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If The USA Can’t Ban Guns, Why Ban Body Armor?

In spite of all the predictions by Republican activists that Barack Obama would snatch away their guns, nothing of the sort has happened. Six years into the Obama presidency, and there are still guns all over the United States, and no significant gun ban in sight. We can’t prohibit guns in the USA, because of the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

advanced body armorThe Second Amendment promises the right to bear arms, but it doesn’t say anything about the right to carry objects of genuine self-protection. So, there’s no reason that legislation introduced this summer by Congressman Mike Honda could not pass into law.

H.R. 5344, the Responsible Body Armor Possession Act, would prohibit Americans from possessing advanced body armor, defined as follows:

The term `enhanced body armor’ means body armor, including a helmet or shield, the ballistic resistance of which meets or exceeds
the ballistic performance of Type III armor, determined using National Institute of Justice Standard-0101.06.”.
(c) Penalties.–Section 924(a) of such title is amended by adding at the end the following:
“(8) Whoever knowingly violates section 932 shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.

It’s a bipartisan bill, with primary sponsorship from right wing Republican Mike Kelly as well as Democrats Bill Pascrell and Alcee Hastings.

The idea behind the bill is fairly easy to understand. If someone wanted to hurt many people, and picked up a gun to start shooting people while wearing advanced, bullet-proof body armor, it would be very difficult to stop that person’s attacks.

However, I’m concerned about the priorities of a country that allows its citizens to stockpile weapons designed to kill large numbers of people in short lengths of time, but makes it a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison simply to possess armor designed to protect against attacks from those weapons. Besides, if the justification for the Responsible Body Armor Possession Act is that advanced body armor could be used in deadly attacks, doesn’t that actually mean that advanced body armor is a kind of weapon, and thus protected property under the Second Amendment?

Although most of the sponsors of this bill are Democrats, its reasoning is based upon that of the National Rifle Association: That our safety is dependent upon our ability to shoot people with guns. As advanced military technology enters our society, the most effective methods for dealing with it are going to have to be social, rather than technological. We need to develop a culture of nonviolence, rather than a dependence upon violence as a source of security.

Echinocystis Erupts

A week ago, I wrote about my discovery of the native plant Echinocystis lobata, the wild cucumber. This morning, the specimen I collected shared with me a little surprise. Though I had severed the fruit from the vine, it remained alive, developing as it ordinarily would, given that this time do year, vines in the squash family die back anyway.

The spiny little gourd split open, but not just in a random kind of rupture. Its skin peeled back from the end opposite its attachment to the vine. This is the end that would be pointing down if the fruit was still hanging where it had grown. Inside the fruit, two chambers were revealed, each with a ripe seed, ready to drop out and hit the ground. It’s a kind of bomb bay doors method of seed dispersal that I have never seen before.

Echinocystis lobata seed dispersal

President Obama Declares War Without Consent Of Congress

“We are at war with ISIL.”

This declaration was made at the end of last week by the top spokesman for President Barack Obama, Press Secretary Josh Earnest, and was repeated by Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.

They are powerful people, who speak for the President of the United States, but who are they to declare that the United States is at war?

iraq smudge war 2014They aren’t the U.S. Congress. Under the Constitution of the United States of America, Article 1, Section 8, it is Congress, not the President, not the Press Secretary, and not a military spokesman, that has the legal right to declare that the United States is at war. “The Congress shall have Power… To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;

To provide and maintain a Navy;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;

To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress.

There is no declaration of war specifying the Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS or ISIL, as an enemy of the United States. On July 25 of this year, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Concurrent Resolution 105, which “Prohibits the President from deploying or maintaining U.S. Armed Forces in a sustained combat role in Iraq without specific statutory authorization enacted after the adoption of this concurrent resolution”, or would, if it was also passed by the U.S. Senate. It was not, and so H. Con. Res 105 has no legal authority on its own. However, it adds significant weight to the argument that Congress may not be in support of a new war in Iraq, and reminds us that it is not within the power of the White House to decide who it will wage war against in the name of the entire nation.

On Thursday, U.S. Representatives Raul Grijalva, Keith Ellison, and Barbara Lee introduced House Concurrent Resolution 114, which urges Congress to hold a vote on whether there shall be war against the Islamic State, rather than simply allowing Barack Obama to unconstitutionally seize the power to declare war for himself. H. Con. Res. 114 reads:

“Whereas Congress has a constitutional duty, enshrined in article I, section 8, clause 11 of the United States Constitution, to debate and examine the significant consequences of another multi-year United States military
intervention in the Middle East;

Whereas the War Powers Resolution provides that 60 days after the President informs Congress that he has introduced Armed Forces into an overseas theater, the President “shall terminate any use of United States Armed Forces” unless Congress has authorized such use of the Armed Forces;

Whereas the United States military has engaged in over 100 airstrikes in Iraq since August 8, 2014;

Whereas currently there are over 1,000 United States military personnel deployed in Iraq;

Whereas the United States military has flown surveillance sorties over Syria to collect information on the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS);

Whereas the Obama administration has stated that the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 (Public Law 107-243) is obsolete and has supported its repeal;

Whereas the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40) should not apply to ISIS because ISIS has no operational connection to al Qaeda or the Taliban and is not currently considered an “associated force” of al Qaeda;

Whereas any new authorization for the use of military force should be narrowly tailored and limited;

Whereas ISIS is a violent extremist organization that has terrorized and committed unconscionable atrocities against religious and ethnic minority communities in the course of attempting to create a de-facto state within the borders of Iraq and Syria;

Whereas the threat posed by ISIS requires a robust response from a broad international coalition, with regional partners playing prominent and leading roles;

Whereas Congress should support a comprehensive strategy for defeating ISIS that cuts off access to ISIS supplies and financial resources and isolates extremist elements by addressing the legitimate political grievances and aspirations of local religious and ethnic communities in Iraq and Syria;

Whereas this issue should be immediately referred to and debated by the United Nations Security Council;

Whereas the House of Representatives passed House Concurrent Resolution 105 on July 25, 2014, by a vote of 370-40; and

Whereas House Concurrent Resolution 105 expressed the sense of Congress that the President shall not deploy or maintain United States Armed Forces in a sustained combat role in Iraq without statutory authorization: Now, therefore, be itResolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress–
(1) should debate and vote on a statutory authorization for
any sustained United States combat role in Iraq or Syria;
(2) does not support the deployment of ground combat troops
in Iraq or Syria;
(3) should ensure that any such statutory authorization is
narrowly tailored and limited; and
(4) should ensure that any statutory authorization includes
robust reporting requirements.”

Conformity and Obedience are Not the Only Options

Conservative religious radio show host Michael L. Brown imagines a battle between two sides and declares his allegiance:

Michael L. Brown declares I would rather stand with God and be judged by the world than stand with the world and be judged by God.  Are these the only two options?

Brown asserts that a person must choose between obedience to a real or imagined authority and conformity to the ways of the majority. But are those really the only ethical options available? I don’t think so. If we’re going to put our philosophies on computer-generated post-it notes, here’s my contribution:

Post-it note response: I would rather think for myself and neither conform to a crowd nor bow to authority

Don’t bow. Don’t shuffle along. Stand and think.

The Created Creator And The Illusion Of Our Battles

I’m an atheist. I don’t believe in the reality of gods, literally or metaphorically. Nonetheless, I find religions interesting in the way that they play with ideas, and am interested exploring the ideas that the gods proposed by religious groups represent.

My starting point in these explorations is the understanding that not all gods are the same. There are many people, especially in liberal religious groups, who assert that really, all religions are trying to teach the same thing, and all gods are really just manifestations of the same one God that they happen to believe in.

Unitarian Universalists are well known for making this sort of assertion, with sermons about how all human beings are living in one single church, basking in the same warm light from the same beloved God, and that the differences we see come from the fact that we happen to be looking at different stained glass windows. Such an opinion may seem natural to those who have never stepped foot out of a church, but to anyone who has studied late at night under the glow of a library’s lamplight, or stepped out after sunset to look up at the sky, or gaze at fireflies, the notion is absurd. There are countless different sources of light in the universe. Likewise, the human imagination is able to come up with many metaphorical supernatural characters. These metaphorical divinities only can be regarded as representing the same thing if they are reduced to insipid generalities.

Some Hindus like to perform the same maneuver that Unitarian Universalists make, saying that all the different gods are really just incarnations of a single transcendent god, saying, “One Atman is worshipped in many names.” Try telling Christians that Jesus is merely a manifestation of the Hindus’ transcendent cosmic soul, and most won’t be very happy about it. Even the Hindu texts, and their sects, argue about which god is transcendent.

If you want to see the metaphorical distinction between divinities can be, compare the origin tale told in the Satapatha Brahmana to the concepts of Christianity.

prajapati golden eggIn the beginning this universe was water, nothing but a sea of water. The waters desired, ‘How can we be reproduced?’ They toiled and performed fervid devotions. When they became heated, a golden egg was produced. In a year, a man, Prajapati, was produced from the egg…

Prajapati had a life span of a thousand years… Wanting children, he worked and sang, and gave himself the power of reproduction, and made the devas, who entered the sky and made daylight.

Prajapati then made the asuras, who entered the earth, and made darkness.

Prajapati knew that he had created darkness for himself when he made the asuras, by making darkness, and struck the asuras with darkness, and they were overcome…

Therefore, the wise rishis say, “You have never fought for a single day, and you have not one single enemy, and all your battles are illusions.”

In reading this tale, many Westerners have simply placed their familiar religious words in the place of the Hindu terms. So, they say that Prajapati is God, and the devas are gods, and asuras are demons.

However, even in making this simple translation, equivalence turns into incoherence. If Prajapati is simply God, then what does it mean for God to make gods? The Bible doesn’t say anything about that. Furthermore, Prajapati is a mortal, with a long life compared to ours, but with a short life span in comparison to that of the universe. Christians don’t believe that their God can die. In this story, multiple divine beings were created by a mortal man, who hatched out of an egg, which was made by waters. To say that this story is really just the same as the creation myth of the Book of Genesis is only possible if one obliterates the significant elements of both stories.

The moral vision of this tale from the Satapatha Brahmana is also vastly different from the morality that emerges from Christianity. The Satapatha Brahmana suggests that when the creator Prajapati created dark beings, he created darkness within himself, and so by striking out against that darkness, he was fighting against himself, and that all battles we have are likewise against ourselves.

Inspired by these lines from the Shatapata Brahmana, I think of the freshest demonology of our our day: That of the Islamic State army over in Syria and Iraq.

Fighters of the Islamic State undoubtedly do cruel things, and broadcast images of those cruel things to show themselves as cruel.

Have our own fighters, however, not also done cruel things? Have they not tortured Iraqis, and killed them? Have Americans forgotten Abu Ghraib? Have we forgotten that 60 percent of the people who died in the Iraq War started by the American invasion were civilians?

Well, of course we’ve forgotten. Barack Obama has ordered photographs of torture by American soldiers to be hidden from the American people. One difference between our army and the army of the Islamic State is that our army tries to keep its atrocities secret.

I don’t deny the darkness of the Islamic State. However, I am troubled that, as the United States enters into yet another war in Iraq, once again without any specific plan or exit strategy, Americans are avoiding any consideration of their own involvement in the creation of the darkness against which they now seek to strike out.

Susan Collins Votes for Big Out of State Money… While Taking Big Out of State Money

Maine Campaign Signs Read For Sale: Susan Collins.  Our Senator?  Whose Senator?

On Thursday, September 11 2014, a minority of members of the U.S. Senate voted to block passage of S.J.Res. 19, a constitutional amendment that would let Congress and the states limit the influence of big money in politics:

Section 1. To advance democratic self-government and political equality, and to protect the integrity of government and the electoral
process, Congress and the States may regulate and set reasonable limits on the raising and spending of money by candidates and others to
influence elections.
Section 2. Congress and the States shall have power to implement and enforce this article by appropriate legislation, and may distinguish between natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law, including by prohibiting such entities from spending money to influence elections.
Section 3. Nothing in this article shall be construed to grant Congress or the States the power to abridge the freedom of the press.

Senator Susan Collins of Maine was part of the all-Republican minority that blocked this amendment from passing. Senator Collins’ vote to preserve big money domination over politics runs counter to strong citizen sentiment in Maine, where 86% of those polled agree with the statement “There is too much money in politics and wealthy donors are overwhelming elections, drowning out the voices of ordinary citizens. We must push forward with reforms to limit the influence of big money in elections and government.”

Why would Senator Collins vote contrary to the wishes of such a huge majority of the people of Maine? A look at contributions to Susan Collins’ campaign in the 2013-2014 cycle reveals that her center of political support isn’t actually in Maine:

# of in-Maine and out-of-Maine contributors to the U.S. Senate campaigns of Susan Collins and Shenna Bellows

While Senate challenger Shenna Bellows has obtained more than two-thirds of her individual contributions from within the state of Maine, a full three-fifths of Susan Collins’ individual campaign contributions come from outside the state of Maine. Shenna Bellows actually has obtained more contributions from Maine (1467) than Susan Collins has (1108) — but Susan Collins has received a total of $708,702 from Maine contributions, outsizing Bellows $559,565, because the people who contribute money to Collins from within Maine are able to write her bigger checks ($639.62 on average) than Bellows supporters in Maine can manage ($381.43 on average). The same holds true in general — Collins’ contributors overall are able to write bigger checks ($840.36 on average) than Bellows’ contributors ($430.34 on average). Susan Collins’ support from the state she “represents” isn’t enough to put her over the top; Collins relies on big money contributors from outside the state to survive politically.

In case you’re wondering about the qualifier “individual contributions” and whether I’ve tipped the scales against Collins in my measurement, it turns out the opposite is true. Collins obtained 43.9% of her campaign contributions from political action committees (PACs), and less than 10 out of the over 900 of the PAC contributions propping up Collins come from within the state of Maine. Bellows only obtained 4.2% of her campaign contributions from PACs, and ten out of the forty PAC contributions Bellows received — a much higher proportion — came from groups inside the state of Maine she aspires to represent. Again, Susan Collins’ financial support in Maine is anemic; Collins’ campaign has been able to survive only to the extent she appeals to, and appeases, big-money donors from outside her own state.

Is it any wonder that Susan Collins would vote to continue the system in which big-money contributions from people outside her state can swamp the large number of small-money donations in opposition to her? Without the unequal, unrepresentative status quo, Susan Collins wouldn’t survive. It doesn’t matter that 4 out of 5 Mainers want to stop big money in politics, because to Susan Collins the patrons outside of her home state matter most.

Gov’t Financial Surveillance Hit All-Time High in 2013, Reports on Links to Terrorism Fade Away

Did you know that an American’s political career was brought to an end thanks to warrantless government surveillance of their financial activity?

It’s true.  Remember New York Governor Eliot Spitzer?  He was brought down from political office when payments to a prostitute were discovered by government snooping without a warrant or any prior suspicion of wrongdoing on Spitzer’s part.  A warrantless “suspicious activity report” regarding someone else’s financial doings led to a trail that led to Spitzer and Spitzer’s political downfall. Whether or not Spitzer’s extramarital liaisons were proper, the surveillance of Spitzer was constitutionally improper, at least under a literal reading of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution, which declares:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Since the terrorist attacks 13 years and 1 day ago, however, 4th Amendment limits have been shoved aside when it comes to surveillance programs. As Adam Davidson of NPR reported back in 2008, the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001 required banks and other financial institutions to step up the number of “suspicious activity reports” sent to the U.S. Government regarding Americans’ financial transactions, and to use a dramatically lower standard for what qualifies as “suspicious” behavior:

Banks monitor every transaction. Every one, no matter how small…. The software is checking to see if maybe that $4 is part of a pattern…. The report goes to a bank’s compliance officer, listing all recent suspicious transactions. Every transaction is given a numerical score…. The computer makes the score based on who is making the transaction, where does he come from, who is he associated with, what else is he up to. Every bank customer has, somewhere, in some computer database, a risk assessment score.

The federal government assumed these powers to spy on your financial doings by appealing to the threat of terrorism.   Let us spy on everybody’s financial doings, they said, and we’ll stop the terrorists.  Until this year, the U.S. Department of the Treasury reported on how many of those “suspicious activity reports” actually had to do with terrorism.  The share was consistently low from year to year.  In 2011, for instance, only 609 of the 1,500,000 suspicious activity reports to the U.S. Treasury had anything to do with suspected terrorism — but regardless, the word “terrorist” or “terrorism” appeared 76 times in the 2011 annual report of the Treasury branch responsible for suspicious activity reporting.

The number of warrantless suspicious activity reports on financial activity in America continues to rise.  New data released by the Treasury Department this year show that in 2013, the number of suspicious activity reports to the federal government rose to a new record high:

U.S. Treasury Data show that suspicious activity reporting -- a form of warrantless surveillance of Americans -- hit an all-time record high in 2013.

This is a bipartisan shame, with increases in SAR surveillance happening under both the Republican Bush administration and the Democratic Obama administration.

What share of these warrantless suspicious activity reports had anything to do with terrorism?  I literally can’t tell you.  Apparently, it’s not politically wise to reveal how little surveillance actually has to do with terrorism — the Department of the Treasury has stopped reporting counts of reports having to do with terrorism altogether.  What the government doesn’t reveal, I can’t report.

Thanks For This Terrible World, You Loving God, Says Chaplain Patrick Conroy

Yesterday, the House of Representatives witnessed a twisting knot of self-contradiction from Reverend Patrick J. Conroy, the government-established, First Amendment busting, Chaplain of the lower house of Congress. Chaplain Conroy prayed:

“Loving God, we give You thanks for giving us another day.”

Thanks to God, for another day. Well, that’s positive, isn’t it? God loves us! What evidence is there of that love? Patrick Conroy explained as he continued his prayer:

“The attention of our Nation is drawn toward a raging tragedy. We are torn by aversion to a repeat of years of military engagement while compelling narratives unfold in so many places around our world.”

Oh dear, how awkward. That all-powerful, all-seeing, all-knowing god all of a sudden doesn’t seem very loving any more. The world that this god created and continues to control is dominated by war and other forms of cruelty. Another day of a god-given disaster of humanity.

How can we reconcile this inconsistency? The simplest way to overcome this problem is simply to acknowledge what Patrick J. Conroy is unwilling to consider: Maybe all this stuff that priests and preachers tell us about the God who is going to, sometime in the future, make every nasty thing all right, in a mysterious way that none of us understand, is simply a load of made up babble.

patrick conroy bad god

Is Big Pharma Really Conspiring with the Government to Hide An Essiac Tea “Cure for Cancer?”

Is “Big Pharma” engaged in collusion to hide secret evidence showing that “Essiac Tea” is a cure-all for cancer?

Am I the Queen of England?

That’s a flip answer to the claim being made by Teri, who says that a mixture of of plants and roots called “Essiac tea” really works and stops cancer. How does she know this is true, in the face of clear evidence that the “cure” is a sham? She used it once (along with an undisclosed number of other therapies). “Big Pharma doesn’t tell the truth,” says Teri in her description of conspiracy. “People need to research things for themselves. You might be surprised at how many, “natural remedies” really are remedies. Until our gov & Big Pharma get involved. Look at statins, they are snake venom for Christ sake. Or how people with natural red hair process/absorb medications.” Teri claims that Essiac Tea really cures cancer, and that a collusion between the government and “Big Pharma” is covering it all up.

Teri’s not alone in this sentiment. Paul Fassa of “Natural News” has published an entire article titled “Essiac Tea is a Cancer Cure Big Pharma Does Not Want You to Know About.” Fassa also claims that Essiac tea cures AIDS, that HIV is a “man-made” conspiracy virus, that U.S. Naval Intelligence is being used to fight herbal medicines, that world governments have a secret depopulation agenda in which they spreading disease on purpose, and that the government has sneakily burned all the proof in a big fire. This reminds me of a kid I knew once who told me he took a picture of aliens, but was foiled when the aliens stole his camera.

Let’s move beyond flip rejoinders and get serious. There are a number of basic problems with the claim that “Big Pharma” is covering up the supposed miracle Essiac cure:

1. The claims of a “Big Pharma” conspiracy and cover-up regarding Essiac tea never offer specific information about a specific “Big Pharma” coverup, or provide verifiably incorrect information. Teri’s comment is typical, waving vaguely at the notion of an entity called “Big Pharma” without telling you who this “Big Pharma” actually is. And guess how much documentary evidence Fassa provides in his article to actually prove the claim (I’ll give you a hint: the answer rhymes with “Nero”).

2. Small details used to make these accounts sound plausible are clearly false. The only pharmaceutical company that is even mentioned in Fassa’s article is Resperin, a company that Fassa says squelched Essiac tea:

“Caisse made an effort to get the Essiac out into the public light in 1977, a year before her death. She made a deal with a company called Resperin, whom she thought had the clout to legalize her Essiac tea. But Caisse was told she was no longer needed after the agreement. Resperin was actually in the pocket of the Canadian government and medical authorities. So that project vaporized, and the formula seemed destined to obscurity.”

“The project vaporized, and the formula seemed destined to obscurity?” A simple check shows that, far from keeping Essiac tea under wraps, the Resperin corporation has sold and is continuing to sell Essiac tea to the public. The only pharmaceutical company Fassa mentions is actively engaged in promoting Essiac tea, not covering it up.

Another factual claim in Fassa’s article is that “some providers are using irradiated herbs and even replacing sheep sorrel herbs, a common weed declared as illegal for use in Canada, with curly dock, a weed similar to red sorrel. This is critical since it has been laboratory tested and proven that sheep sorrel is the actual cancer cell killer in Essiac Tea.” A quick check reveals many companies in Canada that sell sheep sorrel legally. These shops in Canada are selling the stuff uselessly, because there’s no scientific evidence that sheep sorrel does anything to stop cancer, but they’re selling it nonetheless.

If these claims by Fassa are falsehoods, why should you believe his grander claims?

3. In order to cover up the supposed “truth” that Essiac tea supposedly has been proven to cure cancer, the government and “Big Pharma” would have to censor such research to keep it from getting to the public. But no government or pharmaceutical corporation controls all peer-reviewed scientific journals, or even a significant portion of them. The vast majority of scientific journals are controlled by neither. “Big Pharma” and government simply don’t have the ability to keep high-quality clinical research about a cancer treatment from being published, because there are so, so many outlets for publication these days.

Neither do government and “Big Pharma” have the wherewithal to keep the word from getting out once a publication has been made. No government, and no pharmaceutical corporation, controls the content of the world’s biggest free and open-source database of scientific journals, Google Scholar. Go ahead and search that database for any journal articles describing “Essiac tea” and a “clinical trial”. Oh, you’ll find a few dozen journal articles with those two phrases in them, all right, but none of them describe an actual clinical trial regarding Essiac tea. In fact, most of the articles returned from that search note that Essiac tea has not been shown to work in clinical trials in treating cancer.

4. Some clinical trials for other modes of “alternative” healing regarding cancer have been conducted, and have been published, and do show a positive effect. In contrast to the lack of published clinical trials for Essiac tea, you’ll find that a search for a “clinical trial” regarding the effect of “meditation” on “cancer” returns more than 8,500 journal articles, including many journal articles reporting the results of clinical trials that show meditation can have a positive effect for cancer patients.

No big pharmaceutical corporation makes money off of meditation. If Big Pharma really controls science so profoundly, they would have killed off all the meditation studies and prevented the research results regarding meditation from having been published, wouldn’t they have? And yet there they are, published in all their glory. This is another way in which the “Big Pharma controls everything” claim just doesn’t wash.

5. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, a publication sympathetic to alternative medicines, released a report describing a retrospective non-experimental study of breast cancer patients. That study found no difference between Essiac tea users and non-users in health-related quality of life or mood. Does anyone want to seriously claim that “Big Pharma” and the “government” have a controlling anti-alternative-medicine stranglehold over The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine? Consider that the journal’s Editor in Chief is a certified practitioner of homeopathy and accupuncture before you go too far down that road.

6. A publication in The Internet Journal of Alternative Medicine also notes the utter lack of clinicial trials showing an effect of Essiac tea on cancer. Does the supposed conspiracy of silence extend this far too? Really? Did you know that the Editor in Chief of that publication is head of a complementary medicine research unit? What possible motivation would the journal’s Editor have to hide evidence that complementary medicine works? What shred of evidence exists to show that this journal is involved in such a conspiracy? The answer is that there is not a single shred of evidence to this effect.

6. Is alternative medicine guru Andrew Weill in on the “Big Pharma” conspiracy too? Weill has looked at the evidence and actively tells his patients to stay away from Essiac Tea because it doesn’t work and, worse, can damage internal organs. Have the feds bought Andrew Weill off too? Is there a single shred of evidence to document such a coverup?

The claim that “Big Pharma” and the U.S. government are colluding to hide an Essiac Tea miracle cure for cancer falls flat on its face when you consider the rejection of Essiac Tea cancer cure hokum by alternative medicine researchers themselves. The National Cancer Institute, the Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, the American Cancer Society and Cancer Research UK have meanwhile published articles concluding that Essiac tea just doesn’t work, showing a strong consensus against the stuff.

There are enough real, actual conspiracies in the world to uncover. Making up ridiculously fake conspiracies to promote a fake “cancer cure” that doesn’t really work? That’s nasty, mean and cruel to the people who might actually be fooled in their desperation and buy some of the junk, postponing treatments that work and quite possibly poisoning their bodies in the process. If you are one of the people who keep spreading this “Essiac cancer cure” hoax around the internet then please, for pity’s sake, just stop it.

Nick Rahall Acts To Make It Easier For Coal Companies To Poison West Virginians

Earlier this year, a coal power plant operated by Freedom Industries dumped ten thousand gallons of the highly toxic coal-processing chemical MCHM into the Elk River. The pollution left hundreds of thousands of people in West Virginia without drinking water for an extremely long period of time.

So, what has West Virginia’s U.S. Representative Nick Rahall done about the problem?

He wrote H.R. 5078, a bill that seeks to make it easier for coal companies to dump pollution into West Virginia waters. Yesterday, that bill was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I stand with our coal, Rahall said in a triumphant statement celebrating his pro-pollution legislation. Most of the bill’s supporters were Republicans, but Rahall is a Democrat.

Rahall’s infatuation with dirty coal can’t simply be chalked up to his own individual problems, however. The Democratic Party establishment has enabled, and even encouraged, Rahall to promote pollution by coal companies. This year, the House Majority PAC paid for advertisements celebrating Rahall’s work to protect coal companies from reasonable safety and environmental regulations, saying proudly, “Nick Rahall isn’t against coal!”

The House Majority PAC isn’t a fringe player in Democratic Party politics. It’s a central player. The executive director of the PAC is a former campaign director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The operations director is a former Obama campaign staffer, and worked to enforce compliance at the Democratic National Committee. The PAC’s development director was recently Managing Director of Finance and Marketing at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

When Nick Rahall attacks environmental protections in order to serve his friends in Big Coal, he’s got powerful Democratic Party insiders standing right behind him.

Did the “Single Issue” Mayday PAC fund Canvassers on ObamaCare, Gun Rights and Global Warming?

A tip of the hat this morning to Miscellany Blue and DocDawg for breaking the news over the past week that Lawrence Lessig’s Mayday PAC had funnelled $103,000 to Stark 360, a political action committee (PAC) founded at the end of August 2014. This amount was a huge boon to Stark PAC, amounting to 94.5% of Stark PAC’s funding for this reporting period. Whatever the Stark 360 PAC has done in the past month has been made possible by the Mayday PAC.

The Stark 360 PAC’s plan is not hidden. In its prospectus for potential donors, it openly declares that with received funds it will:

  • “Restore the Republican party back to the liberty-loving citizens of New Hampshire”;
  • Promote “Right-to-work” legislation;
  • “Fix Voter Fraud (100K same-day registrants in 2012)”;
  • “Win Governor’s race (1st Millennial Gov and former Chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus of New Hampshire)”;
  • “Alliance with a dozen liberty/conservative state PACs and 501c4″;
  • Strengthen “grassroots relationships through the Young Americans for Liberty, The Free State Project, Freedomworks,
    and other NH-based groups.”

Ignore linguistic slips (“right-to-work” equals fewer rights at work) and factual errors (“same-day registrants” are not committing voter fraud). The point is that the Mayday PAC has almost completely funded a highly partisan enterprise to promote a conservative political agenda. Nowhere in the prospectus is the issue of campaign finance reform or the corrosive effect of money on politics ever mentioned. The only use of the words “campaign finance” is to describe in glowing terms the work experience of special adviser Dan Backer on behalf of dozens of PACs and leadership committees inside the DC beltway.

The Mayday PAC declares that it is interested in one and only one issue: spending lots and lots of money in political campaigns in order to… yes, get money out of political campaigns. But as Blue and DocDawg document, the Stark 360 PAC leadership is not only not opposed to big money in political campaigns, but rather has repeatedly and explicitly declared its opposition to any campaign finance reform.


Dan Backer, Stark360’s Treasurer and Special Advisor, was also the victorious attorney in the recent and notorious McCutcheon v FECsupreme court case (the decision that has opened the floodgates to unlimited aggregate contributions to political campaigns)…  Stark360’s chairman, Aaron Day, is himself is a vocal critic of reform measures such as New Hampshire’s SB 120, a bill imposing minor new reporting requirements on New Hampshire PACs which Day disparagingly christened ‘The Incumbent Protection, Racketeering, and Nullification of the 1st Amendment Bill.'”

Miscellany Blue:

“One of the goals identified by Stark 360 in its prospectus is to … return Bill O’Brien to his former role as Speaker of the House. O’Brien leaves no doubt where he stands on campaign finance reform. ‘Every time you hear a Democrat say that we need a Constitutional Amendment to reverse the Citizens United decision,’ he writes, ‘understand what they really want: the government to have the authority to regulate, tax, and deny independent political speech.'”

If you’re left wondering why the supposedly single-issue pro-campaign-finance-reform Mayday PAC would be funnelling money to the anti-campaign-finance-reform PAC Stark 360, you’re not alone.

The Mayday PAC promised it would focus on the issue of campaign finance reform in its activities, avoiding other subjects. “We’re not interested in pushing policies for the Left or the Right,” promised the Mayday PAC in its pitch to potential donors. “Most believe that voters do not vote on the basis of money in politics… The objective of our campaign in 2014 is thus to prove that this view is wrong, by running five campaigns in a wide range of districts on the basis of this issue,” the Mayday PAC declared.

Those were the Mayday PAC’s promises. But what messages were in the literature distributed by Stark 360 and paid for thanks to the Mayday PAC? William Kostric, an associate of the Stark 360 leadership through New Hampshire’s Free State Project, posted an employment message on behalf of the Stark 360 PAC:

“Get paid to Stop Scott Brown! Mayday pac is funding Stark 360 for this local initiative to keep the worst of the worst out of NH. PM me and I’ll give you the meet up location or call 603-260-1258.  — William”

Kostric conveniently posted images describing the work (distribution of literature)…

Work for Stark 360, distributing political literature in New Hampshire

What is that literature? Kostric helpfully posts images of that, too: hundreds of “Stop Scott Brown Signs”…

Stop Scott Brown Signs with lots of political text paid for by the Stark 360 PAC

The text of those signs is important. First, at the bottom (although it’s hard to make out) is the text “Paid for by Stark 360 PAC.” The rest of the text on the sign reads:

In the Sept. 9th New Hampshire Republican Primary, vote for ANY New Hampshire Republican, but don’t vote for Massachusetts Republican-In-Name-Only Scott Brown.

* Received an ‘F’ from the New Hampshire Firearms Coalition and a ‘C’ from the National Rifle Association because he supports legislation hostile to 2nd Amendment civil rights.

* Accepted millions in out-of-state campaign contributions, then voted for billions in government handouts to special interests.

* Voted for RomneyCare as a Massachusetts State Senator, which became the national model for ObamaCare.

* Supplied the deciding vote in favor of President Obama’s federal financial regulation legislation.

* Flip-flopped on man-made climate change.

Learn more at anybodybutbrown.org

The website anybodybutbrown.org, dominated by anti-Obamacare and pro-gun messages and devoid of any call for campaign finance reform, is explicit in declaring that it was paid for by the Stark 360 committee — which, remember, is 94.5% paid for by the Mayday PAC:

AnybodyButBrown.org was paid for by the Stark 360 PAC, which was almost wholly funded by the Mayday PAC

A contemporaneous Campaign finance report for the Stark 360 PAC indicates that only $5500 in the period came from sources other than the Mayday PAC. At the same time, $6000 in contributions to candidates were reported, more than consuming that amount. Roughly $6000 more was spent in legal expenses, $900 on polling, and $28,900 on graphic design, printing, voter services and mailers. It seems that some Mayday PAC funds must have been spent in support of sustaining the Stark360 organization and in support of the literature shown above, which neglects campaign finance issues and instead focuses on promoting a conservative political agenda.

Is the Mayday PAC a willing participant or an unwitting dupe in these shenanigans? I can’t say, but practically speaking it doesn’t matter. If I had been thinking of contributing to the Mayday PAC to fight for campaign finance reform, I’d be putting away my checkbook right now. If I had given to the Mayday PAC in the past, believing the promises about how money would be spent, I’d be asking for a refund.