A fat fantasia.

When you’re a columnist, editors are always stopping by your desk with a press release they’d like to offload. The some-magazine-just-named-us-something boilerplate was only the most irritating. “These are designed to get the magazine’s name in the media,” I would point out. “Look at the data they used. This is pure bullshit.” This was never met with anything other than a shrug. I’d round-file most of these, but every so often I’d feel inspired to answer bullshit with more bullshit. Published October 2000.

The word had scarcely gone out that no less a tribunal than the editors of Self magazine had declared our little town “least fit” (for women, anyway) in America than the hand-wringing began.

“What can this mean for our future efforts to be the next Indianapolis?” fretted
 town boosters, many of them picking over egg-white omelets and dressing-on-the-side spinach salads at tables with lovely views. “What does it say about us when an obscure women’s magazine catering to the solipsistic says we’re a city full of people with sofa cushions stuffed down the back of our pants? Does this mean we’re a no-go for the NAIA?”

Does it ever stop? wondered a put-upon soul at one economic-development office or another. Sighing, he launched his word processor and drafted a memo on damage control.

In other quarters, the news was appraised with a cooler eye. Restaurateurs made mental notes to add an extra roll to the bread basket, and underlined “butter” three times on the “must-have” list, just so the suppliers wouldn t forget.

At the health clubs, the bickering was fast and furious. “It doesn t surprise me,” offered one indifferent block of chiseled masculinity. “You thought Monica Lewinsky was overqualified for thong underwear? I won’t even tell you what I was able to make out through Ms. L’ s spandex yesterday.”

That’ll be enough of that,” retorted a blonde — zaftig, but in that apple-cheeked, I-could-bench-press-a-Holstein farm girl way. “It’s well-known that your media-promoted model of skinniness is based on an unhealthy model of living. Not for me the Tic Tac diet, the quiet after-dinner hurl with the water running. Life is a sandwich, and I intend to eat it. With mayonnaise.” With that, she turned and sauntered away, swinging her 42-inch hips — quite fetchingly, the chiseled block thought.

A lone cardiologist, torn between the Porsche and the Mercedes, decided to take both. Business was looking very good, after all.

A high school speech teacher sought to make it the central question for debate class. “Resolved: We are a city of wheezing fat people.” For the affirmative, a sophomore named Heather gamely held her ground. Later, everyone continued the colloquy in the student lounge, over snacks from the vending machines.

Meanwhile — and this next part is true, while the preceding is, fairly obviously, not — plans for a city-county master parks plan are moving forward, in the sense that a company has been hired to prepare one. There is talk of extending the Rivergreenway, rumored to be a place where much exercise takes place, into New Haven. There is no talk of repairing the existing Rivergreenway, a huge chunk of which was torn up earlier this year for sewer work and remains so. And there is that unfortunate washed-out stretch near Lakeside. Just a reminder.

At the same time the rivers flow past their greenways, someone awakens on a sunny morning, filled with resolve. He prepares oatmeal without butter, black coffee, orange juice. He opens the newspaper turns to the classifieds, scans down to the “exercise equipment for sale” listings. Stationary bike treadmill, rower, stepper — the choices seem endless. He dials a few numbers.

In all likelihood, the piece he buys will make a second appearance in the paper in a few months, or else be covered with clothing in that peculiar household sculpture of the late 20th century. The pair of athletic shoes he bought at the same time will be the frame he watches basketball through, when the recliner footrest is up.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to super-size our fast-food meals, no matter how many heart attacks that nice Dave Thomas suffers. We’ll remember he got his start in Fort Wayne, a true son of the city, the city that just made the national news, if only for a moment, but for the same old depressing reasons.

Posted at 12:30 am in Ancient archives |

51 responses to “A fat fantasia.”

  1. Cara said on June 12, 2013 at 3:15 am

    Not surprising that could be written today, right down to Lake Avenue washing out; nothing changes in Complacentville.

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  2. Prospero said on June 12, 2013 at 6:05 am

    In my opinion, that column was funny as all hell. I’m not fat, and it isn’t for lack of effort. To the extent I eat properly, it’s just what I like to eat. And when I go cheeseburgers and fries, I definitely go for the full boat bleu cheese and anything else they want to pile on. Ray Davies wrote a perfect song about this:


    Ray has written a perfect song about just about anything people can think of.

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  3. Prospero said on June 12, 2013 at 6:07 am

    Bassett probably doesn’t like the Kinks. Because I love them. And them Davies boys are rockers.

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  4. Prospero said on June 12, 2013 at 6:17 am

    And the most gorgeous song ever written: and this is Dave as much as Ray:


    Shabby looking black Les Paul. Astounding guitar playing.

    And for the whackjob contingent that somehow didn’t notice when the Shrubs were following you’re phone and email trees:


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  5. alex said on June 12, 2013 at 7:30 am

    So who were the nanny-statists who invented the Rivergreenway anyway? A pity, all those tax dollars wasted on public infrastructure that gets used as a toilet for the homeless. No wonder it’s washed out in places. Of course, rappelling is probably a better workout for the lard-asses than power walking, but the damn government could have just left the riverbanks alone in that case and given the money to charter schools instead. 😉

    (The story, as told from a libertarian point of view. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.)

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  6. brian stouder said on June 12, 2013 at 8:54 am

    See, this is classic Telling Tales stuff; lots of snickers (loved the Lewinski/over-qualification quip!), and an (ever-present) implied acknowledgement that the humble reader surely sees through the bullshit to the essential absurdity, yes?

    And not for nothing, but I’ll betcha a dollar that this very same column drew at least 5 or 6 irritated (if not angry) letters to the editor, which only made the amusement of Telling Tales readers all the more complete!

    Total The Voice-non sequitur: I’m still rooting for Michelle Chamuel, but Good God! Blake’s blonde 16 year old could probably sell-out a stadium, right now!

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  7. brian stouder said on June 12, 2013 at 8:55 am

    (forgot to say thanks to Alex for the incisive column about the absurdity and historical-know-nothingism of Libertarian prattle)

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  8. coozledad said on June 12, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Is Men’s Self still around? It had to be a night mare working for that rag.
    How to get that six-pack.
    Keep those abs moist!
    Make those veins pop out on your abs.
    Can abs help you find work?
    Quickest ways to get your abs in the sack.

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  9. coozledad said on June 12, 2013 at 9:21 am

    HA. Men’s Self was the Spy parody. I guess Men’s Health is still around.

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  10. Deborah said on June 12, 2013 at 9:43 am

    This post was a gem. Best one yet!

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  11. brian stouder said on June 12, 2013 at 9:56 am

    Rachel Maddow had a superb opening last night*, about the 50th anniversary of Medgar Evers’ assassination (in his driveway), hours after JFK’s civil rights speech.

    Rachel also highlighted Isabel Wilkerson’s book The Warmth of Other Suns, which is a superb, eye-opening, thought-provoking, thoroughly American book; history in the best sense; truth.


    By way of saying, so-called “libertarians” can go to hell, when they insist (as Senator Paul does) that the owner of a lunch counter should be free to NOT serve people who are not white (for example)

    *Rachel’s openings are always the best part of the show, and last night’s was sublime

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  12. beb said on June 12, 2013 at 10:07 am

    Diet: My doctor is worried about the state of my diabetes and suggested I try ti lose some weight by going on weight watchers. I didn’t the heart to break to the man, since he’s a nice guy and means well, but weight watchers only works if you eat only one of their packages at a time. If I wanted to starve myself I could have done that at anytime without joining a club!

    Only in Detroit. Despite being under the control an Michigan’s Emergency Manager, there’s a hot race to be the next mayor. One of the lesser seeded candidates decided to improve his chances and tried to get one of the top seeds kicked off the ballot. His target was the only white guy running for mayor, a Detroit-born man big in county politics. He’d moved back into Detroit last year to take control of a large hospital complex. The challenger contended that his man, Mike Duggin, wasn’t qualified to run in this year’s election because he hadn’t live in Detroit long enough — and found a judge who agreed. Duggin registered to vote around April 16, 2012. He filed to run for office April 2, 2013. Technically 50 weeks after changing his place of residence. However the deadline for register to run for office is roughly May 16th. Duggin’s position is that since he could have filed anytime up to May 16th that should the day to determine his eligibility. The judge disagreed. What was Duggin thinking filing before he had to, when he could have waited out those two extra weeks just to be sure?

    Life – Death – infinity

    Aside from the Nelson Mandala death-watch, news is that the world’s oldest man died at the age of 116. I recall reading a study on aging in the world which revealed that no matter the advancements in care for the elderly, 115-116 seems to be the limit for anyone to live. Improvements in medicine has increased the number of people living to be over 100 years old. But no amount of better medicine has kept anyone alive longer than 115-116 years.

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  13. Julie Robinson said on June 12, 2013 at 10:15 am


    Un-funnily, as the Rivergreenway has grown, so have the number of sexual assaults. I don’t ride there alone anymore.

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  14. Scout said on June 12, 2013 at 11:07 am

    Great post today. I enjoy Nancy’s writing style immensely.

    On another completely unrelated topic, the NSA thing seems to be creating alliances between unlikely players and it seems that almost everyone is coming down firmly on one side or the other, that being whether Snowden is a traitor or a hero. From the beginning of this “scandal” my reaction was, ‘really? people who overshare everything from what they had for breakfast to the elimination of same later are shocked! SHOCKED! that the post 9/11 NSA has the capability to listen in. I’d be more surprised if they didn’t.’ And now it is slowly coming to light that there may have been a bit of a rush to overdramatize. http://www.zdnet.com/the-real-story-in-the-nsa-scandal-is-the-collapse-of-journalism-7000016570/

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  15. Bitter Scribe said on June 12, 2013 at 11:13 am

    This fat-shaming would be easier to take seriously* if Self magazine would put women on its covers who looked, you know, athletic. Instead, we get the same starved (and probably airbrushed) lingerie models we see everywhere else.

    *Actually, no, it wouldn’t.

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  16. brian stouder said on June 12, 2013 at 11:24 am

    Scout – excellent link!

    This NSA story is undoubtedly important, and indeed, our fast-hamburger press is doing the best they can (which is pretty good, despite Scout’s pundit’s criticisms) – quickly.

    Keep the news – and the corrections – coming, I say

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  17. Prospero said on June 12, 2013 at 11:24 am

    I’ve still got my first (Stella) guitar. I’ve dremelled that baby and restrung it many times, and it sounds like a Martin.

    Why in the world would anybody want to be 116? Except for those gifted folks that can actually identify a Stradivarius by listening to it. Sure you can.

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  18. mark said on June 12, 2013 at 11:35 am


    What is the salient point that you find in the “ZDNet” article. All I really picked up is that the Post first claimed the private companies “knowingly participated” with the Govt on Prism, then changed it to (more accurately) say they “cooperated” with Court orders. Is there more to the article?

    I’m pretty firmly in the Snowden is a hero camp, and my concern has been with the NSA, not google or skype.

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  19. brian stouder said on June 12, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I’m pretty firmly in the Snowden is a hero camp

    The interesting thing is that the ice is cracking and breaking in every different direction on this.

    Many Congressional Republicans (including Senator McCain and Rep Boehner) flat-out label the guy a traitor.

    I’m still watching – but I will say that Snowden himself has my interest.

    High school dropout? Product of the DC Beltway ‘burbs? Son of other classified government workers?

    Leaving aside the real issues here, and just looking at this guy, it looks like Peter’s Principle writ large

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  20. Sherri said on June 12, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I got spammed this morning by a nutcase sending a presentation of his “particle physics paper with eight numeral exactitude” and with a PS that says

    If you are a student in the physics, then I recommend you that don’t continue further your studies, because the modern physics is a perfect pseudoscience with its all theories and models. To learn further it is waste of time and bagatelle! If you are doctor or professor of this pseudoscience, then I call upon you that don’t continue this pseudoscience and go over to the good side! I know of it that you already have this information.

    There you go.

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  21. Sherri said on June 12, 2013 at 12:11 pm

    Bruce Schneier is my go-to read on computer security, and here’s what he has to say about Snowden today: http://www.schneier.com/blog/archives/2013/06/prosecuting_sno.html

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  22. brian stouder said on June 12, 2013 at 12:13 pm

    It appears to me that, in the world macro-world where we live, that guy is a macadamia nut.

    But in the micro-world where quantum randomness prevails, he may have a point, despite that we cannot know whether it IS a “point” – or a wave…

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  23. brian stouder said on June 12, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    (the macadamia nut guy post refers to the spammer, and not to Mr Schneier)

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  24. alex said on June 12, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    Snowden supported Ron Paul for president, so he’s neither a hero nor traitor. He’s a blooming idiot.

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  25. coozledad said on June 12, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Alex: The bit about shagging a pole dancer with a grade school understanding of prose also indicates he is scarcely able to breathe.
    What the Bush administration created by enlarging the national security state via private contractors is a huge soft spot through which anyone of an adversarial bent can fuck with us bigtime.

    The NSA should go back to a cabinet rump of the executive branch as opposed to an Amway model profit center for the DC burbs.

    Quite a few Democrats and all of the Republicans are in on that grift. But it was the Republicans who gave it to us.

    Here’s another great Republican civil Libertarian:

    Ol’ sleepy eye here took his state from 15th to 44th in job creation, and wages have plummeted. Republicans do not know how to do government, unless it’s the kind that’s strapping electrodes to your balls.

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  26. suzanne said on June 12, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    If nothing else, Mr. Snowden (who seems a bit pretentious to me) shows the dark side of privitizing every darn government task. Not that the government can control the universe, but once you start letting anybody in on the fun, you have less chance of knowing who or what is in your service.

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  27. Charlotte said on June 12, 2013 at 12:40 pm

    Brian @11 — my dear dear friend Maryanne Vollers just released an updated eBook of Ghosts of Mississippi — her terrific book about Medgar Evers, and the Byron de la Beckwith trial. It’s been out of print for years (which is too bad, because it’s got a really strong narrative and I’ve always thought it would be terrific for high school and college students). So — just a plug. Here’s the URL for the kindle version: http://www.amazon.com/Ghosts-of-Mississippi-ebook/dp/B00CKAOJOG/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1371054260&sr=8-4&keywords=Maryanne+Vollers

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  28. Sherri said on June 12, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Excessive government secrecy is a non-partisan affair, from US v. Reynolds to the Pentagon Papers to today.

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  29. coozledad said on June 12, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Sorry, I thought the NSA was budgeted through discretionary spending within the executive. It’s its own little private circle jerk, signed into existence by Harry Truman. Thanks again, farmboy!

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  30. brian stouder said on June 12, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Harry Truman is vastly over-rated, I believe (K-O-R-E-A)…

    but the president I dislike the most is POTUS #3, despite Jon Meacham’s earnest (and honestly biased) biography of the guy

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  31. Prospero said on June 12, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    If you are starved for attention and have a security clearance, you leak summat and claim to be a whistleblower. Or if the authorities are closing in and you’re a rapist, like Julian Assange. Not all leakers are whistleblowers.

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  32. Sherri said on June 12, 2013 at 2:27 pm

    Really, Brian? You dislike him more than Jackson, Buchanan, Polk, Coolidge, or Harding?

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  33. Bitter Scribe said on June 12, 2013 at 2:31 pm

    brian: What, exactly, was Truman supposed to do differently in Korea?

    And yes, Jefferson had his flaws, but if you’re going for “overrated,” don’t forget the humorless, thin-skinned POTUS #2.

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  34. brian stouder said on June 12, 2013 at 2:48 pm

    Sherri – good point about Jackson; that guy was heartless with the ‘Indian Removal’ policies of the day. (come to think of it, I read Meacham’s book about him, too)

    But TJ specifically foreshadowed the genocide we would pursue against the native Americans, before there was a United States (when the British were attempting to utilize them against the Colonial rebels); just as he embodied exactly the sorts of sons of bitches that would pursue and foment their own racist revolution against the United States a few generations later.

    TJ embodies all the worst of America, I think; and the cultured botanist in Monticello was one of the chief planters of the seeds of our nation’s near self-destruction.

    I just do not like that guy, nor much of anything he stands for (if indeed he stood for anything)

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  35. brian stouder said on June 12, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    Scribe – The fact that HST landed us ass-deep in a land war versus The People’s Republic of China!!! – on a peninsula right off of China!!! – has to rank as one of the single stupidest things any president has ever, ever done!!

    If the damned Chinese were fighting a massive ground war in Mexico – what would we do?

    How did HST not just stumble into that damned war, but indeed dive head-first into it?

    I’ll give him one credit for not using nuclear weapons there, which really could have made him one of the worst human beings of all time

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  36. Sherri said on June 12, 2013 at 3:06 pm

    I have a love/hate relationship with both Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt; fascinated by them in some ways, appalled by them in others.

    Polk was responsible for the equivalent of an early day Tonkin Gulf – sending US troops to provoke a casus belli for a war he wanted, in pursuit of his doctrine of Manifest Destiny.

    I suppose part of my dislike for both Jackson and Polk comes from having come up through the Tennessee educational system and being taught the virtues of Jackson and Polk as hometown Presidents (Andrew Johnson was kind of swept under the rug.)

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  37. brian stouder said on June 12, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Not for nothing, if you were a wealthy land-owning colonist (like TJ), then you were probably also deeply indebted to British creditors, and that was no small part of the allure of rebellion against the king, for them.

    I guess “rich man’s war, poor man’s fight” has always been a truth in the world; and we aren’t compelled to venerate the rich guys

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  38. brian stouder said on June 12, 2013 at 3:29 pm

    TR is definitely a love/hate one….and really, Richard Nixon is, too, I think.

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  39. alex said on June 12, 2013 at 3:37 pm

    For all the indignation about Bill Clinton sniffing his stogies, he was a saint next to some of these other cretins. Andrew Jackson’s family procured him a wife by forcibly abducting her from another clan. Probably the Jacksons’ first new bloodline in three generations. And she was already married, but that counted for nothing in lawless Appalachia.

    I’m committing liberal heresy by saying so, but JFK was a sophomoric jerk whose mobster dad bought him his way into politics, and his untimely death probably saved him from going down in history as one of the worst presidents ever.

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  40. brian stouder said on June 12, 2013 at 3:47 pm

    My dad used to love JFK; that he was a Navy man, and such a young family man, really contributed to his allure.

    But indeed – if that same fellow ran in 2000 (or ’04 or ’08) the drug-use alone would never have remained secret, let alone that he couldn’t keep his pants up.

    Really, considering what the opponents of John Kerry did with his (heroic) war-time Navy service, JFK’s (heroic) loss of his vessel would probably have been a destructive issue against him, too

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  41. alex said on June 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm

    Some exciting local news. The Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, a local resident, just croaked. Some of you may remember him as the one who took a couple of news reporters hostage in a bizarre standoff with the police some years back. After he got out of prison for that escapade, his own son nearly beat him to death. Too bad it took him this long to shuffle off.

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  42. beb said on June 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    Sherri, thanks for the Schneier link. I don’t follow him regularly but the times I’ve read him his practical, common sense approach to security has always been persuasive. Snowden’s personality or motivation is beside the point, the existence and scope of the spying program and that it is aimed at US citizens is what matters. And at no time was the American people asked if they wanted this kind of intrusion into their lives.

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  43. brian stouder said on June 12, 2013 at 4:04 pm

    I thought it was funny that he died May 31, and we’re just now learning of it.

    Maybe they were trying to throw the devil off his trail.

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  44. coozledad said on June 12, 2013 at 5:44 pm

    No thugs in our house
    Are there, dear? We made that clear.
    We made little Graham Tanner promise us he’d be a good boy!


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  45. Brandon said on June 12, 2013 at 6:11 pm

    Who here thinks Obama is a scapegoat for the NSA matter? Is Snowden a catalyst for something that could affect the Administration far more than Benghazi or the IRS-vs.-nonprofits controversy? Does that realization explain a lot of the anti-Snowden rancor and underplaying of the significance of his revelations?

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  46. alex said on June 12, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Snowden’s revelations are significant only insofar as they gave bloviating politicians and sensationalistic media another opportunity to incite mass hysteria. Tomorrow they’ll find something else to exploit, another benign practice in some unit of government that can be spun into another Obama police-state conspiracy. I’m actually starting to miss the good old days when people were mesmerized by Anna Nicole Smith and didn’t give a fuck what the White House was doing.

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  47. Prospero said on June 12, 2013 at 9:38 pm

    The US House of Representatives just hit No. 39 on the moronic repeal Obamacare vote. These aholes get paid $174grand annually for this abject stupidity. What is wrong with these dickheads?

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  48. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on June 12, 2013 at 11:17 pm

    Hey, Fort Wayners, I’m rumbling through your back yards at 7:30 am on the Lake Shore Limited, heading for a rendezvous with the Southwest Chief at Union Station leaving Chicago at 3:00 pm. My son and I and two crews from our troop are heading for Philmont Scout Ranch for two weeks.

    Y’all be well — my closest electronics in the Sangre de Cristos will be nightly overflights of the International Space Station through starry skies. Tell you how it went (and how my knees and ankles held up) June 29. Grace and peace ’til then!

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  49. brian stouder said on June 12, 2013 at 11:51 pm

    Jeff – Godspeed and safe travels to you and yours! Currently, it’s a dark and stormy night hereabouts. Pam and the girls are seeing the Mouse in Florida right now, while Grant and I hold the Fort.
    Next month, he and I wing to San Diego, which ought to be cool.
    [A}Who here thinks Obama is a scapegoat for the NSA matter?[B] Is Snowden a catalyst for something that could affect the Administration far more than Benghazi or the IRS-vs.-nonprofits controversy? Does that realization explain a lot of the anti-Snowden rancor and underplaying of the significance of his revelations?

    [A] I don’t think anyone has expressed the opinion that the president is a “scapegoat”. On the contrary, I think he’s been waging the world-wide war against non-state actors (ie – terrorists) with very great (excessive?) vigor, including drone strikes and targeted old-fashioned killing (Sammy bin laden got the Sonny Corleone treatment, and a long ‘sleep with the fishes’ , too). I will say, and I have said previously – I was most put off by the administration’s very aggressive, in-your-face subpoenas to see the AP phone logs. The damned Republican screecher-creatures hardly even talk about that one…and really, if this NSA subcontractor kiddo was as much of a bad-ass as he wants us to think he is, and if the president was such a Chicago thug (as shit-for-brains Sean Hannity, et al, would tell us) then they could have skipped all that Eric Holder horse-shit and simply perused all the AP phone calls, while sipping an icy-cold Diet Pepsi.
    [B] I think not, except to the extent that Benghazi was always a big, trumped-up nothing, and the IRS thing is even less; so a serious debate about all these things that Congress OK’d 8 years ago is long over-due, and we may have it now.
    [C] Not at all…and indeed, how significant are “his revelations”? If a Policeman is sitting with a reporter and says “I watch people go by, and if I feel like it, I stop them; and if I stop them, I can ticket them for whatever I want; and if I want to make an arrest, I can do that too….anytime I want – every single time”. I think that traffic cop is exerting a more arbitrary power and having a much greater impact on my daily life than some 20-something high-school dropout sub-contractor making $125K(!!) a year, who may (or may not) be able to see that I post at Nancy Nall.com, or that I email fellows who work at a university and plan out our bi-weekly board GameNights.

    Anyway, that’s my opinion, so far.

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  50. Brandon said on June 13, 2013 at 3:40 am


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  51. brian stouder said on June 13, 2013 at 8:18 am

    I guess I’m in the 37% of that poll, Brandon.

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