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Will Bagley Lecture Live In Slc 9/7/11


John Larsen

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Mormon Expression presents:

The first Mormon expression live lecture at the Salt Lake City downtown library from 7-9pm on Wednesday September 7th.

Will Bagley will present his lecture: "The Sharpest Thorn: Life on the Boardlands of the Mormon West".

Free of charge.

More information at http://mormonexpression.com/live-lectures/

Question: what does Will Bagley have to do with any sort of "Mormon Expression?"

Regards,

Pahoran

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Question: what does Will Bagley have to do with any sort of "Mormon Expression?"

Regards,

Pahoran

Well, he does attempt to smear the church and its leaders (past & present), albeit unsuccessfully.

-That's how he relates to it.

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Bagley, like a number of other scholars who have published on Mormon-related issues, has done a great deal for scholarship about the American West. Yes, it is not without its flaws, several of which have been pointed out on this board and in other Mormon publications. However, had Bagley not published Blood of the Prophets, it is unlikely that Turley, Leonard, and Walker would have published Massacre at Mountain Meadows either.

Bagley's use of primary sources was rather well-done and is, in a sense, a dramatic improvement from those of Juanita Brooks. Bagley's weakness (and a weakness almost all of us have) tends to be his lack of balance. Virtually everything we know about what happened in southern Utah in September 1857 becomes nonsensical if we accept the notion that the murders on September 11 were orchestrated from Salt Lake City.

Did Mormons take blood oaths? Did they take one to avenge the prophets? I have no doubt about it. Did these oaths lead to the Mountain Meadows Massacre? I see no evidence of a direct link, although who can doubt that such frontier notions of revenge and violence contributed to the willingness of Iron County militiamen to follow orders to murder innocents? Did the teaching of blood atonement also contribute? Probably. None of this changes the evidence of what happened in September 1857 at the meadow.

I have no problem with Bagley personally. I take issue with some of his conclusions, but I'm sure he'll present a lively lecture for his audience that will change some perspectives and perhaps challenge some preconceived notions about the history of the American West.

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However, had Bagley not published Blood of the Prophets, it is unlikely that Turley, Leonard, and Walker would have published Massacre at Mountain Meadows either.

I think you might be hard-pressed to substantiate this assertion.

The following from Brian Q. Cannon, written in a review in BYU Studies vol. 47 No. 3 in 2008, bears out what I had understood to be the case:

In May 2002, Richard E. Turley Jr., now Assistant Church Historian for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, publicly announced a forthcoming book on the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Turley traced his idea for the book to the early 1990s. In the intervening years, a statement made by Roger V. Logan, a descendant of massacre survivors, impelled him to proceed. “Until the church shows more candor about what its historians actually know about the event, true reconciliation will be elusive,” Logan observed (x). In 2000, Turley persuaded Glen M. Leonard, former director of the LDS Museum of Church History and Art, to coauthor the book, and in 2001 he recruited Brigham Young University history professor Ronald W. Walker. The timing of the announcement, within months of the release of Will Bagley’s Blood of the Prophets: Brigham Young and the Massacre at Mountain Meadows, implied an intended challenge to that book’s conclusions.
(emphasis added)

While Bagley's book might have had some influence, more or less, on the final product by Turley et al, I don't think it can be competently asserted that they would have produced no book were it not for the prior appearance of Bagley's.

Rather, it seems to me the development of events, such as the improvement of relations between survivor descendants, perpetrator descendants and the Church had more to do with the eventual writing and publication of Massacre at Mountain Meadows.

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I think you might be hard-pressed to substantiate this assertion.

The following from Brian Q. Cannon, written in a review in BYU Studies vol. 47 No. 3 in 2008, bears out what I had understood to be the case:

(emphasis added)

While Bagley's book might have had some influence, more or less, on the final product by Turley et al, I don't think it can be competently asserted that they would have produced no book were it not for the prior appearance of Bagley's.

Rather, it seems to me the development of events, such as the improvement of relations between survivor descendants, perpetrator descendents and the Church had more to do with the eventual writing and publication of Massacre at Mountain Meadows.

I think the push to finish Massacre at Mountain Meadows was largely impacted by both Bagley's book and September Dawn, though it is evident they were working on the subject for quite sometime. Turley and Bagley were/are good friends. They both began their work on their respective books around the same time and essentially knew each other's conclusions before publication. Regardless, I think Turley has done a better job of avoiding personal attacks on Bagley. Bagley smeared Turley (and the Church) during the Ex-Mormon Conference in 2002 and characterized FAIR's conference featuring Gene Sessions as a "Klanvocation." He gets childish at times, and he's good other times.

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I think the push to finish Massacre at Mountain Meadows was largely impacted by both Bagley's book and September Dawn, though it is evident they were working on the subject for quite sometime. Turley and Bagley were/are good friends. They both began their work on their respective books around the same time and essentially knew each other's conclusions before publication. Regardless, I think Turley has done a better job of avoiding personal attacks on Bagley. Bagley smeared Turley (and the Church) during the Ex-Mormon Conference in 2002 and characterized FAIR's conference featuring Gene Sessions as a "Klanvocation." He gets childish at times, and he's good other times.

I recall that Turley and colleagues took their time in publishing the book because they wanted to make sure it was done right. The anticipated publication date was pushed back several times. My impression, though, is that it was always the intention to finish the book, and I remain unpersuaded it would not have happened had there been no Bagley book.

I have been in the presence of Turley and Bagley at the same time. I've seen them be cordial to each other, even while sharply disagreeing about Mountain Meadows. On that occasion, Bagley said that he and Turley are friends. I don't know for certain whether it can be said they are "good" friends.

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Bagley, like a number of other scholars who have published on Mormon-related issues, has done a great deal for scholarship about the American West. Yes, it is not without its flaws, several of which have been pointed out on this board and in other Mormon publications. However, had Bagley not published Blood of the Prophets, it is unlikely that Turley, Leonard, and Walker would have published Massacre at Mountain Meadows either.

Bagley's use of primary sources was rather well-done and is, in a sense, a dramatic improvement from those of Juanita Brooks. Bagley's weakness (and a weakness almost all of us have) tends to be his lack of balance. Virtually everything we know about what happened in southern Utah in September 1857 becomes nonsensical if we accept the notion that the murders on September 11 were orchestrated from Salt Lake City.

All true. But that's not what I meant when I questioned what his views might have to do with anything that could plausibly be described as a "Mormon expression" of anything. At all.

Did Mormons take blood oaths? Did they take one to avenge the prophets? I have no doubt about it.

I have serious doubts about it; overwhelmingly so.

Without going into details, I am entirely familiar with what has been maliciously misrepresented as "blood oaths." They were no such thing. They were analogous to nothing more bloody than "Cross my heart and hope to die." The so-called "oath of vengeance" was in fact a prayer that God would exact vengeance.

Did these oaths lead to the Mountain Meadows Massacre? I see no evidence of a direct link, although who can doubt that such frontier notions of revenge and violence contributed to the willingness of Iron County militiamen to follow orders to murder innocents? Did the teaching of blood atonement also contribute? Probably. None of this changes the evidence of what happened in September 1857 at the meadow.

I have no problem with Bagley personally. I take issue with some of his conclusions, but I'm sure he'll present a lively lecture for his audience that will change some perspectives and perhaps challenge some preconceived notions about the history of the American West.

Or maybe he'll just reinforce nasty stereotypes about 19th century Latter-day Saints.

Regards,

Pahoran

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I have serious doubts about it; overwhelmingly so.

Without going into details, I am entirely familiar with what has been maliciously misrepresented as "blood oaths." They were no such thing. They were analogous to nothing more bloody than "Cross my heart and hope to die." The so-called "oath of vengeance" was in fact a prayer that God would exact vengeance.

Regards,

Pahoran

One of the speakers at the recent FAIR Conference compared critics and their fixation on Mormon "blood oaths" to Amelia Bedelia, the character in children's fiction who takes figurative expressions so literally as to be absurd, with comical results.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I have serious doubts about it [blood oaths]; overwhelmingly so.

Without going into details, I am entirely familiar with what has been maliciously misrepresented as "blood oaths." They were no such thing. They were analogous to nothing more bloody than "Cross my heart and hope to die." The so-called "oath of vengeance" was in fact a prayer that God would exact vengeance.

Or maybe he'll just reinforce nasty stereotypes about 19th century Latter-day Saints.

Regards,

Pahoran

I'm very aware of that Pahoran, and than you for your response. However, I'm not the only Latter-day Saint who believes the Law of Retribution may have had some role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Gene Sessions also shares this view, though we both disagree with Bagley to the extent in which the law played a part in day-to-day life among the early Saints. I believe Bagley is demonstrably wrong in that regard, but I won't bog down the thread by posting the various reasons why. Another time - another thread. As John D. Lee himself noted:

"I had many to assist me at the Mountain Meadows. I believe that most of those who were connected with the Massacre, and took part in the lamentable transaction that has blackened the character of all who were aiders or abettors in the same, were acting under the impression that they were performing a religious duty. I know all were acting under the orders and by the command of their Church leaders; and I firmly believe that the most of those who took part in the proceedings, considered it a religious duty to unquestioningly obey the orders which they had received. That they acted from a sense of duty to the Mormon Church."

According to Bagley presumably citing Bishop's Mormonism Unveiled, Isaac Haight told the massacre participants that "they had been privileged to keep a part of their covenant to avenge the blood of the prophets."[1] This ultimately serves as a central theme for Bagley's pinning the massacre on Brigham Young, and is the entire basis for Rocky Hulse's polemical When Salt Lake City Calls (see Appendix Four p. 347-355).

[1] See Bagley's Blood of the Prophets, 158. Bagley cites Mormonism Unveiled, 247-248, though Haight's statement never appears in the text of Mormonism Unveiled. According to Lee's descendants, this book was first published in 1877, just after the execution of John D Lee. He dictated and wrote the book after his 2nd trial and subsequent conviction and the time of his execution to tell his own side of the whole story and provide a means to pay his legal fees. Lee had two copies made, one kept by his wife and one for publishing. This he did to prevent his writing from being changed. The family copy is not available any longer. However, after the book was published in 1877, no member of the Lee family challenged it's accuracy. For further use of Haight's wording, see Juanita Brooks' John Doyle Lee: Zealot, Pioneer-builder, Scapegoat, 221. In spite of Bagley's use of Haight's quote, he never actually cites it - or rather, attributes it to a source where it doesn't exist. I don't have access to Brooks' biography of Lee at the moment so I can't confirm what Brooks uses as her source.

Perhaps Bagley might reinforce 19th-Century stereotypes of Mormons, or maybe he won't. We'll see.

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… Mormonism Unveiled. According to Lee's descendants, this book was first published in 1877, just after the execution of John D Lee. He dictated and wrote the book after his 2nd trial and subsequent conviction and the time of his execution to tell his own side of the whole story and provide a means to pay his legal fees.

What evidence is there that Lee actually did dictate the words that were printed in the book?

What evidence is there that Lee actually did write the words that were printed in the book?

Lee had two copies made, one kept by his wife and one for publishing. This he did to prevent his writing from being changed. The family copy is not available any longer.

Was it ever available? Was it ever confirmed to have been dictated and or written by Lee? Was it ever used to confirm the accuracy of what was printed in Mormonism Unveiled?

However, after the book was published in 1877, no member of the Lee family challenged it's (sic) accuracy.

Are you suggesting that this fact, to the extent it is true, somehow serves as a positive affirmation of its historical accuracy?

.

.

.

As for Blood of the Prophets, in my judgment Bagley did achieve what I had previously believed to be impossible: he published a volume of Mormon history almost as bad as Vogel’s The Making of a Prophet. They are in a class all their own.

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For a closer look at Lee's confessions compared to other sources, including Lee's journals, see

http://byustudies.byu.edu/showTitle.aspx?title=7911

Finally, errors in Lee’s autobiography suggest the possibility that his attorney, William W. Bishop, may have added sensational details after Lee’s death. Turley concludes that historians must sift through myths, purposeful deceptions, and inaccurate memories in order to determine the facts about the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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For a closer look at Lee's confessions compared to other sources, including Lee's journals, see

http://byustudies.byu.edu/showTitle.aspx?title=7911

Finally, errors in Lee’s autobiography suggest the possibility that his attorney, William W. Bishop, may have added sensational details after Lee’s death. Turley concludes that historians must sift through myths, purposeful deceptions, and inaccurate memories in order to determine the facts about the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

Of course, what kind of historian would rely so extensively (and often exclusively) on such a questionable source; consistently and unqualifiedly treating it as authoritative?

What's that? One with ulterior motives?

Perish the thought ...

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What evidence is there that Lee actually did dictate the words that were printed in the book?

What evidence is there that Lee actually did write the words that were printed in the book?

Was it ever available? Was it ever confirmed to have been dictated and or written by Lee? Was it ever used to confirm the accuracy of what was printed in Mormonism Unveiled?

I think you're misunderstanding my point. Lee's confession was published after his death, so Lee himself could never actually verify what was written. The strongest evidence in my mind that links Lee to what is published is the fact that Lee's descendants never appeared to challenge the accuracy of the book. That is not to say that the book is without its problems, but I do believe it stymies the cliche apologetic argument that Mormonism Unveiled is a worthless account of Lee's dealings with Mormonism.

Are you suggesting that this fact, to the extent it is true, somehow serves as a positive affirmation of its historical accuracy?

Well Will, truthfulness is a general reflection of historical accuracy. If something is true, we can fairly well determine without too much of a stretch that it is historically accurate. If something is not true, we can generally assume that it never happened. Once again, this should not be somehow taken as an unchecked endorsement of the accuracy of Mormonism Unveiled. If you're interested in primary sources on the Mountain Meadows Massacre, I suggest you look here: http://www.mtn-meadows-assoc.com/primary_sources.htm. Notice that while Mormonism Unveiled is not listed, Lee's Last Confession and Statement (which was included in Mormonism Unveiled), is considered a primary source. My problem with the vast majority of writings on the Mountain Meadows Massacre has to do with their use of primary and secondary resources. To Bagley's largely uncritical audience of fundamentalist Protestants, they don't see or understand the difference - hence why I disagree with Bagley's use of sources. Regardless, Bagley's contributions to Western histories cannot be overlooked and dismissed merely on account of the fact that he left the Church and published some material with which several individuals (myself included) have disagreed.

As for Blood of the Prophets, in my judgment Bagley did achieve what I had previously believed to be impossible: he published a volume of Mormon history almost as bad as Vogel’s The Making of a Prophet. They are in a class all their own.

I dunno. I think John A. Widtsoe's account of the massacre was arguably much worse, though from the exact opposite point of view. However, I find his account of Jacob Haslam several years post-massacre to be incredibly revealing and intriguing. And nothing is worse than September Dawn, not to mention Wayne Atilio Capurro's White Flag.

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kolipoki09:

Well Will, truthfulness is a general reflection of historical accuracy. If something is true, we can fairly well determine without too much of a stretch that it is historically accurate. If something is not true, we can generally assume that it never happened.

Given your apparent earnestness in authoring them, I’m fairly confident that you sincerely have no conception of how effectively meaningless (and essentially tautologous) this trio of sentences really is, therefore I think I will refrain from pursuing this argument from the standpoint of your definition of “historical accuracy.”

I will say that I am in general agreement with what your argument appears to be: that which is true is historically accurate; that which is historically accurate is true; that which is false is historically inaccurate; that which is historically inaccurate is false.

Now if we can just get the historians to all agree as to which is which …

… Bagley's contributions to Western histories cannot be overlooked and dismissed merely on account of the fact that he left the Church …

Let me know when someone makes this argument, so that I can join with you in dismissing it as logically flawed.

I think John A. Widtsoe's account of the massacre was arguably much worse, though from the exact opposite point of view.

When it comes to historiography in general, and Mormon-related historiography in particular, I think it is very wise to cultivate a discriminating approach to all things—more so now than ever before.

And, with that said, I have exceeded my message board posting quota for the week. Therefore I must take my leave and permit this discussion to proceed in my absence.

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Given your apparent earnestness in authoring them, I’m fairly confident that you sincerely have no conception of how effectively meaningless (and essentially tautologous) this trio of sentences really is, therefore I think I will refrain from pursuing this argument from the standpoint of your definition of “historical accuracy.”

Don't patronize me Will. Condemn me not because of mine imperfection, neither my father, because of his imperfection, neither them who have written before him; but rather give thanks unto God that he hath made manifest unto you our imperfections, that ye may learn to be more wise than we have been.

Let me know when someone makes this argument, so that I can join with you in dismissing it as logically flawed.

I sure will...Will. However, I think it would be foolhardy to overlook the fact that many posters here seem to accept at face value much of what is published on Mormon history by virtue of the fact that it was published by a faithful, LDS author. Generally speaking, we (Latter-day Saints) as a culture tend to be much more apt to reject and/or criticize histories authored by non-Mormons or ex-Mormons. While I see the trend changing toward a much more open dialogue, historically it has not been the case.

When it comes to historiography in general, and Mormon-related historiography in particular, I think it is very wise to cultivate a discriminating approach to all things—more so now than ever before.

Hence, why I use this as my textbook. As does Craig Foster, Stephen Ricks, Klaus Hansen, and John Gee.

And, with that said, I have exceeded my message board posting quota for the week. Therefore I must take my leave and permit this discussion to proceed in my absence.

I'm honored that you've felt it necessary to exceed your weekly quota on someone who posts things so effectively meaningless and tautologous as myself.

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Some of the interesting points in the BYU Studies essay linked:

Evidence indicates that while Lee composed much of the book’s underlying text, Bishop added sensationalized and erroneous details to the manuscript. This is evident both in Lee’s personal history, which comprises seventeen chapters dealing with Lee’s pre-Utah life, and in his confession.
Lee’s confession in Mormonism Unveiled is more problematic than his history. At first, Bishop did not hide his collaboration with Lee in writing

the confession. The Pioche Daily Record published an 1875 letter from Bishop in which he wrote, “Lee, aided by myself and associates, prepared a full and detailed account of the case.”42 Bishop later claimed in Mormonism

Unveiled that Lee had dictated the confession: “The Confession is given just as he dictated it to me, without alteration or elimination, except in a few cases where the ends of justice might have been defeated by premature

revelations.”43

Similarly, where the Howard version is silent, the Pioche paper has Lee say, “I have always considered that George A. Smith visited Southern Utah at that time to prepare the people for exterminating Captain Fancher’s train of emigrants.”51 Mormonism Unveiled repeats this statement but changes the word “considered” to “believed” and adds the condemnation

“I now believe that [smith] was sent for that purpose by the direct command of Brigham Young.”52 These supposed assertions by Lee seem incredible given that prosecutors had offered Lee his life if he would just charge Young with ordering the massacre.53 Lee went to his death instead. Is it not curious, then, that such indictments suddenly appear in Mormonism

Unveiled?

Kevin Christensen

Pittsburgh, PA

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Some of the interesting points in the BYU Studies essay linked:

Thanks for addressing these Kevin. My issue with Bagley's use of Mormonism Unveiled links it to Isaac Haight's alleged prayer circle held after the massacre, wherein the participants thanked God that they were able to live up to their covenants to avenge the blood of the prophets. The source never appears in Mormonism Unveiled, though Bagley cites it as being so. While Lee may have very well provided the overall corpus of the book, it's obvious that Bishop exaggerated several portions of it, contra Bagley's claim that Lee was the sole author.

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kolipoki09:

Don't patronize me Will.

Forgive me my tendency to hold a mirror up to the patronizing—just remember who took the first turn. ;)

Perhaps you didn’t perceive that your initial comments were patronizing. They seemed so to me. But then, so do these from your most recent post:

… I think it would be foolhardy to overlook the fact that many posters here seem to accept at face value much of what is published on Mormon history by virtue of the fact that it was published by a faithful, LDS author. Generally speaking, we (Latter-day Saints) as a culture tend to be much more apt to reject and/or criticize histories authored by non-Mormons or ex-Mormons.

I think it would be foolhardy to assume such a thing about Pahoran, or Kevin Christensen, as well as a considerable number of other rather discriminating faithful LDS readers of history who also happen to post here.

While I see the trend changing toward a much more open dialogue …

Oh, my. Somehow I’m going to find a way to resist the overwhelming temptation to take this and run with it for a few pages.

I will only say that I am rather acutely cognizant of certain recent trends, and those who are active in setting them. I’ve also noticed that the phrase “much more open dialogue” is quite popular in such circles.

Hence, why I use this as my textbook.

Fischer’s book is certainly one of the finest primers available in terms of alerting the discriminating reader to the common logical fallacies found in modern historiography—and perhaps especially in the rather voluminous body of effectively anti-Mormon historiography. I imagine Pahoran’s and Kevin’s copies are as dog-eared as mine.

I'm honored that you've felt it necessary to exceed your weekly quota on someone who posts things so effectively meaningless and tautologous as myself.

Don’t take it personally, Tyler. If there is something more than a tautologous meaning in what you wrote above, then you’re certainly welcome to elaborate in the interest of clarification. Besides, the only thing worse than an insincere martyr is a patronizingly insincere one. (Just ribbing you good-naturedly, in case you suspect otherwise. ;) )

Anyway, now I’ve cut into next week’s posting allotment. What a shame to waste it on a thread about the would-be historian Will Bagley …

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Forgive me my tendency to hold a mirror up to the patronizing—just remember who took the first turn. ;)

Perhaps you didn’t perceive that your initial comments were patronizing. They seemed so to me. But then, so do these from your most recent post:

Hello kettle. Meet pot.

I think it would be foolhardy to assume such a thing about Pahoran, or Kevin Christensen, as well as a considerable number of other rather discriminating faithful LDS readers of history who also happen to post here.

Never once did I imply that Pahoran or Kevin fit that description.

Oh, my. Somehow I’m going to find a way to resist the overwhelming temptation to take this and run with it for a few pages.

I will only say that I am rather acutely cognizant of certain recent trends, and those who are active in setting them. I’ve also noticed that the phrase “much more open dialogue” is quite popular in such circles.

I'm sure you could run with it for several pages. The "circles" that come to my mind in "setting" these recent trends were illustrated rather well through Richard Bushman's Symposium in Springville earlier this summer, the Claremont Journal of Mormon Studies, and the work of individuals such as Robert Millet and Greg Johnson.

What a shame to waste it on a thread about the would-be historian Will Bagley …

:beatdeadhorse:

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kolipoki09:

I'm sure you could run with it for several pages.

Yes, I could. Part of me even thinks I should. Nevertheless, I shan’t.

The "circles" that come to my mind in "setting" these recent trends were illustrated rather well through Richard Bushman's Symposium in Springville earlier this summer, the Claremont Journal of Mormon Studies, and the work of individuals such as Robert Millet and Greg Johnson.

I knew we’d eventually reach full agreement on something.

In fact, you’d probably be surprised at who and how many people would agree with you on this point, though likely not for the reasons you’d prefer.

So let’s raise a toast to “much more open dialogue.” I hear the “gaping wide” variety is all the rage these days.

Bottoms up …

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kolipoki09:

Forgive me my tendency to hold a mirror up to the patronizing—just remember who took the first turn. ;)

Will, if you are trying to get others reflected in the mirror you need to hold the glass part towards them, not the other way round.

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