Political Gabfest

The “2015 Conundrum” Edition

Listen to Slate’s special year-end show about life’s most confounding questions, as submitted by listeners.

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For this week’s Slate Plus bonus segment, the hosts tackle the very mature conundrum of peeing in the shower. Join Slate Plus! Members get bonus segments, exclusive member-only podcasts, and more. Sign up for a free trial today at slate.com/gabfestplus.

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On this week’s Slate Political Gabfest, Emily Bazelon, John Dickerson, and David Plotz bring in the new year by wrestling with questions of politics, philosophy, ethics, taste, cleaning ancient edifices, and (inevitably) sex.

Here’s a list of the conundrums (in no particular order), along with the names of the people who posed them (where available):

  • Air travel is probably one of the most carbon dioxide–emitting activities an individual can participate in directly. Nevertheless, everyone justifies his or her own air travel. How do you justify yours? —Joey Brunelle
  • Would you rather be a dragon or own a dragon? —Sean Toomey
  • How serious of a crime would your mother/father have to commit before you turned him or her in? —@RouesDeFortune
  • Can you be close friends with someone whose politics are different from yours without work, family, or a mutual friend tying you together? —Anne Leslie Nygaard
  • Should teachers be dumbing down courses so students get the grades they want, or should they stay true to the profession, teach the subject, and give students the grades they deserve (risking bad evaluations, loss of enrollment, etc.)?
  • If you are single, is it ethical to go to bed with a married person? —Christian Hartselle
  • Would you rather have an unlimited budget to build your dream house or an unlimited budget to travel the world? —Parker Farrington
  • What is the best way to pass the time with an annoying seatmate on a plane, train, or bus? (For this exercise, you cannot get off the vehicle and switch to another, and there are no other seats to move to.) —Phil Goldstein
  • Would you be willing to get the hiccups for 15 minutes every day for the rest of your life, but then be free of having any illness ever befall you in old age (cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, ALS, etc)? —Phil Goldstein
  • If you were able to live in one decade from the past in a specific place (100-110 in Rome, 1780s Philadelphia, 1860s Paris, 1920s New York, etc.) and then return to the present, which would it be, and why? —the prolific Mr. Goldstein
  • You discover extremely humiliating personal information about a presidential candidate whose views you find repellent. In principle, you don’t think the information is anyone’s business. Do you leak it? Are you morally obligated to do it early enough that the candidate’s political party, which you also find repellent, has a chance to nominate someone else? —John from Maryland
  • Let’s say you wanted to clean the outside of the Louvre in Paris. Would you endorse pressure-washing the area (though cleaning the monument as thoroughly as possible would result in some degradation), or would you endorse hiring a team of people to use, say, toothbrushes to do the same job (20 times as expensive and take 20 times as long)? —Chris Burkland
  • And of course, baby Hitler—to kill or not to kill, that is the question. —submitted by many

Topic ideas for next week? You can tweet suggestions, links, and questions to @SlateGabfest (#heygabfest). (Tweets may be quoted by name unless the writer stipulates otherwise.)

Podcast production by Jocelyn Frank. Links compiled by Elle Bisgaard-Church.

Happy New Year!