Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

Mar 29, 2016

Gene Weingarten held his monthly chat with readers.

About this chat:
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My GOD we are a filthy group of people.  But more on the polls later. 

Last week I wrote once again about the dreadful things that modern parents are naming their newborns, and, as always, readers wrote in to tell me about various such depradations they had encountered.  As always, some of these were repeating old urban myths.  But, as always, some I was able to confirm.  

In the column, I noted that a very popular idiot name is Nevaeh, which is Heaven spelled backwards, and predicted that pretty soon we'd be seeing Nhoj and Yram.  Well, Tom Wible wrote in to say that his roofer is named Nhoj.   Confirmed.  

I also heard from Marianne Markey, a kindergarten teacher who has taught, over the years, a child named T-Bone, a child named Handsome, and twins named Heaven and Cherish.   But her favorite was a little girl named Lasagna.  

Yes, confirmed.  

--

Okay, so this is a truly loony political season -- the looniest I have seen in my life -- featuring as GOP frontrunners the two seemingly most disagreeable people on Earth.  Trump is Trump, and Cruz is, by consensus, the most loathed man in the Senate.   (If you have not seen Lindsey Graham discuss Cruz with Trevor Noah, you must.   Graham was magnificent; he's a truly funny man.)

The appearance of these two loathsome and contemptible men led me to wonder if there has ever been a more loathsome and contemptible powerful person in Washington.  Then I remembered Joe McCarthy and his mini-me, Roy Cohen, so the answer is yes.  

But that didn't satisfy me.   Roy and Joe are too tritely contemptible.  They are cliche contemptible.  So I dug deeper and found the person I think might have been worse than the tetrad of Cruz, Trump, Roy and Joe COMBINED.

Ladies and gentlemen, may I nominate  Supreme Court Justice James Clark McReynolds.     

McReynolds was appointed by Woodrow Wilson in 1914.  Wilson, a noted racist, was rewarding McReynolds for his service as U.S. Attorney general; McReynolds had ably provided legal cover to allow Wilson to re-segregate the federal workforce after the uber-progressive Roosevelt and Taft administrations had taken pains to integrate it.  Wilson and McReynolds set the civil rights movement back a generation. 

But it would be unfair to simply label McReynolds a racist, though he was, because he was so much more than that.  He was also an antisemite, an unrepentant misogynist, and, by acclamation, the nastiest man most everyone who met him had ever encountered. He was quite the sweetheart. He called FDR "that crippled son of a bitch in the White House." 

McReynolds became the leading force in a four-man cabal on the court to destroy the New Deal by declaring each of its programs unconstitutional.  McReynolds felt that it was not the role of government to rescue the country from the Depression.   (He so exasperated the president that FDR infamously tried to pack the court so as to overwhelm the malign influence of McReynolds and his cronies.)  Oh, he also ruled to overturn a child labor law he deemed too restrictive on private enterprise; the case was brought by a father who felt the government had no right to tell him that his 15-year-old son could not work a 60-hour week.  McReynolds concurred with the daddy.  His vote was pivotal.  

On the bench, McReynolds was lazy to the point of incompetence -- he often didn't read up on cases until they were literally standing before him, so he was utterly unprepared to rule on them, though he always did anyway, always in line with his reactionary, Neanderthal politics -- and he was an almost cartoonish boor.   During his tenure, there were very few women who practiced before the high court, but whenever any of them stepped forward he would say "I see the female is here," and leave. 

There was at the time a distinguished black lawyer, Charles Hamilton Houston, the father of the civil rights movement and mentor to Thurgood Marshall, a giant of American jurisprudence.  When Houston argued a case before the high court in 1938, McReynolds swiveled his chair to face the wall. 

I am not making any of this up.  

Oh, he also did not like Jews, which mattered a lot because he needed to get along with three of the most distinguished justices of all time -- Benjamin Cardozo, Felix Frankfurter and Louis Brandeis -- each of whom was Jewish, and each of whom, alas, McReynolds despised.   When any of them were speaking, McReynolds would often snap open a newspaper and hide his face behind it, or vacate the premises.  

There is no official photo of the 1924 court.   Try to guess why.   

Nope, it's impossible to get this right, because it is so petty.  There is no photo because the seniority of the judges dictated that McReynolds would have to sit next to Brandeis for a minute or two, and McReynolds refused. 

Taft, who was at that point Chief Justice, once remarked that when the justices met together to discuss cases, much more work got done if McReynolds was not in the room; his vicious sarcasm and peremptory dismissal of the ideas of others was a constant impediment. 

He was a man of promiscuous prejudices.  When interviewing law clerks, he specifically noted that certain persons need not apply:  "Jews, drinkers, blacks, women, smokers, married  or engaged individuals."   When Taft once asked the members of the court to travel with him to Philadelphia for a ceremonial event, McReynolds begged off, informing  his chief justice: "As you know, I am not always to be found when there is a Hebrew aboard."  Two other members of the court -- fellow conservatives -- quit the country club of which McReynolds was also a member because, according to one account, his behavior to others was rude "beyond their endurance." 

There is no official record of McReynolds's feelings about gay people, but there is a clue: He disliked wristwatches because he felt they made men "look effeminate."

McReynolds died in 1948 after a long illness, and was, according to John Knox, a former law clerk of his,  "without a single friend or relative at his beside. "

(Much of the previous was drawn from Wikipedia and Ian Millhiser's excellent book "Injustices.")

A final word on words.  

First comes the action verb, and then from it we derive the name of the actor, right?  The action verb comes first, right?

Example: From "fight" you get fighter. From "murder, murderer."  One who constructs is a constructor.  And so forth.  

So please explain "assassinate."

It's weird, isn't it?  We seem to have derived the act from the name of the person who perpetrates the act, a construction so convoluted it defies logic.   I have found no other example in English (but would welcome nominees to the contrary.)

As it turns out, there's a reason for "assassinate," and it's interesting. 

Back in the 11th century the Nizaris Islamic sect are said to have believed that killing its opponents' leaders was a better and more efficient alternative to all-out war.   (This theory was a cross between proxy wars, like Vietnam, a single-combat-warrior battles like David v. Goliath.)   So, these guys would target their enemies honchos; certain members of their tribe were these designated murderers -- they were skilled not just in martial arts but in the art of concealment and such, so they could draw knives from tunics, do their deed, and escape into a crowd.  In order to prepare them for their jobs, they were given huge quanties of hashish, so they became known as "hashishins," which became "assassins."  

This word assassin, therefore, predated (at least in English) the urge to define the behavior of killing enemy leaders.  We had the perp before we named the crime. 

--

Okay, that's it.  Take the polls if you haven't already.  We start at noon sharp. 

TAKE THE PRE-CHAT POLLS:

They are on two very different topics this week. As always, take the version that applies to you.

Poll 1: Does the race matter?
- I am white
- I am non-white

Poll 2: Indelicacy poll
- I am female
- I am male

So I see that in your intro you talk about emails you received with more real life examples of idiotic names, did you get many of the "you are so mean" emails? I think they would be hilarious and I wish you would share. Look, I know we are not allowed to have opinions on other peoples choices these days, but there is no way naming your child Nevaeh is not laughable. I'm sorry, there is a line and it has been crossed.

I don't get chastised that often.  I think parents of Nevaehs don't read me.  You know what I think is particularly cruel, though not as overtly comical?  Naming a kid something like "Johnathan," where you know he will have to spell his name to people his whole life.

I mean, y'know, dude, they aren't, y'know, that bad, right? I mean, do we gotta kill 'em?

Nope, before!  Supposedly to make them think they were in heaven! (Orgies were also allegedly involved.)  So they did the murders as a way of getting BACK to heaven.  Seriously.  This is per Wiki so it MUST be true. 

You failed to note that the distinguished Justice McReynolds sat on the court from 1914 to 1941. He is another argument -- one of many -- to establish term limits for all federal judges. A single term of 20 years would isolate justices and judges from passing political concerns, would carry them well into normal retirement age, would ensure a known, predictable turnover in the makeup of the court, and would allow every president the opportunity to appoint justices. The idea that nine people should be able to sit in final judgment -- literally -- of all Americans until they keel over in their chairs is just insane. Discuss.

Agreed, but it will take a Constitutional amendment, and that won't happen unless something truly egregious happens.  To my memory, there was a situation when William O. Douglas sat on the court while incontinent and semi-lucid.  That wasn't enough. 

Special note to the person who wrote in about Colbert King: Did you seriously think I would publish that?   Obviously not, so why send it in?  It simply establishes who you are. 

Sadly, you were born too late.  A couple generations earlier, and you might have wound up being James Clark McReynolds's only friend in Washington.   

Oh, and Colby King is one of the best, most fearless, and most honorable columnists writing today. 

Gene, I just reread your theory that the coolest presidential candidate nearly always wins, and now I am scared. I think we have to concede that Trump is the coolest. Does that mean we are doomed, assuming he gets the nomination?

Trump is not the coolest!   He may not even be the second coolest.   You cannot be cool if your principal characteristic -- the driving engine behind your personality -- is immaturity. Cool carries self-confidence with it, but  Trump is the opposite: desperately needy, desperate to be taken seriously, hungry for praise.  Cool is never a braggart.  Cool coolly allows itself to be admired.   Cool never proclaims that it is cool.   Cool is NEVER a braggart, because bragging is uncool. 

Trump is horribly uncool. 

Bernie is the cool guy, and no one comes near. 

You know who was number two cool, until he suddenly became utterly uncool?  Christie.   

 

I feel as though the people who don't think the article should have reported the Whitfield's race want to believe that race doesn't matter, and that's not true. Racism is real and it's important that we look at society the way it is. I do worry that the story will allow certain people to continue to believe that the solution to institutional racism is the magic of the Nice White People who are Saviors of The Blacks, and that's not true, either.

Yeah, see the next post.   It's a valid worry. 

I guffawed at how many people selected "Not especially" when asked if they're interested to know the Whitfields race. We have told ourselves that living in a post-race society means not caring or acknowledging someone else's race because it shouldn't matter. But this story is the perfect example of how deeply these things matter: of course we all assume the Whitfields are white (the majority of us said so!), how many stories have we read about a white family "saving" a young black kid who goes on to realize full potential under their wings? I googled "Demetrius Jackson Whitfield Family" and there are no less than 5 stories about this man and his family, none of which mention the family's race. But if the Whitfields are black, or Filipino, or Pakistani? That would be interesting to know, and, more importantly, it would mean something different than that tired old trope. And if the Whitfields are white then we need to head-on face the discomfort we feel because we recognize the white savior story is problematic, even ones with happy endings. Well, sorta happy. My condolences, Notre Dame.

My answer to this is that there is a way of addressing race without adopting the noxious "white savior" construct. 

A recent New Yorker article interviewed Dr. Elizabeth Letourneau, the Director of the Johns Hopkins Moore Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse.

Only about a tenth of the chatters here will remember why this is quite ironic. 

NPR just reported that Corey Lewandowski has been arrested in Florida for attacking Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields. The Trump campaign is denying it. Has Lewandowski been arrested, or not? If so, would it constitute a new low watermark in Presidential campaigning?

The campaign is denying it???

Sarasota police posted a definitive video of the act.  It's clear.  He violently yanked her backward.  Jess the Producer, can you link to it? 

I recently read a biography of the late Ms. McGrory who was one of your Pulitzer Prize-winning colleagues at the Post (after the Washington Star died). I wish she could come back for a week to write several columns lambasting the current field of Presidential candidates and I would happily pay good money to read them. I wondered as I read the book if your paths every crossed?

Never met her.  Admired her greatly. 

You don't think you are hearing enough good voices on how awful the candidates are?

 

Okay, something like this seems to happen every year. Why anyone would take their kids to this nonsense is beyond me. But this just blows my mind: "Thanks for the waste of time and non-existent organization of your egg hunt ... We drive 2 and a half hours to show up 30 min early only to receive a 'sorry, no one listened and they started early,'" ‎Liz Soares wrote on PEZ's page. "I'm sorry your establishment was so poor with planning that they apologize for children not listening instead of being unprepared for such [an] event." Two and a half hours? Is it possible to be that stupid?

Wow, PEZ really tried hard to spin this so PEZ wasn't at all responsible for something they clearly should have anticipated.

I have two thoughts:

1. PEZ has always been a guilty pleasure of mine.  They pack a huge amount of flavor into those tiny bricks of joy. 

2. Back when I was a schnook newbie, I covered the White House Easter Egg Roll.  I did not do it with reverence. 

Afterwards I thought I had totally nailed it (perhaps not a great Easter expression) but had to watch the following year when the great Henry Allen covered the event, and made an observation I could have made had I had Henry's eyes: Hillary Clinto looks exactly like the Easter Bunny.   For DAYS afterwards, Henry ruled the Internet. 

A truism...anything you write about your kids or your pets is about 75% less interesting than you think it is. This goes for all writers.

Noted. 

If you look at the Washington Nationals' game report for Sunday's game against Atlanta, and watch the video accompanying the piece on Gio Gonzalez's good start, you will see Molly and Julien in row two behind the plate, to the left of the batter.   I KNOW YOU WILL ALL GO DO THIS RIGHT NOW BECAUSE OF HOW FASCINATING IT IS. 

A few weeks ago, you said (and I'm paraphrasing) that Marco Rubio's debate performance where he repeated himself was a significant gaffe because it seemed to confirm criticisms that he was an empty shell that was only capable of spewing canned talking points. Well, I'm sure that by now you've seen the video of Bernie Sanders and the bird. It seems like this is almost the opposite - a campaign moment that seems to symbolize and in some ways confirm the greatest hopes of Bernie's supporters (I say almost because it was a serendipitous moment and nothing the candidate did). Everyone had fun pointing out other gaffes from the past that were similar to Rubio's. Can you think of any other (for lack of a better term) anti-gaffes like Bernie's? Do they ever change the outcomes of elections? (For the record, I'm a Hillary supporter but even I have to laugh at the mental image of Hillary watching that video and thinking "Are you &^%#ing kidding me?!?!?!")

The bird was beautiful !

During the 1952 campaign for presidcent, Adlai Stevenson was photographed thus with a hole in the sole of his right shoe.   At the time he was running against the idea that he was a pompous, stuffed-shirt intellectual running against the avuncular Ike, and this injected an air of the little man into him.  It really helped the campaign, but ultimately, to no avail 

 

 

George Will used this term in his Sunday column, describing Republicans who denounce Trump and then say they'll vote for him anyway. I don't know if he thought that up himself and I hardly ever agree with anything he writes, but man, that term nails it. I hope to see its use become more widespread. How about you?

It's a great line, maybe slightly off, logically, when you parse it, but it gets the point across. 

 

The problem isn't that you have a six-inch tall kitten weighing 30 oz that's obviously capable of taking the house apart. The problem is, you only have one. "You want me to import ANOTHER 2 lb, four-legged, fur-covered terrorist into my house??" Indeed! Little Barnaby is bored. Bored, bored, bored. Idle paws are the Devil's plaything, and that clever little mind is engaged in figuring out what else he can take apart. But – if he had a little playfellow, he'd either be busy ambushing said feline associate, or being ambushed by it. Instead of devising scaffolding to get to the top of the refrigerator just to see the view, he'd be stalking Other Kitten or locked in deadly battle after having been successfully stalked himself. He'd use up all that newly minted energy against Other Kitten instead of against your household furnishings. Plus, it's hysterical to watch them sparring. My favorite moment was when Kitten1 raced up to Kitten2, grabbed his neck, threw herself to the ground, and flung him over her head in a perfect judo throw. Close behind is the moment when Kitten1 raced up to Kitten2, grabbed at his neck and, when he ducked, went tail over teakettle across the kitchen floor. Two kittens. Seriously.

Several readers have urged this on me.   I am thinking about it, but Murphy is already companion to the beast.  I know, not the same thing. 

Many readers have demanded update pictures.   It is very hard to photograph a black cat, I have found.   Here's a picture I just took.  

Scale reference: The clock is 12 inches high.  Yes, that's a vintage (1932) FDR clock.  

 

Does one's mouth count as an "inappropriate place"?

OMIGOD THIS IS A WHOLE NEW AREA OF HORROR.

I don't even know how to answer this.   I think the only way is with an insta-poll that scares me.

Do you ever eat your boogers?

Yes, often

Yes, sometimes

No!

 **Vote here**

You probably think me juvenile for having eaten my own boogers. Why was that not a poll option? Eating the evidence is more civilized and less gross than to deposit boogers for others to perhaps find.

I find it incredibly awful.   I mean, I see your point, but jaysus.  Would you eat your own poop?

When the Supreme Court Historical Society was looking for scholars to write short bios of the Justices, no one wanted to write one for McReynolds. The executive director of the Society had to do it. PS: This book would have been a better source than Wikipedia. 

Ha.  Well, profiles don't have to be adoring.  I would have LOVED to have written McReynolds's.

I see the screeds against Hillary from both left and right. They have been chasing her smoke for nearly 30 years and have yet to find fire. So is she merely innocent? Too smart for her enemies? Or are her enemies just morons?

There is a piece out today by Jill Abramson making the case that Hillary is surprisingly honest and forthright.  It's based exactly on that: She is the most examined politician in recent memory, with the possible exception of her hubby.    Jess, can we find this piece?

Linked above!

Dear Gene, my Virginia town, a couple of hours south of DC, is in a kefluffle over the statue of General Lee in the small park named for him, Lee Park. A 15 year old girl started a petition to have the statue removed, calling it offensive. Kudos to her - who says kids just play video games and post pics on Instagram these days! There are many who subscribe to the Lost Cause ideology& believe Lee to be a noble, tragic hero. There are some who say you can't erase history - it is what it is. Some say rename the park and place the statue someplace where it can be seen in context, a historical setting that can provide the full perspective. I agree with those who question why we honor - with a statue and a park - a man who fought against this country, who fought for a constitution that made it illegal to pass any law against slave ownership and trade. I'd really like to know what your thoughts are.

Similar to my thoughts on the racist Woodrow Wilson and efforts to expunge his memory from Princeton. 

History is complicated and dirty.  Robert E. Lee was in some ways a deeply admirable man, a great leader.   If there was not that, I think the kid is right.  But we should not be simplistic. 

By the way, Roger Taney was considered a good Supreme Court Justice except for one bad thing.  But that bad thing was dispositive.  He's a villain of history.   Wilson and Lee not so much. 

Labor just got a victory through a lower court ruling and a 4-4 SCOTUS. I think Kennedy can drive every controversial decision left by following a simple rule: if the lower court voted left, vote right and live with the 4-4. If the lower court voted right, vote left and it's 5-3.

Interesting. 

CNN and others say he's been charged. Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks -- a terrifying fruitcake -- says that's not the same as arrested, and he's innocent. 

Ha.  

I suspect most hygiene practice is driven, not by what we think, but by what we think others think. I'm one of the guys who normally doesn't wash his hands after #1, because I don't think it's necessary. (Other things I do with my hands, yes, but not that.) Some folk are just horrified by this. So if someone in the bathroom is looking at me in a could-be-judgy kind of way, I go along to get along.

I, too, alter my behavior significantly if being watched. 

I always felt that society would have truly overcome its prejudices when we quit describing EVERYTHING in terms of race or gender. Sometimes it matters in a story, but in the case of the Whitfield's, I don't see how it is relevant. Young boy with a difficult life gets adopted by a loving family that provides him with the tools and encouragement to succeed and live a decent life. The same theme could be an animated Disney movie with talking animals.

This is clearly the majority opinion. 

Loved the indelicacy poll! Other than my immediately family, no one knows that I don't shower every day (usually every other day) and on most weekends don't bother to change my underwear or shower if I'm not doing anything important. Your body creates "good" bacteria that makes you less susceptible to illnesses, so by showering once or more than once each day (with no extenuating circumstances), you reduce your body's immunity. I don't wash my hair every day either, the natural oils are good for it. I am, however, a real stickler on teeth brushing and washing hands after peeing. And I constantly wash my hands when cooking.

Noted. 

The fact that the writer does not mention the race makes me suspect the motives of the writer or the editor. Why WOULDN'T you mention the race, if not to try to make some point about how race doesn't matter, which you are doing in a cutesy way, and which is not true anyway? If you hadn't called my attention to it, Gene, I would have inferred that the Whitfields were white based on various details; but since the race wasn't mentioned, and this is the Gray Lady we are talking about, my degree of certainty is increased.

Okay, so. 

Yes, the Whitfields are wite.  I know because I spoke to Juliet Macur, the writer.   Like you, I found it odd that the story didn't mention race, but you and I are in the minority (haha) as is obvious from the poll results. 

I am deeply ambivalent on this.   I am also, even among my colleagues at the Post whom I have consulted, pretty alone.  

First off, Juliet tells me that she considered mentioning that the Whitfields were white, and thinks she may even have written it into the story before deleting it.   She decided that this had nothing to do with race, that this was just about human kindness and connection, so that mentioning race would have been not only unnecessary, but even potentially condescending or misleading: The story, she said, "was about the power of love and being loved. So what if the color of the people's skin was not the same? Their hearts found each other -- and that's that."

And I get that.  But I'm still not sure.  I wonder if that is more of a political decision than a journalistic one.    D Jackson was not just a black kid, he was a black kid with an almost stereotypically troubled, urban-ghetto past: A criminal father, a mother who could not cope, etc.  It seems to me that having to adjust from that to a suburban middle-class household would be unusual  enough, but adding "white" to that must have been an added layer of adjustment.   And if it WASN'T a problem or unusual experience, well, that's an interesting thing, too.  As an editor, I would have at least asked about race, and made a decision based on reporting. 

HOWEVER.... 

Most of you don't agree.  And that gives me pause.  Am I being inappropriately racial here?  Am I being worse than that?   Maybe this should be a post-racial story, and I am a pre-postracial dinosaur.  Maybe something is actually gained by not addressing race at all. 

Here is something else that gives me additional pause, though, about your answers.   Substantially more of you said that you would like to know the race than said the story should have mentioned race.  Isn't that self-contradictory?  Or do many of you feel that you wanted to know race, but SHOULDN'T want to know race?  That the story was giving you not what you want, but what's good for you?

I find this fascinating. 


 

 

I completely agree that these aptonyms would be utterly un-funny if you'd made them up. Which is why I find your columns about talking to customer service reps utterly un-funny. You've said before that you edit them down significantly to get to the laugh lines and the story you want to tell. But that story didn't happen, so who cares?

I have no idea what you are talking about. 

I edit out those parts of the conversations that are extraneous or unproductive.   The parts that might be tedious or meaningless.  You think they'd be funnier if I put all that in? 

Everything that I publish got said.  So how'm I changing the storyline? 

I see it all too frequently in my rear view mirror. The person behind me will pick a winner, then go right to their mouth. By the way, if you can see me, I can see you.

So having two cats is supposed to be better than one because it gives them something to do that will keep them out of trouble? No, no, no, no. It works the same way with cats as it does with children. The trouble that two can get into is an order of magnitude greater than with just one.

Several people have said otherwise! 

I have an unusual name. No, it's not Yram. It's a pretty common ethnic name in the part of the world where one side of my family is from, and I am named after an ancestor who was directly from there who made a profound impression on my father when he was a boy. She died just before I was born, hence my name. (I found out just recently that they misspelled it. Oops.) Anyway, I went through childhood not really liking my name because it was one more reason to be bullied, one more reason to have to speak up in class when I'd rather not, etc. In adulthood, though, I've grown to like it because it is this link to the past. In fact, I began to research my ancestry specifically to find out more about this woman. In doing so I found out I am not the only one of my generation with this name! She must have been something special. I still have to spell it Every. Single. Time. (At least, since I married a man with an English surname, it's only the first name I have to spell these days.) It still gets old. I still get some cutting comments about it. But I'd rather have my unusual name than be one of the thousands of Generation X Jennifers. So boo on Neveah, but yay for the Cecilias, the Bridgits, the Aliyas, the Xenias, and yes, even the Gertrudes.

How does Aliyah belong in your list?

But the earlier comment said that a google turned up several stories and none mentioned the race of the Whitfields. This makes me think they are black. I can see ONE piece without it because some reporter/editor was trying to do ...something, I don't know, but more than one? No, this makes me think they are black and so it wasn't mentioned because they didn't think about it.

I assumed they were black because if they were white, I assumed the writer would have mentioned it !   

 

As I said above: White. 

You mentioned three of the most distinguished justices of all time -- Benjamin Cardozo, Felix Frankfurter and Louis Brandeis. I realized that of those three, Frankfurter got screwed. Both Brandeis and Cardozo have numerous institutions named after them including a university but Frankfurter, nada. You need to use your multi-media platform to advocate for his greatness to be enshrined in some institution somewhere preferably a school. That way you can then help pick the name of the sports team. How about the Meats - can't beat 'em.

Agreed.  The Buns.  The Patties. 

Er, ignore that last brain fart. Thanks! 

If you've ever heard the phrase "Hobson's choice" it comes from a man named Mr. Hobson who used to rent horses. Mr. Hobson would be happy to rent you a horse, but it would be the one he choose, which was usually the worst of the lot. This is how I feel about the current crop of potential presidential nominees. They are all flawed, in spectacular ways, and each one would probably be one of the worst presidents in recent memory. Yes, even worse than Dubya. So on election day, I will likely cast my write-in vote for Thomas Hobson.

I believe Hillary Clinton as the potential to be an above-average president. 

You know, the whole naming issue has more than a dollop of racism and elitism to it. You are judging people's names by your White, Judeo-Christian standards. Names such as Precious, Heaven, or totally made up words are not only common in many cultures (such as African and African-American), but many very unusual names started post-slavery and then again in the 60's Black Power era as a determined attempt to take back their culture and self-definition and claim a little bit of themselves for themselves. Several studies recently have shown how when people with identical qualifications, but have names either of your ilk (John) or "funny" (Lateequa), the funny ones do not get interviews. This is well-proven in a variety of contexts and studies (do a Google). You are doing exactly the same thing.

I believe that most of the names I make fun of -- the large majority -- are names given to white kids.  Anakin.  Axl.  Kamron.    

C'mon.  I am not making fun of obviously ethnic names.  Except when I do.   My point is, I am equal op vicious. 

For the story poll - maybe asking the age of each responder (or having polls for differing age groups) would have provided more information. I suspect that the older you are, the more likely it would be that the race mattered. Also wonder how that breaks down by M/F.

Good point.  I think it would have mattered. 

Anyway, cousin just named their son Axel. I know of several dogs with that name. Their daughter is a brand of vodka. Sigh.

They named their daughter Stolichnaya?

I'm with you on this one Gene. There are a lot of people talking about race now in really interesting ways, I'd be curious to hear what they say. You should ask Ta-Nehisi Coates, or Yo! Is This Racist? which would probably give a much funnier answer.

I have just been informed that I wrote "Roy Cohen" sted Cohn.   Augh. 

I retired last summer. My wife and I moved to Fredericksburg, VA, and bought a house a block from the University of Mary Washington. Last Saturday night, Joshua Bell gave a performance at the school. Like many such events at UMW, it was open to the public, so we strolled down and caught the show. We spoke to him a the post-concert reception, and when he mentioned how hungry he was we offered to buy him dinner. But he said he only wanted something light, like a tuna fish sub. So we took him to a local sandwich shop. When I mentioned that I'd seen his show at Union Station, he whipped out his violin and played a piece by Mozart. And that was how Joshua Bell became the Fiddler At The Subway.

We all hate you now. 

Gene - I wish you and the editorial board and everyone else under the sun would layoff in the Trump bashing. So many people seem to think electing him would be the end of the USA as we know it, but you can all stop worrying. He's the least crazy of the Republican candidates! He says outrageous things that he has no intention of actually doing while the other guys say saner things, but in reality, want to do much more insane things if elected. Do you really think Ted or Marco would be worse?!?!

This is extremely dangerous thinking.   

Donald Trump is utterly unqualified to be president.  He doesn't know anything about anything, and seems pretty incurious about what he doesn't know.   He has no experience in his life that would even slightly prepare him for the presidency.  He hasn't even been impressively successful at business.  He doesn't even seem particularly intelligent: Read his answers to questions asked by the Post editorial board.  

 

 

 

Gene -- We have a 14ish year old rescue mutt. Sweet dog who has been slowing down over the years. He is mostly blind and pretty deaf. Lately he has been roaming frantically in the house. He has always avoided the wood floors because finds them slippery and now he wanders onto them and falls and won't let us help him up. He's also been struggling with some bathroom issues. My gut says it is time. The vet says there are things we can try...meds for the apparent dementia, meds for the bathroom issues. But, he's 14ish and blind and was skittish when healthy. Getting a pill in him will not be easy -- he's 55 pounds down from 60 a few years ago. He has good days but definitely more bad than good. Am I a bad pet owner to think that he needs to be put down? How do you know? I don't want him to wander and hurt himself when he falls on the slippery floor. We have rugs but he either doesn't see them or doesn't notice them. We all love him so much.

I'm sure you do love him so much, which is why I think you should have him euthanized.  "More bad days than good" is the deciding line.   

He had a good life with people who loved him.  Let him die with dignity. 

I regard Colbert King's column as a must read especially if you care at all about the city we live in or around. But I can imagine what that person wrote to you.

The person was an idiot. 

I've never understood why that would considered a virtuous name. Seems like Heaven backwards would be Satanic.

A very good point!  I wish I'd made it. 

Wow!  But why is her hairstyle from 1963?

Even you, Gene, have to agree that the group-think among journalists is strong.

It is. 

Interesting current event tidbit... http://dailycaller.com/2016/03/23/trump-foreign-policy-gurus-sister-is-teacher-mary-kay-letourneau-who-slept-with-a-12-year-old/

Aha!!

Really, you can't make this stuff up! In a statement, Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Lewandowski “is absolutely innocent of this charge,” and that he “will enter a plea of not guilty and looks forward to his day in court.” “He is completely confident that he will be exonerated,” Hicks said, referring reporters to Lewandowski’s attorneys. One of those attorneys is a former prosecutor who resigned after allegedly biting a stripper.

I know that guy!  I covered that guy in Florida. 

Another great reason for men to sit down when peeing (aside from comfort, ability to check email, no splash-back, etc.) -- I can pee without getting my hands anywhere near pee or those urine-related areas. No need to wash up. (As of now, the poll states that 46% of men wash after peeing "every time." I do not believe this.

I think I believe it, because, unlike you, I don't ordinarily pee sitting down.  I think if you touch your junk, you wash. 

Speaking of which, in a recent Karla Miller chat, there was a debate over whether men need to "touch themselves" when they pee at a urinal.   There didn't seem to be consensus. 

Let me provide some: 

You don't have to, but avoiding it is a bit tricky, and sort of pointless.  Most men touch, I am pretty sure.  

Here's an issue on which you have yet to weigh in -- the FBI's (former) insistence that Apple create a program to help the FBI hack into a particular iPhone. Should Apple be compelled to create such a program? (My thought is no. Apple should provide documents and information to assist, but if the FBI wants to hack into a phone, they should do it themselves. Also, the FBI/DOD/NSA clearly had the ability to access the phone all along considering they just happened to find a way to do it the day before the hearing. They probably wanted Apple to create a "master key" to make it easier in the future).

I haven't thought about this enough to have a valid opinion.  But shooting from the hip, it seems to me that this case -- dead person, mass murderer, real possibility of deterrence of future crimes -- should have involved an exception to a rule.  

A Facebook friend had a post recently about the daily indignities, and more, that women put up with in our culture, especially young attractive women -- this particular event involved men offering to sit on a young woman's lap in a crowded airplane. I was reminded of, but could not locate, something I think you wrote (or quoted from elsewhere), along the lines of, "a man's worst fear about a woman is that she will laugh at him; a woman's worst fear about a man is that he will kill her." Was that you?

I wrote it, but I am pretty sure I was quoting someone else.  Or it was someone else in the chat, quoting someone else.  Don't think that was original to me. 

The one issue with term limiting a Supreme Court justice is that it would allow for years of lobbying and political maneuvering, even among candidates themselves, since they know when the vacancy will occur. The current system ain't perfect, but other systems have their flaws too.

Agreed. 

Not only was Benjamin Cardozo Jewish, he was also of Portuguese ancestry, a nationality against which there was considerable prejudice back then (whether Jewish or otherwise). His family traced back to one of the ones profiled in Stephen Birmingham's "The Grandees." re Sephardic Jews who fled Pernambuco (modern-day Recife), Brazil, for the Netherlands, but got hijacked by pirates, then rescued by a French ship that was heading for New Amsterdam, from which anti-Semite governor Peter Stuyvesant tried to expel them, except the refugees had friends on the board of the corporation in Holland to which Stuyvesant was answerable, so the 23 Jews got to stay.

This is the best chat in the universe.  This is an even bigger, better chat than Donald Trump's would be, if he had a chat. 

The current GOP: "Donald Trump is a menace and a danger to our party and our country. He must be stopped. But if he is the nominee I will support him." Wha?

See "Vichy Republican."

Have you had a chance to watch Samantha Bee yet? What do you think?

She's very good, if still finding her legs.  Almost every shtick she does is vicious, strong, funny, and hits some clunkers.  I think she might have one writer who isn't great.  It'll refine. I think she's around for the long haul. 

I thought for sure you would include a question about peeing in the shower. That was something I never ever ever did and would never ever see have considered. And then. And then I read about people peeing in the shower in this chat, and I thought, hmmm. So this is a thing? And my showering hasn't been the same since. I guess I can thank you for saving me a little on toilet paper over the years. Yes, I'm female.

I didn't include it because we'd already been there in the chat establishing we are all habitual nosepickers. 

I am one of the women who answered "sometimes" for going two days or more with the same underwear. I don't shower every day (I don't think this is indelicate - Americans shower too much), and sometimes I just don't think about my underwear when changing clothes. I guess it just does not bother me to wear underwear for more than one day. However, I do find it gross and disgusting to put back on the same pair of underwear after sex, even if I had been wearing the underwear for only a little bit, like even 30 minutes. I ALWAYS put on clean underwear after sex. Yes, this is probably really contradictory of me. I can't explain it.

Hm.  Interesting.  

Well, I am thinking that women after sex involve a whole different calculus of hygiene than men do, after sex. 

I'm curious, what's the point of your last question about "after reading the article, do you want to know the race of the Whitfields"? This seems to fall under the idea of entrapment or leading the witness. Honestly, my news training told me they were white. This isn't a story if a black family takes in another black boy, sadly.

I don't think the writer was thinking that way.   At all.  I think she genuinely felt race was irrelevant here. 

Hi Gene! Presidential prediction question here… In 2012, you theorized that the “cooler” candidate always wins the presidential election. (This chat.) Maybe you want to hold off sharing your thoughts about this year until after the nominating conventions, but if you’re ready now, I’d like to hear your take on the five remaining candidates and their respective coolness. Does your theory hold true in the primaries as well as the general? Speaking of nominating conventions: I live and work in Cleveland, Ohio. And while I REALLY don’t want to see my hometown erupt into mass chaos, I’d love to see the inside of Quicken Loans Arena erupt into mass chaos during the Republican convention. It would be a fitting end to the least dignified nominating contest ever.

I have already answered your first question.  And yes, I would like to see Cleveland erupt in nonviolent chaos. 

I never root for violence. 

1. I am a 40-year-old man. I took "never or almost never" to mean, "not since college." Apologies if that wasn't your intent, but to do otherwise would have thrown off my answers, since I was a total slob in college and am mostly not one now. 2. I treat the floor of my car as roughly equivalent to my garage floor, in cleanliness standard. Much lower than the standard for the floor of my house. Anything else would drive me insane. 3. I don't usually wear jeans, but in general I change pants about every 4 or 5 days in the winter and every 2 or 3 days, if not less, in the summer. The difference is enormous!

Several readers have pointed out that nice jeans should be washed very infrequently.  

Um, okay, I realize that is better for the jeans.  But is it better for people who have to be around you?  Legs sweat.  Undies are an imperfect barrier.   

I generally wash jeans after two wearings.   However, I am wearing jeans you would not be seen in, even in a casket.  I will never pay more than $30 for a pair of jeans. 

Gene You didn't clearly say "do you eat it" so I marked never. It's not clear what clearly inappropriate means. Under the seat? EW.

Oh. My. God.  This is more prevalent than I thought.   (I understand the Instapoll isn't recording right.  We're looking into it. )

So, I don't really go looking for you on the internet but you just pop up unexpectedly anyway. 

Noted!

Would you vote for Hillary if she were to be indicted a month before the general election and there was no time to get a different Democratic candidate? Would you vote for her anyway because you felt Hillary behind bars would be better as President than Cruz?

So you think there is a chance in hell that Obama's attorney general is going to indict Hillary Clinton, with Trump looming?  

Gene, you said, "I think if you touch your junk, you wash." I know where my junk has been - safety and sanitarily tucked away in my boxers. My hands, however, have been actively exposed to all kinds of nefarious surfaces, some of which I have eagerly fondled. Therefore, men should wash-up BEFORE unzipping.

Interesting!   You wash your hands to protect your junk. 

Was Trump out of line to compliment a Washington Post journalist for being beautiful?

Absolutely.  My one reservation would have been if he meant it in a New York way, as in "good."   As in:  "I'm glad I answered your question.  Beautiful."   But she was there and I was not, and I think women are very good at interpreting context and nuance in a case like that.  I think he meant it the way it sounded, and I think it was clearly inappropriate.  I also think she handled it about right.  She didn't overdo it. 

Yes. Women will ask themselves a number of different questions, which delicacy prevents me from enumerating. Men will ask themselves only one question: "Dude, I had sex! Wooo!!!"

AND THAT'S NOT EVEN A QUESTION. 

I get frugality, but the reason clothes can be and are so cheap is because they are made in horrible conditions by people close to slaves. Sometimes it is worth paying more to do the right thing. Also, the cheap stuff is of poor quality, so you are not saving, as you must replace it more often.

My Levis last forever -- or at least as long as I want them to last.  I recently bought some Costco jeans for $14.  That was a mistake.  "Kirkland" brand.  They don't hold their dye evenly. 

Oscar-winning former child star Patty Duke dies, age 69. Gifted actress.

I really liked her.   Saw her on a gameshow once: Super intelligent and witty.  

Would you agree with Mr. Trump that the National Enquirer is usually right ?

On matters of celebrity and sex in general, yes.   They are careful, legally.  On this specific Cruz story, it's been pretty convincingly denied.   

I wonder how Cruz feels that this allegation is getting a lot of skepticism from women on Twitter, basically on the grounds of "ewwwwww." ?

you can't pronounce his name correctly? I was really embarrassed at Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert messing up a perfectly straightforward collection of syllables.

Ta-neh-HEY-si, no?

The guy has his own TV show. He owns casinos and golf courses. His name is plastered on expensive properties all around the world. He has a plane second only to Air Force One in showmanship. He runs beauty pageants and then marries the contestants. People flock to him. He make be an idiot. He might be a boor. But he oozes cool.

I think you do not understand cool.  He would be cool if his demeanor was like the Most Interesting Man in the World.  

Cause a hot dog made her lose control.

True! 

I'm guessing your wife buys them for you and they are more than $30 - more like $40.

I get em only on sale.   $30

Why is it ok to mock a man for his looks? Would you agree it is wrong to say a similar thing about a woman?

This is not about his looks.  It is about his everything.  

Okay, we are done.  I loved this chat.  So, listen -- Tom and Dave and I are going to do a podcast in advance of The Hunt this year, which is May 22.   Send questions you'd like us to answer (funny or no) to me at gene (dot) weingarten @ washpost.com.  

I am told the Instapoll results will be available in the chat in midafternoon.  Sorry about that. 

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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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