Cindy Sheehan is best known for her work organizing the anti-war movement of the Aughts. The anti-war movement splintered after Barack Obama was elected President, but Sheehan never stopped advocating peace and progress.
This year, Cindy Sheehan is running for Governor of California as a candidate of the Peace and Freedom Party.
The Sheehan for Governor platform includes:
- Opposition to fracking, oil drilling, and nuclear power
- Affordable public transportation
- Increased pedestrial and bicycle traffic
- Increased use of hemp
- Preventing the California National Guard from being sent to fight in overseas wars
- Increased funding for public education
- Citizen review boards to oversee police activity
- Ending prisons for profit
- Encouraging organic farming
- Banning genetically modified organisms in agriculture
- Public-funded health care
- Open borders
- Retirement at full pay
- Return of tribal lands and self-determination for indigenous groups
This morning, over at the right wing conspiratorial web site, Before It’s News, they’re predicting that the Yellowstone National Park could soon see massive earthquakes, and perhaps even an eruption of the Yellowstone volcano. Such an eruption would be a very serious event, killing 90 percent of the people living within 1,000 kilometers of Yellowstone, and triggering a global shift in climate.
Of course, eruptions of the Yellowstone supervolcano are very rare. The last time it happened, was 50,000 years before any human beings would settle in North America.
So, what’s the evidence upon which Before It’s News is founding its prediction of Yellowstone calamity? Bison have recently been seen running out of the National Park, which is…
…completely normal. “The State of Montana allows some bison to migrate outside Yellowstone National Park and occupy suitable winter range near the park boundary,” the National Park Service explains.
Even if the bison had prior knowledge of a coming supervolcano eruption, they would have to run 1,000 kilometers to escape it, not just take a jog outside of park boundaries.
Before it’s news… it’s baseless speculation.
Last month, I started checking into the claims made by someone calling himself “Dr. Mark Stengler” who along with Brian Chambers of Health Revelations was sending me promotional e-mails and links to web pages. These e-mails and web pages, all claiming to come from from Brian Chambers and this “Dr. Mark Stengler,” promise that there is a secret “Bible Code” hidden in the Bible’s Book of Matthew Chapter 4. “When you follow these instructions,” declares the message supposedly from Dr. Mark Stengler, “something truly miraculous happens…Cancer… any type of cancer… can no longer survive in your body.”
There are at least ten indications that this supposed Matthew 4 Cancer Cure is a scam, and there is no systematic and publicly available evidence that it actually rids the body of cancer. While promotional literature for the so-called “Matthew 4 Protocol” promises that it is available for “free,” a long trail of promotional junk websites and e-mails ends up at a message asking for a $19 subscription to a newsletter called “Dr. Mark Stengler’s Health Revelations” if you really want to receive the supposed cure. This is not what real doctors do with real cancer treatments that really work.
The scam is so clumsy and exploitative that I had to ask myself: is the real Mark Stengler — who doesn’t have an M.D. and hasn’t gone to a traditional medical school but calls himself Dr. because he got a degree in naturopathy — really involved in this apparent scam, or is his name being attached to a scam without his permission? Could the real Mark Stengler be a victim of all this?
It turns out that on Mark Stengler’s Facebook business page, people had already started asking him if this was some kind of “internet scam” and if he was responsible for it. Mark Stengler didn’t answer their questions straight on, but did tell people that this was connected to the business that distributed his newsletter. This means that he is at least indirectly connected to the Matthew 4 Protocol claims. But is there a direct link? On March 9, I posted questions to Mark Stenger over Twitter and on his Facebook business page:
Within a day, others started posting to Facebook, demanding that my question be answered. The day after that, Mark Stengler’s Facebook page deleted my question and the questions of others rather than answer them.
To tell you the truth, at this point I was willing to let the matter drop. I figured that either the real Mark Stengler — or the person using his name on the internet — had been embarrassed into withdrawing his scam from circulation.
Then I got another e-mail solicitation for the quack “Matthew 4 Protocol” this week, again appearing to be sent by one “Dr. Mark Stengler”:
Those links head, just as before, to this web page promising that “Dr. Mark Stengler” has “fact checked” and “verified” a Matthew 4 Bible Code cure for cancer.
Well, enough is enough. This kind of cruel commercial appeal, exploiting the desperation of dying people and their loved ones, can’t just keep going on unanswered. Either Mark Stengler is involved or he is a victim, and it’s time to find out which. So I’ve written the following letter:
52 Conway Road
Camden, ME 04843
March 29, 2014
Dr. Mark Stengler
Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine
324 Encinitas Blvd
Encinitas, CA 92024
Dear Dr. Stengler,
I am writing to formally ask you the question that I asked through your business page on Facebook. My question to you and other questions of the same nature posed by other individuals were unfortunately deleted, requiring this letter.
A web page linked to from multiple e-mail messages in February and March of 2014 suggest that you have “fact checked” and “verified” a mysterious treatment labeled the Matthew 4 Protocol, which is proclaimed to prevent “any cancer” from surviving in the body. Copies of the web page and a sample e-mail message have been preserved for archival purposes via the following web pages:
To get right to the point, is this true? Have you indeed “fact checked” and “verified” that the Matthew 4 Protocol for cancer treatment works so that “something truly miraculous happens…Cancer… any type of cancer… can no longer survive in your body”? (ellipses in original message sent under your name)
The alternative is also important. Has someone been using your name without permission to make such claims?
I would appreciate your prompt written response in this regard.
The letter is in the mail. I will let you know if I receive an answer from Dr. Stengler, who surely will receive this question now. I will also let you know, on a regular basis, if I have not received an answer. If you want to see an answer from Dr. Stengler, I strongly suggest you also write him a letter and post it on the internet as I have done.
A few days ago, I saw a bumper sticker in Central Maine that read, “Welcome to Maine… Now Go Home!” It didn’t take me too long to react emotionally to that statement; I hear some version of that sentiment almost every day living here in Maine. Whether it’s someone talking about what “real Mainers” would do, someone speaking disparaginly about how they do it down in Massachusetts, or the ever present phrase “from Away” used to refer to anyone who can’t count generations of ancestry back, the rejection of people who aren’t natives is a persistent cultural theme (although the quietly welcoming arms of other Mainers is a noticeable contrary trend).
Is this unique to Maine? I’ve lived a lot of places in my life and in only one other place have I felt the same intensity of insular pushback against people who had the gall to visit. But I haven’t lived everywhere… and neither have you. To get a systematic sense of isolationism in the American states, I used the Bing search engine to get counts of web pages that read “Welcome to [state name]… Now Go Home.” I controlled for different state populations, generating counts of pages per million people.
The following ranking results. No, Maine’s not alone, but it’s in the top 10:
||Bing results per million population
I see a few patterns here. What do you see?
In South Carolina a few days ago, Jill Bossi announced that she is running for Congress this year, not with the Republican Party or with the Democratic Party, but as a member of the American Party.
The American Party? Hey, I’m an American. Does that mean I’m a member of the American Party?
No, actually, very few Americans are members of the American Party – less than a hundredth of one percent of the population. So, if almost no Americans are actually affiliated in any way with the American Party, where do Jill Bossi and her small cohort of allies get the idea that they can claim the name “American” for their political party?
A clue comes from an article about Bossi written yesterday by Richard Winger over at Ballot Access News. The article asserts that the American Party is “a centrist party”. Perhaps if the candidates of the American Party occupy the center of the political spectrum, they think they can claim to represent all of America. This idea is supported by the American Party of South Carolina’s own statement that they support “common ground public-policy”.
But then, what is common ground public policy these days? Here’s the 8-point platform that the American Party of South Carolina claims is common ground.
1. Decrease the National debt while ensuring a strong national defense and essential social programs through a deliberate, balanced, and comprehensive approach that will not do damage to our economic recovery. (e.g. Simpson/Bowles Plan)
2. Create a strong, choice-driven public school system that encourages innovation, rigor, and success for all children with an increased emphasis on early childhood education.
3. Create an efficient, effective health care system that emphasizes preventative care and encourages healthy lifestyles for all Americans.
4. Reform Campaign Funding by doing away with the effects of the Supreme Court ruling (e.g. Citizens United) by legislation and/or amendment; requiring immediate and total transparency; and posting all donors and amounts regardless of source within five business days of receipt.
5. Reform Ethics Legislation by requiring the disclosure of all sources of income as a candidate and as an elected official. Have stand-alone ethics commissions at state and federal levels to investigate, enforce, and discipline.
6. Provide strong, unequivocal support for the Second Amendment- coupled with responsible, reasonable regulations and programs. (e.g. strong, universal background check system and better mental health diagnosis and treatment.)
7. Initiate comprehensive tax reform to acquire a simpler, fairer tax system that supports economic growth and encourages work, savings and investment.
8. Implement a comprehensive immigration policy that provides a responsible pathway to citizenship, encouragement of high skill and high knowledge immigration, employer accountability, and a strengthened national border.
Are these common ground positions?
In platform point 1, I notice that national defense spending gets to remain “strong”, while social programs are reduced merely to what is “essential”. That’s not a common ground public policy. It’s pro-defense, and neglectful of domestic spending. Besides, the Simpson/Boles plan has failed to establish political common ground. It’s been a player in the messy budget battles in Washington D.C.
In platform point 2, the American Party promotes a “choice” based public school system. That’s an idea that has been highly controversial across the United States, not a point of political unity. The idea that Congress would establish national rules for choice is also not a point of political agreement for Americans.
In platform point 3, the American Party proposes creating a health care system. Will this be a nationally coordinated system? If so, the Republicans will detest it. If not, what will it be? A system run by gnomes? The American Party never explains.
In platform point 4, the American Party seeks legislation to overturn the Citizens United Supreme ruling, but many on the American right reject that idea. Along the same lines, many in the right wing reject disclosure of donations, as proposed in platform point 5. These sound like nice ideas, but they’re not common ground. They’re not centrist.
Platform point 6 urges unequivocal support for the Second Amendment. Many Americans don’t agree with this political position.
Platform point 7 promotes a “tax system that supports economic growth and encourages work, savings and investment”. They call this tax system “fair”, but traditionally, the term Fair Tax has been used to promote right wing, pro-corporate tax policies. Does a tax policy that encourages savings and investment mean lowering the capital gains tax? That’s not a common ground position in America.
Platform point 8 calls for a strengthened national border, but there is not political agreement in America that the national borders need strengthening. Two years ago, the net migration from Mexico to the United states declined to zero.
So, where’s that common ground the American Party of South Carolina promised? Here it is, in this photograph, in which the founders suggest that they’re “sick and tired of politics”. Yes, they’re sick of politics, which is why they’re creating a political party to support political candidates running political campaigns for political office in order to enact a political platform.
How very sincere.
Realistically, how could Jill Bossi, or any other member of the American Party of South Carolina, maintain a centrist position in Congress? They claim to support only the political issues expressed in their platform, but what would congressional members of this political party do when legislation dealing with other issues comes up for a vote? Would they simply not vote at all? That’s not a neutral, centrist position – it helps to defeat the legislation being voted on. Centrism in action isn’t possible in America. Politics requires actually standing for something, and in our country, there are few issues that most people really agree upon.
As for the American Party, the South Carolinians who claim to have recently established this institution can’t even assert common ground status for that simple factual point. The name of the American Party is already taken by a Tea Party organization that complains about “media Marxists”. So much for centrism.
“Welcome to Maine… Now Go Home!”
This is the bumper sticker I saw in Jefferson, Maine today. I’d seen it before. Today I started to think, “How insular and parochial of Maine!” — but then I stopped mid-thought. It could be that such sentiments are part of the scene in every part of the country, just part of the natural variation of things.
Here’s where I turn to you: where you live, do you see stickers or signs telling people visiting the state to go home? Or is that expression really just a Maine thing?
President Barack Obama made news this week that he would propose a plan to decrease a small fraction of spying against the American people by the National Security Agency. The Obama plan would switch authority for seizing information about Americans’ private communications by telephone, but wouldn’t address the problem of warrantless wiretapping that gathers audio recordings of those calls, and wouldn’t do a darned thing about spying against Americans’ Internet use and other private electronic data seizure by the NSA.
Most people didn’t notice that President Obama’s plan, which is expected to be either rejected or amendmented to death in the U.S. Congress, came at the very same time that Obama requested a 3-month extension of the very abusive, unconstitutional spying that he claimed to want to end. Obama says he’s asking Congress to end the massive warrantless seizure of telephone metadata, but Obama already has the power to end those abuses almost immediately, without the need of passing any legislation.
Senator Bernard Sanders has noticed, and he’s speaking out. Sanders has released a statement of protest asking Obama to end all NSA abuses, and to do it right now. Sanders writes, “At a time when the American people are outraged by government attacks on our constitutional rights, the president’s proposal is a step forward. We must, however, go further. Ending the bulk collection of phone records of virtually all Americans – 99.999 percent of whom have nothing to do with terrorism – is important. The president should end that program now, not 90 days from now. We also must also make sure that the government isn’t harvesting records on our emails and other Internet activity except in instances where there are specific reasons to suspect wrongdoing.”
In a post debunking the supposed cancer cure-all “Matthew 4 Protocol”, more than one person has left a comment singing the praises of two other protocols: the “Budwig protocol” and “Gerson therapy,” both proclaimed to rid the body of cancer. “Anna” writes:
“Gerson therapy and Budwig protocol check out Tamara St John’s testimony, she too had endstage breast cancer/ believing Gods word for you concerning healing.”
“DG” chimes in:
“Budwig and Gerson diets may also help according to numerous cancer winners.”
I don’t doubt that these people are meaning to be helpful, and they’re surely not alone. Charlotte Gerson, for one, sells a book titled “The Gerson Therapy: The Proven Nutritional Program for Cancer and Other Illnesses.” Bill Bodri includes the Budwig protocol as one of his “Super Cancer Fighters: Proven Natural Remedies” in the book he sells online.
What’s all the hub-bub about? What are the Gerson and Budwig “cancer cures”? Is there really convincing evidence behind them?
Fortunately, the National Cancer Institute maintains an exhaustive information pages regarding “Gerson therapy”, and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center keeps a thorough watch on the “Budwig protocol.” Here’s what they are, and here’s the systematic evidence regarding their effectiveness:
“Gerson therapy” involves drinking 13 glasses of juice a day and taking multivitamins and a cocktail of other supplements like flaxseed oil. Then there are the coffee enemas. There have been no clinical trials to document the effectiveness of “Gerson therapy.”
The “Budwig protocol” is a diet plan involving flaxseed oil and cottage cheese plus, yes, coffee enemas. You know what I’m going to say: there have been no clinical trials that document the effectiveness of the “Budwig protocol.”
On the other hand, there are documented cases of people being killed by coffee enemas.
From a scientific point of view, there is no convincing evidence that “Gerson therapy” or the “Budwig protocol” do anything to stop cancer. If you believe that scientific evidence through clinical trials provides “convincing evidence,” this should pretty much answer your question.
If, on the other hand, you prioritize stories about someone’s uncle’s mother shared by people you don’t know on the internet, you might decide that Gerson-Budwig-Coffee-Cottage-Cheese therapies are really “convincing evidence” after all.
The popularity of the Gerson-Budwig coffee-enema treatments, even though there is no scientific proof they do anything to help with cancer, is a testament to the power of rumor over systematic observation in our culture. It’s understandable that such rumors can be fueled by desperation and a need for hope, but false hopes are perhaps more cruel than no information at all.
Last March, I wrote about two bills before the U.S. Congress – H.R. 1010 in the House and S. 460 in the Senate. Together, these bills are known as the Fair Minimum Wage Act, and if passed they would increase the minimum wage from its current $7.25/hour to $10.10/hour over the next two years. After that point, the minimum wage would automatically increase to keep pace with inflation — the tendency of currency to be worth less as time passes. Tracked by the Consumer Price Index, inflation means that what a $1 dollar bought in February 1977 would take $4 to buy now. Sure, the minimum wage was “just” $2.30/hour back then, but what $2.30 could buy in Febuary 1977 would take $9.15 to buy today — and the minimum wage isn’t $9.15/hour. Because the minimum wage is $7.25/hour, significantly less than $9.15/hour, economists say that the minimum wage has declined in “real value” between 1977 and today.
A year ago this week, I complained that while members of the House and Senate dithered about the economy, failing to pass any minimum wage legislation, the real inflation-adjusted minimum wage fell by 8 cents an hour. It’s a year later, and as this graph shows, as the cost of living keeps creeping upward the real minimum wage keeps falling down — another 7 cents an hour, which may not seem like much to a lawyer billing corporate clients $1,000/hour, but which means a lot to someone only making $7.25:
The good news is that since last March, 62 more members of the House have added their names in support of the bill to hike the minimum wage (is your Representative one of them?). Since last March, 7 more members of the U.S. Senate have cosponsored their version of the bill (are your Senators among them?). The bad news is that as the most vulnerable workers in America keep earning less, and less, and less, there still aren’t enough well-heeled legislators willing to pass the bill.