Tuesdays with Moron: Chatological Humor Update

Aug 02, 2011

Every Tuesday, Gene publishes weekly updates to his chats.

Gene's most recent chat: July 26
Gene takes questions for his updates from the questions he didn't get around to answering in his previous chat.

Gene's next chat will be on August 30.

On one Tuesday each month, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is sometimes updated between live shows, it is not and never will be a "blog," even though many persons keep making that mistake. One reason for the confusion is the Underpants Paradox: Blogs, like underpants, contain "threads," whereas this chat contains no "threads" but, like underpants, does sometimes get funky and inexcusable.

Important, secret note to readers: The management of The Washington Post apparently does not know this chat exists, or it would have been shut down long ago. Please do not tell them. Thank you.

Weingarten is also the author of "The Hypochondriac's Guide to Life. And Death," co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca and "Old Dogs: Are the Best Dogs," with photographer Michael S. Williamson.

New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.

Ed's Note: If composing your questions in Microsoft Word please turn off the Smart Quotes functionality or use WordPad. I haven't the time to edit them.

Good afternoon.   When I left my Capitol Hill home to walk Murphy Sunday morning, there was a swarm of cars around a collision a block away.   After I returned from getting Murphy her Sunday morning crepe (farmer cheese and cinnamon sugar) we ambled up to the wreck.   That's when things got interesting. 

The license tag on the car, like most license tags in D.C., had the pugnaciously subversive  slogan "Taxation Without Representation."   It also said "EHN1, "  which I recognized as belonging to a neighbor of mine:  Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's nonvoting member of Congress.  She was, indeed, behind the wheel.   The next thing I noticed was that she had been broadsided bv a city of Washington Police cruiser.

Even Murphy was interested, at this point.

I walked up to Ms. Norton, who wasn't hurt, and was taking it all pretty equanimically, considering.   After a morning visit to Eastern market for provisions, she said, she'd been driving home at a moderate pace, with the light, and the cop car had come fast out of nowhere.  She'd heard no siren, she said.    

The police knew they'd hit someone important, and usual civil protocols of communication seemed momentarily inoperative.  They were extremely taciturn, even to the point of declining to officially confirm that an accident had taken place, despite the glass, the crumpled metal, and the two immobilized vehicles. They wouldn't reveal that, assuming there had been a collision, who they felt was at fault, whether the squad car had been in pursuit of something or someone,  whether its siren had been on, etc.     They didn't seem to know what to say.

I did.

This was a highly unusual situation --  Day Eleven of the debt-limit impasse in Congress,  in which congresspersons seemed completely paralyzed as the global economy teetered in the balance.   Most of these inert congresspersons at least had the ability to solve the crisis,  unlike Ms. Holmes-Norton, who, owing to a grievous Constitutional injustice, doesn't even merit a vote.  Imagine her frustration at this TRIPLE inertness -- budget impasse, no vote, no wheels.   As I said, I alone knew what to do.

I went up to a scrum of officers at the scene, and said, "LET THIS WOMAN GO!   SHE HAS IMPORTANT GOVERNMENT BUSINESS TO NOT TRANSACT!"

Only the congresswoman laughed.

Do you take good pictures?  Me, too!   I hardly need to remind you of the fine money shot I took of Murphy just a few weeks ago.  But every once in a while I see something by my friend Michael Williamson that reminds me very few people in this world actually take pictures.   We point a camera at something, and push a button, and record what is there.

Michael takes pictures.  Here, for example, is HIS picture of Murphy:




And here's a recent one he took of a dog chasing his car:


Dog chase

Anyway, I want to share with you six photos he just emailed me from his new book, "Someplace Like America: Tales from the New Great Depression," written with Dale Maharidge.   It's a chronicle of 30 years Michael and Dale have spent with America's poor.   

I'd call these pictures.


Picture 1


Gene 2










It is appalling that you took advantage of a man whom you knew to be seriously ill. It is appalling that baited him, knowing that his judgment was impaired by illness. It is appalling that you pretended to be someone he trusted, by your sham pulse-taking. I assume that you disclosed none of this to your editors. If you did, and they still ran the story, they are just as bad as you. As to excusing your actions with "it was early in my career," you are blaming youth for lack of morality. That is a specious stance. As to the pot poll (not the dictator), I am dismayed that so few respondants believe one should reap the consequences of breaking the rules, not to mention the law. This is a slippery slope. But then, I don't parallel park by playing bumper pool.

This is in reference to the story I related last week about the sick man in the hospital who gave me the secret to his Little Black Book, which contained evidence of bribes/kickbacks/gratuities to city officials.

I challenged this poster to elaborate on why he felt my actions were "appalling," and here is the elaboration.   Let's talk about this.

The state was investigating very serious allegations about public corruption; the man in question owned a company that sold (or rented) things to the city at inflated prices -- had he given cash gifts to city officials, as was alleged, this amounted to kickbacks.

I was in his hospital room, having arrived there legally, with legitimate questions to ask.   I was not affected by a restraining order, which pertained only to state investigators. 

When I saw he looked pretty sick, do you feel I had to leave immediately?   Few journalists, or ethicists, would agree.   What you do is assess the situation.  If you feel you are endangering his life, you leave.    If you make an error, you live with the consequences, which would be dire.   

We are not playing games here; this was about a serious issue of public concern, and whatever my responsibilities were to this man, I also had conflicting responsibilities to my job, which was discovering the truth.

At no point during this interview did he seem to be in medical distress over and above his clearly weakened condition.   He engaged me enthusiastically.    As soon as I had what I needed, I left.

Was it wrong to play to his ego, knowing he was enfeebled and (in and out) a little confused?  Maybe.  You could go either way on that.   I think it was okay.

Was it okay to take his pulse?  No!  A really bad sin, I think.   It is the only point at which I was deliberately misleading him.   I said that last week.

As to smoking pot:  Look, you are a rule follower.  I am a rule skeptic.    We are not going to agree on this one. 

Thanks for writing back.

Public Corruption is a fact of life- example Our Congress, and even if you took them on, which would be great, front page story- going to a hospital to interview a really sick man who doesn't know what he's doing is SICK.- then to brag about a first big story makes your ethics really questionable-just sayin'- wish you'd kept that tidbit to yourself.


Listen, you may as well lecture an astronaut about the huge carbon footprint a space launch creates.   This is what we DO.  

As a result of this story, people in Albany learned that their elected officials happily accepted cash gifts from a man they funnelled business to, at inflated prices.  You know?

Sure. It's legal. Smoking a doobie is illegal, however mild the infraction. It seems that you are saying that smoking, like speeding, is OK because it is wrong de jure and not de facto. Which I guess I can live with, except that it makes the reporter the arbiter of what is okay. What if you think that adultery is a de jure offense? Does that make it okay to sleep with another person's spouse to get a story?

I don't disagree with your analysis here, but I think it's more objective, and less subjective, than you think.   The reporter is the arbiter only in the sense that he or she can ask his or herself:  Am I hurting anybody here?  Am I doing anything dishonest? 

Stealing hurts, and is dishonest. Sleeping with another's spouse can be seen as hurting another person, jeopardizing a marriage, and whatnot.   It also, arguably, is dishonest because, you know, sleeping with someone is pleasurable -- it's being done FOR YOU. 

Taking a hit of a pipe that's offered to you just isn't dishonest.   It doesn't hurt anyone.     You're not doing it for self-pleasure, you're doing it to facilitate a story. 

Boehner is a thug, truly, along with the other 'gang' members. Each are more concerned about their own careers and keeping tax credits for their campaign contributers. No matter that they are selling us down the river. I do hope that the American voters will not have amnesia going into this next election cycle. Why they chose to wake up while this president is in office is a mystery to me. A few short years ago it was ok to let the grandkids pay for this war. It was patriotic and the right thing to do for our troops. The rich will be able to buy America pennies on the dollar. Buy one house or business, get the second one FREE.

If I were a political cartoonist, the cartoon I would draw this morning would be Boehner, and Obama and McConnell and Reid all looking proudly at their new baby -- the bill -- and it would be the ugliest baby you ever saw.  Only the public, looking in through a window, would be seeing the ugliness.

Gene's next chat is on August 30.  If you're a real overachiever, you can go ahead and submit questions for it now by clicking here.

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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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