Tuesdays with Moron: Chatological Humor Update

May 15, 2012

Every Tuesday, Gene publishes weekly updates to his chats.

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Greetings, update readers.

The surfing ad has been creeping me out since the first time I saw it WRT the use of a scantily clad female adolsecent to sell health insurance. While the poll results didn't validate my feelings, you and Silver Spring have provided me with validation. Thank you.

In the history of Chatological Humor Polls, the results of this one surprised me maybe the most.    From the first moment I saw that ad, I thought it horrendous:  Nakedly (ha) manipulative.   I am almost impossible to offend, and that actually offended me precisely BECAUSE I was manipulated into ogling an adolescent's butt, which resulted in my feeling guilty, which resulted in a profound internal monologue about the nature of lust; I wound up letting myself off easy and focusing all of my ire  on the commercial.  

I have no idea how so many of you were unjudgmental by this ad.  I am forced to conclude that the men didn't even find it titillating -- because if you did, how can you NOT blame the commercial?  -- which brings me back into a testy conversation with myself.


To the guy who is not corrupt because he wouldn't take a bribe. I'm not saying you would, but you should listen to this program. It was kind of eye-opening for me. Link

This article is fascinating.   Well worth reading.   And yeah, I can't say I would never do anything unethical.   All I can really say is I haven't yet.   One day at a time, like a 12-step program. 

I think for me the deciding factor would be harming others.  I don't think I could ever do anything unethical that clearly would harm others, however desperate I might be.   But if I could talk my way into believing that the only risk was to myself, who knows?

Here's a little section from the article:

Human beings commit fraud because human beings like each other.

We like to help each other, especially people we identify with. And when we are helping people, we really don't see what we are doing as unethical.

Lamar Pierce, of Washington University, points to the case of emissions testers to explain this. Emissions testers are supposed to test whether or not your car is too polluting to stay on the road. If it is, they're supposed to fail you. But in many cases, emissions testers lie.

"Somewhere between 20 percent and 50 percent of cars that should fail are passed — are illicitly passed," Pierce says.

Financial incentives can explain some of that cheating. But Pierce and psychologist Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School say that doesn't fully capture it.

They collected hundreds of thousands of records and were actually able to track the patterns of individual inspectors, carefully monitoring those they approved and those they denied. And here is what they found:

If you pull up in a fancy car — say, a BMW or Ferrari — and your car is polluting the air, you are likely to fail. But pull up in a Honda Civic, and you have a much better chance of passing.


"We know from a lot of research that when we feel empathy towards others, we want to help them out," says Gino.

Emissions testers — who make a modest salary — see a Civic and identify; they feel empathetic.

Essentially, Gino and Pierce are arguing that these testers commit fraud not because they are greedy, but because they are nice.

"And most people don't see the harm in this," says Pierce. "That is the problem."

My probelm with the latest FBI "Sting" is that the Crime these losers are accused of is nearly EXACTLY the one they arrested a young man for in Chicago, and similar to several other terror "plots" they have uncovered recently. This suggests strongly to me that the FBI informant or agents are the ones driving the planning and people are being pushed to extremes they might not have reached on their own. I contrast this with say the ABSCAM sting example because A Congress person should expect to be approached by bribers-it's an occupational hazard, and their position of public trust requires them to reist such temptations. Wheras the bomber boys might never have built an explosive without the FBI's urging, it is a near certainty that a Congressman will be offered a bribe by SOMEBODY over the course of his career

I see your point about Abscam.  Of all of these stings, the one that bothers me the most is the idea of busting drug users for being in possession of a drug YOU have sold them.  I cannot for the life of me understand how this is legally justifiable.  It's certainly not ethically justifiable, IMO.

This is an interesting question. There was a case not too long ago of an 18 year old high school student coerced into buying drugs for his girlfriend--he didn't use drugs himself, and if I recall correctly didn't even want to take money from her to buy it, he did because he liked her. Except whoops, his girlfriend was an undercover cop and he was busted in a raid. These are the problems you run into with sting operations (and I'm fairly sure that DHS has used drug war grants to fund some surveillance of Muslims, so there's some crossover). Here's more on that "drug dealer" kid busted in a drug raid: Link

Wow.  I had missed this.   This is seriously disgusting, right there at the bottom of the slippery slope, with its face in the goo, getting its arse smashed every time someon else plummets to the bottom.  

The fact that this involved an attractive young female cop reminds me of the other onconscionable sting:  Prostitution.  We have dealth with this before.   I made the observation that though I would never hire a prostitute, I would be far more likely to in the case of an undercover cop:  There would be something about the woman and her demeanor -- maybe she'd look healthier, smarter, less desperate, less vulnerable  -- that might well be the flipping point for some men.   

I got yelled at for that, but I think I'm right.   I think prostitution stings are loathsome, and might well entice some men who wouldn't do it otherwise. 

Marriage doesn't imply ownership, but it does imply trust. I trust my wife not to betray me. That's not a very specific thing, though. An obvious betrayal to me might not be to someone else.

In our book, Gina said that she would consider holding hands a betrayal, and would consider ending the marriage over it.   I said I didn't consider a single intimate kiss a betrayal.   So there were very differing thresholds.  We did a poll on this aeons ago, but I think it's time for another. 

So you'd be ok if the Rib wanted to sleep with Caitlin or Rachel - but would you be ok if she wanted to sleep with TtB or Dave Barry? I hope your answer is yes, otherwise that's awfully hypocritical of you. Sex is sex and I think it's cheating no matter who it's with.

Well, no.   I do not think they are the same, and for a pretty obvious difference. 

Caitlin and Rachel could supply the Rib with an experience I could not. 

This is an awkward question to answer using real people and real names, so I'll say, yes, I'd be less troubled if my spouse had a fling with Siobhan or LaKeisha, than with my good friends Biff  and Mohammed. 


With all due respect to your intellience, IQ tests have changed quite a bit since the time you were in 7th grade. Not surprisingly they used to be biased towards educated white males, and focused mostly on verbal skills. Now IQ tests tend to account for both verbal and non-verbal skills. Scoring 160 on a modern IQ test is virtually impossible. Anything over 130 puts one in the superior intelligence range, the 99th percentile.

I'm definitely going to try this. 

My memory of the test I took in seventh grade is very dim; it was one-on-one, for a scientific study.   I recall two questions in particular:  "What does the expression "any port in a storm" mean?    And I was given a list of one-digit numbers and was asked to repeat them backwards.    I hadn't heard the port-storm thing before, but correctly sussed out its meaning.  And I got the numbers right by repeating the sequence in my head several times, each time barking out, sequentially, three digits backwards. 

My mother told me later (she was a teacher, and part of this study) that the point of the second one was to see whether the kid developed a "system" to try to remember.  I had.  

Gene, I know you know the difference between "evasive" and "invasive." And yes, they continue to get worse. I have a metal hip, so I get patted down every time. It's obnoxious. Also, they continue to take my contact lens saline, which is on the TSA list of specifically permitted items, telling me that it is entirely up to them what to take and what to leave, and if I disagree, I will not be permitted to fly.

I hesitate to say this because it might sound like a defense of Limbaugh, but I don't understand why he was detained at an airport for having Viagra in an unlabeled container.  I do that all the time with meds on a trip:  Take what I need and put em all in one vial.

I'm female. I think it is just as bad for the guys. They don't want anyone up there at all. Seriously, I don't get why the poster thinks it is worse for women.

I have absolutely decided to turn and cough everytime a hand explored my crotch. 

Er, not EVERY time.  Every time at an AIRPORT.  

Some parents, then and now, consider breaking anything a spank-able offense - accident or not. It is how my parents acted in the 50s. I don't consider it reasonable; certainly you cannot train someone to NOT have accidents.

I decided not to corporally punish my kids by asking myself a simple question:  Husband and wife don't reprimand each other with slaps, so why is it okay with kids?  What kind of lesson is that delivering? 

Molly reminds me that I actually did whack her in the tush once or twice for bad infractions, but I did it with all the force of a tickle. (In Yiddish, this is called a "potch," as in "I'll give you such a potch...")  Basically, it was like spanking a dog with a tissue, which I also did.   Or with a derder, which Caitlin's mom did.  

Okay, we end the update here, and with a reminder that The Post Hunt is June 3.   It's particularly diabolical this year, including one step so devious we will be booed EXTRA HARD when we explain it.  

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