Chatological Humor: Monthly with Moron

Sep 26, 2017

Gene Weingarten held his monthly chat with readers.

About this chat:
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Good afternoon.  I'd like to begin with some soothing words for Anthony Weiner, who, after all, is deserving of some measure of compassion for ... 

Oh, wait. No. Skip that. He is a stink bomb of the first order, and whether or not he is mentally ill is sort of beside the point.  If you have the self control to coordinate a campaign for mayor of New York, you have the self control to put a cork in your pathetic urges, however overpowering they may seem. 

I'd like to re-direct you to some raunchy, suggestive poems I wrote about Weiner several years ago.  They are in the intro right here. 


I admire the work of Wapo columnist Catherine Rampell, who writes lucidly and insightfully about  finance and the economy.   Rampell is mature, restrained, and genteel, which gives her words a certain added power when she chooses to launch them like Molotov cocktails.   This happened today, in her column about the deeply dishonest Republican health-care bill, which Rampell deliciously dismisses as a "flaming turd."  (I wish I had been a fly on the wall during the painfully earnest discussions among op-ed page editors about whether this particular phrase could survive.)


Finally, I am going to end with a disclosure that will rock the insular world of American journalism.  Namely, I am going to scientifically examine the scurrilous  contention that the mainstream media leans left, and prove that it is ... true.  

I have been holding on to this evidence, literally, for two years.  It is time to come clean.

In mid December 2015, the Washington Post moved its offices three blocks.  It was a giant move, and as with such things, there was a lot of junk to be disposed of.   Decades of junk that would be thrown out, or taken by someone who might want it.   So a room was established.  Journos were free to come in and grab whatever they wanted.  Some things went quickly: Grand old dictionaries, books, and whatnot.  Some less desirable things lingered for weeks and eventually went.  Things like "Petula Clark's Greatest Hits" on VHS cassette lingered really long.   But one item hardly moved at all.  It was boxes filled with a highly useful, well crafted item.  It was a commemorative item presumably produced by the Wapo, and there were hundreds of them, each intrinsically valued at, say, $4.   They didn't move hardly at all.  So lightly did they move that there were still dozens of dozens of them available near the day of the move, which is when I grabbed six of them.  I could have taken 60, for all the interest that was shown in them. 

I am holding one in my hand right now.   It contains my morning coffee.   Here it is.    Here it is from a second angle. 


If you haven't taken the poll, please do so now.  We start at noon sharp. 


The name of the researcher in this story about horses is so amazingly apt I was surprised the writer didn't address it directly. Name at beginning of 5th paragraph. 

So, I read your post right here, and figured you were overstating things.  You weren't.  This is the finest situational aptonym EVER.   It defies comparisons.  It defies superlatives.   It's like saying the Yankees' Aaron Judge is having the greatest rookie season anyone ever had.  Yes, true.   BUT THAT DOESN'T EVEN BEGIN TO TELL THE STORY.   

I am a pinko-lefty-atheist and my pinko-lefty-atheist teenager spent a good chunk of the summer in a job surrounded by people like the ones described here. My teenager reported back that he met plenty of people who said, anyway, that they understood perfectly well what they were doing when they voted for Trump but did so solely based on the belief that voting for anyone else threatened their guns. I get that I have to try to not feel contempt for those people but . . . how? The profound political ignorance, breathtaking short-sightedness, and just plain attraction to violence that underlies that decision-making is contemptible. They may not be traitors but I would have no idea how to reach them.

You know, they didn't feel their guns were threatened because that idea slowly dawned on them.  That idea was slyly and deliberately inserted into the ethosphere by really crappy people on the right.  This election was won via fear tactics, laced with hate tactics.  Yech. 

Speaking of how this election was won, the most important news story right now is about how the Rooskies manipulated public opinion by skillfully creating fake Facebook stuff in competing directions.  Stories for BLM, stories anti-BLM.   They were sowing dissent.    

Someday--hopefully a long time from now--I'll inherit my grandfather's pendulum clock from my mom. It's about three feet high and hangs on the wall and has a quirk: it has to be hung askew by about 3/4 of an inch off center. Every once in a while, a housekeeper or an obsessive compulsive friend will set it straight, at which point it immediately stops running. I'm a little obsessive compulsive myself, but I just love this about the clock. And it's got two keys and you need to wind it through the face and I have no idea why but that's just fascinating to me... but I digress. Here's my question: aside from needing to be hung askew, the thing runs really well. However, it hasn't been cleaned or tuned up in maybe 80 years. If I took it to a good clock guy, could he just do some maintenance on it and KEEP the tilt? Actually, if it runs really well, should I even bother to take it in? Thank you for being the only clock nerd in my life. Virtual panties, yada yada.


I would keep it running until it doesn't, then get it to a good clock person.  You should know that the quirk you love can be fixed in about 8 seconds by someone who knows what she is doing.  It would take me about 12.   It just means slightly bending a certain wire.   But if you like it that way, you like it that way!   A good clock person, told not to fix it, won't fix it.   

So where are the poll answers?

Coming up.    Right now.  If you haven't, take the poll RIGHT NOW.

Okay, the poll.  I have not done the math -- perhaps a statistician can help us out here -- but I'm thinking I might have been right that you performed worse than a chicken would have.  Why?  Because the answers to almost all of these are counterintuitive. 

Washington was the first to alter the oath by adding God!  

The easiest answer was that John Adams was the first president to not own slaves.  The man lived in Boston!  

Madison was the first to regularly wear big-boy pants, though a few surviving paintings show him in knee knickers.

Martin Van Buren -- "Matty Van" to his friends -- was the first president born after the Declaration of Independence.  New York state, as I recall.    If you remember "1776"  John Adams referenced his little boy, Quincy, who was very much alive when the delegates were meeting. 

The answer you almost all got wrong was the trickiest.  Believe it or not, Tyler faced an impeachment proceeding in the House.   It failed.   From Wiki: 

Shortly after the tariff vetoes, Whigs in the House of Representatives initiated American history's first impeachment proceedings against a president. This was not only a matter of the Whigs' support of legislation Tyler vetoed; until the presidency of the Whigs' arch-enemy Andrew Jackson, presidents rarely vetoed bills, and then, generally only on the grounds of whether or not something was unconstitutional. Tyler's actions opposed the Whigs' opinion that the presidency should allow Congress to make decisions regarding policy.[90] Congressman John Botts, who opposed Tyler, introduced a resolution on July 10, 1842. It levied several charges against Tyler and called for a nine-member committee to investigate his behavior, with the expectation of a formal impeachment recommendation. Clay found this measure prematurely aggressive, favoring a more moderate progression toward Tyler's "inevitable" impeachment. The Botts resolution was tabled until the following January, when it was rejected, 127−83.

Grant, indeed, was the first to have a mustache.  Lincoln, as we all remember, had a pathetic mustacheless beard.  

Closest popular vote:  Garfield!   It was a margin of fewer than 10,000 votes.   

McKinley rode in a car.   And... IKE WON AN EMMY.  It was ridiculous that he did and JFK did not, but TV was really new and the custodians of the field wanted to encourage presidents to make use of it.   


Don't you mean on cassette tape? The small kind? Unless there was a Petula Clark's Greatest Hits TV show.

I made up the Petula Clark example.  There were things LIKE that.   I once bought a record that was Sergio Franchi singing Mozart, or something.   

As the foremost amateur medical expert I know, I wanted to see if you had any insight on an issue that's plagued me for most of my life: Hot liquids make my stomach hurt. I'm not talking anything serious, like having to go to the hospital, but they do make me start burping and give me stomach cramps. I can have about half a cup of, say, hot cocoa before I start getting uncomfortable. This means I avoid all hot drinks and most hot soups. I do find that thicker and creamier soups don't bother me, and I can also prevent some of the pain if I eat a broth-based soup that has lots of large chunks of food in it. But otherwise, no thanks. Any idea why this is?

You know it if you had an ulcer, right? 

Is it as scorn-worthy as Word Search?

Yes, but for a different reason.   Jumble can be hard and challenging.  But I have come to hate it because they will use really convoluted words.   So you can spend a lot of time on it, and then be hugely disappointed by the "answer."    

My favorite moment with the Jumble though was seeing this combination: 


No, that's not the answer!  You filth perv.  The answer is SUBTEXT.  

I have just realized that when people say they are picturing something in their head they can actually close their eyes and SEE what they're thinking of. I cannot do this. I know what watermelon looks like but when I close my eyes and think of a watermelon I see nothing. Is there something wrong with me?

yes.  There is actually a term for this.  It's about how your brain is wired.  You lack what Shakespeare colorfully called "the mind's eye."  

Can anyone find an article on this condition?  People get by fine, and they often don't realize they are so afflicted, because they have nothing to compare it to.   

Gene - I understand why it's done on film so there some visual thing to look at, but why would anyone do that in real life?!?! You don't need a partner to do it, and why would you do it if you had a partner?!?!

Agreed, but .... 

Consider that for an entire generation that maybe saw porn years before they had sex, this is imprinted on their minds.  They get excited when they see it, because that is sex, as defined by their first sex manual, porn.   

Think of it this way: My generation of men overwhelmingly prefer the au natural look in ladies.   It is what we have known.  It is what we first saw in those nudist magazines, and Playboy and such.    More recent generations of men prefer extreme grooming.  Because it is what porn was when they were 15.     

I think I understand why that ridiculous, degrading, defiling, dehumanizing act that treats women as porn, basically, might seem like part and parcel of what you are supposed to do. 

Okay, that's it for this topic today.  Don't want to dwell on it.  

The Devil thinks he's going to get paid.


Is Trump the ultimate demonstration of the Peter Principle?

Interesting question.  The Peter Principle requires your career to be an upward blur until you finally hit your level of incompetence.   Trump's career has failed, succeeded, vacilatted, teetered ... so I'm not sure it applies. 

You have indicated you have challenges reading/recognizing faces. Can you make any sense of all the different smiley face emojis, figuring out what each one is supposed to convey?

No, but mostly because I am rolling my eyes.  

Emojis are one of the worst elements of the Web.  They stupidize us. 

I'm late to the party, but as regards the waiter you were complaining about a few weeks ago, your comments and Tom's make me think that neither of you have worked in the service industry (and if you did, I think you probably had a pretty good boss). Am I wrong? What you're missing is that while you, personally, would have appreciated an honest-if-disappointing answer from the server, many customers would have been inclined to shoot the messenger. More importantly, many managers/bosses crack down pretty hard on servers who they catch badmouthing their restaurant's food, even if all they're doing is honestly answering a customer's question - especially if their answer provokes a complaint about the food. I used to work for someone like that. I wouldn't have lied to you about the food like your waiter did. I would have answered honestly, but I would have been uncomfortable with the way you asked, which was leading, and frankly a little aggressive, even if you didn't mean it that way (a simple "Are the oysters fresh or frozen?" would have been better). I wouldn't be surprised if your server was wondering if he was about to lose his tip or get yelled at by you, his boss, or both, and he put his foot in his mouth because he felt trapped. I wish all customers (and managers) were as reasonable as you, but they're not.

But I wasn't asking him, or expecting him, to badmouth the restaurant.    It's not HORRIBLE if their oysters aren't freshly opened.  It's a choice.  

This is a headline from 9/15: "Two Maryland children went missing in 2014. Their mother just got charged with murder." Is there any way that's not an awful headline? I would expect that from a small town newspaper, but not the Washington Post 

Hm.  I have no idea what you are talking about.  Please elaborate.  I'm not seeing anything unprofessional about the headline or the story.   It's an awful set of facts ... but aside from that, what concerns you? 

Are you suggesting this story should not have been covered?  I feel I am missing something here. 

Is impact an acceptable synonym for affect? It makes me cringe when I hear that a hurricane might "impact" people or that, worse yet, something will be impactful.

I remember reading an old Nero Wolfe novel from the 1960s, and Wolfe was raging about the use of the word "contact" as a verb.    Today, it is extremely common.  I more or less grew up with it, so it doesn't bother me; in fact, reading that shamed me a bit: Nero seemed stuffy and cantankerous, in retrospect.   Which is something I might well have to answer for in a few years.... 

Some very handsome editor at the New York Times recently retweeted your 2005 story from Savoonga which prompted me to read it for the first time. What is it like for you as the reporter to encounter older stories like that? Are there any pieces you'd want to go revisit and re-report more thoroughly? 

I hate reading ALL my old stories.  They persuade me I am the worst sort of hack.   I see a dozen things I wished I'd done differently.  Mostly I think this one is too long; I wished I'd condensed a bit.  

However.  I do think that the very last section is the best kicker I've written.  

I can't believe you haven't addressed this.

I have.  Last chat.   No?

You probably have a hiatal hernia causing reflux, but for heaven's sake, go see a gastroenterologist, idiot.

I would eliminate the "idiot" part of your answer.   Seeing a doc is a pain.  Putting it off is unwise, but understandable. 

Sex addiction is a mental illness that only affects that one aspect of a person's life. Would say that a compulsive gambler who is able to run a business doesn't have a problem? He should have been sent to counseling, not to jail.

I would agree with you, if what he did did not hurt someone.  It did.  The details are revolting.  

Wondering what you think about this: before each episode of the PBS Vietnam series, a caution about the disturbing content is displayed. We see dead, disfigured bodies. We hear those involved describe their terror, pain, and suffering. We watch someone get shot in the head. AND YET, someone somewhere thought we the viewers needed to be protected from profanities by bleeping out such tame expletives as sh*t, spoken by American vets. This just boggles my mind and detracts from an otherwise excellent production.

I've seen the first two episodes and love them.  And yes, what you point out is ridiculous. 

That Bush Jr mug made me curious about how long the post has been printing the newsprint part of the paper in color. According to a NY Times article, it was announced that the post would start printing A1 and page one of the Sports section in color in January of 1999. The NY Times itself switched to color front pages on October 16th, 1997. I wonder if my kids would even believe that the news used to come in black and white.

During the early months, playing with a new toy, both the Post and the Times (and the Miami Herald) made some lamentable news judgments.    A photo of clowns and balloons would make it onto page one, for no reason other than ...  oooh! Color! 

"The man lived in Boston!" People owned slaves in Boston in Adams' time.

Really?  In Boston?  Okay, I will believe you. 

I must admit that I'm a little confused about why the Russia presence on Facebook is so explosive. I get that it's remarkable that a foreign government was disguising itself as actors behind divisive issues, but 3,000 ads worth $100,000? How is that even a drop in the bucket? It's nothing compared to the cash the U.S. has spent trying to influence elections in other countries. (FYI, I'm anti-Trump and distressed by the now probability of Russian collusion with the campaign. I just don't get why this FB thing is so huge.)

Well, "we do it, too" is not a good answer. 

I am beginning to think that when we know everything about this Russian campaign -- do you think it was limited to Facebook? -- we will conclude they elected Trump.  

I was with Nero about burning the dictionary that allowed "infer" to mean "imply" and I still object to that erasure of a useful distinction. Otherwise, though, I don't see a big deal with language changing (e.g. "contact" and "impact").

I have railed on tediously about imply and infer -- THEY ARE ANTONYMS -- and no one cares.  It's just you and me, buddy, at this point. 

But I got 5 out of 9 right (including the impeachment question)! Did not know about Ike's Emmy--thanks for that. On another subject, I'd love to know why that coffee mug was commissioned in the first place? The 2004 election was nasty and hard-fought, but wasn't historic. So maybe THAT is why no one wanted it, rather than bias.

You said it, not I. 

I think the Post and other papers frequently do big-news commemorative mugs, front pages, etc.   You could argue the hair's-breath first election of Bush was historic..  

Hey Gene, I wrote a long diatribe last week in the wake of having spent the morning at the ER getting dog bites cleaned up... but I really do have a question. Many people in my town let their dogs run free at times. Especially out on the trails surrounding town. I appreciate that dogs need to run, and that most dogs are perfectly friendly, but... even a friendly dog may on occasion and under what it perceives as provocation bite. (In my case, the provocation was that I was jogging very slowly.) I am looking for a one-liner for people who call to me "don't worry, s/he's friendly." I don't want to argue or create a bad moment; I just want them to have their dog physically under control for the few seconds I am near. I suppose I need to carry pepper spray from now on, but I'm afraid if I use it, I would be seen as the aggressor. I know you love and understand dogs and dog owners better than I. Any advice????

I don't really.  It's because I understand leash laws, and reluctantly support em, since not everyone knows his dog as well as he should.   Murphy would NEVER bit anyone, but you know.   She's on a leash. 

Onto what part of my body should I have this SFW image tattooed?  I have no tattoos at the moment so... anything goes.

It's amazing, isn't it?   Yesterday I asked on Twitter if anyone knew the precise federal statute requiring all courtroom sketch artists to draw like end-stage syphilitics. 

I suppose Hollander gets some leeway as co-inventor of the double dactyl, but I think the grammatical inversion in the Harrison poem is a bit of cop-out. I propose: Higgledy piggledy Benjamin Harrison Known for his honesty; Brains, not so much. Felled by an outbreak of Retrogroverian Passion and Ben's lack of Politic touch.

Wow.  Where to begin?

You've destroyed a fine poem -- a fine and famous poem -- by assassinating the most important feature of a Double Dactyl:  Humor.  

Then you piled on with wonkiness. 

Then you added a dash of bad meter, coarsened with confusion, made worse via complete invention of the required single-double:  "Retrogroverian?"   Really?  

"And Ben's lack of" has the wrong word stress.   Ghastly.  

But mostly this is about humor.  A dreadful failure of humor and/or cleverness.   The point -- the kicker!  the raison d'être for this entire monstrosity, the delivery of haha --  is the revelation that Benjamin Harrison lacked "politic touch"?  

  No.  Nosir.   

And as for your criticism of grammatical inversion: Dylan and Coleridge and Poe and others beg to differ.   Do you find this wanting:  "In Xanadu did Kubla Khan a stately pleasure-dome decree..."  ?

I hate to submit this because by the time you read it poor Dave Barry might be drowned, but here goes. Several years ago I saw both Dave and you talking with one another at the Post Hunt. Although it sounds a little obnoxious to say so, but as a young woman who is used to male attention, I really wanted to play a small joke on you involving Dave, but never had the nerve. My scheme was to approach you both with a camera and claim I wanted a picture with Dave. And then hand the camera to you to take it..

That's happened!  More than once.   Doesn't offend me in the least.   I'm not sure it ever happened in reverse, but it wouldn't offend Dave either.  

Don't get me started on comprise and compose.....

Sigh.   Okay, I have a problem with this one.  I can't remember which is which.  It's one of my few confusions with language.   Can you tell us, please? 

Hmm, I won't lie, I hadn't actually considered that this could be a major issue just because I feel fine most of the time and I've been like this for about 20 years. Is it possible that I could have a hernia or ulcer that long and wouldn't have noticed more from it?

I doubt it BUT SEE A DOCTOR.

1) It happened to us, not someone else 2) That $100k gets you a lot online. It's not like they bought an ad in the Post for everyone to see. They essentially went "here is a terrible fake anti-BLM ad, and we only want racist uncles to see it", which you can do on facebook because while "everyone's racist uncle" isn't a tag, it corresponds to a number of tags that you can target ads to. And since it's so targeted, you can turn it up to 11


I thought it was "a hair's breadth." Oops.

Wait.  Did I write "breath"?????   Yes, it should be breadth.



You should hold onto them. The nostalgia value for that benighted administration can only grow.

True!    Well, I use them nearly every day.   So far have broken three of the six. 

As for "obtuse" for "obscure," while it's not antonym-level, it's depressing. As is the ever-increasing use of "replete" for "complete."

Obtuse for obscure?  Don't think I've ever seen that.  

We did better than a chicken would...but just barely. The expected number correct for a chicken is 2.25. We got 3.

Thank you.  Congratulations! 

Using only the down clues made it ridiculously difficult. I gave up after 15 minutes with only a half-filled grid to show for it and solved it the old-fashioned way. But I know I'll try it again next week.

Oh, it definitely makes it hard!   It can make it as hard as a Friday or Saturday.  But it's interesting, no?   And because I don't time myself, doing it the right way makes zero sense.  Then, it's at the difficulty level of "word find."

A friend of mine loathes emojis. Despite the fact that I'm well-educated and reasonably articulate, I often find it a real challenge to not toss a smiley face into something I'm writing to her. I mean, sarcasm can be really hard to convey in a text or email, and I don't want her to take offense. But then, I suppose it's helping my writing because emojis are a throwaway; sarcasm is an art.

You hit the nail on the head, re your last point.  It's a challenge to write sarcasm.  It destroys sarcasm by saying "that was sarcasm, by the way."

Zachary Taylor, post-exhumation. This made a good riddle at the time.


I just went to buy a 5hr energy from CVS (I know they are terrible but let's ignore that for a sec) and was carded. When I expressed disbelief to the cashier they showed me the pop up on the screen. I scoffed long enough they said "ok fine you are old enough" and bypassed it. This has never happened to me before, at CVS or anywhere else I've purchased this product. I just spent 10min googling and can find a few other ranty commenters on random websites who have had this issue at CVS but can find NOTHING on the internet or on CVS's website for the actual products about any age restrictions or even what the supposed 'limit' is (18? 21?). So I guess my question is this: am I officially a curmudgeon if I've become one of those people who harangues a cashier just trying to do the job their stupid computer/corporate overlords are asking of them when it frankly would take me less time and energy to just cave and show my dang ID?

Wait.  Why do they card you for that?  Isn't that just your basic OTC product that doesn't do what it is sposed to?

Oh poop guru, what could a few weeks of painful poops that have in the last couple of days been very dark (but not quite black) indicate?

Probably nothing, but see a doc.  "Painful" is not great. 

That seems a particularly cruel method of aversion therapy.


Nowhere is this annoying, misplaced "sh" mispronunciation more mispronunciated than in sports play-by-play: "Shecond and sheven from the Redshkins sheventeen." The great, former Notre Dame football announcer, Tony Robertsshhhhhhh, is the only one who got away with this eloquently.

Harry Caray was famous for this, and I always shushpected it was partially put on.   I remember him saying "Shammy Shosha."

Gene, I’m fine with your use of preventive. However, I think your argument falls apart a little when you look at what you wrote. “It is pointlessly long and repetitive.” Hmm, repetitive you say? Why not repetive? Or repeative? The base word is repeat, not repeatit. Why the unnecessary letters??? Well, sometimes language just works that way. Preventative is a word, sorry to say.

Very good point.   And almost embarrassing.  The only problem with your otherwise excellent logic is that no one defines "repeative" as a word -- indeed, autocorrect just autocorrected it to repetitive, as I tried to type it.  

I mean, by your logic,  intelligent could be intlgnt.  But it in't.  (See what i did there?)

With the ongoing nazi-punching discussion I wondered if you've seen Martin McDonagh's absolutely terrific film "Seven Psychopaths" - one of my favorites for many reasons, but especially for its treatment of violence. Pacifists and serial killers (and serial serial killers), and war, and the movies...highly recommend. Also, for a film which doesn't pass the Bechdel test, has some of the best characterizations and discussions about women.Terrific performances, and hilarious as well. Would love to know your thoughts!

Definitely will see it.   "Pillowman" remains one of the best plays I've ever read, and seen produced.  Studio, under the direction of Joy Zinoman.

Because I refuse to make a Twitter account, I'm responding to your tweet about John Ashbery's New Yorker poem here: It's not going to be able to be "interpreted". If you're looking for a code to crack, it's not there. What _is_ there is a finely turned series of fragmentary images, phrases, thoughts that are striking in passing before they fade away ("ankles around like he owned the place"; "That wasn't morning. It was more like a week from now") and vague hints of connections, of a world that we can't quite grasp. It's like a half-remembered dream. It doesn't rhyme, though, so I know it's not your thing. Fair enough.

Okay, this is the Ashbery poem to which I was referring.  

Look, I am not a poetry expert and poetry experts love this guy.  I sort of hear what you are saying, though you were writing about a different poem.    

But I am still scratching my head.  Maybe that's what I am SUPPOSED to be doing?

Look, we've known since at least Brown v. Board that hearing racist views expressed does real, measurable harm to children of color. (Look up the psychology experiments that the lawyers cited, asking children to point to white dolls or black dolls and say which was the "bad" doll.) And we already place limits on free speech, such as people not being allowed to display sexually explicit material in public or incite violence. Why are you so comfortable with asking women and minorities to absorb real, measurable harm to protect the precious First Amendment? Issues like street harassment and hate rallies disproportionately affect us. England, Canada, Germany and other countries have restricted hate speech and haven't devolved into autocratic hellscapes yet. Please have a look at this from NPR, which raises the question: why is it OK to restrict free speech with libel laws, protecting individuals from having falsehoods spread about them, but not OK to restrict speech to protect groups from having falsehoods spread about them.

Can you remind me what statement of mine you are reacting to?  

I quibble with this: Libel laws do not restrict free speech, exactly.  You are still free to say what you want.  We do not have prior restraint in this country; it is specifically outlawed by the First Amendment.   You CAN be held responsible for recklessly defamatory / false speech.  There's a difference. 

I'm not sure what sort of speech that you would be comfortable monitoring, when it involves "falsehoods" about groups of people.    If you publicly accuse me of trafficking in child porn, I think it would be easy for me to establish that I do not -- or, alternatively, impossible for you to prove I do.  But what are we to do with someone who says, say, that Jews are disreputable and dishonest people?    How do you police that for whether it is a "falsehood"?   Do we really want that sort of speech regulated?  I don't.   I like a marketplace of ideas; in the end, truth will out.  Usually.  

However, I'm still unsure what your point is here. 

It isn't Christianity that is the problem, nor is it looking to the Bible for inspiration. It isn't even the concept that the Bible is infallible. The problem are those who are so arrogant that they assume that they can interpret the meaning of the Bible unaided. Things like the infamous Leviticus quote used to justify bigotry against gays wasn't intended to justify any such thing. As elitist as it sounds, the notion that the Bible is an easy-to-follow user's guide to life has been exploited by ignorant people for centuries to horrible ends. If the Bible Museum leads to a more sophisticated and informed understanding of the context and original intent of this document, then we should all be in favor of it.


Hi Gene Was there a better way to handle this do you think? I am part of a group of old friends and I'm one of the B-listers. I'm not and have never been in the inner circle and that's mostly AOK by me. However being a B-lister means your "important things" usually get totally ignored although I'm expected to step up and be a birthday party planner, for instance. It is never reciprocated and I don't complain or say "um, hey, remember me and my BD last month? Why is this my job if it's not reciprocated?" So this year I decided to go on strike. I deflected and declined to be an active planner (supplied ideas, but no efforts) and since the main planner had already told me the date of the BD party she couldn't uninvite me. Now she's pissed at me and has ignored me for months (I thanked her for inviting me and that was ignored and so I kept on rolling). I have already moved on but I wonder if I could have handled this better?

I am asleep.   Totally gone.  Sorry.  Zzzz.  

Gene, Will we see you at Nats Park during the playoffs?

Probably not.  I've lost my season-ticket-holder connection.   

So, it's going to be Cleveland v. Nats?    

The team for 2018, by the way, is the Yankees.  

I vowed never to buy wine at Target again after they made me give my exact birthday to buy a bottle of wine.

Give your exact birthday?

God clearly exists and loves us because he made homosexuality feel so damn good.

And if we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?

I can't believe I'm explaining an English-nerd thing to you. I don't know if I'm more horrified, or thrilled. OK, so: The whole comprises the parts. The parts compose the whole. As in "The United States of America comprises 50 individual States." "Fifty states compose the United States." Written backward, "The United States is composed of (NOT COMPRISED OF!!!!!) 50 states." A synonym for "compose" is "make up." A synonym for "comprise" is "includes."

Thank you.  I will have forgotten this by tomorrow. 

I also have some who and whom problems when it's part of a more complex phrase. 

I'm originally from the Midwest, where everyone shops at the "growshery" store. Never heard anyone say the word "grocer", but I imagine it would be "growsher". That is the least of the Midwest pronunciation sins, though. We have a terrible habit of tacking "s" onto businesses, making them annoyingly possessive. "Going growshery shopping at Meijer's, then swinging by K-Mart's to spend the paycheck I got from working at Ford's" Ford's what!?!?!?

Yeah, I have heard from a LOT of growshery people.  I was completely thunderstruck. 

Apologies in advance, but I am a law student who has a degree in history, which makes me one of the most pedantic people on the planet. In modern language a "right" is often used to mean an entitlement. That is, when we say someone has a right to a lawyer, we mean the person is entitled to a lawyer. But in the context of the US Constitution, a "right" usually means a constraint. The bill of rights describes things that the government may not do. The significance of this for the right to free speech is exactly what you imply. It doesn't mean you are entitled to say whatever you want; it means that the government may not prevent you from saying things that are critical of the government. The other significance of this distinction comes to the fore when people argue that health care isn't a "right." The implication is that since it isn't called out in the Bill of Rights it isn't something that people can insist the government does. But keep in mind that the "rights" in the Constitution are constraints, not entitlements. So the argument is meaningless in historical context. Where it comes to "rights" as entitlements, the Constitution speaks only in generalities - preferring to leave the specifics to the legislature. The clearest summary of entitlements is in the Preamble. It doesn't call out medical care, probably because the whole concept lacked the significance it had today. (Reputable doctors rarely made you better, they were mostly intended to diagnose your likelihood of getting better on your own.) But the preamble does talk about promoting the general welfare. This means that providing medical care is an appropriate thing for the government to do. It is a "right" in the same way that it is a "right" for the government to protect us with the military.

Noted!  Nailed it. 

Did you miss this @theRickWilson tweet? I assume you did as you didn't retweet it: "Has no one noticed that the Paul Manafort is an anagram for 'Anal Trump Oaf'?"

I missed it!  Wow.  

From the wiki on Dan Blocker: Although "big and lovable", Blocker was also tough. Several years after his death, Michael Landon was on "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson" and related the following anecdote. During the shooting of one episode, Blocker's horse stumbled and fell, throwing Blocker and breaking his collarbone. Blocker got up and the bone was actually protruding from his skin. The crew wanted to call an ambulance but Blocker refused and stuck the bone back in place himself and resumed filming. At the end of the day he was convinced to go to the hospital where they set the broken bone and gave him strict instructions, no riding for six weeks. According to Landon, evidently Blocker's horse forgot what it was like to carry the big man during his convalescence because the first time that Blocker swung up into the saddle on his return, the horse collapsed under his weight and the cast and crew collapsed in fits of laughter.

That show had two of the best and two of the worst actors of their era.  Blocker and the guy who played Adam were awfully wooden.  Nobody was worse than that guy on Mission Impossible.   The big lunk. 

Yes, I get it.    Don't you?    He can't get past second base with her.  Because ... okay, now you get it. 

I teach at a public university, and I don't really recognize the delicate-flower stereotype you're pushing among my students. On the contrary, they are far more aware of economic uncertainty than I was, and I think they would regard (rightly I think) my generation as coddled in its confidence of being able to find good work. You may be right about students at coastal liberal arts colleges, but those represent a very tiny percentage of college students. I would agree that some left-wing college students today are giving the left a bad name. But one of my least favorite things about our times is the tendency to insist that the dumbest voices in a movement speak for that movement. The solution to that is not to bemoan those dumbest voices, but to recognize the heterogeneity of the movement and certainly of the larger generation.


Are there other academics who feel this way?  It's encouraging, but I haven't heard this expressed before. 

Are they still dropping by? If so, how are they doing?

Oh, this is a lifelong relationship.  They are basically my cats.  

Those people are not your friends.

ZZZZ.   Did someone say something? 

I go nuts when someone DENIES a charge, and the headline says "So-and-so REFUTES charge . . . " Refute is a conclusion; it implies proof. Deny is just, "Uh-uh."

Boy, I am hearing some usages in this chat that I cannot recall seeing in real life.  

So the NRA nuts want Trump so they don't lose their guns, but Trump leads us into a nuclear war, which potentially requires guns for survival. So the desire for guns leads to the need for guns?

Where have you been?  EVERYTHING leads to the need for guns.  

I think the complaint is that it's an anecdotal headline instead of a straight-news report: "A Maryland mother has been charged with murdering her two children." One of the complaints about modern journalism is that news accounts try to be literary, and you have to read halfway through to find the important facts. An account of a terrible accident at a bus stop might start "Mary Jones, a 57-year-old widow, couldn't imagine that today would be different from every other work day during the past eleven years that she rode the X11 bus to her job as a home health care provider...." Etc.

Really?  Is that it?   I didn't find that headline annoying, and it communicated something interesting.  "Mom Charged...." Doesn't tell you that there was some sort of significant delay here...

Gene - you opened last week's chat commenting on the Brookings study about college students' beliefs about the first amendment. Have you see the subsequent stories pointing out all the problems with the methodology? Are you walking it back? I work on a campus and see that it can be an issue but it doesn't help the dialogue to promote "alternative facts."

Nope.  Didn't see it.   Will read back for the next chat.  

Pernell Roberts

Thank you.   As I recall, he mostly just squinted. 

Are you talking about Landon and Lorne "Stoneface" Green? Or Victor Sen Yung?

Lorne and Landon.  Pros.  

Unlike most conservatives, he's actually funny. Which makes me wonder, why do the vast majority of conservatives have no sense of humor? Well, they think they do, but they are Just. Not. Funny. And the ones who are seem to run pretty consistently anti-Trump. Does intelligence have something to do with it?

I think irony and hypocrisy are more accessible to the left, about the right, than to the right, about the left.  By and large. 

is the Nats. The Nats will have a better roster than the Yankees in 2018. Beyond that is a concern to this Nats fan, but next year is the last year of the Harper-Murphy window.

I won't contest that.  I think it will be a Nats-Yankes world series.   

The Yankees will have young superstars at these positions: C, first base, second base, shortstop and right field.   Also, three closers in the pen.   They will buy a couple of top line starters.

No, you did not address this, and going through two chats since the story broke without talking about it is, well, crappy.

I distinctly remember discussing the fact that the Miami Herald had its own mad pooper.  Maybe that was Twitter?

Gene, you clearly place a lot of value on free speech. (Rightly so in my mind). It likely affects how you vote. are you at all able to put yourself in another person's shoes and see that they value the 2nd Amendment as much as you value the first Amendment?

Well, I can intellectually imagine it, but I can't imagine having much respect for someone who feels unrestricted gun ownership is more important than free speech!  I mean, c'mon.   We are a country drowning in guns.  

Okay, we're done!  See you next week. 

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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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