Current affairs.

Link salad today, because I haz a tired.

It appears the story of the night is the death of Ben Bradlee, and as you’d expect, there are many wonderful words to read about this titan of the field. I recommend David Von Drehle in Time, an ex-WashPost writer with a great gift for it:

Charisma is a word, like thunderstorm or orgasm, which sits pretty flat on the page or the screen compared with the actual experience it tries to name. I don’t recall exactly when I first looked it up in the dictionary and read that charisma is a “personal magic of leadership,” a “special magnetic charm.” But I remember exactly when I first felt the full impact of the thing itself.

Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee was gliding through the newsroom of The Washington Post, pushing a sort of force field ahead of him like the bow wave of a vintage Chris-Craft motor yacht. All across the vast expanse of identical desks, faces turned toward him—were pulled in his direction—much as a field of flowers turns toward the sun. We were powerless to look away.

This was after his storied career as editor of The Post had ended. I was the first reporter hired at the paper after Bradlee retired in 1991 to a ceremonial office on the corporate floor upstairs. For that reason, I never saw him clothed in the garb of authority. He no longer held the keys to the front page and the pay scales, so his force didn’t spring from those sources. Nor did it derive from his good looks, his elegance, or his many millions worth of company stock.

I realized I was face to face with charisma, a quality I had wrongly believed I understood until Bradlee reached the desk where I was sitting and the bow wave pushed me back in my chair. It is pointless for me to try to describe this essence, because in that moment I realized that it cannot be observed or critiqued. Charisma can only be felt. It is a palpable something-more-ness—magical, magnetic—as rare as the South China tiger. I’ve met famous writers, directors, actors, athletes, billionaires, five presidents of the United States, and none of them had it like Bradlee.

Or you can try Martha Sherrill in the Post itself, writing about his legacy in the Style section:

“Hey, Tiger.” He said things like that. He had lusty greetings, exotic epithets and obsolete profanities he got away with. He was unabashed, uninhibited. Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee, who died Tuesday at age 93, was a Boston Brahmin but enjoyed being an improper one. A lesbian friend from his postwar Paris days wasn’t just “gay,” she was “gay as a goose.” A newly divorced editor with a revived sex life was “finally getting his ashes hauled.” The primal motive driving Jackie Kennedy Onassis was “she needs a lot of dough.” ¶ Men were divided into two camps: those whose private parts “clanked when they walked” and those whose, alas, didn’t. Women were judged differently. The only ones Bradlee didn’t seem to appreciate were humorless. “A prude,” he’d say, as though nothing were more distasteful. ¶ He passed on his sensibilities to Style, the groundbreaking “soft” feature section he invented and launched at The Washington Post in 1969, which replaced the toothless For and About Women. Style wasn’t for prudes. It was designed to entertain, delight, provoke, surprise and occasionally horrify, reflecting its founder’s infinite curiosity about society, appreciation for vivid storytelling and deep love of troublemaking.

Or just the straightforward obit:

Mr. Bradlee stationed correspondents around the globe, opened bureaus across the Washington region and from coast to coast in the United States, and he created sections and features — most notably Style, one of his proudest inventions — that were widely copied by others.

Sigh. The good ol’ days.

I see a few of you veered off on a tangent late yesterday — the OMG Renee Zellweger tangent. So, so sad. We must all clasp hands and thank the gods of our understanding that we don’t have to be pretty to make a living, because evidently it sucks. I would have liked to see what she looked like beforehand, because to my mind, what made her adorable was her wonderfully squinty eyes — she always seemed about to laugh. “Unrecognizable” seems to be the adjective that first comes to mind. I wonder about the plastic surgeon’s art; so many variables to consider. Elasticity, armature, that sort of thing. Oh, that poor woman.

A headline you don’t see every day: Drunken trombone-playing clown fires gun from garage, police say

Our governor considers himself very pro-business, except, of course, when he isn’t.

Let’s hope the rest of the week perks up, eh?

Posted at 9:43 pm in Current events |

51 responses to “Current affairs.”

  1. Bill said on October 21, 2014 at 10:02 pm

    Waay off topic, but I thought it was funny. Not a crime if no one complains?

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  2. Mark P said on October 21, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    The picture I saw of Renee Zellweger was, indeed, unrecognizable, but most of us old people suffer when compared to pictures of ourselves in our 20’s, with or without plastic surgery. I do agree that someone who is pretty for a living has a finite and relatively short working life, especially if “pretty” means “young and pretty.” And, of course, male and female actors are held to entirely different standards. Can you imagine a female actor of, say, 65, paired with a 25- or 30-year-old male actor as a love interest in a mainstream movie?

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  3. beb said on October 22, 2014 at 1:18 am

    There is “pro-business” and there is pro-business. In this case the Gov. is pro-existing who have contributed to his campaign. This case car dealerships who are having a shit-fit over a $100,000 car being sold on-line. Like they’re going to lose a lot of money to Tesla. Of course if China started offering a $10,000 car on-line that you could customize before it was build and have in the country within a month then, yeah, car dealers are going to being looking at the end of brick and mortar dealerships.

    Any manufacterer who can would out of the logistics of building a car to your specifications in a under a month is going to tear through the industry like Sherman to Georgia. Why stock 90 days worth of cars? Why take whatever’s in the lot. Order on-line the car and options you want and get exactly the car you want.

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  4. basset said on October 22, 2014 at 5:55 am

    Beb, what would it take to earn your business today? We can put you in that one right there, it drives out great and you can see it’s red and ready! Just tell us what monthly payment you had in mind and we’ll do your financing here on the lot, don’t worry about your credit score. And the price we talked about, you know that’s just the negotiated price, this is the true price…

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  5. Alan Stamm said on October 22, 2014 at 7:09 am

    Thanks for gathering a Best o’ Bradlee selection. David Remnickin the New Yorker also is worthy:

    “Benjamin Crowninshield Bradlee, the most charismatic and consequential newspaper editor of postwar America, died at the age of ninety-three on Tuesday. Among his many bequests to the Republic was a catalogue of swaggering anecdotes rich enough to float a week of testimonial dinners. Bradlee stories almost always relate to his glittering surface qualities, which combined the Brahmin and the profane. Let’s get at least one good one out of the way:”

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  6. Linda said on October 22, 2014 at 7:39 am

    A story I did not know about Bradlee until recently: when he was a cub reporter, he helped get a young woman free after she was convicted of killing her abusive, incestuous father in the late 1940s in New Hampshire. A version of that story later became the basis of a subplot in the novel and movie Peyton Place.

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  7. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 22, 2014 at 8:06 am

    I gotta say, if you don’t obsess on the before/after aspect, the poor woman doesn’t look awful. This is a link-bait story looking for a hook: obviously, she’s had plastic surgery. Did it do what she wanted? I’d have to ask her. My own sense that she would have been fine with the face she started with is my opinion, and if she wanted to try a new one, well, she got it. But all the headline implications that she looks frightful . . . meh.

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  8. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 22, 2014 at 8:09 am

    And as folks like to say about JFK & Reagan: “they couldn’t get elected today!” I have to note about Ben Bradlee . . . it’s fascinating reading the celebrations of his charisma and charm back-inna-day, thinking “he’d be fired so fast today.”

    Or at least be required to take an exotic series of mandatory trainings. And THEN get fired when he “irrepressibly” did/said it again.

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  9. adrianne said on October 22, 2014 at 8:10 am

    The Remnick story (and several others I’ve seen) contains this gem: Ben Bradlee’s secretary approaching the staff grammarian with a query from his dictation: “Look, is dickhead one word or two?”

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  10. ROGirl said on October 22, 2014 at 8:36 am

    Just about every actress above the age of 35 has those tell-tale chipmunk cheeks, and the foreheads of men and women are as smooth and shiny as billiards balls. If the rest of the work they’ve had done is good, they look well-preserved and are said to be aging well. If not, it’s scary bad.

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  11. Heather said on October 22, 2014 at 8:54 am

    I wonder if Renee’s career will go the way of Jennifer Grey’s? If you recall, she was starred opposite Patrick Swayze in “Dirty Dancing.” She got a nose job some time after that and looked totally different. And her career basically ended.

    Beyond the attempt to stall aging, I find it very sad when these women trade in their own features for such a bland Barbie look. I watch a lot of British TV and I am always amazed at the difference–so many older and/or plain actresses who are really a joy to watch.

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  12. Jeff Borden said on October 22, 2014 at 9:00 am

    I’m wondering if Illinois will reject the Daddy Warbucks seeking the governorship against a very lackluster Democratic incumbent. When we look at the carnage in Wisconsin and Michigan wrought by Republicans, it’s a powerful counter-argument to the man’s claim he will run the state as he ran his many businesses, a potent appeal to a state drowning in tens of billions of unfunded pensions.

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  13. Dorothy said on October 22, 2014 at 9:11 am

    I think Renee just doesn’t look like herself anymore. I can’t tell what she had done but to me, she looks like an ordinary, everyday person, rather than the distinctive looking movie star she was before. It’s sad that plastic surgery takes away the uniqueness of an individual. That’s pretty much all we have, isn’t? Ourselves? That’s probably overly simplistic but it’s the best I can come up with. As to why people are acting so surprised about it, that’s crazy. It just seems sadly inevitable that notable individuals will have plastic surgery, because they are desperate to keep those movie offers coming. I had to avert my eyes pretty much every time Joan Rivers’ face was on t.v. or in print the last weeks since she died. It was horrifying, in my opinion, what she did to herself.

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  14. brian stouder said on October 22, 2014 at 9:17 am

    And as folks like to say about JFK & Reagan: “they couldn’t get elected today!” I have to note about Ben Bradlee…

    Jeff – just for the sake of conversation, my theory is that exceptionally smart, high-achieving people are a mysterious (and technically unexplainable) mix of talent, ability, and adaptability.

    By way of saying, JFK and Bradlee – both of the same generation – when they were young, handsome, combat veteran (in the aftermath of the most horrendous war humanity ever inflicted upon itself), skilled (and wealthy, in JFK’s case) politician or media person – would have the tools to succeed (so to speak) in any era; and they’d trim the details to suit their sense of what the times demanded.

    And indeed, Oxy-Rush to the contrary notwithstanding, RWR didn’t campaign or govern as an ideologue; he was a trimmer, too

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  15. Jeff Borden said on October 22, 2014 at 9:17 am

    There’s no denying the power and influence of Ben Bradlee, but (sigh) he also ensured Bob Woodward would haunt us for all these years with his insider lickspittle books.

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  16. Jolene said on October 22, 2014 at 9:21 am

    The Post has a collection of tributes and links to other tributes at the link below. If you haven’t already, read the Sherrill piece that Nancy linked to all the way through, if not for your interest in Bradlee for the gorgeousness of the prose. It’s terrific. And the opening sentence of the Von Drehle piece is killer–so creative and so right. What a great idea to surround yourself with great writers. If you were good at anything in life, everyone will know about it when you die.

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  17. jcburns said on October 22, 2014 at 9:44 am

    When you give a kid a middle name like “Crowninshield”, you pretty much consign him to a life writ large.

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  18. alex said on October 22, 2014 at 10:40 am

    I don’t recognize Renee Zellweger either but then I haven’t watched any Hollywood product in 20 years and wouldn’t know her anyway, and to me she looks like a bland generic blond before and after. I have no idea whether she can act her way out of a paper bag.

    And Dorothy I’m in complete agreement as regards Joan Rivers. Part of what made her funny back in the day were her facial expressions. She lost the magical glint in her eyes and the upturned smile and her edgy humor started coming across as just mean.

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  19. Sue said on October 22, 2014 at 11:03 am

    I apologize to all the journalists here, but these days when I think of Mr. Bradlee my automatic first thought is ‘husband of that weird Sally Quinn person’. Sorry.
    And I used to work with plastic surgeons. This was a long time ago, but my take on this is it’s usually one of two things: a surgeon who is trained to a WASP ideal (and it always involves eyes and nose) or a patient hell-bent on a look no matter what. No one does eyes right because the standard is remove skin, and I don’t see that as having changed much, because those who have had their eyes done all end up with an odd generic look, very easy to spot before and after. Those of us with ‘hooded’ eyes all wish we could look like Lauren Bacall or Ava Gardner (or Renee with her about-to-laugh eyes) but the fact is that particular feature does not age well. And the only surgical option seems to be going generic, getting rid of all the excess skin and most of the distinctiveness that goes with it.
    And here’s an aside that probably doesn’t come up often, even here: eyelid fat is delicate and beautiful.

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  20. Deborah said on October 22, 2014 at 11:56 am

    Sue, I also associate Bradlee with Sally Quinn. I saw her being interviewed a few years back, she was wearing a light blue cable knit sweater twin set that made her look like a soccer mom, only older. She had longish hair which is mostly seen on much younger women. She didn’t look sophisticated at all, dowdy actually.

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  21. Sue said on October 22, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Deborah, I’m thinking more of the way she’s been going down the Peggy Noonan road. She is an Informed Insider with Very Important Opinions and she doesn’t understand why all these common people keep showing up. Weird.

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  22. Jeff Borden said on October 22, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Bradlee was married when he was flinging with Ms. Quinn, who of course then became a social figure on the D.C. circuit. I always found her writing terrible and her thinking muddled.

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  23. Charlotte said on October 22, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    Here’s Renee on her changed face. Sounds like she’s happy in her (changed) skin, so good on her:

    What struck me about the Bradlee obits was the sheer connectedness that helped make him who he was. Couple of quotes: “Newsweek, then a struggling imitation of Time and owned by Vincent Astor, needed a European correspondent. The magazine’s foreign editor was delighted to discover that Mr. Bradlee’s mother had been a friend of Brooke Astor, the boss’s wife.” and about Walter Lippmann: “Because my mom and his second wife were in Miss Chapin’s School together in New York. They were joint holders of the high-jump record,” Mr. Bradlee replied in an interview for this article in 2000. ” … it’s the world I grew up in, where everyone knows everyone and calls in favors and lives in this bubble of privilege. Apparently, Margo Howard (who was in my mother’s class at Parker School in Chicago from k-12) has stepped in it in a similar way, getting all high-horse about Amazon reviewers, with a tone-deaf “who are these little people?” response to the trolls who review books there ( It makes me crazy, the privilege and connections and the attitude that of course one knows everyone who matters …. I know a lot of people are nostalgaic for those times, but I’m not.

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  24. Jolene said on October 22, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    Bradlee was born into an affluent family, but the money mostly went away in the stock market crash. His father cobbled together a modest income, in part as a supervisor of janitors. Money from other relatives paid for his education. He came of age in an era when East Coast WASPs ruled the country, so it’s not surprising that he had connections. But he worked for pay all his life, becoming wealthy only after the stock that he’d gotten as an early hire of Phil Graham became valuable, value that he did a great deal to create.

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  25. Bob (not Greene) said on October 22, 2014 at 12:37 pm

    Speaking of current affairs. Some crazy shit happening up in Canada.

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  26. Bob (not Greene) said on October 22, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Anyone interested in journalism or in what exactly kind of governor Bruce Rauner would make ought to read this. It’s Sun-Times reporter Dave McKinney’s resignation letter to Mike Ferro, the CEO of the company that publishes the Sun-Times.

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  27. Jolene said on October 22, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Pretty remarkable events, Bob (nG). The reporter is not only principled, but brave. Leaving a good job in journalism when there are so few can’t have been easy.

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  28. MarkH said on October 22, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    On Zellweger: I am with Jeff(mmo) at #7. Does she look different? Of course. Does that mean she looks bad? No. Leave it to her to figure out what it’s worth and what it all means. As per Charlotte’s post, Rene apparently agrees.

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  29. Jeff Borden said on October 22, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    Every single newspaper in the Chicago area has endorsed Bruce Rauner. The incumbent,Pat Quinn, is a modest man and he has much to be modest about given his performance. But I chafe at the idea of Richie Rich walking into the governorship without having ever served in any public office in any capacity. And Rauner continues to duck and evade on what strategies he might pursue in Springfield. His dealings in the private sector suggest they would be brutal on less fortunate, but then, that’s increasingly a feature, not a bug, of Republican philosophy.

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  30. MarkH said on October 22, 2014 at 5:46 pm

    paddyo’ —

    What gives here. You have any more info on this? What kind of damages?

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  31. Sherri said on October 22, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    I’m glad to read from Dave McKinney’s letter that Carol Marin is still fighting the good fight. I remember her from her time as a news anchor in Nashville back in the 70s. I’ll never forget the work she did on the crooked governor at the time, who was later convicted of selling pardons.

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  32. Jolene said on October 22, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    MarkH, I think that notice may be referring to the work of this “artist.” Just awful.

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  33. Deborah said on October 22, 2014 at 7:34 pm

    That “artist” defacing National parks is abominable. How sad, what a jerk.

    Our building project in Abiquiu is coming along, the foundation concrete pour will be Monday. It has been nerve-wracking for me to line it all up with our contractor and workers, the company that does the concrete pumping through hoses and the concrete company itself with 2 trucks because we need 18 cubic yards of concrete and each truck holds 10 yards (it used to be 9 yards and that’s where the term, the whole 9 yards came from). I will be so happy when Monday is over, I can’t tell you. It will start at 8:30 monday morning and I have no idea how long it will go.

    Meanwhile, Little Bird gets better and better.

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  34. Deborah said on October 22, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    We’ve been bringing our potted plants inside for the winter and I noticed a few weeks ago that some of my succulents out there have been eaten by some animal, perfect little teeth marks etc. I think it is the skunks so today I dug them up and potted them and brought them inside too. Those darned skunks.

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  35. alex said on October 22, 2014 at 9:25 pm

    My partner’s bringing in plants tonight too. No hard freezes yet but better to be prepared.

    Our beefsteak begonia is now officially too large for this house, so we’re going to foist it off on my parents, who’ve killed bigger things. These are relatively low-maintenance so it should be just fine.

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  36. Dexter said on October 23, 2014 at 2:15 am

    I would not encourage any college-bound child to head for Chapel Hill. What a rotten scandal…almost too much to believe . Oh it’s true alright. Worst university-level scandal since the Penn State situation with rapist Sandusky.

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  37. brian stouder said on October 23, 2014 at 10:21 am

    Dexter –I was ready to argue that the UNC story is different from the Penn State debacle, since UNC points more to how “student athlete” is a fig leaf for systematically taking advantage of athletically talented people, for huge monetary gain;

    as opposed to Sandusky’s serial rape of a number of individuals….and then the institution systematically quashed everything, in order to keep the dollars flowing….and then I saw your point!

    This is really, at root, just the same, as you say.

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  38. Deborah said on October 23, 2014 at 10:49 am

    Still no Coozledad? Or did I miss something?

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  39. Judybusy said on October 23, 2014 at 10:59 am

    That woman who is vandalizing nature is a complete jerk. I hope she is prosecuted.

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  40. brian stouder said on October 23, 2014 at 11:05 am

    He looks to be in rare form, at least as of yesterday…

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  41. alex said on October 23, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Cooz hasn’t resurfaced yet. Hoping he checks in to let us know he’s alright.

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  42. Bob (not Greene) said on October 23, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    I’m guessing cooze is working Person County election central pretty hard right now. So many swamptaters, so little time to make sure they don’t get elected.

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  43. beb said on October 23, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Deborah @33: I disagree on the origins of the phrase “the whole nine yards.” While the phrase is one of the more obscure with no accepted definition of its origin, the version I find most credible dates to War World One, which came well before trucks could deliver nine yards of cement, or even one yard. When planes were equipped with machine guns doing WWI the bullets were conveyed on a belt. I think we’ve all seen pictures of belt-feed machine guns, since they weren’t limited to airplanes. In any case the full capacity of the ammo case was side to be a belt 27 feet in length. So when pilots came back from a successful dog fight they’d say they gave the enemy “the full nine yards!”

    Dexter @36: The UNC scandal is pretty bad since it was on-going for many years. It makes the case once again that college athletes should be treated as minor league sports professionals and paid a salary and to hell with academics. The question is: how will the NCAA respond to this? At the least UNC should be made to forfeit any championships it won during this period and probably barred from competing for any future championships for at least as many years. And the coaches and assistants who knowingly approved that process should be banned from college level football. But since UNC is a powerhouse sports college I suspect the NCAA will target a few students and punish them instead.

    On a happier note, the White House dogs got their man Wednesday night, which is how it should be. I’m just amazed that there was another fence-jumper and wonder if there has been an increase in fence-jumpers since a black man became president?

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  44. Bob (not Greene) said on October 23, 2014 at 12:27 pm

    Beb, I think we’re already getting there with making college athletes pros.

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  45. Sherri said on October 23, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    One point not to miss in the UNC scandal is that it wasn’t just athletes taking advantage of the paper classes. That’s what drawn the attention, but the report said that over 3100 students had received credit for these fake classes, and just under half were athletes. Which says that the other half must not have been athletes…not a good look at all for your flagship university.

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  46. brian stouder said on October 23, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    Sherri – and of non-scholarship people forked over Federal student loan money for the fake classes, then I suspect we have a federal offense, too

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  47. Sherri said on October 23, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    From this article (

    Crowder did help other students, particularly those in difficult situations such as assault victims and others fearful of being in classrooms. But word got out about the classes and eventually hundreds of fraternity members, and some sorority members, were lining up for them. Crowder was troubled to find the classes had made it into the “frat circuit,” she told two friends in the regular academic advising department.

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  48. Jolene said on October 23, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Remember that UNC has an enrollment of ~30,000, and these 3,000 cases occurred over 18 years. It’s awful, but it’s a fairly small proportion of the student body. What is done nationally to recruit athletes and keep them eligible is likely to be a much bigger source of corruption than fraud among ordinary students.

    Of course, with ordinary students, the problem is cheating of various kinds, but faculty and administrators are typically not involved in those activities.

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  49. Deborah said on October 23, 2014 at 5:04 pm

    Beb, your 9 yards version makes more sense. It was someone in the construction industry who told me it had to do with concrete. Catchy phrases often come out of wartime and the military, so I can totally believe you.

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  50. Deborah said on October 23, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    On the other hand here’s what Snopes says about the whole 9 yards:

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  51. Jolene said on October 23, 2014 at 9:20 pm

    The PBS NewsHour had a very good piece on the UNC scandal. Worth a few minutes of your time. Also, if you’re interested and didn’t click on it earlier, take a look at the story Sherri posted at #47, the details re the motivation of the woman most responsible for what happened there are compelling and sad. She was, to a great extent, responding to the way universities take advantage of underprepared student athletes.

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