Truth vs. facts, a continuing series.

I didn’t hear every word of the “This American Life” walkback of “Mr. Daisey Goes to China,” the riveting hour of radio aired in January that turned out to have…well, you can read the stories everywhere. The economical phrase is “numerous fabrications.” But I heard enough, and for the record, the most interesting segment was the one at the end of Act 2, where, after an agonizing grilling by Ira Glass, Mike Daisey (the monologuist whose truthy monologue the show was based on) asks to come back and say a few more things.

Glass notes that he thought Daisey was going to cop to a few more fabrications. But no. He wanted to make an extended argument that embroidering the facts of his monologue about Apple’s manufacturing processes was defensible to make an emotional connection with the theatrical audience, and that emotion raised awareness, and therefore, was a type of truth, if not a journalistic one. (At least, I think that’s what he was saying.)

Glass countered that theater was one thing, and journalism was quite another, but if a person stands up on stage and says, “This happened to me, it really did,” even in a theater, then the audience has an expectation that what they’re going to hear is factual.

This fascinates me. Every so often I go on a tear against urban legends, which used to arrive regularly via email and now arrive regularly via Facebook updates. No, U.S. congressmen and presidents don’t get obscene, six-figure salaries FOR LIFE because someone told you via email. No, a bunch of U.S. Marines didn’t beat the crap out of a guy who stole the Toys for Tots donation bowl; the thing that looks like a clipping from the paper is doctored. No, the Obamas didn’t have that conversation in a restaurant, the punchline of which suggests that Michelle made her husband what he is. And every time I do, someone says, “Oh, I figured it was bullshit, but I passed it along because it’s a good story.” In other words, Daisey may be onto something. When Mitch Albom was caught pre-writing a story that hadn’t actually happened yet — an act he called “a wrong assumption,” some of his biggest defenders were readers, who said, essentially, big deal. He thought it was going to happen, and he’s real busy, and anyway it’s a good story and what’s the harm?

The harm is that facts are facts and truth is truth, and sometimes they don’t always mesh perfectly.

I think that’s the last time Ira Glass uses a theatrical piece as the basis for a show, however.

Some purty good bloggage today, plus a picture. Stand by for links!

Adrianne? Hank? Adrianne’s friend whose name I forget? Remember that bar we went to in D.C. by Union Station, the one Adrianne picked because she has that Irish nose for a good place to meet friends and raise a glass or two? Place called the Dubliner? Guess who stopped by on St. Patrick’s Day. And we missed him.

A great piece in the WashPost about the culture clash perfectly crystalized in the case of the Priest and the Lesbian and the Communion Wafer at Mom’s Funeral, which we discussed last week. A piece of work, that priest:

In 2008, he lectured at the Conservative Institute of M.R. Stefanik in Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. He called for moving “away from secular political democracy or political liberalism” in order to “usher in what I would call post-secular democracies.”

“An urgent return to the religion and the metaphysical realism of the West, combined with the promotion of free economies and a sound political foundation is what is now needed to preserve civilization,” he said, according to text provided of his speech, adding that “the Western radicals think they have seen that dark world and they like it, the Eastern Europeans can awake them from their deadly delusion.”

Post-secular democracies. Wonderful.

Finally, how my husband, who just last week remarked, “Never do I feel more out of touch with my fellow Americans than I do during March madness,” spent part of the weekend:

Taking down our basketball hoop.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Media |

82 responses to “Truth vs. facts, a continuing series.”

  1. Dexter said on March 19, 2012 at 1:40 am

    I have a feeling Bassett and Mr. D would get along splendidly, recalling some comments Bassett has made about his disdain for school sports, and basketball in particular.
    Me…shee-it…I passed on my bicycling Friday and Saturday , watching basketball.

    To answer Kirk and DellaDash, my baseballin’ cousin is Wayne Schurr. He played most of the 1964 season with the Cubs, the Major League Chicago Cubs. He’s actually my second cousin, as Dad and Wayne’s dad were first cousins. Wayne had a 3.72 earned run average, a 0-0 record. He is a member of the Fort Wayne Baseball Hall of Fame.
    Here’s his card

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  2. Dave said on March 19, 2012 at 6:53 am

    We took down our basketball hoop last fall and gave it to the neighbor, who worked it over, made it look like new, painted it up in Nebraska colors, and hung it. Our driveway still looks empty without it.

    Not a big sports fan but I did have to tune in and watch most of the Ohio University-USF game. I had no idea who any of the players were, other than Clark Kellogg’s son, and didn’t know anything about the coach. When I attended what OU games I did, the coach was Jim Snyder, who sat there calmly and never appeared to get excited.

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  3. JWfromNJ said on March 19, 2012 at 7:38 am

    I’m not sure if your mention of pre-writing is a valid criticism unless the journalist files it in advance. My editors insist on it for many of my assignments. Night meetings and 9 pm deadlines couldn’t coexist without some prewriting.
    I will go as far as guessing the outcome and writing the lede, and always have most of the body and the nut graph done. Leave room for a few quotes and numbers of course. I don’t do that for features as I have more time.
    This weekend my cornhole tourny item was totally written in advance and I just showed up to make sure it didn’t get cancelled and to show the flag.

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  4. coozledad said on March 19, 2012 at 7:38 am

    Some of the previous inhabitants of our house slapped a basketball goal up on a telephone pole. I only tried to use it once, and discovered that our rescue Rottweiller/hound mix “Sikes” would try to rip the basketball away from you with his teeth. I “let” him have the basketball, and he instantly deflated it.

    I think the game would be a whole lot more interesting with an impartial dog on the court.

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  5. Linda said on March 19, 2012 at 7:46 am

    I personally would pay cash money to see the impartial dog go one on one with Bob Knight.

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  6. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 19, 2012 at 7:55 am

    Linda, there are laws against cruelty to animals.

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  7. beb said on March 19, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Me, too, Cooz, me too!

    When we moved into our house 25 years ago it had a basketball hoop on the garage. We took if down a couple years later because it was attracting neighbor youths to our backyard while we were away. Being in Detroit, indiscriminate youths in one’s backyard is an open invitation to home invasion and theft.

    Now basketball is played all along the street with portable hoops. I wouldn’t mind that so much if the kids would just stop playing and step out of the street when car goes by. At best they sort of slow down and step back a pace so that there’s a narrow lane to drive through.

    To JW from NJ: I believe Mitch’s pre-written story was published and then discovered to contradict actual events.

    Heavy fog lies around Detroit this morning. I hope Nancy doesn’t have to drive in it today.

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  8. basset said on March 19, 2012 at 8:13 am

    I’m not opposed to school sports in general, or to basketball in particular – have spent a lot of hours on park and intramural courts myself, never did get very good but it was fun and useful exercise.

    My issue is with the way some of our schools let sports take over – at the rural southwestern Indiana high school where I graduated close to forty years ago, the ballplayers, cheerleaders, and others were definitely in a different caste from the rest of us and I don’t see any sign that it’s changed, there or elsewhere. Mrs. B. was watching the tournament games while I was out fishing yesterday, I came home while Creighton was on and remembered the player there some years ago who was admitted, played ball, and left after four years still functionally illiterate:

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  9. Jolene said on March 19, 2012 at 8:25 am

    Here’s another good WaPo story re something interesting going on in the world: the rescue, where possible, of American eagles or, where not possible, distribution of their parts to Native Americans for ceremonial use. Especially liked the paragraph re the rescue run. Quite a production.

    And another famous person celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. Noteworthy for the fashion.

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  10. Prospero said on March 19, 2012 at 8:29 am

    I’m a fan of This American Life, but Ira Glass’s voice and vocal mannerisms are the font of just about everything wrong with public radio, like fingernails on chalkboards. Anyway, in the Daisey affair, I say, Ira Glass, man up. Did you question any part of Daisey’s monologue? Did you check facts? Do you believe Spalding Gray swam to Cambodia or had a manuscript in a box that literally spoke to him? Do you think Richard Pryor lived next door to talking monkeys? Do you believe Hunter Thompson actually consumed enough drugs and alcohol in a single da in Vegas to render a batallion comatose? How does a reporter justify ignoring artistic license and taking art for fact. Willing suspension of disbelief gets turned offwhen you bring art back to journalism. Man up, and take your medicine for the journalistic malfeasance and malpractice, instead of this current mealy-mouth. That suit is shabby and ill-fitting. Daisey was truthy, but he is an entertainer and an artist, and claims nothing more. You purport to be a journalist. Take responsibility for your reporting.

    Spalding Gray:

    Dogs in sports:

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  11. heydave said on March 19, 2012 at 8:29 am

    The man’s using a grinder and/or cutoff/wheel saw to go through that tube, and kudos for the face shield! (Yes, I noticed.) I know, because I did the very same thing for a friend at her house recently.

    To me, Daisey sounded like a whiny zealot, much like the priest cited later. My takeaway “truth” is that whenever I should happen to hear his plaintive wailing, it will trigger projectile vomiting.

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  12. brian stouder said on March 19, 2012 at 8:44 am

    An aside: Pam noted that she read the book currently “on the nightstand” and had reservations about how it ended. Just sayin’

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  13. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 19, 2012 at 8:58 am

    Yes, I believe Hunter did.

    In general, we try to make some of these hard choices and difficult distinctions when it just isn’t a tough call. Daisey was presenting a description of specific, direct personal experience, and it was not true. Is there a grey zone between the Planet Money pieces they run and David Sedaris monologues? Well, Daisey wants there to be one, but Glass & TAL are saying they intend to make it a line, and maybe plant a row of boxwoods along it to make it clear. Simple enough.

    As a preacher, what I find fascinating about this is how Daisey had a very, very powerful narrative as it was. It lacked a little punch and whole lotta self-righteous posturing if told as is/was, and he wanted to not have to make his rhetorical turn just on his own interpretive say-so, having seen what he saw – which was a lot – and knowing what he’d researched – which is relatable & significant in its own right – but that wasn’t enough. He wanted the story to go, let alone end, a certain way, so he adjusted the facts to fit (and covered up pretty assiduously, which as any prosecutor will tell you is powerful evidence of guilt right there).

    The challenge in writing (or preaching), whether it’s straight journalism, feature writing, columns, or even flackery for vendor publications (or sermons), is to monitor your own felt & unconscious wishes & intentions about the story you begin writing, and not let yourself start to shape the facts to make YOUR story work. Really good writers are so cued into this that they can take an inconvenient detail, and make that the pivot into taking both their own work, and the readers, deeper into the story (Susan Orlean is great example of that, IMO).

    Those defending Daisey leave me suspecting that this is someone who knows they trim the timber to get the dovetail they’re wanting for a particular join, and don’t like hearing that sometimes, the wood you’re using shapes the piece you will finish.

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  14. Prospero said on March 19, 2012 at 9:13 am

    Mike Daisey closes his show, to a standing O. One of my favorite novels, ever, is The Public Burning, by Robert Coover. But I don’t believe that Richard Nixon had sex with Ethel Rosenberg before the execution, nor that he also took Uncle Sam up the ol’ dirt road. In the Daisey-Glass contretemps, one of them purports to be a journalist? Did he make any attempt to check facts? If he didn’t, the failure is his, bought and paid for. This instance is not remotely like Oprah being duped by James Frey, and it doesn’t speak well for Ira Glass that he’s squealing like a stuck Oprah.

    Of course, The Public Burning portrayed the criminal, lying Milhous in the way in which I think about him, so I accepted it while suspending disbelief. Maybe Daisey’s depiction of Apple in an immense evil empire fit Glass’s conception of the real world, but that does not diminish his responsibility to ascertain veracity before reporting a theatrical monologue as news.

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  15. nancy said on March 19, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Yes, Glass is very clear that they did check what they could, and admits they should have spiked the piece when Daisey said his translator couldn’t be contacted. You should listen to the retraction piece; it’s a truly elegant statement of responsibility, regret, correction — exactly what these things should be.

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  16. Peter said on March 19, 2012 at 9:48 am

    I’m being a hypocrite about this, since I haven’t verified this item, but I heard on the radio that someone at NPR, being skeptical about the claims of not being able to contact the translator, surfed the web, got the contact information, and was able to speak to the translator – IN FIVE MINUTES.

    That’s what gets me. I know it makes me sound like some old guy in an Arizona trailer park, but it never ceases to amaze me that middle aged geezers like me would have killed for the Internet back in the day, and yet young folk who have access to more info than I can imagine can’t seem to find anything. That and my never ending rant that politicians still think they can lie their way out of anything when they should know by now that someone can google the truth and expose them within seconds.

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  17. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 19, 2012 at 9:57 am

    I’ve noticed, working with (gulp) younger colleagues — the internet is a tool to make you seem fabulously skilled at all things tech-y if you already know a third to half of what you need to master or pin down. A few points in your head, a sense of how a couple connections go, and a basic understanding of how search terms function: you look both skilled online and brilliant.

    But if you approach a subject with effectively no understanding of it on even a surface level, the internet will make you look even stupider. This basic fact is only slowly getting out among college students and high school essayists, let alone 20-somethings in first jobs. You’ve still got to have that liberal arts, generalist, humanist framework to start from before the internet can allow you to “surf the ocean of knowledge.” Without a good background understanding of the world, it’s just a fire hose thrashing around on the pavement, as like to knock you down as water your petunias.

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  18. adrianne said on March 19, 2012 at 10:04 am

    That’s my prez, O’bama, quaffing a Guinness! My favorite line referenced “members of what appeared to be a well-lubricated crowd” at Dubliner’s. Apparently that bar is a home away from home for lonely Syracusans. It’s owned by Danny Coleman of the legendary Coleman clan of Tipperary Hill on Syracuse’s west side. Slainte!

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  19. basset said on March 19, 2012 at 10:14 am

    All right then, no response to today’s first post so how about this one…

    And Obama had a beer at Nick’s in Bloomington during the campaign, didn’t look like Guinness though.

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  20. Sue said on March 19, 2012 at 10:22 am

    Cooz, that’s the best idea I’ve ever heard.
    Not a good sports weekend for me. Gonzaga’s out already, and Ernie and Jim both barely lost in the Whatever Golf Championship (sorry, can’t keep the sponsors straight anymore). On the other hand, it was two days of summer on the last weekend of winter in Wisconsin, so I can’t complain.

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  21. brian stouder said on March 19, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Basset – amongst all these St Paddy day tales, that is a long-neck story of an entirely different sort.

    The giraffes at Fort Wayne’s zoo are – for us – the star attractions. And the zoo caters to that quite nicely; for a buck or two, you get greens from them and can hand-feed the giraffes from the viewing platform (about 15 feet off the ground).

    It is continually surprising (to me) how many things we take for granted – for example our well-run zoo – that are genuinely special,or “world class”.

    (and indeed, what does “world class” really mean? Others would do well to emulate OUR part of the world)

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  22. jcburns said on March 19, 2012 at 11:01 am

    Having a story to tell and wanting to make it just a teensy more bit tidy and with a dollop more impact than it may have based on the reporting you have…well, that’s the moment the lesser journalists (and performers performing journalism) cross the line and start to tell themselves “it’s all right, it’s in service of the story.”

    It isn’t.

    I’d like each of them to clearly hear and heed their personal Yodas telling them “that is why you fail”—right there, at that moment that you gather together what you have and you want it to be just a little bit more.

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  23. Lou Gravity said on March 19, 2012 at 11:21 am

    I read Daisey’s “21 Dog Years: Doing Time @” years ago. It was a pretty obvious mishmash of fact and fiction. No responsible organization should have bought his last show as pure reportage. What next – David Sedaris as a 60 Minutes correspondent?

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  24. Deborah said on March 19, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Little Bird is on the way to the vet right now to have our cat euthanized. Sad, sad, sad.

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  25. Connie said on March 19, 2012 at 11:23 am

    Sad for you Deborah.

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  26. Sue said on March 19, 2012 at 11:27 am

    I’m sorry, Deborah. Any cat with a good owner leads a blessed life. Thanks for giving that gift.

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  27. Rana said on March 19, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Jeff, that’s an excellent point about the internet and its pitfalls. You have to have some sense of what you’re looking for, what words will get you to it (or at least to something close enough that you can learn what better search strings to use instead), how to tell whether it’s crap or a rehash of the same info showing up on dozens of scraper sites or reliable information, etc. My friends who teach would be quick to tell you that being a “digital native” means about the same thing online as me being an “electrical native” or a “gasoline native” means offline: I can get the cars to start and the lights to turn on, but I’m fairly useless if something more complicated is needed.

    Regarding people who lie in the name of having “a good story”: [insert raspberry noise here]. Since I work in both history (with its stodgy insistence on the facts, with full citations, no less) and creative non-fiction (which I think of sometimes as journalism’s literary cousin), I’m really impatient with people who claim that you have to make things up in order to have something worth reading. You do… if you’re lazy. People make shit up because they’re too lazy, or stupid, or pressed for time (or have a low view of their audience’s ability to handle “boring” material), to figure out how to weave the facts into a compelling narrative, not because truth is boring. I think it comes from the same impulse as that which motivates plagiarists–liars want all the benefits of authoring a compelling story, but they can’t be arsed to do the work, either due to laziness or incompetence. I have no patience for it.

    Edited to add: It’s also too easy for that sort of shading to slide into outright lying for the sake of narrative, to the detriment of us all, see, for example:

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  28. Rana said on March 19, 2012 at 11:29 am

    Oh, Deborah. I’m so sorry. Hugs for you and Little Bird.

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  29. Judybusy said on March 19, 2012 at 11:32 am

    On Saturday, I heard this story about a creatively-written essay about a teen’s suicide that was later to be riddled with intentional errors. There is now a book encompassing the correspondance between the author and the fact-checker. I immediatley thought of our crowd here and it fits well with today’s theme. Only on NPR, of course.

    And Deborah, I’m so very sorry about the loss of the cat.

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  30. LAMary said on March 19, 2012 at 11:38 am

    Deborah, when you reach the point where the cat has to have IV hydration and they’re telling you it’s kidney problems, it’s time to prepare to say goodbye. If that sounds cold, truly, it’s not. Owning cats for 40 years, I know that’s how three of mine ended their time here.
    It’s awful to lose a pet, and there are a few of mine I still choke up even writing about although it’s been years since they died. The last cat I lost, Edith, lived to be 22ish. My son Pete who was quite young at the time said she was not going to be a cat angel. She was going on to be a cat goddess.
    Now I’m getting weepy.

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  31. LAMary said on March 19, 2012 at 11:39 am

    On another subject, why did you take down the basketball hoop? I can’t beat my sons anymore, but I still take a shot or two for the hell of it.

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  32. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 19, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Grace and peace to your family, Deborah. Especially with you having to be gone for it all.

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  33. Scout said on March 19, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    So sorry to hear the news, Deborah. Cyber blessings to you and LittleBird. I’ve already called upon my fur angels to be on the lookout to welcome yours when she gets to heaven.

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  34. Little Bird said on March 19, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    It was quick, and they were kind.

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  35. Dexter said on March 19, 2012 at 12:20 pm

    coozledad, I think my two year old Labrador Retriever mix dog read your comments this morning. I have had an air mattress for 35 years that I have used several times a year for camping trips and when I crash overnight at a family member’s home.
    Yes. And Pogo got up on her hind legs, grabbed it from its storage shelf, and chewed a gaping hole in it.

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  36. Bitter Scribe said on March 19, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    I would feel more comfortable about the Catholic Church talking about “post-secular democracies” if it had ever really accepted secular democracies in the first place.

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  37. Dexter said on March 19, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    Deborah, so sorry…we lost our beloved Wolfie, a Russian Blue, to the goddam polluted Chinese cat food a few years ago.
    I still miss him…I tell you this to let you and LB know I have great sympathy for you and I feel bad for the cat.

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  38. Julie Robinson said on March 19, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Deborah and Little Bird, I’m so sorry for you both. I suspect many of us are shedding a sympathetic tear.

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  39. Prospero said on March 19, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    If I write a review of Tours of the Black Clock and claim that Steve Erickson has discovered the truth of the loathsome underbelly of the 20th Century world, that Hitler lusted after his niece Geli and had a personal pornographer named Banning Jainlight, and people buy it as fact, who is the author of the misinformation, Erickson or me? I certainly am.

    As for Daisey’s monologue, it fit a widespread worldview so perfectly, in two intersecting spheres, a responsible reporter should have been sceptical from the getgo. Apple certainly sits on vast piles of money without reinvesting in the American economy that made Job’s great leap forward possible, like Smaug sleeping with one eye open:,

    And China is Mordor. Who wouldn’t believe the orcs assembling iPhones are maltreated. An NPR-ready story, and Ira Glass ran with it like Leon Lett, and, like Lett, fumbled on the two. It’s the journo’s fault, no doubt in my mind. That he’s taking responsibility now is beyond admirable, it’s representative of integrity basically unheard of in the modern news businesss. Way I see it, Daisey produced the artistic equivalent , clearly identified as art, ofa Janet Cooke composite piece with horrendous detail enough to fit conventional wisdom and Glass should have had way better instincts. I personally thought the public crucifiction of Janet Cooke was grotesque and in no way fit the crime. Somebody want to claim there are no eight year old addicts in the USA? What about the editor, who submitted her piece for the Pullitzer. He’s been publishing books with completely imaginary conversations reported verbatim he could never possibly have heard.

    Deborah, that is rough about your cat. Condolences. We’ve lost legendary dogs and (fewer) cats in my family, and every one of them is the subject of rowdy good conversation and story recollecction to this day. We parbly embellish, but in the end we get it right. I’m with Mary on the hoop. Shooting around alone is a near perfect physical mantra for deep thinking.

    Here’s a review about Judybusy’s story from three NYT book reviews ago:

    Writing what amounts to True Crime certainly brings more strict requirements for fact than a monologue presented on a stage in a theater. Blaming Daisey for aggregating facts and anecdotal information with obvious legs reminds me of the attacks on the Kony 2012 video guys. Kony’s behavior has sneaked into the murky mists of time? Yeah? So fracking what? He didn’t do everything he was accused of? Well, yeah he did, and he was pretty much evil as Idi, no matter what Rush and Frankin Graham have to say about his alleged Christianity. Time will never convince me that Shock & Awe in Bagdhad wasn’t a war crime, and I’d like to see Kony in the docks at the ICC with the Americans that enabled his rule of terror, like Cheney and Rummy.

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  40. Jeff Borden said on March 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    I’m mildly surprised our right-wing commentators haven’t bashed Obama for drinking a Guinness instead of a good ‘Murican beer like Bud Light. (No wonder the Coors clan funds rightwing causes.) He was, after all, bashed by some of them for ordering a burger with “spicy mustard” instead of the lemon yellow French’s apparently favored by more patriotic ‘Muricans.

    There was some great hilarity here in Illinois over the past few days, when Frothy
    Santorum was speechifying at some mega-church in the Chicago suburbs. Two men stood up and began kissing, which just brought the whole damn house down and required security guards to remove the offenders. What cracks me up is the assembled dumbfucks began cheering and chanting, “USA! USA!” as the smoochers were escorted out.

    In other breaking political news, Mitt Romney revealed he liked the pancakes he sampled at some suburban eatery. This fellow just oozes excitement from every pore.

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  41. Dorothy said on March 19, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    Agreeing with what Julie said @ 38 – sending lots of love to you at this sad time. I know it’s part of the process of loving animals, but I don’t think any of us ever get used to it.

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  42. Bob (not Greene) said on March 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    OK, some good (I think) cat news on a bad cat news day.

    This morning I get an email from a resident of one of the towns I cover saying that there’s been a cat up in a tree for a week and that no one will help them get it down. It’s a stray cat, known well by the people in the neighborhood. They also believe the cat is pregnant and ran up the tree because it was being chased by a coyote, which are plentiful in the nearby woods.

    They called the fire department, which said, “No thanks, the cat will come down on its own.” They called tree services. No dice. A cop came by on Sunday and was very nice but said there was really nothing they could do.

    So as I’m making my rounds of the PDs this morning, I ask the deputy chief, “So did you hear about the cat up in tree?” He says he hadn’t, calls in the chief and after complaining about the FD, the chief goes to the village manager to tell him what’s up.

    Long story short, 15 minutes later the FD is there with a truck and they lift a guy up to the cat, who as a feral cat, wants nothing to do with the guy. As he reaches for it, the cat bails and comes hurtling down, swiping at a couple branches and then falling through the arms of a firefighter who tried to catch it.

    But, amazing animals that they are, the cat hits the ground and then just takes off at full speed before anyone can get her. So I’m hoping the cat’s OK. I’ve told the residents to let me know if they see her around.

    The community press to the rescue! Yeah, I cover the big stories of the day.

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  43. Prospero said on March 19, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Bob (NG) snide comment or not, and you did, and maybe that was Dennis O’Connor my dad told me about, but it was when my Dad was dying, and he was world-famous in medical circles, So maybe he meant Dennis O’Day. Hardly a difference, I don’t think. And syriannly, are we jo

    In the long run, I’d bet on a large cat vs. a critter like Rockey? Cat’s are vile and shameless in a fight and would attack the eyes. Dogs lose to cats and racoons because dogs are good people.

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  44. coozledad said on March 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Borden: With Romney, you’re lucky if he doesn’t burst into song.
    These were some real good pancakes
    I’m mighty glad I came
    Those tater tots deserve a spot
    in the frozen food hall of fame
    The syrup coated the edges just right
    Believe me, It made my day.
    Yep. Those were some real good pancakes.
    And here’s the golf cart to take me away.

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  45. Bob (not Greene) said on March 19, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    Prospero, it’s possible, although Dennis Day was his stage name. His real name was Owen Patrick Eugene McNulty.

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  46. Prospero said on March 19, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    Are we joking? Ira Glass can skate on this? No Fracking Way/ He had to know or he had to be a fracking idiot. Our greatest cat in our family, began life as feral and was adopted, named Tigger, and we knew not to let him near a kid. He was viscious. One night, for no reason at all, he chomped on my hand.

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  47. Prospero said on March 19, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Sorry, butt Irah Glass trying to blame or hang, He has got to be didding the lying shithead. Whatever any idiot might say.

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  48. Jeff Borden said on March 19, 2012 at 2:10 pm


    I bow to your greatness, my friend.

    If you’ve not seen it, you ought to search YouTube for Mittens campaigning in Tennessee, where he recites the theme song to the old Walt Disney “Davy Crockett” series. It is amazingly cringe inducing.

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  49. Connie said on March 19, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Gee thanks Jeff I will be humming all afternoon. “Born on a mountaintop in Tennesee, killed him a bear when he was only three….”

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  50. MichaelG said on March 19, 2012 at 2:21 pm

    I’m sorry for your cat, Deborah. It’s the unfortunate downside to having pets.

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  51. Rana said on March 19, 2012 at 2:50 pm

    Jeff B – Here’s a link to it (and, yeah, it’s rather sad):

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  52. moe99 said on March 19, 2012 at 2:52 pm

    Oh, Deborah, my heart goes out to you. Not being there makes it so much tougher. Please let us know how you and Little Bird are doing.

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  53. alice said on March 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Stealing a good comment from that WP article on the priest:

    “Not sure where I stand on this controversy.
    But looking at his photo, I’m pretty sure Father Marcel Guarnizo came here from The Matrix.”

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  54. Deborah said on March 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm

    Rest in peace sweet Gudrun, 1997-2012. She had a good run.

    Thanks all for the kind words. While I couldn’t be there in person, I was there via iPhone to help Little Bird through it. We cried, it’s sad but of course it was the right thing to do. The poor little cat deteriorated extremely quickly, probably complete renal failure that contributed to a neurological problem. She didn’t really know what was going on by the time she went to the emergency place last night. She was not the least bit afraid because of it so that helped Little Bird deal with it today. Little Bird stayed with her to the end, she and the cat had a great bond.

    Edit: not sure why the dates are showing up as a link?

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  55. Jeff Borden said on March 19, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    I’ve pretty much made my peace with guns in America. A few thousand people dying every year by gun violence is clearly a small price to pay for our Second Amendment rights. But this case in suburban Orlando, Fla. really, truly, viscerally pisses me off and makes me weep that we’ll ever reach the day when we stop paying so much fucking attention to skin color. Or that we’ll ever develop the capacity to think before pulling the trigger.

    A 250-pound dickhead cruising his subdivision in his SUV as a “neighborhood watch” captain gunned down a 17-year-old black kid, who was armed with a bag of Skittles and a bottle of Arizona Iced Tea. The dickhead had called 911, claiming the black kid “looked suspicious” and was advised by the 911 operator NOT to follow the kid, but of course, our well-armed dickhead ignored this sage advice. And a few minutes later the boy was dead of a gunshot to the head –his screams for help can be heard on 911 calls made by others– and Mr. George Zimmerman, the dickhead who just couldn’t wait to kill himself a human being, has not been charged with anything.

    The dead young man was an A and B student with no police record and a reputation at his high school for being relentlessly cheerful and upbeat. And now he is dead because we allow assholes who wish they could be tough guy cops to walk around with powerful handguns threatening anyone who doesn’t share their pigmentation.

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  56. Minnie said on March 19, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Deborah, LittleBird, making our dear pets part of our lives, all the time knowing we’re going to outlive them takes courage. So does helping them depart before they suffer debilitation and pain. You’ve given Gudrun the greatest example of your love by sending her on her way. After the sadness, may you have peace and comfort in your decision, and many happy memories of your lives together.

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  57. paddyo' said on March 19, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    I was at USA TODAY when the Jack Kelley fabrications came home to roost, so I know something about how people can be duped by the likes of Daisy Daisy. I wasn’t inside that editing/reporting loop (in fact, I was running the Denver bureau, far from the Beltway mothership newsrooms), but I know people who were, and who were fooled. I also know people who weren’t fooled, but were not in positions of authority to stop it. Some who tried to expose it were dismissed as jealous. We know how that sort of thing ends. . . .

    I did hear the original “This American Life” in question here. While my journalistic BS meter hasn’t been recalibrated since I left the newspaper biz a little more than four years ago, as a listener and “consumer” of news I was fooled by this one, too. I think that was because “TAL,” for all its quirky music, contributors, points of view and that chatty-on-wry host himself, IS at its core still a very journalistic enterprise. It deals in truth — not truthiness.

    Having heard the walk-back over the weekend, it’s clear to me Ira & Co. are sorry, regretful and apologetic. I didn’t hear any excuse-making, or blame-making, that didn’t point at themselves and at their own mistakes. They owned up in the most refreshingly open and complete way I’ve ever seen — and that includes the ways that the NYT, WaPo, USAT and others ran to ground the lies and deceptions around Blair, Cooke, Kelley et al., ad nauseam.

    Assail “TAL” all you want for baffling mistakes and errors in judgment around the original show — but what they did over the weekend was just fine.

    Having said all that, I’m more interested today in the rest of what Nancy said under the same post above. The free-wheeling, free-falling trade in rumor and myth as truth is not new. But in these never-unplugged-texty-Twittery-wi-fi’ed-FB’d-and-4G’d times, the breadth of it is breath-taking. I think the blurring of and equating of that so-called “data” with real, honestly gathered and professionally delivered news is a bigger threat to the Republic than all the lies from Fox News, Limbaugh and the GOP combined. The gullibility of the American info-consumer has never been higher, matching the amount of G-I-G-O. I know these things swing on a pendulum, but I’m afraid this time the news/truth/lies/rumors pendulum’s swing to the lies-and-rumors side is going to defy gravity for a bad long while.

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  58. Prospero said on March 19, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Being accused of making shit up is more or less hilarious. What have I ever claimed about my ancestors that wasn’t died in the wool true? Sniggering is racist bullshit, but I have never said a word here that wasn’t absolutely true. Prove me wrong.

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  59. Sherri said on March 19, 2012 at 4:40 pm

    The difficulty in the Daisey piece is that much of what he said has some truth in it; Apple suppliers have used underage workers, and workers have been exposed to hexane. I heard the original piece, and it didn’t automatically set my BS meter off. James Frey did; I read his “memoir” before Oprah picked it, and recognized the type of exaggerated drunkalogue that some addicts use to feel important. Greg Mortensen turned me off immediately because of his obvious narcissism.

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  60. Laura Lippman said on March 19, 2012 at 4:49 pm

    The Daisy piece didn’t ping my BS meter, either, in part because TAL detailed the fact-checking that it did and corrected a few things. I’ve listened to “Retraction” and Mike Daisey simply doesn’t have a good answer for why, when it should have become clear that his theatrical standards were at variance with TAL’s, he didn’t volunteer that he had created events out of whole cloth.

    I don’t have a problem with the Sedaris pieces. But there have been other personal memoirs presented on TAL as factual about which I am very skeptical.

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  61. Suzanne said on March 19, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    The internet is full of good and bad information but most people can’t grasp that idea. In my job, I frequently try to teach vocational/career college students research skills. It seems like no matter what I say, next time I see them and ask them how their research is going, I hear about Yahoo and Google. Librarians know all about which sites are good, etc., but they are dropping out of the workforce faster than GOP candidates.

    The youngsters are scary about it, but so are the retirees. My 80+ father-in-law constantly shows me crazy emails he gets and I can’t seem to get him to understand that just because that email came from his friend Joe and says it was written by a 4 star general, it still is probably not true. Just today, I overheard an older man telling someone that collagen in beauty products is all (and he made a point of saying all) from aborted babies. Pretty sure that one was refuted years ago, but these things never die on the internet.

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  62. LAMary said on March 19, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Speaking of pinging the BS meter, did anyone else hear George Lois in NPR this morning? I know he’s famous and all that. I think he’s also full of it because there are that many folks around who can call him on it.

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  63. brian stouder said on March 19, 2012 at 5:33 pm

    Well, in the old days, the pioneering photographer Alexander Gardner went to the freshly-blooded battlefields of Antietam and Gettysburg, and was not averse to actually moving and posing (we’ll skip the pun) the dead, in ways that he found more compelling.

    Some things never change.

    Dorothy – when I have more time, I have a post for you, regarding Pittsburgh

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  64. Dave said on March 19, 2012 at 5:56 pm

    Jeff at #55, this case is so mind-boggling to me that I get angered every time I think of it. I don’t think I can add anything but now I wonder if the people who are the citizen patrol in the retiree neighborhood that we inherited property in Florida’s Tampa Bay area, are packing? I’ve never thought they were, it’s always been a 55 and over community, and in the 30 plus years my mother-in-law lived there, I’ve never heard of anything more than some speeding and a few cases of break-ins. Still, I wonder.

    Mostly, these folks drive around and look for garage doors that are still up late at night, so I’ve always thought. It’s not a high-dollar gated community or anything like that.

    Deborah, sorry for the loss of your cat. Some days, I still think our little Bichon Frise is going to walk in, though she’s been gone a year now. We miss her terribly but love the freedom not having to worry about what to do with her when we go away. Our son swears he hears her tags on her collar clanging together occasionally behind the door into the house when he comes into the garage. Makes one wonder just a bit.

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  65. JWfromNJ said on March 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm

    Jeff – the case in Sanford, Fl. is pretty sad based on what we know to date. I’m not totally convinced yet that the cops are clueless douchebags – which is actually my normal reaction. The 911 tapes seem to have the teen screaming that “he’s going to kill me.” It looks very bad.
    The upside to the story, even if it’s very hard to find, is that the community which is very mixed and well-balanced seems united in their disgust. People have voiced positive thoughts about the shooter (who is actually Latino despite the surname) but for the most part whites and blacks from a broad economic base all think this was wrong and want answers. It’s not teetering on the verge of a Tawana Brawley thing, and the people trying to make it seem like there is a racial divide there are from outside Seminole County. Hopefully the FBI can offer some answers.
    My gut here is telling me it’s not as simple as it seems on first glance, and i base that on the Orlando Sentinel’s reporting.

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  66. David C. said on March 19, 2012 at 7:35 pm

    So sorry Deborah and Little Bird. We lost our little Trudy cat last Summer to kidney failure. The poor dear was so miserable and she was only 2 years old. It still can make me tear up, but she was on my lap with my wife scratching between her ears as she slipped away. I guess sometimes that’s the best you can do for a dear friend.

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  67. Dexter said on March 19, 2012 at 8:40 pm

    I spent an hour listening to callers regarding the Sanford, Florida shooting. No one has come up with any good reason the 17 year old was gunned down.
    One caller said the lad was from Miami and was visiting his family and may have become disoriented while returning from the store with his Skittles and tea.
    Zimmerman, the killer, has called 911 over 50 times the past year. Now it seems clear to me Zimmerman is a psychopath who was just waiting for his chance to kill someone. Zimmerman is Hispanic…maybe it will come out if he hated African Americans but right now it appears it is a hate crime, right?

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  68. beb said on March 19, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    I read where the guy in Florida, Zimmerman, might walk because the self-defense law in FL is so vague. Where in Michigan one has to felt that one’s life is in imminent danger, in Florida just “standing your ground” is sufficient justification. But I’m sure that if the dead man had been white the shooter would have been in a lot of trouble.

    Sympathy on your loss, Deborah and Little Bird.

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  69. brian stouder said on March 19, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    The Pittsburgh story – which stopped me in my tracks. This is the sort of story that, when it comes to pass, will make everyone say “How the hell did we let this happen?”

    PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh’s three rivers, an economic engine since Lewis and Clark departed the city for their epic exploration of the West, are flirting with disaster. The region’s 23 locks and dams, which annually move 33 million tons of coal, petroleum and other commodities that fuel the local economy, are on the brink of failure, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the federal agency charged with maintaining them.

    The failure could come at Elizabeth, the locks and dam on the Monongahela River completed in 1907. The Corps says there “are significant structural, mechanical and hydraulic problems” with the locks, including the collapsing roof of the tunnel that carries water used to fill and empty the lock chambers.

    “We’ve had chunks of concrete coming down for many years,” said Jim Fisher, acting chief of operations for the Corps’ Pittsburgh district.

    Or it could come 18 miles farther up the Monongahela at Charleroi, where the walls of a Depression-era lock sway back and forth each time the lock is filled and emptied. Water inside the chamber is helping to hold the walls up.

    If the dam at Elizabeth collapsed and water levels dropped, the Charleroi lock could tumble into the river, closing the Monongahela.

    I mean, wow!

    It is a lengthy article; by turns scarey and fascinating.

    Another taste:

    A new dam at Braddock already has been completed. But the work not yet done includes eliminating the 105-year-old locks and dam at Elizabeth, and building two new locks to replace the Depression-vintage lock at Charleroi. When the project was approved, it was expected to be completed in 2004 at a cost of $750 million.

    Because of funding shortfalls, the Lower Mon project is now estimated to cost a minimum of $1.4 billion and will be completed in 2024 at the earliest, 20 years behind schedule.

    By then, the Elizabeth lock and dam — built to last 50 years — would be nearly 125 years old. “The poster child for the river system is the Lower Mon project,” said Michael Hennessey, chairman of the National Waterways Foundation, a research group funded by companies that move goods on rivers. Debilitated locks and dams are part of a larger national problem: the lack of funding to repair or replace aging infrastructure that the economy depends on. In 2009, the American Society of Civil Engineers put a $2.2 trillion price tag on fixing roads, bridges, locks and other infrastructure.

    Think of this the next time the subject of “infrastructure improvements” comes up.

    It looks like we may well “do” for Pittsburgh what we did for New Orleans…

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  70. Dexter said on March 19, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    The Duchess of Cambridge got a lot of TV time today, with her first speech to the public, all of three minutes.
    She has visibly lost a lot of weight since her wedding to Prince William. She truly looks sickly of frame, although her face isn’t sunken or anything. I bet she doesn’t weigh more than 85 pounds. Some gossip sites say she weighs 120 pounds… maybe at one time, but certainly not now.

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  71. Linda said on March 19, 2012 at 10:41 pm

    Deborah, Little Bird:
    I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s never easy, but you know you did the best you could, and she was as lucky to have you as vice versa.

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  72. Rana said on March 19, 2012 at 10:47 pm

    Apropos of non-fiction writing and shading the truth, someone linked to my friend Chris’s essay on nature writing, Annie Dillard’s cat, and musings there in — — apropos of grieving over pets, his book about his dog Zeke is amazing and wrenching. Worth a look… (I think, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my friend.)

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  73. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 19, 2012 at 10:52 pm

    I’ve walked atop the Charleroi locks – they’re just waiting for the collapse to get federal funding for a full re-do. The West Elizabeth ones I’ve not even been that close to, but from the hillside above them, it’s clear their “plan” is the same.

    Pittsburgh won’t flood, but you’ll find an odd assortment of commodities suddenly becoming pricier. And West Virginia’s economy will take a hit, but since when has anyone given a rat’s hiney about that?

    The Corps is an fascinating study in enforced dysfunction. I’m not sure what it would take to get a good narrative in print about them — I thought Harry Shearer might pull it off, but God bless him, he’s just too angry to do it plus unwilling to try to go upstream and pull the watersheds together. But there are few places in our national polity where the flaws of politics are more visible than in the Army Corps of Engineers, which is not the Army, nor a Corps, and precious few Engineers — and their funding is so earmark dependent they might as well be a commodity next to pork bellies.

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  74. Hattie said on March 19, 2012 at 11:08 pm

    There is still such a thing as professional journalism. I made a small foray into journalism recently and only barely managed not to get my ass handed to me for not knowing the rules. I feel it was a lucky escape. You can think you are smart and all that, but non-professionals need to think twice and then think again before stepping into that territory!

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  75. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 19, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Rule 1) — if you drink the last cup of coffee in the office pot, you will make another pot before walking away. Or at least set up the next one.

    Are there other rules?

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  76. Prospero said on March 19, 2012 at 11:33 pm

    Jeff, I had a Davy Crockett hat when I was a little keedo. I think giving Ira Glass a pass on this is lame. He claims to be a professional. I ‘m not a professional journo, but I could have seen through the guy in an instant, if I didn’t consider Apple’s ommediate partnership with AT%T as bullshit. I can’t answer my phone without walking outside. Ain’t that coverage. I chose ATT&T to get an iPhone. And these isiots make me walk outside to answer my telephone? What a crock of shit.

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  77. Prospero said on March 19, 2012 at 11:45 pm

    Jeff, Are there people that walk away from the last office pot? I alwaays put some really good coffee in. Believe it or don’t. Ira Glasss, I love William Gibson, but even when he’s dealong with here ane now, I don;t take him for anything but a fabulist, Ira, You ate your bed, be a man and live with it, There is no excuse, And I bathed in it Nancy. And he tried laying it off on somebody else, and he claims to have been lied to, Wah! Wah! Man up Ira! This dumbass was victimized? This dumbass made NPR looke bad, by being an incompetent reporter. I don’t see another way of looking at this.

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  78. Prospero said on March 19, 2012 at 11:53 pm

    Apple looks bad teaming with the evil empore rather than making jobs where unions might shine,
    who is whose evil empire

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  79. Prospero said on March 19, 2012 at 11:55 pm

    No joke. If you’re sitting on spectacular profits, why are you nor investing in US?

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  80. Prospero said on March 20, 2012 at 12:14 am

    Like a fool, I invested in Nancy’s movie:

    And I can’t wait to see it.

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  81. Prospero said on March 20, 2012 at 6:15 am

    Jeff. If you believe Hunter Thompson ingested all those drugs and all that liquor in one day in Vegas, I’m alive beyond all odds to tell you it’s not remotely possible, but I lived to get remotely close. Believe me, the halucinogens were a week’s worth, and piled upon poled, would have eft him piking psychedelic rainbows into the Big Porcelain Steering Wheel. No ibogaine, which most assuredly would have killed that liar. And I once drank a quart of scotch in my non-drinking days, in one night. and consumed many drugs including mescaline, and made it through standing and aware of myself,amd went after a party crasher that syole my Gibson acoustic 12=string, with a steak knife, and I will tell you, for a fact that Hunter would have been going nowhere gut on wheels to the coroner had he done the drugs and liquor he claimed. I know some of you think I embellish, but I truly don’t. And when do I get my DVD of Other Men’s Wars? I am dying to see it. Notice Hunter never claims to have done heroin. His loss. It does a body good.

    The Duchess would get my interest if she simply asked “Why the fuck are Brits in Ireland, anyway? They have no business there but to create a phony religious war that is actually serf v. serf, in their colonialist fashion. The Brits created the conflict to extend the Empire. Way fracking lame. Ain’t we supposed to be the ultimate anti-colonialists? I mean, werem’t Obama’s Mau-Mau ancestots about throwing the whit interlopers out? Where does Mewtria get off talling about anti-Colonial;?

    Seriously” Werem’t Jefferson and the multiple Adamses anti-colonial? Aah, but them darkies didn’t know any better. That’s why the Founding
    Fathrs retained slavery, in their wisdom.


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  82. Prospero said on March 20, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    Astounding Beatles’ cover.

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