"Joe Romm is Climate McCarthyite-in-chief"


The headline comes from environmentalists Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus over at the Breakthrough Institute. The Breakthrough guys are calling out Center of American Progress climate bully, ah, blogger, Joe Romm. As background, Shellenberger and Nordhaus recite some of the details of Romm's inaccurate attack on the SuperFreakonomics proposal to research climate engineering as a back up plan to cool the planet. In particular, they report the fact that Romm tried to solicit a quote from a source in order to "trash" SuperFreakonomics. They also cite the super-strange incident in which Romm trashes Keith Kloor, former editor of Audubon Magazine, when Kloor objected that real journalists don't try to solicit specific quotes from sources. The call out is well worth reading, but to whet your appeitite I include some choice selections below:

The character assassination, the bullying, the psychological projection—it all adds up to Climate McCarthyism, and Joe Romm is Climate McCarthyite-in-chief. Joe Romm's "Global Warming Deniers and Delayers" play the same role as Joe McCarthy's "Communists and Communist sympathizers." While Romm built a loyal liberal and environmentalist following for attacking right-wing "global warming deniers"—a designation meant to invoke "Holocaust denier"—he spends much of his time attacking well-meaning journalists (e.g. here, here, and here), academics (here and here) and activists (here, here and here) who take the issue of global warming seriously, accept climate science, and support immediate action to address it. His aim is to intimidate and prevent increasing numbers of people from questioning climate policy orthodoxy, and especially Democratic efforts to pass cap and trade climate legislation.

And make no mistake, Joe Romm's political agenda is as mainstream among liberals today as Joe McCarthy's was among conservatives in 1953. Romm is held up by Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman, UC Berkeley's Brad DeLong,The New Republic's Brad Plumer, Grist's Dave Roberts, and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman as an inspiration. He works for John Podesta, Obama's transition director and head of Center for American Progress. And he is the leading spokesperson for Waxman Markey climate legislation that passed the House, and Kerry-Boxer legislation in the Senate.

Think about it: If you're an ambitious young Democratic Hill staffer, a liberal policy analyst, or a struggling young reporter, why would you ever stand up to a guy who is famous for first trashing people to their editors, employers and funders in private emails, and then, if that doesn't work, in public blogs? Why would you challenge someone who seems to have so much of the liberal establishment on his side?….

In the end, the purpose of bullying is not simply to victimize individuals, it's to intimidate the bystanders. What most bystanders want is to not be attacked by the bully. It ruins your day and threatens your career. So if you are a reporter you hew to the climate orthodoxy because, well, after all, look at what Romm did to Keith Kloor.

This is the state of liberal debate about climate change. Those who question apocalyptic predictions are treated as global warming deniers or traitors or worse. Those who advocate solutions other than cap-and-trade have their characters assassinated. Those who stand up to Joe Romm find themselves turned into projection screens by an angry and vindictive bully….

There will always be bullies like Joe Romm—they are not the problem. It is the the establishment figures who goad them on, and the bystanders who could speak up but do not, fearing the consequences of doing so. If we are to move to real solutions to global warming, and protect some level of basic human decency, Joe Romm and his enablers must be challenged. For Climate McCarthyism isn't just bad for climate policy, it's anathema to liberal and democratic values.

For my take on Romm and the SuperFreakonomics climate engineering proposal go here. See also some of my views of the Breakthrough Institute's proposals here.

NEXT: Bruce Ratner Finally Admits It: "This isn't a public project"

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  1. Joe Romm is Climate McCarthyite-in-chief

    Do Brits not count? Because I would say George Monbiot is definitely a strong contender for that title.

  2. If it is so undeniably true, why are they so afraid of letting the other side have a say? If you are right and telling the truth, you shouldn’t have to bully people.

    1. If it is so undeniably true, why are they [the GW theory supporters] so afraid of letting the other side have a say?

      Because this is not like the Natural Selection/Creationism debate – there is a shitload of money available for those that get into the “green economy” bandwagon.

      This is more akin to the drug use debate, where the true believers in prohibition have all the guns – the State and the traffickers. Same case with the GW hysteria.

  3. Acting like a unprecedented dickhead when it comes to climate change is a massive tell, right?

    Obviously, Romm, et al, stand to profit handsomely from the Capn’ Trade fraud as ol’ Carbon Al does, and won’t let anyone get in the way of those riches.

  4. The general rage about and dismissal of geoengineering fixes to climate change expose the AGW crowd as what they really are: Neo-luddite enemies of modernity.

    1. Geoengineering fixes are pie-in-the-sky and viewed as a last resort. What feeds the skepticism about them is the worry that policymakers and others might be persuaded that there is an easy fix and thus we can ignore the core problem for longer.

      But it is rich to accuse the people who actually believe in what science says–and are advocating for huge shifts in worldwide technology to address it–of being Luddites.

      1. Your constant delusion that anyone here gives a shit what you think is quite amazing in it’s tenacity.

        1. Your constant delusion that anyone in the rest of the universe gives a shit what you think is quite amazing in it’s tenacity.

          1. Well, you’re here reading me and commenting about me. I got your panties in a twist, you snotgargling drivelcunt.

            And besides… on environmental threads, you’re supposed to post as Chad, dipshit.

            1. It’s so cute how you fringe antigovernment wackos can’t fathom the possibility that more than one liberal exists in the world.

              1. I know there are millions of you, like cockroaches, endless fretting about how to make our lives as terrible as possible.

                But I was giving your philosophy the benefit of the doubt in not believing it produced two profoundly imbecilic disciples like you.

                Any, bored now. Go fuck yourself to death, asswipe.

      2. I believe Chad had a problem with granite countertops. That sounds like newfangled technology right there.

      3. hehe, and creating a global regulating regime for CO2 is not pie in the sky? are you some kind of really long elaborate flame? it just boggles the mind that anyone could really be as dumb as you are.

        1. Perhaps, but at least CO2 reduction has the virtue of probably having the fewest unintended consequences of all alternatives–including the status quo.

          1. Really? Creating a global market for carbon permits, in which any of the players can create and destroy permits and “credits” at will, and hand them out to politically connected interests, and allow those interests to write derivatives contracts on those permits: you’re sure such a scheme will be free of unintended consequences?

            1. Well I’m for taxing CO2 emissions out of existence, but given the special interest clusterfuck that is the health care bill, I expect something as convoluted as you describe.

              1. In other words, you are for taxing technological civilization out of existance.

          2. Since the majority of economists who have studied the situation disagree, I wonder where you got this impression.

            1. Economists are by recent events quite evidently morons, how about we leave science up to scientists?

              1. Huh?

                Every economist who said government shouldn’t centralize the money supply… Every economist who said government shouldn’t encourage risky housing debt… Every economist who said government shouldn’t permit greater leverage on chopped up securities than the leverage on the securities themselves… All these economists were right on target with regard to recent events. The current problems and their unexpected depth were caused by legislators and regulators top to bottom.

                Regardless, why do you imagine we should trust scientists with the economic ramifications of carbon abatement policies?

                1. But economists aren’t usually equipped to understand the natural processes involved to the extent necessary to advise on proper action.

                  1. The economists are taking the effects of the natural processes as predicted by scientists as a given. Then they figure the economic costs of climate change through those natural processes along with the economic benefits of continuing to use cheap fossil fuels.

                    They find, again and again, that the costs are no greater than or only modestly greater than the benefits. And they find that in no way should the present economy be burdened with high costs that the future economy will be much better equipped to handle.

                    1. Mike, the problem is the error bars on the economists measurements. They find things like that the proper cost of a ton of carbon is somewhere between a couple of bucks and several hundred dollars, with a standard deviation much larger than the average figure. Their cost-benefits swing wildly based on complete wild-ass guesses they have to make about future demographics and technology, and swing even more wildly based on the discount rate they have to choose. In other words, garbage in, garbage out.

                      Oh, and 92% of economists agree that we should enter a greenhouse gas emissions treaty involving a carbon tax or cap-and-trade.


                      Why are you betting against 97% of scientists and 92% of economists?

                    2. 92% of economists who have published articles at all related to climate change prefer a carbon tax or cap-and-trade over command-and-control when asked the question…

                      Between market based mechanisms, such as a carbon tax or cap?and?trade system, and command?and?control regulations such as performance standards,which is preferable as a tool to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

                      This result goes under the category of duh.

                      But in support of your point on the cost of carbon, that survey of economists does find a maximum estimate of the social cost of carbon to be $10,000,000 per ton of CO2.

                      Still not quite Tony “tax CO2 out of existence” numbers…

        2. It will be as effective as sex education programs that only mention abstinence.

      4. And reducing CO2 emissions by spending money on PSAs is somehow more plausible than geoengineering?

      5. Re: Tony,

        But it is rich to accuse the people who actually believe in what science says–and are advocating for huge shifts in worldwide technology to address it–of being Luddites.

        You’re begging the question, Tony – you’re assuming that the ‘science says’ what these true believers think it says.

        For instance, none of the climate models used in the 90s to advocate for action (any action) did not predict the slight cooling that the globe has been experiencing in the last decade – there has been no explanation for this discrepancy, except an acceptance that climate behavior is not linear (which would render the linear thinking behind the CO2 emissions equals higher temperatures meaningless.)

        1. Sorry, that was “none of the climate models predict…” Strike the uneeded “did not”.

        2. What “cooling trend”? Oh, you mean that statistically insignificant anomoly.


          You are right, our models cannot yet predict noise. Go figure.

          1. [yikes]

            Are people still confusing weather and climate around here?

            1. Among other things, i.e., asses and elbows.

          2. You realize that much of the models are based on what amounts to “noise”, right?

            Considering the remarkably wide distribution of data points on nearly all relative graphs, plus the remarkably shoddy data collection that goes on in this field, I still can’t figure out why you people (Chad) don’t see the flaw in relying on them so heavily.

            It’s the same bullshit problems with epistemology that all of the tremendously bad (Keynesian/Neo-classical) economists face. What’s distressing though, is that while the world’s bad economists seem to be content with fucking up predictions over 5-10 year time spans, some climatologists feel so secure in their hubris that they can predict 100 years.

            1. Get some peer-reviewed data, Sean. It will do your heart some good.

              Data from the Heartland Institute just might be a we bit suspect. The link below contains the references you will need.


      6. Core problem?

        Like the same way that premarital sex is a core problem behind unwed teen pregnancy?

        How do you propose that the state deal with teen pregnancy?

  5. Since the 70’s, mankind has been accused of killing the earth in several different ways. This is merely the latest kill the planet craze they’ve globbed onto. Give it 10 years, we’ll have moved on to something new, like excessive Helium emissions or something.

    1. Even in 1808, Willim Blake was complaining about “dark Satanic mills.” Pastorialism, the Romantic movement–it only takes a generation for city-dwellers to start romanticizing rural life.

      I bet Babylon had people that bitched about ziggurats “blotting out the azure sky.”

      1. Isn’t that what the Tower of Babel story is essentially about?

        1. The Tower wasn’t built for Jehovah, so he threw a tantrum. He is a jealous God, after all.

          But, you might be onto something:

          And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

          While it is about pride, it could also be about forcing people to live more simply in their environment.

          1. And if you don’t like that translation:

            Teh Towur ov Babel

            1 And all uv de Urf was lolcatspeekinkz usin’ lolcats werdz. 2 Whial teh menz be movin’ eest, they finded vallee in teh land uv Shinar an sitted ther. 3 Dey sed “hai, letz maek teh brix an make ’em harrd wif fiir.” So dey uzed brix for ston an bitumen (wtf izzat?) for mortar. 4 Den dey sed “hai, letz maek reel tall towerz for us so we be togethr forevr!”
            5 So, Ceiling Cat comeded down an saw teh men an ther towerz. 6 Den Ceiling Cat sez “Oh noes, if they all togethr after mah hi spot, they gonna get mah hi spot! 7 I gots’ta confuzzle ’em and stop ’em!” 8 Dat’s wai Ceiling Cat pwned ’em an dragd ’em away from ther towerz. Dey stop buldin’ after dat. 9 So teh towerz wuz calld Babel cuz Ceiling Cat made teh men babbul ther befor movin’ dem.

            1. I can haz linguistic kaos?

              1. No kaos.

                How To Speak LolCat

                General Spelling Rule: Homonymous Misspellings

                While some of the rules about spelling pertain to common typing errors, baby-talk, kindergarten misspellings and community-specific mannerisms found on online message boards, the important skill is to learn when using lolspeak is how to borrow the spelling of certain parts of one word to misspell another word that shares certain phonetic sounds (or that just rhymes).

                You can mix them around like this:

                * ghost -> goast or ghoast (borrowing from “toast” or “coast”)
                * feet -> feat (borrowing from “meat” or “heat”)
                * moan -> mown (borrowing from “own” or “mow”)
                * crowd -> croud (borrowing from “cloud” or “found”)
                * nothing -> nuthing (borrowing from the typical sound of the letter “u” as in “umbrella” or “hut”)

                This works best when borrowing from real English words and just replacing/adding (clusters of) consonants. However, it’s also sometimes important to avoid instances where the misspelling of one word would produce the correct spelling of another word. (i.e. “crowd” and “crowed”).

                In effect, the words in question could come out (theoretically) as still sounding the same when read, but looking quite off… under a humorous premise that cats use very simple logic in spelling: 1 phonetic sound, 1 spelling (which is actually true for many languages).

  6. Give it 10 years, we’ll have moved on to something new, like excessive Helium Hydrogen/water vapor/Li-On battery/bio-diesel/magic energy pellets emissions or something.


    It’s Flintstones all the way down.

  7. He’s always been very good to me.

  8. Maybe the geoengineering folks have to spin their technology as something that won’t turn a profit for any private corporations. As long as evil, greedy CEOs are not expecting payment for the service of cleaning up the environment, all will be well…

    The money ends up in the “right” hands under the green energy, enviro-jobs policies. Dog forbid that someone turn a profit from the climate tragedy 😉

  9. I have to figure out how I can Whole Foods these GW fools. Mackey is my hero.

  10. Ronald Bailey is an enabler of global warming skeptic basher bashing. Reason adds up to Climate McCarthyite McCarthyism, and Ronald Bailey is Climate McCarthyite-McCarthyite-in-chief.

    When climate McCarthyites attack personally the views and validity of individuals speaking up about so called falacies in global warming doctrine, Bailey and his cohorts, unfailry attack these journalists and scientists with soft science and fear. They stifle debate by trying to silence those who are trying to silence their opposition. They degrade the character and intellect of those who are degrading, and smearing their advisaries in the debate on global warming and legislation. Bailey and Reason bully their opposition with personal attacks, and here-say evidence. They build their evidence against these valiant nay-sayers (to the nay-sayers) through a self concocted and supporting web of articles and evidence that lean on one another like a tower of cards.

    There will always be bullies like Ronald Bailey — they are not the problem. It is the theories and figures who goad them on, and the bystanders who could speak up but do not, fearing the consequences of doing so. If we are to move to real solutions to global warming McCarthyism, and espounge all levels of basic human decency, Ronald Bailey and his enablers must be challenged. For Climate-McCarthyism-McCarthyism isn’t just bad for climate-McCarthyism policy, it’s anathema to liberal and democratic values.

    1. PS. I just owned you Ronald Bailey

      1. The proper term is Meta-Neo-McCarthyite.

      2. Great Ceaser’s Ghost! He’s right!

        But, does Ron know that you know what he knows what you know that he knows?

      3. If you post that you “owned” somebody that means you did no such thing.

    2. you screwed up the one thing you didn’t copy and paste. troll.

      1. yep, caught me, totally a troll. In no way am I a regular reader. My above post was in no way a joke or humorous. You astute reason reader and H&R thread comentator, totally (tots) put me in my place. Kudos to you sir!

  11. Pfizer abandons site of infamous Kelo eminent domain taking:

    The private homes that New London, Conn., took away from Suzette Kelo and her neighbors have been torn down. Their former site is a wasteland of fields of weeds, a monument to the power of eminent domain.

    But now Pfizer, the drug company whose neighboring research facility had been the original cause of the homes’ seizure, has just announced that it is closing up shop in New London.

    To lure those jobs to New London a decade ago, the local government promised to demolish the older residential neighborhood adjacent to the land Pfizer was buying for next-to-nothing. Suzette Kelo fought the taking to the Supreme Court, and lost. Five justices found this redevelopment met the constitutional hurdle of “public use.”


    1. Whoops!

      Never mind.

      1. Bygones!

    2. I totally see where you’re coming from, we should be focusing way more on the small victories that are being made like returning ugly housing developments back to nature by demolishing them!

      Their former site is a [land] of fields of weeds, a monument to the power of eminent domain.

      Sounds lovely, surely a great habitat for various bird and rodent species!!

      1. The Detroiting of America

  12. I don’t have a scorecard, and consequently haven’t the vaguest idea who these squabbling children are.

    Can we just set them all adrift on an ice floe, and tell them to work it out amongst themselves?


  13. Ron – This is hilarious, I posted about this same topic this morning on the Enterprise Blog. (http://blog.american.com/?p=6949)

  14. Ron,

    Now would be a good time for you to tell us your thoughts about anthropogenic global warming.

    Do you believe that human-caused release of carbon dioxide is causing measurable and irreversible warming of the planet, and that it is the primary driver of said warming?

      1. Awesome, thanks Ron! I’ll check it out.

  15. All of you Rommites are in favor of weather terrorism.

    1. Get out of my brains.

  16. Are you, or have you ever been, a disbeliever of APG? Answer the question!

    1. I think you mean AGW. If not, then I will have you know that I have always been a fervent believer in the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies

  17. I got y’all beat, you’re all neo-Maunder Minimum deniers.

    1. Don’t vaccine communist children.

      1. We need a Jenny McCarthy – Amanda Peet wet T-shirt cat fight to settle this.

    2. Which color causes autism?

  18. it’s anathema to liberal and democratic values.

    Great punchline. ROFLMCO2O.

  19. All those little arms in a pile…

  20. Joe Romm = retarded fetus.

  21. Wow! You guys are really working with some thin gruel now. Was there anything but ad hominem name-calling (both ways) in this silly article?

    The fact is that SuperFreakonomics was trash, full of misleading inuendo and easily-refuted crap. Levitt et all should be ashamed of themselves, and plenty of people, Romm included, called them out.

    In the meantime, the data just keeps piling up against your already thin arguments, and El Nino is now kicking in full force. Anyone taking bets on average temps for 2010 or 2011? I mean, without global warming and with your oh-so-powerful cooling trend, what are the odds that one of the next two years will set the record in recorded history? Since the record goes back over a hundred years, the odds should be around one in fifty, right? I’ll be kind and even drop that to 20:1. Surely that is a bet in your favor, if your theories are true. Any takers?

    1. I’m not sure “ashamed” is the the way they should feel. As far as I can tell, they wrote a well-intentioned chapter on a very narrow aspect of the issue that was based on a quick review with some climate scientists who are exploring geo-engineering.

      Like most of the freakonomics world, it is more an exercise in “take a different take on it” speculation than a serious analysis of the issue. Back of the napkin mental experiments.

      Now, if someone were to take their chapter seriously, that might be shame worthy.

      And I want to be clear…I mean their chapter, not the concept of geoengineering. That should be taken seriously and studied carefully.

      1. If they had done some “back of the envelope” calculations, they would have known the solar panel albedo argument was bunk. Or they could have simply asked any of the many experts who work (literally) just around the corner from them. Or they could have quit spouting the word “harmless” to describe the SO2 plan, which obviously and self-evidently IS harmful in several ways.

        I agree that geo-engineering should be studied. Actually, I don’t know of anyone who disagrees. However, I also do not know of anyone who matters who believes it should be the first choice, or indeed, anything other than a last resort. Almost all the options have significant downsides, both certain and uncertain. Most do not completely mitigate the problem, and fewer still actually even attempt to solve it.

        There are a couple of geoengineering options – cloud seeding and ocean fertilization – that I feel warrant the most attention. This is because it is at least possible that if mastered at a level far beyond our current understanding, we could use actually derive positive side-effects from these schemes. The only positive side-effect of the SO2 scheme I have heard of is prettier sunsets.

  22. Those who advocate solutions other than cap-and-trade have their characters assassinated.

    When did cap-and-trade become the orthodox? Not the choice advocated by most of the big names calling for action as far as I can tell. Is this just Romm’s preference?

    Anywho…this article, like so many RB posts these days, is simply beside the point. Any political debate these days is unfortunately required to take place in a din of irrelevant partisan name-calling and general noise from the extreme ends of the spectrum. Typically those who are screaming the loudest have the least substance to add to the debate.

    Re: Neo-luddite enemies of modernity.

    Geoengineering schemes are more magic than science. Straight outta “Crimes of the Hot.”

    Sure they should be studied, but existing technology can get us to carbon neutral if we can collectively man-up and break old habits.

  23. Geoengineering schemes are more magic than science. Straight outta “Crimes of the Hot.”

    Sure they should be studied, but existing technology can get us to carbon neutral if we can collectively man-up and break old habits.


    The range of viability for geoengineering solutions is wider than the range for alternative energy sources. Injection of sulfate particulates to get a negative forcing is quite cheap and the proof of concept provided by volcanic eruptions makes its effects quite preditable – the only downside is it requires periodic reapplications (still cheaper than alternative energy) and doesn’t address ocean acidification, which isn’t the main problem. Post-emission carbon capture is unlikely to be competitive with alternative energy sources and putting “shades” in orbit is impractical at significant scales, but sulfate particulates are quite practical and require only engineering the optimal delivery mechanism. Crutzen estimates that it would cost $25b per 0.75 W/m^2 of negative forcing, which is a damn good deal.

    The blanket dismissal of geoengineering can only be achieved by completely ignoring the relevant science.

    1. The blanket dismissal of geoengineering can only be achieved by completely ignoring the relevant science.

      That is awfully similar to how condoms and birth control pills are ignored by some people when it comes to unwed teen pregnanc.

      1. Btw, I love how your “relevant science” forcefully states that the preferred method to solve this problem is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Did you guys even read it?

    2. Ummm, particulates

      1: Block sunlight (that’s the whole point). This means reduced crop yields and reduced biomass of all sorts.

      2: Will increase acid rain

      3: Will further deplete the ozone layer

      4: Will need to be reapplied constantly and indefinitely

      5: Actually worsens ocean acidification

      6: Does not solve the problem, only addresses the symptoms

      It is a vastly inferior plan to one that actually *fixes* the problem in the first place.

      1. RE 1) So does reducing atmospheric CO2. The difference in biomass accumulation is trivial in either case.

        RE 2) and 5) depends on the mechanism. Neutral sulfate salts shouldn’t impact either. When the sulfate is introduced via SO2 such as when burning coal, it is an issue, but that isn’t the prefered mechanism anyway.

        3) Tradeoffs are inescapable, and as the article points out, it’s a minor amount, a small fraction of the annual regeneration that is occuring due to CFC reductions.

        RE 4) Switching energy sources imposes costs each year too. No real difference here.

        RE 6) Given the political and technical obstacles to other approaches, treating the primary symptom is better than nothing.

    3. Well, blanket dismissal of anything is a problem, but I don’t think your example article is a very good one to use to make your argument.

      1. I actually advocate roughly what the article endorses, using sulfates to buy time until a better option comes along. The fact of the matter is there’s nothing viable anywhere in the pipeline for alt energy except fission. Solar is bumping up against the theoretical efficiency bound for normal solid state devices and the plastic ones are going nowhere fast. Biomass processes don’t even break even on energy in most cases.

        Here’s my challenge – come up with some other way that can get the same reduction in forcing within a order of magnitude of the same cost. The options are shooting sulfates into the atmosphere or sitting around with our thumbs up our asses waiting for the magic alt energy technology that is always promised to be a few years away but never comes; I don’t think it’s a hard choice.

  24. When the Vikings were farming Greenland, wasn’t Florida above water?

  25. I think you mean AGW. If not, then I will have you know that I have always been a fervent believer in the Atlas of Peculiar Galaxies

  26. Mr. Romm has no post nt he NASA datacooking, so here’s my comment today (that I expect he will spike) to his post on his new work of fiction fiction:

    The End is Near…for Climate Alarmists. NASA data cooked. IPCC data cooked. East Anglia data cooked. Time to update the resume Joe. Here a personal ad you can post:

    “Single White Alarmist seeks Dead-ender Chicken Little Organization. Must love walks on the beach commenting on how much the water seems to be rising. I love to cook! I can cook up new Armageddon alarms to convince rich loony lefties to keep feeding us money. Must be for Cap and Trade, against economic growth, and long for the idyllic pre-stone age, when we were all covered in hair and dirt, and we liked it.”

  27. Thank you for sharing, I really like your blog

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