The Washington Post

Chatological Humor update

May 23, 2017

You asked for it and you got it. Gene will now be holding weekly mini-chats, where he takes your questions about what's happening in the country -- and anything else you want to discuss.

Gene will still have regular monthly chats, for a fuller chat and poll experience. The next one is Tuesday May 30 at noon.

Good afternoon.   I am breaking my rule and having an actual intro today because I have some good stuff.  But it is sports intensive, for the sports fanatic.  If you are not that kind of person, I will forgive you if you skip right over the rest of this and start with the questions and answers.

But before you go, one non sports question.   What is it with "thoughts and prayers"?   Why this particular cliche?  Who anointed this the de rigueur three-word response to tragedy? The bombing in Manchester is a horrific disaster, and I mean no disrespect here for the victims and their families.  I would just like to note that there are already 120,000 "thoughts and prayers" out there on the Web, paired with "Manchester" and "bomb."   My point is not just semantic.  Don't we diminish the apparent sincerity of our grief, just a little, by reaching time and again, as a reflex,  for the most obvious -- and thus, least convincing -- cliche?  

Okay, the rest of this intro consists of outtakes from my extended email correspondence with the Post's Tom Boswell, concerning sports arcana.  I used much of the good stuff in my column on Sunday, but there was so much more I dreaded cutting, including the first completely understandable explanation of why there are no left-handed catchers.  Here is all of it.    We start the chat at noon, sharp.

Why are there no left-handed catchers?  I've never had anyone satisfactorily explain this.

You “left-handed catcher” guys never learn. As the block-letter sign over Carlton Fisk’s locker always said, “THINK.” It’s simple. It’s incontestable. It’s obvious.

Fact: It’s a clear disadvantage to throw “through” the hitter to 2nd base on a steal. The catcher’s No. 1 job is preventing steals of second. That’s why there is a CS% kept for every catcher. It really matters. Can’t Stop the Running Game is the first “disqualifier” for any potential catcher.

Okay, here it comes. First, about 70% of all hitters are right-handed. So, a left-handed catcher would have to “throw through” at least TWICE as often (or more than twice as often) as a RH-ed catcher would on steals of 2d. Why would you try to play a position with that kind of inherent “handedness” disadvantage? It’s a basic “baseball is a game of percentages” thing. It’s not as bad as trying to be a LH-ed SS. But it’s bad. It makes a difference.

Second, the throw to third base on a steal is MUCH, MUCH harder for a left-handed catcher.

They tried to make me a catcher my freshman year in college. (It didn’t work.) On any pitch to the third-base side of home plate, people say, “Well, a LH-ed catcher can make that throw.” Yeah, but a RH-ed catcher can make it better __your whole body is going in the direction of the throw as you catch the ball. That throw is FUN for a RH-ed catcher. It’s “watch THIS!”

Here’s where the problem arises: On any pitch on the first-base side of the plate, the RH-ed catcher has to have some ability to catch, cock and throw without the aid of extra momentum. But it’s no problem if you have a decent arm. I’ve done it. BUT that pitch -- 1st base side of the plate -- is an enormous problem for any LH-ed catcher. How big a problem? How do we know? Proof: You’ve seen catchers snap-throw to 1st base to try to pick off a runner 1,000,000 times. Of those 1,000,000, all 1,000,000 were on pitches down the middle or on the first-base side of the plate. NONE -- none e-v-e-r out of 1,000,000 -- were on pitches to the third base side of the plate. If you’re RH-ed, it’s frickin’ impossible. Try it yourself if you are RH-ed. Lean left, then GUN the ball to 1st base -- to your right. That was fun, wasn’t it? Is your shoulder back in its socket yet? Did your rocket throw get 2/3 of the way to 1st base?

Now, FLIP THE MIRROR. That “impossible throw, that you NEVER see in MLB, is the throw that every LH-ed catcher would have to make to 3rd base on a steal on any pitch on the 1st base side of the plate. As soon as a LH-ed catcher “set up” on the outside corner to a RH batter, the man on second would think “steal opportunity.”

Third….You want a third reason? There is no “third.” You Can’t Stop The Running Game __the first responsibility to be a catcher__ Because You Are Left-handed and, thus, disadvantaged on ~70% of throws to 2d and incapacitated on at least half the throws to third. So, you can’t be a catcher. How about as an emergency catcher for the 15th inning? Sure, be my guest.

As a footnote: It is well known in baseball that left-handers are different. And thus not to be entirely trusted . This much be accounted for -- especially at the position of Highest Trust -- catcher. As the excellent pitching coach Ray (Rabbit) Miller once told me, seriously, “Left-handers can’t run in a straight line. It’s the gravitational pull of the axis of the Earth, or something. When you run sprints, you have to put all the left-handers on the same side, otherwise, they’ll wipe out your whole line.”   

Are all you baseball writers idiots for calling a pitcher's arsenal of pitches his "repertory"?  You mean "repertoire," right?

Only RADIO AND TV morons -- sometimes -- use the word “repertory.” And most of them stopped long ago. The Post’s current two baseball beat writers both graduated from Yale. Our previous baseball beat writers went to Duke, Vanderbilt, etc. They only use the word “repertory” when they are going out to see “Uncle Vanya.”  

If I were an NFL head coach, I would have a basic rule:  Except in clearly unwarranted circumstances, ALWAYS go for the two-point conversion. Obviously if you did this, your team would have practiced it a ton, with many different specially designed plays, putting you at advantage over all other teams that do not prepare for this as a general strategy.    Surely, a two-yard gain must happen more than 50 percent of the time, meaning this strategy should statistically be merited.  No?

I  did what sportswriters do -- get the facts as quickly and simply as possible. I said to my Pixel smart phone, “What is the 2-pt conversion rate in the NFL.” Amazing! It immediately gave me every team in every year. I added up ’16: 51 of 105 were successful, less than 50%. Then ’15: 45 of 95, less than 50%. Who cares about previous years? Rules change, etc. You want to know if you idea would work NOW. The answer is: NO. You retort: Could teams do better if they practiced two-point conversions more? I answer: ARE YOU OUT OF YOUR MIND? What do you think teams practice, and strategize more for than almost anything else? Red Zone plays and GOAL LINE PLAYS. Are they going to start practicing more, or suddenly get more innovative, because they are going for TWO points than they have been for the last 100 years when practicing and analyzing goal-line plays that have always been worth SIX points?

First of all, most people are simple, ordinary folks who don't have the depth of expression to offer eloquent reactions to the tragedy of the day. Second, these same people are actually offering prayers for the victims. Third, clichés are often useful shorthand that everyone understands. It's like the people who say "have a blessed day" or address elderly woman as "young lady". They're just trying to be thoughtful to others.

Nice dig there. 

You don't need eloquence.  You need authenticity.  I'd be much more impressed with "I am so sorry"

Okay, this is a propos of nothing, but it just occurred to me that you could get into some trouble if, in writing, you confused "you're behind" with "your behind."

Actually, probably greater than great. His histrionic responses to your questions aside (excellent theater, of course), he seems to be genuinely nice and thoughtful. If this is not true, please don't tell me. But if it is, please do.

He's one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet.  I encouraged the snark.  Asked for it, actually.

And I don't even walk in a straight line. But if you put me on a track with painted lines, I can stay in my lane. I once played third base when our regular third baseman didn't show. The other two choices were not having a third baseman or Bill.

I love how you wrote this.  Did you make any plays to first?  That pivot must be awful.

Is that how you're using sports at this point? I am binge-watching Stargate SG-1. The aliens they encounter are strangely akin to some of the current administration figures.

I am also gluttonously binge-watching "The Americans" late at night.   Never saw any of it, so I started with the pilot.  After three days of this, I have finished Episode Nine.

It's a very interesting show with what I believe to be a significant flaw.  Anyone want to weigh in?

Any chance this would happen? Dems, GOP, etc agree Trump has to go; they set up a Gentlemen's agreement whereby VP & Cabinet members would be the equivalent of a parliamentary grand coalition with status quo on the hot-button issues; then invoke either 25th Amendment or impeachment + conviction? What the Gang of 14 did w/ nominations to the bench but on a larger scale.

I am not sure there is enough comity between the parties to get together even on this.  I don't think they'd horse trade on it -- but I also don't think it would be necessary.  If roughly a third of the Senate Pubs came together on impeachment, that's all you'd need.

I had another scenario in my head.  It is what happens the day after Impeachment / resignation / 25th; it first took shape literally during a dream. 

Pence gets a visit from McConnell and Ryan, who tell him, in clear terms, that whatever private agreement had been reached between Trump and Pence, it must be reneged upon if it included a pardon.   They will tell Pence that pardoning Trump will destroy the Republican Party for a generation or more; the country is angry and wants blood -- particularly conservatives who will at last have been persuaded the president of the United States sold us out to the Rooskies.

McConnell and Ryan will tell Pence that if he pardons Trump, they will have no choice but to publicly denounce him, and foil any of his efforts to lead.   I woke up before my dream resolved.

I don't think Boz fully thought out his answer to the two-point conversions. You can't just look at it being less than 50% any more, because the PAT conversion rate has changed from the automatic it once was. So total in the last two years for two-point conversions, teams were 96 of 200. So out of 400 potential points, they got 192. HOWEVER -- the question is how many points would a team have expected to get if they just kicked the PAT? For PATs, teams made 1,146 extra points on 1,217 attempts, a 94.2 percent success rate. So if you were to kick 200 PATs, you would expect a team to get ... 188 points out of it. So teams scored more out of 200 two-point conversation attempts than they likely would have out of 200 PAT attempts from the new distance.

Noted.

the best line in the column was about the record for hit by pitch: "You will break it. Next year."

Absolutely.   Made me laugh out loud.

Gene, when did you realize that your knees needed to be replaced? Was it brought on by fatigue? Chronic pain? As I've aged, I'm noticing my right knee hurts quite a lot if I've been sitting too long. The left knee seems fine. The pain always goes away if I stand up and walk around for a bit, but sitting too long in the car, or on a plane, is agony. Any advice?

What made the decision for me was that my walk was starting to look ridiculous.   I was so knock-kneed that I could not stand with both feet next to each other, touching. 

I am glad you included that in your update and wish you had put it into your column. That was very interesting and could almost be an article by itself. rather than your call the representatives from various companies, why not set up an experiment with high school or college ball players. Have a lefty and a righty try to throw out people stealing bases.

FYI, this is not the first time I explored this important topic. 

It's not just for tragedy, it's for loss. Anytime someone is going through a tough time (extended illness, death in the family, terrorist attack), people say you're in my thoughts and/or prayers. I think you have both thoughts and prayers to make sure you include those who may not be the same religion as you or may not prescribe to a religion. Loss and hurt can be an awkward subject, so you go with the least offensive way of providing support. Is it a cliche? Maybe, but it's better than putting your foot in your month.

I think it's better to say something heartfelt.   Oh, also "thoughts and prayers" is followed 70% of the time by "go out to."   There's a variant of "my heart goes out to," also.

How much of this is a desire to express emotions - sadness, sympathy, even rage - but not cause offense? Grief is such a touchy subject, and no two people grieve in exactly the same way. You probably don't have this problem, since you have a way with words, but I struggle to come up with something to say to a friend who is grieving. But at least with a friend I have an idea what the friend wants and how that friend is holding up because I know them personally. With this, you probably don't know the people directly affected but you want to say *something*. The stage is bigger, the message is less personal.... And if you're a world leader, you don't want to commit to policy yet. Yeah, I totally get why people default to "thoughts and prayers". I default to "deep sympathies" since I don't do much in the way of prayer.

"I grieve for the victims.  I think we all do."

"I am left with a profound sadness for everyone affected by this."

"This is senseless and incomparably cruel.  I feel deeply for all the victims and their families."

I mean, you can go on and on.   At this point, "thoughts and prayers" sounds almost like a joke to me, almost sarcastic, or  like satire.   It's like "thank you for your service."

I've shown you this before.  It's a little off point -- today's  thoughts and prayers people are not politicians avoiding gun control -- but it is SO good.    I love Roy Zimmerman.

Gene, we desperately need to come up with a name for the ever-expanding scandal plaguing Trump. While I'm all for funny, cute ideas, it's imperative that we identify some kind of shorthand that reporters and columnists can use before one of them decides on a word that includes "-gate," which then becomes the default moniker forevermore. We CANNOT allow that, but I'm blanking on alternatives. Help!

Okay, let's go.  Nominations, please.

If that method was tried on Trump, don't you think there would be a Civil War? That is essentially a coup to topple the elected President of the country. I doubt there is much that Trump will do that would be worse than starting a Civil War, which is what those who advocate for the 25th Amendment solution are advocating for.

A civil war?  No.  A whole bunch of outraged, armed people?  Yes.  I mean, this is a constitutional remedy to a serious problem.  How bad the reaction is would depend on how well the issue is explained and rationalized by those who invoke it.   The sins would have to be manifest to almost everyone.

Flaw: The KGB would never have allowed/encouraged the Jennings to have children. It is a severe hindrance to their work (but makes for a better show).

I'm not so sure about that.  It makes them MUCH more believably American.

When he did that wonderful spoof series about a new DC baseball team. Is that still available anywhere?

I believe you are confusing him with Kornheiser.

In general, it was seen as a disaster -- not because it was bad or unfunny, but because a lot of people didn't get it as satire.

What if everyone said this? Wouldn't it be a cliche then? Just admit it, you don't like "prayers" because you think a prayer is pointless.

Nope.  I don't disrespect faith, or prayer. 

I'm very troubled by the way I'm feeling often these days. I have always been pretty much a Free Speech absolutist but lately I find myself thinking that position hopelessly naive in the face of reality. The latest thing is that there are people out there trolling with fake stories about the bombing in England with either made up victims or falsehoods about the event itself. I know there is no way to enforce "truth only" on the internet but I increasingly want to do so. To SHUT UP those who find humor in these types of trolling activities. I truly cannot fathom the lack of a soul it requires to decide to troll in this way. I guess I just need to keep in mind that extreme cases make bad laws. Sigh.

Want to feel even worse about it?   Some purveyors of fake news turn it into a cash crop.

This is part of the reason I'm glad you're back to doing this every week. Where else can I complain about the following extremely petty thing, which I'm focused on to avoid the horrors that confront us hourly: It's the Bounty commercial, where a too-cute kid is earning money to buy a goldfish for doing chores, mostly by making a mess worse. But the irritating part is the voice over. It uses the phrase "more life parole," which I had a hard time connecting to paper towels. It uses variations on the phrase as well ("more spills parole") none of which made sense. I eventually realized she was saying "per roll." Really? A phrase repeated half a dozen times, and you don't want to enunciate so people know what you're saying? Thank you.

I am unfamiliar with the commercial, but will take your word on it.

What would "life parole" mean?   Being excused by God for some awful thing you did, but if you ever do it again, all bets are off?

I don't necessarily buy his argument that it's a bad idea because the OVERALL stats are just under 50%. Looking at a breakdown for the 2016 season BY TEAM, no team tried more than 9, but some were pretty good at the ones they did try, e.g, the Bills (4 for 4), Eagles (4 for 6), Raiders (5 for 7), and Ravens (4 for 5). Meanwhile the Titans and DC team apparently stunk at it (0-5 and 0-4 respectively). I would think if you have good initial success at it, you'd keep trying it until it stopped working. Of course, if them ever lost a game because of a missed try, sportswriters (and "fans") would be all over the coach about it.

Yeah, I still contend that the big stalling point is that coaches will never be criticized for going for one.  Going for two?  It better work, coach.

Sometimes it's not a cliche. Sometimes its the best you can come up with. The events last night in Manchester were evil and for many many people incomprehensible. Despite the horrifying frequency with which these events seem to occur it's still profoundly difficult for many to understand why anyone would do such a thing. I personally find that comforting. I shudder to think of what kind of world it would be if and when we come to the point where such attacks no longer affect us. This New Yorker watched the World Trade Center collapse before his very eyes and I still get a sick feeling whenever I see a news story like last nights. I like to think of that sick feeling as my humanity. And while this may not be my personal response to such tragedies, for many who like me who still cannot comprehend why such evil occurs "thoughts and prayers" are not a cliche. They are sincere. They are a way for those presented with incomprehensible evil in the world to find comfort in the idea that there is a overarching good in this world. But because of the immense evil they are facing, your "cliche" is the best they can do. They actually are praying, because it's all they can immediately do in the face of profound horror. Could they maybe do more? I don't know. Neither do you. Most importantly neither do they, so they do what gives them comfort. Yes, I'm making this political, but your labeling this as "cliched" is EXACTLY what those that voted for Trump would cite as the the liberal elitism they were rebelling against last fall. I understand your point, I think, that we have to be able to come up with a better way of expressing our grief. (if I'm misunderstanding you, I apologize) But at the end of the day who appointed YOU as the arbiter of the best way to express grief? Maybe the expression is not as artful as could be said in the circumstances (We're not all Pulitzer Prize winners Gene) but to call a sincere expression of grief "cliched" is the height of arrogance and callously dismissive. The people who are expressing these "thoughts and prayers" are sincere. Don't diminish them by call their response cliched. You may not have meant to do that, but that's exactly what you did.

Oh, I definitely meant that. We have gotten to the point where "Thoughts and prayers" carry about as much sincerity as "bless you" after  a sneeze. Sorry. If that sounds like elitism, I'll cop to it.

Mr. Weingarten is reported to be a possible part of Trump's legal team in the Russia investigation. Any relation?

Only this.

My 12 year old son came bounding into my bedroom first thing Saturday morning to excitedly tell me that his one favorite columnist had interviewed his other favorite columnist, and insisted I read your column at once. Thanks to you and Bos (and the comics section), I have a reared a committed newspaper reader. You're welcome.

You have no idea how this sort of post brightens my outlook.

Evidently, they have hopelessly uncurious kids. My household was pretty strict, my mother had the most sensitive hearing on the planet, and I was a goody two shoes. And yet, I managed to find the toys in the attic for X-mas, read a good bit of my parents' copy of The Joy of Sex, and sneak into the basement for a good look around unsupervised. All way before I was Paige's age.

True.  Not my point, but true. 

I agree that this is somewhat cliche, but of all of life's aggravations this is not a hill I'm going to die on. People are trying to express sympathy. There are far worse ways. My husband is a hospice chaplain, so believe me! Grief makes people uncomfortable and they don't know what to say. I agree that a sincerely stated, "I am so sorry" is better and that's my go-to, but I'm ok with people falling back on a seriously harmless cliche. I also don't get offended when people say "Gesundheit" or "Bless you" when I sneeze. Not worth the angst.

I think yours is a reasonable point.   I am not as nice as you are.

There is something worse than people trolling trajedies, and that would be government having the power to fine, jail or otherwise punish people for engaging in speech the government did not like. Do you want Obama or Trump having that power?

I'm honestly not following your point.  I can't get to the second part of your statement, from the first part.

I have this fantasy that everyone in the line of succession--except Mattis--will be indicted, impeached, or resign when it becomes clear that the Trump campaign colluded with the Russians to manipulate the election. Then Mattis appoints Joe Biden as his VP and resigns promptly. It would seem fairer for it to be Hillary, but she's so polarizing that I think it has to be Biden.

Why would Mattis appoint Biden?  Is he not a Republican?

There seems to be a lot of leaks from very private meetings. If it was a murder case, the obvious perp would be the one who benefits most: the insurance beneficiary. In this case, the obvious perp is the one who benefits most: Mike Pence.

Interesting, but I bet not.  Mike Pence really dislikes the media, as I recall.

Saying thoughts and prayers has become a cliché, but so what? The other day, I read – or started to read – an article about how everyone should stop saying, “I’m sorry for your loss,” when speaking to someone who is experiencing grief. When I’ve stood by the caskets of family members who have died, plenty of people have said just that. Rather than focusing on what they said, I focused on the fact that they showed up to be with my family and me in our time of sorrow. Their words meant a lot, but their presence meant everything. I feel the same about thoughts and prayers.

Except the thoughts and prayers folks did NOT show up, by and large.   They are spending 15 seconds on a tweet, or a quote to someone on the phone.

I am probably seeming crueler than I mean to be here.  I don't think the thoughts and prayers people are hypocrites or even insincere, necessarily.  I just think they aren't trying very hard.  I find it hard to believe they are deeply emotionally involved.

As at least one of the people who invited you to that SABR conference from your second column, I wanted to pass along how funny it was reading the debate AFTER your column came out. Some people were soooo insulted by it, while others thought it was a funny and interesting column that -- if nothing else -- got their name out there. But man, there were some heated exchanges about it.

Interesting!  What was the nature of the heat -- that I was making fun of you guys?   I didn't mean to do that.  I meant to be making fun of intensity.

Did you two do a little high-five whenever an outraged letter to Free For All appeared after one of his Style columns?

Writers LOVE Free for All, unless the criticism is a little too spot-on, or not geeky enough.

If Trump's high crimes and misdemeanors are so bad and obvious, then he should be impeached. Hatching deals to oust him by using the 25th amendment would be a coup. I did not vote for Trump, but if he were ousted that way I would volunteer to join the rebel army against those coup leaders.

I'm not sure you are giving enough credit to those who might invoke 25.   I don't think you'll see that done frivolously.  There would need to be clear and convincing evidence he is not just stupid and reckless, but nuts.  

That they are both infiltrating for information AND responsible for the "wet work"? I think of this in the context of the current individuals in the news tied to the Trump administration's growing Russia problems - those that are (or may have been ) information conduits to the Trump campaign / administration aren't also the ones who would be shooting and driving get away cars.

My problem is that the scripts are about 25 percent too over the top in terms of forced drama.  I'd like more psychological thriller and fewer fistfights.

Gene, I understand why you chose the sayings you did as a non-believer. But how would you suggest those of who do believe in the power of prayer can include that we are praying for those who have suffered loss?

"I am praying for the victims and their families."

Thanks for the compliment. I did make three plays to first including one where I had to knock the ball down , pick it up and throw it. I even made two plays to second. You do have to pivot rather quickly if the ball is hit down the line but its not too bad if the ball is hit in the hole. Double plays were out of the question.

Ah, good point on double plays.   Hey, did any of you see the overturned call in yesterday's Yankees-Royals game?  It was one of the closest plays / closest calls I've ever seen.   And it completely changed the game. Worth searching for it. 

I will say this: several years ago I suffered a loss that hit me harder than any other in my adult life. Lots of people expressed sympathy, and lots of that sympathy was in the form of one cliche or another. And you know what? I wanted to hit every single person who said "you're in my prayers" or whatever. Like, closed fist, right in the face. Why? Because it struck me, in that moment, as rote and insincere, as though people were typing that stupid little phrase not because they meant it, but to get their obligation out of the way as quickly as possible. (Understand, I knew even then that I wasn't at my most rational. I'd used cliched phrases before myself, and sincerely meant the sentiments behind them. Fortunately, I punched no one during this trying time.) Anyway, these days I see something like this as the (very) least a person can do, something that means pretty much nothing at all and brings comfort to no one, and really, we're all better off just leaving these poor people alone to deal with their stuff if "thoughts and prayers" is the best we can do.

Agreed!  Unsurprisingly.

That the Russians were cheek and jowl with some of the Trumpian campaign operatives and there is plenty of financial hanky panky that went on, too. My take is that the loyal Trump supporters really won't care that much, and the rest of us weren't ever going to be on board anyhow.

As I've said, once it is proven to most people's satisfaction, I don't think American conservatives are going to be copacetic with selling us out to the Russians.

True story. I was a lowly underling working in a fed agency on climate change during the Clinton administration, and I was preparing a Powerpoint for a presidential commission over a weekend, which happened to be Father's Day. My son was 4 or 5, and he was out playing with all the other kids on the block, and all the fathers were out watching them. My wife comes out with the phone. "It's for you," she says. "It's the White House." Everybody stopped and I said, sheepishly, Well, yeah, it actually is... They wanted to change the background of the slides. Such is my fame.

She should have said "It's the president."

I've been watching the NHL playoffs, and can't stop laughing every time the announcer says the Anaheim (Ducks) player's name: Cam Fowler. FWIW, I am female and well past the age that marketers care about my opinion.

I am not getting the joke.  Please explain it in a way that maximizes my humiliation.

Another weenie word that people whip out after an attack like this: cowardly. I edit government statements, and this is in every draft. And every time I cut it, it ends up back there in the final. What does it even mean? Someone who walks into certain death to further his deeply held beliefs is a coward? He is abhorrent, sickening, inhuman, execrable, loathsome, and a ton of other things, but I wouldn't call him a coward. Do the people making these statements actually believe that saying that is going to deter future bombers who hear it and say to themselves, "I guess I won't do this because I don't want to be seen as a coward"? (I'm glad this forum is anonymous because I truly don't know whether this opinion is offensive or not.)

As you may know, Bill Maher lost a job over this, after 9/11.  He pointed out that the hijackers were all of those things you listed, but not cowards.

It was a VERY fraught time.   He was right, but probably should have waited a few weeks.

After tragedies like this, I wonder (as a non-believer) why people want prayers. If there is an all-powerful being who could help, why wouldn't he/she/it/they help before the event by preventing it - thereby relieving the pain by preventing it?

You are seeking to apply logic to religion.  Big mistake. 

Religion always has the ability to end such a conversation by calling it a "divine mystery."

I love the show, but two things about it bother me. First, the exteriors look very much like Brooklyn, where it is filmed, and not DC. Second, there is no way their disguises could be maintained through long term relationships (e.g., Clark and Martha). How can you be married to someone and not know they're wearing a wig?

Yep, I am bothered by both of these things.  I recognize New York time and again. 

This is a VERY wig-intensive show.

People use shorthand comments like this and "RIP" as a comment on Facebook too much for my taste. IT's an abbreviation like "HBD". If you can't be bothered to type "Happy Birthday" then just stop. As somewhat recent widow, the "RIP" is worse than not saying anything.

You know, I use RIP as a very fast way of saying someone died.  I don't believe the dead are "resting" or that they "know" anything, including peace.   But I use it because it is short and convenient.  Perhaps I am a hypocrite.

You're welcome.

So the Cam doesn't matter?

Excellent.  thank you.   Have any of you ever seen a closer play?  I think New York made the right call, but I am surprised they made it.  

Why is Fox still promoting this conspiracy theory? Are their viewers so uninformed that they would still believe this?

It's a convenient way of changing the subject.

The real question is if Trump has lost even a single one of his voters. If all the stuff that happened in the year before the election wasn't enough to derail his voters, why would any of this new stuff matter? I can't stand Trump, but I didn't vote for him. It's not like I can vote against him twice in the next election.

I know I sound like a broken record.  But what if it becomes completely clear, through evidence and testimony, that Trump literally sold us out to the Russians. both out of hero worship for a tyrant, and for money?

I think conservatives would be even more appalled than liberals.

How do they plausibly run a travel agency?

Good point. They never make it clear.  You never see them make a travel agency decision.   They seem to simply have the office run by everyone else.  And they stay in a back room, plotting world domination.

What has he done that has been a sell out to the Russians? Practically he has been more antagonistic towards Russia than Obama. Trump has attacked Russia's ally Syria, including targeting a base that held Russian soldiers. Trump has also been more forceful towards Iran, another Russian ally.

I said "what if?" and meant it.  

What if he helped them hack our election?  Encouraged it, facilitated it, for venal reasons?   What if -- as is not unlikely, I think -- he and his family promised visas to Russians for lots of money?

Isn't it funny how if you get sick then get better it's because God saved you, but if you don't and die it's just part of God's plan? That guy cannot lose.

He is in the catbird seat.   The Teflon God.

Getting rid of a President using the 25th Amendment is actually harder than just impeaching and convicting him. You mean Section 4 of the Amendment. The VP and a majority of the Cabinet have to submit a declaration to the Speaker and President Pro Tempore (Ryan and Hatch) that the President can't carry out his duties and the VP becomes acting. Then the President can submit his own statement saying he's perfectly capable of carrying out his duties, and he's back in charge. The VP and Cabinet have to submit ANOTHER statement saying, in effect, no, he's really nuts. Then Congress has 21 days to decide who's in charge, and it takes 2/3 of EACH HOUSE to rule the President out. If they can't decide, he's in. It's easier to get a majority of the House and 2/3 of the Senate to impeach and convict him.

Yep.  I am not hoping for 25, because it will mean Trump will have had to do something TOTALLY insane and probably deeply harmful to this country or others. .

"Please remember to take care of yourselves and each other. Grief makes it far too easy to forget."

Good.

Do you think replay in baseball is worth it? What do you think of adding to the rule by saying "If NY can't figure it out in 90 seconds, the call stands"? I don't mind righting obvious wrongs, but yesterday's play should/could have fallen under "too close to call." I mean, you're getting into a question of what counts as a "catch" -- ball hitting leather or closing your glove on it? And determining -- no idea how -- just how much air, if any, is between spike and bag.

That's why I am shocked they reversed it, BUT....after looking at it a third and fourth time, I felt they got it right.  The foot was not down on the bag when the ball hit the web of the glove.

Why do you think conservatives would be more appalled than liberals when Ryan et al. are on record laughing out loud about Trump being on the Kremlin's payroll?

Because Ryan isn't a "conservative."  He is a politician.  I am talking about rank and file, guys in the street who grew up demonizing (for good reason) Communism and Russia.

I know it doesn't lose the dreaded -gate, but I am a fan of John Oliver's moniker of "Stupid Watergate". I think it sums it up nicely.

I like that.

Just before Easter, my sister, who cares for my elderly parents, gave them some Gold Brick eggs. If you are not familiar, they are an oval shaped somewhat soft chocolate confection (ganache-like) in a gold foil wrapper. Mom put her treat in the basket of her walker, intending to sit and enjoy it, and became distracted by something else… A ringing phone, the need to change the channel, my father shrieking for something to eat. A while later, as my mother is banging around the house using her walker, she began screaming that she has stepped in poop. My sister was puzzled, because my parents don't leave the house very often, and Mom haven't left the house at all that day, and how would poop have gotten on her shoe? And the shoes she was wearing were her house shoes, which do not go out of doors. They don't have a dog. So of course, because elderly people have unfortunate accidents, my sister delicately inquired whether either of my parents had perhaps had an unnoticed accident… These things happen. Visual and olfactory investigations disconfirmed this hypothesis. While my mother kept howling in disgust about having tracked poop through her house, my sister donned hazmat approved Rubber gloves and cleaned the floor, and Mom's shoes. During the entire episode, my mother was on the phone to me screaming about how repulsive it was (we are a family prone to loud drama). After a few hours hours and several conversations later, with unsatisfactory attempts to discover the source of the poop, my mother resigned herself to the mystery and sat down to eat her Gold brick egg. The wrapper was open, and, you guessed it, the egg was gone. We now gleefully refer to the incident as Mom's Gold Brick poop.

Thank you but you telegraphed the punchline.

Well, they did that for the Chinese How to Woo Chinese Investors: With Visa Offers and the Trump Name https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/19/business/kushner-trump-china-green-cards.html?_r=0

Yes, correct.   Why not Russians, too???

What makes the Americans so great is how it represents their relationships - with each other, with their children, with the people they are using for info, with their Soviet handlers, their neighbors, etc. It's the most fascinating marriage I have ever seen on television. I try not to get too worked about its flaws, because it is such good storytelling. (Yes, as a DC person, it is so obviously not filmed in DC!) Season 4 is among my all time top favorite tv programs/seasons. It is so, so good. I am jealous you still get to experience it.

I'll report back.

Okay, we're done.   Next week, big chat, major poll.

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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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