Chatological Humor update

Aug 22, 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 Aug. 29 at noon.

Good afternoon. 

Saw the eclipse from the roof of the Washington Post building.  Wore glasses.  Felt a bit underwhelmed until I then looked at it through one of those cardboard-box pinhole camera devices, this one expertly made by Post editorial writer Chuck Lane.   When you look in one of those things, you are not looking at the eclipse directly, you are looking at it cast as a shadow against the rear cardboard wall of the box.  You feel like Plato's chained prisoners, looking at cave shadows, describing the shadows, but thinking they are the real things.  It is a form of exquisite, but painful, self-deception.  

In that sense, I suddenly became the man with one eye in the land of the blind.  Compared to Chuck's stupid box, the eclipse through the glasses was great.  You were at least looking at the real thing. 

And that's when I realized that there is also a world of two-eyed people, and felt depressed.  Those who saw the total eclipse got the Full Monty.   We were pathetic dweebs, happy with our one eye. 

Please note that this is likely the first time any scholar ever compared a cardboard pinhole eclipse-viewer with Plato's cave allegory, and then extended the comparison to the land of the blind.   Look for it in college textbooks around 2020.  

Speaking of 2020, no, Donald Trump did not become president last night.   The best comment I saw on this was on Twitter, pointing out that people who used to criticize Obama for using a Teleprompter are now effusively congratulating Trump for being ABLE to use a Teleprompter. 


Finally, this is for you.   

Okay, we start at noon. 

I largely missed Jerry Lewis' film career. Growing up before it was easy to view clips and access old movies I really didn't see much of his work. But, it was always my impression that he was just a clown and not an artist. Was he a genius clown that every comic on twitter seems to think? He was also very Trumpian when it came to his telethons, I think. When he started out doing them he was probably very earnest and wanted to help. As time went on he couldn't understand the harm his outdated language and the show's premise had on people with disabilities. Instead of listening to critics and revamping his approach, he just doubled--down for 15-20 years until he was effectively canned. His language became more cruel -- calling wheelchair users "half people" for example -- as he defended himself. If he had stopped the telethon in say 1990, the perception would have been that he stepped away at the right time. Yes, I know he was born in 1926. But as an actor, he should have known when to bow out gracefully.

He was a very complex character.   He took a long, excruciatingly long, time to lose his mind and sense of humor.   And humanity.  In the end, he railed against immigrants ("refugees are not part of the human condition" and for Trump.  

I love the fact that the French thought Jerry Lewis was a genius, because (as they saw it) he was a parody of ugly Americans, and that the reason we derided him is that we were uncomfortable recognizing that fact!


Jerry was thin-skinned to a fault.  At his slapstickiest, he was ridiculous.  But he had a lot of talent, and when it came through, it was bracing.  Did you ever see him in "The King of Comedy," with DeNiro and Bernhard?

I am trying to find Jerry's finest moment, and can't.  Can anyone?  I remember it well: He was guest hosting a late-night show (The Tonight Show, maybe) for a week, and on the second day, his monologue was a bitter, brilliant funny response to a newspaper critic who had panned him the night before.   Teddy the Producer?  Any reader? 

Gene, are you aware of the Sleeping Traveler statue in the Orlando International Airport? If he weren't behind glass, I'd swear it was you. Photo here. 

Could be me.   Wow, that's a statue?  


Looked it up.  It's a Duane Hanson.   I met him once, in South Florida.   Maybe I was part inspiration for it.   

I know I've told y'all before, but the Tropic art director, Philip Brooker, once had a brilliant idea for a public sculpture in Dallas, at Dealey Plaza, by Duane Hanson.   It would be a modern-day triptych.  The three elements would be a totally lifelike image of Oswald, leaning out the window, rifle pointed, a sneer of hate on his face.   On the street, in a limo, just Jfk, sitting in the familiar pose in the back of the car.  No Jackie or driver or anyone else.    And completing the trio, near the grassy knoll, was Abe Zapruder.  Camera up, the eternal witness. 

Knowing what we now know about the marchers in Charlottesville, do you think that the ACLU should have filed the lawsuit to permit the demonstration to go forward?

Sure.  It was a legal demonstration, until it got illegal.  We DO have a Constitution. 

I'm a conservative from the South (although I no longer live there) who grew up knee-deep in Dukes of Hazzard fandom and unironically wearing the confederate battle flag on things and going to reenactments. However, I support taking the statues and memorials on public lands down. There should be museums or private places willing to take them. I'd like to point out that this remains a minority opinion, at least according to recent polling. I'm in a discussion group online with a lot of very progressive people, who talked about going to Charlottesville, discussed the counter-protest, and have planned ways to support future marches against white supremacy/white nationalism. (I share their views on a couple of other subjects, which is why they let me in.) Some members have debated pulling down the Jefferson and Lincoln memorials, and ending public memorialization of them, Washington, Hamilton, and Grant. They aren't calling for open action against any of the monuments to that group in the way they are against the confederate memorials, but there's a lot of support in this group for doing something about them in the name of justice and progress. I've been trying to find out where their line is, and there doesn't seem to be a willingness to offer it, and that feels very much to me like an admission that if mobs come in the middle of the night to vandalize a Lincoln statue- as has already happened- or to pull it down, there's going to be a lot of support among this activist group for doing so. I wonder how much support there is for it among the larger left/liberal/progressive side of our politics.

Essentially no support, I would suggest.  

I'd happily send to prison a vandal of the Lincoln / Jefferson memorial. 

Actually, I think I'd send to prison a vandal of a Robt. E. Lee statue.   With very few exceptions (the American Revolution?) I don't believe in mob rule.   We are doing this the right way, by consensus and official government action. 

I have unfortunately found out that the only thing that really gets my engine going is a total solar eclipse. I'm looking forward to my next erection in 2024.

You've seen one?  Where?  When?

I have what seems to be a bit of a Catch 22 when I walk my dog. He's a fairly big guy - a 70 pound German Shepherd mix. But he's a sweetie who loves meeting new people. This means when we go out on walks, his general inclination is to go right up to people we pass. However, I realize that not everyone loves dogs and might not want him up in their business, so I hold him back. But then he's so focused on sniffing the new person that he'll rear up on his back legs, which I'm sure just looks even more terrifying to people. Is it OK to let him sniff strange people? He knows not to jump on people, so that's not an issue. He just sniffs them and, if they stick around, begs for pets.

It's not about him, it's about you.   If the person seems to welcome the attention, fine.  If not, hold him back. 

Via Tom the Dancing Bug, @Rubenbolling: [Name] The most obscure song; By a major artist; That is great.

I gave three answers, all funny songs:  Monkees' D.W Washburn, Cream's Mother's Lament, and the best, Dylan's Million Dollar Bash.   There are a bunch of MDBash covers online, but not finding Dylan's original. 

Mr. Trump came out four square for Peace, Love, and Understanding with a bit of War on the side. He appeared will dosed with valium and speaking to the teleprompters on either side of the podium. An oddly subdued performance with minimal content.

Most content was fine.  Some was Trump-influenced, and not fine.   "Killing terrorists" is not always better than "nation building."  I give you the Marshall Plan.   

Plus, he couldn't help talking about how he inherited all these bad decisions from previous presidents.  Classless. 

felt a little spooky yesterday.

Haha.  Well, not here.  It didn't get at all dark.  The wind picked up a bit, is all. 

My mom, born in '41, has fallen into the clutches of the right. It started with Rush Limbaugh in the car and now is solidly with Fox News. I'm not quite sure she voted for Trump - I sense she may have not pulled a lever for anyone - but she is still sympathetic to a number of right-wing causes. My lovely former Democratic mother - who was a member of a union for years and a fierce advocate for many issues - is now anti-many things. Some of this stems from her religious views and her firm anti-abortion stance. You get the picture. Anyway, how the hell do we deal with this?

You continue to be her loving son or daughter. 

So last week I was riding metro in the late evening, and someone sat next to me. The train was comparatively empty, and I was a bit suspicious. He had a notebook in his lap. He moved his hand under the notebook. I was really suspicious at this point. Normally, I'd get up and move. But here's the thing. He was black. I'm a white woman. And Charlottesville just happened. I didn't want to be the white woman who assumes a black man is dangerous. He did turn out to be a pervert. My reaction was no reaction whatsoever. I refused to acknowledge what he was doing. He eventually got frustrated and left the train. This is where we are as a country. We are so screwed up about race that those of who don't want to participate in racial profiling make stupid decisions about our own personal safety. I'm lucky the guy just got frustrated and left.

I hear ya.  I debated whether to post this, but I think you are identifying a situation others will understand.  We are seriously screwed up over race.   It's not a new problem. 

Many years ago, mid-eighties, a coworker of mine was trying to describe a guy from another department with whom she was starting on a project.   I didn't recognize his name, so asked her to describe him.  "Well," she said, "he's tall, and kind of balding, and wears glasses...."    Still wasn't getting it.  "Well, he has narrow shoulders...."     "Wait," I said, "you mean the photographer from Broward County...?"   "Yes!"  she said.    

"Uh, why didn't you mention that he is black?" 

"I thought that would be... you know, rude." 

What's your take on this? I think if it was supposed to be poking fun at liberals, that should have been more obvious. And the Thomas Jefferson joke was a little too far for me. 

I think it was brilliant, more complicated than just "poking fun at liberals."   Though I think this writer's "let them eat cake" analysis is off-base.  I doubt if Fey or the other writers of this skit had that in mind, since it doesn't really fit the circumstances.  "Let them eat cake," apocryphal though it may be, was a supposedly sign of Marie's lack of understanding of the plight of the poor.   Not really convincingly parallel. 

This was about the left's feeling of helplessness in the face of the disaster of Trump -- lefty women more than men, since women stress-eating is a Tina Fey comedic concept, as in, "I have to go consult with some food."    Listen to what she is SAYING, not doing.  Every word out of her mouth is about the giant, malign, idiot fool in the White House and what he is doing to the country.   The cake is a prop, and a good one.  It is saying "we are screwed for the foreseeable future."  Now if you want to argue that she had to somehow be flogging the joys of Resistance, you don't get satire. 

Is it making fun of liberals who bemoan but do not act?  Sure, in part.  But it is doing more than that. 

I think the Jefferson quote was just fine.  She's making the point that we are a country BUILT on hypocrisy.


Speaking of Marie Antoinette, did you all catch the mini-foofaraw concerning the FB post by Louise Linton, Secty. Mnuchin's wife, in which she tags a photo of herself by noting the designer clothing she was wearing?  (Hermes/Tom Ford/Valentino?  The best part is that she answers a snide comment with clueless snark.    

Every week another shoe drops with the Trump Administration. When do you think we'll be on stable ground? I don't like Pres. Trump, but stability - even with a sociopathic manchild like him - will be better for our country than this continual instability. I imagine the only way this can happen is if the administration manages to work around him. Distract him with some shiny jingling keys or something.

Won't work.  He needs to be on every tongue, have himself the center of all debate.   He is so stupid and naive he doesn't understand that is antithetical to governing effectively.   He doesn't care if everyone around him hates him, which they do. 

This rocky ride continues. 

Gene, I was once a Republican, but more than a decade ago recognized that my opinions were straying further left than before. Education and experience have made me more liberal in my middle age. That said, I'm still pretty centrist and although I despise the current president, I'm always on the lookout that I might be biased in my interpretation of politics. So I'm asking you: In the controversial "Can't Stop the Trump Train" cartoon re-tweeted by the president, am I alone in seeing the Russian flag as the color scheme of that train???

Nah.  The Russian flag is also red white and blue but in this illustration they are in the wrong positions relative to each other.  

This is a good example of false equivalency. There have been several excellent articles recently on the difference between being a slaveowner and being someone who goes to war to defend the right to own slaves AND to spread slavery to the new territories. Read the articles of secession if you don't believe me.

It's a totally bogus issue and a heinous comparison, popularized by our president. 

But Roger Taney? He was a US supreme court justice. He made what today is clearly a bad decision but in it's time.... I suspect if you pick the most brilliant minds ever to sit on the court and gave them the facts in Obergefell v. Hodges, they'd have come down on the "wrong" side. But there's a HUGE difference between being a legal representative of the US and someone looking to destroy said country.

Yes.  I think taking down Taney was probably a mistake. 

For one thing, he wasn't alone in making the Dred Scott decision. 

For another, he was a pretty distinguished chief justice other than that.   I know, other than that, how'd you like the play, Mrs. Lincoln?

Was on the Basement Tapes with the Band.

Correct.  Are the basement tapes online?

They're about to outnumber Imelda Marcos's collection.

Thank you. 

"Hello, I'm Barack Obama. I spent 8 years talking about the mess W left me. It was a bad mess, just like some of the messes I left this new guy."

I don't think this is accurate.  Is it?

I write from a place in the southeast where we had perfect weather to see the total eclipse (not my first). I can only say you ain't see nothin'. You can catch the real thing in Chile next year. The Guardian had a clever, if maybe too subtle, take on how to check your vision post-eclipse: link here.

I read this thing.  I have no idea what it is trying to do, other than parrot Total Eclipse of the Heart.  Explain, please. 

This election broke something in me. I was raised conservative christian. But seeing my family and the christian community support him has killed my religion. I see how utterly empty their "values" and beliefs are now. I wish I could communicate to all of them how betrayed some of us feel.

Because I know a few devout Christians who despise Trump, I'd like to suggest that this is about your family, and not your religion. 

Vaguely listened to the Trump speech last night (why he needed to interrupt my TV show is beyond me, it wasn't critical). Here's my take away. 1) you can totally tell when he is sharing his opinion vs when he is reading someone else's remarks that aren't entirely his. (and he should always read something written by others) 2) When he reads speeches like this, I swear it sounds like they came him a sedative pill in order to make sure he gets through the entire thing without somehow going off the rails somewhere in the middle - he speaks slower and uses real words. 3) I think 6 months in he just woke up to the fact that while running for President might have been a great time - actually being president is kind of a PITA: the navy keep crashing boats, people are protesting, reporters keep asking him really hard questions and the American People are not liking his answers (which are basically, "trust me, it'll be great"), he has to do something about the war in Afghanistan, the bills keep coming in and there is no money to pay them, he can't fire Congress or the Judicial Branch, he can't fire any more cabinet people because Congress (who he can't fire) won't let him have any new ones, he can't become a dictator because Judges (again can't fire) won't let him, and everywhere he turns someone is making fun of him, chastising him, or questioning his sanity. I think he hates the job and the fact that all new messes become his to own (can't blame the Nazi stuff on Hillary's emails, although I'm sure he would if he could) I think this is the first time in his life where what he has to do is actual work - with real life consequences that matter (life and death stuff) and I think he hates it. I get the feeling he was much happier being a figurehead that had to do nothing at all. That old adage, watch what you wish for. . . you just might get it.

My observation is that when he reads from a prompter, he seems to be reading the words for the first time.  Like no one told him the words he was about to say, so he couldn't change them. 

I'm a conservative woman who makes a habit of voting for any challenger I can stomach to try to break the mold of those for whom politics is a career and not a brief civic duty. I voted for neither the Democratic nor the Republican candidate in the 2016 Presidential election. I never thought I would write this, but I am starting to regret not voting for...her. This makes me nauseated.

Well, it makes me happy. 

I have this question that I knew was perfect for you, Gene. I can't Google it, because then who knows what will show up in the ads that run on every page these days. I can't ask anyone in person, because it is too embarrassing. But, since it involves poop, I think it is perfect for you, so here it is: why does it sometimes take lots and lots of wipes to completely clean up after pooping? Sometimes very few wipes are needed, but lately I've needed upwards of 15-20. It's hard on my butt, it's hard on the TP supply, and it is probably at least somewhat hard on the toilet. Any thoughts?

I have an answer.  It is disturbing. 

This is largely a function of age.   The rectum gets a little more elastic.  

The thing about the eclipse is that the difference between totality and, say 98% is huge. I keep struggling with an analogy. Something where 98% isn't close enough to really matter. Or rather, I keep struggling an analogy that I can tell in refined company.

Ninety eight percent giving birth, and having fully delivered. 

This. And this is where I differ for once with your wise colleague, Mr. Robinson. It's not time to talk about Trump's mental health; you can be stupid and naive without having Borderline Personality Disorder or anything else. What do we do about such a stupid and naive president? I guess we wait for Mueller to finish work and then start impeachment proceedings.

Yep.   I don't think Trump is mentally ill, in a clinical sense.  I think he has a personality disorder -- a very severe one. 

Ditto on the circumstances - I grew up with left leaning parents who have now been radicalized by right wing media. Only thing I can pinpoint (since they otherwise still have mental sharpness) is that they grew up getting their news from the nightly news on TV. They believed what they were told. If you come from that era, and you listen to right wing media - you can get sucked in quite easily. That's how I delude myself into believing that they have not become stupid or just plain ol' mean. And I avoid political talk at their house at all cost.....they cannot be converted.


I get what you're saying. Yet it still infuriates me that people have been arrested for dis-mounting the statues in Durham but nobody has been even charged with beating up that kid in a parking garage in Charlottesville.

That's not about the value of mob rule.  It's about prosecutional disparaties, which are also bad. 

Gene, I know you are reluctant to talk about comics since the debut of Barney & Clyde. However, I need some guidance. I am confused about the latest storyline in one of the serial strips. Under Jack Elrod, facial hair was always the sign that a character was shady at best and possibly evil. However, the sheriff, on his way to help, has a moustache and sideburns. Has Mark Trail finally reached the '70s and the sheriff isn't a bad guy? Think McCloud, McMillan and Magnum, but maybe not Kojak.

You nailed it.   Mark Trail finally reached the 70s.   In about ten years, it will reach the 80s, and people will start having cocaine problems. 

I really don't see how you think Trump has a sense of humor. I haven't heard anything funny from him, unless you count unintentional humor, like him not wanting to make statements about Charlottesville until he had "all the facts." Now, that was laugh out loud funny! GWB had a frat boy sense of humor, with his stupid nick names and put downs of other people. Not my kind of humor. I thought Obama was very funny, dry, witty, self deprecating, and had no problem going on The Daily Show, Colbert Report, Between the Ferns, Comedians in Cars. But Trump? Nope. If you still think so, prove it with some concrete examples. Thanks.

It's odd.   If you google Trump's sense of humor, you get many posts saying he has none, and others saying his sense of humor is his strongest asset. 

He has one.  It's cruel and self involved, but it's there, and genuine and unscripted.  The first time I noticed it was during the first debate, when Megyn Kelly asked him about calling women "pigs" and "dogs" and whatnot, and with a completely straight face, he answered "Only Rosie O'Donnell," as though that was okay, problem solved, and now let's on to the next question! 

That was funny.  

In this Real Clear Politics piece, there is a clip of him doing this talk-myself-down "stay-on-point" monologue that is quite funny and self-aware -- ALMOST but not quite self-deprecating. 

He was always pretty funny, if gross, on Howard Stern.  He understands the absurdity of his public image, and plays off it.  

He has some limited humor chops.  Sorry. 

I think these modern eclipses are much faster and more vivid than the old-fashioned analog clipses.

Yes, in my day eclipses were better.  They came with soundtracks, for example.

When I'm walking our dog and it's just me, I let her do whatever. But when there are other people around, I'm constantly on guard, and she's the happiest, sweetest, most loving pup you could imagine. She'd be friends with everybody. But people without dogs, or without dogs her size (she's a 60-lb. hound), may not realize what they're getting into when she comes in to sniff them. Children, especially, seem really attracted to dogs, but unaware of how much energy and strength an even moderate sized dog has. So yes, I'm on alert when unfamiliar people come around, but I let her have the opportunity and I'm just careful.

That's the ticket.  And right, be particularly wary with children. 

Joni Mitchell has been quoted as saying that Bob Dylan is not very gifted musically. Do you concur?

What?  No! 

The Founding Fathers (It was Monroe's suggestion, I believe) said that black people aren't actually people...only 3/5th of a person. They didn't want their property to be counted as a person. I know it was a compromise between the Southern and Northern factions but in the end, it was in our Constitution. How is it so heinous to think that these men who had great ideas for forming a country were also asshats who both owned slaves and said they weren't people? I've never understood how we as a country can look past those downfalls. Yes, Lee stood by his native Virginia and fought for the South...but had the Founding Fathers not perpetuated the abomination of slavery, maybe he wouldn't have had to.

The answer is simple.  The distinction we are making is not slave ownership in the 18th century, when that was commonplace.  It is deciding, 100 years later, to commit treason and kill Americans in order to perpetuate slavery.

You can buy various configurations of them in a "record store," and I'm sure they're available on iTunes, if that counts for being online. Did you not realize they've been officially released? Once in 1975, and a complete set a couple years ago.

Didn't make myself clear.  I OWN the basement tapes.  I just can't find Bash online to link you all to. 

If Nazis are illegal in Germany, why are they legal here?

Because we don't punish thought.  

The Germans, obviously, felt in this case they had to.  I get it. 

Regarding an offhand statement in a previous post: is it even possible to display the Confederate flag ironically?

You could hang it upside down!  Oh, wait, that wouldn't work....

Gene, up on the roof you missed by far the most impressive aspect of the eclipse. Next time, take a walk under trees. The holes between the leaves project the eclipse down onto the forest floor. When the wind blew, all of the crescents seemed like they were dancing, disappearing and reappearing in a new position. That was my favorite memory of watching a partial eclipse as a kid and my favorite part of the most recent eclipse as well.

Noted. I am not sure I understand the physics behind this. 

I think it's also important to note that Fey isn't just eating the cake -- she's eviscerating it, acting out the impotent rage a lot of us feel.


I remember the first time I heard Bob Dylan's voice on radio (very early '60s), and I thought it surely had to be a joke. Nothing has occurred since then that convinces me otherwise.

Please do not say this in front of sophisticated people whose regard you seek. 

Gene: While it may be true that you need more wipes to clean up your rear after pooping as you age, I also find that you can (partially) remedy this issue with Metamucil. I take two spoonfuls in water once or twice a day. Result? Nice firm (and easy to clean up after) stools. If I'm on the road, or if I forget, things get . . . gooey.

Why, tarnation, that is some fine advice for this old-timers' group chat. 

Can you figure out what kind of car she is referring to? I was in the same boat and FYI the Honda Accord (4 & 6 cylinder) comes in a manual, and my friend was shopping for an SUV and she said the dealership she went to ALL the Jeep Compasses were manual.


Last week you spoke highly of the "s____ing a brick" idiom. Many years ago I read an article about Kris Kristofferson where he described someone (maybe hiimself) who was nervous as "shaking like a dog s___ing a peach pit." I don't know what a peach pit would do to a dog's innards on its way from the front to the back, but that's an image that has stuck with me for over thirty years.

It's fine. 

Q: "Plus, he couldn't help talking about how he inherited all these bad decisions from previous presidents. Classless. " "Hello, I'm Barack Obama. I spent 8 years talking about the mess W left me. It was a bad mess, just like some of the messes I left this new guy." A: Gene Weingarten I don't think this is accurate. Is it? _____________ "The day I walked into office, I inherited the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression." ( I believe this type of language was typical, but I also don't believe that he attributed the recession to President Bush.

That is the important distinction. And he plausibly COULD have. 

Unless the link is broken, it shows a very vague, shadowy image of a story about checking for eye damage, the implication being that you have it if you can barely read the story. 

Ah.  But why all the lyrics to Eclipse-heart?

For a long time, every time I got on a metro train that was crowded enough that I'd have to sit next to someone, I would choose to sit by a black man. I figured they are always being judged for their appearance and perceived as threatening for no good reason, so I wanted to make the opposite statement. Then I realized no one likes to have someone sitting next to them on the train if it can be avoided, so I was essentially punishing them with my presence when I could have left that seat vacant and sat next to some lady instead.


Are you aware of any efforts to ban protestors marching with assault rifles? How is that NOT a perversion of the right to assemble when the sole purpose is to intimidate.

You are preaching to the choir. 

Yes, it's pretty funny when the side door is opened. But I would much rather see a picture of the Master of Your Household, aka Barnaby. (And, I think I have the spelling wrong.)

Next week.   I will also share a PAINTING of Barnaby. 

The events in Charlottesville and the article about in the Post about George Lincoln Rockwell reminded me of when I moved to Washington in 1978 for dissertation research. I was looking for housing and answered an ad for a room in a house in Arlington. I took a bus over (no metro to Rosslyn then) and a few minutes after exiting I saw 3 or 4 guys hanging around a house (not the one I was looking for); they were in full Nazi regalia, with brown shirts, jackboots, shoulder straps, and Swastika armbands. I said to myself, this is not the neighborhood for me and was soon back at the bus stop. I had read about Rockwell and figured they were a remnant of his organization, which I believed would remain insignificant. I still believe that they will never have any important influence, but it is shocking that these terrible ideas have found some traction again. Question: I think it is OK to counter-protest Nazis and “white nationalists” (really better to ignore them), but what do you think about the “anti-fas” like Mark Bray who say it’s proper to use violence against alt-right demonstrations?

I am completely opposed to the Antifas.  For one thing, they want to quell free speech -- it is part of their platform -- and they lose me there for good.  And they don't disavow violence.  Nope, begone, zealots.   These are the folks who would have happily joined the Reign of Terror after the French Revolution.   

I saw David Sedaris at Wolf Trap last weekend. He told a joke: "Do you know how to roast toilet paper?" "No, but I can brown it on one side."

Okay, see, that appeals to me.   Because I am a schnook, like Sedaris. 

What's a Provedores?

No idea. 

Gene, your thoughts on the rejection of the neo-Nazi web sites by GoDaddy, et al? Is there a slippery slop argument to be made here?

There is one, but the existence of a slope doesn't mean you can't have ANY rules.   If you have no problem with GoDaddy saying no to a pro- child molestation website, this should not bother you much, right?   GoDaddy is a private business.  They can make such decisions, and be subject to market censure if need be.  There won't be any here.  

I think the best analogies have to do with a "phase change" such as when water freezes or boils. Or when something melts. (For example, the difference between a degree or so can change a rainstorm into a snowstorm.) That's what the eclipse is like - a sudden change in the underlying nature of the sun, and why it is so impressive.

Ah yes.  Very good.   Perfect analogy. 

""They didn't want their property to be counted as a person."" that is actually not true. Slave owners and slave states wanted slaves to count as 1 person as it would give them more power and more Congressional delegates and votes in the electoral college. Northern free states were the ones who wanted slaves to count as less than 1 person.


...35-year-old woman, daily Metamucil taker. Has changed my life!

Good to know!  Do you work for Metamucil Inc.?

As a bleeding heart liberal, I'm fine with all the founder statues. When we memorialize that bunch of slaveholders, we're not memorializing the slaveholding, we're memorializing them creating the country. A country with problems, yeah, but the country. These statues of confederates, erected during the height of Jim Crow etc, are de facto memorials to slaveholding and treason. There's no way around that. But a question: what about memorials to confederates on battlefields? I think I'm okay with that... that feels more historically memorable than a random confederate statue on a sidewalk.

Interesting last point. 

Yeah, on a battlefield makes some sense.  At that point it's about honoring loss of life rather than the person hisself. 

Is it mostly racial bias? Trump has so little commitment to any particular principles, it can't be a clash of values/beliefs.

I don't think it's racial.  I think, like everything eles, it's about Trump.   He ran on how horrible Obama was.  He is doing badly, so his predecessor is the easiest scapegoat for why he is doing badly. 

3 seconds of googling yields the definition - a provider of food and beverages to ships. Derived from Portuguese.

So it is an English word, now?

Ugh, "sat next to some lady instead." COME ON. Of course no one likes to have their space crowded, so why do you always choose women? I usually try to find the worst manspreading offender and force him to make space for me for once.

Wow.  That's almost as hostile as he is being.  

Why is there no womanspreading?   (In pants, obviously.)  Never mind, I guess it's obvious. 

Yesterday I was in the totality in Wyoming on a beach on a river. It is the most extraordinary thing in nature I have ever seen and this is after visiting nearly half the countries in the world. It is a difficult experience to put into words beyond that you see things you can never see any other time in the sky and just before totality thousands of silver crescent moon shadows sailed across the sand, water, and our bodies. See one sometime folks, it is a fulfilling experience.

Now I am really envious. 

My husband just called my attention to his morning contribution and right there on the side was a produce sticker.

Wow!  It survived digestion?

""These statues of confederates, erected during the height of Jim Crow "" Many of the statues were also put up to commemorate the25, 50 and 100 year anniversaries of various battles. That is also the time of Jim Crow. Both statements can be true. But it is hard to know which was the motivating reason.

Jim Crow.  Not hard. 

It's not English. That van is based somewhere else. Check the phone number.

But the rest is in English, no?

This morning, as I kept hitting the snooze button on my phone, I saw I had news alerts. I didn't read them. I then dreamed they were saying that Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died. Please reassure me everything is ok.


I read a great history of the post-WWI period up until the beginning of the Depression a while ago. Hoover is more responsible than anyone else for averting widespread famine in Europe following that War. Government structures had broken down and there were lots of armed conflicts in the post-war period, all of which are conducive, along with the refugee crisis as boundaries were redrawn, to famine. Hoover was picked first to head the US-funded relief effort, and then, when the funding for that expired due to isolationism, he marshaled a private relief effort that quite simply worked. It made him popular and that's what helped make him President. I'm not arguing that his handling of the Depression was good. But any memory of him should include both thoughts.

Yep, he was one of the most accomplished people ever to be elected president. 

Addendum: Hoover's problem was that he was a loyal Republican, an ideologue of Republican ideals in the 1920s.  Don't mess with the economy. 

Hi Gene. Yesterday, a woman told me that she doesn't let her kids read "junk books" (which to her are comics, mostly). I told her I have no problem with it. In fact, some of my 6- and 9-year-old boys' favorites are Garfield, Calvin and Hobbes, and Cul de Sac. I'm happy to see them reading. But I couldn't convince her. What could I have said that might have? Thanks!

Well, I learned to read from the Sunday comics. 

Who had monthly constipation: I was in the same boat. Magnesium citrate. It has to be citrate. Nothing else worked until that.

This is now officially The Constipation Chat. 

can you recommend a good, not too expensive mechanical watch? My beloved Timex that I have had for a decade is slowly dying (doesn't light up, runs 1..2..3.. minutes slow, cracked display window) and now I think it's time to invest in something that will run forever.

You want to get a 1950s or 1960s Gruen on eBay, running, for under $100. 

Wasn't sure it was pointed out, but it was a WHITE SHEET cake she was eviscerating.

Hm.  I wonder if that was intended.  I doubt it. 

The real test will be tonight in Phoenix when he is surrounded by his raucous, meat-loving base.

I think I might watch.  There is no way he stays on message. 

Better remembered for his activism than his comedy?

Probably.   But his early comedy was excellent and viciously barbed.   "Do you know what a liberal white guy is?  Someone who will hang you from a low branch.

This is PERFECT. THANK YOU. I've been trying to articulate what's bothering me about some of my friends being in favor of just tearing down statues and punching Nazis, etc.

That's it!  

Okay, sorry, must leave a couple of minutes early today.  See you next week for a FULL CHAT WITH POLLS. 

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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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