Chatological Humor with Gene Weingarten

Jun 02, 2020

You asked for it and you got it. Gene holds weekly mini-chats every Tuesday at 12 p.m. ET, where he takes your questions about what's happening in the country — and anything else you want to discuss.

Here is this week's poll.

Good afternoon. 

I lived through the 60s but I've never lived through anything like what happened yesterday evening.  A United States president orders law abiding citizens, peaceful protestors outside the White House to be tear gassed, shot with rubber bullets and herded by cops on horseback, all to allow the preening president to walk across thee street for a photo op, standing in front of a church that didn't want him there, holding up a Bible as a prop, idiotically attempting to regain some dignity he squandered during days of foul statements, incendiary language, and just plain cowardice.  Trying, in essence, to resemble a man.  He failed, of course.  He looked like a terrified adolescent, fearful of punishment, wanly waving a Bible, like a talisman.  It wasn't even his.  I doubt if he owns one. 

Did you see this Facebook post by Gini Gerbasi, a clergywoman at St. Johns who was there when Trump made his mincing assault on the church?  You should read it.  It is beyond horrifying. 

Check these two posts out. 

One of the most amazing reactions to Trump's pathetic march to historic ignominy came from Scott Walker, the failed governor of Wisconsin who actually wrote this, accompanied by a photo of Trump,  looking resolute, marching from the White House, flanked by a cordon of security agency protecting his scrawny butt, streets cleared out by force so he would not have to hear catcalls, let alone brave brickbats, which he deserves.  So Governor Scott tweeted this: "Hard to imagine any other POTUS having the guts to walk out of the White House like this."    Then, of course, the craven Walker tagged Trump, his lord and master.


Great feature writing lives on. Read this piece in today's Wapo by Hannah Dreier, about a legal immigrant woman trying to survive the plague. It is brilliantly told. Maybe the best story you'll read all year.

Walker got what he deserved, a barrage of sweet invective, my favorite of which noted that Scott's nose is so brown it got beat up by the cops.

We start at noon sharp.

DJT is often comparing people to dogs. He sees this as an insult. But, dogs are intuitively compassionate, loyal, forgiving, and loved by their families. Maybe he's just jealous because dogs are everything he's not?

Yes, he clearly doesn't get or appreciate dogs.  Also he uses his similes with astounding idiocy.  

Al Baghdadi "died like a dog, like a coward."   I have seen many dogs die, unfortunately.  Not one showed the cowardice of Trump, cringing in a bunker, afraid of his own citizens. 

Hillary Clinton "lied like a dog."  No comment necessary. 

Beto O'Rourke "quit like a dog."  

Marco Rubio "imploded like a dog."

Hunter Biden "got thrown out of the Navy like a dog."  (This is one of my favorites."

John Sununu was "fired like a dog."  (The only dog I know of who was ever "fired" was Laika, in the Soviet Union, in 1959.)


Other candidates onstage sweated "like dogs." (Don't don't sweat, period.)

Obama dropped his pastor "like a dog." 

Hillary Clinton "cheated like a dog."  (Dogs don't cheat.  They are too stupid to cheat.)

If you tried to claim Mexican citizenship for you child born in Mexico they would "throw you out like a dog."  

Gary Hart was "run out of office like a dog."

Ted Cruz "cheated like a dog."

Romney "choked like a dog."  (Okay, I'll give him that one.  Dogs choke with some regularity.)

Please note:  All the above quotes are true, except for one, which I made up.  Can you guess which?  I've left an important clue.

My hope is that Trump is buried by the voters like a dog. 

I was once at a right-turn light, several cars back, that had a green. Do you think people went through it like a normal light? No, no they did not. One by one, the cars *stopped* and looked before turning right (there wasn't cross-traffic; just a turn into a circle around a mall), and I about lost my mind and just LAID on the horn after car 4, I was so frustrated (at this point, I'm maybe 3 cars back). Well, after finally getting through, a middle-aged woman followed me to where I parked (I'm a small, 5'-nothing woman and was in a Beetle), came to my window, and proceeded to berate me for using my horn, asking me why I did so. When I explained "b/c we were at a green and everyone kept stopping," she then questioned why I was in "such a hurry" anyway and I "can't possibly have anything that important to rush for," and when she said, "I don't F'n CARE..." is when I went "ooo-kay" and rolled up my window to end it (I also ended up moving my car). My point is, I'm convinced if I were a 300-lb dude in a pickup, there's no F'n way she would've had the nerve to follow and lecture me.

I came up with that question after an incident a couple of days ago.  I was first in line behind a car at a light on a street next to a park.  The light changed.  The car didn't move.  I waited the requisite five seconds, then honked.   The guy moved and so did I.  Then I heard some guy screaming at me.  He was walking in the park.  He disapproved of my honk.  I will never know why except people are just effing weird about honking. 

I don't particularly like strangers touching my hair, and I also don't particularly care what my hair looks like. Therefore over the last 30 years I have regularly trimmed my own hair (though still went to the barber the majority of the time). The key is that I use the scissors on my Swiss Army knife. With 1/2 inch scissors, you can't too do much damage with a miscut, though the process is slow. Does it result in a great hair cut? No, but it's still better than yours.

Try toenail trimmers! 

So now on top of a pandemic, we have rioting across the country. Swell. Is it just my liberal bias that thinks a good chunk of the blame can be placed at the feet of dear old Donnie, who put Jeff Sessions in charge only to say the Justice Department wasn’t going to investigate civil rights issues in police departments across the country? Yes, the problem existed well before 2017, but having the head honcho shout “all clear!” didn’t exactly ameliorate much.

I place "huge" blame on Trump.  He has set a tone, a baseline, where being openly racist is okay.  He has set a tone where it is okay to physically attack the media.  He has set a tone where it is okay to commit violence in support of The Way Things Ought to Be According to The President.  He is a dreadfully terrible president during a time of horrifying multiple crises.  AND he is personally repulsive.  Buchanan was incompetent, but not personally repulsive.  Trump kicks B's butt in vying for worst ever.  

Alert: The link in the intro has been taken down because the Hitler holding a. book component was, alas, photoshopped.   Here is a new link  only to Trump's idiotic photo op.  

Gene, I've been reading a sample of the book, "The Secret Life of Pronouns" by James W. Pennebaker. In it, he mentions the website that he and his students built. Since I've been reading you for years, I entered your Twitter Handle and got the following results:

Analysis of tweets from geneweingarten (703 most recent words - 29th May, 2020)

Emotional Style Upbeat (High) 67 Worried (High) 67 Angry (Low) 33 Depressed (Average) 55

Social Style Plugged In (Average) 47 Personable (High) 78 Arrogant/Distant (Average) 47 Spacy/Valley girl (High) 67

Thinking Style Analytic (High) 75 Sensory (Average) 54 In-the-moment (High) 68

It's interesting, huh?

It is, but there is no way that I am merely "average" on Arrogance.  

Gene, I know you're a baseball fan. I got to rewatch the World Series recently. In Game 6, they called out Trea Turner on a bogus call, then spent five minutes on the phone determining "if the Nats could protest the game". Protests take 10 seconds. The umpires say the game is being played under protest, the following day the Commissioner says yay or nay, but too late there's nothing we can do about it, so sorry. I think the umps knew they blew the call and were trying to figure out a way to overturn it. What do YOU think was going on?

I don't think it was a blown call.  

I will now dodge the brickbats and thrown shoes. 

The rule is this:  A batter is out when: In running the last half of the distance from home base to first base, while the ball is being fielded to first base, he runs outside (to the right of) the three-foot line, or inside (to the left of) the foul line, and in the umpire’s judgment in so doing interferes with the fielder taking the throw at first base, in which case the ball is dead; except that he may run outside (to the right of) the three-foot line or inside (to the left of) the foul line to avoid a fielder attempting to field a batted ball.

There is no question that Turner was running inside the line during the last half of his streak to first base, and also that he interfered with the throw.  He knocked the first baseman's glove off!  Joe Torre explained this the next day, and Joe is the straightest shooter in the game.  

Playing a game under protest is a ridiculous thing.  It's basically like "pleading guilty with an explanation" in traffic court.  A mollifying but meaningless procedure.  

Which face among the clowns in tRump's circus do you think is the most punchable?

You are calling for violence and I would never dignify that with a response Mitch McConnell. 

I'd guess you made up "imploded like a dog" -- "imploded" is much too syllabic for Trump to pronounce.

Give the man a fish!  Yes, exactly.  Trump has no idea what imploded means. 

I still recall a piece by Dave Barry years ago, in which he explained the four reasons why NYC drivers honk: 1. The light is green. 2. The light is red. 3. I hate you. 4. This vehicle is equipped with a horn.

I remember that! 

Was apparently a direct response to cable news reports about him hiding in a bunker. Among other things he asked who (in his circle) would have told the media about it. The more I think about it the more I don't think that leak was to undermine him. I think it was to push him to more "strong"man stuff. Someone in there isn't working to make him look good, he is working to make Trump smash more democracy.

I don't think he needs help looking bad. 

one thing that struck me when I first saw the photo is that its obvious he doesn't often hold a Bible. The way most Christians and clergy hold it is with your palm cupped around the bottom of the spine, with fingers around the front/back. It was a personal worst/best for the Trump show.

I think he was trying to look like The Statue of Liberty.   

Someone tweeted that he looked like an 8 year old in front of the class during show and tell.

I do not consider myself to a be particularly vain woman. I do not consider myself to be particularly fashionable. I'm one of those people who are satisfied with most any photo of me because the photographer caught me with my eyes open and my mouth in a smile, and this is so much better than other photos of me! But I gotta go to the hairdresser. I've been dyeing my hair for years. Not too much off my normal color of muddy brown. Not to cover gray. Just because when I turned 40, I decided that I wanted a new look. It's a richer color, a more vibrant color, and I think it adds a lot to my looks! I was due for a roots touch up when everything went down and I had to cancel my appointment. And now..... Oh lordy it's bad. It would be better if it were not dyed at all. And I still wouldn't care, except..... There's a major event in my life coming up and it's still on even with the pandemic. There will be a photographer. I gotta cover these roots!

I'm thinking some hair cutters could make a fortune going home to home.  No?

A while ago, maybe a year, you had a poll on whether we would root for the economy to tank if it meant getting Trump out of office. While that thought experiment didn't include a global pandemic and impending race war, what's your opinion now? Has it changed?

This will sound callous, but I am of mixed mind. 

As a thought experiment, I would have to go to my go-to straw man, God.  

What if God did this to us all, with the single goal of defeating Trump.  Would I be mad at God?  

Don't think so.   This construct allows me to not have to say -- because I don't really believe -- that this is something I'd have wished for. 

Any other POTUS wouldn't need guts to walk out of the White House.

Now, now.  You don't know that's true!

Oh, wait. 

The year 1968 was a turning point for me. I was back in December 1967 from a year in Vietnam with the First Infantry Division and finishing my undergraduate education on the GI Bill. So I had time to observe what the USA was doing and how it had changed while I was away. But my question is "Is this year like 1968 to you?" I had thought 1968 was way in the past. Now I see some common elements.

There are some similarities, but some significant differences. 

1968 was, by some tangible measures, "worse,"   Young Americans were being slaughtered in sickening numbers -- and Asians in exponentially higher numbers --  in a misbegotten, pointless, racist war. Two giants of history were assassinated, one for racist reasons, the other for (largely) antisemitic reasons.  The war-heated economy wasn't doing too badly, though! 

I think a difference (this is a feeling, obviously, and my memories of 1968 might be colored by the fact I was 17) is that there is an even greater sense of despair today.   Loss of life is, in fact, greater, due to Covid, though it's hard to blame a virus the way we blamed a rotten, dishonest, lying war.  

To me, the big difference is the man at the top.  Lyndon Johnson was basically a decent man caught in a mess, waist deep in the big muddy.  Not many people doubted his maturity, cognitive abilities, or even his general morality, which he had proven by his deep devotion to advancing civil rights.  History has elevated his to a better than average presidency.  

What we have now is an ignoramus, infantile president waging war on his own country, stupidly, savagely, and to disastrous effect nationally and internationally.     Lyndon Johnson, who knew shame and understood politics, chose to leave.  This guy shows every sign of going down fighting, and bringing the country with him, because nothing matters other that survival of the Great Himself. 

In short, I remember 1968 as an angry time.   I regard now as a despairing time.  Which is worse?   Anger promises hope.  Despair does not. 

In any normal presidency, Monday's tear gassing of peaceful protesters in DC so Trump could take a photo in front of a church would be a nationwide outrage. In this administration, I don't even think it would make the list of top ten things this president has done this year, let alone since 2017.

I think it's the worst, optics-wise.  He is firing on law abiding Americans for his own political gain.  

Are there any words you deliberately misuse because otherwise it sounds douchey? I know that it's "sneaked" and not "snuck" but geez I just can't bring myself. The school I work at calls a lab a "practicum", and the professors who refer to them in the plural as "practica" sound super pretentious even for professors.

 I am reluctantly moving to using "their" instead of "his or her," though it sounds terrible to me -- but it has become politically necessary and I think, increasingly, it sounds as though you are making an obstreperous political statement if you stick to the Old Way.  

I read a study where the driver would not move when the light turned green and timed until the first honk. New York, unsurprisingly, was quickest. In Seattle, one driver sat for 5 minutes before getting out and politely tapping on the window, to see if everything was all right.


I've been making my way through One Day and can absolutely recommend it for pandemic reading. The chapters are the right length and give the built-in pauses that my pandemic brain needs. Not much has been able to hold my attention, but this book has. For that, I thank you profusely. I'm enjoying the premise and the individual stories very much. I have a question about a word choice on page 161. You refer to the "classic childhood gyp." While I grew up in a house that used the word, it has been my understanding that it's derogatory in nature and a slur. Is there a reason you chose that word specifically, instead of coming up with something different? It seemed especially jarring to be included within the story it was. I can only imagine that Ellie has faced slurs and/or unintentional insensitivity directed her way over the past 15 years.

It's subtle but I tried to use language that would be familiar in 1986.   Gyp was not thought to be racist.  Might have been a mistake. 

The book has a set of Easter Eggs that no one has found yet.  Very very subtle.  I am still waiting for someone to find them. You might all have to buy multiple copies. 

So, the great orange one has a nickname for those he wants to put down. Based on the events of the last 3 years and especially the last few days, I think Weak Donald would be a perfect fit for him. He certainly fears that people might think he is weak. So can we start using #WeakDonald whenever referring to him in social media? I've already started.

Unmanly is the word that would really get to him.  But I fear he'd nuke Sweden to disprove it. 

I know this is far from the most pressing issue of the day, but it's a big one in my household and one which you have addressed before. Our elderly pet (a 14 year old dog) has been having increased health issues lately. My family had previously established 4 markers of quality of life that we wanted to monitor for her--continued appetite, continued continence, no obvious chronic pain/distress, and enough mobility to get around the house and go out to the yard for bathroom breaks. She still meets all of those criteria. But, she developed a seizure problem last year, and those seizures seem to be getting more frequent. And her behavior has also changed a little, in that she seems restless and sometimes has trouble settling down (where once she was a world champion sleeper/relaxer). Are our criteria still valid? Are we missing other ones that we should be considering? The vet is extremely hands off about discussing this kind of thing, saying that it should be entirely our decision and free from her influence, unless she feels that an animal is in acute and irreversible distress.

Your vet is right.   No decision, given your description, is "wrong."   

I would say you have some time to go.  I would add a fifth criterion:  Is the dog still getting joy from life?   If the answer is yes, to me that is a big (though not dispositive) factor.  If the answer is no, it's a bigger factor.   

Thank you.  There is an upcoming Barney & Clyde on this very subject.  

In what world is this headline, Bumble Bee Seafoods fires Horatio, its long-time canned tuna mascot, better than Bumble Bee Seafood Cans Mascot? (I can’t bring myself to write seafoods any more than I could deers or geeses.) 

Your headline is 6,000 percent better.   

Why are fans so quick to line up on side of ownership against the players?

I think that's pretty American.  We resent people who make a fortune.  We DON'T resent owners who make a fortune because that seems more capitalistic: The entrepreneurs are SUPPOSED to be rich.   

I feel the opposite, but I am a traitor to The American Way. 

Related to last week's chat, I recently noticed two different professional science communicators from the UK (whom I otherwise admire) saying "noo-kyoo-lar" instead of "new-clear". I know they are intelligent people, but that pronunciation of "nuclear" makes them sound like toddlers who say "pasghetti" because they can't pronounce "spaghetti", or like George W. Bush, which might be worse.

I dislike "nuke-you-lar" as much as the next person, and it IS considered wrong (at least for the time being -- dictionaries, which are descriptive and not prescriptive, always eventually cave to common usage) but here is a lexicographer explaining WHY so many people pronounce it wrong. 

Oop, I just checked Merriam Webster, and it turns out (brace yourselfs) that nuke-you-lar has made the half leap from "wrong" to "nonstandard."   That is like being beatified prior to being declared a saint.  We all know what is coming. 

Turner could not have interfered with the first baseman's catching the throw to make the out. He beat the throw to the bag. Therefore catching the throw after he reached first is irrelevant. The umps blew the call, ultimately to the benefit of the Nationals since the umps iced the pitcher.

I don't think it's clear that he beat the throw. 

Made me cry. That is all.

I hear ya. 

I am a big believer in, if I can see the light change and look down to see if you have moved your head or the brake lights are still on and then look back at the light and you haven't moved, you get a honk. Not a loud, sustained one, but just a tap. (Was all my last car could do, really.) I lived in Connecticut for four years, and had to give out a lot of those taps to the snowbirds back for summer. I always get lectured when I do it at home (a plains state) because NO ONE honks - it's just considered rude. And I'm like, it's ruder that they won't pay attention to what's going on around them. But now I'm back in the land of public transportation, so I don't even have to think about it anymore and can be "rude" in other ways (like walking up an escalator)!

Walking up an escalator is rude?

My husband's hair length is just like you: hasn't been this long since I met him 35 years ago. The difference is he doesn't care if it grows down to his a$$. He had multiple brain surgeries a number of years ago and since then, his once beautiful hair has turned to crap. He has gone to barbers, cheap cuts, really expensive cuts, both salon and OTC products, nothing works so he decided not to bother and just let it grow. He says he is going back to his hippie roots.

That's boss. 

I'm astonished at the poll numbers on the Trump question. I hate him as much as most of your chatters do but what does he have to do with a local cop killing a black guy in Minneapolis? Now to say he hasn't been the least bit helpful in terms of calming the waters or supporting states and communities or being at all empathetic to the family or protesters, is a whole nuther question altogether. He can be accused of fanning the flames or throwing gas on the fire, but as much as I would like to blame him for the original incident, I don't see how I can.

The question wasn't about the original incident.  It was about his responsibility for the racial tensions that led to that incident, and resulted in what it resulted in. 

I believe he has given voice and cover to the violent racists.  When you know the president has your back you will do and say things you otherwise would not do or say. 

If I am in no hurry, I'd only honk for the benefit of the cars behind me. If I'm the 3rd car in line after 5 seconds I accept that this green light is already lost. The horn should generally be used to signal danger, not impatience.

Wow.  So you'll forfeit the light rather than honk?

I never have regarded honking as a rude or hostile act.   I'd be grateful for a honk if I ever basically fell asleep at a light. 

Trump is a terrible person who has made it OK to obviously be a racist again. However. Racism is not people just being jerks but a systemic problem that has been baked into our country from the very beginning and worked into our laws and systems over hundreds of years. So no, I don't blame Trump for most of what's going on right now. I do blame him for exacerbating things.

Well, that's a distinct degree of blame. 

This is a dicey subject to talk about even as a hypothetical, but — do you think secret service agents ever discuss whether there’s a point where they should, y’know, intervene? Is there any quiet understanding as to whether at a certain point serving the nation’s best interests and protecting certain individuals are no longer aligned? I would love to get a veteran secret service member tipsy and see what they have to say on this subject.

No, I doubt that is ever discussed.  They have one job, and I am sure they take it deadly seriously.  

Are there any (legal) jobs that you feel are unethical? My list: 1. Working for the current administration in any political capacity, 2. Payday Lending : I don't think it should even be legal, at least at the current usurious rates, 3. Casino Dealer: plenty of people have fun, but watching some people lose more than they can afford would either break me or cause me to build up a callous (I suspect the latter, and that bothers me). 4. Tobacco companies

I am loath to criticize any legal occupation; people need jobs, there is dignity in work, etc.   I once wrote something mildly critical of people who work as "bathroom attendants" and an editor (sigh, it was The Butcher, in one of his few correct decisions) took it out of my story.  He did it again just a few weeks ago when I criticized boiler-room telemarketers.  He was right both times, actually.   You sometimes do what you have to do, for your family. 

But.  There are exceptions.  Everyone with a political job in this administration could get other employment, probably at more money.  They are doing it because they want to do it, and they suck.  I am torn on tobacco.  It's not the little workers who should be blamed.  

So, are there others?   Yeah.  People making money off viruleent anti-abortion jobs.  People whose job requires obviously bigoted stances.

Anything else? 

If I'm right behind someone so inconsiderate as to ignore a green light for three seconds, they get a quick honk. But if I'm two back I assume the car in front of me isn't honking because they can see something I can't -- a driver in distress, a pedestrian who didn't get out of the way in time, lights and sirens coming up in cross traffic, or some other odd circumstance.

Hm.  Is this what explains the difference in the voting?  I will honk pretty quickly in either case.  You can usually see just fine two cars back, no?  I admit your answer gives me pause. 

Okay, can someone who basically NEVER honks at a light explain why?  This is completely foreign to me.  People are willing to sit through an entire light cycle if the guy in front of them is texting? 

Hi, first I was pleasantly surprised to hear there's a Comic Book Legal Defense Fund and then thrilled to hear the Exec Director is named Charles Brownstein (close enough to Charlie Brown). 

Yes, it's a Jewish Charlie Brown.  I've always felt CB was Jewish, with all the requisite anxiety and self-loathing. 

An issue where the stakes are low has me annoyed enough to share with you and the chatological humorons. The German Bundesliga soccer world feed I watch on FS1 and FS2 is using artificial crowd noise. I am appalled and find I can only watch with the sound turned down so low I can barely hear the commentators. I’d go soundless but I do too much distracted viewing (internet, chat, eating, nodding off) that I occasionally have to rewind (live or recorded) when a goal or other major thing happens. Here’s an article about it by Avi Creditor, one of the former SI’s surviving (not fired) great soccer writers. The other day I was so disgusted I deleted the game after 5 minutes. It’s full of crowd chants, and booing/whistling when the home crowd doesn’t like the ref’s calls, or when an away player is down after being fouled or diving. 

Maybe I’d feel differently if not for the last many years of so much lying and manipulations. Of course I hate all the manufactured scoreboard cheering and Blaring noise between innings/during timeouts the goes on when I go to non-soccer games. Do we really need some broadcast director and sound engineer collaborating on an Orwellian solution to empty stadiums. I guess I have to praise their restraint for not green screening the stadiums to give us cgi crowds. I mean, it’s not like the broadcasters and Bundesliga can point to better ratings than games with artificial noise, because they didn’t try it. 

I was introduced to a great German term to describe these games — Geisterspiel — ghost game — by Derek Rae, the Scotsman in New England who would normally be among the commentators on the Bundesliga’s world feed, and who’s been part of American broadcasts of the World Cup since at least 2002. His brief match previews on the twitters, and his general presence there, have been something to look forward to during all the society destroying nonsense.

Do y’all want ghost games full of canned noise? The KBO broadcasts seem fine without them.

I'd have to watch some of these.  I will say that watching John Oliver broadcast from home, with no studio audience and no canned laughter, is disconcerting.  He seems less funny, even though he and his staff are doing a fine job with good scripts.  Having said that, I wouldn't want him to insert canned laughter; it would inject phoniness into a show that is all about No Phoniness.   It's a dilemma. 

My wife and I fired up the turntable this morning. George Harrison's "Awaiting On You All"  contains the following verse:

And while the Pope owns fifty-one percent of General Motors

And the stock exchange is the only thing he's qualified to quote us

Does this couplet work?

Hm.  I allow for stretch rhyming in song, largely because you can sing it so as to force the rhyme to be clearer.   So, sure.  

I wouldn't rhyme "quote us" and "motors" in a poem.  Song's different.  

Dylan can make ANY two words rhyme.   "Obnoxious" and "beautiful"?   Sure.


I'm a few weeks late to the party about African geography, but I wanted to call B$ on your claim that people are lying if they say they can identify most African countries. I can, but I am a nerd, which means that I care about things that nobody else cares about. The key to learning geography is to make a connection. 1. I'm a Navy veteran. Sailed through the Suez Canal. -> I know where Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia are, because I've seen them through binoculars. 2. I'm a soccer nerd. a. Ghana knocked the US out of the 2010 World Cup. The US beat Ghana in a group stage round in Brazil in 2014. Ghana eliminated Egypt (coached by American Bob Bradley) from that World Cup. I know where Ghana is. b. Didier Drogba is from the Ivory Coast. Google "Drogba Pepsi hospital". I know where the Ivory Coast is. c. I took my family to Winnipeg in 2015 to see the US women play in the World Cup. We saw the Nigeria vs. Sweden game before our women played. I know where Nigeria is. d. Before Landon Donovan's iconic goal against Algeria in the 2010 World Cup (I know where Algeria is), the US men played to a 3-2 tie against Slovenia. Oh, wait. 2-2 tie. The referee inexplicably disallowed a goal scored by Maurice Edu that would have given the US a win. That ref was from Mali. I know where Mali is. e. George Weah is a former international soccer star, and is now the president of Liberia. His son Timothy is a rising soccer star and holds a US passport, and is likely to play for the US. (plus Darlington Nagbe). I know where Liberia is. f. My friend David is from Cameroon. (We play indoor soccer together) I know where Cameroon is. 3. I speak a little bit of German, and I listen to Deutsche Welle to hear slowly spoken news. They've covered the downfall of Robert Mugabe much more extensively than the western press has (in my meager estimation). I know where Zimbabwe is. 4. Obama's father was from Kenya. I know where Kenya is. After I got to up about 15 countries, it literally became a game. Play it once a week, and see if you can do better next week than you did the last. Try to make a connection in your mind to each of these, no matter how simple. (My cheat code = Niger borders Nigeria). It's really not that hard.

Well, ain't you a piece of work.   I played the game and did about as badly as an adult human could do.  The only countries I knew immediately were South Africa, Republic of Congo, Libya, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Egypt and Madagascar.   It was humiliating. 

Your haircut poll question was very timely for me because I had gotten my first haircut in over two and a half months a couple of hours before I saw the poll. I live in Alexandria, which reopened a little bit over the weekend. I had to mail something Monday morning (using a drop box from my car window) and it occurred to me to drive by my usual barber shop to see if they had reopened. They had. I parked, put on my mask, and walked up. One of the barbers was sitting outside. They have four chairs and two were occupied when I got there. They told me that I would need to make a reservation in the future, but they wrote down my name and number on the reservation list, seated me right away, and started cutting. The other two haircuts finished fairly quickly and, for a while, I was the only customer in there. Eventually another walk-in came to the door. He didn't have a mask but they gave him one and insisted that he put it on before he came in. They went through the same name-and-number fake reservation routine, and seated him right away. I didn't think he needed a haircut, but then he asked for a "high and tight" and I realized the poor guy was probably suffering from haircut withdrawal way more than I was. When they finished with me, Mr. High & Tight was the only remaining customer in the shop. I felt and still feel fantastic after the long-awaited haircut. My hair had gotten so long that I had bed-head from hell every morning. Hair kept coming down over my eyes and tickling the top of my nose. I felt like I was becoming a sheep-dog. My wife started talking about how curly my hair was getting in the humidity. Apparently I have some latent curliness that never had anything to work with before. At least she thought it was kind of cute. I was dreading an unplanned Zoom session that might reveal my new found locks straining to be free after 57 years of flattened oppression. Anyway, that was the best and most satisfying haircut I have ever had in my life. I never thought a haircut could bring happiness, never mind so much of it. I did not feel unsafe while I was getting it. And I have no regrets. As to the mechanics, they were able to cut my hair with the mask on. I was using one with elastic loops over the ears. They stretched the loops out of the way while cutting near them. Mr. High & Tight opted for a different approach; he just held the mask over his face while they cut. The only thing that was different was that they couldn't use a straight edge razor on the back of the neck. They used an electric razor instead.

Well, good. 

I ain't doing it for a while. 

I look like a Australopithecan. 


You may not honk for more than 1/2 the time you have been inconvenienced. There is a big difference between <tap> "hey, look up" and ,<HOOOOOOOONK> "HEY! Put down the phone and pay ATTENTION!!!" C'mon, it's five seconds man.

Agreed.  I am not ANGRY at the car at the light.  I have done that, too.  It's a nudge.  Not hostile or threatening.  

Did you read George Will?  Isn't this one of the signs of the apocalypse? I mean, I know the man doesn't like Trump, but the entire Republican senate? This may be the best column he's ever written.

I believe it IS the best column he's ever written.   Some gratuitously hifalutin words, but that's Will.  A great column. 

Thanks for including that link. I found myself weeping as I watched it. I was shocked by my response.

It's amazing.   It's hard to remember how things used to be. 

Sure, it's spelled "lobbyist," but let's call it what it is.

I recently learned that a friend of mine works for a lobbying firm that represents the Saudi thought to have masterminded the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. 

Confused and Afraid But Capable of Walking 1800 Feet 


I was born in 1968 so have very little memory of it, but have a question about your response to the previous question. You said two great men were assassinated, one for racial reasons (MLK obviously) and one for antisemitic reasons. Who's the second? When you said two great men assassinated, I assumed the other was RFK. If not, who?

Yes, RFK.  To my memory, Sirhan hated Jews and his overarching reason for killing RFK was that RFK had said he was going to sell some fighter Jets to Israel. 

We can recover from a crashed economy. We can recover from a pandemic. I don't think we can recover from 4 more years of Donald Trump. We'll be lucky to make it through the next 8 months.

Seriously, if there is a month to go and polls show a landslide against him, I would put nothing beneath him, including a Wag the Dog scenario. 

We really need two car horn buttons - a polite "not sure if you noticed that the light changed!" or "hello person I know!" toot, and an angry honk.

You know, this is not like a poopie flush button  or a peepee flush button.  That makes sense.  It's pretty easy to modulate what a horn sounds like. 

Trump took the cowards walk across the street yesterday. A true leader would have stepped out into the crowd and engaged with them as we saw saw several police chiefs and sheriffs do in their communities. He is an abomination.

Well, I am a hard ass on this, but even I don't agree with you.  The mood was too amped.  He would have been recklessly risking his life.  Obama wouldn't have done it, I'm sure, if the demonstrators were equally angry white supremacists.  

I know "nauseous" means something that makes you feel nauseated, and "nauseated" is the feeling like you might throw up, but I still say "I feel nauseous" when I'm sick.

Oh, I will NEVER say that.   It's a good example.  Everyone says it (I suspect the dics accept it) but I would never say it. 

I would also never use "infer" to mean "imply," even though all dictionaries now accept this abomination. 

It’s June 2nd. You go to make breakfast. You want eggs. In fact, all you have is a dozen eggs. You grab the box of eggs from the fridge. You notice the “Best By:” date is May 12th. Do you eat ‘em or dump ‘em?

Open one and smell it.  They're probably fine.  Eggs last a long time.  

Trump is going to try to start a war before November, isn't he?

If he can, sure.  Why not? 

I have said from the beginning that Trump is a KGB Operative who made it to the top eschelon of any spy. He is a covert agent serving as US President. He has used the power of persuasion to get us to destroy our own democracy. He played on our biggest weaknesses of racism just to get to office and he got lucky that a pandemic started that allowed him to be inactive and allow even more Americans to die. He is destroying us from the inside out. And he will win again because the first election was stolen and this one will be too. We are in living hell!

I honestly don't think he will win again.  The people who hate him are WAY more motivated than the people who, somehow, remain in his corner.  I predict an overwhelming turnout among decent humans.

In my view, Trump will use the pandemic and, if still in effect, the social unrest currently sweeping the country to try to postpone the election, or at a minimum make vote-by-mail as difficult as possible. I'm talking mobilizing the National Guard, troops in the streets, etc. I just can't see him peacefully yielding power.

That is why he has to lose, convincingly, at least 25 states.   The bigger states, obviously.  That would be a landslide. 

In your assessment of Dear Leader, I don't think you've commented on Dr. Bandy Lee and the Duty to Warn movement. These psychiatrists contend based on their clinical observations that Trump isn't just mean or stupid, but genuinely, severely psychiatrically disordered. Agree, disagree, or does it even matter?

As strange as it sounds, I suspect he hasn't done anything bad ENOUGH to trigger that.   

I am very old, and my first job out of college in the '80s was at one of the big-name advertising agencies. They were bidding for a national tobacco account (they could still advertise in print media and billboards), but you were allowed to be excused from working on it if you morally objected to smoking.

Could be the same with my friend.   I haven't talked to him about it. 

But that's not what we have to talk about, Jocko. 

"I am very old" and "my first job out of college in the '80s" are incompatible.  RIGHT?

If someone in the White House has wanted to make fun of Trump, they could have substituted something like the Kama Sutra for the Bible. Trump would not have discerned any difference. A Wasted opportunity.

I like that! 

on another subject, did you hear that Fauci says the Pandemic Task Force hardly meets anymore? Seems the WH has decided Covid19 is so yesterday.

Yep, it's all over.   

Hey, not many of those protestors seemed to be wearing masks.  if there is a Second Surge, Trump will blame them.  Watch. 

I think you're right about motivation- look at what happened in Wisconsin. Negative feelings are far more motivating than positive ones. How often do people ask to speak to a manager to compliment rather than complain?


You don't really think the number of states matters, do you? That's not the way the Electoral College works.

If Trump loses 25 states, he loses big.  Because most of the high-population states will definitely go Dem.  Someone knows this better than I am, but I think if we knew in advance that Trump would win 30 states, we'd know he lost.   He gets Nebraska and Kansas and the Dakotas.  Dems get California and NY and Illinois and (with those numbers) probably Texas. 

I live in one of the first areas in the US to lock down, and I am in no hurry for things to re-open. That said -- I would definitely get my hair cut tomorrow if my barber could legally open and used all recommended precautions. My hair doesn't grow down; it grows out. And since lockdown began, I have passed through the Heat Miser stage and am in Bob Ross territory. It's driving me nuts. Also, I'm a honker.

So, you are Jewish? 


I'm a honker, too. 

I struggled with #5. Obviously, we have 400 years of injustice going here. Obviously, most of the names on the list of well known instances of unarmed people killed by police happened before his term. Yet, his role can't be ignored. Even today he denied that white supremacists are involved with causing the violence, destruction, & chaos of this week for their own agenda. Every statement he makes is salt in the wound. In the end I chose hugely responsible. It's almost like, you know, the country had an existing serious heart condition, but then someone started choking it.

He is hugely responsible. 

That's an eternity for the next driver in line, acceptable wait time for the following driver. If I'm behind the lead car, I give the driver two seconds, tops.

B-but the third driver has a greater chance of missing the light!  He is MORE motivated to honk, IMO.   I have done it many times.  Sometimes, the driver in front of me will throw up his hands, exasperated.   As if to say:  What do you want ME to do?   

Answer: I want YOU to have honked.  Don't be a sheep. 

I flat out do not understand why anyone would sit passively behind a driver who clearly doesn't know the light has changed.  Honking is not rude or aggressive in such a circumstance.  If I were the dozing driver, I'd want to be told. 

I'd love to hear from the many of you who said you'd NEVER honk.  What are you thinking, sheeple?

Your latest column was more about trying to be funny, the challenges of it, rather than actually being funny. Until the last line, and that was FUNNY. Thank you for your humor and vulnerability.

I think that is a fair appraisal. 

Of course I think I need a haircut, urgently. However, I now resemble (through rosé-colored glasses) me in the mid '80s when she first saw me. My wife doesn't think I will ever need a haircut again.

Kiss that lady.  

I retired to the Pacific NW about three years ago. I was instructed in clear terms almost the first day, after I honked at someone who cut me off on the freeway that "we don't do that here."

That's different.  That's an angry hostile honk.  Entirely different.  This is a wake-up call.  

And he served on a nuclear submarine in the Navy! That always bugged me and made him sound stupid.

Not the same, but he also said "awl" for "oil".  Apparently he was advised not do do this, and I remember one speech where he tried desperately to fix it.   Didn't work.   Half the time he said "awl" and the other half he issued this painfully exaggerated "oyy-illl" .   Gave up the pretense next time. 

The incident happened around 4 p.m. Tuesday. Police say 20-year-old Lizama Gamez of Falls Church was driving on S. Thomas Street in Douglas Park when an oncoming driver beeped their horn. Gamez then “allegedly pulled alongside the victims and became irate, yelling at them and brandished a firearm,” notes an Arlington County Police crime report. “Arriving officers located the suspect vehicle in the area and the suspect was positively identified.”

Thank you. 

I was taught that honking is ONLY for urgent situations. So, if an idiot tries to pull into my lane, I lay on the horn. But if someone doesn't move at a light, I don't honk. True story -- early one morning with my grown daughter in the car, we were behind a car in the left turn lane. He didn't move at the first light. We sat and waited. Then came the second light. I authorized my daughter to do a short quick honk. Nothing. So, I got out of the car (carefully -- it was early and no one else was on the road) and noticed the man was slumped over his steering wheel. We immediately called 911. We were directed around him and never knew what happened to him. But, I do wonder if he was ill, that maybe I should have beeped and looked at the first light.


I don't believe Trump has the intellect, the training, or the sophistication to have planned his campaign and taken power. Nor does he understand enough to stay in power. Do you believe there is a "grey eminence" behind him, and if so, who? Who is the strategist?

Well, it used to be Bannon.  Now I think he's winging it. 

... there was an op-ed piece, can't remember the author, about how a candidate could theoretically win the election with just 22 percent of the popular vote. Any chance of digging that up?

Here ya go.  

Sorry, after nearly four years of this, I'm incapable of having anything but a knee-jerk reaction to our piece-of-maga president's latest outrages. But I was glad to see that my view of his blameworthiness here is the same as your apparently more considered one.

Not necessarily more considered.  Equally angry, I'd say. 

Okay, we're done.   Thank you all.  Next week, same time and place. 

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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. He was awarded the 2008 and 2010 Pulitzer Prizes for Feature Writing.

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