jenner does.  She is trying to make a statement, and a dramatic one, and she is a practitioner of histrionics, as are most denizens of reality TV.   So she is exaggerating, in every way.

Still, I get your point.  

In your update, you asked us to read a piece by Elinor Burkett and take a poll. Ms. Burkett feels that because she has been recognized as female her whole life, she ought to get a special label all her own to distinguish her from transgender women who want to get the benefit of the brand while having the benefits of the male brand in earlier life. She goes out of her way to say that transgender women are real women -- just not as real or womanly as her, and they better not forget it. Apparently, also, that means that women who are lifelong recognized female but happen to grow up in a less-sexist country are also less female than Elinor Burkett, because they haven't suffered as she has. What benefits is she willing to convey to women who grow up in a more-sexist country and have a tougher fight for women's rights? By this ranking system, Malala Yousafzai ought to own all the nicest stuff in the world, because she has had among the most terrible experience as a natural-born-woman. I have had versions of this conversation with my son. My son, as it happens, happens to have a vagina and not a penis, because my son was born with one set of parts and not the other. There are people who would label him as a freak (arguable on statistical grounds) and me as an indulgent parent who doesn't know how to raise a kid right. Maybe. Another parent of a trans* kid pointed out to me that you can't possibly imagine that this is a mere affectation, when you see the daily hell these kids go through to cope with a society that considers them inhuman, to try just to be themselves in any way. It's true that the transgender person's path is not the same as Ms. Burkett's, but it's pretty stupid to imagine that means that their path is easier. I feel Ms. Burkett's linguistic pain. It's true that activists and extremists of all stripes are a pain in the backside. They make lousy friends, but they make useful gadflies to keep society on its toes. I'm still troubled by the nature of the transgender concept -- can't one just be oneself, and let the labels be merely a description of the genitalia? This is hard work, mentally, to make sense of it all. But it's still less work and less struggle than actually living the transgender life.

A perfect post.  Thank you.

This was the article by Elinor Burkett, from the chat update.   I found it both interesting and infuriating, because of what you say and what the next post-er says.

I was one of the few that answered the poll that Caitlyn Jenner was a woman, and the author was wrong. The tone I took from the article was, "Jenner has not suffered enough, or been victim enough to be called a woman". Each example she gave of what Jenner hadn't experienced was of slights and abuses endured by women, as if enduring suffering was the defining attribute of being a woman. I surely don't want to argue that the patriarchy doesn't exist (it does), or that women don't suffer slights and abuses (they do), but to define womanhood purely in terms of victimization as the author does is a disservice. Though even on those terms, if Jenner is scorned by feminists for calling herself a woman, maybe she's suffered enough to qualify as one.

Exactly.

By the way, I am now using the term "post-er" to mean "one who posts," to distinguish it from "poster," as in a thing on the wall.  I expect this to be in the OED by 2018, credited to me.

Okay, so how long does Fresenius Kabi have a patent on the drug? It clearly has many domestic uses outside of executions. I'm pretty sure that "other nation can restrict supply at any time" tips away from Ricardian advantage.

There are two issues on which we are a laughingstock to much of the civilized world, and they are related by violence: Guns and executions.  It's embarrassing.

Every time I read Scalia's rabid dissents I imagined he was Wally Shawn in PRINCESS BRIDE screaming "Inconceivable!" as his every plan failed.

Hahaha. 

It also held that the impoverished are not a suspect class for Equal Protection grounds. Of all the lesser known SCOTUS decisions, this might be the most disastrous -- it cemented our quasi-private system of public education, where the rich can tax low for great schools and the poor are taxed high for terrible schools. Between the impact on education and housing, it really seeps into every aspect of American life.

Gah.  I didn't know that.  My memory was that it was narrower, sort of a Doh! moment, about education not being a guaranteed right.   So, yeah.  Very bad precedent.

Can anyone prove that Scalia and Dick Cheney are not, in fact, the same person? Has anyone seen the two of them together in public? I am not convinced.

Scalia has a purtier mouth. 

Hahahaha.   

It should only concern us if they are also predators. Society should protect its members from predators of all kinds.

I believe there are many, many pedophiles who never abuse anyone.  Who are perfectly moral people.   I think we need to come to terms with this in our public thinking.

Has the writing on this been turned over to 5th Grade interns (no disrespect to 5th graders intended)? I know the artist is 90-something and in failing health but - c'mon! I'm old enough to remember the great Alex Kotsky days when the art was spectacular the writing crisp and fun. This is a far worse zombie strip than B.C. or PEANUTS.

I'm publishing this because of your passion, but not because I endorse it.   I never read the serial strips, any of them, and never really did, even as a kid.   When I was a kid there was a Sunday serial strip called Little Orby.  It only lasted a few years; I grieved for it, then stopped the serials.

A couple of weeks ago your poll was about an article alleging that it was disingenuous for Caitlyn to call herself a woman because being a woman is partly about the experience of growing up as one. It also bemoaned the increasingly complex vocabulary surrounding sex and gender as a result of the mainstreaming of LGBTQ rights. I answered that I mostly agreed with the author, but I wanted to clarify - I only agree with the second part - I used to work in academia and saw firsthand how insistence on using the "right" terms can shut potential allies out of the conversation because they fear putting their foot in their mouth. As to the first point, I wholly disagree. As a white woman growing up in America, my experience of womanhood probably more closely resembles Jenner's male experience than it does, for example, that of a Muslim woman in Iran. For every example of universal female experiences the author cited, I could easily find an example of a biological woman that the example didn't apply to. Defining gender by experience is a terrible idea.

Many women are making this point.  You made it especially well. 

The reference is to this article.

You cite that Five Myths story about the Civil War being about slavery, but you're conveniently ignoring the authors' fourth point. That the Confederacy wasn't fighting to preserve slavery is the lie that Southerners tell themselves. That the Union was fighting to end it is that lie that Northerners tell themselves. 150 years later, both sides have appropriated the other's motive because it makes them look better.

You are referencing last week's chat update.   In it, I declined to give a pass to southern pols who belatedly had second thoughts about the Confederate flag, and I argued for an end to childish construction "the n-word."

I ignored Myth 4 for a very specific reason.   Lincoln is often cited saying that he could have preserved the union and kept slavery, he would have done it.  And he said it.  But it was a political statement; he said it because it helped him garner support from abolitionist wobblies.   Lincoln knew slavery had to end, and knew the only way it would happen was through war.

This is an interesting logical argument.  If we agree that the South fought the war to preserve slavery, then I would argue that it is irrelevant why the North thought it was fighting the war.  The North was fighting to defeat an army whose only goal was to preserve slavery.  Ergo, ipso facto, the North was fighting to end slavery. 

Thanks.  that's just a shortened version.  Much more in the magazine.   Hey, I think Gina might be a little better looking than I am.

... and read as much of your article as I could in a few minutes. It nearly brought me to tears.

Aw, thanks.

It's the most personally revealing thing I ever wrote.  Not entirely in a good way.   I am, as are many of us, damaged.

After nearly 10 years does anyone ask these questions even infrequently? I don't think there's been a CPOW in at least 3 years. It's time to update - or archive - the FAQs!

You are right.

Hi Gene. Medical question for you. Male, early 50s, non-smoker of anything, yet for the last two years or so my morning bowl movements have been preceded by a coughing fit, not a throat tickle, but as if trying to clear the lungs of phlegm, yet unproductive. It's so consistent that when I start to cough I just toddle over to the bathroom because I know what will shortly follow. Generally in good health and I don't cough at other times of the day, and this only occurs with the first movement in the morning, not later ones. Bowl movements are otherwise normal... some good, some bad, some excellent. Wondering if you've ever heard of this.

I have not.  But I am really enjoying the concept of a "bowl movement," and wondering if that was deliberate.  It's kind of elegant.

Even if their sexual attraction to children is inborn, they can never act on it because anyone who cannot or will not consent would then be a victim of sexual assault. Same with bestiality. Same with rape, whether heterosexual or homosexual. If they do EVER act on it, they need to be sent to an island far away to live the rest of their lives separated from society and its children. If they don't act on it, they have committed no crime.

If they don't act on it, I would argue they are better people than many of us are.   I am not a good person because I don't molest children -- I am not tempted to molest children.

I think I became aware of this phenomenon decades ago when I read Nora Ephron's review of Jan (formerly James) Morris's autobiography. Nora pointed out that James didn't want to be a woman, he wanted to be "a girl. Worse, a forty-seven-year-old girl. Worse still, a forty-seven-year-old Cosmo Girl." Because James was exhibiting all of the over-the-top prissy helpless eyelash-batting behavior that went over like the proverbial lead balloon in those early days of the modern women's movement.

Interesting.  She is a terrific writer.

You "think" that he "may have" crossed that line? He's been a hysterical buffoon for years.

Honestly, I don't know.  It's a fine line between being colorful/erudite and being a buffoon.

The goal was not only to preserve slavery but to spread it. The South was determined to make any new states admitted to the Union slave states. The war was necessary.

True.

So CNN says it won't issue a follow-up on its whole ISIS flag kerfuffle...should it? I know it was an embarrassing screw-up, but c'mon, doesn't refusing to correct the mistake make it seem like they're standing by the first report?

This was utterly spectacular.  They spend FIVE MINUTES discussing why an ISIS flag was at a gay rights demonstration.

They need to have Jeannie Moos do a segment on it.   They really do have to do that.

Zenger. Before there was the United States, it established the principle of freedom of the press.

Sure.  But as you say, it was pre U.S.  And pre SCOTUS.

A post-er is what you say after posting something stupid. Pre-poster-ous is when you realize before posting that you made an error, but hit the submit button anyway.

Thank you.

Gene, I just came across this story and frankly don't have anywhere else to share it. Wow, what a quote. " Several attempts were made to resuscitate at least one of the dismembered bodies, with no avail. 'Kentucky law requires that an attempt be made to resuscitate if possible,' said Joseph Goldsmith, a member of the search and rescue team. “I know it seemed to be a long-shot, given the body was in several different pieces, but they require us to make an attempt.' 

So, you are not a journalist.

This line has six dozen flapping red flags:  "Currently, police are considering all possible leads in their investigation, and so far have questioned several higher-ranking members of the prominent Kentucky Mafia, as well as leaders of both major street gangs."

The story is a hoax.   Or, more precisely, an Onion-type article.  The website's currently got a headline "Fox News Announces Merger with Comedy Central."

The back-formation of verbs from nouns ending in "ation" is presumably what gave us the horrible *conversate, and similarly "orientate". I hope that someday people will realizate how difficult it is to justificate these atrocities.

I hesitate to be prescriptivist, and this is a toughie.   "Conversate" has a clear meaning.  As does "orientate."  They sound stupid to me mostly because they add letters for no reason.   I also dislike "preventative" for the same reason.   But to declare them awful sounds a bit schoolmarmish.

Okay, they're awful.  I am a prescriptivist at my heart.  I am not proud of it.

I am white, I teach English at the college level, and typically about 10 to 15% of my students are African-American. Most of what I teach is pre-1850 so it's not a frequent topic, but discussions of race and racial signifiers sometimes come up. Generally I will cheerfully (but not gratuitously) use any word except the one in question (which I assume the WaPo chat software won't let me use here anyway) and one other; though I don't recall doing so specifically, I may well have said both "the n-word" and "the c-word" to refer to these two. I think you and Louie are probably right in principle, but, frankly, I don't have the personal or professional confidence to use these two words in the classroom, so when a text or topic under discussion makes them unavoidable, I don't know what else to do. I could imagine using them in print if relevant, but it's another thing entirely to speak them in front of students. My African-American colleagues can; I cannot.

Well, that is sort of my point.   If we take "the n-word" off the table, we will find that printing or saying the actual word becomes prohibitively awful.  It would almost never be used. 

Do you think it helps or hurts.

Not an expert, but I assume that helps enormously.  And I do believe it is legal, because it should be.

It's like the vegan stance that it is fine to eat veggie food that is flavored to replicate the taste of meat.

Okay, that might be a disturbing sounding comparison, but I think it is logically apt.

Many of us try to live through the part of girlhood we missed. That's why there are a lot of way-too-short skirts on middle age transwomen.

Interesting.  Thanks.

Also female, also a feminist. Also don't straighten my hair (or curl it, in this case, because it's already straight as a board). Also don't wear makeup. Used to be skinny and flat-chested, now heavier and curvier. I get your objection. But, I would stipulate that the very principles of feminism are to allow women to make our own choices - on what we do, on who we do it with, on what we wear. If she wants to totally glam it up, go for it. I like to wear sexy lingerie sometimes too. That doesn't mean I can't wear jeans, an old t-shirt, and (literally) combat boots the next morning. Women are multi-faceted humans, just like men, and our chosen clothes can change to represent our many different facets. Oh, and this is how you know we think of Caitlyn Jenner as a woman - we're criticizing her clothes and wondering if she's "feminist enough".

Thank you.

Question for women:  Is the term "flat chested" objectionable, and if it is, is there a preferred term?  I am asking for a friend.

No, I'm asking for me, as a man who doesn't find that state of bosom-ness to be unattractive or in any way wanting. 

I open doors for the car line at my kids' school. We have a hell of a time getting parents to pull all the way up to the car in front of them. It has made me notice the same phenomenon at red lights--drivers leaving one or two car lengths between them and the next car. What is up? Is there some misbegotten notion that, if rear-ended, you'd be less likely to hit the car in front of you? Or are they just conspiring to annoy?

I think this is just a part of the horrific Timid Driver Conspiracy.   I think this is no different from the folks who won't pull out into the middle of an intersection to make a left turn against oncoming traffic.  

Gene, I assume you are the closest thing the Post has to a Comics Czar. Perhaps you can explain the decision to replace Close to Home with Reply All Lite, which seems to be objectively less humorous so far, no? I'm guessing RAL may appeal more to millennials and younger. I'm 59 years new, young at heart, but so far I just don't get it. While I'm here, I have to say your Barney & Clyde has rounded out into fine form, congratulations!

Thank you. 

Much credit (and/or blame) for Barney & Clyde must be shared with the (almost) unnamed co-collaborator, Horace LaBadie.    You can find his name in agate scrawl in the gutter between panels.  

I have nothing to do with the comics decisions at The Post.   If I were the czar the page would be somewhat different.  I am reliably informed that Reply All has a pretty good following of people completely unlike you and me. 

Your "Chasing Rabbits" article mentions that you, your crush, and a friend all skipped a grade together. Your crush (who, IIRC, skipped yet another grade) hated the end result -- smart, but socially awkward. That was my experience: skipping fourth grade caught up with me in high school, all of it at private boys' school. I solved it by convincing my parents (mostly my mom, who agreed with your mom about constantly challenging kids) to let me take my junior year of high school over at the local public high school and getting back in my age group. Other than marrying my wife, it remains the smartest single decision I've ever made. Oh, and there were girls in public schools. Lots of girls. Lots and lots of girls. Did I mention that there were girls there?

I remember the girls well. 

They were all a LOT taller than I was. 

I was almost shocked to meet Shari at 50 and discover I was finally taller than she was.

Why have I never heard of a man who transitioned into an "ordinary-looking" woman? Do they all want to be sexpots?

I would love a transgender woman to answer this.  I'm not sure it's a fair premise.

I think there's a difference between "saying" the word and "using" the word. In Obama's case, a proper transcript would have had the word in quotes, indicating that he was speaking about it as a word. He was saying it, not using it.

Interesting distinction.  

Gene, I was quite pleased that you were right regarding the direction of the court, but I believe you said that Roberts would be the correct side of history. I suppose his stance was more "this isn't for the court to decide," then the hateful responses of some of his peers, but what do you think?

I remain shocked.    I would have bet a lot that Roberts would get that right.

There was something really interesting in his dissent: He said that we were moving in the right direction, state by state, and that suddenly stopping that movement and instituting it by court fiat was wrong, and could lead to the public not really accepting it.     An interesting point.  I think he was trying to distance himself from the bigots, but there just a serious logical bankruptcy problem there.   Would he have argued that slavery should have been ended state by state until, y'know, Georgia finally gave up the fight in 1936?

Here we go.  This is the full debate, which I obviously won.

My sweet, kind, independent voting husband likes to hear both views from the left and right. Super. But there has got to be someone better to get his "right" views from than Bill O'Reilly. I've told him how he's a bully and a jerk but to no avail. Obviously I can't make him do anything but any advice on some names I can suggest instead of Bill? And not that it matters (although sometimes it does), my husband is African American.

O'Reilly is smart but mean.   Hannity is mean but stupid -- literally, I think.    Limbaugh is smart and mean, but also a little funny.  I'd send him there.

This reminds me of the person who asked Steven Petrow why at lesbian weddings one bride dresses like a man and the other as a woman. You just haven't been to that many lesbian weddings. You might not have heard of men transitioning into "ordinary-looking" woman, but they probably exist. Repeat after me: My experience is not universal."

Yes, that is my assumption.

... so it is inaccurate of you to say that we "all" got it wrong.

I specified "as a group." 

I attach, for your reference, Poe's Law. This is in response to the person who thought that was a real article. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe's_law

Indeed.  Well, this one was a little closer to real than many.   Aside from that line that I cited, it ALMOST worked.

Gene, this is (wonderfully) mooted, but the "homosexuality as a choice" argument matters because, up until last week, it mattered to the Supreme Court. By and large, Constitutional protections have historically been granted based on immutable traits -- things that you are born with and cannot change, like race and gender. (Side note: it is a very Christian concept that your religion is a "choice" -- just ask all those Jews that used to live in Europe. But even given that, it is a "choice" that our Constitution expressly prohibits the gov't from messing with). So framing homosexuality as a choice was a very intentional and pointed argument by the anti-gay brigade to convince the courts that see, those people are just "choosing" to be that way and so don't deserve any protections -- if they want to choose to go against the Bible, etc., then I have an equal right to choose to exclude them/discriminate against them/etc. based on that choice. OTOH framing homosexuality as an immutable characteristic immediately puts gays on a par with many other groups that the Constitution protects. Like you, I hope we can all get past this "choice" vs. "inherent" debate and go directly to "who cares." But the reason it mattered is that it mattered to the courts who got to decide whether homosexuals deserved equal protection and treatment as human beings under the Constitution.

Yeah, I can see this.

I get this impulse, though, as a cisgendered woman. It's tough enough to make the transition from girl to woman with all the wonky coming-of-age rites and sexualization (almost always something that's first done TO you, via the disturbing and alien reactions of older men to your changing body, before you're ready to consciously opt into it) that entails. To go from boy to man to woman must be a completely disorienting process, just in terms of finding yourself in a new body and a world that reacts to you in a totally new way at the same time. I can see where dress-up and playing with makeup and girlish behaviors ("performing femininity") could be useful even to someone who formerly lived life as an adult male, just because it catches you up to speed on what most of us cisgendered ladies got to work through over a period of years, in the privacy of our teenage bedrooms and bathrooms and via giggly information-trading summits at sleepovers. It's cruel to sneer at Caitlyn Jenner's attempts to publicly "Be a Woman" when most women had to go through the same steps - just think of all the little girls trying to sneak out of their homes with bright-blue eyeshadow and ripped fishnets, convinced that the only reason their parents hate that look is because it's too sexy, and only realizing years later that they were a major fashion Don't.

Well put!

For what it's worth, speaking as a pretty fanatical comics reader: I am delighted the Post finally put "Close to Home" out of our misery. But "Reply All Lite" is just a travesty of what used to be a pretty wry strip. I assume the cartoonist only agreed to have her work mutilated so it would run at all, but I almost wish she hadn't. Could you use your influence to get Michael Cavna or someone to do a chat to explain the process the Post uses to change the comics page? Thanks.

FWIW, I think The Post runs (a few) lower quality strips than Close to Home was.  

By and large, the Post gets the comics almost right. 

I would push your argument a little further and say that in the future, people won't label themselves for LIFE as gay or straight. Without all the stigma, perhaps the truth will be that a lot of us are somewhere on the spectrum with 100% gay and 100% straight being extremes. Why is it "I'm gay," and not "I'm with Bob" and then later in life "I'm with Sue." The important thing is Bob or Sue, not the masses of men or women one could potentially be with. If there was no stigma, there would be no reason for the labels.

I'm with you!  On this!

Several years ago Rusty Foster posted this good rule of thumb for judging a movement: "At a certain point, a movement MUST be judged by its adherents. When you look around at a movement, and it's a rare earth magnet for socially-retarded trolls and is probably 98% or more young, white males, you sort of have to stand back and ask yourself if this is the movement for you. Knowing nothing about the movement, just looking at a gathering of them should be enough to give one pause. "

Excellent quote!

I would like to hear your opinion on Matthew Lowry. The Washington Post provided extensive coverage on his story and seems to be eliciting sympathy for a criminal. Thoughts?

Well, this is interesting.

Here's the Post's big story on Matthew Lowry, the FBI agent who developed a heroin addiction and stole evidence to feed it.   It is well written, shows amazing access to the subject and the subject's father, and is quite nakedly sympathetic to Lowry. 

You call Lowry a "criminal," which is literally true inasmuch as he has been convicted of a felony.   And it is also true that his crime led to some bad results: Two dozen drug dealers had charges against them dismissed because of Lowry's misconduct.  Anyway, you dismiss him as a "criminal," which, to me, is pretty cold. 

He did nothing that intentionally hurt anyone else, which, to me, is the bright red line for assessing guilt.  He poached illegal drugs that, eventually, were going to be destroyed.   He was ill with a disease, and he stole evidence to literally alleviate  his own physical pain.   Think what you want of him, but as someone with a history of substance abuse, I feel for the guy. 

To answer your original question: Yes, this feature story has an opinion, and the opinion is sympathetic, and there is nothing wrong with that.  There's an underlying truth here.  But as an editor, I might have sought an outsider to condemn him -- maybe a prosecutor who lost convictions because of him.     It could have used that, maybe.

 

is wrong on so many levels. How do people manage that? Are they standing but with knees bent --sound so awkward. Have you ever done a poll on this subject?

Next chat, or maybe in the update.  Someone please remind me.

What do you think should be done with these Southern politicians like Roy Moore and the Texas governor and AG who don't believe the marriage decision applies to them and their states? Should federal marshals lock them up?

Yep.

Well, issue very clear orders.  THEN lock em up.

Gene is correct. I would imagine standing creates a sort of Rorschach test between your butt cheeks.

My point exactly, butt better stated.

It staggers me how often that argument is made. Condi Rice, for instance, said her parents held aloof from the civil rights movement because they were convinced that if black people were just nice and behaved well that they'd be given equality. Feh.

Yep.

Hey, are you Jewish?   I never heard a goy say feh.

I think this term is just descriptive, not negative. I say this as an over-endowed woman who has accepted her rack, but wishes it were smaller.

Noted.

Roberts wasn't need to win the marriage case so he won't be remembered for being on the wrong, Plessey and Dred were horrible decisions.

Your syntax is terrible, but I see your point.  Because the decision was right, his dissent will disappear as unimportant.

Oooh, what if his vote was the swing??  Think he might have gone with the libs??

Gene, interesting dilemma came up the other morning. Sitting at a traffic light in a left turn only lane. We missed a full light cycle because the guy in the car in front of us was sleeping or something. We tried (unsuccessfully, but not forcefully) to merge to the right, in a lane that was backed up through the previous two lights. On the next green left arrow, I tapped my horn a few times, and then went around the car to the left, crossing the double yellows, though oncoming traffic was stopped for our green arrow. A police officer who was waiting to make a right turn from the opposite direction saw, and pulled me over for crossing the double yellows. He said rather emphatically that I had gravely and wantonly endangered my life, my passenger's, and those of the people in oncoming lanes including his own life. I tried to politely rebut with my story re: the circumstances, while fully acknowledging that I crossed the double yellows, but he tended to immediately interrupt and twice accused me of trying to "play him." I wasn't interested in arguing with him because he is after all, a police officer. My passenger feels I should have tried to argue more and get my point across and that getting a ticket for that is ridiculousness of the highest order. I said the officer clearly wasn't interested in hearing what I had to say, and besides, even though I think I made the right decision, I had crossed the double yellows and was technically wrong. What do you say?

I agree with you.   Did you or did you not really lean on your horn, first?  I would have.

I am a history teacher and I find myself using "the n-word" all the time. I want students to know that it used to be commonplace, but it is too objectionable for me to use in a commonplace way. While I assume you'd be fine if I used the actual n-word if I were teaching "Huckleberry Finn," I wonder how you'd advise me to treat the n-word in the context of my history classes?

I advise you to watch that Louis CK routine from the last update.

Most of us wish we'd qualify but don't. Kristen Beck says she looks like a man in a dress. We're as varied as other women. The one thing most of us (trans) have in common is, without makeup our facial structure makes us look more masculine. Hormones help.

Thank you. 

Now I'm a little disturbed that an "ordinary woman" can't also be a "sexpot" when the mood strikes. Oh, well. All that money wasted on leather and lace. I'll just have to tell my lover that it's cotton panties from now on, since I'm usually an "ordinary woman" and only a "sexpot" when we want to have a special night. Why is this an either/or question?

Just for the record, I don't see what's wrong with cotton panties.

When I drop my son at school, I try to leave enough room so that I can pull out while the parent ahead of me says long goodbyes and I love yous to her (and it's usually a her) child. I often tell my son that I love him, just not as he's leaving the car.

Noted.

I get that people believe it's wrong because the judicial system is not foolproof. We can't run the risk of killing a wrongly convicted person. But is a life sentence any less cruel and unusual? Do you think there are killers that have just left humanity behind? Who knowingly puts a backpack of explosives right behind an eight year old boy? Who sends letter bombs that kill and maim? Who kidnaps, tortures, and kills multiple victims? What do we do with people who have sold their soul and become pure evil?

Lock em away for good.  

Capital punishment debate is not about which is crueler, IMO.  It's about what civilized societies should and should not do.

As a straight woman, this has just always seemed non-sensical to me. If being gay is a choice, that means YOU (the one making the argument) could also choose to be gay. And really, if you think it's possible that you could make that choice, well... you probably are. On another note, regarding all of us being on a sliding spectrum, my open-minded and accepting boyfriend does not think men can be bisexual. That if you like other men at all, you are gay. Girls can totally be bisexual though.

That is what he WANTS to think.

Okay, this was a stimulating chat, especially since there were fewer of you than usual on this holiday week.  Congrats to the ones who are here.  Interesting takes on things....

See you 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.

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death," co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," with photographer Michael S. Williamson.

His most recent book, "The Fiddler In The Subway," is a collection of his full-length stories. He is working on a new book, called "One Day," about the events of December 28, 1986, a date chosen at random by drawing numbers from a hat.

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