The extra room.

Too many years ago, back when Knight-Ridder was a going concern, the mandarins of the chain had a nationwide reporting project going, called Real Voters, or some such. I think this was 1992, when Bill Clinton, George Bush and Ross Perot were running. The idea was to use the vast resources of our chain to tap into the wellspring of the people’s wisdom, etc.

One of our reporters wrote a piece on three different couples. The young couple were worried; the old couple were worried; the middle-aged couple figured things would work out. And no, I don’t think this was a function of their age. The latter couple had seen a lot of shit, figured they’d see more, but they had jobs, a house and a decent life, and they were grateful.

I recognized them from the photo. I passed their house several times a week. They often sat in their garage, door up, in lawn chairs, drinks in hand, watching the world go by. They looked content with the world.

I think it was the garage-sitting that did it. Nothing like a seat among the comforting odors of the lawn mower and garden tools to instill a deep feeling of calm. At least in a Midwesterner. I know there are parts of the country where a garage is a rarity, but not here. I’ve waited out thunderstorms in a garage. I’ve sheltered in them. And I’ve enjoyed hospitality in quasi-garages converted to man caves.

Which is why my mouth dropped when I read this story in the DetNews, about “concerns” in Dearborn over too much use of garages as social spaces. It pushes cars out, “clogging side streets.”

Oh, puh-leeze. Garages are indeed social spaces in Dearborn, and have been for some time. Arab-Americans bought the little houses there, raised big families in them, and needed extra space for the usual reasons — to get away from someone bugging you, to invite in neighbors without going to a whole lot of trouble, and especially for smoking hookahs, which is very much a part of the social scene there. Those things put out more smoke than a three-alarm fire; you really wouldn’t want one in your house.

See this very amusing video, “Arab-American Cribs,” for an illustrative glance.

Of course there are toxic comments on the story — it does involve Arabs, after all — but a surprising number of supporters. Detroit was known for years for big families in small houses. Some people just got used to chillin’ in the garage.

Some good bloggage before I finish dinner:

American health care, THE GREATEST IN THE WORLD. Well, at least as it pertains to the bill. Especially for maternity care:

When she became pregnant, (Renée) Martin called her local hospital inquiring about the price of maternity care; the finance office at first said it did not know, and then gave her a range of $4,000 to $45,000. “It was unreal,” Ms. Martin said. “I was like, How could you not know this? You’re a hospital.”

Midway through her pregnancy, she fought for a deep discount on a $935 bill for an ultrasound, arguing that she had already paid a radiologist $256 to read the scan, which took only 20 minutes of a technician’s time using a machine that had been bought years ago. She ended up paying $655. “I feel like I’m in a used-car lot,” said Ms. Martin, a former art gallery manager who is starting graduate school in the fall.

Like Ms. Martin, plenty of other pregnant women are getting sticker shock in the United States, where charges for delivery have about tripled since 1996, according to an analysis done for The New York Times by Truven Health Analytics. Childbirth in the United States is uniquely expensive, and maternity and newborn care constitute the single biggest category of hospital payouts for most commercial insurers and state Medicaid programs. The cumulative costs of approximately four million annual births is well over $50 billion.

And though maternity care costs far less in other developed countries than it does in the United States, studies show that their citizens do not have less access to care or to high-tech care during pregnancy than Americans.


Neil Steinberg, stripped of most of his columns, makes his single count. On gay marriage, so be advised it’s satisfying for supporters, less so for others.

Finally, I mostly ignore my old newspaper, mainly because its content embarrasses me, most days. But spurred by Alex’ posting of a link over the weekend, I looked up the columnist who replaced me. Taking his cue from a right-wing website, he wonders if the military can survive “the pinup police.” The subhead is particularly witless, which I assume he didn’t write: Who will inspire the troops, now that they can’t ogle Betty Grable?

This is all pegged to an order by Chuck Hagel that military facilities be purged of materials that can be degrading to women. What a world these people live in, that they imagine barracks draped with Betty Fucking Grable. (The paper’s illustrations also included Rita Hayworth, as I live and breathe.) I’d like to post what I imagine is a more typical contemporary pinup — a Hustler Beaver Hunt winner spreading her shaved labia, with a buttplug inserted just for laffs — over the paper’s copy desk, and see how many people find it beautiful and inspiring.

I was embarrassed by this column, yes. But also pissed off. And ashamed that there’s a 20-year interval on my resume that says I worked for this fishwrap.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Detroit life |

38 responses to “The extra room.”

  1. Deborah said on July 2, 2013 at 1:27 am

    Where I grew up in Miami, very few people had actual garages, they had car ports that were open on the front and side. Neighbors congregated outside of these on the gravel driveways with their folding lawn chairs. I honestly don’t know how they survived the mosquitos.

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  2. MarcG said on July 2, 2013 at 3:53 am

    American health care is some scary shit. When we had our daughter, here in socialist europe, the state covered all costs for delivery, including mother and daughter staying in the hospital for a week after delivery, due to some health issues. We had our own insurance, so we sprang for the deluxe private room, where Ieva, Anna and I stayed for that week, which cost us about an extra 200 dollars. The government wants to encourage Latvians to have more babies, and paying for pre-natal care, delivery, and all children’s health costs until they are eighteen is part of that. And oh yeah, retirees get free health care, too. Damn socialists!

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  3. Brandon said on July 2, 2013 at 4:06 am

    Some people just got used to chillin’ in the garage.

    In Hawaii, many people have get-togethers in their garages and carports.

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  4. coozledad said on July 2, 2013 at 6:52 am

    a Hustler Beaver Hunt winner spreading her shaved labia, with a buttplug inserted just for laffs — over the paper’s copy desk, and see how many people find it beautiful and inspiring.
    I think even old school would have to concede that a photo of Rick Perry isn’t going to do much for morale.

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  5. David C. said on July 2, 2013 at 6:59 am

    A couple of years ago, I ran into a nasty case of food poisoning. I was so dehydrated that my muscles went into spasms, so I went to the emergency rood thinking they would give me medicine to stop the vomiting, put in an IV and put me in the corner until I felt better. I ended up in intensive care because, they said, my blood pressure was very low, and it was, and that if they gave me the drug to raise it I needed to be there. Well I never needed the drug and felt better the next morning. But I spent the next two days there because they “thought they saw something” on an x-ray they took. So a CAT scan on the second day. When the woman came to take me down for the scan, I was sitting on the chair beside the bed with me feet up on the bed. She asked where the patient was and I said that was me. She looked at me funny and said “I’ve never seen a patient in intensive care sitting up like that”. At that point I started to suspect that I was being used as an ATM. The scan was clean. Next up they said they can’t release me directly from ICU, and that I had to spend another night in a regular room. I’m not a combative person, but enough was enough. I was bored, not sick, and just wanted to go home, so I started raising holy hell and essentially checked myself out – against medical advice, they said. I went in a compliant patient, I left as a patient who will from now on, question everything.

    We have a sick medical system and a sick insurance system to go along with it. It feels like every single raise I’ve had in the past 20 years has gone to the medical-industrial complex, plus a little bit more, just to show me they can. Our insurance was changed last year to high deductible with medical savings account. It might work if I was able to start the MSA when I was young, but I’m 54 and my wife is 55 and things are starting to not work so well. I have visions of medical penury if we have to shell out $9000 a year before insurance kicks in. The company already lost two employees that I know out of the small circle of people I know because their wives were diabetics and they couldn’t shell out that much per year. It feels like a big F.U. to those getting older and the already chronically ill.

    I feel like 10,000 articles like Nancy’s link aren’t going to help. When we have stupid ideologues in Madison, Lansing, and statehouses all over the country trying to throw a monkey wrench into the works rather than doing anything to fix things, well all I can say is that we are so screwed.

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  6. coozledad said on July 2, 2013 at 7:07 am

    David C.:And these are the people who tell those ideologues what to do:

    American healthcare is rarely anything but grift.

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  7. Suzanne said on July 2, 2013 at 7:45 am

    David C. I kept reading your post thinking you were exaggerating, but I got to the end and realized I didn’t disagree with anything. When I had a baby 20+ years ago, the doctor charged less than $1000 for prenatal care and delivery. This was not in some rural hospital but in a sizable urban area. So, what happened? A former co-worker of mine had a baby a year or so ago and said the bill was over $25000. I know my salary has not increased like that!

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  8. beb said on July 2, 2013 at 8:03 am

    Paul Krugman cut Tom Friedman a new one after Friedman wrote in a column that people are upset at the price of milk which goes up year after year. Krugman deployed a graph showing that milk prices have held steady. Technically, Krugman was right, but nonetheless Friedman has right – that people are concerned that the prices of things keep going up. He just shouldn’t have used milk as an example. The cost of delivering a child would have been a better example. Or car insurance. The cost of about everything is going up faster than our wages.

    Our garage has one of those flip up doors so raised it makes a nice sunshade but our garage itself is so full of stuff we could never use it for social occasions.

    “The pinup police” – I’m coming to understand not only the definition of “Mansplaining but why the word was ever concocted. These are the people who think rape is just aggressive dating woman had it coming and that sperm is more important than the lives of women.

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  9. basset said on July 2, 2013 at 8:26 am

    Carrying one over from yesterday… Dexter, there’s always a Nashville connection. That plane in your link, the Vultee BT-13 “Valiant”(aka the “Vibrator”) was built here.

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  10. Linda said on July 2, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Re: garages. My late sister Lu hosted full-blown dance parties in ours in the late 50s/early 60s on the east side of Detroit. They were a blast.

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  11. LAMary said on July 2, 2013 at 9:38 am

    I’ve been to a lot of garage birthday parties here in LA. All were Mexican American families and all of them had lots of people there. The food was in the garage and the partying was mostly in the street and driveway.

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  12. Deborah said on July 2, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Nancy has a commenter in Latvia! It would be interesting to know if there are other readers/commenters from other countries. I’ve seen comments from the UK before, I think.

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  13. alex said on July 2, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Cheers for Steinberg! His work stands in contrast with that of Kevin Leininger, who’s precisely the sort of crank that Steinberg describes, one who is hobbled in life by bugaboos and outraged by others who are liberated from such.

    Kevin recently recorded an interview on the public access channel with a priest and the head of the local Boy Scout council in which he tried in vain to steer his rather circumspect guests into speaking ill of gays and fulminating with moral outrage. They wouldn’t bite, and he about wore himself out, coming back again and again but eliciting nothing more than politely neutral answers. I’m sure it was as monotonous for the guests as it was for anyone who bothered to watch the program.

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  14. Deggjr said on July 2, 2013 at 10:23 am

    Pinup Police. Sigh. Apparently one of the criticisms of Rachel Jeantel, a prosecution witness in the George Zimmerman trial, is that she can’t read cursive. Schools now teach keyboarding rather than cursive.

    People think their 70 year old experiences still apply. Maybe some experiences apply but certainly not all. It’s not that old people can’t keep up but that some won’t even try.

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  15. Mark P said on July 2, 2013 at 11:08 am

    Maybe 20 years ago a coworker checked his wife’s maternity bill and found significant overcharges and charges for things that weren’t done or medicine that wasn’t given. He told his insurance company about them, but they weren’t interested.

    I suspect that anyone who thinks soldiers put pinups in their lockers is guilty of watching too many John Wayne WW II movies. Why would they want to look at a poster when they can see live action on their iphone?

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  16. Adrianne said on July 2, 2013 at 11:10 am

    Glad to hear that the antigay bigots have the likes of Leininger on their side. I can think of no better recruitment tool for our side.

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  17. Judybusy said on July 2, 2013 at 11:21 am

    I don’t have time to read the links right now, but here is an article about what the Obama administration is doing in response to DOMA’s demise. It speaks to some issues Alex raised last week, about not being able to get married in IN, so what’s the point of going elsewhere. It might be worth it. I know of a binational couple (one degree of separation) who live in FL, but were married in NY last year. The permanancy permit is going forward–they were the first case–even though FL doesn’t recognize their marriage.

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  18. Deborah said on July 2, 2013 at 11:26 am

    When I designed print projects (which I still do occasionally) I used a printer who allowed his employees to pin up really raunchy photos like the one Nancy described, at their work stations. When I had to go there for press checks for my projects I had to pass by them and it was uncomfortable to say the least. I complained to the owner at some point and forever after when I would be there they had those photos covered up or turned toward the wall. I figured as soon as I left they were displayed again. I stopped using that printer.

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  19. LinGin said on July 2, 2013 at 11:49 am

    Because of a very generous relative I have a small trust fund. Enough to cover insurance and other costs via a monthly distribution but not enough that I can live Paris Hilton’s life (not that I want to but you get the idea). I’m unemployed and suspect that getting back into the job market will entail employment that won’t offer health insurance. I am grateful that I have financial resources to pay the $850/month Independence Blue Cross premium. But it shouldn’t have to come down to the luck of having an affluent relation to insure that you have access to ALL the best health care in this country.

    There are so many important things to focus on and support, but I have decided that, as I near 60, my priority is going to see that health care is no longer seen as a commodity but as a right that all citizens have, whatever their financial situation. I may not live to see a one-payer, all access system, but I hope that I can help nudge our country in that direction so that it becomes inevitable.

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  20. Dexter said on July 2, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    A memory: It was Ernie Harwell’s second season as Detroit Tigers radio broadcaster on WJR-AM. The year was 1961. My grandfather’s farm had four major out-buildings; in the daylight he sat on a homemade bench in the sunshine and at night he sat in the garage every night the Tigers played, listening to a radio plugged in beside the air compressor switch. The radio was an old art-deco, huge knobs, big glowing light in the center of the radio. George Kell was Ernie’s radio booth partner in those days. Grandpa sat there with his “chaw”, Yankee Girl tobacco, and listened to every word.
    This is my favorite garage-sitting memory. I was a baseball nut even then (I am worse today) , and I would sit and listen with Grandpa many times, but I got the feeling I was an interloper. Grandpa didn’t want any conversation; I could sit only in silence, as he must have been transporting himself to the stadium and “seeing” the games in his head.
    On weekends , he’d walk to my uncle’s new house and watch baseball on TV. I “got” my love of baseball from him, obviously.
    My uncle kept an ancient Dodge car in the garage, but Grandpa had room to maneuver through the garage to his chair by the workbench where the radio was. In his very last days, when his body was shutting down at age 85, his mind allowed him to travel back in time and regale me and my brother with stories of life at the turn of the century, (folks called this dementia as “living his second childhood” then) and then he was gone. I didn’t dare ask for the radio as my uncle used it until it conked out and was trashed.
    My garage is a depository for bicycle storage and junk. It’s not fit to entertain in. I do have an old radio there that I tune in to a local FM station and listen to the Tigers when I am there airing up bike tires and adjusting my bikes. I always have Grandpa on my mind during those times.

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  21. Kirk said on July 2, 2013 at 2:00 pm

    When my grandparents’ radio was on the blink, my grandfather and I would sit in his Ford Fairlane and listen to Waite Hoyt calling Reds games.

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  22. MichaelG said on July 2, 2013 at 2:01 pm

    I remember George Kell playinbg third for the White Sox.

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  23. MarkH said on July 2, 2013 at 2:09 pm

    Great memories of Waite Hoyt here as well, Kirk. I treasure all those games I got to see at Crosley Field as well. Rockies Stadium in Denver is a throwback to that era, and Crosley in particular. I always feel at home there.

    Kirk, do you remember who was Hoyt’s color man prior to Joe Nuxhall?

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  24. Sherri said on July 2, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    When I lived in Mountain View, nobody kept their car in their garage. The weather is nice and the houses cost a lot per square foot. Most people used the garage for storage, but converting them to another room was not unusual. And of course, that’s where you were supposed to do your startup…

    Up here in the Pacific Northwest, more people use their garages for cars; the same amount of money gets you a much larger house here.

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  25. garmoore2 said on July 2, 2013 at 3:23 pm


    Are you thinking of Claude Sullivan? He shared the booth with Waite Hoyt for a year or two, then took over as the main play-by-play man for a year or so.

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  26. Mark P said on July 2, 2013 at 3:41 pm

    It’s very common around my home for homes in certain areas to have a garage closed off into living area. Fortunately for these people, they don’t live in an area in which it’s not permitted by building and zoning codes. I have heard of some areas where sellers have actually had to turn the living space back into a garage in order to sell the home.

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  27. BethB said on July 2, 2013 at 5:15 pm

    My grandpa sat by an old console radio to listen to the Cincinnati Reds games in the 1950s. He was hard of hearing and would cup his hand behind his ear and bend down close to the radio to listen, even though the volume was cranked up way too high already.

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  28. MarkH said on July 2, 2013 at 5:54 pm

    garmoore, that’s it. Sullivan did two years with Hoyt. Hoyt retired after the ’65 season, then Jim McIntyre took over play-by play, along with Sullivan, stayed through ’70. Nux replaced Sullivan in ’67 and stayed through 2004. Al Michaels, now of Olympic and NFL fame, called the Reds plays from 1971-73. Marty Brennaman came on board in ’74. All this from wikipedia:

    Quite a list.

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  29. Rana said on July 2, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    What’s also nasty about how maternity care is covered is that it’s considered an optional extra by a lot of insurance companies. If you’re self-insuring, for example, you have to pay additional fees to add a “maternity rider” to your policy… and you have to have it in place for at least a year before it kicks in. So, basically, if you find yourself pregnant, and needing to self-insure? You’re out of luck – 95% of your expenses will be out of pocket, whoopee.

    (At least thanks to ACA there are a few basic prenatal things that get covered by mandate, but they are very, very few, and do not include the cost of labor and delivery.)

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  30. Sherri said on July 2, 2013 at 6:41 pm

    What I don’t get about maternity care is, where’s all the money going? If the cost of maternity care has tripled since 1996, where did the money go? Outcomes haven’t tripled, malpractice claims haven’t tripled, and we can’t even blame the insurance companies for all of it, because the amount they pay for care has gone up dramatically since 2004, according to the article. The article talks about the change to breaking things out item by item, but still, the money has to go somewhere. That aspirin didn’t cost $20, even if that’s what the hospital billed the insurance company. Where did the $19.90 go? That’s what I’d like to see.

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  31. coozledad said on July 2, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    Sherri: It goes to hospital administrators’ salaries and bonuses. That’s why they account for about 361 billion dollars a year in hospital costs in the US.

    All you need is an MBA* and to be a shameless motherfucker.

    *I know one whose prior experience was with Liggett group, selling cancer sticks to the people he’d be shaking down later for cancer treatment dollars.

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  32. Deborah said on July 2, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    Had to take my cat to the vet today, had to find a vet here first since the regular one is in Chicago. $310 later and they have no idea what’s wrong with her. Supposed to get the results from the blood work tomorrow. I suspect another UTI but she’s acting completely differently from when she had the first one. She’s extremely crabby and vocal, and very restless. I just don’t want her to be in pain and I think she is. She is spending all of her time on my lap, even more than usual.

    It keeps acting like it wants to rain around here but then it barely sprinkles. Very dark skies out there but I’m not going to expect much this time, I get my hopes up and then I’m super disappointed.

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  33. Sherri said on July 2, 2013 at 8:22 pm

    Cooz, in other words, it goes the same place the money is going everywhere else: to the top. Just like with college tuition.

    A rising tide drowns most people.

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  34. coozledad said on July 2, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    Sherri: If US healthcare administrative costs were reduced to those of Canada, the resulting savings could be used to fund universal coverage.

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  35. Prospero said on July 2, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    GOPer voter suppression bills resulting directly from the bullshit activist SC ruling on VRA. Scalia and Thomas are ideologue activists. Roberts and Alito are actual GOP activists. Kennedy is a senile old fool who is easily bullied by the Scalito Roberts wing of activists. This bullshit certainly didn’t take long, and the focus on racial issues and attitudes in the current USA was all camouflage on the right’s part and stupid gullibility on the left. Making it harder for students to vote is just as anti-American as suppressing the Black vote.

    In American health care, insurance companies and HMOs set prices collusively, with massive profits for everybody involved but the medical practitioners, who are also under tight strictures from bean counters about medical decisions. My dad did pediatrics for years and then made twice as much in ER medicine. Does that make any ense. After surgeons, the highest paid docs are anaeshtheesiologists. Does that make sense? After orthopedic surgeons, the highest paid surgeons are cosmetic surgeons. Does that make any sense at all? Last 4th of July, I got hit by a car about 1/4 mile from a regional medical center. A cop called an ambulance for which I was billed $600. I was in the hospital for four hours, examined by a neurologist who told me I had been concussed and recommended an overnight stay, which I refused. The unitemized hospital bill was $4+grand, with separate charges for a CT scanhead X-rays and an EEG. No way a neurologist needed all three to diagnose a concussion, but I’m sure they were following some Blue Cross of SC protocol.I’ve had concussions before which were diagnosed without the heavy equipment, by somebody’s GP dad on the sidelines of a HS football game.

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  36. Deborah said on July 2, 2013 at 9:24 pm

    Prospero, what do you do for a concussion? I suspected I had a minor one recently when I tripped over a piece of furniture in the dark and hit my head on the tile floor. I had headaches for a few days but that was about it. I worried about it but decided to ride it out. Everything seems fine now.

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  37. Sherri said on July 2, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    It’s not just hospital administrators and college presidents where the money is flowing to the top; here are some numbers on CEOs:

    More people with MBAs and no shame, who also think they pay too much in taxes.

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  38. Dexter said on July 2, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    I have vague memories of Waite Hoyt pitching Weidemann’s beer during the ball game commercial breaks. In 1976 I finally found out what a mett was (kind of a spicy smoky-link-like sausage) ; I knew what a brat was. Both were available at Riverfront Stadium.

    Tonight Homer Bailey of the Redlegs pitched his second no-hitter in ten months.
    He seemed irritated in the post-game interview, making interviewer extraordinaire Jeff Piecoro really work to find something joyous to discuss with the new hero, but when Jeff asked about the one and only Giants baserunner, who had walked, Homer said “Hey! I just WALKED a fuckin’ guy, that’s all!” Piecoro did a great job just segueing out of that interview. The greatest night in Homer’s career, and he comes off like an asshole. 🙁
    And the offended fans lit up the GABP switchboard and broadcaster Thom Brennaman had to apologize for the cussin’.

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