Weekly Schedule
  Message Boards
  Video Archive
Discussion Areas
  Home & Garden
  Post Magazine
  Food & Wine
  Books & Reading

  About Live Online
  About The Site
  Contact Us
  For Advertisers

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

NEW! Subscribe to the weekly Live Online E-Mail Newsletter and receive the weekly schedule, highlights and breaking news event alerts in your mailbox.

Levey Live: Speaking Freely
Washington Post Columnist
Friday, March 21, 2003; 1 p.m. 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.

Arlington, Va.: Bob,

You once said in a column something to the effect of "there is a special place reserved in hell" for the people who stand in the doorways of Metro cars so only one person can go through at a time. I think you need to issue your wise words again.

For weeks now, I have encountered these hell recruits in doorways on almost every one of my twice daily Metro commutes. There's plenty of annoying behavior on metro trains, but this is one that effects the entire train because it slows the flow of traffic into and out of a car.

So please, issue a de facto PSA again and remind people that if they step just outside the doorway long enough for everyone to get out, they can get right back on and avoid another round of blatant stares from those of us aiming for heaven via Farragut West.

Bob Levey: I shall. Thanks for the nudge.

Washington, D.C.: Mr Levey,
How to understand Fairfax county's decision to cancel or defer trips to the District of Columbia? I would wager that over half of the county's students have parents who work downtown. I image all or most ARE going to work. This seems like an over-the-top decision which will only scare students (who KNOW where their parents work). What do you think?

Bob Levey: I think it's utterly absurd. Kids who never budge from Fairfax are still at great risk from car accidents and other unanticipate-able disasters. Are terrorists the only people we have to fear? Not by my lights.

Washington, D.C.: Bob, Maybe I should be asking about the war and its affect on D.C., but I have a question concerning breast feeding and the Metro. I was on the Metro the other day and a mother was breast feeding her baby, now how should Metro officials handle that since there is a no eating or drinking on the Metro.

Bob Levey: Metro officials should look the other way--which they've been successfully doing for more than a generation.

Alexandria, Va. : Should I be worried that one farmer and his tractor could shut down a part of the city and part of the government for a couple of days?

The answer is YES!!!

Could you imagine if he brought a few buddies with a few more tractors? Park one near the Capitol, one near the White House, and a couple on bridges. The city and government would be shut down!!

Our idea of security seems to be limited to telling people that this is most secure city in the country.

Bob Levey: Today's coverage indicates that the guy told the cops he had the same fertilizer that blew up the Murrah building in Oklahoma City. And you want them to snap their fingers and treat this like a minor traffic incident? Time is always on the side of the law. They know it--and knew it in this case. They handled this one perfectly. Traffic flow is a lot less important than risking hundreds of lives.
Incidentally, it was never clear to my throughout Tractorgate why so many people didn't choose another route into downtown. Yes, it would have meant making a Great Circle around the pond on the Mall. But surely a three-hour commute could have been reduced by half, say, by taking a different bridge from Virginia.

Bowie, Md.: Don't you ever feel silly writing about, oh, say, a tow truck taking three hours to reach a motorist, when we are at war?

Bob Levey: I'm glad you asked about this, Bowie, because my ringing answer is: No, not at all.
Since when does The Washington Post have to be about only one story, big as the war may be? Life is a many splendored thing, and interests of readers are all over the place. I'm not going to write about the war just because everyone else is. In fact, I may NEVER write about the war--because everyone else is!
You sound as if you buy into the "logic" of the TV nets, who are all-war-all-the-time even when nothing else is going on. As my column about AAA shows, there's a whole lot else going on.

Hollywood, Calif.: Mr. Levey: Thank you so much for deigning to watch 10 of our products. Without your blessing from on high, countless actors, directors, producers and writers would be out of work. Perhaps our formula for success in producing entertainment the American public loves will rub off on you, and you will, at long last, be able to get your novel published. Sincerely, members of the filmmaking community.

Bob Levey: If the American public is so in love with your products, Hollywood, why is my e-mail basket brimming with messages from others who (like me) are totally sick of gratuitous violence, sex, blood and stupidity?
Thanks for the kind words about the novel. I'll be sure not to send you an autographed copy.

Woodley Park, Washington, D.C.: Bob, my condolences on "The Clarry." I don't doubt for a moment that the nine people who read it loved it. But you know how the publishing biz is. If they don't make an offer immediately, they never will. Keep trying, though. You're bound to have better luck next time.

Bob Levey: Too soon for condolences, I hope! The book has been rejected by only two publishers. From the others, no news is good news--or so I hope.

Washington, D.C.: You know, Tractor Man didn't affect the Metro commute much at all...

Bob Levey: Amen and thanks

Columbus, Ohio: The Girl Scouts are out with the cookies again as you noted in your column. This may have been addressed long past, but why did they ever stop offering chocolate chip cookies? When they ask me to buy, I ask if they have chocolate chip, and the answer is always no. I know that your point will be it is really a donation and the cookies just happen to be a side bar -- BUT I LIKE chocolate chip cookies and bought them by the ton (literally) when they had them. Now I don't patronize even if it is my best friends children. Call me a curmudgeon but damn it, why did they ruin a good thing? How about finding out the real truth here Bob? It won't change my position, but I would like to know why. Thanks.

Bob Levey: Senior moment....
I used to know the answer to this......
But I can't recall it.......
Maybe chocolate chip wasn't selling so well?
I seem to remember that that was it, but I'm not positive.
Anyone else know?

Mt. Ranier, Md.: Bob, we all believe you when you say you're not a liberal. But I can't understand why, if you're so hard to pin down politically (your stands on gun control, mass transit subsidies and higher taxes notwithstanding), no has ever accused you of being a conservative. Any ideas?

Bob Levey: Because I'm not one of them, either.
That's the whole point.
The minute who sling the L-word or the C-word at me, you're going to be wrong twice. My politics are impossible to put into a box.

Washington, D.C.: Why do people say that if you're against the war then you're anti-American? I believe I am pro-America, but anti-war.

Bob Levey: I can't understand this, either. I haven;t met a single American who wishes that harm will befall American soldiers. Yet there is widespread fear and apprehension about the fact of war itself. Is that such a tough distinction?
By the way, promise me that we will not be "treated" to the sight of American peace demonstrators spitting on and cursing at returning soldiers, a la the glory days of Vietnam. I watched this happen in Oakland, California, in 1970. One of the worst things I've ever seen.

Chicago, Ill.: Greetings,
Kind of a humorous moment this morning. A protestor showed up from Indiana and didn't understand why no one was there. Turns out they forgot about the time zone issue and showed up way too early.

Free speech may rock, but those time zones will get you every time.

Bob Levey: I love your sense of irony. But let's have a tad of sympathy here.
I was in Indiana last month. As you know, a jagged line splits that state between Eastern and Central time. I stopped for gas a few miles west of South Bend, and asked the cashier which time his town was on. He didn't know!
Yes, Chicago has been CST forever. But an Indiana person has a reason to louse this up.

Washington, D.C.: Good for you choosing "Amelie." I was one of the people that suggested it. You won't be disappointed!

Bob Levey: Thanks. Looking forward.

Washington, D.C.: Bob: I’m wondering if you’re re-thinking your comment from last week’s chat about Elizabeth Smart, which was “My hunch: this girl was not the angel everyone made her out to be at the time she disappeared.”

With all the media attention given this case, there hasn’t been an inkling of information to suggest that she was anything but the type of daughter most parents pray for. And now there are the tragic allegations of forcible rape. I don't know how the mind breaks in those kind of situations, but I think it's reasonable to assume that this was a girl who was in fear for her own life and her family's lives if she didn't obey and stay put.

For many years I was a daily newspaper reporting covering crime, so I can appreciate a healthy dose of cynicism. As a young reporter, I wasn’t cynical enough to figure out that the mother of a lost child would, in fact, turn out to be his killer. But one of the things that disheartened me about the business (and believe me, I love journalism; ink is in my blood) is how cynicism among reporters and editors has really become a smugness about knowing better, even when the evidence doesn’t point in a certain direction. There’s an open case that I covered in my hometown in which I know reporters are just darn sure that a missing woman was killed by her husband. Yet this is a case, because of alibi and other evidence, in which the cops have been able to effectively rule him out. They're so certain that they've even said so publicly, which would doom a prosecution if they were wrong. In all likelihood, he is what he appears to be: a grieving husband. But somehow it’s more satisfying for a lot of my educated and worldly colleagues to believe otherwise.

Anyway, as much as I enjoy your columns and chats and respect your work, your “hunch” about Elizabeth Smart struck me as more smug than genuinely cynical, and I’m wondering if you’ve changed your opinion. Is it possible that she was a troubled teen who hid it well, ran away and is now making up or embellishing accusations against the alleged kidnappers? I’m open-minded enough to admit that anything is possible, but that’s not what the evidence tells me so far.

Bob Levey: I have certainly changed my opinion, in light of the facts, and I'm happy to admit it.
Please bear in mind that last week's question was asked during an online discussion, where normal journalistic "rules of evidence" don't apply. In fact, I try very hard not to be as cynical as the scribes you say you fled. I was asked for my seat of the pants "take" on Smart, and I gave it. Period.

Washington, D.C.: Bob -- read with growing concern your column on parents' involvement in their childrens' college education. I just wondered why you didn't take the colleges to task? They behave more and more like a corporation with a 'service' to sell -- surely that helps parents feel justified in making demands when they 'consume that service?' Professors are caught in the middle -- between certain administrative attitudes and parents who feel justified in following through on this marketing approach.

Bob Levey: That's a column for another day, and it will certainly get written. Why a school with a $100 billion endowment needs to sock middle class families for $40,000 a year is beyond my understanding.

Clarksburg, Md.: Mr. Levey, a few weeks back you intimated that a front wheel drive Taurus station wagon made it through 30" of snow as easily as an SUV. Granted, I don't have details, but I'd be willing to bet you that hospitals and such weren't calling on owners of Taurus station wagons to help drive necessary personnel through unplowed streets.

I gotta tell you, you come off as an insufferable, sanctimonious putz with that assertion. Almost like you'd insist that 2 plus 2 equals 22 rather than admit you might be wrong.

Bob Levey: I am neither insufferable nor sanctimonious, Clarksburg (at least I hope not). I am a guy with a front-wheel drive station wagon that made it through that epic snowstorm very easily.
Maybe I'm just a great driver (whoops! he's being insufferable and sanctimonious!). Or maybe all that snow isn't such a tough test if you take it easy. In any event, Old Nellie made it just fine.
By the way, you're absolutely right about hospitals relying on 4-wheel-drive vehicles. Well they should. Those will ALWAYS get through a big snow. Front-wheel drive might or might not.

Alexandria, Va.: I'm doing a master's degree at American, and one of my professors mentioned that in the past five to seven years, he's suddenly inundated with calls from his (undergrad) students' parents. He said that previously, he NEVER received a call from a parent. Now, it seems to be commonplace. I also had a friend who previously coached college volleyball. She quit because she couldn't stand having parents question her every move. She thought that once you left the high school ranks, meddling parents were gone. She was wrong.

I never would have dreamed of asking my parents to interfere with my life at college. And that includes my dealings with the financial aid office. I couldn't wait to get to college so I could do exactly that -- be an adult and do things for myself.

Bob Levey: Hooray and amen. Now how the heck are we going to fix this problem?

Arlington, Va.: Oh for the love of Pete, folks, will you stop it? Bob's neither liberal, nor conservative, yet you ask again and again and again every week. Can people just drop this? Why does it matter so much? When did this weekly chat turn into this? It's no fun anymore. I'm out.

Bob Levey: Please come back, Arlington! We badly need your good sense.
Let me shed one additional piece of light on this:
People continue to sling the L-word at me (and to ask about the C-word) because those words are accusations in 2003. They are not descriptions.
It's far too much fun to toss a can of paint at someone (especially when, as here, you don't have to sign the message). It's also easier than having to think about what you're really saying.

Huntington, Va.: So what's the latest on the diet? How many pounds have you shed?

Bob Levey: Big column coming about this for April 7, the anniversary of the diet.

Washington, D.C.: I am pleasantly surprised by your movie list -- your assistant has good taste. Will you write about each as you watch them or will you save it all until you have watched all 10 flicks?

Bob Levey: Not sure yet. I'll probably wait until I've eyeballed all ten, and then write two or three columns about them.

Falls Church, Va.: Bob, you mentioned in today's column that a woman called you seeking advice about her Social Security card. No matter what the issue, you never seem to miss a chance to tell us that people are forever calling you to seek advice. Are you secretly jealous of Dear Abby and Carolyn Hax? Or does it just make you feel avuncular to be asked for your opinion?

Bob Levey: Neither. It's a way to show the world that I really do welcome calls and messages from readers, and I really do try to answer each and every one. I often mention that people seek my advice because that's part of the full disclosure that this business demands. It's not because I need to (or am trying to) pat myself on the back.

Provo, Utah: I have a front wheel drive, 88 Taurus station
wagon. Gets me through our blizzards just fine!
Usually, better than the SUV drivers who are
terrified of rolling if they slide an inch.

Bob Levey: My 1993 Camry wagon will be happy to take you on in a drag race, any time you say! Thanks

Fairfax, Va.: Re: the door-sitters. I'm a pretty big guy, and I'm a klutz as well... so I can be excused for "accidentally" bumping into them, right?

What gets me too are the people getting on (happens at Farragut West a lot) who step on and STOP immediately so they can camp at the door. I've found simply not stopping on my path gets them further into the car.

Bob Levey: For years, I've limbered up the bigtime baritone and have said: "PLEASE keep moving into the car." Usually works very well.

Gaithersburg, Md.: Have you watched any of the movies yet?

Bob Levey: None yet. Soon!

12th Floor Metro Center: Bob, in your column yesterday, you wrote "an AAA spokesman ..." Shouldn't this be "a AAA spokesman ..." since most people read it as "a Triple A ..." I know this is petty, but for my own education, which is correct?

Bob Levey: Excellent question. The usual rule hereabouts is that we attach an article based on how the word is written, not based on how most of the world pronounces it. Perhaps that rule should be modified or junked. But it's still the rule, for now at least

College Park: Tsk tsk Bob. TractorGATE? And here I thought you were one of the wise ones that finds the attaching of the word gate to every incident, large or small, an overused cliche.

Bob Levey: It was a joke!
Or at least an attempt at one!

Fort Totten, Md.: Any new developments on your stentorian voice returning to radio waves?

Bob Levey: I was supposed to have appeared as a substitute talk show host today on WTNT-AM, but they've decided not to do local talk shows for the present. They're taking a continuous feed of CNN. But the cheese there assure me that there will be additional opportunities.

The L Word: We love ya, Bob!

Bob Levey: Now THERE'S an L-word that floats my boat! Thanks

Washington, DC: I was very concerned by your recent column about the woman who was stranded while driving. I am about to learn to drive. I have a relatively minor problem with my arm that does not allow me to carry, say, a heavy grocery bag, and I'm afraid I may not be physically able to change a flat. Will AAA strand me because I "didn't try hard enough" to handle the problem and must be one of those "flighty" female drivers?

Also, having taught Emily and Allie to drive, do you have any advice on selecting a driving school? DMV wouldn't give me any -- I think maybe they were afraid they could get in trouble for steering me somewhere.

Bob Levey: Many readers have written to say that they belong to oil-company clubs now, having had bad experiences with Triple A. You might want to consider that, especially under the circumstances.
Jane and I began to teach Emily and Allie to drive years before each of them turned 16. As we would face a tricky situation, we'd explain why we were doing what we were doing. When it came time to choose a driving school, our kids didn't really learn anything there--and didn't really have to.

Portland, Ore.: As for parents getting too involved, I had a professor (I went to a state school and lived at home) call my mom when I was absent three times in a row! ARGHHH!

I was dropping the class and the paperwork was getting approved -- but still! Tattling on a college student paying her own tuition!

Bob Levey: Amazing. Thanks for a reminder that the foolishness cuts both ways

Vienna, Va.:
Who do you have in the final four ?

Bob Levey: Syracuse. Syracuse. Syracuse. And Syracuse.
Mr. Anthony is the real thing.

Vienna To Courthouse On Sunday Night: Submitted this one as well to the Metro guy.
I saw a metro employee get on the train at Ballston and he was eating, he then went into the conductors area, still eating.

By the way, Baghdad just got bombarded big time.

Bob Levey: Metro has never been serious about laying the wood to its own employees, and it probably never will be. In any event, thanks for letting us know. And thanks for the report re Baghdad.

McLean, Va.: Bob, heard you are covering for Paul Berry in the next few weeks? When and where will you be on-air?


Bob Levey: As I said, I was supposed to fill in for him today, but station management decided to go with all-war-all-the-time instead. They've assured me that there will be other slots popping open in May, and maybe April.

Rockville, Md.: Cheers for your column on poor AAA (not pronounced triple A in my part of town). My car once broke down and I waited for about two hours for service because the AAA dispatcher insisted the intersection I was at didn't exist, and refused to give the tow truck a landmark -- the Wheaton Library. It seem the dispatchers are in Virginia and just don't know Montgomery County and refuse to accept guidance from member/drivers.

Bob Levey: This is certainly part of it. But another part is that Joe Towtruck Driver gets far less to "cover" a AAA call than he'd get if he took the call himself. As with everything else, you get what you pay for.

Alexandria, Va.: Bob, people like to label people either "liberal" or "conservative" because most people like to view the world in black and white, no grey area. It's much easier to label someone than to understand that their beliefs and ideas may be complex.

Bob Levey: So well said. My thoughts exactly. Thanks

Germantown, Md.: I'm five years out of college; not TOO much older than the kids in your column. I can't be the only one who felt absolutely embarrassed for those kids. Here they are, first time on their own, and Daddy tries to fix their grades?! That's one step away, from "let Mommy kiss your boo-boo and make it all better." I would have hid my syllabi, class schedule, and my professor's names from the parental units forevermore. I would have been tempted to switch to a school in, say, Australia. I just felt so sorry for those kids. I wonder if they called to complain (hoping for some sympathy and support) and got wacko over-protectiveness instead. Who initiated this -- the kid in question or the parent?

Bob Levey: The parent! Hey, when you've spent 22 years managing a kid's life so it shines in every possible way, it's a tough habit to break.

Great Falls, Va.: Bob, you said in a recent chat that you are obligated to do 104 chats a year (one on each Tuesday and one on each Friday), and that is why you do many from phone booths on the road. If what you said is true, why is that you didn't do one the day after Thanksgiving? Why are you subjected to different rules than other Post chat hosts who often do NOT do their chats while on vacation?

Bob Levey: All discussions on Washingtonpost.com were dark on the day after Thanksgiving, and they're dark on many other days to either side of major holidays. One hundred four Bob shows is only a goal. I probably do only 99 or so, in an average year.
I have no idea why other hosts don't do their chats while they're on vacation. I think they're missing a bet.
My notion is: You build an expectation among clicksters that your show will be there on a certain day, and at a certain time. Every time you're NOT there, you're making it easier for them to run away and never come back.

AAA: Wow Bob...I feel like I have to speak up in defense
of AAA and say that I (a 23-year-old woman) have
had nothing but good experiences with them. In
particular, a friend (also female) and I had some
serious trouble in the middle of Wyoming. They
were on the scene in 20 minutes, and paid for 25
miles of towing plus 3 nights at a motel til our car
was fixed. I'm sad to hear of other's troubles with

Bob Levey: Glad to hear of your good experiences. Maybe AAA does it better in Wyoming than it does (or can) in a major urban area.

Local News: This is probably for Paul Farhi's chat, but why was 80 percent of Channel 4's early morning news this morning spent on the war. I know it's the number one story of the day/year, but with round-the-clock war coverage, if we're going to have our local news anchors, I'd prefer to hear what is going on around town.

Bob Levey: Please see my earlier reply to the clickster who asked if I was embarrassed because yesterday's column wasn't about the war.
I agree with you totally.
It's a multifaceted world, and we'd do well to keep all facets before our readers and viewers.

Laurel, Md.: You're always saying you're not either an L-word or a C-word, yet it seems all the positions you take lean liberal. Could you give an example of a conservative belief that you espouse?

Bob Levey: I believe in balanced budgets, strong national defense, "family values" and religious freedom (perhaps the original "conservative" value).
Yet I also believe in free speech and organized labor. I don't think capital punishment works. I don't think it's possible to be absolutely for or against every kind of abortion in every situation.
One box won't hold me.

Castle Shannon, Pa.: What will happen to the tractor itself that the farmer drove into the pond? It would probably make a pretty bundle on e-Bay!

Bob Levey: I'm betting Sesame Street. With a song about how you should never drive on water.

Metro Etiquette, Washington, D.C.: What do you say to someone singing on the metro? I have seen this twice recently: a teenager with her family and someone singing hymns. Can we get Metro to expand their "do not..." list?

Bob Levey: No-sing has been a Metro rule since there was a Metro. As always, it's a matter of how serious Metro is about enforcing this. Answer at the moment: Not very.

Silver Spring, Md.: I was pleasantly surprised by the ethics commission's vote on Moose and his attempt to capitalize on the sniper case (which one would think he solved by himself; his colleagues weren't going to get rich like he would). I was embarrassed by Doug Duncan's lame attempted justification (we'd learn more about the county's workings and it would help recruitment). I expect Moose to move on. So be it. Maybe the rules are unfair or maybe they aren't. But they shouldn't have been a surprise to him. I wish him the best of luck in his new job.

Bob Levey: He will surely leave his current job. As you say, it couldn't have been a surprise to him that the ethics rules were going to be enforced.

Alexandria, Va.: Re: Your column this morning about the Silver Spring reader who didn't want to provide her Social Security number to the bookkeeper at her new job. How did she expect her FICA deductions to be deposited in her Social Security account?

Bob Levey: Good point. In fact, she would have needed to have supplied her SS number for precisely this reason. Her concern was about supplying it for additional reasons. Granted, this might be horse-and-barn-door. But her larger point is still worth making, don't you think?

Rockville, Md.: Hi Bob,

Your movie choices are interesting, but I'm wondering why you'd pick something that you've already prejudged to be awful, such as "Lord of the Rings," for example.

You should have kept an open mind when picking your movies instead of just going into it assuming you're not going to like anything.

Bob Levey: I haven't prejudged anything! I'm looking forward to being surprised--perhaps pleasantly.

AAA: Bob, it was no surprise about the lousy service from AAA. We dropped them years ago because they didn't respond twice in emergencies. Twice we had to call other towing companies, and then sent the bill to AAA. After the second time, AAA said they wouldn't pay anymore. We couldn't figure out why we should keep them. They also moved their Prince George's County office from a place convenient to us too much further away, making getting TripTix and travel information difficult. Who needs 'em?

Bob Levey: I have fielded more than 100 e-mails since Thursday's column from readers who dumped AAA after disappointing service.

Miffed: I'm not much of a TV-watcher, but I do enjoy one or two shows. It's a great bit of escapism. We all seem to need a 1 or 2 hour mental vacation more than ever these days. Well, UPN pre-empted my favorite show for news on the war in Iraq. Mind, this isn't a news-oriented network. UPN has ZERO scheduled news programs. Bob, there really wasn't any new information to show. I can understand pre-empting for the President or if any breaking news came in. Otherwise, give me my show! If I wanted to watch the news, I would be watching a network that specializes in that sort of thing! I tuned into UPN specifically because wanted a break from the hard news. I checked the UPN Web site, all geared up to write a blistering email. No contact information available. How can I complain if they aren't even accessible?

Bob Levey: The best way to complain is not to watch a certain channel--and then hope that your decision will affect the ratings. That will make the poohbahs think twice the next time they scratch a popular show. In the short(er) run, though, I'm afraid you're cooked. UPN and many, many other stations will be wall-to-wall war for a good long time, I suspect.

Falls Church, Va.: Bob,

I submitted this question to Richard White, but I am curious what your take on this would be.

Would there be any way that the Transit Authority could set up a (preferably tax deductible) fund that people could donate to pay for Metro expansion.

I personally would donate for a line to Tysons and to Dulles. The line to Tysons would make traffic in my area much better and I would love to be able to take Metro to the airport.

One would think businesses could be solicited for donations too. Their names could be displayed on the wall of the new Tysons and/or Dulles stations so to give credit where credit is due.

Bob Levey: I can't see anything wrong with it. After all, public universities accept over-the-transom funds from folks like you. Why shouldn't a transit agency do the same?
Just don't expect a whole lot of company.

Silver Spring, Md.: Hey Bob -- the metro online just accused you of writing in with a question. Are you keeping your full attention on your own "chat" --or doing double duty?

Bob Levey: I'm sure that Brother White was just making a funny. Keeping up with a Levey Live: Speaking Freely barrage is all that this one boy (and his two index fingers, and pea-sized brain) can possibly keep up with at once.

Alexandria, Va.: While I am completely against the war, I am 100 percent behind the wonderful men and women who volunteer in the Armed Forces. They have my utmost gratitude and respect for being willing to put their lives on the line for mine.

I would appreciate it if you can remind everyone that the USO is still sending care packages and personalized messages over to our troops. Sponsoring a care package only costs $25, and will bring a smile to someone's face overseas.

Look here on how to sponsor care packages.

Bob Levey: Thanks much. Happy to pass this on.

Philadelphia, Pa.: I'm with you Bob...all war all the time does nothing to assist our troops and/or advance our objectives. We're all fully aware of what's going on in the Middle East, yet we can't stop living while the war is going on...personally, I want our troops to come back to the home they remember. It won't happen if we allow everything to fall by the wayside. God Bless America.

Bob Levey: Thank you for this perspective.

Richmond, Va.: Bob, I was dismayed at the policy/attitude of the Social Security office you spoke with about using Social Security numbers for identification. I know that this is done, but I also think that this concept should be brought to the attention of lawmakers so that it can be changed. Even Tiger Woods had to appear in court to defend himself against identity theft by a person using his legal name.

Congress should take a proactive stance against making it easier for thieves to take advantage of something everyone uses. In Virginia we can specify a different number for our drivers license, but we still have to use the Social Security number for payroll and benefits purposes.

Maybe some of us can start a movement to change this.

Bob Levey: I'd be all for it, but I wouldn't expect much aid or comfort on Capitol Hill. Such "pure" civil liberties positions don't have any champions up there any more. Wellstone might have been the last of the flock to rail about Big Brother.

Burke, Va.: Bob, I have to disagree with you about the Anthropology major. One of the main things that college (regardless of major) teaches you is "how to think." As someone who hires Business Analysts, I much prefer someone with a business or economics degree to a liberal arts major, because not only can they think, they have a fundamental understanding of business and accounting. I'd prefer to not have to teach them the basics.

Bob Levey: I understand your point, Burke, but I have to disagree with you vehemently.
Only a liberal arts graduate has read widely, and thought widely. Do you want a limited simpleton working for you? I'd much rather hire someone who's sophisticated and well-versed in tackling stuff that he or she DOESN'T already know.

AAA: I cancelled AAA for reasons that have little to do with service. They spend a lot of their money lobbying against public transit, emissions standards, or anything that might slow down sprawl development or destruction of the environment. They are also very careful not to make it easy for members to find this out. Basically, joining AAA is helping fun the destruction of our quality of life. I found an alternate motor club that doesn't do that.

Since AAA doesn't like you to know what they do with your dues, I think people should be told so they can make their own judgments on whether that is what they want (whatever they choose).

Bob Levey: Another thought-provoking take on the AAA. Thanks

Meddling moms...: Bob, I'm 28 (graduated from college in 1997). I am the supervisor for incoming college grads at my firm. We usually hire 3-5 per year. I got a call this year from one of their mothers who was upset about the salary her child commands and the responsibilities he has! I told her I would not discuss his compensation or career with anyone other than him, and this was not a parent-teacher conference. I also told her that calling me to complain does not reflect well upon her son, because it gives the impression that he is not mature enough to handle situations that are disappointing to him. Well, the next day he came in and read me the riot act for "insulting" his mom. Poor kid...

Bob Levey: And you didn't fire him?
My Gosh!
Question for the masses: Who's worse in this story, the mother or the son?

S. Arlington, Va.: How about a column discussing the cons of a baseball stadium in S. Arlington? People who live there, including me, are dead set against it! From what I hear, it does not help an area economically -- and even if it did, Arlington doesn't need it! Have you seen the housing prices lately?!

Bob Levey: I'm waiting for the dust to settle later today at the MLB meetings to see if there's a need for such a column. Thanks

Washington, D.C.: For crying out loud Bob this chat stinks! You are a great reporter but man why do your looser readers care so much if someone eats on metro! Big deal get a life!

Bob Levey: That's why the great brains at Live Online provide more than one chat at 1 p.m. on Fridays--so that clicksters like you don't have to be saddled with my horrendous inadequacies.
By the way, it's spelled "loser."

Sacramento, Calif.: Hi Bob,

Is The Post planning a follow-up to the "Invisible Lives/Invisible Deaths" Pulitzer-winning series by Kate Boo? I realize many of the villains have been followed, but there were so many heartbreaking stories -- "Thomas" who ate nails and couldn't have them extracted because of a bureaucratic fowl-up, "Victor" who had been given size four shoes for his size eight feet so he couldn't go out, "Clarissa" who was sent off to her day program without enough food, "Christopher" whose wheelchair was falling apart, William Thornton who wanted to know if they still held the Special Olympics, Elroy who was abused under the Allstate "Good Hands" poster in his bedroom, DeWitt Stith who transformed from an abused victim to an abuser and was sent to jail, Kevin who spent eight months in restraints, and Ricardo and Donna Thornton and their son Ricky. I'm sure all of us want to know how these and the other victims and heroes are doing now.


Bob Levey: No such plans that I know of. But it would be worth the time and effort, wouldn't it? Thanks

Indiana Native: Sorry, Bob -- There's no jagged line. All of Indiana is in one time zone, which never changes. The counties closest to Chicago, Louisville, and Cincinnati informally set their clocks to big city time. The last two are Eastern and Chicago is on Central. Indiana is on Central time now and will be on
Eastern Daylight Savings in a few weeks. WHEW!

It took me 10 years to figure out "spring forward, fall back".

Bob Levey: OK, but isn't that a distinction without a difference? If they say in Gary or Michigan City that it's Central Time, then dammit, it's Central Time!

Reston, Va.: Bob, I saw News Channel 8 the other night and it was dreadful. What were they thinking when they dumped you? Not much, evidently. For what it's worth, this fan misses you scolding people who make different lifestyle choices than you do, and your general intolerance for people who hold different views than you do.

Bob Levey: Thanks so much for your faint praise.
For your information, no one will be much of a TV commentator (or much of a newspaper columnist) unless he takes positions. I'm never intolerant of people who hold different views. I just disagree with them! And I'm not afraid to explain why.

Washington, D.C.: No, I hate this war, but I'd never spit on the troops.

I don't think Vietnam was justified, either, but both my father and father-in-law were there, and I respect their service.

Bob Levey: Let's hope that we are far, far beyond this despicable display. Thanks

© Copyright 2003 The Washington Post Company