Pat Robertson answers a tough question on Alzheimer’s — and upsets his fundamentalist Christian peers

The televangelist Pat Robertson’s suggestion that a man whose wife was far “gone” with Alzheimer’s should divorce her if he felt a need for new companionship has provoked a storm of condemnation from other Christian leaders but a more mixed or even understanding response from some doctors and patient advocates.

On his television show, “The 700 Club,” Mr. Robertson, a prominent evangelical who once ran for president, took a call from a man who asking how he should advise a friend whose wife was deep into dementia and no longer recognized him…

“This is a terribly hard thing,” Mr. Robertson said, clearly struggling to think his way through a wrenching situation. “I hate Alzheimer’s. It is one of the most awful things, because here’s the loved one — this is the woman or man that you have loved for 20, 30, 40 years, and suddenly that person is gone “

“I know it sounds cruel,” he continued, “but if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but to make sure she has custodial care, somebody looking after her.”

When Mr. Robertson’s co-anchor on the show wondered if that was consistent with marriage vows, Mr. Robertson noted the pledge of “’til death do us part,” but added, “This is a kind of death.”

He said the question presented an ethical dilemma beyond his ability to answer. “I certainly wouldn’t put a guilt trip on you if you decided that you had to have companionship, you’re lonely, you have to have companionship,” Mr. Robertson said.

The reaction from many evangelical leaders, who see lifelong, traditional marriage as the cornerstone of morality and society, was harsh and disbelieving…

Dr. James E. Galvin, a neurologist who runs a dementia clinic at New York University’s Langone Medical Center, said it was wrong to say that people with Alzheimer’s were “gone,” or to call its late stages “a kind of death.”

“While it’s true that in terminal phases, patients may not be fully aware of what’s going on, they tend to recognize the people who are closest to them,” Dr. Galvin said.

With good care, people may live 15 to 20 years with the disease, most of that time at home, Dr. Galvin said. If they eventually move to a nursing home and seem unaware of what is going on around them, he said, then spouses face “an individualized decision” about when and how to develop new relationships…

I doubt if ever before have I come close to agreeing with Pat Robertson on anything. I think he probably gets the seasons and sunrise wrong. Still, this is a question that he has answered as a man of conscience, willing to take that question beyond the accepted constraints of his fundamentalist brethren. I give him credit for that.

I haven’t much experience with Alzheimer’s. I only recall one relative who seemed to be in early stages of senile dementia – when I was a young man and she was already in her 60’s. But, Robertson’s answer is one of the answers that someone might legitimately consider in the context of advanced Alzheimer’s when to all intents and purposes you are unrecognizable to the patient.

It will be a terrible quandary – you must include your whole life’s experience together and yet look ahead to a life that can be painfully distant even when together. My snap judgement would be to stay together. But, I can see a context wherein divorce might be the sound decision.

N.Y. nears no-fault divorce. Welcome to the last century.


Try breaking that lockstep, folks!

New York took a major step towards becoming the last state in the country to adopt no-fault divorce as the State Senate approved legislation that would permit couples to separate by mutual consent, a major shift with sweeping implications for families and lawyers.

For decades, New Yorkers have has been bedeviled by longstanding divorce laws that critics said spurred endless litigation and bitter custody fights that were both unnecessary and cruel.

Under current divorce law, one spouse must take the blame, even if both sides agree that a marriage cannot be saved. Instead a spouse must allege cruel and inhuman treatment, adultery, or abandonment for one year before a court can grant a divorce.

Efforts to change those laws have been turned back repeatedly over the years, even as other states moved over time to liberalize their matrimonial laws to include some version of no-fault divorce. Opponents included the Catholic Church, which objects to making divorce easier, as well as some women’s advocates, who have feared that no-fault divorce would inflict unfair economic burdens on women…

Mostly the Church; but, perish the thought the NYT offends the pope.

The newest legislation must still pass the State Assembly, which is considering two different bills that would include some version of no-fault divorce, as well as some related legislation.

But advocates said on Tuesday that they believed that victory in the Senate, which was controlled by Republicans until last year, gave the measure momentum and a high likelihood of gaining approval in the Assembly, which is also controlled by Democrats.

“I think that the main hurdle is here,” said Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson, a Democrat from Westchester and the Bronx who was the chief Senate sponsor of the bill, before the vote. The vote passed 32-27, according to an unofficial tally, with all but two Democrats joined by two Republicans in support.

Which proves that New York Republicans play the game of opportunist politics to please reactionary religions better than do the Democrats. Too bad the citizens of that state have been the losers in that corrupt contest for all these years.

Simple and easy measures can reduce greenhouse gases

Try telling that to a Republican/Libertarian/No-responsibility Neocon.

Basic actions taken by everyday people can yield fast savings at low cost, according to MSU Professor Thomas Dietz and colleagues.

Cutting consumer energy waste is a good place to start, said Dietz, a professor of sociology and environmental science and policy at MSU. Household energy consumption accounts for 38 percent of carbon emissions in the United States and 8 percent of world emissions, he said.

Activities such as home weatherization, routine vehicle maintenance and opting for the clothesline instead of the dryer could cut total U.S. carbon emissions by 5 percent over just five years and 7.4 percent in 10 years, Dietz said. That’s the equivalent of France’s total carbon output, or of total emissions by the U.S. petroleum refining, steel and aluminum industries…

We can make great progress with the technologies we already have if we pay attention to behavior – how people use the technologies they already have.”

Dietz and collaborators…didn’t base their estimates on a best-case consumer behavior scenario. Instead, they used the best available information to calculate how many families could reasonably be expected to take such measures if they were provided information, offered financial assistance and could interact with others doing so…

“I’ve seen many analyses that make wild assumptions about how hard or how easy it is to get people to change their behavior, without any basis in science,” he said. “Our analysis is based on science. We look at what has been feasible in bringing about changes in energy consumption behavior…”

“We know from a lot of research that most people, companies and governments are most likely to change behavior when they see their peers change. So someone will weatherize their houses when they see others do it, and governments are most likely to develop policies when they see other governments doing it.”

Now, the example up top is what Professor Dietz is talking about. What follows on – is that the nutball response to this involved Republicans dragging one or another conservative motorhead who said Obama is wrong – it ain’t 3-4% oil consumption reduction, it’s only 3-4% increase in gas mileage!

Once again, these clucks are so hungup on ideology they avoid Math 101. US average gas mileage for a new car is less than 25mpg. An improvement of 3-4mpg isn’t 3-4% reduction in petroleum consumption. They’re right. It’s a minimum reduction of 12%.

Point still remains that conservatives used to be conservationists – not copouts.

Doctor tells Venezuela’s Chavez to stop talking

It’s something few people can tell Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez: stop talking.

Chavez, whose speeches often stretch five hours or more, said on Sunday his doctor told him to stay quiet for three days to help a sore throat.

“I am a little affected by the intensive, continuous and permanent use of this cannon I’ve got here and the doctor has told me not to talk,” Chavez said to audience laughter.

Chavez immediately responded that silence was not the best medicine for him.

“I said ‘listen friend, do what you can but how am I going to follow this treatment?’ Three days without talking? I lasted one, not even one,” Chavez said at the start of a television show he presents every week.

RTFA. Good understanding, self-understanding albeit brief, about a man whom Americans know only as a demon.

What the rural French can teach New Yorkers

I once lived in rural France for half a year, in a region of southern Burgundy known to epicures for its fine cattle and wine. It was also known for being the French boondocks – we got the feeling from Parisian friends that they thought we were living somewhere vaguely akin to a suburb of Binghamton, New York…

My husband and I weren’t particularly green at the time, which was seven years ago. Nor was anyone else in that rural part of France, as far as we could tell. What they were was frugal. “Everyone has porcupines in their pockets,” a neighbor there once told me – in other words, it really hurt to reach for their wallets. That mattered when it came to plastic bags, because you had to pay for them at the store.

The store, E.Leclerc, was a sprawling emporium that sold household goods along with groceries – think Wal-Mart or Tesco, only with an entire aisle devoted to 23 varieties of yogurt. The store bags were plastic, but a thickish plastic, with sturdy handles. We always intended to put the empty ones back in the car for the next trip, but every once in a while, they were left behind in the pantry, and then we’d find ourselves in a bind.

The bags were maybe 30 cents each, but it wasn’t just the financial hit that made us waste all that time turning around to go home. It was shame.

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