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December 18, 2005 - Fact Finding Isn't As Easy As It Seems

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World's Laziest Journalist

December 19, 2005

By Bob Patterson


Folks who assume that if you read it on the Internet it's true might not like this column because we are going to present some material that falls into the "hearsay evidence" category and we are leaving it up to the readers to fact check this Christmas column for themselves.  You can consider the opportunity to do the fact-checking for this column your Christmas present from the columnist.  (If you get good at it, maybe you can get a job doing it while sitting at your own computer while wearing your pajamas?)


What brand of automobile was "America's Pioneer Economy Car?"  If you look in the September 18, 1939, issue of Time magazine, you might find that the ad for the Bantam from American Bantam Car of Butler, Pennsylvania will provide you with the answer.


Folks who think the election results from 2004 in the state of Ohio were skewed, will have a lot of work to do tracking down all the possibilities online.  We've found one site that might make a good starting point for the rookie fact checkers. 


A recent installment of the half hour of news from the BBC on PBS reported that a British officer named Malcolm Kendall-Smith is on trial for refusing to obey the orders sending him to Iraq because he considers it an illegal war.  Media in the US seems to be unaware of that story.


A conservative Supreme Court is expected to closely adhere to only the political philosophy contained in the original document.  Since women were not permitted to vote at that time, are Republican women making an assumption or do they have secret assurances that conservatives don't object to women suffrage? 


Speaking of making assumptions about a return to the original intent of the Constitution, what was the prevailing philosophy about slaves back then?  How does that fit in with attempts to return to the intent of the founding fathers and their (apparently) infallible expertise that was used to write that document?


What's the difference between a Republic and a Democracy?  Wasn't the USA originally a Republic when the Constitution was written? 


(Can you find the Republican joke online that ends with the punch line - "There's got to be a pony in here somewhere!"?)


Why does conservative talk show host Mike Savage continually make references to the Bavarian king Ludwig II who was insane and nearly bankrupted his country?


Why aren't the bloggers picking up on the item Josh Marshall ran about the "secret laws?"  (Obviously that's because if folks write about the "secret laws," then they won't be secret any longer.)


A friend, who is an Internet surfer deluxe and knows I like only certain kinds of music, recommended I go to a site named Pandora.


Why is an alternative weekly newspaper in Seattle named after a book by Camus? 


How come Robert Novak has never been thrown in jail for not revealing his source?


New York TV weatherman Tex Antoine got fired many years ago when he made a joke about how to cope with rape.  He reportedly said that if it was inevitable the victim should just "lay back and enjoy it."  When the President admits that the intelligence upon which he based his decision, to send American troops into Iraq, was faulty, we inexplicably wonder whatever happened to Tex Antoine and what he would say about the war in Iraq.


Glen Nyron Workman McNaughton, a Wall Street lawyer, was mentioned in the People section of Time magazine's September 11, 1939, issue.  The item reported that he was trying to gather $5,000,000 to offer to Franklin Roosevelt to resign from the office of President.  What did he do with the money he collected?  Did he return it to the various donors when FDR died in 1945?  What would be the equivalent of that sum in today's dollars?  [Editor's Note: That would be 54,890,000 using the CPI Inflation Calculator.]


How soon after Germany invaded Poland in 1939, were news media referring to the battle as a World War?  In the aforementioned copy of Time magazine, they announced that the news magazine was going to start using "World War" for the heading for news about the new military events occurring each week.


According to the book Texas Big Rich, by Sandy Sheehy, (page 45) Texas oilman Glenn McCarthy was the real life personality, upon whom Edna Berber based the character Jett Rink, in Giant.


We were at an LA film event recently and the gentleman next to us told a story that was fascinating and a big challenge to any rookie fact checker.  The man said that there used to be a Culver City airport and that before WWII, airplanes would fly over MGM and ruin the shot, so the studio and the aviators invented a signal.  When they were ready to roll film, they would run a small barrage balloon up to warn the pilots to please postpone any flyovers.  We don't have the slightest clue as to how to start fact checking that item.


As a fan of the Apprentice TV show, this columnist noted that so many of the evaluations of the final two contestants, Randal and Rebecca, seemed to call it a photo-finish dead heat, it appeared likely a tie finish was possible (especially when "the Donald" mentioned that there were two jobs for which he was considering using the successful candidate.)  It looked like an "all's well that ends well" finish could be accomplished when the boss asked the winner, Randal, if there should be two winners to this season's competition.  Randal said "no." 


It seems that it wouldn't have cost the fellow any part of his salary to say "yes" and so he immediately fell quite a bit lower in our estimation when he hogged the glory. 


Next day, a fellow with conservative political views said that the "no" answer was what competition is what it was all about.


"The Donald" had praised Rebecca for her loyalty to other contestants, but seemed unfazed when Randal gave the "feed her to the lions" reply.  If the Donald wants to build an image of capitalists as folks who are mean and selfish, he succeeded admirably, as far as this columnist's reaction is concerned, when he approved Randal's call.


It's Christmas time and this columnist will save some first class stamps by plugging some folks who should get a Christmas card.


The folks, who post daily evaluations of the US media for Columbia Journalism Review Daily, have noted the recent conflict between Christmas vs. Holiday and so we wondered how we could possibly say something at this time of year that would maintain neutrality on the item of contention.  How about this -  "Happy Latest Wedge Issue Greetings!"?


A mention of Just Above Sunset online magazine, on the LAObserved website is always a sure way to get more hits and so we want to thank the guy who runs the site that has items of media news and links to good local stories of/for/about the Los Angeles area.  Thanks!


Recently the Smirking Chimp web site has reprinted some of our WLJ columns and that has also boosted the number of new visitors to Just Above Sunset online magazine.  Thanks!


We keep hoping that the writer from the Baltimore Sun who does Minding the Media for KCRW in Santa Monica, will read our columns and find something worth quoting.  The program is heard at 4:44 pm each Tuesday (LA time) and is available as an iPod download for those who can't get to a computer at the time it is broadcast. 


Naturally we want to be nice at Christmas time to the folks at Factory Five because they make replicas of the Ford Cobra.  (One of them would be tops on our Christmas "wish list.")


We've said this before, but since we hope that the King of Quotes, Jon Winokur, might see this (and maybe use it in one of his future books?), we'll repeat our attempt at recycling an Oscar Wilde witticism - "American journalists think that when they die, they will get a job on the staff of the International Herald Tribune in Paris."


Speaking of publications for folks who yearn for the "the Hemingway in Paris" routine, we will say "Happy New Year" to our JAS man in Paris, Ric Erickson (is there any possibility of getting a summer intern gig at your web site?) and also to one of his competitors (any chance of getting a Paris story assignment?)


For our quote this week, (hope I remember it correctly) Dean Martin summed up our Christmas list nicely on his TV show when he recited this poem - "I am so happy, I can not ask for more / My girl is deaf and dumb and over-sexed and owns a liquor store."  (Try fact checking that bit of Sixties broadcast history.)


Happy Wedge Issue greetings to our regular and drop-in readers!  Hope Santa is nice to all of you.


If the disk jockey will play Tiny Tim's 1968 hit, Tip-Toe Thru The Tulips With Me, we'll jump in our sleigh and fly out of here for this week.  Until the next time, have a week that is so good a fact-checker won't have any trouble verifying it. 




Copyright (including logo) 2005 - Robert Patterson

Email the author at worldslaziestjournalist@yahoo.com




Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
The inclusion of any text from others is quotation
for the purpose of illustration and commentary,
as permitted by the fair use doctrine of U.S. copyright law. 
See the Details page for the relevant citation.

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Paris readers add nine hours....