Chatological Humor update

Jan 09, 2018

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 Jan. 30 at noon.

Good afternoon.  

I am going to do something a little unusual here.  I'm going to share a personal letter I wrote several weeks ago to another columnist. 

This other columnist is nationally syndicated, and writes conservative-leaning political columns that I generally admire, though we seldom agree.  But there was something in a recent column that really bothered me. 

I never got an answer to this; possibly, it was never read.  This person must get hundreds of emails a week.  

So, here it is.  I lightly edited it for clarity. 


I am an unreconstructed liberal and yet I like your columns, today's included.  I think you represent whatever the heck George W thought he meant when he was talking about "compassionate conservatism."  I am writing to try to get you to change something you do that is, in my mind, unintentionally dishonest.   I am weirdly confident I will succeed because I think you are a good person.  

You are not "pro-life."  You are "anti-abortion."  

"Pro-life" is a brilliantly shrewd political term, but that is what it is -- a political term, invented by anti-abortion advocates to make their advocacy seem more inclusive.  Who ISN'T pro-life?  Who could possibly be "pro-death," or "anti-life"?  Evil people!  Al Qaeda people! Screw them. 
And so I resent your calling me that, by implication, every time you label yourself pro-life.  It would be like the pro-slavery movement in 1858 calling themselves "Pro Traditional Values."  Technically defensibley, maybe, but simplistic to the point of profound dishonesty.  It is literally begging the question. 
Like most liberals, I am pro choice and also pro-life.  I love life.  I celebrate life. I am for the improved life of a woman in desperate straits, financial or otherwise, and I strongly feel she should have the right to abort an early fetus in order to make her valuable life better until some day she will be ready to give life to someone whose existence she will cherish and not resent. I know about the adoption option but feel it is not my place to tell a woman she HAS to carry an unwanted fetus to full term. (I am not sure how this is any less of an intrusion into one's privacy than the horror of a state-forced abortion.)   I am very much in favor of allowing a woman facing the prospect of a grievously disabled newborn to abort that fetus so she can try again with better luck, maybe producing a cancer researcher instead of a lifelong insensate invalid.  I understand that you probably feel differently about these things, and I respect your opinion even if I disagree with it.  
See, but that's the thing: You don't respect my opinion at all.  You are saying, by implication, that I am "pro-death."   And here we have reached the crux of the issue. 
I have written this in The Post before: I think the fundamental difference between pro-choice and anti-abortion people is not about a political disagreement or even an intellectual disagreement.  I think it is entirely visceral, almost primitive.   I believe that aborting a first trimester fetus is not "killing a baby."  You, presumably, do.  That's where this giant political issue incubates.   I am not in favor of "killing babies."  But If I genuinely think that a 12-week fetus is not a "baby," I am not pro-death, and I deeply resent your labeling me as such. 
And sure, if you DO believe that aborting a first trimester fetus is "killing a baby," then of course you must detest me.  How can you not?  How can you even be reading this email from someone who is an avowed baby-slaughterer?   How can you be glad -- as you state in your column --  that an avowed, unrepentant advocate for the murder of babies has been elected to the U.S. Senate? Are you an evil person, too, or an apologist for evil?
Nope, neither.  Why?  Because you and I both know this issue is complex.  And the term "pro-life" denies that complexity.  it reduces it, for the ignoranti sheep, to "Four legs good, two legs bad."   And you are better than that. 
Okay, we start at noon sharp, right here. 

As a movie buff of roughly your vintage, I have seen most, if not all, of the Best Picture winners and studied their competition. Most of the bad ones, of which there are more than one might think, are in years where the other nominees weren't very good either. I think Titanic falls into that category, although I don't hold it in the same contempt as you do. For me, that makes Rocky the worst BP winner--not a very good movie, and won over 3 bona fide classics-Taxi Driver, ATPM, and Network, and Bound For Glory which is also much better than Rocky.

I don't think Rocky was a bad movie.  It was an extraordinarily good schlock movie.  But I'll grant you that All The President's Men, Network, and Taxi Driver were vastly better. 

The consensus seems to be that Crash was the worst BP ever, but I dispute that.   I liked it, though unlike most people I considered it largely a comedy.   Like Get Out.  

This baseball season will be even more enjoyable now that fans throughout most of the country can go back to hating the New York Yankees. Now that they’ve returned to their evil empire ways of stealing the best players from small market teams and being the odds on favorite to win, we can no longer snugly pity them in their struggles. Instead we can enjoy the traditional hated of their domination and resulting arrogance. As an unreformed Yankee fan, do you appreciate how the vast majority of baseball followers, whose second favorite team is whoever is playing the Yankees, feel about your team?

Oh, I do understand that, but it is no longer warranted.  At all.  I will make the case: 

The Yankees no longer have the highest payroll in the game.  Depending on which payroll tracker you use, they are currently either third (behind the Dodgers and the Tigers) or seventh.  But that's not my big reason. 

The Yankees have NOT been raiding small-market teams, at least not in the traditional piggish way.  Their current crop of young potential superstars -- Gary Sanchez, Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Luis Severino -- were 100 percent home-grown.  And this years additions -- Gleyber Torres and Clint Frazier -- were top prospects obtained in trades when the Yankees gave up on the postseason in 2016 (a decidedly un-Yankee thing to do) and traded off ALL their big stars.   

So, what is to hate?  They built from within.  Just like the little guys.  

Also, they are going to the show this year, big time.  So FU.

Some time ago you reported that most animals take about 17 seconds to pee (it was you wasn't it?). Bigger animals- bigger stream. Ever since I've wondered about the scene in "A League of Their Own" where the women are timing their new coach played by Tom Hanks as he urinates and say it's a record. It's been many years since I've seen the movie but I'm sure it was way more than 17 seconds. Please discuss.

It was a MOVIE.    He could have peed for three minutes.   


But in fact it wasn't that long.  It goes from 0:26 to 1:14, which is 48 seconds.  



You realize that your letter could just as easily have been written by the other side? Every political issue -- and isn't it all politics? -- is in part a fight over language. Yes, I'm anti-abortion. But that's because I'm pro-life -- life of the unborn baby. I know we disagree, that you think a fetus is "just a mass of cells". But I don't despise you. I feel sorry for you. And of course you don't like that. So you want to claim the high ground with language. Except I can't sit back while you obfuscate what I see as the most important issue by calling it a "choice", as if it's the same as deciding whether to go to Cabo or Cancun. So there we have it, each of us wants to frame the debate with language that better helps our cause (and maybe helps us sleep better). Why do you feel your side gets to set the standard?

But "pro-life" is nonsense.   

"Pro-choice" is simply a description of a position.  It is neutral.   

What's wrong with "anti-abortion"?   Don't like the sound of "anti"?

One thing about your letter: You've put the sole focus on the idea that an abortion today can make for a better Future Mother tomorrow. What about those who get abortions because they don't want children at all? Being childless by choice isn't any less of a compelling reason than "it's not the right time, but I'll do it some day." I'm pretty sure you agree with me here, but your letter chafed as another example of how women who don't want children always seem to be left out of the discussion, whether it's about abortion, social services, workplace dynamics, tax benefits, or other societal or civic issues. Signed, No kids and pretty happy about it, aside from feeling kind of invisible (can you tell?)

Well, wait.  I was referencing a particular scenario.  That wasn't dissing other scenarios.   Yes, I think that abortion should be free to anyone who seeks it, for whatever reason, up to the point where the fetus is viable. 

I am in the fortunate position of not having to overly worry about money, and additionally just received a year-end cash gift I was not expecting. Most of my close friends are not so lucky. One in particular is in a line of terrible happenings that are beyond her control, and an amount of money that I literally would never miss would make a big difference in her world right now. She would never accept it directly from me, for pride and other reasons (and would want/try to repay it either directly or through gifts/etc- I don't want that), so I'm thinking of getting it to her anonymously from "Santa". There is a high chance she'd suspect me, but if I play dumb forever she couldn't know for sure. Is this a terrible idea? Is there a better way to gift a friend with money they wouldn't take if offered? It would be 100% no strings- she could use it for bills or a blowout in Vegas and I'd be happy either way.

Okay.  I think this is a great idea.  But how would you do it?  I'm trying to think how I would do it, and failing.  You can't mail cash.  If I got cash in the mail I think I'd have to report it to the police -- regardless of what letter came with it, I'd feel I was being set up for something. 

Am I being paranoid? 

How would you do it? 

So the stock character of the crusading newspaperman in the Old West -- did the townsfolk look on him as an arrogant easterner or as an asset to the community?

This is a paragraph from my 2001 story about Battle Mountain, the Armpit of America: 

According to David Toll's The Complete Nevada Traveler, the Battle Mountain area has two famous alumni. The first was W.J. Forbes, the Mencken of the Southwest. His was a brilliant if quixotic journalistic march across California, Nevada and Utah, culminating in the creation of a Battle Mountain newspaper named Measure for Measure in 1873. Unfortunately, it was designed to appeal to people who liked to read and knew how to think. When it failed, Forbes spiraled into depression and drink. As summarized half a century later by Carson City journalist Sam Davis: "A friend found [Forbes] stiff and cold across his shabby bed. He had fought a fight against all odds all his life, was one of the brightest geniuses the coast had ever seen, but he . . . lived in communities where his mental brightness was more envied than appreciated."

Battle Mountain, where genius comes to die.

Sloth for critical thinking and intellectual curiosity. I don't think he understands history or science. His vocabulary is basic. He reacts emotionally, not based on facts.

Yeah, this is the last deadly sin for which Trump is guilty.  I agree. 

Gene, I am the mid-50s poster who wrote last week about my discomfort with Al Franken’s being pushed out of the Senate. Because we are living in interesting times, I have another angle to offer this week. Early in my legal career I was a staff attorney for the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals. After the Loma Prieta earthquake rendered the courthouse uninhabitable, the Court dealt temporarily with the suddenly homeless staff by sending us out individually to work as “extra” law clerks for individual circuit judges for a month while the administrators found new digs for the central staff and administration. Alex Kozinski offered to take one of us on. At that time he was 39 or 40 – extraordinarily young for a federal appellate judge. He had been on the bench for about four years and had already acquired a reputation for being (a) hard to work with because he looked down on everyone who wasn’t as smart as he is, and (b) a misogynist who had never hired a female clerk and was dismissive of female attorneys appearing before him. The staff director asked me to take the assignment. He did not want to cater to Kozinski’s preference for male clerks, and he thought I’d be able to stand up to whatever hostility I might encounter. I agreed – I figured I could do anything for a month. It was an exhausting experience but I learned a lot from it. Kozinski really is brilliant and a fascinating thinker, even when I disagreed with him. He never behaved toward me in any of the ways that he’s been accused of now. Nevertheless, as soon as I heard about the women who stepped forward to accuse him, I had no trouble believing every word. My takeaway on him was that he was supremely confident of his own judgment, despite his relative lack of life experience, and utterly unconcerned about the sensibilities of anyone else, including (and perhaps especially) the other judges on the Court. He took delight in making other people uncomfortable and yanking their chains. The result was often very funny, because he’s smart and a lot of the victims of his humor were pompous asses. But the underlying pleasure he took in throwing people off balance was always evident. I am sure that every single one of his fellow judges knew (or hoped!) the charges against him were true as soon as they were revealed. Nevertheless, they didn’t insist he retire based on news stories. They called for an investigation first. (Paging Senate Democrats!) My month with Kozinski came to an end without incident, I went back to my “regular” job, and about six months later he approached the staff director asking if I could come back and work for him for three additional months. The director left it up to me, and I declined. I couldn’t put a finger on why but the idea made me uneasy. I’ve second-guessed that decision for decades. He was a hugely influential jurist, a recommendation from him would have opened a lot of doors, I have often wondered why I didn’t suck it up and power through whatever it was that made me reluctant. Now – finally – I can understand why I was uncomfortable and let that regret go. It’s an example, though, of how women’s opportunities have been silently or implicitly constrained by the presumptions of powerful men.

Thank you.  I think this is a succinct answer to a lot of questions. 

Here are the complaints against Kozinski. 

Do you think the decision to publish the Pentagon Papers was really as fraught/difficult as the movie is making it out to be? It seems to be something newspapers and journalists live for-- standing up for the first amendment, etc.-- and from a business perspective it even had an upside because it raised the national profile of the paper. Wouldn't -not- publishing hurt the paper more?

That movie was extremely true to the facts.  The paper was in financial jeopardy at the time and HAD to go public to survive.   Kay Graham okayed the Pentagon Papers thing knowing that pushback from the White House might have torpedoed the sale.    

URGENT MESSAGE FROM PAT THE PERFECT.   A Style Invitational devotee was looking at some old photos of relatives, and stumbled on this.  

Requesting your judgement as an experienced editor- what are your thoughts on the use of lit vs. lighted? I know they are both supposed to be equally acceptable, but lighted grates on the ear. Lit sounds right while lighted seems clumsy. Is it just me or is there valid preference?

You need to be more precise. 

"He lit the fuse" is clearly preferable to the alternative. 

"The rooom was well-lighted" is clearly preferable to the alternative. 



Trump advisor Stephen Miller acts like a movie character who, the first time you glimpse him, is deeply unsettling, and exudes an aura of evil. When you see him you know that he is a minion of an evil overlord, a minion whose diet probably resembles that of Jeffrey Dahmer.

I simply can't help noticing his superficial physical resemblance to Roy Cohn. 

It is even more profoundly dishonest to pursue policies that deprive this all-important "human life" of necessary goods and services after it is born, which is what most anti-abortionists do.

"Most"?  That's pretty broad-brush, no?

What are your thoughts on this reaction to the Wolff book? (IMHO, the opening disclaimer is alone worth the price of admission.) But I'm curious what you think of the overall suggestion that WH journalists are generally overprotective of their continuing access. Are we still seeing The Boys On The Bus, three journalistic generations later? 

Wow, this is quite a piece.   I like it.  

It's largely correct, though I am not sure why he is singling out Maggie Haberman so viciously.   But I don't think that what he is talking about -- the phenomenon of maintaining access by not torching your sources -- is indicative of a large character flaw in the media.  It's a dance that's been going on for a hundred years.  Good media have a way of mitigating any damage done by this.  We tend to use the sports model. 

The sports model: A reporter covering a team (the "beat" reporter) needs to maintain access.  That doesn't mean he or she has to suck up to the players or management; it does mean that he or she has to be perceived as "fair," and that does mean limiting snark, for example.  Say what's happening.  Interpret it truthfully.  But spare the sarcasm, for example. 

That's the job of the columnist.  A wall is built between beat writers and columnists.   Sometimes beat writers HATE the columnists, because when Boswell calls Snyder a pimp, it makes it harder for the beat writer to persuade the team SHE is not a *&%$@ too. 

Watergate happened because Woodward and Bernstein were not covering the White House.  They were nobody nebbishes assigned to look into a burglary.  

That's still the way to do it.  And by and large, we are. 


In T.H. White’s The Once and Future King, both Lancelot and Arthur refer to her as “Jenny,” which is how I figured this out.

This is in reference to my most recent column, in which I "revealed" that Jennifer was a derivative of Guinevere. 

Yes, I guess I am pretty late to this, but I was also really late to knowing that there never was a King Arthur.  Like, I was in my 30s.  

I also thought Robin Hood was a historical character.   

I mostly love IROL and think it is an inherently humorous technique. And it's not going anywhere - this is basically the only way my 12 year old daughter communicates. Related devices include: 1) sending a pre-IROL text that just states "MOM" (as in, "Mom, pay attention because what I'm about to text is important"*), and 2) adding multiple vowels for emphasis, such as "on my way homeeee." *It never is.

I like IROL.  It imparts an understandable  tone subtly. 

I noted the use of the word "early" to describe abortion in your letter. Where do you draw the line and who do you think should draw it legally? I've worked in and for abortion clinics and I still am not sure. I'd push it past "early" in cases in which the life of the mother or health of the infant was in jeopardy, but I think I'm equally uncomfortable supporting later term abortions where it's late b/c the decision was dragged out (or those weird cases where the woman didn't know she was pregnant), and telling a woman she HAS to carry a baby at any point. See? we liberal folk make things hard on ourselves!

I used "early" because I didn't want to ooze into that debatable area.   

I'm in favor of abortion at any time, including late-term, if it is a question of extreme fetal anomaly or the life of the mom.    Other than that, I am in favor of abortion for any reason so long as the fetus is not viable.  And yes, determining viability is sticky, which is why I didn't go there. 

Obviously, it is better to be "for" something, rather than "against" something, which is why people are always looking for a "Pro" label and not an "Anti" label. What about using the term, "Pro-Fetus"? Is that still objectionable to you?

Yes, objectionable.  I am pro-fetus.  

I think I disagree with your suggestion that the difference between pro-choice/anti-abortion is "visceral". I think that gives most people way too much credit for their thought process. The way I see it, almost the whole split on this issue is historical accident. In the 1970s, conservatives/Republicans (not to mention Protestants/Evangelicals) definitely didn't see embrace of the Catholic dogma on abortion as morally necessary. It seems to me that almost all "strongly held" views on this issue from the right, outside of a tiny minority, are partisan back-filling done after choosing conservatives/Republicans as one's "team." I don't know how this process ever reverses itself, but there's no reason that, over time, gradual political realignment wouldn't similarly reduce the polarization of the abortion issue.

I don't think you're right.  I think this is the most visceral issue out there.  I know some liberals who are technically for abortion rights, but deeply skeeved about it.   I think we all feel this one inside.  No? 

The brouhaha surrounding the new tell-all book about the Trump campaign and administration is predictably hilarious, or at least would be if we were talking about the laughably failed campaign of Trump rather than the actual President. The funniest part so far (as of Jan 4) seems to be the cease and desist letters sent by Trump's personal lawyers to Bannon and the publisher of the book. The basis of their argument? That Trump makes everyone he hires promise not to say mean things about him, and it's no fair that someone is publishing those mean things. Do we think this foot in the door will actually start opening the floodgate of stories from those who have dealt with him in his new role (past cabinet secretaries, congresspeople, etc), that might give traction to the 25th amendment folks?

I think a new narrative has just begun.    I think this is now an open and askable question.   I think it will go unpredictable places. 

Here's something that has occurred to me: What if the cabinet decides to meet to discuss the 25th Amendment as it relates to the president?  Will they try to meet in SECRET?  Would that even be possible?  Someone would tell the president.  Then what?

I am thinking it would have to be public.  

I should add that the Style Invitational guy who sent in the photo was Mike Creveling. 

-- is a determined pacifist and speaks out strongly against wars and invasions. -- is vehemently opposed to capital punishment. -- is strongly in favor of restrictive gun-laws and advocates for trigger locks, extensive background checks, waiting periods, and limits on the types of firearms available to the general public. Does the columnist fit that description? Or does the columnist limit his "pro-life" concerns to a cluster of cells inside a woman's body?

The columnist is a good columnist, and near as I can tell, a moral person with ethically consistent views.  I am not identifying the columnist because my point here is not to embarrass someone or grump about not getting an answer.  I just thought the issue is a good one. 

So pro-lifers, if at my 20 week anatomy scan, my baby is missing critical organs and will die hours after birth -- if not being stillborn - I should not be able to terminate? What about my life? How cruel. How agonizing those next 20 weeks would be for me and my family...and dealing with all the well meaning strangers who ask when I'm due? It's not all black and white.

I do believe that it would be a relatively small subset of "pro-lifers" who would deny you an abortion under those circumstances.  

With the constant news cycle, I sort of understand how this gets missed, but... not really. Congress passed a with law veto-proof margins imposing new sanctions on Russia. The President signed because he had to. Then... nothing. The sanctions were supposed to have been in place months ago. And congress is doing... nothing... to force him to do it. To me, this is a huge story, and a very, very bad sign. What the F kind of a check and balance is a legislature when the President just ignores their laws and no one does anything? How long until he does this with the Supreme Court and no one does anything?

How do you know they are not being imposed? 

I AM beginning to accept that Russia has something on Trump.  

Gene, your introduction is relevant for pretty much *every* political discussion/disagreement in today's world. One side characterizes the other side's argument as being something fundamentally "wrong" so as to preclude any opportunity to rationally discuss or debate. Kneeling during the National Anthem is protesting America/Our Troops/Freedom. Challenging the legality of drone assassinations against American citizens is Hating America/Supporting Terrorists. And so forth and so on. By accepting the premise, you've conceded the principle.

Interesting.  I see your point. 

I agree there were varying degress of bad going on, but the outcomes remind me way too much of McCarthyism, blacklists, etc. I don't like that.

I think this was a necessary purge.  I feel sorry for many of the men, who probably feel the rules were changed retroactively.  I am sure Franken feels that way: deeply bitter about how it happened.   

The truth is in between maybe, but I think this had to happen.  

Those poor nerds, trying not to snicker as they addressed Mr. Balls.

It's an astonishing name. 

Submitted for worst best picture. Technically beautiful, but the storyline was horrific. Spoiler: The boat sinks.

It's my nominee.  To me it is the equivalent of a rock song that is great musically but with terrible lyrics.   "I Will," by the Beatles.  That is Titanic. 

I have never met anyone pro-choice who was actually pro-CHOICE. Everyone I've met who claimed to be pro-choice is actually stridently pro-abortion and vehemently against anyone who would suggest a non-abortion (adoption, counseling, whatever) option. In other words, everyone must agree with their choice, not be given an actual choice ....or the discussions.

Uh, I think you are describing both sides.   This is an amazingly polarizing issue. 

Speaking of snitches. Great. I'm outed. My math teacher wife is named Anne Creveling, too.


The connective tissue? Innocence. Many liberals seem to go the opposite way, which I don't really get.

Well, I am against the death penalty for a cornucopia of reasons, but innocence is at the top.   Statistically speaking, based on recent DNA clearing cases, we have executed a LOT of innocent people. 

This is the exact thing gift cards are designed to do. You can give fully loaded cards (up to some high limit, or maybe use two cards) and mail them to the person. They activate them, see how generous "someone" was, and there you go.

And the donor is untraceable?

Can't you ask a lawyer to pass along the money for you?

That's more along the lines I was thinking.  Turn a lawyer into John Beresford Tipton.   (That reference will be gotten by about 20 percent of you.)

This is a description of a movie about journalists. Naturally we like to think of all journalists that way, but it's a starry-eyed fantasy. It's fabulous and redeeming when it works out that way, but I was around during that period and believe me, the Post's existence was seriously threatened by that situation.

Not catching your meaning. 

I'm on your side, Gene, but you're kidding yourself if you think it's neutral. There is a reason that the pro-choice forces adopted it instead of "pro-abortion," namely that it sounds as though it is defending a universally endorsed good (choice) rather than advocating abortion, willy-nilly.

Well, that IS the problem with "pro-abortion."  It's not accurate.   As we have established, many pro-choice people are anti-abortion.  They don't like it when people abort.  They just feel it is a basic right.   

If she has a mail slot in her front door you could drop it in that way. Too bad most of us don't. How did the guy do it on that TV show way back when I was a kid?

There ya go!   He had an emissary, whose name I forget but someone out there will remember. 


The show was "The Millionaire."   J.B. Tipton, never seen on camera from the front, gave his man $1 million to give to someone, out of the blue, anonymously. 

Who would you deem an "honorable" Republican? I think McCain is more driven by spite and pique than honor. Chuck Grassley? Please. Ryan? Pence? I know there are plenty of schemers and toads on the Dem side but it's hard to see them propping up a Dem as heinous as Trump.

Any Republican who has stood up to Trump in an unambiguous fashion.  There are a few. 

Every once in a while--like just now when you referenced your 2001 Battle Mountain piece, or a 90s movie where someone walks someone else to their airplane gate--I'm propelled back to memories of pre-9/11 days, and it makes me so sad. Do you ever miss it? I don't want to sugarcoat it or anything. There were plenty of problems to go around back then. But with every year that passes, less and less people remember that there was once a time when our daily lives weren't ruled by fear of a specter that would never directly harm the vast majority of us but was terrifying nonetheless.

I hear ya. 

... and NOT against other options including the abortion protestors handing the women a check for $200,000 so they can afford to raise the baby on their own. I'm just against the places that say they are abortion counselors and actually are totally anti-abortion and offer the women only the choice of adoption. You haven't met many people apparently.

Yes, I find those places despicable.   You know of $200,000 checks?

My wife always watches Titanic when it comes on. Every time she does, I step into the living room and ask her, "Do you think that the ending will be different this time?" Then I leave.

The shame of Titanic is the decision that the events of the day were not dramatic enough.  They needed a cheesy love story and a car chase. 

I think it's a tie between Titanic and Braveheart. Braveheart was a laughably terrible movie. I'm pretty sure the Academy was confused--they meant to nominate Rob Roy, which came out a month before Braveheart and also featured a brave Scottish rebel fighting the evil English lords, but they got confused and instead nominated the silly one with the ridiculous face paint and hilariously bad romance.

Never saw Braveheart.   I'll take your word. 

Gene, they have these magical plastic things called "prepaid Visa cards" (or MC or Amex) whereby one can gift the equivalent of "cash". Someday, when you join the 21st century, you might like to try them.

Noted.  But: 

Are they really anonymous?

Sorry, I'm clicking back & forth between you & Alex Petri. I was basically agreeing with you, Gene.


It was a horror film and at some points a horrifying reality for Black people. It had funny moments but it was not a comedy.

Disagree, and I think Jordan Peele would disagree, too.   Could be wrong. 

I have a pro-life relative who carried her pregnancy to term under exactly those circumstances. I think she's nuts, but I kind of admire her, too.

I respect that, too.   Am a bit horrified, but respect it. 

My grandmother, who passed away nearly a decade ago, lived for years on Social Security and the blessing of dividend checks and payouts from an investment her late husband had made years earlier. These checks would arrive at random intervals like manna from heaven when she was in, or was about to be in, dire straits. Only, my grandfather made no such investment and there were no dividends. This was a scheme concocted by my aunt and my mother, who knew my grandmother was too proud to accept money from them. They would type cover letters on fake stationary to make it look like the checks came from a company or a lawyer, get cashier's checks, and would drive a couple hours away to mail the checks so that my grandmother wouldn't recognize the postmark. I suspect she was onto them after awhile (they had to keep it going much longer than they anticipated when they started, as they never imagined she would live as long as she did), but she happily accepted the money she otherwise never would have.

This is a great story.  Thanks. 

I'm sorry, but if my name was that I'd change it. When my Uncle Harry got his birth certificate to apply for his passport he found that his name was actually Henry. Maybe this guy could have done the same. But then there's Ima Hogg. Ima Hogg Ima Hogg (1882-1975), philanthropist and patron of the arts, daughter of Sarah Ann (Stinson) and Governor James Stephen Hogg, was born in Mineola, Texas, on July 10, 1882. She had three brothers, William Clifford Hogg, born in 1875; Michael, born in 1885; and Thomas Elisha Hogg, born in 1887. Ima was named for the heroine of a Civil War poem written by her uncle Thomas Elisha and was affectionately known as Miss Ima for most of her long life.

Yes, a famously great name. 

What has happened to Howard Kurtz? I used to admire his columns in the Post and his on-line chat, which always seems to be very fair and balanced, not being afraid to criticize the Post when necessary. However, he is now with Fox and seems to be so afraid of criticizing anything to the right or pro-Trump.

Howie Kurtz has sold out.  He is doing the bidding of his employer.   I say that as someone who once knew him reasonably well, and respected his work. 

I recently heard a commentator discussing whether the Brexit would cause jobs in the finance sector to migrate from London to elsewhere in Europe. He (I believe) coined the term "Brexodus" for this movement. A rare double portmanteau. The only other example I can recall hearing previously was "vog," a portmanteau of "smog" and "volcanic ash" to describe what happened after Mt. St. Helen erupted. It seems like the Trump administration would be a fertile ground for double portmanteuax. Contest, anyone?

Javankatraz !   

Is what Michael Wolff did really so terrible from a journalist's perspective? How much do you believe?

I don't really know what he did or didn't do, yet.   I am hoping he has voluminous recordings, because if he doesn't, he's going to be slimed whether he deserves it or not. 

For example: I note that the spineless Bannon now says that when he was talking about "treason" he was referencing Manafort, not Don, Jr.   Really?  I am thinking that a tape exists that could establish this one way or another. 

I wish people would stop using "willy-nilly" when they mean either "wholesale" or "helter-skelter" or something similar. That is not what "willy-nilly" means.

Willy nilly means in a disorganized manner.    Not every which way.  I have misused it. 

Obviously the person claiming to have never met someone truly pro-choice is either lying or oblivious, but I wanted to weigh in anyway: I was a counselor at an abortion clinic--we made money on abortions (not, like, a *bounty or anything, but if no one got abortions, we couldn't stay open). And yet, I advised many women to go away and think some more on it. I gave others the number of adoption services. I told mothers that they could not force their pregnant 11 and 12 year olds (yes. sadly) to have abortions even though it was almost certainly in their best interests. So don't be ridiculous, pal. Pro-choice is pro-CHOICE.


Michael Anthony

Thank you.  Yes.  Played by....?

There are actually several good historical analyses that give compellking arguments that Arther was real, but a Welsh general or leader not a "King" in the modern sense.

I will read this after the chat! 

"Statistically speaking, based on recent DNA clearing cases, we have executed a LOT of innocent people." Sure, they may not have committed *that* particular crime, but they undoubtedly did something else to deserve being executed. Same goes for those unarmed people that get killed by cops. I don't feel this way, but I know plenty of people who do. It makes them feel so much safer.

I am writing about this phenomenon right now, for a chapter in my book.  There is a sociological term for it: biased assimilation in the attribution process. 

Petri is a BOSS. She really cares about HER chatters.

Yeah, well, when she reaches my age she'll have the same contempt for you that I do. 

sarah beattie is a very funny lady and its good to know if she does have sex with dogs she probably doesnt love it also when writing like this its nice to not have to think about whether its its or its.

this is in reference to my recent column re the weingarten IROL which some people took as a slam but i didn't mean it that way i like and respect the form even if i dont understand it fully yay

Do you often find that geniuses announce to the world that they are, in fact, geniuses?

I have an app that reminds me to do it every three months. 

I get to work at 9 and after checking my email I turn to the Post to check what chats are on for today. You used to have a little poll to tie us over until noon, but no longer. I find I am missing my little fix. I don't drink, smoke, use drugs, over shop etc, can't I just be addicted to this chat and get me a little something Tuesday mornings?

When I went to the all live format each week (remember when the updates weren't live?) in order to address Trump Anxiety, I had to adjust something.  It's not that I'm not getting paid for this -- though I'm not -- it's that I have to marshal my time.   So the one difference between these chats and the once-a-month big one I do is that there are no polls.  Also my intros tend to be shorter.  

I don't like all this armchair diagnosing. Plus it's a waste of time anyway because what is the point?

There actually is a point, I think.   The point is that it is beginning a dialogue.  Making it acceptable to speculate about this.  It's about a gradual possible slide toward deploying Amendment 25. 

The thing that bothers me the most about the pro-life crowd is that they advocate for policies that increase the abortion rate while claiming to oppose abortion. As someone raised Catholic I have complicated feelings on abortion (part of the “safe legal and rare” crowd), so I vote for policies proven to reduce abortion rates - sex ed, contraception for everyone, universal Pre-K, healthcare healthcare healthcare. The pro-life crowd isn’t pro-life, they’re pro-birth.

Your last line puts it perfectly. 

You know, I'm not with you on "safe, legal and rare."  I'm more aligned with the faction urging women not to deal with abortion as though it is sometimes necessary, but unfortunate and even shameful. 

I know this is hard for some people.  

Clearly, the Press hasn't learned from its mistake of hyping an unqualified person to be president. May I make one suggestion: stop it! Just, stop it! Oprah is no more qualified than the STABLE genius in the White House. Stop reporting this nonsense. Please!

Uh, we are reporting what others are saying.  

The precedent would be disastrous if Oprah ran and won.  Two consecutive patently unqualified billionaires elected largely because of their celebrity?  No.  And I would love her politics. 


A terrible, terrible, terrible idea, for reasons I just stated.  

So did you measure your blood pressure before and after your break from the news? Did it go down during the week off?

You are referring to this column.  I would say my anxiety level ratched UP a little bit.  But the biggest discovery was how inured I had been to significant bad news -- and how inured you all are.   I was stunned to realize that the biggest news of the week -- Trump savaging his own FBI -- was simply lost by week's end. 

It's not just that Trump lives all the deadly sins, it's that his response to these forces is always bullying and never, ever self reflection. That's what makes him such a despicable human being.


Given today’s news that North Korea is sending an Olympic team, I have been wondering - what if Trump’s brand of crazy is what’s necessary to bring Kim Jong Un into line? What if his presidency is a disaster in every way except that he scares Kim Jong Un enough to prevent nuclear war, and his presidency actually ends up being a net positive for the world?

Well, your premise suggests there is a real possibility of nuclear war with North Korea, Trump or no.   I don't see it.   And I don't want to be wrong. 

John Forsythe

I don't believe that is correct. 

Jordan Peele himself said Get Out was a documentary. It was kind of a joke, but not really.


It was nominated as a comedy for the Golden Globes. In his interview in the NYT mag a couple Sundays ago, Peele basically said (I won't get this exactly right, but), yeah it's dark and scary and very serious, but it's also funny. He didn't think it minimized the movie to call it a comedy as long as people understood that what it really was was the truth.

EXCELLENT. Exactly how I feel. 

I mean, The Great Dictator was a comedy, too. 

Al Franken probably didn't need to resign over his transgressions, but I could not give less of a damn. Burn the place down. There will be collateral damage--small price to pay for the debilitating damage that's been done to women.

I can't explain this well, but I don't really like your observation. I think this is more complicated than you think.  I'm trying to think of an analogy.   Maybe at the end of slavery, all slaveholders were taken out back and shot.  



Alex and I specifically conspired to do that. 

No, it doesn't. It means "whether you want to or not." Will-you-nill-you is the origin.

Cite me a reference, please. 

And the most interesting thing? No one referenced in the book denies saying the things they said. Sure, Bannon says he was talking about Manafort and not Junior, but it doesn't change the fact that he said it.

They know Wolff has proof.  They were idiots to talk to him. 

I got (really) thrown out of the theater watching that movie: the bit with the (spoiler alert) blanks in the gun being fired had me cackling like it was the Three Stooges, because I had just moved from L.A., and I knew the neighborhoods portrayed in that film very well, and the people who made that movie knew as much about them, to steal a line from Raymond Chandler, as I know about handling a flea circus. The rest of the viewers were NOT amused at my obnoxious laughter. But getting 86'd from that godawful theater is perhaps my proudest cinematic moment.

I have said this before, but the genius of that movie -- an occult genius, actually -- was that every single main character did one bad thing and one good thing. 

I have a young Asian colleague whose parents are either quite cruel or totally clueless. He shares the first name Harry with the fellow in that photo. His Chinese last name is not pronounced the same way it is spelled. So upon my first time seeing it I was rather shocked. After hearing him pronounce it I suppose I can understand how it happened. Nicest guy though. Always smiling. I am certain he had to put up with a lot when he was a kid.


Nope. You started from the contempt standpoint, since you are a New Yorker. Petri is a midwesterner, so she'll always be nice to us.

Okay, fair enough, jerkwad. 

I would love to live in a world where we didn't have abortions. I actually do think the clump of cells is a child. BUT, I do not think that the rights of that child trump the rights of the mother. We would not force a mother to give her child blood if it needed it, so we shouldn't force a mother to give her child her body for 9 months. And if that mother decides to keep or place the child for adoption, great. But she shouldn't be tricked into it by "clinics" that mask who they are or insurmountable obstacles placed on them by the state. I am decidedly pro-choice, but really don't like abortions.

I think there are a lot of you out there.  And I think it is an ethical and difficult position, and I admire you for it. 

Does that work?


Which is a description of the behavior exhibited by a young child. A 70-something man who exhibits the behavior of a young child is a prime candidate for a DSM 5 Code. The fact that this man-child has his finger on the "bigger" nuclear button is terrifying. The 25th Amendment cannot be invoked soon enough.

What is DSM 5?

Was played by Paul Frees, according to IMDB

Yes, but if my memory serves, we only saw the back of his head. 

Another phrase that needs a rest: Best (fill in the blank) on the planet. LeBron James is the best basketball player on the planet. Maybe. “We have the best voters on the planet.” Doubtful. “We serve the best burgers on the planet.” No you don’t! It does remind me of this great cartoon from 50+ years ago that appeared in MAD Magazine, the then-best humor mag on the planet. 

I remember this cartoon when it came out.  I always loved it.  

What did you think of the way Jake Tapper concluded his interview with Stephen Miller? I thought it was well deserved employment of a tactic that newspeople use far too infrequently.

It was perfect.  He simply turned away and introduced his next segment.  Perfect.   

Okay, we're done for the day. 

Please JUST KEEP READING PETRI THE NICE.   She'll probably stay online until 5 p.m. 

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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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