Pants, afire.

For the record, I doubted the Jussie Smollett story from the beginning. I didn’t say so at the time, so you can take that with however much salt you need, but I don’t talk about every thought that pops into my head, even if it seems that way.

I doubted the Rolling Stone rape-on-campus story in 2014, too. Actually, I didn’t believe a word of it.

There was a lawsuit filed in the Larry Nassar case a few months ago, regrettably described as a “bombshell” in the news at the time. A woman claimed that as a young athlete at MSU years ago, Nassar drugged her, raped her, taped the assault (with a cameraman), and this evidence was somehow ignored by the athletic director, who confiscated the tape and made everything go away, even though she got pregnant, later miscarried and got HPV in the bargain. I doubted it as soon as I heard the details. Not sure what the status is now, but an AG’s investigation found “no credible evidence” of any of its claims, so if it hasn’t gone away yet, I expect it will soon.

I offer this not to brag that my bullshit detector is better than anyone else’s, only that I have one. You have one, too, and should use it. I wish more people would. But if you’re wondering what it is about these cases that made me doubt them, well, here we go:

All three rely on what you might call the Too Much Evil plot line or perhaps what I call And Syndrome. In the Smollett case, we were expected to believe that a couple of MAGA chuds were out roaming Chicago with bleach and a rope/noose, looking for someone to attack. Which allegedly went like this:

According to TMZ, the attack happened at around 2 a.m. when Smollett went out to get a sandwich, after which someone yelled, “Aren’t you that f***ot ‘Empire’ n*****?” The outlet reports that the the two offenders — who allegedly are white and wore ski masks — beat Smollett badly enough to fracture a rib, then tied a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him.

“This is MAGA country,” TMZ reports the offenders yelled as they fled after the assault.

So first they yell, then they beat him up, then they pour bleach on him, and then they wrap a rope around his neck, yelling “this is MAGA country” as they run off. Any one of these things would be terrible to have happen to you, but pile them up, and it’s national news.

In the Rolling Stone rape case, we were asked to believe that first “Jackie” was given a spiked drink, then pushed into a room at a frat party, then thrown onto a glass-topped coffee table, which shattered underneath her. Upon this bed of broken glass, she said, she was raped by no fewer than seven men, while two others watched and commented. After which, she somehow managed to get dressed again and found her way outside, where she told some friends what had happened, and asked for help. Imagine what a woman who’s just undergone this punishment must have looked like — her back must have resembled hamburger. I’m surprised she could walk. But her friends — her friends, mind you — say nah, they won’t help because then they might not get into the frats they were rushing.

The Nassar story details I already mentioned. Nassar would have been a medical student at the time, but the AD supposedly took ownership of a videotape depicting a violent rape and…let the med student remain in his job, and later take even bigger ones at the same university.

So. In the first case we have two dudes walking around Chicago — not Birmingham or Salt Lake City or Fargo — carrying bleach and a rope to clear fags from “MAGA country.” And they’re wearing ski masks. In the Rolling Stone story, it’s a drugged drink and broken glass and seven guys and horrible friends. At MSU, it’s a raping med student (all of whose sexual assaults, we now know, were variations on sticking fingers into vaginas and anuses, with masturbation in one case) and a video and a cameraman and a pregnancy and HPV and an evil AD.

And Syndrome.

Smollett’s case would have been more believable if he’d been out that night and admitted to running across his attacker somehow, finding him cute, maybe flirting with him, maybe touching him, which caused the man to flip out and retaliate with violence. Jackie’s rape would have been more believable without the broken glass and two men, instead of seven. The MSU athlete? At least pick the same M.O. Nassar used in every other assault.

But all of these would have been less dramatic, and/or made the victim less sympathetic. If Smollett said he came on to a guy who beat him up, lots of people would think it was his fault. Rolling Stone Jackie somehow needed that horror-movie scenario — seven guys so crazed by lust and violence that they didn’t notice they were kneeling on broken glass — to buffalo a reporter who should have known better. I don’t know about the MSU student, but I would not be surprised to hear that she is not a stranger to mental illness.

I’ve never been a full-time police reporter, but in years in newsrooms, I’ve been amazed at the randomness and weirdness of the crime that appears in the police reports. It so rarely follows the scripts we see on TV. A woman cuts off a man in traffic, he fires a gun into her car, killing a child in the back seat. (This happened in Detroit recently.) Fistfights tend to end after one or maybe two punches, with one guy yelling OW MY NOSE and the other OW MY HAND. The people who throw chemicals, or hot water, on others? Often women, maybe because they know where the bleach is (laundry) and because they’re not as strong as men. And even terrible people have enough self-awareness to know that a gang rape of a young woman at an elite university is not a good idea, and would at least leave the room, rather than watch and participate.

I’ve been lied to, and fallen for lies. My BS detector is certainly not perfect. I want to believe people are basically honest and tell the truth. But many are not, and we should apply simple skepticism, or at least hold our fire until more is revealed. Because more almost always is. \

OK, then! Weekend wrapped. We had surprise Saturday houseguests — Alex and his partner Harry, who came north on the spur of the moment to eat chicken paprikash at a divey little bar under I-75. We ended up at D’Mongo’s, drank too much and sent them off to Ikea to shop for storage solutions. Me, I had a lazy day today, and I regret not a moment of it.

Now it’s snowing. At this time of year, it seems it will snow forever.

Posted at 8:10 pm in Current events |

46 responses to “Pants, afire.”

  1. brian stouder said on February 17, 2019 at 9:24 pm

    Excellent post!

    The political concept of “fake news” is synonymous with this; the burden is always on the reader/news-consumer/John Q Public (us) to be attentive, skeptical, critical thinkers, as we take in the news of the day (from all sources).

    And another true thing – which quantum physics (as well as common sense) tells us is that multiple (scattered) observers of the same event may well have different (and even contradictory) observations; and that all will still be true and correct (and argument about which view is the “real” one will be unresolvable, as all of them can be true)


    Plans are now taking shape for my fine young sons and I to do the Belle Isle Indy Car race this summer, and depending how overwhelming that all becomes, visiting Henry Ford’s museum will probably also make the agenda (unless I get out-voted!)

    I now actively seek to minimize my exposure to our current president. The sing-song dysfunctional presidential press conference to the contrary notwithstanding (and indeed – I never miss Rachel Maddow’s show), I now view him as a place-holder until his own party defeats him in the 2020 primaries, and/or Bob Mueller and Congress move to Make America Great Again by firing the president and demonstrating that the “Rule of Law” is a key element in American Greatness – especially when our president wants to be King and/or Dear Leader – and to heck with abstractions like “Rule of Law” or “Separation of Powers”

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  2. beb said on February 17, 2019 at 9:27 pm

    When you said you and Alex went to a divey bar “under” I-75 you had me confused because I-75 runs in a trench. So I googled D’Mongo and see it’s south of I-75, just off Woodward and near Greentown. I’m glad you had a good time and I’m sure Alex and Harry had a good time shopping at IKEA.

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    • nancy said on February 17, 2019 at 9:30 pm

      D’Mongo’s was after the dive. Which was the Carbon Athletics Club. Under the elevated part of I-75, near the Rouge complex.

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  3. susan said on February 17, 2019 at 10:29 pm

    I had to look up “chud”, a [scornful? looks like it can used as insulting] word unknown to me.

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  4. Joe Kobiela said on February 17, 2019 at 10:37 pm

    Great post, don’t forget the Duke lacrosse team, and I think you could probably add the kids from Covington KY in the discussion. Brian if you do the Henry Ford,pay the up charge and take the River Rouge tour and watch them build pick up trucks, it’s fasinating.
    Pilot Joe

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  5. brian stouder said on February 17, 2019 at 10:40 pm

    Joe – I’ve been to the museum once before, and we didn’t do the River Rouge….so that will be at the top of my list!

    ‘Course, I should really do the GM tour here in Fort Wayne, at some point(!). That facility is flat-out huge, at least from the outside

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  6. Cathie from Canada said on February 17, 2019 at 11:57 pm

    My own BS detector is the “Too Perfect!” story — yes, I doubted the Smollett story when I first heard about it too, because the MAGA angle made it all just Too Perfect.
    Though strange things do happen, of course, so who can say…
    I think sometimes this is why police get jaded and cynical — they have to spend time and energy investigating every complaint, manufactured or not, and too often some of them reach the point when they disbelieve just about everything that just about everybody says to them. Same thing can happen to nurses, teachers, social workers — and even journalists — anyone who deals regularly with people in trouble, because every now and then they turn out to be just people making trouble.

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  7. Carter Cleland said on February 18, 2019 at 12:22 am

    Tawana Brawley, anyone?

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  8. susan said on February 18, 2019 at 12:41 am

    And Ashley Todd

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  9. nancy said on February 18, 2019 at 6:00 am

    Chud = cannibalistic humanoid underground dwellers. From an old movie of the same name.

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  10. Alan Stamm said on February 18, 2019 at 7:51 am

    Carter beat me to it by seven hours.

    To recap: Two days after Thanksgiving, a 15-year-old African American girl living near Poughkeepsie, N.Y., said she was abducted and repeatedly raped by six white men. And she was found with “KKK” written across her chest and a racial epithet on her stomach and her hair smeared with feces. And two of the rapists allegedly were law enforcement officials, Tawana Brawley and her lawyers later claimed.

    After seven months, 6,000 pages of testimony and 180 witnesses, a grand jury found the story to be a lie.

    And Syndrome.

    Oh yes: The Rev. Al Sharpton was her spokesman. Of course.

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  11. Deborah said on February 18, 2019 at 8:03 am

    To go to the length in a lie of smearing feces in my hair, I think I’d stop at that.

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  12. Jeff Borden said on February 18, 2019 at 9:54 am

    What pisses me off as a Chicagoan is the enormous amount of time and manpower spent investigating Smollet’s claims when we have a murder clearance rate of under 20 percent. As someone whose first major beat in journalism was the night cop shop in Columbus (1974-77), I learned early on about the ranking of crime, to wit, we wrote two paragraph stories about unknowns who shot or stabbed each other, and maybe three paragraphs if one of them died. But a stabbing in an upscale white area? Or a crime involving someone with a prominent name or title? Full court press, baby.

    I can’t figure the motive for Smollet. He already was working on a hit network show. He already has a significant level of fame. What was the point of all this? But I’m furious at how much money he is costing us. And dog knows Chicago doesn’t need any more crime stories in the national news.

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  13. Sherri said on February 18, 2019 at 10:07 am

    The Catholic boys from Covington, don’t belong on this list. They may not have “initiated the confrontation” with the Native elder, but they wore MAGA hats to a pro-life march, catcalled women, got into it with Black Israelites, and behaved like privileged little snots who got the benefit of the right wing noise machine when it all went viral. Spare me the “but 10 year olds” and “death threats” responses. No one deserves death threats, and no school should be taking ill-prepared little boys to political marches. That doesn’t excuse the actions of the older boys.

    The men trump thinks should still be executed belong on the list, though: the Central Park Five.

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  14. Bitter Scribe said on February 18, 2019 at 10:21 am

    What pisses me off about Smollett is that, if it does turn out to be a hoax, it will fuel every right-wing jackass who insists that “there’s no such thing as a hate crime.”

    And Carler Cleland, yes, absolutely Tawana Brawley. I still get annoyed whenever I see Al Sharpton on television. MSNBC just erodes its credibility by keeping that guy around.

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  15. Alan Stamm said on February 18, 2019 at 11:36 am

    [P.S.] . . . Two days after Thanksgiving 1987, as Mr. Sleepyhead meant to type ^ before a second cuppa. :-{

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  16. Icarus said on February 18, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    as a backup to my BS Detector, I strive to take a “wait and see” approach in stories like mentioned above. If it’s true, it will be true a week later. If more information comes out, it will either validate or overturn the narrative.

    We have to pay a shitton of Federal taxes this year thanks to Trump’s tax plan. We were telling this to Father-in-law over the weekend and he just said “well move from Chicago and you won’t pay so much in property taxes and other taxes.”

    1) that won’t affect our Federal burden much and 2) he just cannot agree that there might be one or two things wrong with his Better than Hilary choice.

    2a) he glossed over that his federal taxes went up too.

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  17. Jakash said on February 18, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    I’m sure Nancy appreciates the accolade from Pilot Joe @ 4. Kinda strange, though, that he’s concerned about fake news and false charges when it comes to the 3 cases she referred to, plus the 2 he added. I don’t recall his concern when a soon-to-be Supreme Court justice *testified* that “boofing” meant “farting” or that “Devil’s triangle” referred to a drinking game. Nor when the President spent years asserting that Obama was not a citizen. Nor as the Prez proclaims a “national emergency” that is transparent bullshit (odd term, there) that refers more to the Democrats winning the House than anything going on at the border. Etc., etc., etc. (Well, no, that’s not actually strange, at all.)

    There *is* a lot of fake news out there. But in this Smollett case, it’s been less than three weeks since the original report. It’s been and is being investigated appropriately, whatever hyperventilating has been taking place on both sides of the political divide. When the facts are known, they will be accepted by a large majority of those who would’ve been on Smollett’s “side” if the original story had been true. I just wish Trump supporters were as interested in the truth with regard to things that their hero lies constantly about as they are about this lie, which is vastly less important than the crisis in leadership we are experiencing via the Republican party.

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  18. LAMary said on February 18, 2019 at 2:39 pm

    The Jussie Smollett story seemed pretty stinky to me as well. Saying he was on the phone with his manager during the attack and he manager heard the attackers. That was a another bridge too far added to all the other details.

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  19. Sherri said on February 18, 2019 at 2:49 pm

    Let’s observe one thing about these fake accusations, though. In none of these situations where white men were falsely accused of too much evil were they actually convicted of the act and put in jail. The one situation listed in this discussion where the falsely accused were convicted and incarcerated? The Central Park Five.

    So, when you scorn Al Sharpton, at least acknowledge why he might say and do what he does, in light of a legal system that does not bring justice the same everywhere. Tawana Brawley may have fabricated her story, but Celestine Guap didn’t.

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  20. Jakash said on February 18, 2019 at 4:05 pm

    “Famous person reports attack = News
    Cops say investigating as possible hate crime = News
    Cop sources doubt person’s allegations = News
    Alleged victim doubles down = News
    Cops arrest and release two persons of interest = News
    People who use ↑↑↑ to bash news reporters = Morons”

    “Also, news reporters are not responsible for how goofy talking heads twist their stories.”

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  21. LAMary said on February 19, 2019 at 12:38 am

    In the meantime, Trump is taking credit for relieving the Japanese of the terror of rocketships flying over their country.

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  22. A. Riley said on February 19, 2019 at 1:04 am

    And as I recall, the night Smollet was out at 2 am getting a sandwich and getting elaborately mugged, it was f’in cold and f’in windy. Polar vortex cold and windy. Who the heck is out on a night like that wandering around on foot looking for random muggees — prepared with a bottle o’ bleach and a hank of rope? Doesn’t pass the smell test.

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  23. Deborah said on February 19, 2019 at 8:09 am

    Karl Lagerfeld has died in Paris at 85. A neighbor in Santa Fe remarked once that my hair reminded him of Lagerfeld, I immediately got it cut. I used to wear it pulled back in a ponytail when it was long.

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  24. Deborah said on February 19, 2019 at 9:27 am

    So LB went to see a Dr late yesterday afternoon about her hip pain, he recommended surgery to repair her torn labrum. It’s arthroscopic surgery, no big incision etc, so that’s good. It’s scheduled for March 6th. I’m leaving for NM Feb 28 and will be there until the end of April, which was scheduled months ago because of some major plumbing work our Chicago building is doing in bathrooms and kitchens, I didn’t want to be around during that. So LB’s surgery is happening at an opportune time. She’s very much looking forward to being pain free. This injury was probably due to repetitive motion, she walks a lot because she doesn’t drive, so it’s tangentially caused by her neurological condition, but not directly.

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  25. 4dbirds said on February 19, 2019 at 10:09 am

    Hubbie and I also did the raised eyebrow look at each other when we first heard about Smollett. But those poor Covington boys? Fuck them. They were on a trip with the intention of taking rights away from women. Those young men are totally responsible for stopping unwanted pregnancies. No trips to DC needed. Wear a condom, each and every time and advocate for other men to do the same.

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  26. Julie Robinson said on February 19, 2019 at 10:14 am

    Great news for LB! Anytime you don’t get handed a hip replacement is good. In fact, both of us have intermittent hip pain that keeps us awake, but neither of us have even mentioned it to a doctor because we didn’t want that kind of surgery.

    I still don’t know what to make of Jussie Smollet. I’ve been trying to keep an open mind and wait for all the facts to come out, but it really isn’t looking good, is it? One of the news stories I heard mentioned that his part was being written out of Empire, so he may have been trying to raise his profile. Wrong method, dude.

    Alex, did you find storage solutions? I still haven’t been to the Ikea that opened in Indy a couple of years ago, but end up there almost every time we’re in Orlando. We just don’t need anything more in this house.

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  27. Connie said on February 19, 2019 at 11:03 am

    I had arthroscopic surgery on my knee some years and it turned out to be an almost pain free solution to cleaning up the busted cartilage. I actually walked out to the car with crutches after the surgery.

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  28. Sherri said on February 19, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    I just competed Saturday against a woman who’s had a hip replaced and survived cancer and lifts more weight than me*, so I guess a hip replacement isn’t the end of the world, but I’m trying to avoid all surgeries these days.

    *Her opening deadlift weight was 5 kg more than my PR third deadlift weight!

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  29. susan said on February 19, 2019 at 1:47 pm

    Yah know, when you are faced with pain so bad that you can’t walk two short blocks, replacing that bone-on-bone hip joint (or knee joints) seems like a good option(s). Especially if that is the only viable option(s) available these days. At least it is something that can be done, in contrast to a hundred years ago, let’s say. Otherwise, there is always a wheelchair, if you’d rather….

    Put it off as long as you can stand it, though, because who really wants to go through that!

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  30. alex said on February 19, 2019 at 2:11 pm

    Julie, this was one of my better IKEA trips. I was specifically looking for a storage console about 32 inches high and 9 feet long and had picked out an IKEA system online that I thought would be perfect. The birch legs it was supposed to stand on, however, were out of stock at IKEA, so I ended up opting for a cheaper and simpler cabinet system that I actually like better now that it’s in place.

    Love that store and love the scale of the furniture.

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  31. Deborah said on February 19, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    I’ve been reading things and listening to stuff lately by Anand Giridharadas about how billionaires are a big problem, plus reading about the billionaire Schultz guy running for president. So today I heard a couple of stories about people with serious money. The woman who cuts my hair (Heather recommended her to me) goes to Manhattan every 3 weeks to cut a client’s hair. He flies her there, has an Uber waiting for her, she cuts his hair and then flies back. But then she told me she also used to have a client who flew her to Palm Beach every 3 weeks to give her highlights. The NY client is a trader who has plenty of money to burn, and just wants everything to be convenient (?). The Palm Beach client was married to an old money billionaire but is now divorced so she no longer gets her highlights done by someone she flies in from Chicago. Crazy isn’t it? I can’t imagine thinking nothing of flying someone in just to do your hair. Heather did you ever hear those stories? I mean this hairdresser is really good and all, but there have to be plenty of hairdressers in NYC and Palm Beach who are just as talented.

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  32. Little Bird said on February 19, 2019 at 2:26 pm

    I can’t tell you how relieved I am that there is plan of action for my hip. The doctor told me that most people wake up from the surgery already feeling better. He thinks this gives me more time before I need a total replacement, and I am looking forward to being pain free. Sitting on that train for 22 hours was torture.

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  33. beb said on February 19, 2019 at 2:56 pm

    I think we need a class of stories called “jackasses being jackasses.” What brought this to mind was a report about a gun being draw over a MAGA hat. It started when one Kentuckian flipped off another in a Sam’s Club for wearing the hat. The man with the hat chased the man with the bird and the man with the bird then pulled a gun on the man chasing after, and shouting at him. Seriously you shouldn’t go flipping off people just because their wear a MAGA and people shouldn’t go critical just for being flipped off. And if the gun had been fired the flipper could have made a claim of “stand your ground” which is why Stand Your Ground is such a stupid idea.
    I don’t know if I’ve read Anand Giridharadas on billionaires but I have been reading about them. It’s hard to say that someone’s hard work shouldn’t be rewarded, except that most of the time billionaires never worked hard to get THAT rich.

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  34. Deborah said on February 19, 2019 at 3:56 pm

    Beb, much of the serious wealth now is obviously inherited, and as Ann Richards said about W, that he was born on third base but thought he hit a triple, some of the billionaires today had little to do with acquiring the wealth, and had every advantage possible to increase it.

    Giridharadis wrote a book called “Winners Take All”, he mainly talks about plutocratic philanthropy as a big problem and explains very clearly why.

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  35. Joe Kobiela said on February 19, 2019 at 3:58 pm

    An investigation into the incident later found “no evidence of offensive or racist statements” by the students. Just wondering why the media apologized for the coverage of the covington kids. Yea they had MAGA hats on, what’s the difference between MAGA hats and pussy hats? Seems like a free speech issue to me, unless it’s only free speech if your a leftist.
    Pilot Joe

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  36. Scout said on February 19, 2019 at 4:24 pm


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  37. Mark P. said on February 19, 2019 at 4:50 pm

    Smartasses can say a lot without actually saying anything.

    My knees are worn out. They give me problems standing after sitting for a while, and sitting after standing for a while. And they sometimes ache at night. I can still walk the dogs a couple of miles and use an elliptical stepper every day, but if I work in the yard, especially doing things like kneeling, it they truly hurt. I have thought about knee replacement, but I don’t need it yet. Deciding when to get a knee replacement is a balancing act. The younger you are, the better you stand the surgery (especially anesthesia) and the better you recover. Do you get surgery before you really need it because you’re in better shape to stand it? If not, how long do you wait? How bad does the pain have to be? Knee replacements don’t last forever, so if you get one too early, you might be faced with having another major surgery when you’re 20 years older. I sure don’t look forward to the recovery; recovering from a torn rotator cuff repair was bad enough, and I was a lot younger then. They say you might have some pain and swelling for months, and at least some swelling for a year. Two years for full recovery, one source says.

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  38. Julie Robinson said on February 19, 2019 at 5:28 pm

    Between hip and knee replacements, folks I know have said the hip recovery is much easier. Someday I’ll probably know because my knee hurts all the time and my hip only part.

    Took my mom to the doctor today and she has no joint pain at all, blood pressure is great with meds, everything else ticking along until the doc asked her about chest pain. Whoops, turns out she has had some and never mentioned it. Her cardiologist retired without referring her to a new one, and when we asked for a name today, we got a group instead. Dang, I hate hunting for doctors! (But I’m grateful to have a mother who is still all there at 86, and still full of curiosity about the world.)

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  39. Sherri said on February 19, 2019 at 5:32 pm

    I don’t understand why conservatives like Pilot Joe seem to have such difficulties with the idea that free speech rights only mean that the government can’t prohibit your speech, not that your speech is free from consequences.

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  40. Julie Robinson said on February 19, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    Joe, are you okay with Roger Stone posting a photo of his judge with crosshairs on it? Is that the kind of free speech you like? Because I think he needs to get his bail revoked and wait in jail until trial. That’s what poor folks have to do.

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  41. beb said on February 19, 2019 at 5:50 pm

    I still want to punch the face of that smirking kid from Covington. Beyond the obnoxiousness of his smirk, he was standing in the personal space of the Indian which is a violation of decorum. Clearly he was Jackass being a jackass. That the school has decided those boys had done nothing wrong is a clear example of Elite White Privilege.

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  42. David C. said on February 19, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    Maybe all leftists should be hanged. Would that make you happy, Joe.

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  43. Heather said on February 19, 2019 at 6:17 pm

    What’s the difference between a MAGA hat and a pussy hat? Well, one is associated with racist ideology and one is associated with supporting women.

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  44. Joe Kobiela said on February 19, 2019 at 7:42 pm

    No you shouldn’t be hanged if you’re a lefty, no I don’t agree with the bullseye, I believe the native American walked up to the kid. Not the other way around. So he was invading the kids space.
    Pilot Joe

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  45. LAMary said on February 19, 2019 at 7:54 pm

    Mark P, we have the same knees. Sitting is the worst, and sometimes the pain at night wakes me up. An analgesic tamps it down enough for me to get some sleep.

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