Saturday, February 25, 2012

ANS -- Arizona Debate: Conservative Chickens Come Home to Roost

Here's another article about the Republican Party deconstructing.  Matt Taibbi is usually pretty smart about what's going on so maybe it really is falling apart? 
Find it here:


Arizona Debate: Conservative Chickens Come Home to Roost

POSTED: February 23, 12:20 PM ET
Comment 314
republican debate  
Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich at the Republican Presidential Debate in Mesa, Arizona.

How about that race for the Republican nomination? Was last night's debate crazy, or what?

Throughout this entire process, the spectacle of these clowns thrashing each other and continually seizing and then fumbling frontrunner status has left me with an oddly reassuring feeling, one that I haven't quite been able to put my finger on. In my younger days I would have just assumed it was regular old Schadenfreude at the sight of people like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich suffering, but this isn't like that – it's something different than the pleasure of watching A-Rod strike out in the playoffs.

No, it was while watching the debates last night that it finally hit me: This is justice. What we have here are chickens coming home to roost. It's as if all of the American public's bad habits and perverse obsessions are all coming back to haunt Republican voters in this race: The lack of attention span, the constant demand for instant gratification, the abject hunger for negativity, the utter lack of backbone or constancy (we change our loyalties at the drop of a hat, all it takes is a clever TV ad): these things are all major factors in the spiraling Republican disaster.

Most importantly, though, the conservative passion for divisive, partisan, bomb-tossing politics is threatening to permanently cripple the Republican party. They long ago became more about pointing fingers than about ideology, and it's finally ruining them.

Oh, sure, your average conservative will insist his belief system is based upon a passion for the free market and limited government, but that's mostly a cover story. Instead, the vast team-building exercise that has driven the broadcasts of people like Rush and Hannity and the talking heads on Fox for decades now has really been a kind of ongoing Quest for Orthodoxy, in which the team members congregate in front of the TV and the radio and share in the warm feeling of pointing the finger at people who aren't as American as they are, who lack their family values, who don't share their All-American work ethic.

The finger-pointing game is a fun one to play, but it's a little like drugs – you have to keep taking bigger and bigger doses in order to get the same high.

So it starts with a bunch of these people huddling together and saying to themselves, "We're the real good Americans; our problems are caused by all those other people out there who don't share our values." At that stage the real turn-on for the followers is the recognition that there are other like-minded people out there, and they don't need blood orgies and war cries to keep the faith strong – bake sales and church retreats will do.

So they form their local Moral Majority outfits, and they put Ronald Reagan in office, and they sit and wait for the world to revert to a world where there was one breadwinner in the family, and no teen pregnancy or crime or poor people, and immigrants worked hard and didn't ask for welfare and had the decency to speak English – a world that never existed in reality, of course, but they're waiting for a return to it nonetheless.

Think Ron Paul in the South Carolina debate, when he said that in the '60s, "there was nobody out in the street suffering with no medical care." Paul also recalled that after World War II, 10 million soldiers came home and prospered without any kind of government aid at all – all they needed was a massive cut to the federal budget, and those soldiers just surfed on the resultant wave of economic progress.

"You know what the government did? They cut the budget by 60 percent," he said. "And everybody went back to work again, you didn't need any special programs."

Right – it wasn't like they needed a G.I. Bill or anything. After all, people were different back then: They didn't want or need welfare, or a health care program, or any of those things. At least, that's not the way Paul remembered it.

That's all the early conservative movement was. It was just a heartfelt request that we go back to the good old days of America as these people remembered or imagined it. Of course, the problem was, we couldn't go back, not just because more than half the population (particularly the nonwhite, non-straight, non-male segment of the population) desperately didn't want to go back, but also because that America never existed and was therefore impossible to recreate.

And when we didn't go back to the good old days, this crowd got frustrated, and suddenly the message stopped being heartfelt and it got an edge to it.

The message went from, "We're the real Americans; the others are the problem," to, "We're the last line of defense; we hate those other people and they're our enemies." Now it wasn't just that the rest of us weren't getting with the program: Now we were also saboteurs, secretly or perhaps even openly conspiring with America's enemies to prevent her return to the long-desired Days of Glory.

Now, why would us saboteurs do that? Out of jealousy (we resented their faith and their family closeness), out of spite, and because we have gonads instead of morals. In the Clinton years and the early Bush years we started to hear a lot of this stuff, that the people conservatives described as "liberals" were not, as we are in fact, normal people who believe in marriage and family and love their children just as much as conservatives do, but perverts who subscribe to a sort of religion of hedonism.

"Liberals' only remaining big issue is abortion because of their beloved sexual revolution," was the way Ann Coulter put it. "That's their cause – spreading anarchy and polymorphous perversity. Abortion permits that."

So they fought back, and a whole generation of more strident conservative politicians rose to fight the enemy at home, who conveniently during the '90s lived in the White House and occasionally practiced polymorphous perversity there.

Then conservatives managed to elect to the White House a man who was not only a fundamentalist Christian, but a confirmed anti-intellectual who never even thought about visiting Europe until, as president, he was forced to – the perfect champion of all Real Americans!

Surely, things would change now. But they didn't. Life continued to move drearily into a new and scary future, Spanish-speaking people continued to roll over the border in droves, queers paraded around in public and even demanded the right to be married, and America not only didn't go back to the good old days of the single-breadwinner family, but jobs in general dried up and you were lucky if Mom and Dad weren't both working two jobs.

During this time we went to war against the Islamic terrorists responsible for 9/11 by invading an unrelated secular Middle Eastern dictatorship. When people on the other side protested, the rhetoric became even more hysterical. Now those of us outside the circle of Real Americans were not just enemies, but in league with mass-murdering terrorists. In fact, that slowly became the definition of a "liberal" on a lot of these programs – a terrorist.

Sean Hannity's bestseller during this time, for Christ's sake, was subtitled, Defeating terrorism, despotism, and liberalism.  "He is doing the work of what all people who want big government always do, and that is commit terrorist acts," said Glenn Beck years ago, comparing liberals to Norweigan mass murderer Anders Breivik.

And when the unthinkable happened, and a black American with a Muslim-sounding name assumed the throne in the White House, now, suddenly, we started to hear that liberals were not only in league with terrorists, but somehow worse than terrorists.

"Terrorism? Yes. That's not the big battle," said Minnesota Republican congressional candidate Allan Quist a few years ago. "The big battle is in D.C. with the radicals. They aren't liberals. They are radicals. Obama, Pelosi, Walz: They're not liberals, they're radicals. They are destroying our country."

In Spinal Tap terms, the rhetoric by the time Obama got elected already had gone well past eleven. It was at thirteen, fifteen, twenty …. Our tight little core of Real Americans by then had, over a series of decades, decided pretty much the entire rest of the world was shit. Europe we know about. The Middle East? Let's "carpet bomb it until they can't build a transitor radio," as Ann Coulter put it. Africa was full of black terrorists with AIDS, and Asia, too, was a good place to point a finger or two ("I want to go to war with China," is how Rick Santorum put it).

Here at home, all liberals, gays, Hispanic immigrants, atheists, Hollywood actors and/or musicians with political opinions, members of the media, members of congress, TSA officials, animal-lovers, union workers, state employees with pensions, Occupiers and other assorted unorthodox types had already long ago been rolled into the enemies list.

Given the continued troubles and the continued failure to return to good old American values, who else could possibly be to blame? Where else could they possibly point the finger?

There was only one possible answer, and we're seeing it playing out in this race: At themselves! And I don't mean they pointed the finger "at themselves" in the psychologically healthy, self-examining, self-doubting sort of way. Instead, I mean they pointed "at themselves" in the sense of, "There are traitors in our ranks. They must be ferreted out and destroyed!"

This is the last stage in any paranoid illness. You start by suspecting that somebody out there is out to get you; in the end, you're sure that even the people who love you the most under your own roof, your own doctors, your parents, your wife and your children, they're in on the plot. To quote Matt Damon in the almost-underrated spy film The Good Shepherd, they became convinced that there's "a stranger in the house."

This is where the Republican Party is now. They've run out of foreign enemies to point fingers at. They've already maxed out the rhetoric against us orgiastic, anarchy-loving pansexual liberal terrorists. The only possible remaining explanation for their troubles is that their own leaders have failed them. There is a stranger in the house!

This current race for the presidential nomination has therefore devolved into a kind of Freudian Agatha Christie story, in which the disturbed and highly paranoid voter base by turns tests the orthodoxy of each candidate, trying to figure out which one is the spy, which one is really Barack Obama bin Laden-Marx under the candidate mask!

We expected this when Mitt Romney, a man who foolishly once created a functioning health care program in Massachusetts, was the front-runner. We knew he was going to have to defend his bona fides against the priesthood ("I'm not convinced," sneered the sideline-sitting conservative Mme. Defarge, Sarah Palin), that he would have a rough go of it at the CPAC conference, and so on.

But it's gotten so ridiculous that even Santorum, as paranoid and hysterical a finger-pointing politician as this country has ever seen, a man who once insisted with a straight face that there is no such thing as a liberal Christian – he's now being put through the Electric Conservative Paranoia Acid Test, and failing!

"He is a fake," Ron Paul said at the Michigan debate last night, to assorted hoots and cheers. And Santorum, instead of turning around and laying into Paul, immediately panicked and rubbed his arm as if to say, "See? I'm made of the right stuff," and said, "I'm real, Ron, I'm real." These candidates are behaving like Stalinist officials in the late thirties, each one afraid to be the first to stop applauding.

These people have run out of others to blame, run out of bystanders to suspect, run out of decent family people to dismiss as Godless, sex-crazed perverts. They're turning the gun on themselves now. It might be justice, or it might just be sad. Whatever it is, it's remarkable to watch.

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ANS -- Making Sustainability Legal: 9 Zombie Laws That Keep Cities From Going Green

Here are some things you can be working on to make the world more sustainable.  They are not overtly political, though they certainly can be obliquely....  And she is asking for more ideas to add to the list. 
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Making Sustainability Legal: 9 Zombie Laws That Keep Cities From Going Green

By Sara Robinson, AlterNet
Posted on February 23, 2012, Printed on February 25, 2012
You've done your part, you good greenie, you. You've changed out the light bulbs, bought energy-saving appliances, learned to recycle, tuned up your bike, joined a co-op, and bought a transit pass and/or a fuel-efficient car. Now you're looking around, wondering what to do next. With spring around the corner, maybe you'd like to hang out the wash on a sunny day. Or perhaps you could build an apartment in your basement to increase both your income and your neighborhood's density….

Not so fast. Because this is the point at which your city government is very likely to swoop down in a flurry of paperwork and citations, telling you in no uncertain terms: No. You can't do that. We don't care how green it is, it's also against the law.

The Sightline Institute in Seattle is compiling a list of zombie laws ­ outdated city ordinances and homeowners' association policies that may once have served a purpose, but now mostly just get in the way of people's desire to live more sustainably. Sightline's Making Sustainability Legal Web site offers a couple of dozen examples ­ some obvious, some off-the-wall ­ and they're looking to add to the list. Sightline executive director Alan Durning hopes this project will give inspiration to activists looking for easy battles that will result in big sustainability wins.

Here are nine examples of local laws that stand in the way of change, and need to be pulled off the books:

1. Clotheslines. Consider the facts. The clothes dryer is one of the biggest energy hogs in the average American home. There's nothing like the sweet smell of sheets and towels that have been freshly dried out in the air and sunshine. Nineteen states have already put in place laws that allow home solar installations of all kinds. So why do over half the homeowners' associations in the US ­ including some in those 19 states ­ explicitly ban clotheslines in their neighborhoods?

A gathering "right-to-dry" movement is rising up to challenge these rules, asserting that laws permitting solar hot water heaters and PV electrical cells must also permit solar-powered clothes drying technologies (that is, clotheslines). Model legislation is being proposed, and legal challenges are being launched. Take up your clothespins, America! You have nothing to lose but your big electricity bills.

2. Granny flats in suburban houses. The first step in making suburbs more sustainable is to increase their density. Those big lots usually have plenty of room to tuck a small apartment into the basement or over the garage; and allowing people to build them has all kinds of salutary effects. The extra rental income can help families afford their homes. The units increase the share of low-cost housing, thus expanding the economic and age diversity of the neighborhood. They allow families more flexibility in terms of elder care and launching young-adult kids; and also provide a new option to public employees like teachers or cops who may not be able to afford to live in the affluent neighborhoods they serve. They also enhance property values, increasing the tax base. And as the density goes up, so does the argument for building new amenities closer by, and increasing transit service to the area.

But most homeowners know how hard it is to get a legal permit to build such suites. City and county governments are still clinging to the same 1950s ordinances that created suburban sprawl in the first place. If we want to update our suburban infrastructure, simply letting people build infill housing that raises density is the first and most obvious step to take.

3. White Pages. When was the last time you used the White Pages? I know -- me neither. In an era of online 411, that big paper brick that arrives at your door once a year is mostly useful as an emergency booster-seat for visiting toddlers. Yet most states have laws mandating that this volume must be delivered to every residence, every year. Most of these laws also allow people to opt out, but almost nobody knows about this, so few people do.

Some states are beginning to reconsider this, though. In a warming world, we need those millions of trees a lot more than we need the White Pages. it makes more sense to change the laws so people will only get these volumes if they specifically ask for them. An opt-in policy will allow people who like and use their White Pages to have them ­ and the rest of us can do something else with the drawer or shelf we used to keep it on.

4. Strollers on buses. It sounds ridiculous. But it's far from silly if you're a mom who's struggling to get around on transit with a stroller. In many cities, parents are required to unpack their kid and all their purchases out of the stroller, then fold up the stroller and pick it all up ­ stroller, bags and squirming baby ­ in two hands, then somehow get it all up onto the bus, then pay the fare, and then find a seat and not fall over while everybody else stands there, getting increasingly annoyed.

It's no surprise that this routine is forcing the nation's transit-loving urban parents off the buses and into minivans. They don't really have any other choice if they want to get the shopping done. Some cities are starting to allow babies to stay in the strollers, and letting strollers park in the same seat-free open areas reserved for wheelchairs. Others, like Portland, OR, are raising curbs and buying buses with extra-low floors, creating a level path for anybody on wheels to drive right onto the bus.

5. Couchsurfing. In these more constrained times, a lot of intrepid travelers are discovering the joys of sites like and Rather than pay for an expensive hotel room, you crash in someone's spare bedroom. The traveler saves money and gets a local guide, and the homeowner makes money and maybe a new friend. And best of all, the ecological footprint of travel is dramatically reduced.

This is legal in much of the country. But in some big cities where hotel competition is already intense, hotel owners are goading cities into cracking down. New York, for example, is notoriously rigid about telling people who they can and can't let stay in their houses, for how long, and under what terms. This is an emerging new travel option (or, more accurately, the modern revival of a cherished old custom of taking in lodgers and boarders), and Sightline warns that it needs to be aggressively guarded from a rising wave of ill-considered and protectionist regulation.

6. Toxic couches. While we're on the subject of couches, don't look now, but is yours toxic? Sightline's Web site explains why you might have reason to worry:

California's 12-second rule, a state flammability standard for foam-containing furniture, induces manufacturers to load their products with chemical flame retardants. It's a stupid rule: it contaminates tens of millions of homes across North America with toxic substances ­ compounds that spread, harming people and animals. Of all the toxic industrial compounds in your body right now, a substantial share are flame retardants that came from foam furnishings ­ probably a larger share than any other category of industrial compounds....But the rule has no compensating benefit for fire safety. The 12-second rule does not save lives in fires. It is useless. That's what the scientific evidence says. This rule is all pain, no gain.

This is one of those places where California's outsized population footprint effectively imposes that state's standards on the whole nation. Usually, that's a good thing from a progressive standpoint; but on this issue, it's putting us all in serious danger. In this case, it's a big national problem that will entirely go away if just one state legislature decides to end it.

7. Food cart regulations. One of the most savory benefits of increasing density in a city is the rise of street food. Food carts and trucks are a cardinal sign of healthy urbanism, providing expanded food options on the fly wherever crowds are gathering right now. And they're important new business incubators for upwardly mobile families as well.

However, wherever you see a thriving new street food scene, you'll almost certainly hear the grumbling of nearby restaurant owners complaining about smell, crowds, mess, and hygiene. All of this, of course, is code for "our profits." And critics naturally take their concerns to City Hall, where they get ordinances passed that stop the food trucks and carts in their tracks.

But these low-impact, small-footprint, flexible businesses deserve a place in our cities, and need to be protected. If the restaurant owners are smart, they'll join the movement instead of fighting it, and start launching trucks of their own. There's plenty of room for everybody ­ but only if we insist that there should be.

8. Person-to-person car-sharing. "The Pacific Northwest's rolling stock of cars and trucks constitutes a mind-boggling amount of underutilized capital," writes Sightline's Alan Durning. "The region has substantially more motor vehicles than licensed drivers. Everyone in the region could climb into a vehicle and no one would have to sit in the backseat. What's more, the typical car is parked 23 hours a day. Most of us have more money tied up in our cars than in any other physical assets aside from our homes, and all that wealth is just sitting there in the driveway depreciating."

The answer to this? Car-sharing. "Imagine leaving town for a week and coming back to learn that your vehicle had earned you $300 on the rental market. Or imagine that your car-sharing membership gave you access, on a moment's notice, to thousands of private cars and trucks sprinkled around your city. Why endure the expense and hassle of car ownership when you can drive any make or model you choose and only pay for what you use?" Car-sharing not only makes far more effective use of the cars we have; paying for driving by the trip also incentivizes us to drive much, much less (up to 44 percent less, according to a UC Berkeley study) than we do.

Once again, the only thing standing in the way of implementing this idea is a thick wall of state laws. Some make it impossible to assign insurance liability to the person actually driving, leaving it all on the owner. Others try to apply stiff car rental taxes to car-sharing companies. Fortunately, California has led the way: in 2011, the state legislature cleared away the legal obstacles, and now car-sharing is thriving in the state. Other states are watching and following suit.

9. Pay-as-you-drive insurance. Auto insurers and sustainability experts agree: The most sensible way to buy auto insurance is by the mile. The less you drive, the more you save. Recent advances in technology make tracking car mileage easy; and consumers like it, because you don't have to buy an expensive policy for a car you don't drive very often. You pay for exactly what you use ­ no more, no less. 

But most states still have insurance laws on the books that assume that people buy insurance by the year, not by the mile. There are old laws covering cancellation notifications and oversight regimes that simply aren't compatible with the idea of buying and using insurance in blocks of 100 or 1,000 miles at time. A few states are starting to revise these laws, but there's still a very long way to go before this will be legal.

Sightline's Making Sustainability Legal project is actively on the lookout for more zombie laws that are ready to be changed. You're invited to email yours to

Sara Robinson is a trained social futurist and the editor of AlterNet's Vision page. Follow her on Twitter, or subscribe to AlterNet's Vision newsletter for weekly updates.

© 2012 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
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ANS -- Republicans Have Gone Crazy Before

This is by Doug Muder.  It's about the conservative party periodically going crazy, and then getting over it, for a while.  You'll see my plaintive questions at the end of the discussion (so far).
Find it here:   

making sense of the news one week at a time

Republicans Have Gone Crazy Before

The most comforting thing about reading history is that you know the story comes out at least sort of OK. After all, if the world had really ended back then, you wouldn't be sitting here reading this book.

This week I've been reading Rule and Ruin: the downfall of moderation and the destruction of the Republican Party from Eisenhower to the Tea Party. You might imagine that story would be depressing, but I'm finding it strangely hopeful, for this reason: Republicans have gone crazy before, and they more-or-less recovered from it.

So they might recover again.

Regular readers of the Weekly Sift know that I think the current Republican Party is insane. I agree with David Frum that conservatives have created an alternate reality "with its own facts, its own history, its own laws of economics". As a result, the main Republican "accomplishments" of recent years have been to prevent the country from dealing with real-world problems like global warming or growing inequality, and they're fighting a last-ditch effort to stop Democrats from doing anything to help the 50 million Americans who lack health insurance.

Delusional thinking is understandable when the fantasy is at least pleasant. But in the conservative Bizarro World, our country is ruled by foreign-born usurper who is trying to destroy the Christian religion and replace the Constitution with either Communist dictatorship or Sharia or (somehow) both. We are beset by all manner of bizarre conspiracies, mapped out from beyond the grave by Saul Alinsky and orchestrated by Marxist multi-billionaire George Soros.

The real world has many problems, but at least it's not that bad. If somehow we could shake our Republican countrymen awake from their nightmare, we'd be doing them a favor.

So anyway, I'm down on Republicans these days. But what you might not realize ­ because I have assumed it goes without saying ­ is that I fully support the idea of a Republican Party. I agree with a recent Thomas Friedman column: America doesn't need a third party,

What we definitely and urgently need is a second party ­ a coherent Republican opposition that is offering constructive conservative proposals on the key issues and is ready for strategic compromises to advance its interests and those of the country.

On all sorts of issues ­ education, pollution, housing, poverty ­ we need a vigorous two-party debate on national standards vs. local control. Neither side should win that debate once and for all, because both represent American values that go all the way back to Hamilton vs. Jefferson.

Similarly, all the way back to the construction of postal roads and the Erie Canal, American economic development has balanced the public and private sectors. We need one reality-based party championing public-sector development and another championing private-sector development.

Isolationism vs. internationalism, workers' rights vs. owners' rights, preserving traditional mores vs. correcting past injustices ­ what's called for in each case is not a final victory of one side over the other, but a continuing tension between conflicting values. That's why we need two parties.

Two sane parties, that is.

Consider the budget. Just about everybody understands that it's a bad idea to borrow another trillion dollars every year from now on. So there's room for reasonable people to debate whether to close that deficit primarily with spending cuts or with tax increases; how that pain should be spread among the rich, the poor, and the middle class; whether to start tightening the screws immediately or wait until the economy is stronger; how to split the spending cuts among safety-net programs, investments in education or infrastructure, and defense; and many other questions.

Instead, last summer we debated whether or not the United States should pay its bills. That was not a sane discussion. And in a Republican presidential debate in August, none of the candidates would accept a hypothetical deal in which spending cuts outweighed tax increases 10-to-1. Instead, all Republican candidates have proposed tax reforms that would substantially decrease revenue. They focus tax cuts on the rich, while sometimes actually increasing the taxes of the working poor. Vague or completely unspecified spending cuts make up the difference.

On social issues, Republican presidential candidates (eventually including Romney and Paul) have endorsed an anti-abortion "personhood" position so radical that it was decisively voted down in Mississippi. Got that? Mississippi is too liberal for the current crop of Republican presidential candidates.

It's crazy over there.

So here's the comforting lesson from Rule and Ruin: Republicans were at least this crazy in 1964, and they got over it.

Those of us old enough to remember Barry Goldwater at all have had our memories sepia-tinted by the mellower Goldwater of the 80s, and 90s, who warned against the dangers of Jerry Falwell's Moral Majority. But the Goldwater of 1964 was every bit the full-blown loon that Michelle Bachmann is today.

Just like present-day crazies, the 1964 extremists imagined a previously invisible conservative majority that Richard Nixon had failed to inspire in 1960, but which would turn out in droves if Republicans nominated a "real" conservative this time. In the defining pro-Goldwater tract A Choice Not an Echo Phyllis Schlafly explained:

it looks as though there is no way Republicans can possibly lose so long as we have a presidential candidate who campaigns on the issues. But … how did it happen that, in four major presidential campaigns*, Republicans were maneuvered into nominating candidates who did not campaign on the major issues?

It wasn't any accident. It was planned that way. In each of their losing presidential years, a small group of secret kingmakers, using hidden persuaders and psychological warfare techniques, manipulated the Republican National Convention to nominate candidates who would sidestep or suppress the key issues.

Top that, Sarah Palin.

[*the four treacherous candidates were Wendell Wilkie in 1940, Thomas Dewey in 1944 and 1948, and Richard Nixon in 1960]

The Tea Party of 1964 was the John Birch Society, whose founder believed Dwight Eisenhower had been a communist sympathizer. "It is difficult," he wrote of the five-star general and two-term Republican president, "to avoid raising the question of deliberate treason."

But within a few years all that had been swept away. Just as Goldwater's elderly mellowness brightens our memories of him, Kent State and Watergate have darkened our picture of Nixon, who presided over a very moderate administration overall. From the Nixon years we get the Clean Air Act, OSHA, the EPA, and the first SALT treaty with the USSR. Nixon opened relations with China, appointed more blacks than Johnson had, and increased the minority role in federal contracts both on the small-business level and in labor unions.

Nixon's Republican Party is what I wish we had back: a party of diverse views, leaning conservative and sometimes pandering (as any party does) to the electorate's baser instincts, but by-and-large facing the nation's real problems and trying to solve them. Even the party's right wing was purging itself, as Bill Buckley succeeded in marginalizing the Birchers.

So how does an insane party get its mind back? First, it has to nominate a true extremist like Goldwater. (Rick Santorum would fill the bill nicely.) Until it does, the delusional system will explain every defeat as it did McCain's in 2008 or Nixon's in 1960: He wasn't extreme enough.

Second, the extremist has to go down to a historic defeat (like Goldwater's 61-39 shellacking by LBJ) that proves for a generation that the invisible majority does not exist. Again, I'm confident Santorum could handle this part of the script.

And finally, the sane-but-cynical conservatives who thought they could harness the crazies have to become targets of insanity themselves. This is already happening. Fox News and the Drudge Report, for example, are already under fire for having "turned left". Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman have been assailed as "liberal" and even " socialist". Newt Gingrich is " not a real conservative" either.

This will keep getting worse, because when reality becomes optional, no one is safe. At some point, even conservatives with impeccable credentials will realize that the beast is eating its own and has to be put down.

And then they will put it down. It happened before. It can happen again.


  • []  Matthew Platte On February 20, 2012 at 11:13 am
  • Permalink | Reply The trouble with the "we've seen it before and it turned out okay" point of view is that it overlooks many byproducts of John Birch, Joe McCarthy, et al – that fear of appearing "soft on [global] Communism", fear of "losing Viet Nam" like China had been lost led *Democratic* presidents as well as their Republican cohorts, directly into the disaster we call "Viet Nam".
    How many Viet Nam's and Iraq's – and now Iran's – can this country afford? How does one "sweep away" these all-too-real-world effects of Republican insanity?
    No, reading history is not at all comforting. Absolutely not.

    (Sorry about all the punctuation; I'm a bit of a crank on this subject. :)
  • []  kim siebert On February 20, 2012 at 2:22 pm
  • Permalink | Reply Many. many good points here, Doug. I appreciate the perspective and can agree with the thesis, to a great degree.
    However, when you say "it turned out okay," my thoughts turn toward those who get caught in the Crazy Storm while it rages– like the people in the present day who've lost their houses because of the mortgage debacle. Sure, this too will even out over time yet there those people are left out in the cold, their lives perhaps forever short-circuited. Looking at this episode from a 30-years-after vantage point may show– on a macro scale ­that it all panned out. But the human tragedy, as well as the societal set backs that Matthew speaks of, remain irrevocably embedded in the landscape.
    I personally remember the Nixon years as being almost entirely about the war and his administration's dishonesty about the number of civilian casualties as well as the secretive spread of military involvement in neighboring countries. When Watergate happened, it seemed like the validation we'd all been waiting: President I-am-not-a -crook was one, indeed, just as we'd been saying all along. Admittedly, I am not the student of history you are so I have only my own recollections to rely upon but when I hear you describe his presidency as "moderate" , it takes me aback.
    On a separate note, your phrase "when reality becomes optional, no one is safe" perfectly describes why I find myself in the depths of despair for our beloved- but-flawed country. While I do believe what you say about a Santorum candidacy being a potential antidote for the Crazies, I remain terrified about might actually happen if, indeed, he were to get the nomination. Things happen over which we have little premonition or control; if behavior followed logical patterns…well, things'd be mighty different from how they are.

    • []  weeklysift On February 23, 2012 at 5:03 pm
    • Permalink | Reply Imagine what a Nixonian Republican would look like today: willing to protect the environment, negotiate with foreign enemies, enforce workplace safety, compromise with Democrats, and respect the expertise of scientists.
  • []  Anonymous On February 20, 2012 at 5:25 pm
  • Permalink | Reply No party is a good party.
  • []  Daniel On February 20, 2012 at 5:39 pm
  • Permalink | Reply Hmm. I can see why Friedman would think we don't need a non-corporatist party. ("Clinton Democrats are the best kind of Democrat!") But I'm a little surprised you would agree with him about that.
  • []  Kim Cooper On February 25, 2012 at 3:22 am
  • Permalink | Reply Why does this cycle happen? Does the Democratic Party also have a cycle like it? Are we stuck with all the damage the conservative party does cyclically? Somehow, it doesn't seem like an ideal situation. Is there a way out?

Friday, February 24, 2012

Fwd: More pictures...............

Hi everyone -- this is from one of our readers.  Her neighbor's tree fell during a recent storm, as did lots of branches etc.  The tree fell across a fence, destroying it, and into her yard.  But is the insurance company her neighbors pay to take care of just this kind of thing going to take care of it?  NO! 
If you will send this on, perhaps it will go viral and embarrass the insurance company enough to make them do something.  My idea, not hers. 

Get this:

Our neighbor called us to keep us up to date on his insurance company.

They are giving him the run around, and also said that his tree in our

yard is our responsibility not theirs.  Typical insurance company, they want

their premiums, but don't dare make a claim, and if you do, they will

raise your rates!   That is why I hate insurance companies, but you have to

have them, they make me sick.


He said  he has had it with them, so he and a buddy (and Bill) are going to cut the

tree up and repair the fence and forget the insurance company.  His buddy works

for or owns a tree cutting company, where he use to work and he wants the trunk of

the tree.  Our neighbor also said that he found a place that will take all of the

branches and recycle them!  Probably cut them all up into mulch I would guess.  It

was a beautiful living tree and home to squirrels and many birds, it has got to be at

least 27 years old. 

There is tons of damage in the area... trees, fences, lawn furniture in other people's yards

(we have someones lawn chair pad), etc.


Oh, and by the way, a person is NOT in good hands with Allstate!!!!!!


Side of house too:


Roots and all right out of the ground......powerful winds.


Across the street more fence down:

ANS -- A Better Death than They Offered Him

Here is a very interesting article and subsequent discussion about death.  About what to do when one's brain goes before one's body, and you're trapped in a miserable facility.  It's an interesting discussion, really.... Article is by Brad Hicks. 
Find it here: 

Previous Entry

A Better Death than They Offered Him

  • Feb. 22nd, 2012 at 10:57 AM
Brad @ Burning Man
I've been following this story since it first broke, a hair over a month ago: Carol Daniel, " Nursing Home Sued after Resident Walks Away and Dies," KMOX-AM, 2/21/12. Capsule summary: back in January, on one of the only actually seriously dangerously cold days we've had this winter, an elderly dementia patient escaped from a Belleville, Illinois nursing home; police found his body, where he had laid down to die in a creek bed out of sight, two days later. The guy's family are distraught that the nursing home failed to stop him from escaping, and now say that they should have known better, because the guy had a history of escape attempts.

Oh. My. Fucking. Gods. I should damn well think he was trying to escape. I will, too.

Maybe I'm projecting my own issues onto this story, but let me tell you: I have no more intention of dying of progressive dementia in an in-patient convalescent facility than I have of dying hooked up to a van-load of late-medieval torture devices in some "intensive care" facility. Both of these ways of dying consist, in my opinion, of taking advantage of the dying person's weakness to inflict tortures on them, uncaring of how much you're making their life suck, just so you can selfishly hang onto them.

Can you begin to fucking imagine how awful even the best damned convalescent facility for dementia patients is? Even if these places had far higher budgets for entertainment and decor than they do (and they don't), even if the staff to patient ratio was adequate (and it's not), even if patients had more than comfortable amounts of living space to themselves (and they don't), what is the daily, hourly life of a convalescent dementia patient? Alternating periods of painful confusion that must feel every bit as unpleasant as being dosed with some horrible hallucinogen, and moments of lucidity in which, gods help you, you discover that you are imprisoned with several, or several dozen, or gods forbid a hundred or more, people, most of whom are in the grip of the same awful mind-robbing hallucinatory experience.

Worse luck for a guy like me? Just statistically, almost all of them will be mundanes. People that I have nothing in common with. Worse luck? Old mundanes. Have you spent time around old mundanes, lately? They can only talk about three things: sports (in mind-numbing detail), which parts of their bodies have malfunctioned most recently (in grotesque detail), and how awful liberals are. Complain, complain, complain. And I don't entirely blame them; chronic pain fucks you up, and I get that.

But if, because you can't stand the thought of a world without me in it, because you have utterly failed to emotionally prepare yourself (as I have) for the fact that some day I will die, you want to stick me in a building full of patients who were over-worked, who are exhausted, ill-informed people? And the caretakers who are, though overwork and exhaustion, being turned into the same people they are stuck caring for? Fellow patients who have spent the last decade or more of their lives living with chronic pain and who have thus lost almost any ability they ever had to think about anything but chronic pain, and the disappointment of their failing bodies? And leave me nobody to listen to except for them projecting that pain and disappointment outwards onto people I actually admire? When even I no longer have the mental clarity to read and to discuss current events, when my mind is fading in and out, when awful gaps in mental clarity where I don't know when it is or where I am or why I hurt so much or who are all these awful awful people are the only relief I get from the awful awful people themselves?

Then I hope to the gods that on some super, super cold night, during one of my remaining moments of clarity, I find an un-alarmed fire door with nobody between me and it, and I hope that clarity lasts long enough, as it did for this guy, for me to find some place where I won't be captured and returned in time, some place with a view of the trees and the stars. I hate the cold, but what I hear from people who've nearly died of it is that only the first hour or so is unpleasant, and even it doesn't sound any more unpleasant than being in a convalescent home. As awful a death as freezing to death would be, it's a death after a couple of hours of torture, not a couple of years.

I absolutely will be one of those patients who keeps making escape attempts. And I'll be relentless about it. So if somebody does get away with sticking me in one of these places, and I do end up escaping? Don't you fucking dare blame them for not stopping me. Because they probably can't. Because I can, and will, keep trying and I only need to succeed once.

(Of course, I've long assumed that it would never come to that. We Hickses are a mayfly breed; none of us has ever lasted that long. But I'm starting to feel cursed with unwanted longevity, so I'm starting to have to worry about this.)


( 28 comments ­ Leave a comment )
[info] naath wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 05:02 pm (UTC)
I couldn't agree with you more. And god damn it I want my choice to be respected.
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[info] dd_b wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 05:07 pm (UTC)
Part of the trick of course is not to have too many failures -- and not have a history of escape attempts for other reasons. That last may be hard to control if dementia is in fact the issue.

I'm spending too much time in a place, not aimed at dementia, but a fairly good care facility, with my mother, the last few years. It's not wonderful, and it's probably not helping keep her mentally sharp.

Old mundanes now may be slightly worse than old mundanes of your generation. But mundanes are still mundanes, and the majority are mundanes by definition.
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[info] janetmiles wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 05:07 pm (UTC)
I agree. Gods willing my body will die before my brain.
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[info] otterhill wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 05:16 pm (UTC)
Ways to avoid this
Find one or two people you trust and give them you healthcare power of attorney. Without this the state or a hospital will make decisions for you if they decide you can't.
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[info] anadamous wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 05:25 pm (UTC)
The complication for caretakers who are trying to be responsible but are not really enlightened about the need for a dignified death is that dementia, Alzheimer's, etc are well-known to induce wandering in patients, even wandering away from homes where they're being cared for by their families, etc.

Which is not to say that many of them don't have a good reason to "wander". Even the Mayo Clinic site makes this pretty clear.
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[info] westrider wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 05:35 pm (UTC)
My Mom and I have actually talked about this and are both right on board with you. Not sure how things might go down with my Brother in that scenario, I don't think he's put as much thought into this sort of thing and I don't think he's as good as letting go.

And purely for myself, well, I like the cold. I honestly can't think of a way I'd rather go.
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[info] kathrynt wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 05:45 pm (UTC)
My husband's grandfather was in the best dementia care facility I've ever seen in my entire life. It rose to the level of "bleak," as opposed to "horrifying" or even merely "grim," and cost $15K per month.
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[info] xiphias wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 05:51 pm (UTC)
Two words: living will.

Make sure that anyone who might have a hand in deciding what happens knows this.
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[info] radiumhead wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 05:52 pm (UTC)
I dont know if theyre better off dying on the streets, alone.

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[info] lysystratae wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 05:55 pm (UTC)
My family history suggests I'll live to be about 80, and be fully mentally intact the whole time (and yet, that is still the one thing I worry about). I've already volunteered to make sure my various friends and family get the ending they want; I'll be happy to add you to the list.
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[info] hugh_mannity wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 06:16 pm (UTC)
I'll be right there with you, jimmying the locks.

(Which reminds me, I need to brush up my lock-picking skills before I get much older -- I turn 62 this summer)
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[info] cestmama wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 07:18 pm (UTC)
Eh. Forget the cold. I intend to steal a Fentanyl patch and cut it with a pair of scissors. If you cut a patch with medicine on it, the medicine is released very quickly, so I'll get a big dose of the medication. It's much more potent than morphine and it will stop my breathing pretty fast.

Barring that a double deck of heroin should do the trick.
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[info] jesslin wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 07:32 pm (UTC)
The problem, of course, is that we have at least some legalities in place to deal with the body that dies before the mind (living wills, assuming they're followed). We have no such provisions for the mind that essentially dies before the body - it's either murder or suicide, both illegal even if they would be more merciful or dignified.

I will absolutely agree, though, that if I manage to off myself once my mind is gone, nobody better be suing on my behalf. A functional brain in a broken body is one thing, but once the mind is gone, what's the point??
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[info] elizilla wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 07:43 pm (UTC)
Twice a week, I go to see a local fan who had a stroke last summer. He can't talk, he can't read, he can't get out of bed. One side of his body is paralyzed, and he's in pain. They have him on a feeding tube. He's stuffed in a way-too-small room with an irritable elderly mundane who has a loud tv and bitches about the noise when we visit, and who is just ambulatory enough to steal his clothes.

I'm not his particularly close friend, but he doesn't have anyone else, and no one should be left alone in this warehouse. I don't have his guardianship, so all I can do is rattle the court appointed guardian's cage when something is really bad. The nursing staff aren't bad people, but they are mundanes and they're spread thin. There are things that don't get done without someone to push for them - for example, getting his fingernails and toenails cut. I think it's important that the nursing staff see that there's someone who can talk, who is paying attention, so I make sure they see me.

He will be trapped there for the rest of his life, and that could be many years. I'm sure he'd rather be dead, but it's not allowed, so I guess I will just keep visiting and trying to get him smaller things to make him slightly more comfortable, like getting his nails trimmed.

The nursing staff tell me that the majority of their patients never get any visitors at all. They have day rooms with nothing in them. Even though my friend cannot read, I have been taking boxes of books up there. If it makes the day easier for any of them, it's worth doing.
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[info] amblinwiseass wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 08:45 pm (UTC)
And people wonder why I smoke so much.
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[info] alobar wrote:
Feb. 22nd, 2012 11:19 pm (UTC)
I worked briefly in a nursing home. There was a professional prizefighter whom I thought was over 70. He was under 50. When he had $$ he used heroine.

There was a guy who took me aside and begged me to help him escape. Had I not been so poor I would have passed him a cutter for the chain link fence, but as I could barely buy food, I could not.

Then there was a semi-senile old lady in a wheelchair. She looked over 100, but I have no idea how old she really was. A nurse introduced us. She said I was new here. The old lady thought I was a patient like her. She patted my hand, looked into my eyes, and said "You'll like it here. Everyone is so friendly and the food is great." I had nightmares for years about being a patient in any nursing home!
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[info] drewkitty wrote:
Feb. 23rd, 2012 03:06 am (UTC)
My stepmother was an elder abuse investigator. She enjoyed it, and not because she was busting people. It was the power trip.

I am not sure which frightens me more: the odds of dying young (but far older than most of the soldiers that hit the beach at Normandy) or the odds of living a very, very long life, the last third of which is misery and pain.
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[info] tzaddi_93 wrote:
Feb. 23rd, 2012 04:13 am (UTC)
My grandmother had always made my mom promise never to put her in a nursing home. She had a stroke when I was in the 8th grade, which destroyed most of her mind. She spent the next 5 years dying by inches. We went through all of her savings and still ended up borrowing money from a cousin of my mom's in order to pay for in-home caretakers so she could stay in her house.

She barely remembered anyone by the end. Several times, when it got really bad, my mom pulled me aside and told me, in no uncertain terms that if she started losing her mind when she got old, she was going to kill her self. She also made it clear that if I tried to stop her, she would never forgive me. Don't blame her a bit, though it was startling to hear the first time.
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[info] pingback_bot wrote:
Feb. 23rd, 2012 06:16 am (UTC)
The Infamous Brad - A Better Death than They Offered Him
User [info] yyttt referenced to your post from The Infamous Brad - A Better Death than They Offered Him saying: [...] so I'm starting to have to worry about this.) Source: [...]
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[info] papersky wrote:
Feb. 23rd, 2012 01:34 pm (UTC)
I heard about a dementia care facility where they put a fake bus stop outside. The patients escaped, and waited for a bus that wasn't coming, and after a while the staff came out and asked if they'd like to come inside and wait.

I couldn't believe that nobody else saw this as a horror story.
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[info] nancylebov wrote:
Feb. 23rd, 2012 02:40 pm (UTC)
I didn't see it as a horror story, but I should have. I do think Time Enough for Love can be read that way-- match the first section with the last line.

More generally, a lot of humor is either about low status people dominating high status people, or vice versa.

As for the main subject, I think anyone who isn't well above average in either being loved or money (or very much preferably both) isn't going to get adequate care if they're old and disabled. The necessary hands and minds just don't exist.

The only way out is much better tech for keeping people in decent shape and/or supplying care.

I think the keeping people in decent shape part might be easier. There are already people who are mentally sharp and physically mobile past their nineties, and (I think) who don't have extended incapacity before they die. It's definitely genetic, and it's being studied.
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[info] anitra wrote:
Feb. 23rd, 2012 05:31 pm (UTC)
My maternal grandmother is one of these - she's a bit frail, but honestly she's been "a bit frail" since she was 70. She's now 96... still lives on her own (with some family a mile away and more 20 minutes away). Her hearing is failing and she can't drive, but she reguarly goes for walks using a device that's like a rolling walker with a seat (causing her daughters much consternation). She's probably in better health than her eldest daughter who is 72 and has had type II diabetes for at least 15 years...

I hope, for all our sakes, that when she goes, it's quickly. Brain and body around the same time. The older she gets, the more likely that seems.
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[info] lydy wrote:
Feb. 23rd, 2012 04:45 pm (UTC)
I didn't think of it as a horror story. In it's own way, it seemed kind of sweet. Alternatives...there are so few alternatives. The fake bus stop allowed people a sense of going someplace and doing something. It is no kindness to try to argue someone who is 90 into believing he's 90 when his disease makes him certain that he's 9 and has to catch a bus home to see his mother. You won't win the argument, and the patient becomes incredibly agitated. Instead, a nice, neutral space to wait...eventually they forget. That's the horror, really, that eventually, they forget. But that's the central truth of Alzheimer's, and all the horror in the world doesn't stop it from being the case. This is the same facility that stopped arguing with the baker who woke up every day at 4 am and wanted to make bread, who was proud that he never missed a day of work. Instead of the usual institutional answer of making him stay in bed for the prescribed amount of time and so on, they let him get up, go to the kitchen, and mess about just like he always did. It gave him a sense of purpose. They didn't say if his bread was any good, probably wasn't. Here's the thing: all the choices are bad. I don't want it to be me. But with intransigent brain damage, sometimes gently allowing the person their illusions is kinder. I truly think. But gods, I hope it's not me.
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[info] nancylebov wrote:
Feb. 24th, 2012 10:41 am (UTC)
Whether it's a horror story depends on your take on the mental state of the people waiting for the bus. If they're trying to get away (especially if it's for a good reason), but too mentally foggy to do anything effective, it's a horror story. If they are simply living a past scenario where catching a bus is the reasonable thing to do, then a fake bus stop is a kind solution.
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[info] anitra wrote:
Feb. 23rd, 2012 09:51 pm (UTC)
I'm with you, Brad - a quick death, both body and mind at the same time, please. I've had relatives with Alzeheimer's and/or dementia, and it's hard on everyone involved... also had a great-grandmother whose body failed her long before her mind. She could barely communicate, and couldn't take care of herself at all... but she lit up when her children or grandchildren came to visit her, she laughed at their jokes, and she could make herself understood with much effort. Still, she ended up needing to be in a nursing home for over 10 years before she finally died, and that can really suck the life out of a person.
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[info] brockulfsen wrote:
Feb. 23rd, 2012 10:32 pm (UTC)
I used to be with the volunteer emergency service here in Oz, the State Emergency Service. Our city was advertised as a retirement destination, so had a large number of nursing homes.

We were often activated by the Police for large scale searches for wanderers and almost weekly put on standby if an escapee/wanderer was not found in a couple fo hours.

About half were just wanderers, about a quarter negligence and stupidity on the part of care facilities (thankfully the industry has been cleaned up somewhat since) and about a quarter were clearly deliberately looking for a way out and many of those for a "way out".

You could often pick those looking for a place to die. No matter how quick we were we seldom found them alive. Extremely hot or cold weather was often the trigger, or a couple of weeks of rain. Got to the point we knew the patterns, so would start with cliffs and creeks at those peak times. Some we'd find, just curled up somewhere like an old cat who'd snuck off to die. Some would take a more decisive route, usually veterans, a quick swan dive over a local cliff. Alcoholics (even dead sober ones) would lay them down to sleep on the railway line, luckily we didn't have to deal with those most of the time.

I am a strong advocate of assisted suicide, not just because my family is a Huntington's kinship group.
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[info] hairyfigment wrote:
Feb. 24th, 2012 02:51 am (UTC)
You're only mostly dead.
Have you considered cryonics? They don't have any clear provisions for assisted 'suicide', presumably because they don't want to endanger the people they have frozen. But it still seems like it could work. I have a hard time taking any possible downside seriously - how vindictive do you believe the gods are?
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Brad @ Burning Man
[info] bradhicks wrote:
Feb. 24th, 2012 06:48 am (UTC)
Re: You're only mostly dead.
I cannot begin to imagine any way to convince me, personally, that it is moral to spend that kind of money on a corpse. Life is for the living.
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( 28 comments ­ Leave a comment )

Brad @ Burning Man
[info] bradhicks
J. Brad Hicks
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