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Miracle?

News item: A gas explosion destroys a church in New York City, killing five out of its sixty members and three others. Fifty-five families are left homeless.

Says a parishoner of the event: ““I thank God. It was wonderful.”

Says the church’s leader of the event: “We thank God for that. The building has come down, but the spirits are alive.”

Says a newspaper of the event: “It was a gift from above.”

Why? Because, although the church is utterly destroyed, and although its membership has been decimated, and although 55 families have lost their homes, the church’s Bible has been found in the rubble.

God causes or allows a church to be blown up. God causes or allows the deaths of five members of that church. God causes or allows dozens of families with dozens of innocent children to lose their homes. But God saves one of the church’s bibles.

Hallelujiah, a miracle?

(P.S. The “miracle” of exploding churches has been noted before.)

Do Not Fear To Be Eccentric

eccentric bumper sticker

“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, because every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.” – Bertrand Russell

It isn’t good advice just because Bertrand Russell said it… but it is good advice.

Another Nail in the Coffin of Remote Intercessory Prayer

Does prayer really work wonders? Not according to epidemiologst Maria Inês da Rosa.

Da Rosa and her research team published results of a double-blind randomized trial in the Brazilian Journal of Science and Public Health last year. Half of the more than five hundred pregnant women in the trial had their health prayed for from a distance by a prayer team. The other half received no such prayers. When Da Rosa’s team measured the apgar scores, type of delivery and birth weight of the two groups, there was no difference in pregnancy outcomes.

A few years ago, intercessory prayer researchers were promising a golden age in which they would supposedly prove the effectiveness of their religion. That’s not happening. Careful science is establishing the opposite.

Congressional Contender Nick Troiano Parrots his Billionaire Patron Without Attribution

Mr. Troiano, you have a Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree from the prestigious Georgetown University. Surely someone, somewhere along the way to those two fine degrees taught you the fine art of citing your sources. It works like this:

When you pledge your congressional candidacy to the cause of slashing social security, medicare and medicaid while cutting taxes…

And you justify it on the basis of a graphic promising dire economic disaster just around the bend, any day now…

Nick Troiano's Issues page does not cite sources

It is a bad idea to do so without any kind of credit to the author of the graphic or even a link to the original page in which the graphic was embedded…

It is a good idea to mention that this graphic is the creation of the policy network of billionaire Peter G. Peterson

Billionaire Pete Peterson's Dream Scenario of Economic Disaster

It is a very good idea to mention that the very same billionaire Peter G. Peterson has been sponsoring your budding political career through at least the last two election cycles…

It is an excellent idea to note that the scary big red projection is based on a fictional circumstance in which our nation’s laws were changed to make things worse.

Sticking up a unsourced graphic and parroting your billionaire patron? That’s F-level behavior. Fail.

Would Mother Nature Move You Through A Purchase Funnel?

Mother Nature Network – it sounds like a warm and friendly, huggy and human kind of place – the sort of news web site that might hand you a warm, freshly-baked gluten-free cookie when you visit. It’s a web site that celebrates the “Joy of Less”, so you might expect its web design to be minimal, offering just plain information without all the technical behind-the-screen widgets that dominate the Internet these days.

I don’t know any of the human beings who work on Mother Earth News. They may be fine people. My expectations of a simple, open and honest online architecture from the Mother Nature Network were contradicted this morning, when I discovered that the site uses software that tries to push its readers through a “purchase funnel” – the online equivalent of a dog’s cone of shame.

mother nature network vizu

The Ghostery privacy plugin in my Firefox browsers informs me that the Mother Nature Network uses 10 different applications to track its users’ online behavior and then push advertisements at them. One of these applications, Vizu, is implemented on MNN with the purpose of “moving their target audience through the purchase funnel, from building awareness to creating intent and preference.”

The purchase funnel refers to a hidden structure within the Mother Nature Network website aimed at the manipulation of reader behavior, with the goal of getting them to buy products and build brand loyalties. The articles at Mother Nature Network are tools in this scheme for luring people into the purchase funnel.

If you visited the Mother Nature Network without using a privacy plugin like Ghostery, you would never know that this spy-to-buy software was at work behind the scenes at the MNN web site. A tiny, light gray “privacy” link down at the bottom of the Mother Nature Network site leads to a page that informs viewers that “third party ad-serving companies or ad networks may compile information about where you are using your computer, where you saw their advertisements, and which ads are clicked on,” but there’s no way that a person can ever learn about this spybot software without first being subjected to it. It’s a spy first inform later philosophy – and the information is only there if you happen to think to search for it.

Is that how a Mother Nature web site should operate?

Rand Paul Versus Bernard Sanders On CIA Spying Against The US Senate

Here we are, a full day since the news that the CIA has been conducting illegal spy operations against the United States Senate. In reaction to the revelations yesterday, our writer J. Clifford speculated that the issue could enter the 2016 presidential election, with libertarian Republican Rand Paul and independent Bernard Sanders taking special interest as presidential candidates who are also U.S. senators.

So, now that the two senators have had over 24 hours to respond to the scandal, how do they compare?

Bernard Sanders made the issue his most prominent statement today, with a message about the “CIA Cover Up In Torture Probe”. Sanders spoke in strong condemnation of the criminal surveillance against Congress by the CIA, writing, “A conflict between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Senate Intelligence Committee boiled over Tuesday when Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the panel chairwoman and one of the CIA’s staunchest defenders, accused the CIA of withholding information about its use of torture in the interrogation of prisoners. She also accused the spy agency of trying to intimidate committee staff members investigating the interrogation program. To Sen. Bernie Sanders, the revelation was “another sign that our intelligence community is out of control and that there must be greater oversight by Congress,” the Rutland Herald and Times Argus reported. Earlier this year, in response to a question from Sanders, the National Security Agency did not expressly deny spying on Congress.”

sanders rand paul

Rand Paul, on the other hand, doesn’t really seem to care about big government abuses of the separation of powers and the fourth amendment to the Constitution. As seen on his U.S. Senate web site, Paul has not issued any formal statement on the issue. He’s been officially silent on the matter. The last statement of any kind that Rand Paul had to make was a commentary about different methods of interpreting the foreign policy of Ronald Reagan, who was President three decades ago.

Way to keep up to date with the issues, Rand Paul. Bernard Sanders wins on this issue, hands down.

Rather Than Answer a Question about the Matthew 4 Protocol, Mark Stengler Hits the Delete Key

On February 15 2014, I shared an offer sent to me by GOP USA and a company called Health Revelations using the name of “Dr. Mark Stengler” to lend an authoritative voice that a “Bible Code” called the “Matthew 4 Protocol.” I shared with you ten indications that the so-called Matthew 4 Protocol is actually a scam. At the same time, I wondered if perhaps Mark Stengler might by a victim in the apparent scam, with his name being appropriated by someone else to lend an air of authority (although it wouldn’t be the authority of a real, full medical doctor: Mark Stengler got his doctorate in a “naturopathic” school unaccredited by any actual major medical institution). Could Stengler be a victim? After all, I noticed, there was no claim about any Matthew 4 Protocol cancer cure on the Mark Stengler website markstengler.com:

If “Dr. Mark Stengler” is really involved in the discovery and sale of this amazing “cure,” why wouldn’t he be trumpeting the fact to the hills, or at least modestly mentioning his accomplishment somewhere on his highly promotional website?

On the morning of March 1, I decided to follow all the directions provided to me in order to receive full information on the Matthew 4 Protocol for “free.” It’s the evening of March 11 now, and in the 11 days since I signed up, I have not received a single shred of information telling me what this miraculous Matthew 4 Cancer Protocol is. That’s a promise broken. Instead, I’ve been sent a new pitch telling me that I have to pay $19 for the supposed miracle cure… and a whole lot of spam hawking other fake “cures.”

With both the first pitch and the second pitch claiming that Mark Stengler vouches for the “Matthew 4 Protocol” as a cancer cure-all, I wanted to be absolutely sure that Mark Stengler had a chance to clear his name. Perhaps, even though these messages used his name to endorse this mysterious super-cancer-fix-all (mine for free just $19), he was just a victim who didn’t know anything about it. Maybe someone had stolen the Mark Stengler identity, I thought.

So I went to Mark Stengler’s business page on Facebook, where people were already asking him if this was some kind of “internet scam.” 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 connected, at least indirectly, to the Matthew 4 Protocol claims.

On March 9, I posted questions to Mark Stenger over Twitter and on his Facebook business page:

Facebook message from Irregular Times: Dr. Stengler, a web page and an e-mail message suggest that you have

By March 10, additional comments, angrier than mine, had been posted to Mark Stengler’s business page on Facebook, seconding my questions and demanding that they be answered.

Today, Mark Stengler’s business page on Facebook was temporarily withdrawn from the web. When it came back online, can you guess what happened next?

That’s right. My simple, absolutely fair question to Mark Stengler was deleted, along with all the follow-up comments posted by others.

Why, if Mark Stengler had actually discovered a miracle cancer cure that prevents any cancer from surviving in the body, would he delete a question asking if he were responsible for the miracle discovery?

On the other hand, if Mark Stengler were completely unconnected to the scam promotion, why would he delete the question asking him about the issue? Wouldn’t he want to clear things up?

I encourage you to visit facebook.com/markstengler and ask Mark Stengler what’s up. Either he’ll respond to you… or he’ll delete your question.

I suggest that you use the ever-handy “print screen” function on your computer when you do so. There’s nothing like a visual record to keep a pertinent question from being shoved down the memory hole:

Why did Mark Stengler delete this simple question from his Facebook business page?  Ask Mark Stengler -- and hope he doesn't delete your message.

…And Thank You Senator Feinstein, But…

This morning, I wrote an article sharing a grassroots shaming project targeting U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein. Feinstein has spent years protecting the National Security Agency’s massive system of electronic surveillance of Americans, and she deserves condemnation for that ongoing part of her record.

However, Senator Feinstein also deserves praise for what she’s done today. Since I published this morning’s article, Feinstein has done something extremely important: She has revealed that the CIA has been conducting spying operations against the U.S. Senate in order to stop an investigation into widespread torture by CIA agents.

Not only did the CIA spy on the Senate, but it used the information it gathered through surveillance of Senate staff members in order to attempt to intimidate the Senate into ending its investigation of CIA torture.

Furthermore, the CIA was spying specifically against the Senate Intelligence Committee – the very committee that is supposed to have oversight power to ensure that spy agencies like the CIA are not engaging in illegal and unconstitutional spying.

The spying that has been conducted by the CIA against the U.S. Senate is both illegal and unconstitutional… but then, so is the spying that’s been conducted by the NSA against the American people.

Senator Dianne Feinstein is to be thanked for finally telling Americans that the CIA has gone rogue and, though it has only been given the legal power to conduct operations against foreigners outside of U.S. borders, is now using its powers against the democratically-elected representatives of the American people in Congress. However, as part of her statement today, Feinstein admitted that she has been trying to help the CIA cover up its rogue spying activities – attempting to keep the abuses secret from the American people.

Feinstein only acknowledged the CIA’s spying abuses after journalists found out about the illegal activities on their own, and began to publish hints about the problem in prominent newspapers. Feinstein now needs to explain why she sought to prevent the CIA leadership from being held accountable for the criminal activity within the spy agency.

More fundamentally, Dianne Feinstein has worked for years to create, promote and protect secret federal government spy programs that illegally and unconstitutionally target law-abiding Americans. It is no surprise that government spy agencies, when given the power to spy against Americans without any genuine restraint, would abuse this power in order to try to subvert American democracy for their own selfish purposes. In fact, we at Irregular Times, along with countless other civil libertarians, have been warning for years that just this sort of thing would happen.

Six years ago, our writer J. Clifford warned of the possibility of spy agency intimidation of Congress, asking, “Can the Democratic Congress not find its backbone even once… just to prove that they’re not completely useless? Have they been bought, or blackmailed…?”

A few months before that, Mother Davis warned that after the passage of the FISA Amendments Act, with the help of Barack Obama and Dianne Feinstein, “The safe bet is to assume that you’re being wiretapped, and that anything that you say can be made public the next day, to prosecute you, or maybe to blackmail you. Thanks to laws like the Patriot Act, the Protect America Act, and the FISA Amendments Act, there’s no such thing as privacy anymore. If you forget that, it’s at your peril.”

Senator Dianne Feinstein seems to have believed that the threat to our constitutional rights created by the Homeland Security regime’s electronic surveillance programs applied to everyone but herself. It now appears that Senator Feinstein is only willing to reveal the astonishing criminal culture of federal government spying agencies when she and her staffers are made the targets.

Feinstein’s self-serving reversal is reminiscent of the quick reversal on the issue of government spying by U.S. Representative Jane Harman. Harman had been a solid supporter of unconstitutional spying against the American people, until she discovered that she herself had been made a target of illegal surveillance by the Bush Administration.

feinstein targeted for spyingSenator Feinstein has rudely condemned Edward Snowden for revealing the criminal activities of the NSA, saying that the threat of Big Brother was justified by fears of terrorism. Now, she expects us to applaud her smaller action as heroic.

All right, Senator. Here you go: Clap, clap, clap…

Now resign.

You haven’t been doing your job as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee. You have allowed government spying to run out of control. It’s time for someone like Senator Ron Wyden, who has more actively challenged the growth of abusive espionage in the federal government, to take charge of the committee’s work.

It’s also time for Barack Obama to answer for his involvement. It won’t be enough for the leadership of the CIA to resign. President Obama himself has been an architect of illegal government spying. He must be held accountable himself.

Whether he knew specifically about the CIA program to spy on the activities of the United States Senate or was unaware of what government agencies have been doing under his watch, the existence of this program is evidence enough to any reasonable person that Barack Obama has failed to honor his Oath of Office.

This scandal cannot be adequately addressed with anything short of a fully independent investigation, led by a special prosecutor with the power to bring criminal charges, and with the task of advising Congress on the legal basis for initiating the process of impeachment.

Shame On Senator Feinstein

A genuine grassroots coalition of 24 organizations and over two thousand individuals from California has come together to sign an open letter to Senator Dianne Feinstein, deploring her consistent support for abusive government programs that use electronic communications networks to spy on Americans. The coalition, calling itself Shame On Feinstein, expresses “concern and outrage”, and demands her resignation as chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

The group writes, “As the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee you are tasked with providing “vigilant legislative oversight over the intelligence activities of the United States to assure that such activities are in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.” In this capacity, you have failed your country. Under your watch the NSA has shredded the Constitution by engaging in bulk data collection and spying on American people, on American soil. Your failure to act in your capacity as chair of the only committee tasked with overseeing federal intelligence programs has enabled these constitutional violations to continue. Your resignation is essential towards rebuilding the collapsed credibility of the oversight committee that is supposed to keep the intelligence community accountable.”

shame on feinstein

Americans Elect Alums Gather Around Nick Troiano Campaign to Test New Method for Electing Pols

Three days ago, the Independent Voter Network posted a piece in which it quoted Nick Troiano explaining why he is running for Congress:

Nick Troiano: Part of the reason I’m doing this is to prove a model that can be scaled to other congressional districts in 2016. I want to work with others who are embarking on a new endeavor to recruit, run, and support more independent-minded people. If we can elect around 30, such a group could control the balance of power in Congress…and force both parties to the middle where common ground could be found and the major challenges could be confronted.

I seem to have heard that idea before… but where?

Do you remember what Americans Elect lawyer Daniel Winslow said in October 2012 about the effort to pump $1.75 million in cash from three Wall Street tycoons into the Angus King’s campaign for Senate? Let’s read Winslow’s quote in the Boston Globe:

“If he is successful, Americans Elect will participate in the upcoming election cycle to develop 3, 5, or 10 more Angus Kings representing an independent caucus to bridge the divide between the partisan extremes, to turn the tide of gridlock in Washington, and to put us onto a course of government the American people want and deserve,” Winslow said.

Nick Troiano worked at Americans Elect (and its immediate predecessor Unity08) for two election cycles. And who is working on Nick Troiano’s campaign right now? Look for yourself:

  • Rachel Vierling, who previously worked as a staffer The Can Kicks Back, a vehicle funded by billionaire Peter G. Peterson that Troiano jumped to after he worked on the failing and mysteriously-funded Americans Elect, and then after he worked on the also-failing and also-mysteriously-funded campaign to elect Peterson underling David Walker President of the United States.
  • Blake Wright, a staffer at Americans Elect who jumped to The Can Kicks Back with Nick Troiano afer he jumped, again with Nick Troiano, to the failed Draft David Walker for President campaign.
  • Joe Belsterling, who worked with Americans Elect.
  • Tanvir Faisal, who worked with Americans Elect.

The current political effort by Nick Troiano is just getting curiouser and curiouser. Pay attention.

Bernie Sanders Is #Up4Climate

Tonight, The Guardian reports, two dozen Democratic U.S. Senators are participating in an all-night vigil, discussing the importance of action to confront climate change. It’s a British newspaper, so it takes several paragraphs to note that, in addition to those Democrats, two Senate independents are joining the vigil.

One of those independent senators is 2016 presidential hopeful Bernard Sanders. Sanders comments, “You have got to be involved in this process, because if you are not, the planet we’re going to leave to our kid sand grandchildren will be significantly less habitable than the one we have today.”

Also worthy of note is that, with 24 Senate Democrats taking part in the climate vigil tonight, most of the Senate Democrats are boycotting the vigil. There are a total of 53 Senate Democrats.

Why are the majority of Senate Democrats trying to undercut action to deal with climate change?

Postscript: If you want to follow the gist of the Senate climate vigil, the Twitter hashtag is #Up4Climate.

Update: It now seems that 28 Senate Democrats will participate in the Up4Climate vigil. That means that the majority of Senate Democrats are now taking place… and it’s just a very large minority of Senate Democrats that are boycotting efforts to promote climate activism.

Why bother promoting legislative action to deal with climate change? It’s been rather cold in the eastern half of the United States, right?

The eastern half of the United States isn’t the entire world. Elsewhere, global warming continues. The National Snow and Ice Data Center reports that the surface area extent of Arctic sea ice is at an historic low for this date, two standard deviations below the average from over the last 33 years.

nsidcmarch2014