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Caitlin Rother, crime author and former U-T investigative reporter, tonight (March 27) issued a longer statement on her role in an investigation that was done of Carl DeMaio prior to the November mayoralty election. On Sunday, the U-T printed a long story, suggesting that there was an unethical smear of DeMaio. Actually, a packet of information about matters of public record on DeMaio, and particularly on his partner, publisher Johnathan Hale (who has changed his name from Wykcoff to Hackett to Hale), was distributed to media. This is not uncommon in political races.

Initially, "I thought I was signing on to do pure political research," Rother writes in her revised statement. However, the mandate then changed to having her do"legitimate balanced journalism." However, that didn't work, so she wound up just gathering public documents -- "good, bad or neutral" -- on DeMaio and Wykcoff Hackett Hale. "Once I was finished with my work, I stepped away," she writes. She says it is "ridiculous" she was involved in gay-bashing or gay-baiting.

A link to her statement accompanies this. Best, Don Bauder

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Comments

dotinga March 27, 2013 @ 7:21 p.m.

Reality check. Various smear campaign internal emails are here: bit.ly/XfeDQQ and here: http://bit.ly/XfeBsi. Via the U-T.

I know why other media in town ignored the smear campaign's allegations and insinuations about DeMaio's partner: They were gay-baiting, ancient and irrelevant.

Why did the Reader not report them?

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Dorian Hargrove March 27, 2013 @ 8:03 p.m.

I personally didn't because I didn't see any merit in any of it. That would have been the same if the same allegations were cast on a man or woman. No conspiracy here.

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Don Bauder March 27, 2013 @ 8:12 p.m.

Dorian: All of us receive material on a regular basis and we have to make the same decision: does it have merit? Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder March 27, 2013 @ 8:09 p.m.

Randy: I can't answer the question in my own behalf because I knew nothing of this matter until I read it Sunday. Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga March 27, 2013 @ 8:07 p.m.

Cool. When the muckrakers at the U-T, VOSD, CItyBeat and the Reader all say "ewww," something might actually stink.

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Don Bauder March 27, 2013 @ 8:15 p.m.

Randy: My impression of the U-T story was that it was sour grapes. Ask yourself the question: if similar material had been unearthed about Filner and distributed to media prior to the election, would the U-T have played up the story as some kind of ethical violation? Or would the U-T have run it at all? Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga March 27, 2013 @ 8:32 p.m.

The story and what it reveals are the issue here. The U-T's motivations for running an obviously fantastic story, or what it might do if the players were reversed, are less important.

Even so, I believe that many of the U-T's top editors and reporters, like Craig Gustafson, retain commitments to ethical journalism and aren't as easily manipulated and controlled by the men who run the place as critics like to think.

Not that they're free to report and write what they want. Then again, neither are other journalists like you and me: if we're getting paid, we've got publishers and editors and they call the shots.

Anyway, enough. Tell us more about vibrators in the Gaslamp!

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Don Bauder March 28, 2013 @ 7:02 a.m.

Randy: You have missed your chance to get free vibrators at the Stingaree. The giveaway stopped at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Best, Don Bauder

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BradleyFikes March 27, 2013 @ 9:18 p.m.

Hi Don,

In an email dated May 28, 2012, Rother wrote: "so, word seems to be spreading ... this is odd because Evan McLaughlin told me they were trying to distance themselves from this. looks like they changed their mind??? Isn't that who is running this site??? http://dirtydemaio.com/node/139"

That doesn't square with Rother's description of her role as "legitimate balanced journalism."

And if Rother really thought her work was legitimate journalism, why was she so keen not to be publicly associated with it?

Best,

Bradley

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Don Bauder March 28, 2013 @ 7:06 a.m.

Bradley: I hope that one email will not be taken out of context. What people say in a hastily written email may not reflect his or her true sentiments. Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga March 27, 2013 @ 9:51 p.m.

Brad: don't you always always produce your legitimate, balanced, voter-educating, public-service, unbiased journalism on an anonymous basis and try to keep your name out of everything? We journalists are known for our tiny egos, as you know.

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Don Bauder March 28, 2013 @ 7:13 a.m.

Randy: You mean legitimate, balanced, voter-educating, public-service, unbiased journalism such as Johnathan Wyckoff Hackett Hale produces? I got into some of that topic when I reported on the financial woes of Mike Portantino's publication, the role of Wyckoff Hackett Hale and associates, the extremely dubious investigation by the DA, and Portantino's suicide. Best, Don Bauder

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BradleyFikes March 28, 2013 @ 7:31 a.m.

Hi Don, Rother wrote more than one email mentioning those sentiments. She knew the assignment was to make DeMaio look bad. You should really read it all - it's linked at the end of stories in two PDFs.

In particular, I suggest you read the scope of work for Rother's assignment, which she presumably read before accepting. It's loaded with derogatory references to DeMaio. There's a particularly juicy giveaway: The scope of work directs Rother to meet with "a small circle of trusted sources, including ideological allies of this project and other associates ..."

I'd be interested in hearing Rother's explanation about how "legitimate balanced journalism," can have "ideological allies."

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Don Bauder March 28, 2013 @ 1:25 p.m.

Bradley: Initially, she thought she was doing political research. Then, she was told to make it legitimate, balanced journalism. But she found that didn't work so in the latter phases she was simply pulling documents. Best, Don Bauder

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BradleyFikes March 28, 2013 @ 7:35 a.m.

Hi Randy, Indeed, I have a secret life as a paid operative of the Koch Brothers. That's how I can afford my luxurious lifestyle. ;-)

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Don Bauder March 28, 2013 @ 1:28 p.m.

Bradley: Do you get as much money from the Koch brothers as the chief justice of the Supreme Court does? Best, Don Bauder

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gfalke1 March 28, 2013 @ 11:38 a.m.

As I advise all my clients and anyone else who asks, if you can't put your name on a statement or any work publicly and own it, you should refrain from participating. That's the test. Transparency is everything. Ms. Rother's assignment fails this test and she should have declined it.

There is nothing inherently or legally wrong about opposition research in politics. Morally it's a judgment call for the individual. But you shouldn't label it as journalism.

Brad, when the Koch Brothers are looking to expand their operative empire, give me a call.

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Don Bauder March 28, 2013 @ 1:31 p.m.

Gayle: Rother isn't labeling the opp research as journalism. She began the project doing opp research. Then she was told to make it straight journalism. She couldn't figure out how to do that and switched to merely pulling documents. Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga March 28, 2013 @ 2:03 p.m.

"We were not trying to smear anyone," writes Caitlin Rother. Does anyone believe that's the case and if so, why?

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Don Bauder March 28, 2013 @ 4:12 p.m.

Randy: There was a mayoral contest in which everyone was smearing everybody else -- nothing new there -- and the U-T, in particular, was smearing DeMaio's major opponent, Bob Filner. Now we are subjected to all this piety about the horrors of political smearing. Who inside or outside the U-T was doing the opp research on Filner? Did the U-T get information on Filner from an opp researcher and/or Filner opponent? Did it use the material? If not, the U-T should publish the sources of its own smears of Filner. Where is the "balanced journalism" that suddenly seems to be worshipped? Best, Don Bauder

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BradleyFikes March 28, 2013 @ 4:23 p.m.

Don, How much does Roberts get? I plan to hold out for at least double.

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Don Bauder March 28, 2013 @ 9:31 p.m.

Bradley: Pay from the Koch brothers correlates with one's effect on their plans for society. Roberts got Citizens United through the Supreme Court, permitting the multi-billionaire brothers to pour money into elections at will, with no restraints. They are spending that money to destroy the middle class. So what are you contributing to the Kochs' plan? Do you deserve what Roberts gets? Best, Don Bauder

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BradleyFikes March 28, 2013 @ 4:36 p.m.

Don, Rother's claim she was trying to turn opp research into journalism strikes me as a (very contrived) cover story.

Remember, her role was supposed to be secret. That was a blatant deception by someone who presented a public facade of being just an impartial reporter. Why believe her now?

As for the rest, of course politicians routinely dig up dirt on each other. But mixing opp research and putative journalism at the same time is a church/state violation.

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Don Bauder March 28, 2013 @ 9:37 p.m.

Bradley: She started the job as an opp researcher. Remember, she is no longer writing for a newspaper; she writes crime books. Then when her financial supporters wanted her to make the project straight journalism, she did not see how she could do it ethically. If that sounds to you like a cover story, it's not up to me to change your mind. In my opinion, as a crime writer, she is no longer bound by the same set of ethics that apply to a journalist. She is free to do opp research. When asked to present the material in straight journalism style, she said she couldn't do it. Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga March 28, 2013 @ 4:53 p.m.

I'm not aware of anybody who is shocked that these political smears go on. Perhaps you know someone who's expressed surprise?

The cover-up is the story (surprise!). It's journalism, not politics? So it doesn't need to be disclosed? snort giggle Ooo! Do go on! It's apolitical? Stop, you're killing me! It's journalism or politics or something, but don't mention my name ever? hernia

Plus the inane rationalizations of virtually everyone else involved and the (debatable) gay-baiting by a bunch of gay rights supporters.

This will turn Carl into the world's biggest martyr. (Look at how far they went to tear me down! Look how much they spent for nothing! Etc.) Well played, everybody.

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Don Bauder March 28, 2013 @ 9:43 p.m.

Randy: Making DeMaio into the world's biggest martyr is exactly the objective of the owner of the Union-Tribune. What SHOULD be revealed is what happened inside the U-T in preparation of this propaganda piece, and what happened at the alleged Ethics Commission, among other things. It's my understanding DeMaio is planning to run for Congress against Scott Peters. He will use this -- unless the material that is in the report gets out to the public. Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga March 28, 2013 @ 9:57 p.m.

As far as I know, the material in the report is irrelevant, ancient, salacious, obviously gay-baiting or some combination of the above.

That's why none of the mainstream or alternative media (not the ultra-anti-DeMaio/leftie media, not the right-wing media, not the other media, not the whatever-the-heck-the-Reader-is media) bothered to report on it except for an obscure DeMaio-despising outlet that fell for it hook, line and gay-baiting talking point.

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Don Bauder March 29, 2013 @ 9:07 a.m.

Randy: There is material in the report (and some not in the report) that is NOT irrelevant, ancient, or obviously gay-baiting, but very important information that should be known about DeMaio and Hale. As far as I know, it has not been published. I hope one day that it is. Best, Don Bauder

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BradleyFikes March 29, 2013 @ 7:39 a.m.

Don, I don't see anything wrong with Citizens United, which simply allows people to use their money for political speech. It seems like good constitutional law to me. I do think campaign contributions should be disclosed and put on the Internet ASAP.

The leftie media's frenzied attacks on CU and the Koch Brothers is just politics. They just hate that the libertarian cause has backers whose wealth eclipses even George Soros. (As you probably know, the Kochs lean libertarian; Charles Koch was actually on the vice-presidential ticket of the Libertarian Party in 1980).

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Don Bauder March 29, 2013 @ 9:10 a.m.

Bradley: If you can't see anything ominous about Citizens United, so be it. I feel it may be the most dangerous decision in the history of the Supreme Court. Best, Don Bauder

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BradleyFikes March 29, 2013 @ 7:48 a.m.

Don, You wrote, "She started the job as an opp researcher."

But in the U-T article, Rother said: "I also want to note that at the outset, I was brought on board with the assurance that, according to campaign attorney Jim Sutton, this project was apolitical and legally protected under the First Amendment and the Citizens United case."

I can't reconcile these apparently conflicting statements. But maybe you can explain how they can both be true.

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Don Bauder March 29, 2013 @ 9:21 a.m.

Bradley: Admittedly, it is difficult to reconcile those statements. An opp researcher is not working on something that is apolitical. Unfortunately, she cannot defend herself because she is not saying anything.

Again, I say that this is quibbling over small details. Ask the big questions: 1. Did the U-T print this story for political reasons? 2. Is the U-T trying to justify its strong (financial and editorial) backing of the losing candidate? 3. Is the U-T trying to cover over its own smearing of DeMaio's winning opponent Filner? 4. Is the U-T trying to make DeMaio a martyr for his run for Congress? 5. Had the U-T found similar information about a dossier on Filner, would it have printed the story? The answer to the first four questions is yes and the answer to the fifth question is no. Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga March 29, 2013 @ 9:53 a.m.

Don: Why don't YOU publish the "very important information"?

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Don Bauder March 29, 2013 @ 10:35 a.m.

Randy: Ethics constraints. Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga March 29, 2013 @ 1:38 p.m.

Translation: There is deep, dark and horrible important information about these people, but I can't write about it because of ethics constraints.

That's dirtbag journalism. This can't be right. I suspect the real Mr. Bauder is being held hostage by some evil forces and this is an imposter. Get a message to us if you can, Don! We will rescue you!

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Don Bauder March 29, 2013 @ 3:54 p.m.

Randy: I got information off the record. I can't use it unless I corroborate it elsewhere, hopefully from official records. I don't consider this dirtbag journalism. I never said the information was "deep, dark and horrible." Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga March 29, 2013 @ 6:35 p.m.

Of course you didn't say that. You didn't have to.

Free Bauder!

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Don Bauder March 29, 2013 @ 9:55 p.m.

Randy: Methinks you are ascribing to me the conspiratorial thoughts that are in YOUR mind. Best, Don Bauder

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BradleyFikes March 29, 2013 @ 9:41 p.m.

Don, I just don't see the evidence that Citizens United endangers anything. The political left hyperventilates about how CU allows gazillionaires like the diabolical Koch Brothers to buy elections. But the record of gazillionaires in buying elections is decidedly mixed. Just ask Vice President Charles Koch, Senator Michael Huffington, Governor Jane Harman and President Mitt Romney.

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Don Bauder March 29, 2013 @ 9:59 p.m.

Bradley: Romney had the money but spent it in the wrong places. Obama had mastery of the modern ways to communicate. But think of other elections, such as Koch money swaying elections over anti-union legislation in Wisconsin. Best, Don Bauder

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BradleyFikes March 29, 2013 @ 10:57 p.m.

Hi Don, You wrote: "Unfortunately, she cannot defend herself because she is not saying anything."

If Rother is not saying anything, then some imposter has issued a statement in her name. ;-)

Your questions about the U-T are noted, but they do not bear on the veracity of Rother's story. Her account simply does not square with the facts as laid out in the emails and the scope of work that delineated her assignment. Indeed, it raises more questions:

-- What kind of "legitimate balanced journalism" would concentrate on the "negative information" and rely on other reporters to find positive information, as Rother claimed was her intent?

-- Why would legitimate journalism require contracting through a campaign committee?

-- What is the text of the updated scope of work Rother refers to in her statement?

-- When was this updated scope of work adopted?

-- If such an updated scope of work actually exists, why wasn't it in the documents released by the FPPC?

I believe Rother's assertion that she didn't want to be associated with anything but a pure information-gathering project. "Associated" is the key word -- such statements require careful parsing. Far from being a reluctant opp researcher, Rother even implied in an email that she would like more such assignments. She just wanted her name kept out of it.

As Gayle said earlier, "transparency is everything", but Rother wanted opacity.

Given such huge holes in Rother's story, I think you've needlessly committed yourself to defending her veracity. Regardless of what you were told off-the-record, you would be entirely within journalistic ethics to maintain a discreet silence.

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Don Bauder March 30, 2013 @ 7:58 a.m.

Bradley: Yes, she issued that statement, as well as an earlier one. But then she made no more statements, to my knowledge. Personally, I think you and Randy Dotinga are nitpicking Rother when you should be asking the bigger questions: 1. What was the motivation of the U-T in printing that story making a martyr of DeMaio, whom it supported with smears of his main opponent? 2. Inside the U-T, who called for this story? Manchester/Lynch? 3. Would the U-T have done a story on Filner if it had had similar information? (Opp research is common. So are political smears, and nobody knows that better than the U-T.) 4. Would the U-T have done similar stories about opp research done on Fletcher, Dumanis? 5. Is the U-T looking for other examples of opp research in which journalists or ex-journalists were involved? This could be a fertile field, and quite embarrassing to the U-T. 6. Has any present or former U-T staffer been involved with opp research? These are just some of the questions that should be addressed. Best, Don Bauder

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BradleyFikes March 30, 2013 @ 12:57 p.m.

Don. So unskeptical reporting about Rother's statement is fair, but pointing out the contradictions in her account is "nitpicking".

Free Bauder!

Best, Bradley

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Don Bauder March 30, 2013 @ 2:44 p.m.

Bradley: Free Bradley Fikes. You are free to comb through all statements by all parties in this dispute and find whatever contradictions you can. You are looking at the trees -- not the forest. Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga March 30, 2013 @ 4:16 p.m.

For some reason, Don is unable to pursue the questions he raises. Free Bauder!

(p.s. have any Reader staffers, current or past, been involved with politicians, current or past?)

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Don Bauder March 30, 2013 @ 5:20 p.m.

Randy: "Been involved with" politicians? Of course, we interview them daily. C'mon: sharpen your queries. Best, Don Bauder

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dotinga March 30, 2013 @ 8:10 p.m.

Since you insist:

Are there or have there been connections (romantic, financial, family) between current and former Reader journalists and current and former politicians, lobbyists, p.r. people, movers and shakers? Especially people the Reader has covered or does cover?

You know, the kinds of connections that the Reader loves to unravel when they involve other people.

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Don Bauder March 31, 2013 @ 7:49 a.m.

Randy: None that I know of. There have been false rumors of some such connections. Best, Don Bauder

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BradleyFikes March 31, 2013 @ 10:48 a.m.

Once upon a time there was a wonderful forest in a magical land called Dona Egis. The weather was balmy, the crops hale, and noisome dragons lived far away in the fetid, troll-infested swamp of Nos Alleges.

Until one day, when the town crier spread word that the forest was afflicted by a mysterious blight. Immediately, the magicians, apothecaries, soothsayers, thaumaturgists and hierophants went to work discerning which trees were blighted.

"These trees!" said the magicians, consulting their magical tomes. "No, those trees!" said the soothsayers, reading the entrails of goats. "What blight?" said a few. And so on.

At last, a venerable but hale woodcutter/scribe raised his voice.

"While there is indeed a blight in the forest, I am absolutely certain that one tree is free of this dreadful scourge," said the woodcutter/scribe, named Daubed Nor. He gestured to a willow tree by a creek, called by the locals the Rives Organdie. "Now go investigate these other trees," he said, reading from a list.

The locals pondered this news while sipping their mead, a tasty Robing Newest. They respected the woodcutter/scribe not only for his forestry skills, but also for his work at Rhea Detre, a venerated scribe guild.

"But look at the cankers on the trunk!" cried a humble scribe apprentice named Dryad Atoning. "Shouldn't you examine this willow tree more carefully?"

The wise old Daubed Nor shook his head knowingly at the credulous whippersnapper.

"Nay, you have been bewitched by my trickster rival, Ancestral Gumshoed!" Nor cried. "Go investigate the other trees! Why would you want to examine this fine poplar when I've declared it blight-free?"

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Don Bauder March 31, 2013 @ 1:53 p.m.

Bradley: Somehow, I knew that Barfly E. Dikes would penetrate this mystery. Best, Don Bauder

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Duhbya April 2, 2013 @ 11:01 a.m.

This is a classic. Good for a thousand chortles. Might I be forgiven for suggesting an alter ego for Ancestral Gumshoed? The ebullient one known as "A Macerated Hung Pops".

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Don Bauder April 3, 2013 @ 4:26 p.m.

Duhbya: Excellent riposte, Duhbya....er, H. Baudy. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder April 6, 2013 @ 7:45 a.m.

Duhbya: From birth through graduate school, I was known as Bud rather than Don. So, of course, in high school I was called Baudy Budder. Best, Don Bauder

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Duhbya April 8, 2013 @ 5:04 a.m.

Which I probably would have revised to "Bawdy Buddy".

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Don Bauder April 13, 2013 @ 6:53 p.m.

H. Baudy: I'm sure I would have liked being called bawdy in high school, but, alas, I was pretty tame then. Best, Don Bauder

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