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Bob Levey
Bob Levey
(Barbara Tyroler)
Levey Live Archive
Column: Bob Levey
Metro Section
Talk: Metro message boards
Live Online Transcripts

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Levey Live: Speaking Freely
Washington Post Columnist
Friday, March 14, 2003; Noon ET

"Levey Live: Speaking Freely," hosted by Washington Post columnist Bob Levey, appears every Friday. It is a live, open-agenda discussion offering washingtonpost.com users around the world the opportunity to ask questions and discuss topics of their choice with Bob.

Fearless Bob takes your questions about virtually everything, from sports and politics (there's a difference?) to world events, Metro area traffic and issues raised in Bob's columns.

The transcript follows.

Editor's Note: Washingtonpost.com moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions.

Bob Levey: Live! from Philadelphia! It's the Bob Levey show -- the hour that is dedicated to the proposition that a good chat can originate from any place. That's not a put down of Philly. In fact, I am loving my visit here. I'm in town for the National Bridge Championship. Ordinarily, at bridge tournaments, you could just be on the moon. You seldom venture outside the hotel. But I am exploring Philly, and I'm loving it. Anyone who doesn't get it about cities doesn't get it.

Hey, you think The Washington Post might want to adapt that last sentence and turn it into an advertising slogan?

Let's get going before I have to go and once again try to guess who has the queen of trumps.

Gaithersburg, Md.: Hey Bob,

Greetings and hallucinations.

So, what do you think about the "freedom fries" thing? I'm kinda concerned because I'm going to a conference soon (in New Orleans) and my hotel is in the -- French Quarter (freedom quarter?). To make matters worse, my beloved better half is coming and she likes to wear her hair in "freedom braids."

But the thing that really concerns me is whether or not Vicente Fox will vote with the U.S. in the UN Security Council. If he doesn't we're gonna have to erase "Mexico" from the contemporary vocabulary.

Just how will residents of Santa Fe or Albuquerque going to address their mail?

It boggles the mind.

Bob Levey: I freely predict you will have a great time in New Orleans no matter what you do and no matter what name you give to the famous Quarter there.

I think "freedom fries" effort is a pretty major waste of time. Are we so thin skinned that we can't stand it when a nation disagrees with us.

Washington, D.C.: Re: The Elizabeth Smart kidnapping --

Why didn't that girl find a telephone in nine months and phone home, or at least call 911? Have you ever heard of a teenager who couldn't dial a phone? Don't tell me she was "brainwashed" within a day of her disappearance. Something fishy about this whole thing.

Bob Levey: My nose agrees with you. Not even Patty Hearst renounced her entire history at the snap of a finger. My hunch: this girl was not the angel everyone made her out to be at the time she disappeared.

Washington, D.C.: So, how's the movie-hunt going?

And have you considered going to some of them in theaters, the difference between video and theater being quite pronounced? I find the theater experience to be part of the magic of the movies, and I'd hate to see ALL your movies be videos.

Bob Levey: Please see my March 18 column for full details on the 10 movies to which I will be subjecting my eye balls beginning very soon.

In the meantime, you've got to be kidding about the glories about watching movies in the theaters. Cell phones ring constantly. People chatter constantly. The guy behind me is forever kicking the back of my chair. Popcorn costs more than Gross National Product of half the countries in the world. What's to love?

Cubeland, USA: Bob --

While in London last week, I had the opportunity to watch a few of their news shows. Tony Blair appeared on two of them that were styled after a town hall meeting with audience members asking questions of the prime minister about the Iraq crisis. I don't agree with Blair about Iraq, but I was impressed that he would take the opportunity to go in front of a hostile audience and state his position and the reasons why. I wish Bush would do the same here in the U.S. I think it would enhance his position to actually hear why he feels the war is a good idea and to have to listen to the complaints and criticisms of the American people. Your thoughts?

Bob Levey: I could not agree with you more. I think in some ways, President Bush is an extremely courageous leader. He is not seeking an 80 percent mandate before he gets out of bed in the morning -- like certain other presidents I could name (for example, Hilary's husband). However, Bush does seem to be overly concerned with his re-election, and therefore with staying out of ugly public scenes. He has been handled so much by his handlers that he would not be capable, I don't think, of taking on a hostile audience in the way that Blair has.

North Carolina: Hi Bob -- I was hoping you or the chatters might have some advice for me. I recently moved to North Carolina from Maryland. A few months after I left, I called my doctor's office to get a copy of my medical records sent to me. Oops. The entire practice has shut down, doctors scattered, building is going to be demolished. I never received notice of this (perhaps got lost in the mail?). No one is at the office -- there is an answering service that refers you to a number to call to leave a voice mail for the medical records person. I've left weekly messages for six weeks now and received nothing, heard nothing. The answering service has no other information than the phone number to leave a voice mail. I suspect that no one is checking the voice mail.

So what's a girl to do? What happens to medical records in cases like this? Please tell me they aren't tossed!

Bob Levey: My best advice would be to get in touch with the state medical society. I don't know where it is located, but my guess would be either Baltimore or Annapolis. They might have a way to reach your doctor, even in a situation like this. I would doubt very seriously, in this age of litigation, that any doctor would be dopey enough to toss records even if I practice dissolves.

Washington, D.C.: Hey Bob, you ought to get someone from the Post Office on one of your Tuesday chats. I'd love to hear them try and defend their abysmal service.

Bob Levey: It goes straight into the idea file -- which is not round. Thanks very much.

Kingstowne, Va.: Bob, The Post says you're on vacation. Yet you're doing this here chat room. What gives?

Bob Levey: I'm pledged to do 104 chats a year -- half of Tuesday, half of Fridays, come hell, high water or national bridge championships. Vacations are in the eye of the beholder. It isn't as if this is a full day's work.

Silver Spring, Md.: Bob, any news on your joining the new leftish radio network? Out of curiosity, how does one "apply" for a job as a radio host? Do you audition by, for example, going off (for this job) on an anti-Bush rant? Do you take simulated calls from adversarial listeners? Do you interview imagined guests such as Camile Paglia, Michael Moore and Garrison Keillor? Please show us what goes on behind the magic microphone. Thanks.

Bob Levey: No news beyond what I have already reported. I have met with the big cheese of this new network. Very soon, he will have me meet with medium cheeses. Then I imagine I will do a live audition -- maybe several. How and where and exactly what, I don't yet know.

Burke, Va.: Bob, I figured you, as purveyor of correct pronunciation (e.g. L'Enfant), would understand this pet peeve. If I hear one more singer of the National Anthem warble, "through the pair-oh-liss flight" I'm going to be sick!

Bob Levey: I'm making reservations to join you in your nausea.

You remind me of the kid who once walked into a department store and asked for a bawnzurly light. The salesman asked what he was talking about. The customer said he was buying furniture for his new apartment and had heard of this new fangled kind of light by listening to the national anthem.

True story.

Chicago, Ill.: Bob, toward the end of your show Tuesday with the head of the Scrabble Association, was the following exchange:

Bob Levey: When you run into a word you don't know, do you automatically start breaking it down into possible Scrabble words? For example, my last name--the only words I see inside it are "eel," "vee," "levy" and "vey" (as in "oy vey"). Do you see others? Did you start "attacking" Levey as soon as you saw that unusually-spelled word?

John D. Williams, Jr.: vey is no good. I see EL, YE, LEE, EYE, LEV.

You mean BOB LEVEY didn't know "el" was a word?!?!?!?!?!?!

Bob Levey: I must have had fewer than my usual six cups of coffee that morning. I did enough time on the El in your wonderful city to be very aware -- both of it and of the word.

Eastern Market, Washington, D.C.: You have any feelings either way on the musician's strike that closed down most of Broadway for four days? I'm glad they settled but couldn't imagine sitting through a performance of taped music.

Bob Levey: Strikes never really benefit anybody. However, they are often necessary to make a larger long-term point. That was exactly the situation in New York. The issue, as you indicate, was the long term existence of live music on Broadway. The union seems to have lost the war and won the battle.

Annandale, Va.: Hi Bob:
Heading up to Philly for a long weekend with the BF. Any suggestions for off-the-beaten-path attractions or restaurants?

Bob Levey: I'm afraid I've been pretty much ON the beaten path since I got here on Wednesday. But that's really the strength of Philadephia. Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell -- what could be better?

Arlington, Va.: Bob,

Do you have an e-mail where readers can e-mail you local stories/leads/etc?

Thanks for being here for us.

Bob Levey: leveyb@washpost.com is open for story ideas of all kinds at all times. Fire when ready.

Castle Shannon, Pa.: Isn't there a new baseball stadium in Philadelphia? What's it look like?

Bob Levey: There is. But I have not seen it on this trip. Anything would have been better than the old stadium here. The Vet was a funeral home disguised as a ballpark.

Bowie, Md.: Bob, did you ever reach any final conclusions about the comics in the Post? If you've stopped, any you thought were good, but not worth the daily visit? If still researching, what do you like best?

Bob Levey: I'm still researching. That usually means that I am holding my nose and trying to like the strips on the same page where my column appears. So far, the results are luke warm at best. Full details coming in the column soon.

Washington, D.C.: What was Moran thinking?!

Bob Levey: He isn't.

Big Screen vs. Little Screen: I couldn't disagree with you more on the movie theater vs. videotape argument. A movie theater surrounds you in a movie and its soundtrack, and most movies are much better that way.

Also, for someone who talks about only going to one movie a year, I have trouble buying your argument about the theater experience. If you have this kind of experience every time you go (which isn't really a statistically valid sample anyway), pick a different theater and different time.

Bob Levey: I never meant that my impression of watching a movie in the theater were universal, or consistently valid. As you say, since I go to the movies to seldom, how could I be an authority?

However, any readers have complained to me over many years about the manners of their fellow customers at theaters. So this is not a Levey invention. Where this is smoke, there's fire.

Mt. Lebanon, Pa.: I just watched a program that aired yesterday in Iraq. This feed from Iraq Satellite Television was shown courtesy of C-SPAN. They held up James Moran from your neighborhood as the model Congressman for his denunciation of American Jewish support for war with Iraq. Can words come back to haunt someone or what? Now he's Saddam's poster boy for peace. Good job, Jim. What do you intend to do in your next job? Thanks much. HLB

Bob Levey: I hardly expect Moran to wash up on shore in Baghdad any time soon. And he will not need a new job, by my reckoning, for another 22 months. However, he has had more second chances than drug addicts get in the NBA. It's time for Rep. Moran to figure out what's next.

Smart Girl Recovery: So Bob, if you were an impressionable girl who was taken at gun-point and told "if you try to escape either I or someone I know will hunt down your family and kill them" I guess the first thing you'd do is call their bluff? Good luck with that. Let's hope your child never has to face the same decisions she did. There are many young childrens' bodies found half buried in the desert that shows how well that strategy works. She stayed alive for nine months -- that was the goal.

Bob Levey: Who can argue with staying alive? I don't think it serves any purpose for any of us to second guess the fears of a 15-year-old girl. However, I certainly know any, many young people who would have tried to escape at any and every opportunity. Many of them would have succeeded. Only a relative handfull would have been harmed or killed.

Philadelphia, Pa.: Off the beaten path sites to check out in Philly:

Go to the Mutter Museum. It's a medical museum full of oddities and weird things. Don't remember the exact address but you can usually find it online.

As for good restaurants, my wife and I love warmdaddies on Front Street. Great selection of comfort food and live jazz to boot!

Bob Levey: If only I had more time here in the land of brotherly love. I'll post this for the sake of other Philly-bound clicksters. Many thanks.

Burke, Va.: Thought I'd jump in first on the Chelsea Clinton salary thing. I know $120K sounds like an eye-popping starting salary. But way back in 1988 when I got my MBA, classmates starting at McKinsey were getting $75K. Outrageous then, outrageous now.

Bob Levey: It seems very obvious to me that all of us are worth precisely what someone will pay us. Is Chelsea Clinton supposed to beg them not to pay her what they think she is worth?

12th Floor Metro Center, Washington, D.C.: Bob, I work on top of the Shops. They put in new doors this week that appear to be bulletproof. First off, they weigh a ton and you have to be some kind of super hero to even open them. But what's the rationale behind bullet-proof doors?

Bob Levey: Security fears and security consciousness are going to be a part of our lives forever.

Look at the bright side: your biceps will get in shape, probably better shape than they've ever been in.

Spam, Spam: What percentage of your incoming e-mail is spam?

Bob Levey: In my basket, at least half. I am especially amused by the offers that provide me with breast enlargement strategies.

Arlington, Va.: Why is the current baseball stadium in D.C. -- RFK -- not being talked about for the possible baseball team? It was a baseball stadium before it was converted for football, its close to a metro, the land is already there, as are the roads. Even if it has to be torn down completely and rebuilt, it would still be a cheaper/better alternative than buying very expensive land and tearing down much needed housing in Rosslyn.

Bob Levey: I agree with you totally. I'm not even sure that RFK would need to be torn down. Just before the Redskins moved to Maryland six years ago, they were seriously considering a major renovation at RFK. The idea that people will come see major league baseball only in a virgin stadium is nonsense -- demonstrable nonsense. Have you heard of Wrigley Field and Fenway Park? There isn't a pastel sky box either place. And yet they are as popular as ever -- even more so.

Bowie, Md.: Bob, you did your show last week from BWI.

Did you fly to Philly from there? It only takes about 1.5 hours to drive between those airports.

Bob Levey: Last week, right after I finished the show, I flew to Seattle. That isn't very close to Philadelphia, last time I checked.

To get to Philadelphia this time, I took Amtrak. How in the world could this national railroad be in so much trouble when its service is so excellent? Getting from Washington to Philly by train is so comfortable, fast and easy that anyone who drives has a screw loose.

Arlington, Va.: The other night I was southbound on N. Capital street near Michigan Ave, in the right hand lane. A big white car with tinted windows pulled up to my right (in the parking lane) and when the light turned green proceeded to floor it to cut in front of me (happens often in this neighborhood and others -- I guess thugs want to prove their manhood via machine). He does this again at the intersection of N. Florida & Capital. At a T intersection farther south we hit a red light. He again pulls to the parking lane to get around cars at the light. Imagine my surprise when he hits the cherries & blueberries behind his tinted back windshield to run the red light. Turned them off as soon as he was past the intersection. Did have DC plates, but not police plates or official govt. plates. He headed west on K street from N. Capital and there we parted ways.

SO - are police supposed to:
1 - be good role models in all things, including driving? I.e. don't commit so many traffic violations and bad driving habits.

2 - use emergency lights/sirens only in emergencies? I.e. not to get through a red light just cuz you are late getting home?

Bob Levey: I don't know the circumstances here. And neither do you. However, there is no questions that police from sea to shining sea abuse their powers and their emergency lights. Best medicine: write down the license plate and report them. Some chiefs (notably included our Brother Ramsey) are beginning to take such matter seriously.

Washington, D.C.: Hey Bob.

First -- out of the closet. I'm a politically conservative, non-interventionist, fiscally responsible, traditional Christian, with family values. Over the past year, I've seen the rise of the most antithetical regime in the White House that has driven me to want to protest (well, almost) something, somewhere because it's not delivering on what it promised during the elections. We're busy building countries, driving up the biggest deficit (and debt) in the history of mankind, bailing out a national medical system in which we have no business, trying to create national education policies that should be the responsibility of parents and communities, and on and on and on. Sheeps clothing it is!

Aren't there any legitimate conservatives left in the world? Our founding fathers are rolling in their graves (I can hearing Jefferson jumping up and down) with what this Bush White House is doing! With Canada the 51st and Mexico the 52nd states, do we really want to have a United States of Earth? Hmmm. That's a cool acronym -- USE!


Bob Levey: Sure, there are many "legitimate conservatives" in the U.S. Many feel forsaken in the same way that you do. This is just one kind of voice in America that makes me think that regardless of what happens in Iraq, Mr. Bush is extremely beatable.

Bob Levey: Off to the combat of the bridge table. Thanks for the chat. See you next week.

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