The buzzards return.

We live close enough to Lake St. Clair that we see some strange wildlife from time to time. My vet is on call with the local police for animal rescues, and keeps a photo album of his greatest hits, including a multi-point buck spotted swimming in the lake in midsummer, far enough from shore he likely would have drowned without help. But mostly it’s less dramatic. Today I was walking home from the bus stop and saw two turkey vultures slowly circling around the hospital on the corner. Circling, and then landing. Vultures.

I wonder if they were there for some sort of evening feeding. I think I’ve seen too many western movies.

Cold today, but nice to get out, even if it was just to see some vultures and walk to and from the bus stop. Even in the gentrifying downtown, Detroit has such ..interesting street life. Raving schizophrenics, doddering drunks, pacing crackheads — you see them all. It reminds me of the early ’80s in Columbus, when the big mental institution near town closed abruptly and suddenly the streets were awash in the…well, none of the names are OK anymore, so let us say the halt, the lame and the insane. What became of them all? Some died, some found their way to other towns and…well, I’m not sure. There was one guy who pushed a cart through downtown, crowing like a rooster. He was hit by a car.

So, do we have some bloggage? Sure.

If you’re reading this after 6 a.m. EDT, look to the right rail for some stories by my colleague Ron, about what happened when a two high schools in central Michigan merged, one mostly white and more affluent, the other mostly black and poorer. It’s a sensitive topic, but he did a really nice job with it. It’s in four parts; start at the beginning.

Elsewhere, rarely have I been more grateful that I don’t smoke as when the e-cigarette craze caught on. Now it’s called gaping — stop changing it to vaping, autocorrect — and you should not be surprised to learn there’s a festival:

The vapers at Vapefest look as if they’re taking a smoke break — sorry, vape break — from a sci-fi convention or a Harley-Davidson ride. Some of them are clearly sporting scabs from skateboard accidents. Some of them are clearly wearing one of their half-dozen Men’s Wearhouse suits. Some of them look like they belong at a Leesburg PTA meeting, or in Middle Earth, or the 1910s. One vendor here sells both “shire malt” and “Grandpa’s cough medicine” e-liquids (or “juice”), the vials of flavored nicotine that are electronically vaporized when you suck on the mouthpiece of an e-cigarette, or “mod,” as the vapers refer to the device.

And from the WashPost archives, a blast from the past: A profile of the late Fred Phelps that is surprisingly revelatory.

Me, I’m off to bed. I hope the vultures don’t get me. Nor you.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

49 responses to “The buzzards return.”

  1. Dexter said on March 25, 2014 at 3:57 am

    My nephew’s wife just posted this animal rescue video, one of the odder ones, little deer got tangled up in Christmas lights, cop to the rescue. A place called Hudson, but no state given.

    I was watching Spike Lee’s “Clockers” on NETFLIX and a scene showed two crack heads sucking on that glass dick, and I was taken by how much the whole operation looked like the vapers we all see everywhere. It took a while, but the vapers are finally being shoved outside with the old school tobacco and lighter crowd. I am usually suckered in by new fads, but as yet, never an energy drink, never an e-cigaret.

    Just after Reagan and crew released most of the mental patients and kicked them to the curb, I took a long-planned trip on Amtrak with my wife and a pack of kids to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. It was a nice trip and all, but I was shaken by the street scene, all the wretched souls approaching strangers with the signature cry of the confused disenfranchised, “Ya gotta cigaret?” . It was a hot July day, and I remember one obese man, dressed in his Sunday best, shirt, tie, suit, dusty Brougham shoes, sorting the trash cans, finding a discarded chicken bucket, and immediately eating everything some more fortunate soul had rejected. My group and I ate at a nearby Steak and Egger, a chain of greasy spoons, and I ordered a couple egg sandwiches to go, just knowing we would be approached by some hungry person as soon as we hit the street. Now the new-to-the-street people weren’t bonding, they were all by themselves in great numbers, but as I handed my bag of two sandwiches to the first person who asked, she looked inside the paper bag and immediately shuffled over to another wretch and handed off one of the sandwiches. It was a pathetic, shameful scene, and my wife and I were thoroughly disgusted and hopeless to do anything more than buy a little grub for a couple of the destitute.

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  2. alex said on March 25, 2014 at 7:34 am

    When I lived in Chicago in the mid-’80s, I couldn’t go anywhere without being surrounded by beggars, and there were a few who became familiar fixtures in the neighborhood. There was Burlap Man, a large black dude who wore a robe fashioned from coffee sacks from the Starbucks dumpster. He always had a cheerful mien despite the privations of street life, and when he died unexpectedly it merited mention in one of the free alt-weeklies and was the talk of East Lakeview.

    Speaking of which–East Lakeview I mean–I got to see Phelps & Company in action in front of the United Methodist Church on Broadway and Buckingham, where a pastor had been defrocked for performing gay weddings for his mostly gay congregation. In a neighborhood where almost anything goes, the Phelps clan were the biggest freak show ever. I’d forgotten about his favorite epithet for other denominations not his own–sodomite churches.

    So much to chew on today. We’re gaping. (Goddamn autocorrect!) We’re doing it on the advice of our doctor, who doesn’t endorse it exactly except as a means of quitting cigarettes, which are far worse for one’s health. I’d heard/read all the scary reports about the unknown dangers of e-cigs, they haven’t been studied long-term, etc. and raised the point with my doctor, who said that the bad press is nothing but a smear campaign being funded by Big Tobacco and Big Pharma, which are losing a lot of ground to the new hip and cool (and pleasurable) nicotine delivery system that makes the gum, patches, pills, chaw and smokes pretty much obsolete. At this point, I could probably give it up completely. I’m able to enjoy it with social drinking and when others light up real cigarettes I’m not even tempted to ask for one. They taste like shit. Already I’m feeling the benefits–much less congested and my teeth aren’t stained, and best of all it costs almost nothing to buy a bottle of juice every couple of months compared to cigarettes at $6 a pack (and we’re in a state where tobacco is relatively cheap). As for bars and restaurants, at least in the hipper places the management doesn’t seem to mind as long as you’re low-key about it. The vapors don’t linger in the air like smoke does and they smell vaguely like freshly baked cookies, so one can puff discreetly without arousing much attention. I was told that some people who don’t know anything about e-cigs get bent out of shape when they see others using them, but mostly it’s not an issue. I have nothing but praise for my e-cig. It’s the only thing that ever made me hate cigarettes. Screw Chantix. That shit cost a small fortune and didn’t do anything but mess with my head.

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  3. Alan Stamm said on March 25, 2014 at 7:39 am

    “Last spring, they thought we were going to come here and destroy the high school. They realize now we’re just here for an education.” — Chris Bell, sophomore from Albion, Mich., now learning in Marshall, 13 miles away

    Links to those recommended articles, not yet in rail here, by Ron French about Albion and Marshall schools merging:

    * Part 1:

    * Part 2:

    * Part 3:

    * Part 4:

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  4. Suzanne said on March 25, 2014 at 8:14 am

    Ah, yes, the turkey buzzards! A sure sign of spring! When we moved out into the NE Indiana hinterlands, my previous knowledge of such fowl was limited to movies. I admit to being continually surprised at their size (big) and at the fact that they really, really do fly in circles around there impending dinner. The only time they creeped me out was when I, out for an afternoon walk, noticed about 8 of them in a roadside tree. Staring.
    I turned & went the other way.

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  5. beb said on March 25, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Being spared the ravaged of civilization, er autocorrect, I am left to wonder what the word is that autocorrect keeps turning into “gaping.” Is it “gasping”?

    From what I’ve read a lot of the discharged mental patients ended up in prison where they are probably being treated even worse then when they were in insane asylums.

    I’m convinced that insane asylums and orphanages are both needful things in society but to do them right would take a lot of money for staffing and a layer of bureaucracy to provide constant oversight of the facilities. But as we’ve learned over the last generatino or two, when it comes to saving money or doing something right, saving money wins out every time. Scrooge once asked “are they no poorhouses?” The answer today would be we have some love underpasses…”

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  6. beb said on March 25, 2014 at 8:32 am

    ..lovely underpasses…

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  7. Julie Robinson said on March 25, 2014 at 8:33 am

    It’s a busy day so I’ll have to come back later to read, but I wanted to share this self-penned obituary of James Rebhorn, which concludes with these words: he was a lucky man in every way.

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  8. Ann said on March 25, 2014 at 8:43 am

    I agree. The Albion-Marshall stories are excellent. And it turns out that I’m good friends with a lobbyist here in Chicago who is from Albion and is surely related a the person with the same last night quoted in the article. Small world.

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  9. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 25, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Reagan kicked the mentally ill to the curb? Try Kennedy. The Community Mental Health Act was passed in 1963, and the major institutions were closed down or radically downsized from 1964 to 1974. Again, plenty of blame all around, because everyone wanted to claim credit for the cost savings more than even the improvement of care (there was some of the latter, to be fair), and no one wanted to keep promises for supporting the community end after taking the savings on the asylum/facility end.

    It took another thirty years for the county & regional mental health system to cobble together what was promised in ’63, and it’s still fragile as all hell; we have group homes for DD adults, drop-in centers and mental health clinics whose boards are largely made up of former and current consumers of services, and a very scrawny network of counseling centers and emergency MH services, along with an addiction & recovery system that’s a mile wide and an inch deep.

    Dems talk a great game, and don’t often deliver, in my last twenty years of working in the belly of the beast; I have many colleagues who are still dealing with the cognitive dissonance of the fact that John Kasich’s administration & Rob Portman have directly delivered dollars and support far beyond anything we’ve seen since Celeste’s time. Ted Strickland was worse than useless — his wife, Frances, was a strong voice, but had little leverage and her husband showed no sign of caring; Hope Taft was a presence in lobbying as well as fundraising, but there was no sign her husband could spell mental health, let alone understood it. AWOL, both of them. So Kasich’s involvement and support has been a breath of fresh air, especially as the MH aspects of the ACA are still not understood, and as with housing supports under the stimulus bill, we’ve lost more money than we’ve been given, so right now it’s looking net negative until the whole Medicaid side of the equation sorts out.

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  10. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 25, 2014 at 9:28 am

    Great quote in this overview piece: “good policy ideas aren’t self-executing.”

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  11. elaine said on March 25, 2014 at 9:56 am

    As a veteran of public library service, I’ve encountered the gamut of souls who would have been institutionalized decades ago. Most are harmless and just looking for a place to light, including one of our current everyday visitors. He’s homeless, and English is his second language. He sits and reads quietly all day long, save for the occasional karate chops to the air and outbursts of excited chatter directed at no one. And what’s he reading? Books on federalism, the US constitution, English literature, psychoanalysis and auto fuel systems. What a backstory he must have.
    But to our local “I’ve got mine!” crowd, folks such as our reader don’t belong there. Just once I’d like to tell the complainers about the “bums” in the library to either pony up the funds for a proper care facility or STFU.

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  12. coozledad said on March 25, 2014 at 10:26 am

    So while fighting Obamacare defined the Republican party over the past six years, their presidential candidates will now be selected on the basis of accepting Obama’s medicaid expansion and increasing the flow of federal money to the state.

    There are no Republican policies, only rank opportunism and posturing. If you follow the money at this point, the early cash is starting to drift around ciphers like Kasich and Scott Walker. Sheldon Adelson and the Kochs want Jeb Bush, because the Bushes are old hands at doing the dirty shit. Old keepers of that Nixon flame:

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  13. adrianne said on March 25, 2014 at 10:57 am

    Turkey buzzards have infested the nearby college town of New Paltz, N.Y. They are scary-looking critters.

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  14. alex said on March 25, 2014 at 11:00 am

    Vaping, beb. I’m on my PC now instead of my Mac and it doesn’t strenuously object to this word, just underscores it in red.

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  15. coozledad said on March 25, 2014 at 12:01 pm

    Hog-nosed Nixonian failure Donald Rumsfeld wants us to stay in Afghanistan forever. Why do you flout the will of the American people, Don?

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  16. beb said on March 25, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    “Vaping” – Thanks, alex.

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  17. Andrea said on March 25, 2014 at 12:49 pm

    The dogeweather dog for my location is wearing a fur hat today. “Much shiver.”

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  18. Jeff Borden said on March 25, 2014 at 1:09 pm

    The only time I ever want to hear Donald Rumsfeld is from a criminal dock in the Hague, where if there were any justice he, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Addington, Libby, would be on trial for war crimes.

    I love the “trained ape” reference, too. Just beneath the surface of the old-line right-wingers –regardless of how well educated, well traveled or well dressed– there is all too often just a fucked up redneck asshole.

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  19. Dexter said on March 25, 2014 at 1:19 pm

    All set for an afternoon with my friend the dentist. We’ll have plenty of time to gossip and talk sports…this is a 90 minute session with multiple procedures. It is not good to lose dental insurance and miss the twice-a-years and then…and then…uh oh. But now, back on track. Until next week when we do it again to complete my restorations. This guy has been my dentist for 37 years; I have total trusting confidence in him. That is a very good thing. Recently I watched “Marathon Man”

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  20. Connie said on March 25, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    My dentist has a miraculous tool that means no more novocaine shots. The laser water drill!

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  21. Scout said on March 25, 2014 at 1:34 pm

    I do not have dental insurance, so I only go once a year… or so. Not that this should replace regular visits to the dentist, but we recently discovered oil pulling.

    I’ve been doing it for several weeks now and my teeth are whiter, my gums are healthy looking, and my teeth are a lot less sensitive to cold. We use the organic coconut oil from Costco. It actually tastes good. I figure it’s one of those things that can’t hurt and maybe it will help, especially in light of my spotty dentist visits.

    I read the Phelps piece. We already knew he was nuts, and this certainly confirms it. While it is apparent he mostly poisoned the family well, a couple of them got out more or less mentally intact. I liked this statement from Nate Phelps:

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  22. LAMary said on March 25, 2014 at 3:10 pm

    There are TV commercials for the electronic cigarettes here and the celebrity spokesperson is Jenny McCarthy. She’s so smart about so many things.

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  23. Deborah said on March 25, 2014 at 4:02 pm

    The documentary “The Unknown Knowns” about Rumsfeld is finally opening soon. I can’t wait to see this movie. It’s by the same guy, Errol Morris who did “Fog of War” about McNamara. Another good documentary by Morris is “Tabloid”. Morris is supposed to have a piece in the NYT online this week about Rumsfeld’s twisted philosophy.

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  24. Deborah said on March 25, 2014 at 4:07 pm

    Scout, oil pulling sounds interesting except for swishing for 20 minutes. Did I read that right?

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  25. brian stouder said on March 25, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Thin Blue Line was his too, yes?

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  26. Julie Robinson said on March 25, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    I neglected to put on the parka of misery this morning, so I was much shiver.

    Scout, you swish that stuff around for 20 minutes without gagging? I can barely make 30 seconds with the fluoride at the dentist.

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  27. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 25, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    Yep, Errol for both.

    I read the Phelps piece, and he sure sounds like he rings the DSM-V bell for borderline personality disorder. Haven’t gotten up to speed with the new stuff yet, but the grandiosity and morbid maunderings, plus a hint of manic with not so much depressive ends of his emotional swings: BPD. And might wonder about a bit of some kind of attachment disorder from childhood, but now I’m just vaping at straws.

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  28. Deborah said on March 25, 2014 at 4:31 pm

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  29. Dexter said on March 25, 2014 at 4:36 pm

    Success. Half way there , next week Doc finishes up my teeth project.
    Gossip-wise, not much. Our local pro baseball sensation, who was an All-American at Ball State and then signed for a huge bonus with the Boston Red Sox a few years ago, has chucked his pro baseball career already: injuries did him in, robbed him of foot speed, and a neck injury interfered with his hitting. So after a few years knocking around the minor leagues and never making it to the big club in Boston, he’s finished and has to make it out here in the real , hard-ass world.

    God, it feels great to have a whole tooth again.

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  30. Dexter said on March 25, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    My favorite Errol Morris piece, part goofy, part patriotic, all salesmanship. Go on, it’s only 31 seconds.

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  31. Scout said on March 25, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    Yes 20 minutes. It sounds grosser than it is. I just put a spoonful in my mouth before I get into the shower. I was skeptical too, then I tried it. Now I love it.

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  32. Heather said on March 25, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    I just read something about Gwyneth Paltrow doing the oil pulling. Of course she does. I’ll still try it. I’ve got coconut oil from making my own deoderant.

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  33. Heather said on March 25, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    I meant to type “deodorant,” of course!

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  34. alex said on March 25, 2014 at 6:18 pm

    Oil pulling… now I finally have a use for that jar of coagulated coconut gunk on my kitchen counter. Thanks for the tip.

    I’d purchased it as a “safe pesticide” after reading that if you dissolve it in some vinegar and spray it around in corners it repels spiders. I went so far as to spray it directly onto spiders and their webs. The spiders were unimpressed and stood their ground. The mice were similarly indifferent to the cotton balls soaked in peppermint oil that were supposed to drive them out — advice from the same lame web site. They also became adept at licking traps clean of peanut butter without setting them off. So much for being kind to the animals or the environment.

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  35. LAMary said on March 25, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Alex, there are interesting recipes that use coconut oil. I’ve had pie crust pastry that used it and it was really good. Let me look around and I’ll find some for you. I am the nice person who forces recipes on people who didn’t ask for them.

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  36. LAMary said on March 25, 2014 at 7:22 pm

    Here you go. I knew I had saved one from the NYT.

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  37. coozledad said on March 25, 2014 at 7:59 pm

    Coconut oil works really well for making flour tortillas. It’s an excellent substitute for lard. It’s also good for popcorn.

    Organic coconut oil is supposed to be a healthy saturated fat, and like avocado oil, helps to promote the elasticity of vascular tissue, which is good, because if you eat a lot of it, you are going to need to move your ass.

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  38. nancy said on March 25, 2014 at 8:27 pm

    People who eat paleo are always going on about coconut oil. But they have all sorts of weird enthusiasms, food-wise.

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  39. Deborah said on March 25, 2014 at 8:29 pm

    New Gravatar, me in the driver’s seat of the DeLorian in front of the Cocteau Theater, owned by George RR Martin.

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  40. Deborah said on March 25, 2014 at 8:30 pm

    New Gravatar isn’t showing up??

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  41. Deborah said on March 25, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    Speaking of coconuts, this weekend had some lintel soup made by a friend of ours, at the end she used coconut milk to make it creamy instead of cream. It was delicious.

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  42. coozledad said on March 25, 2014 at 8:39 pm

    The organ meats obsession is the most disquieting thing about paleo to me. Kidneys and livers tend to accumulate the stuff the animal needed to filter out of its system- heavy metals, pesticide residues, antibiotics residues.

    The diet strikes me as an invitation to swift urea buildup in the tissues, plus ketosis. I wonder how many of the paleo dieters already have gout. It shouldn’t take very long.

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  43. coozledad said on March 25, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    And speaking of ketosis, what the fuck is wrong with these people? What makes some simpleminded douche believe Jesus has authorized them to run for office? This poor oxygen starved creature is in the Republican primary for our district’s state house seat with two other racist numbnuts:

    bottom line, to say it simply is to put God back into the schools and other institutions; such things as prayer and Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag back where it should be. God created this world and taking Him out as we all see, what is happening in the world today. It requires obedience to His teachings in the Holy Bible to bring down the blessings of Heaven upon our counties, communities, and nation.Invite you to visit my website at If you agree with my platform, I ask for your vote and ask that you tell everyone that you come in contact with that I am running and send them to my website.Tell everyone
    that I will stand up for their rights as our founding fathers that gave us the Constitution and Declaration of Independence did. They prayed to God for guidance and blessings on what they were undertaking to do for the welfare of the people. I personally know “Nothing is Impossible with God” and that with Him we can accomplish anything that is His will. I am a person of Action. Action changes things. I believe in setting goals, planning, and setting a time to accomplish goals and take Action and move in faith in God to accomplish the goals.My platform covers Responsible Spending of Taxpayers money, Improving Quality of Education, Lower Unemployment Rate, and No Kill Animal Shelters. I have prayed about these and many other concerns that fall under the headings of my platform. God has given me very simple solutions. I am a candidate with SOLUTIONS and I take my advice from God not man. God is all powerful, has all knowledge, and all loving of all
    people, the only one that can help us change things. I put my trust in God.I pray that you will research the candidates at the Federal, State, and local level in this Primary 2014 and go the polls and VOTE for the one that you desire to represent you.
    Remember if your friends want to vote for a Republican and they are not registered as a Republican let them know they can register as an Unaffiliated Party and vote for whoever they want to in the Primary and also in the General Election. They can change back to their party if like after the Primary. To change party have from now up to cut off date of April 11, 2014 for voting in the Primary 2014.
    God Bless America.

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  44. Dexter said on March 25, 2014 at 8:58 pm

    On “Naked and Afraid” last week, the Brit who was on the deserted island brushed his teeth with nasty charcoal from his fire pit. I about gagged.
    Not much on TV…I guess I’ll watch a free OnDemand film…lessee…OK, “Blue Velvet” is on the list.

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  45. Dave said on March 25, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Coozledad, it reads like some postings a acquaintance puts on Facebook. Written about as well, too.

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  46. brian stouder said on March 25, 2014 at 10:33 pm

    Let me just say, the 13 miles to Marshall stories will pull you in, and hurt your heart.

    To me, public education is #1 on the list. This is where citizens are made.

    I think a lot of the “reform” movement (privatization, vouchers, stripping away of local control, and direct support to religious schools) is nothing less than overt re-segregation – when it’s not simply an out-and-out money-grab.

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  47. BigHank53 said on March 26, 2014 at 1:09 am

    A store opened in my not-very-large town in Virginia, selling nothing but electronic vaporizers, “juice”, and accessories. It’s next door to the Starbucks, larger, and the interior is arguably nicer. I don’t know if they’re going to succeed, but they’re clearly planning on making a lot of money. A blackly entertaining side note: due to the fact that the e-cigs are utterly unregulated, they’re giving away free samples.

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  48. alex said on March 26, 2014 at 6:47 am


    We’ve got a big e-cig store here that keeps getting bigger and it’s always jam-packed with people. It’s almost easier to order your stuff online than to deal with the long waits.

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  49. Dan F. said on March 27, 2014 at 3:59 pm

    They’re called VAPISTS, consarnit.

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