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Body Snatchers of New Jersey, Inc.

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I don’t know about you, but I find it pretty hard to resist a newspaper story with the headline: HE WENT DOOR TO DOOR IN SEARCH OF CADAVERS. I just do. What can I say?

And then, to make it even better, the second paragraph has a quotation from a funeral home director named . . . wait for it . . . Cramer Stiff. Do you want to guess how thrilled the reporters were to get that quote? Wanna take bets on how fast they ran back to the office so they could write their story?

After years of getting by with The Sopranos and jokes about where to find Jimmy Hoffa (“He’s in the yellow pages — under cement!”), New Jersey finally has a suitably macabre crime story. In fact, the tale of Michael Mastromarino, the former Fort Lee dentist who was just indicted along with three alleged accomplices for making millions by stealing bones and tissue from over 1,000 corpses and selling the organic matter to commercial tissue banks for use in surgery, seems very appropriate to the Bush era.

This is a shudderingly horrible story for anyone who might have recently undergone some major transplant surgery, and must now wonder if the procedure involved tissue harvested from a body infected with God knows what.

Apparently the conspirators also targeted low-income families, getting them to agree to illicit tissue harvesting in exchange for money that would defray funeral expenses. I guess that’s what gives the crime such a Republican flavor. Against a background of lax regulation and indifference to public health, a pack of vultures descend on the ignorant and impoverished in order to steal the very bones from their dead relatives, and the families agree because they’re already being shaken down by the funeral industry. Vultures, meet grifters. One claw washes the other.

Mastromarino’s biggest problem is that he didn’t think big. If he’d only concentrated on lobbying the government, he could have gotten federal regulations rewritten so that his tissue harvesting would not only be legal, he could advertise it on Fox News.

You can read more at The Opinion Mill.

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About Steven Hart