Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 2, 2008 12:00 PM
At one time or another, Below the Beltway has managed to offend persons of both sexes as well as individuals belonging to every religious, ethnic, regional, political and socioeconomic group. If you know of a group we have missed, please write in and the situation will be promptly rectified. "Rectified" is a funny word.
On Tuesdays at noon, Gene is online to take your questions and abuse. He will chat about anything. Although this chat is updated regularly throughout the week, 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.
Not chat day? Visit the
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" and co-author of "I'm with Stupid," with feminist scholar Gina Barreca.
New to Chatological Humor? Read the FAQ.
P.S. 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 out. -- Liz
Gene Weingarten: Good afternoon. Welcome back.
I think it's a shame that so many people are piling on the GOP VP designee; we are judging her too quickly and harshly and shooting too wildly from the hip, though she DID name her children Gat, Frib, Goop, Prab and Dingus. Also, she seems to think that The Pledge of Allegiance was written by our Founding Fathers.
Anyway, I demand that we all start deeply respecting Gov. Palin immediately after this chat.
The bad news came sudden and brisk,
And now Sarah's veepdom's at risk.
Turns out she's a dork
About gathering pork
(And so is her daughter, tsk tsk.)
Governor Palin, I
Know you don't mind it when
We sinners pray:
Men's pulses race, but Lord
DON'T let her stand a mere
Recess in Alaska's for sleddin'.
The classrooms, to teach Armageddon.
"It's just not our goal
To explain birth control --
That's why God made the shotgun-type weddin'. "
Governor Palin is smart and she's tough
And as graceful and cute as a sylph.
But as a no-one from nowhere, is it really enough
To run as Vice President MILF?
Boy. Wow. Isn't this exciting? In terms of potential presidential readiness, Sarah Palin's resume makes Barack Obama look like Benjamin Franklin.
I want to thank several readers who wrote in to make the obvious connection between my column on Sunday, which discussed how lust influences men to make bad decisions, and McCain's selection of Palin. Here is a related video, which is also today's Clip of the Day.
Several readers pointed out an egregious error in the online version of the Sunday column, namely that while I MENTIONED the video of hot women stampeding in bikinis, we did not LINK to the video of hot women stampeding in bikinis. Some doubted that this video existed, or suspected that my description of it was overstated. There was no deception, but from a journalistic aspect, in the interests of scientific scrutiny and rigor, it was indeed a terrible lapse in judgment not to show the link. The Washington Post regrets the error.
I had a gigantic realization this weekend and was all excited about it, but was crestfallen to discover, via Google, that at least one other person had made the connection before me. Still: Have you ever noticed how Joe Biden looks EXACTLY like Maxwell Smart?
Tom the Butcher and I decided to let you chatters resolve, via instapoll, a dispute we had a few weeks ago. In my column about the press being in the tank for Obama, featuring my failed efforts to be mean to him, I wrote a bunch of painfully over-the-top analogies. I felt one was clearly better than the rest; Tom did, too, but it was a different choice. We decided to let you decide. I'll tell you midway through the chat if you and Tom are wrong. This is about no less than the Meaning of Humour: Vote in the Insta-Poll.
This was a terrific comics week. The CPOW is Sunday's Opus because Berkeley is doing what he appears to be doing with great grace but no sap. ( Unlike Lynn Johnston). The first runners up are Monday's Baby Blues and Sunday's Pickles. Honorables are Mondays Nonseq, Monday's Agnes, Monday's Lio, Sunday's Fuzzy, Today's Nonseq.
I also want to give a shout-out to Darrin Bell, who seems to have found in the national news a spectacularly good end for his problematic Candorville storyline on Lemont's love child and forced marriage.
Okay, let's go.
Baltimore, Md.: So, what do you think of this Sarah Palin character?
To me, it's a completely blatant and embarrassing attempt to get more Hillary supporters to vote McCain. As a woman, it annoys me that the Republicans assume that women are too dumb to tell the difference between a Democratic candidate and a Republican candidate if they're both female. Sadly, there are plenty of women who supported Hillary solely because she has a hoo-hah. But we're not all that stupid--are we? And do the Republicans really think that we'd be satisfied with second best (VP) when we had a good shot at the most important job in the country?
Me, I could not vote for someone who names her daughters Piper, Willow, Bristol and her sons Track and Trig. It shows that she has terribly poor judgment.
Gene Weingarten: I think the degree of cynicism that McCain has shown with this selection is jaw-dropping. It is a raised middle finger to the rest of the country because it was purely and simply a political calculus. No one can contend this was the best possible choice.
As Pat Myers said to me this morning:
"It shows how little McCain seems to care about the future of the United States -- either that or how deluded he is about his own immortality -- for him to choose such an inexperienced candidate to be the possible future president. Someone he'd barely met.
Bahston, Mass.: I think the funniest aspect of the Palin daughter pregnancy was that it was announced as a way to disprove the rumor that the daughter was the actual mother of the young baby.
"Ha ha bloggers, my 17 year-old couldn't have had a 5 month old baby because she's 5 months pregnant now! So there!"
Gene Weingarten: I know. Here is another irony:
If this happened to a minority 17-year-old in a big city, it would result in a grave lecture from conservatives on abstinence-only education and the erosion of morals in society. But if it happens to a Republican in Alaska, it is a celebration of the joy of life! Even James Dobson has spoken of the wonderful life-affirming miracle of this impending birth!
Springfield, Va.: Okay - we could talk scary, controversial things like politics (McCain's VP choice) or religion (McCain's VP choice.) But I want to know about the comic OPUS, which had another one of those "the end is coming, soon" Sunday. Gene, please get Berke B. to say it ain't so.
Gene Weingarten: It is my impression that Berkeley is doing all his speaking through the strip.
Fairfax, Va.: Woah - this seems kinda silly compared to the seriousness of the topic, but I just wanted to point out that to Liz that her hostility towards pleated pants has made it into the comics pages. Check out the ongoing trauma of Pierce's wardrobe on "Zits"
washingtonpost.com: I'd like to think Gene and I started something with our shared distaste for the pleated pant, but rest assured -- pleated-pants haters are legion.
Gene Weingarten: Liz was first on this important topic. She was the pioneer, the ground-breaker. I was first with the VPL, though. I yield to no one on that.
Pollish Hum, OR: Rather than the male/female split in this week's poll, I think it would have been far more telling if you had split it into have kid(s)/no kid(s). Especially for the last question, where people without kids can automatically answer "Absolutely no chance."
Welcome back, my Tuesday just got less productive. Umm... I mean... now I have something to do on my Tuesday lunch hour.
Gene Weingarten: You're right. That would have been a better split. You know what? In my update tomorrow, I am going to ask people to re-take the poll with that split.
Softball question: OK Gene, so was selecting Sarah Palin without sufficient vetting one of those "senior moment" stunners you were predicting would self-destruct McCain's campaign?
Gene Weingarten: No. It was not "senior," it was cynical. But I think it has destroyed his campaign.
Springfield, Va.: about the poll... I am very disturbed by my own truthful answer to the Q "Had this been the child's mother and not the father, would your assessment be any different?"
Because I would judge a mother more harshly here. And I am disturbed about what that means I believe, deep deep down.
That fathers are more forgetful, and that I just accept that? That I know most mothers watch their kids like hawks?
How about that I have seen 10 or 12 different sets of parents where the intelligent mother could ask the intelligent father to watch the baby/infant/toddler/child for a few minutes, and in the cases I have seen, it had absolutely no effect on the father's behavior. I know that isn't true of all fathers, but it is what I have seen.
The worst of those I have seen was where the father staying very involved in the conversation as his wife went to the rest room, and did not notice that the toddler had not just wandered away in the restaurant, but was entering the kitchen restaurant which had no separating door? Here, I was watching like a hawk because it seemed to me the father was paying no attention. I grabbed the toddler away from the kitchen. And the intelligent, loving but somehow oblivious father didn't notice a thing. I have known this man for decades. There is no question that he loves his son.
But, somehow, many fathers don't really understand that "watch the child for a few minutes" means that watching the child is the top priority for those minutes. And mothers and women who aren't mothers DO seem to get this. Again, this is only what I have seen, limited examples, not true of all men, or all fathers. Limited sample size, statistically meaningless. I KNOW. And yet...
It gets me to this place where what I think, and am very unhappy thinking, is that, well, some guys can forget they are looking after the child. Easily. And most mothers and women can't and don't forget - they can't afford to forget that they are watching the child.
Which rapidly gets to me this miserable emotion, thinking "women have to watch like hawks, because men don't watch like hawks, because men don't get it, which means women keep watching the kids, which means that men never learn because women aren't willing to risk the child getting hurt for a father to learn," and around and around.
BTW, I do think when a father becomes the primary care giver, he does learn FAST to watch like a hawk. And yet, I would judge the mother/woman more harshly.
Not happy here.
Gene Weingarten: I think, for better or worse, people Expect Better of moms.
In the minds of many, giving the father a break would be the equivalent of not coming down as hard on a mentally retarded defendant.
In mourning...: Submitting early so not sure if you'll address this in your intro....
I am in serious mourning for "For Better or For Worse," although I wish Lynn Johnson all the best during her well-deserved break. I am the same age as Michael in the strip and I kind of feel like we grew up together.
It seems silly, but I was incredibly sad to read that last maudlin strip and the epilogue. It was like saying goodbye to old friends that I know I'll never see again.
And with Berkeley Breathed giving all signs of being on the way out - my comic experience is rapidly diminishing. Please tell Stephan Pastis that he better not even be THINKING about retirement!!
Gene Weingarten: He's not.
Though the Post has dropped FBOFW, it is actually going to continue in a bizarre hybrid form: Lynn is going back to the original start of the strip in 1979, and redrawing them, but keeping the same episodes.
It's interesting but, in my opinion, wildly egocentric and selfish. There are other artists out there, with good strips, who need to break onto the comics pages.
There is also an interesting backstory to the last FOBOFW linked to at the bottom of the introduction. Lynn Johnston's husband left her for another woman. It makes the note she left on particularly interesting.
Office Pool: Pick what day and hour Palin drops out of the race "unexpectedly"
Gene Weingarten: I say ten days. She is going to discover she really needs to spend more time with her family. And you know what? In this case, thought it won't be true, it will be correct. If you see what I am saying.
Another Iro,NY: All the press releases talk about the wonderful "decision" made by Bristol to keep the child. Yet these are the people who would take away our right to MAKE that decision. "How great that a 17-year-old girl made the CHOICE to have a child and get married! Too bad for the rest of you idiots that we want you to be FORCED to do that in the future!"
Gene Weingarten: Oooooh.
Wasilla, AK: So, is Palin for VP the gaffe you predicted would eventually lead to a landslide for Obama? Kinda looks like it, right?
Also, does this prove once and for all that the pundits/talking heads will follow any talking point, without putting any thought into it, even to the point of ridiculousness? Some of Sarah Palin's "experience" I heard this weekend: foreign policy experience because her state borders two countries, foreign policy experience because her son is going to Iraq, foreign policy experience because she is commander in cheif of the Alaska National Guard, political experience because she was in the PTA. Don't even get me started on the insulting notion that she has more experience than Obama. It is enough to make me puke, if I wasn't too busy laughing!
Gene Weingarten: Yes, the experience arguers point to her being on the town council of Wasilla, AK, pop. 5,000. That is basically the same experience as being on the board of a homeowners association.
Atlanta, Ga.: There was sufficient vetting - I don't understand that question. It has been well reported that McCain knew about all the stuff that is coming out.
Gene Weingarten: McCain can never admit he didn't know -- not until the moment he is ready to jettison her.
Oh snap: I just read on the Politics chat that Bristol's babdydaddy had a myspace page (since taken down) discussing the pregnancy. I'd really love to see that. Also I'd like to know if he really is 7 or 8 years older than her.
washingtonpost.com: Allow me: It did not discuss the pregnancy, per se. It basically said he didn't ever want kids. He also described himself as a redneck not to be F***ed with.
Gene Weingarten: I saw it too.
He is also really hott.
And stupid beyond all get-go.
To the Chief Linker: Is something wrong with the poll links? None of them will open for me, neither the main poll nor the Insta-poll. I'm using Firefox, if it makes a difference.
washingtonpost.com: Working fine for me -- anyone else having trouble?
Gene Weingarten: Just askin.
Not Particularly Timely: But I have to submit this anyway.
Your Obama column was brilliant. Absolutely one of the best you have written.
I can just imagine some of the critism you got, though. Care to share?
Gene Weingarten: Thank you. Yes, I got hundreds of emails, almost all angry. Half accused me of being a McCain supporter, the other half of shilling for Obama.
That column was a Rorschach. Both sides read it, ready to take offense.
Gene Weingarten: Below the Beltway, ( Aug. 17)
Gene Weingarten: To me, the only important disclosure in that column was the uncanny physical resemblance between McCain and the Michelin Man.
13th street: Gene - The funniest thing to me about Sarah Palin -- so far -- is that she once belonged to the Alaska Independence group, which supports secession for the state of Alaska!! Hilarious!! The GOP has nominated someone who doesn't even want to be an American! This needs much more play -- please see what you can do.
Gene Weingarten: It was on page one of the NY Times today. That's pretty good.
This is just SUCH a good story.
New York: I'm going to have issues with Joe Lieberman "giving away" Sarah Palin at the convention this week. Palin is a far-out Christian fundamentalist who believes the Earth is 7,000 years old and should be taught this way in public schools, who would deny abortions to rape victims whose lives were in danger, who would ban books from public libraries for taking the Christian God's name in vain, and who supported a man for President, Pat Buchanan, who said Hitler had "a lot of good ideas." The next time Lieberman puts on his yamulke, I think I'm going to puke.
Gene Weingarten: I THINK she draws the line at when the mother's life is in danger. I think.
Port, or: I would argue that Bristol probably had no real choice in the matter. When your mother is on record that she would not support you getting an abortion even if you were raped and Alaska law requires those 17 and under to get a parent's permission to have an abortion, I find it hard to believe that options actually existed. I truly hope that she is not being forced into this child and marriage.
Gene Weingarten: Uh, how about the degree of choice the 19 year old had about going to Iraq? Think there might have been a little subtle coercion there? Maybe?
Sarahpal, IN: Gene, I'm with you in spirit, and I don't support McCain. But I happen to think this pick will work for him, rather than be the disaster we may have hoped.
-- Obama/Biden can't make the inexperience argument without putting Obama's own experience on the table, which the Obama folks don't want(Yes, it's superior to Palin, but not comparable to McCain or Biden.)
-- The pregnant daughter lets McCain make the pro-life point hard and right away, emphasizing why he put her on the ticket in the first place.
-- While it may not win many Hillary voters directly, the choice could ease the pangs of conscience of those who supported HRC on experience at the prospect of voting Republican.
-- Biden will have to tread -very carefully- in the VP debate to avoid looking like he's beating up on a girl.
Qualified? No. A disaster? Don't think so, sadly.
Gene Weingarten: We'll see.
I don't think the facts are finished spooling out.
Washington, D.C.: Gene,
There's been a lot of discussion that McCain's camp didn't do thorough enough vetting on Palin, which may be true in the sense that they don't seem to have talked to anyone in Alaska...but are we REALLY to believe that she tried to hide the pregnancy? I can't imagine that she wouldn't have told them about this.
Gene Weingarten: I think she told them about the pregnancy. I think she is too smart to have withheld that.
Nice Front Yard, The Hill: Gene, Have you seen the extended trailer for "Body of Lies?" They've digitally turned your street into a canal in Amsterdam. Cool.
washingtonpost.com: Body of Lies trailer.
Gene Weingarten: Don't have time to look at it now, but I watched the filming and wrote a column about it.
Liz, can you find?
Three Whole Wee, KS: Okay, this was just too long a break. There was way too much happening in the comics while you were gone. I'm sure you'll at least touch on this Sunday, but how about last Sunday's Get Fuzzy, with Bucky's deadpan delivery straight to the reader? Classic.
Also, can Liz tell whether her license plate has anything to do with her position here in the chat, and if she's been parked in Shirlington at all during the chat hiatus?
As for today's poll, I would like to see the answers broken out for parents and child-free. I would have answered Absolutely Never or Very Unlikely eight months ago, but once my son was born, I completely understood how something like that could happen. My answers to the other questions were always the same (no jail time, etc.), but I never thought it could happen to me. Now I see how it could.
Finally, a shout-out to Radioactive Girl, who I met while carpooling to the Redskins game last Thursday. It only took ten minutes in the car for us to realize our shared devotion to you, Gene. That's how cool you are. RG - I hope those six hot dogs didn't ruin your entire weekend.
Okay, that should do it. Don't go away so long next time.
washingtonpost.com: No. I don't go in for vanity plates. Puhl-leeze. They're the pleated pants of the auto world.
Gene Weingarten: Agreed on vanity plates.
And we'll definitely go for that other division in the poll tomorrow.
washingtonpost.com: Boom Town, ( Post, Sept. 30, 2007)
Okay, too far!: You'd resemble the Michelin Man too if you'd had your limbs broken in a POW camp instead of sitting on your ass smoking dope.
Too far, comrade. Too far.
Gene Weingarten: No, no. This is all about his face. Look at the column.
DC: What's up with everyone who thinks a parent who left their baby to slowly broil to death in a hot car shouldn't go to jail because they feel bad about it? Of course they feel bad and they should. But people who commit crimes frequently feel bad about it. These people killed their own kids! Of course they should go to jail. Ugh.
Gene Weingarten: What if they got into a car accident and their child died? Should they go to jail for that, or would you call it an accident? What if they accidentally left a back door unlocked -- shouldn't have done it -- and a toddler walks out and falls in the pool and drowns? Should they go to jail for that?
Wait, who are these people who think this man should be prosecuted?: Prosecuted for what, exactly? If the child had drowned in the tub, would he be prosecuted? Yes, it's sad and shouldn't happen, but prosecuted and jailed? People get some damn perspective, please.
Gene Weingarten: And this would be the opposite view.
Boston MA: Gene, in the name of the TRUTH I have to tell you that the cheerleader-acrobat movie is REAL.
I downloaded it as an FLV file with the Orbit downloader and and stopped it as she went through the b-ball hoop -- I have the Riva FLV player BTW.
If you do this you can clearly see her legs go through the hoop - the rim can be clearly seen in front of her legs on the video!
Try it with this slo-mo version.
So much for that skeptical German TV show (and hypothesis about strings pulling the net etc...).
Gene Weingarten: Well, but was it digitally altered?
I find it impossible to believe because of how incredibly dangerous it would be if anything went wrong. I just can't believe it.
I also think the German TV station was on to something: The man is looking over his shoulder. He would not be if they were right in a plane with the hoop.
Electile dysfunction: I need your help choosing who to vote for in November. On the one hand, McCain is old and creepy. My walk home often takes me past the White House, and I'm scared that if he wins, he'll run outside and tell me to get off his lawn (I would not actually be on his lawn, just near it). He might shake a broom at me. This thought disturbs me. Palin apparently hates polar bears and wolves and other adorable fuzzy predators, and she looks like Laura Roslin from Battlestar Galactica, who we all know is a cold-hearted, Machiavellian pro-lifer. Meanwhile, have you seen the pictures of Obama and Biden getting ice cream together? They are total BFFs. Their wives are too. They are the most adorable ticket ever. There was one picture of them sharing a pretzel. Trust me, it was cute.
However, in the September 1 issue of Newsweek, there is clearly a shot of both Obama AND Biden wearing pleated pants. I've never seen McCain wear these things, and I'm pretty sure Palin, as scary as she is, would have the sense not to wear them (although she did name her kids Track and Trig and Truck and Trichomoniasis or whatever, so who knows). So now I'm torn. Who do I vote for? What does Nader wear? What about Bob Barr? Say what you will about Hillary, but those pant-suits were all flat front, weren't they?
Gene Weingarten: I will defer to the expert.
washingtonpost.com: Like Obama's changing stance on the war on terror and fossil fuels, he is adding pleats to his wardrobe in an attempt to court Mr. Average American Who Shops at Men's Wearhouse.
Biden's style I can't defend.
Alexandria, Va.: Re: the poll
I would give the father a year in jail, but not for any of the reasons you provide. I would do this mainly to be kind to the father. Let me explain.
William Styron once wrote that when he was a teenager, he once forgot that he needed to provide some essential care to his ailing mother, so she was left alone and helpless for a long while (I believe this is in "Sophie's Choice"; forgive me if I get some details wrong). His father punished him for this by requiring him to spend an entire day in a very cold shed. He later came to see that his father had ordered this punishment solely to be compassionate to HIM. This punishment allowed the young man to perform an act of atonement that helped him cope with the deep guilt he felt about his carelessness and its consequences.
I also think that putting the father in prison for a short time, in the least dangerous facility available, would allow someone to keep an eye on him and try to prevent him from committing suicide, abusing drugs or alcohol, or otherwise hurting himself in his grief and guilt over the child's death.
Gene Weingarten: I think that's an interesting thought, one that hadn't occurred to me.
Arlington, VA: Gene. Last night I was dragged out of bed by a roommate telling me I needed to move my car. In a state of half-sleep and confusion, I followed her outside to see her friend sitting in an open-top Audi A4 idling in front of the driveway, about a half-foot behind my ford escape. Then she says this to me, "Hi. Can you move your car forward? You see, this is a stick shift and since I'm on a hill, I will roll forward..."
So I would like to pose this question to you: Does a woman who cannot actually drive her stick shift still look sexy or does she look as dumb in the eyes of men as I found her to be?
I ask this as a 23 year old woman who's only ever driven a stick and drives it well.
Gene Weingarten: You are much more beautiful than she is.
Eastern Shore, MD: I tried to take the poll - several times. I couldn't do it. As a Mom of two kids, this is unthinkable. On the other hand, we are all too easily distracted. I'd like to kill this Dad, but also realize that we are creatures of habit and changes in routine, pressure from work and home ... blah, blah. Please tell me there is no real answer here. Ugh, unless there are other circumstances that you did not present. If this was me, I am not sure I would have lived through the next day.
Gene Weingarten: I'm thinking I would have run under the first bus that came by. But this is an all-too-common occurrence and my initial sympathies are all with the poor parents. I'd want to hear a very good argument about why it was necessary to prosecute, because it sure isn't as a matter of deterrence.
Washington, D.C.: Is it just me or is this Sarah Palin thing eerily reminiscent of Harriet Myers? Do republicans not know the difference between "a woman" and "a qualified woman?" Do they think we women out there in the world are so stupid we don't know the difference? Do they understand it's insulting to us to nominate unqualified women? Do they see what they put these women through when they have to defend themselves as qualified for positions they aren't really qualified for.
And don't even get me started on this woman choosing to accept the VP slot and thus forcing her 17-year-old daughter to make international news about being pregnant. That's some amazing parenting. (note, I'm not saying she's a bad parent for having a pregnant daughter, but for just shoving her into the public).
Gene Weingarten: Speaking of the recklessness and bad parenting, we haven't even gotten into her 10-hour flight-and-drive to get back to Alaska to deliver her most recent baby, after her water broke.
I know something of this. The danger was not only that she'd deliver on the plane: Once a woman's water has broken and amniotic fluid has leaked, the fetus is no longer in a sterile environment. The danger of infection is elevated enormously.
Fairfax, VA: Welcome back. I feel like the questions and responses today are good but lacking in length. Could you please copy and paste the entire text of the Pentateuch in response to this?
Gene Weingarten: K.
TP Q: Hi Gene,
Having a debate with my mom, that only you can decide. We are both trying to do more to save resources (financial and global).
She buys very cheap, one ply -practically see-through - toilet paper. I say the one-ply isn't better because you have to use more to get the job done. Or you might as well be using your hand (which in many cases, it seems like you are anyway).
I buy slightly thicker, have to use less, and have less chance of a splinter in my rear!
Where might you fit in?
Gene Weingarten: You are right. For all the reasons you state.
BEthesda, MD: I gotta say, I feel some sympathy for that young man who, ah, had relations with the governor's daughter. Probably thought he was quite the stud.
Gene Weingarten: And now there's a shotgun.
Silver Spring, Md.: Interesting note in your comment about the apparently scientific link between ring/index finger lengths and male sexual appetites. My ring fingers are quite long, almost as long as my middle finger. I'm also addicted to pornography, despite having a wonderful, beautiful wife and family (who would be devastated if they found out) and hailing from a religious tradition that strongly condemns it. Not to excuse my behavior, but knowing there may be something biological to it helps me understand myself just a little better.
However, I am also puzzled a bit, since I recall from an exhibit at a science museum several years ago that relative finger lengths were a dominant/recessive genes issue, rather than a result of in utero conditions. What's the real deal?
Gene Weingarten: It is definitely in utero. It shows such a strong correlation with sex drive in men that behavioral scientists simply accept it as a proven fact.
Herndon, Va.: Gene, I thought you might like to know they've come up with a name for those fake links on post.com - "roach motel" links.
Gene Weingarten: Oooh, this leads to an overwhelming question that I am confident someone out there will be able to explain.
I have Google alerts on my home e-mail which tells me whenever I am named in some blog. Helps keep track of what people are saying about me (mostly bad). Every once in a while, the "blog" I am mentioned in turns out to be gibberish. Random snippets of copy taken from different places on the Web that in this instance happen to include my name.
What is this? Are these "link farms" referred to in this article, and if so, what is their purpose?
Prosecutori, AL: The Rib and I do generally the same work for the same bosses, so my natural inclination is to look for every potential criminal angle in these scenarios you present. Initially, my gut said, "prosecute him." But, thinking about it a bit more, I concluded that inadvertently and unintentionally leaving his kid in the car isn't a criminal act, and shouldn't be punished as such.
First, one of the fundamentals of criminal law is that it is predicated on criminal intent. There are all sorts of variations on this- you point a gun at one guy, but hit another, and voila, you have transferred intent- but they all boil down to the same thing: you have to intend to do something. The guy in your scenario had no intent whatsoever. I'm not sure this would even rise to criminal negligence.
My lingering concern was public policy. You don't want a non-prosecution to convey a tolerance of criminal behavior. But who are you going to deter by prosecuting this guy, even if you don't lock him up? Who is going to say, "Gee, I was considering inadvertently and unintentionally and unknowingly letting my kid broil, but I remember that guy who got prosecuted, and I don't want to risk that... I'll remember to take my kid out of the car and avoid prosecution."
The judges I appear in front of recite some formulaic things during sentencings, but one seems particularly apt here. They conclude that whatever sentence they've imposed "meets the sentencing objectives of punishment, deterrence, and incapacitation." Prosecuting and/or locking up a father (or mother) under these circumstances would satisfy exactly none of those objectives.
Gene Weingarten: I tend to agree with this, but speaking for another viewpoint: By these criteria, then, would you not support criminal penalties for DUI with severe injury? There was no intent there at all. I do see how dterrence would kick in there, but is that the only reason to prosecute DUI with injury?
I think many prosecutors will tell you that "setting an example" is not the greatest of motives to prosecute. But I also think most people, me included, would prosecute if a drunk driver kills or injures someone badly.
Lyric Interpretation: I recently heard this Beatles' song on the radio (You won't see me), and I'd never paid much attention to the lyric before. I liked the tune, I figured it's just about a guy's sad because his girl broke up with him. But a different meaning struck me this time, especially on these lines: "Time after time you refuse to even listen, I wouldn't mind if I knew what I was missing. Though the days are few they're filled with tears, And since I lost you it feels like years, Yes it seems so long girl since you've been gone, And I just can't go on, If you won't see me, you won't see me."
The "If I knew what I was missing" line made me think: this guy's a stalker, he's never "had" her, he doesn't know her except to see her at a distance, he just wants to keep calling her, seeing her, but she's blocked his calls, left the area, to escape him.
Do you think I'm reading too much into this lyric?
Gene Weingarten: Well. I never thought about it before. But I guess the team that wrote Run For Your Life ("If I catch you with another man that's the end, little girl") might well have intended that.
It's an odd line, isn't it?
Gene Weingarten: Which reminds me, I was listening to some really old Dylan recently, and found something disturbing in "With God On Your Side."
It kinda sounds like Dylan thought the Spanish-American War happened before the Civil War. He clearly intends this narrative to be chronological:
Oh the history books tell it
They tell it so well
The cavalries charged
The Indians fell
The cavalries charged
The Indians died
Oh the country was young
With God on its side.
War had its day
And the Civil War too
Was soon laid away
And the names of the heroes
I's made to memorize
With guns on their hands
And God on their side.
The First World War, boys
It came and it went
The reason for fighting
I never did get
But I learned to accept it
Accept it with pride
For you don't count the dead
When God's on your side.
[ Find more Lyrics at www.mp3lyrics.org/ab5 ]
When the Second World War
Came to an end
We forgave the Germans
And then we were friends
Though they murdered six million
In the ovens they fried
The Germans now too
Have God on their side.
Toles, For Whom The Bell, Va.: Gene, What is the point of Tom Toles' political cartoon today? That Ohio will be a critical state? That's a given. Is there some other meaning?
washingtonpost.com: Toles, ( Sept. 2)
Gene Weingarten: Yeah, I think so. An odd cartoon, but clever. It's gonna be a critical state, but hard to figure out how to win it. Or something.
Evoluti, ON: I hope I can explain this properly and succinctly. Springfield has a point that women and mothers do better at watching their children like hawks. Think of it this way: bringing offspring into the world is a lot more resource-intensive for the mother than the father. The mom spent 9 months and a huge number of calories bearing that child. If she loses this one, she needs to spend those resources again to replace it. The father just spent a few sperms, and whatever energy he needs to, ahem, "court" the female. At the risk of sounding uncouth, the male can more easily make a new baby, hence there's less of a genetic imperative to be protective of the offspring.
I think we see evidence of this in places besides toddler care. It's usually the father who brings home the injured child and says, "this is what we'll tell mommy what happened" not the other way around.
Gene Weingarten: I was with you till the end. I don't think many dads would conspire with a child to lie to mom.
Whee, drama!: I have been so sick of politics I could vomit for most of the year now. (Really, after the last election my interest died.) But this Palin thing is making me laugh my head off and I'm enjoying it again.
What do you think of the DailyKos "Trig is really Bristol's" thing? I have to admit, that's the least-pregnant-looking woman ever in the photos taken of her, plus that huge plane trip. I suspect "five months" isn't so much five months here.
Gene Weingarten: WEll, I was fairly willing to believe it, but I think Bristol's pregnancy pretty well kills that story. She would have had to get prgnant just about the day she delivered for this to dovetail.
It's interesting: People were SO willing to believe it, it shows the general consciousness of conspiracy thinking, where you can make almost any additional fact fit your theory in some way.
Really?: I can't believe you are calling Lynn Johnson's move to recreate her strip as "egocentric and selfish". It is her strip, she can continue it in anyway that she wants. She has the right to make money. It is up to the newspapers to accept the strip over "newer" strips. What if she had made this decision 5 years ago? Why 5 years ago were you saying that continuing her strip is selfish. Is it because she is making a change?
Gene Weingarten: It is because she is supplying no new storylines. She is not rewriting at all. She will be redrawing plot lines from 30 years ago.
Through the hoop: Gene, your argument against authenticity is thin.
You describe the man's look over his shoulder as definitive evidence that he was nit "int the plane of the hoop". But, the hoop is round and has no plane. Do you content that the only way to hit the mark is to be oriented parallel to the backboard? It is the exact same jump and distance from any angle.
Gene Weingarten: Yes, and I believe any gymnast will say that is right. If accuracy is imperative -- even critical -- you don't fling from an angle, where the body is traveling across planes.
Somerville, MA:"It kinda sounds like Dylan thought the Spanish-American War happened before the Civil War. He clearly intends this narrative to be chronological"
He probably got confused. The Mexican War was a immediate precursor to the Civil War. I'm guessing that was what Dylan was aiming at...
Gene Weingarten: You're right!
Washington, D.C.: Worse than Dylan's grasp of chronology was the fact that he totally ripped off the melody of "With God On Our Side" from a song by Irish writer Dominic (brother of Brendan) Behan. Called "The Patriot Game," it was a mordant treatment of how causes get young men killed. In the film Don't Look Back, someone offers to introduce Dylan to Dominic Behan in London and Dylan spits, "Man, no, I don't want to meet no Dominic Behan." And Behan didn't use an old Irish melody--he composed the tune.
Gene Weingarten: Didn't know, or didn't remember, this.
Not A Bridesmaid: Gene,
I love your chats. And I share your hatred of big, matchy-matchy weddings. So... I'm a 20something woman whose close guy friend is getting married in the spring, and he's asked me to be a groomsperson on his side of his big, matchy-matchy wedding. Great! I love this friend (purely platonic, I have my own wonderful partner) and I'm excited to be there for him. He and I talked about it and decided it would probably be coolest if I found an outfit similar to what the men will be wearing (suits) but meant for a woman, so I wouldn't be wearing men's clothes or anything. His girlfriend, however, wants me to wear a bridesmaid's dress. I figured I could just say, well, I'm not a bridesmaid, and I can't afford the one you picked out, so... and that would be that. It isn't. She's still on her boyfriend's case about it. He sees my side of this - the expense (the dress is expensive, the shoes are expensive, and I have to fly myself and my partner halfway across the country to get there), the idea that bridesmaid's dresses are tacky and oppressive and unreasonable, that I'm not a bridesmaid, and that I am always tastefully dressed and am putting a lot of thought into this. I respect their wedding, it isn't like I'm going to show up in hip waders and a glittery onesie.
What should I do? Should I talk to the bride directly? We aren't really friends. Should I suck it up, buy the stupid, hideous dress I can't afford, meaning my partner and I will be eating Ramen for a long time? Financial times are tough.
I hate the wedding industry.
Gene Weingarten: Nothing underscores what is wrong with big weddings better than this particular dilemma of yours.
There is a terrific story in this Sunday's Post magazine about the folly of big weddings.
Shansby Suc, KS: He blew it with Sunday's illustration. In an interview with the New York Times in 1936 Albert Einstein said, "I do not play any games. There is no time for it. When I get through work I don't want anything which requires the working of the mind." Though Einstein did take up chess in his later life, Eric should have drawn Bobby Fischer.
Gene Weingarten: Um, if Einstein did take up chess later in life, where's the foul?
Plus, Fischer would have had to be labeled.
CoS, CO: I'm a mom who forgot her kid. When my youngest son was just a few months old, I forgot him.
He was asleep upstairs and I was heading out to the grocery store with the other 2 boys, planning dinner, making lists -- you know how it goes.
I was halfway out of the driveway before I realized what I was doing. That was 30 years ago and I still think/dream about it about half a dozen times a year.
It happens. I was lucky. That poor father was not. My heart breaks for him.
Gene Weingarten: Thanks.
Herndon, Va.: Gene,
What do you think of Obama's choice, a guy who has no executive, cabinet or military experience? Now we have not one, but two senators on the same ticket hailing from a Senate that has the lowest approval rating in the history of Congress. And this is the guy who wants to change the dynamic in Washington? Please.
In my opinion, you can either go with a guy who talks about changing Washington or go with a guy who has actually consistently tried to do so his entire career. To the degree that I was on the fence with McCain, their selections of Vice President has only solidified my vote.
Gene Weingarten: Okay! Noted! Cool!
New York, N.Y.: Quick note about Bristol: the Alaska law requiring parental consent for a minor has actually been enjoined by the Alaska Supreme Court, and is unenforceable. So, technically, Bristol could have hidden this from her parents had she wanted to.
Gene Weingarten: Ah. Okay, thanks.
Coucil Bluffs, IA: I brought your Obama column to my class of college freshmen. I thought your writing style (indirect vs direct) would be a good lesson, but I thought your humor and the political nature would generate some discussion. Boy, was I mistaken. The overwhelming opinion was "politics is just opinions, nobody is right, nobody is wrong, so it's not worth fighting about"...two students refused to read past the first paragraph as soon as they picked up on the political content. I was a little crushed. And while I love you, most of the students thought you sounded like an ass.
Gene Weingarten: Well, I AM an ass. Compliment them for me, please.
McCain's VP pick is...: Gladys Kravitz of the old "Bewitched" TV sitcom.
Sarah does need to do something about that hair. It's a combination of mall hair and trailer hair.
Why prosecute: You prosecute him solely to put him in front of a jury of his peers who will respond (hopefully) with something along the lines of, "We know it was a mistake. We know you didn't mean it. We forgive you. You're not guilty."
It's for the dad's benefit. He (or in a mom's case, she) gets to see a relatively objective group of people come to the conclusion that, as tragic as it was, he isn't some malicious monster for doing it. That's all.
Gene Weingarten: Also interesting.
wedding gift: Dear Gene, If I can find this in an analog model do you think it would be a good wedding present for my 23-year-old niece?
Gene Weingarten: This is amazingly ugly and overpriced.
It reminds me of another horror. Have you ever seen a modern clock that is made to looks like an old grandfather clock, only because it has a $3 quartz battery movement behind the face, there is no need for a pendulum or weights, so instead, to make it even more beautiful and functional, the designers put little shelves in the front to display knick-knacks?
Misbegotten Lin, KS: Don't know if you're still collecting these but today's RiCo op-ed has an embedded link to the always-useful Post news aggregator page on Caligula.
The best part is the page says "Emperor Caligula Blogs on the web: No results."
Gene Weingarten: I heard he HAD a great blog, back in his day.
Lascivious?: I was out of town for a few weeks, and it seems that on August 21, the Post ran a photo of Misty May-Treanor that two letter-writers in Saturday's Free For All condemned as too lascivious for a family paper. Could you link to said pix so I can, um, condemn it, too?
washingtonpost.com: Was it maybe this one?
Also, I think we can all be sure that the president wasn't among those condemning the pic.
Gene Weingarten: I, too, condemn the excellent crotch shot.
Don't buy the hideous dress: If she wants you to wear it SHE can buy it. -- written by a woman who didn't have a bridal party cause I didn't need a gaggle of folks to "escort" me to the altar, last time I checked my legs worked perfectly fine.
Gene Weingarten: Who the heck wrote the book that weddings have to have certain things, like "bridal parties"? Or matching dresses? Why do we blindly follow that idiocy?
The Flip Si, DE: Given the GOP VP choice and the reactions to your poll, brings up an interesting debate my adult daughter, my wife, and I had recently. When it comes to "choice" - in either direction - what say does the father have? If a pregnant women wants to keep a baby but dad wants an abortion, can he overrule? Can he require a waiver of his parental responsibility? What if it's reveresed - can he force her to go to term with the child? Doesn't he get some say in the choices made? After all, the fetus is technically half his. If a baby is born, he would be legally responsible for the child.
Gene Weingarten: No.
There's only one way to come down on this imperfect situation. It's the woman's body.
Your poll, it upsets me.: Before I had kids, and even up to when my son was 6-months old, I would have checked "absolutely never" for if I could forget my baby in the car. But now I know better. I once had to take my son to a class with me, and I was so distracted trying to get him and all my stuff back into the car afterward that I forgot to buckle him into his carseat. He, 6 months old, fell out of his seat and onto the car floor as I was driving on a busy road. Thank god he wasn't hurt seriously (nice bruise though). Thank god we weren't in an accident right at that moment. But it could've been bad. I never would have thought I would forget - but there ya go, I did. So, the hypothetical dad should be charged for negligence - being forgetful is negligent in this case - but it was clearly unintentional and he should not receive a harsh sentence.
Gene Weingarten: It is my guess that most parents have had some moment like this. Some moment when they realiz they have escaped something bad, due to their own negligence.
Oh Come, ON: Before we get all negative about Gov. Palin's foreign policy experience, please do note that Wasilla, Alaska is home to an International House of Pancakes.
Gene Weingarten: Thank you.
Apto, NM: Is "George Tenet" an aptonym, in the sense that "Iraq has WMD" was a matter of fundamental belief, not evidence?
Gene Weingarten: Nah. But "Biden" is an anagram for "I bend."
Bristow, VA: Your last discussion included some fairly vitriolic comments on the subject of secondhand smoke. I happen to agree with the concerns that have been raised about this and the harmful effects that it has on others. Also, as a practicing Mormon, I personally believe that smoking and other physically addictive behaviors are harmful to one's soul as well as your body. So I'm right there.
Here's what's weird, though. I've read that your sense of smell is more closely linked to memory than any of your other senses. For example, even today, when I smell of the kind of vinyl used in my dentist's office during 2+ years of regular, painful orthodontic adjustments, it causes my palms to sweat. On the flip side, however, some of the best times of my youth were spent playing baseball. During our games, many parents would sit in the bleachers and smoke (this was the mid-1970's), which would drift onto the field, albeit in diluted form. Perhaps as a result, when I get a furtive whiff of cigarette smoke under the right circumstances (usually outdoors), it takes me back to those days playing in the scorching Arizona sun, with "Yankees" emblazoned on my green shirt and my dad cheering me on, and puts me in my happy place for just a moment. Not that I would ever seek it out to get my "memory fix", but the associations will probably always be there for me. Kinda strange, huh?
Gene Weingarten: When I was 12 years old, an 3 a.m. electrical fire in the kitchen nearly kiled my whole family. My brother was sleeeping downstairs, so alerted us before the flames got out of hand.
To this day, even the faintest smell of burning insulation triggers a surge of adrenaline in me, even when no one else can smell it, and even before I am aware I am smelling it. The sequence goes: 1) Spidey sense tingles! 2) I look around, alert and kind of scared but don't know why. 3) I catch the full whiff. Step four is that I must find the source of it, and hunt fanatically, even if we are in, like, a restaurant.
Jhb. South Africa: I have no idea whether this is real but I hope so.
A recent visitor to Mozambique claims that she was handed the following advisory note on the letterhead of the ministry of fish and wildlife in the Inhambane province: "Due to the rising frequency of human-lion encounters, the (ministry) is advising hikers, hunters, fishermen, and any motorcyclists that use the out-of-doors in a recreational or work-related function to take extra precautions while in the bush. We advise the outdoorsmen to wear little noisy bells on clothing so as to give advanced warning to any lions that might be close by so you don't take them by surprise. We also advise anyone using the out-of-doors to carry pepper spray with him or her in case of an encounter with a lion. Outdoorsmen should also be on the watch for fresh lion activity, and be able to tell the difference between lion cub shit and big lion shit. Lion cub shit is smaller and contains lots of berries and dassie fur. Big lion shit has bells in it, and smells like pepper."
Gene Weingarten: This is obviously a joke, because no government anywhere is this funny.
The Poll: Wow, Gene, way to start off after a hiatus. What possessed you to ask these questions on a chat titled "Funny?" on the Web site? Um, no, it's not, actually. I read your chat for a fun break from the workday, not to remind me of all the cruelty in the world. Could you please warn us next time the poll is decidedly not funny? Now I have these images in my mind -- the same ones I get whenever I hear about one of these situations. And it will take days to forget them.
Gene Weingarten: Sorry, but this chat has done horror before, and will do it again.
Palin Proble, MS: Another issue with the 10 hour flight after her water broke so that her son could be "Alaskan born": My sister's daughter was born this past Pearl Harbor Day with Down syndrome, so I have gotten a crash course. Palin and her husband KNEW that Trig was going to have Downs, and many Downs infants are born with serious heart problems and/or gastrointestinal problems that require immediate transport to the NICU and sometimes surgical intervention. Fortunately, my niece was spared this, as, apparently, was young Trig, but my niece did aspirate some meconium during delivery and had to spend the first 10 days of her life in NICU (this had nothing do to with Down's, but is not uncommon, especially during prolonged deliveries).
She put her son at TREMENDOUS risk for what seems on the surface to be a ridiculous reason. I sincerely hope she had a better reason than that one. If so, she really ought to articulate it.
I also find it interesting that, again, she is emphasizing that she and her husband CHOSE to have this child, while espousing a political view that would keep anyone else from making the same choice. It's insulting to every couple who chooses to have a Down's child and every pro-choice person, who I'm pretty sure would only go so far as to say that the parents SHOULD have the choice in this situation.
Gene Weingarten: Thanks.
Pat the Perfect, ME: Re "With God on Our Side": It's the tradition of folk and folk-type music to appropriate other people's melodies; "The Patriot Game" was itself based on a folk tune. Almost all of Woody Guthrie's songs are unabashedly either variants or direct copies of folk tunes, probably with the understanding that his audience would get the reference. Our current idea of ownership of melodies tended not to apply in that environment. Dylan's song is obviously a copy of Behan's song, though it simplifies the melody a little bit. Judy Collins has a gorgeous recording of "The Patriot Game." "With God on Our Side" is very immature Dylan in any case, down there with "Masters of War" (whose melody is also taken from a folk song).
Gene Weingarten: Well, I think the difference here is that it was not an appropriation of a folk classic, but a piece written by a contemporary person.
Dylan did a lot of odd appropriating. He lists himself as the writer of Evangline.
To Evoluti ON and others: This evolutionary justification for the view that fathers are less "hawk eyed" is just so much mental seed spilled on a desert. These tragedies make headlines because they're rare, and feeble attempts to generalize them into theories of parental attention are just so much crap. Would it be fair to extend Palin's water-breaking travels to all women?
Gene Weingarten: The cases of babies dead of hyperthermia are not rare.
Indianapolis, Ind.: Gene, would you ask Herndon, Va., what John McCain has actually changed during his time in the Senate? Yes, he's tried -- with McCain-Feingold, a law with more holes than Indianapolis roads. But what has he achieved?
This "experience" argument is so overrated. No one truly has the experience to be president until they are president. It's about judgment, and Obama crushes McCain on that score.
Gene Weingarten: I agree, it is a crapshoot. But there is such a thing as clearly not being ready.
There is simply no parallelism in comparing Obama's expericnce with Palin's. He has been running for president, in a national spotlight, for three years. He has positions on everything. He has studied everything.
She has barely ever been out of Alaska. The comparison is ridiculous.
Washington, D.C.: For Jhb. South Africa, I was told a similar thing when visiting Alaska. Hikers were told to wear bear bells. You could tell brown bear droppings from black bear droppings as black bear droppings looked like brown bear droppings but had bear bells.
Gene Weingarten: Good.
Link Farms, the Internet: These are chunks of text spammers use to put into spam e-mails, helping the e-mails to get past spam filters. Not sure how this works, but I'm pretty certain this is the reason behind it.
Gene Weingarten: I'm still not getting it. These are not emails, these are blog sites. Filled with gibberish. I'm amazed no one within the reach of these pixels has an explanation!
Washington, D.C. : Just a note on the whole "flight to Alaska while pregnant" thing. As reported by The Post, Palin checked with her doctor and he okay'd the flight.
Posters may now resume playing Internet M.D.
Gene Weingarten: Uh huh.
The doc is a lady, a close friend of Palin's, who she appointed to boards and such. We don't know what really happened here.
Pat the Perfect, ME: Re the crotch shot: The reason most Post readers missed out on it was that it ran only in the early edition of the paper -- it was holding space (unfortunately, a very big space) for a story to be put there later. The early edition goes to outlying areas of Washington (the letter writers, I believe, were from Frederick County and Calvert County), and the first edition constitutes just a small fraction of the press run. At least it was just in black-and-white.
Gene Weingarten: Ah. The real story. Thanks, Pat.
This chat has done its duty to rectify the problem of small distribution.
Washington, D.C.: We took our dogs to Roosevelt Island the other day as we often do on sunny weekends to play at the unofficial dog beach there and walk them. It's about a 20 yard patch of beach where you can usually find a small group of dogs playing happily. Never has there been a dog fight while I've been there and owners seem to be responsible in picking up poo etc.
This day was different however, as there was a ranger waiting at the bridge (we were given a heads up by another dog owner at the beach) to admonish us for bringing our dogs on the island and letting them play off leash in the water. Citing they were hurting the water fowl. He went so far as to chase us down yelling at us.
I get that this isn't the dog-friendliest of towns but come on! I can't believe they are going to try to ban dogs on Roosevelt Island (as the Ranger yelled at us). Sure, our dogs were off leash when they were swimming in the Potomac but they are very much in control and on leash when we are walking around!.
Thanks for letting me vent! Didn't Roosevelt have dogs? What would he think?
Gene Weingarten: I love letting my dog swim in that beach. Dogs endanger no one there.
Cynic, AL: OK - how cynical am I to think that one of the Palin perks is that she makes McCain look more strong and statesman like? When McCain stands next to Romney, he looks like a troll standing next to King Hotsalot. Palin is a tiny, tiny woman. McCain at 5'7 is much taller than she is, even with her in heels. How tall were the highly qualified women? Would a tall and commanding looking woman have diminished McCain physically?
Gene Weingarten: Christine Todd Whitman would have dwarfed him.
Alexandria, Va.: A while ago you said you hoped that your daughter would have a lot of sexual experiences before she marries. Now that she's old enough to do so, and if she listened to her Daddy probably has in fact done so, are you still in favor of that idea? Do you think there's any correlation at all between the liberal idea that "a lot of pre-marital sexual experience is a good thing" and 16-year-old girls believing the same?
Gene Weingarten: I don't think I said "a lot of sexual experience."
I think what I said is that I would hope my daughter would have had sexual experience before she marries. I still believe that, sure.
Cynic, AL: I simply don't believe that leaving a child to roast in a car can be a complete accident. At least subconsciously, people who "forget" their kids in the car are sick and tired of having to deal with the needy little creatures. Some of them probably do it consciously, as well. In fact, I can't think of an easier way to get rid of a child than to (woops!) leave it in a car, or let it drown in a bathtub, especially since there seems to be a prevailing belief that the parents shouldn't be punished. Of course they feel guilty later - they've killed their child. That doesn't mean it wasn't criminal negligence, manslaughter, or even murder.
Gene Weingarten: Wow.
Thanks for sharing. I think.
re: Palin's labor flight: Putting two stories together, can one assume that Palin wanted her child to be "native Alaskan" so that, when Alaska secedes, there won't be any questions about whether the child is a citizen of Russ...I mean, Alaska?
Gene Weingarten: What's particularly interesting is that the group wants independence so Alaska doesn't have to follow environmental laws. Palin was opposed to the listing of the polar bear as an endangered species.
Reading too much into lyrics: A lot of songwriters, even very talented ones, just don't put that much effort into certain lyrics. I'd be very surprised if it occurred to those two that it might bring stalking to mind. I mean, they're several levels above Neil "Not even the chair" Diamond, but hey, they were probably just relieved to get a line that rhymed & scanned.
Gene Weingarten: Sadly, I think you are right.
Okay, time to go. Thank you all, Ioved this chat. I'll be updating as usual, plus we re-do the poll tomorrow, with the more intelligent split.
Gene Weingarten: As we discussed, I am asking you to retake the poll you took yesterday. Please answer AS YOU DID YESTERDAY, even if for some reason your opinion changed during the chat. The results of this might be enlightening.
Gene Weingarten: I am not first with this, but "Obama/Biden" is an anagram for "babe domain."
Insta-poll: What analogy did you find funniest? You never told us...
Gene Weingarten: Ah, right. Sorry!
Most of you were wrong, as was Tom. He liked the one y'all liked least: "As generalized as a newly commissioned brigadier." It was the most painful, and Tom liked that.
You mostly liked, for some reason, "as green as a granny on a Tilt-a-Whirl." It has alliteration, but not all that much else.
The best was "as unseasoned as a hospital hamburger." If that was your choice, you may congratulate yourself on your fine sense of humor.
Chicago, Ill.: This is important.
What do you think?
Gene Weingarten: I agree with it. I think the stakes for this election are greater than just who will be president.
Not theo, NE: Isn't something missing from this commercial?
Gene Weingarten: Good point.
He forgot to say he's a female horse.
Vancouver, B.C.: Hi Gene. Here's another bit of improbable research you might appreciate.
Gene Weingarten: This is infantile. We will not here dignify it.
Los Angeles, Calif.: I have a neighborly problem. It appears that my two roommates and I have moved in near a particularly, um, amorous couple (so to speak). I'm fine with people doing what people do in the privacy of their own homes, but due to some strange quirk of the apartment building, I can hear EVERYTHING that goes on in this couple's bedroom. Over the Labor Day weekend, they've woken me up three consecutive nights with their rather forceful vocalizations (the woman, I think, fancies herself the second coming of Jenna Jameson). Unfortunately, I can't tell exactly which apartment it is, but I have it narrowed down to three.
I'm in my third year of medical school and am getting up at ungodly hours of the morning to go work at the hospital for an ungodly amount of time before coming home to study myself into a stupor. I can't afford to lose sleep because of my neighbors. What should I do?
P.S. Thanks for talking my boyfriend out of growing a mustache in a previous chat.
Gene Weingarten: You could prosecute them. See next post.
Noisy Hor, NY: Man banned from girlfriend's home after noisy sex
By RAPHAEL G. SATTER The Associated Press
LONDON -- A British man has been banned from visiting his girlfriend's home after neighbors complained about noisy sex, a local government official said Thursday.
Adam Hinton, 32, was barred from getting within 100 meters (110 yards) of his 29-year-old girlfriend Kerry Norris' apartment by a British court Wednesday, Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman Mike Taggart said.
Residents of Norris's publicly-owned home had been complaining since 2006 about thumping music, banging headboards, and screamed obscenities, Taggart said. He added that a young child had been traumatized.
"There was a 6-year-old child who was subjected to the sort of obscenities you wouldn't want a 6-year-old to hear," Taggart said, adding that Norris also sunbathed naked in her yard in full view of passers-by.
"She is a classic nightmare neighbor," he said. "There's a salacious, smutty side to this case. But it's not about sex, it's about allowing your neighbors to have a normal decent life without being disturbed."
Taggart said the city council in the southern English community sought the injunction banning Hinton from the apartment because Norris had ignored a previous court order demanding that she be more quiet.
Last week, Norris was forced to pay 300 pounds (US$560) in fines and court costs for breaking "noise abatement order," Taggart said.
Neither Norris or Hinton could be located for comment.
© 2008 The Associated Press
Here's a clip from one of my favorite films, "The Secret of My Succe$s" (1987), starring Michael J. Fox, which I immediately recalled upon reading the item above and which humorously illustrates the situation from the neighbor's point of view (visually safe for work, but not audibly safe - headphones only, NO speakers!):
Gene Weingarten: Something odd happens in the middle of this video. I'm sure it made sense in the context of the movie. Can someone explain?
Gene Weingarten: To my surprise, and I am guessing yours, the re-calibrated poll results --- split not by gender but by whether or not you have kids -- were almost identical to the original poll results.
Gene Weingarten: Yes, this is a truly a moment for the history books.
Arlington, Va.: I used to feel more contempt toward parents who leave their children in cars, until it happened to me recently. I agreed to take my infant son on a trip to the grocery store, and managed to space off that fact in the short two mile drive there. I didn't remember having him with me until I'd been in the store for at least 20 minutes, as I passed the baby stuff aisle, at which time I ran out to get him. There were no consequences in this particular case, since it was a relatively cool night, my car has tinted windows, and the baby stayed asleep the whole time (so no one in the parking lot noticed him there). However, the fact that I could be so forgetful still terrified me, and I didn't tell my wife. I would hope that, under different weather conditions I'd be more aware, but I can't be sure.
On your poll, whereas in the past I would have probably chosen manslaughter for the Virginia case you describe, with a lengthy prison term, I now go for child neglect with a one-year term. That's the punishment I think would have been appropriate for myself had my own negligence turned out to have fatal consequences. While my own guilt would have been a hell I would never recover from, I still think that some measure of sanction from the state would be appropriate as a consequence for such behavior, which is negligent even if unintentional.
Gene Weingarten: This is the first in a series. Read on.
Minneapolis, Minn.: Your poll this morning brought back memories of one of my most painful parenting moments. A few years ago, one icy morning, I strapped the kids in their car seats and drove off to work. It was early in the morning, so they both fell asleep in the car. I got to work and went inside. I had been inside for about 35 minutes when my husband called to see how drop off had gone (he was the one who normally dropped them off but had an early meeting). I had left them outside, sleeping, in my car, in late January, in an outdoor parking lot in suburban Minneapolis. Up until that day I thought I would be one of the 25 percent of folks who answered "never" to such a question - I am a good mom. Just not on that day. Because they tell you not to put snow jackets on kids when you strap them in, the kids were wearing sweaters and jeans instead of warm parkas. When I got to my car, they were crying and shivering. I have never felt so low in my life. For months afterward I had notes written all over the place about my kids - in my office, on my car dash, on my hands, in my wallet, etc. I made the daycare call me if we hadn't shown up with the kids by 8:30. I hadn't thought about this incident for a few weeks but all the memories and feelings have come flooding back. I am still ashamed how close I came to devastating my family. I can't have anything but compassion for a parent who would do this - and yet, I would be more inclined to forgive it in my husband and in other men than in myself. I think of myself as the omnipotent protector of my children's well-being. I absolutely would think worse of a mom who did this, even though I'm a mom who did this. It's my job to remember stuff like that. I think of myself as a feminist, as someone who thinks men need to take the reins equally in parenting, etc. And yet, deep down I feel like the mom should always know better. Anyway, your poll made me give an extra kiss to the kids this a.m. (embarrassing the crap out of my son) and then go to my bathroom and cry. Thanks (sincerely, not sarcastically).
Gene Weingarten: This is the second.
Greensboro, N.C.: Interesting poll. I may have a different take on it that others. I'm a Pediatric ER physician and I see sick and injured children all day long. I can, and do, preach all day about prevention (turn your pot handles inward, put your medicines in a child proof container, lock up your cleaners, etc). But 99.9% of the time, the parent(s) responsible for a truly accidental injury are beating themselves up over it. I've had fathers in tears after their baby merely bonked its head (not even a bruise) and mothers wailing when their child OD's on grandma's pills. A child with second degree burns on his feet after he ran over a car's roof (it was in the sun). A tumble down the stairs (child crawled OVER the babygate). Prosecute the true offenders, those who did it on purpose (and I have those stories as well). Educate as much as you can (I sure try). But I can't even imagine the hell that a parent would go through after their action resulted in their child's death.
Gene Weingarten: That was the last.
Virginia: Gene - I am struggling with a tough decision - what to name my first born. I came across these names the other day and was wondering what you thought of them. They're all such inspiring names (and considering I don't know if it's a boy or a girl yet, it doesn't matter since these are seemingly gender neutral). What's your pick? Track, Bristol, Willow, Piper, or Trig?
Gene Weingarten: You want to go with a hyphenated version, like Piper-Track, or alternatively, combine the first and lest parts into one name, as Brisper, or Willtol, or Trick. It really doesn't matter.
Lakewood, Colo.: For the aptonym file...The New York Post reports that at least one of the tenants whose apartments overlook the skylight of the Nolita Delicatessen was upset enough at the nightly noise and commotion in the nightclub to have urinated off a balcony onto the skylight. One of the owners of the Nolita is Stacy Pisone.
Gene Weingarten: Thank you.
Aptonym: While driving though Ft. Lee, headquarters for the Quartermaster Corps, to my son's swearing in to the service, I noticed a name on a training company's headquarters sign that seemed unfortunately apropos. As you may know the QM handles everything from parachutes to food to potties. The captain's first name? Latrina. What were the parents thinking?
Gene Weingarten: It's a stupid name. They should have named her something normal, like Bristol.
He Won an Osc, AR: Um... you weren't the first to talk about VPL. It was mentioned in "Annie Hall," by Woody Allen's actor friend who lives in Hollywood.
Gene Weingarten: Actually, the first known mention was in a 1960s novel by David Halberstam. And yes, Alvy Singer's friend noted the existence of it in Annie Hall.
What I did, I believe, was establish a cult of worship.
Dupont Circle, Washington, D.C.: I was disappointed this morning that the Post said nothing about Cindy McCain's evil empire dress last night. She's one scary only child.
Gene Weingarten: Liz, please link.
washingtonpost.com: Yes sir, Mr. Weingarten sir. Cindy McCain, a vision in yellow.
Gov. Pander: Here's a very entertaining video of the VP candidate as a sports broadcaster in the 80s.
Gene Weingarten: Wow. She was pretty bad. And her hair has actually gotten better.
washingtonpost.com: The video originally attached to this question was removed from YouTube, but this one should do the job.
Next...: I personally think that Palin was picked for a game that McCain is playing with the RNC. He picked Palin just for the convention so that he could have all of the conservative major party figures in his pocket on record and then in two weeks time when they have to pull a Harriet Meyers, he can pick a moderate (or cross-over) who will appeal more to the general public and he won't have to spend the entire week arguing with the RNC party foundation about the decision and can go on his way. True maverick and gets out of the dicey uncomfortable convention politics if he were to pick Lieberman straight out.
Gene Weingarten: This theory is gaining popularity on the Web, but it is nuts. Having to withdraw the nomination will be death for McCain. It points up some terrible judgment.
Gene: There's only one way to come down on this imperfect situation. It's the woman's body.: Oooh...bad Gene. If you are going to argue that a mother has the right to terminate when the father wants the child, then it is completely wrong to argue for child support when a mother wants the child but the father does not. Here, the mother has all the right to say whether or not she will keep the child or abort and the father has no rights, but is expected to pay for the mother to make the full decision about his commitment. Either the father has the right to force the mother to carry the child to term (provided no danger to the mother or child), or the mother has no right to request child support if the mother wants the child and the father doesn't. Personally, I think the former. Provided that it doesn't endanger the mother's life, I think both parents should have the right to keep the child. If one wants it and the other does not, the parent that wants to keep the child assumes FULL parental rights, no child support, and no parental rights for the other parent.
Gene Weingarten: So as the father, I can force the woman to carry a child to full term against her will?
This is not even a slippery slope. This is just untenable.
Arlington, Va.: Could you please link to the Post Magazine wedding article? I couldn't find in in an online search...
Gene Weingarten: You can't find it because it runs this coming Sunday.
Washington, D.C.: The item about bells in bear droppings reminded me of some advice I got from a guide on a rafting trip in Alaska on how to tell the difference between a black bear and a brown bear (otherwise known as a grizzly, not always brown in color). When you see a bear, climb a tree. If the bear climbs the tree and kills you, it's a black bear. If it knocks the tree down and kills you, it's a brown bear.
Gene Weingarten: Thank you.
Arlington, Va.: Found a great Anti-Aptonym (InAptonym?) Check out the name of this company's Chief Technology officer:
Check out the 3rd name down on the management team...
Gene Weingarten: NOT THAT THIS MAKES IT AN APTONYM BUT....
Mr. Error's company is the one that washingtonpost.com uses to track site traffic.
Bear Protection: When my friend moved to Alaska, his dad decided to buy a gun in order to defend himself against bears. Going to the gun shop, he looked at a number of handguns, .357, .45, revolver, automatic. He was overwhelmed with the choices and not sure which was the most appropriate for the task, so he asked the man behind the counter which would be the best bear protection. The guy selects a .357 revolver and suggests that it would be the best, but that it should be modified by grinding the front sight off the barrel. Friend's dad asks, "Is that so I can get it out of the holster faster?" "No," replies the salesman, "that's so it doesn't hurt so much when the bear shoves it up your a--."
It's as true a story as the government warning about bells and pepper.
Gene Weingarten: Excellent.
Editor's Note: washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. washingtonpost.com is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.