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Itch, Scratched. Ouch.

Please "Do Not" put coffee grounds and food down this drain, as it plugs it up.  Thank You!

Kitchen Rules: 1.  Please don't put coffee grounds or food down the drain.  2.  Please use conjunctions and quotation marks appropriately.  Thank you for your cooperation!

Oh, I’ve been wanting to do that for a long time. Now that I’ve done the deed, I can’t shake the feeling that I’m closer to insufferable than the sign ever was.

Did The Ice Bucket Challenge Come From A Nazi Cult?

This summer saw the widespread practice of something called the Ice Bucket Challenge, in which people posted videos of themselves having buckets of ice water dumped over their heads in an attempt to increase awareness of the need for money to support research into new treatments for a disease known by the acronym ALS. This summer also saw the growth of rumors that the Ice Bucket Challenge is a Satanic ritual.

The strange thing is that there is no record of Satanists practicing rituals in which they dump buckets of ice water over each other’s heads. Still, I wanted to keep an open mind that such a practice might exist. So, I issued a challenge at the beginning of this month: could anybody provide any evidence of the existence of a Satanic Ice Bucket ritual?

Over three weeks later, one person has finally accepted this challenge and offered what she claims to be evidence that such a ritual of diabolical ice bucket practice exists. A reader named Christina has claimed that the book Fire And Ice: Magical Teachings of Germany’s Greatest Secret Occult Order by Stephen E. Flowers is “proof” that the Ice Bucket Challenge is derived from Satanic religious practice.

Is this, in fact, the evidence that we have been waiting for? The words “occult” and “ice” seem promising. The impression one gets is of an evil Nazi cult, meeting in the dark German words, dumping buckets of ice over initiates, and planning to dominate YouTube in the 21st-century with sinister charitable demonstrations of fortitude, in the face of frozen water, to benefit medical research.

Wait a minute. That doesn’t make any sense. Neither does the claim that this book is proof of the Satanic nature of the Ice Bucket Challenge.

First of all, the book does not refer to a Nazi cult. It actually refers to a secret society that was destroyed by the Nazis because it was unacceptably nonconformist. Flowers writes, “The great storm-cloud broke over the Fraternitas Saturni and all other Masonic and quasi- Masonic lodges in Germany on January 30, 1933, when Adolf Hitler, Führer of the NSDAP, took the oath as chancellor of Germany. By the next month emergency powers had been invoked and many groups thought to be of a subversive nature, from Communists to Masons, were suppressed. This began a process in which secret societies and occult orders of all kinds began to be systematically suppressed. Most sources on the history of the FS state that the lodge was closed and banned in 1933.”

fire and ice German occult

So, this supposedly Satanic cult was a victim of the sinister Nazis, not one of their evil plots. As it turns out, the Fraternitas Saturni wasn’t really Satanic either. It was something more like an amalgam of ideas and practices pulled together from a variety of old pagan sources. The reference to ice in the title of this book has to do with an ancient Norse belief in the existence of a kind of cosmic ice from which the order of the universe was created. This isn’t a Satanic belief. The character Satan comes, not from Scandinavia, but from the relatively hot Arabian Peninsula, where ice is very rare indeed. The contemporary practice of Satanism actually has very little to do with either Scandinavia or Arabia. It is more of a countercultural protest against authoritarian Christianity than anything else.

Despite its title, Fire And Ice: Magical Teachings of Germany’s Greatest Secret Occult Order contains very few references to ice at all. Those references to ice that do exist in the book have to do with the abstract Norse concept of cosmic ice, not physical ice that is used in a ritual context. Flowers writes about ice in passages such as the following:

“What for the most part seems to be a Gnostic cosmology has been deeply influenced by the theories of Hans Hörbiger (1860-1931). Hörbiger believed that there were two principal forces contending in the universe: cosmic fire and cosmic ice (or German: Welteis)”

The ice in this book never gets any more exciting than that. There are appendixes in the book that describe, in some detail, rituals practiced by the German order. None of these rituals involve either a bucket or ice.

In short, the book contains no proof whatsoever of a link between Satanism and the Ice Bucket Challenge. If this is the best evidence that believers in the conspiracy theory can produce, it suggests that they are willing to adopt the most outlandish beliefs on nothing more than the flimsiest wisp of substantiation.

The conspiracy theory of the Satanic Ice Bucket Challenge is thus more of an indictment of the intelligence and integrity of the people who believe it than anything else.

Poised to Become More Dependent on the Military, Maine Walks for Peace

In the mountains of western Maine, the U.S. government is planning to take an area the size of a small town and fill it with Interceptor missiles. Part of the “Star Wars” missile defense system that still doesn’t work, even in tests in which scientists know exactly where the desired target will be, this Interceptor base is being sold to Maine as a source of jobs when jobs are hard to come by. But with $40 billion spent so far, it’s fair to ask how else that money might have been spent if not on missiles that miss. What else could $40 billion do?

I’m not the only one asking this question. From October 11 to October 20 of 2014, Maine Veterans for Peace is carrying out a protest walk from Rangeley, the proposed site of the Interceptor installation, to North Berwick, a site of ongoing military construction work in southern Maine. The goal of this group is to take the questions “why this?” and “what else is possible?” to the heart of communities that rely on war for their bread.

You’re invited to come along, too. If you’d like more information, contact Maine Veterans for Peace at vfpmaine.org.

The most depressing panoramic photograph you will ever see

The hallway in the office building in which I am working today.

panorama of office space

Does Cannabis Oil Really Cure Cancer?

Since medicinal and recreational use of marijuana became legal in some parts of the United States, a tsunami of marketing has sought to convince Americans to use marijuana, and products derived from marijuana, in a huge variety of ways. Part of this tidal surge of marijuana marketing has been the attempt to sell a substance referred to as “cannabis oil” as a cancer treatment.

Typical among these is an advertisement featuring the testimony of someone they call “Mike Cutler”. “Mike Cutler claims the cancerous cells in his liver disappeared after he began taking home-made cannabis oil.”

If there is a guy named Mike Cutler out there whose liver cancer has gone away, I’m happy for him. Nonetheless, I’m concerned about the claims that cannabis oil can cure cancer. As Irregular Times writer Jim has pointed out, many people who have cancer desperately search for nontoxic cures for their illnesses, because they don’t want to die, and they don’t want to suffer the harsh effects of chemotherapy. It’s an understandable motivation, but the impact of the quest for alternative treatments can be harsh in its own way.

People who could have benefited from chemotherapy, but seek out alternative medicine instead, often die. Of course, quite often, people who receive chemotherapy die, too. Most cancers are very difficult to beat. Sometimes, nothing can be done. When people with cancer go on quests for alternative medicines, the manic activity of moving from one snake oil to the next can prevent them from accepting their conditions, and helping the people around them come to terms with their death. Pursuing false hopes sold by flim flam artists can make the final march toward death even more painful than it would have otherwise been. Pouring money into fraudulent remedies makes a hard situation even worse.

So, when I hear about claims by some guy named Mike that cannabis oil cured his cancer, I’m skeptical. Being skeptical doesn’t mean that I discount the possibility of oils derived from marijuana plants having a good medicinal impact on people’s cancer. It means I want to see the evidence for the claim.

The American Cancer Society acknowledges that compounds contained within the leaves of some marijuana plants are being studied to determine whether they might have medical benefits. It is known that marijuana plants contain chemicals that produce dramatic impacts on the function of the human body. But is cannabis a cure for cancer?

The American Cancer Society writes that “As of 2014, there are reports online suggesting that marijuana oil or “hemp” oil can cure cancer, as well as diabetes, ulcers, arthritis, migraines, insomnia, infections, and many other diseases. These claims are largely unsupportable.”

At first, that doesn’t look good for claims that cannabis oil cures cancer. But then, if these claims are “largely unsupportable”, that leaves room for a few of the claims to be supportable, right?

Not so fast. The American Cancer Society also writes that “There are no studies in people of the effects of marijuana oil or hemp oil.” No studies. None. Zip. Zero.

That means that there isn’t any basis for the specific claim that cannabis oil cures cancer, except for anecdotes from people like that guy named Mike.

The trouble with anecdotal evidence is that it isn’t sufficient to prove causation. One person might have taken cannabis oil, and then had his cancer disappear, but that doesn’t mean that the cannabis oil was the thing that caused the cancer to disappear. That person might have done something else that caused the cancer to disappear, or the cancer might have diminished all on its own, due to something going on with the natural biological systems in the body of the cancer patient. That happens.

We can’t say what the cause of anybody’s remission is without big studies that gather large amounts of data about the medical history of the patients participating in the studies. Large amounts of data are required to get statistically significant data, so that researchers can be relatively confident that they aren’t just taking note of coincidences. It’s unfortunate, but cancer is complicated, and the science to evaluate potential therapies must be complicated and rigorous as well.

What has taken place is that studies involving cancer cells in petri dishes have shown that some isolated compounds taken from marijuana plants (not cannabis oil) can slow the rate of growth of cancer cells – but not stop the growth of cancer cells. Research involving animals indicates, likewise, that these isolated compounds (not cannabis oil as sold online) may be able to slow the spread of some forms of cancer – but not stop it. Human trials of these compounds are not yet advanced enough to provide certain results, so far, the data doesn’t look promising.

There are no studies proving that the cannabis oil that is being sold as a cancer cure contains enough of the compounds that have been studied even to thwart cancer cells in a petri dish.

This information is from the American Cancer Society, though, and some people may suppose that the American Cancer Society is in bed with Big Pharma, and has a financial incentive to cover up the truth about cannabis oil. I don’t know if there’s any vast conspiracy to cover up the effectiveness of cannabis oil in treating cancer, but for the sake of argument, lets say that there is, and look at another source.

Dr. Andrew Weil is not someone any reasonable person would accuse of being in league with Big Pharma. He’s a proponent of alternative medicine, including the use of natural remedies and healthy living rather than relying heavily on pharmaceuticals.

Dr. Weil does have a more positive interpretation of the potential for compounds extracted from marijuana for the treatment of cancer than the American Cancer Society does. However, even Dr. Weil acknowledges that “So far, the only human test of cannabinoids against cancer was done in Spain and was designed to determine if treatment was safe, not whether it was effective.”

So, even Dr. Weil admits that there isn’t any evidence that cannabis oil cures cancer.

Dr. Weil does, however, encourage his patients to visit the web site of Len Richmond, which features a picture of an extraterrestrial smoking a joint as an advertisement for Marijuana: The Musical, in which “extraterrestrials escape, along with some Earthlings, back to their home ‘Planet Cannabis’, a perfect world where everything is made of hemp-from fuel to food to plastics-and there’s no pollution, global warming, or war.” The Len Richmond web site also has a testimonial from actress Lily Tomlin, who says, “Big Pharma watch out. Big Ganja is coming and it cures!”

If that isn’t enough to convince you that cannabis oil cures cancer, then… good for you.

Giving is Sowing and God Promises a Harvest? (What Kind of Harvest?)

Prince of Peace Lutheran Church declares that Giving is Sowing and God Promises a Harvest!

The promise that “Giving is Sowing and God Promises a Harvest!” met me on my way to work this morning, and it got me to thinking.

My first thought was of the so-called “Prosperity Gospel,” which asks followers of a church to give money to the church with the promise that God will mysteriously reward them by changing their life so that followers get even more money back.  In a recent e-mail blast, Pastor Benny Hinn laid out the claim in a bald-faced grab for his followers’ cash:

Let me quickly explain about this historic miracle: A long-time and beloved friend of mine and of this ministry shared something with me this week that literally touched me to the core!

“Benny,” he said, “God wants your ministry to be completely out of debt, and I want to plant an anointed seed that will help you take a giant step toward becoming totally debt-free!”

Now this is a very precious man of God whom I have known and loved more than three decades. He has been such a blessing to the cause of Christ. So when he said this, needless to say, I was thrilled beyond words at his unbelievable generosity and the remarkable timeliness of his offer.

You see, even as God has given us a new beginning, we have faced incredible challenges as a ministry as a result of things that happened in the past few years. At the same time our broken home was attracting attention from worldwide news services, the economies of so many of the countries where our partners live have been hit mercilessly. As a result, some of our partners decided to suspend giving or to simply walk away.

And while we have seen God beginning to restore so much, one of the last pieces of the puzzle has been our finances. So you can only imagine how it nearly took my breath away when he told me how much…

But then there was something more this man of God added:

Benny, God has laid it on my heart to plant a seed of $2.5 million into your ministry, but God only wants me to make this gift if the ministry partners match the amount within 90 days! I feel so strongly that He wants them to be part of the supernatural wealth transfer that is coming to every believer who will obey God’s Word.

What could I say? Immediately I saw the hand of God in this.

God wants Benny Hinn’s followers to give him lots of money? Why, what a convenient revelation.

Hinn goes on in his e-mail fundraising appeal to promise a “double harvest miracle” for people who give him their money: they’ll get double their money back!

Are you ready for God to do the “impossible” in your life!

Are you ready to see your harvest doubled?

Are you ready to see your debt cancelled in the next 90 days?

Imagine not dreading going to the mailbox, no bills piling up on your counter, and no calls from collectors coming to your home. God wants to wipe your debt out! Every bit of it…and in the next 90 days!

This is an appointed hour. Imagine: Your $100 gift immediately doubles to $200. Your $500 seed literally becomes $1,000. If God leads you to plant $10,000, it instantly grows into a $20,000 seed! And your double seed, sown bountifully, will reap bountifully through the supernatural law of multiplication!

Only God could provide something like this—a double harvest for you. And the more you plant, the more you will reap!

The anointing for biblical abundance is being released. As you step into this miracle by faith, it will be poured out upon you, too! Your giving is literally the weapon that breaks the bondage of debt in this ministry and in your home during the next 90 days.

Plant your seed-gift now, then begin confessing over every bill, every debt, and every area of financial struggle in your life:

“With God I’m coming out of debt in 90 days!!!”

These repeated confessions will be constant reminders of the financial breakthrough that is coming to you.

I don’t believe for a minute that this “prosperity gospel” thinking works, and neither does anybody who spares a minute to think: if Benny Hinn is so holy, and if the holy receive immense divine dispensations of cash money, then why does Benny Hinn start off his fundraising appeal by admitting that he and his ministry are in debt?

But that’s the last perverse piece of the “prosperity gospel” scam: it preys upon people who are already the among the most vulnerable in the world: people who can’t, won’t or simply don’t think carefully. Benny Hinn and those like him who preach the “prosperity gospel” are the worst of religious predators.

Another Possibility…
There is another possible explanation for the church sign I saw this morning, one that speaks to gardening at its heart. If you’ve met enough gardeners in your life, you’ve met some givers. Most committed gardeners end up as givers, you know: once you let it slip that you’re thinking of starting a new bed, you’ll be headed home with a cardboard box full of cuttings and divided bulbs and special seeds. A committed and open-hearted gardener likes nothing more than knowing that somewhere over yonder, someone will be enjoying a fall with more hostas or garlic or black-eyed susans or peas or potatoes. By giving, they know that somewhere there is the promise of a harvest, and it doesn’t even matter if they ever see that harvest with their own eyes. Just knowing that something’s growing for someone, somewhere makes them happy.

These are the people who redeem the world despite all the conniving Benny Hinners, and I love them with all of my heart.

The Tutti Frutti Farmer Of Northern Pennsylvania

A plow and an aesthetic sensibility are not mutually exclusive.

tutti Frutti farm

Jody Hice Seeks To Re-Establish The Terror Of Puritanical Religious Rule Across America

First, there’s the good news: America will no longer need to wince at the speeches of Congressman Paul Broun. Broun lost the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Georgia this year, and won’t be running for re-election to the House of Representatives.

Unfortunately, this reprieve was followed by bad news: The Republican who is favored to replace Paul Broun looks even more extreme and intolerant than Broun. The GOP candidate in Georgia’s 10th congressional district is Baptist preacher Jody Hice.

Hice is running for Congress on the promise to end separation of church and state in the USA, and to replace it with a Puritan-style theocracy.

Preacher Hice warns that “militant atheists” are threatening the United States, although he has never been able to summon any evidence that atheists are taking up arms. For atheists to be categorized as a “militant”, all that Hice requires is the suggestion that atheists are asking for equality under the law.

Jody Hice’s fervent story lines of dangerous atheists often seem to reflect his own burning ambition to overturn cherished American traditions of constitutional freedom. For example, during his September 2nd radio show, Jody Hice told his audience that atheists at the Freedom From Religion Foundation are “always on a witch hunt”.

A witch hunt. An atheist witch hunt?

Atheists have never hunted witches. Witch hunts are a Christian tradition, dating back to the Puritan fervor around the time of the European colonization of North America.

elect jody hice for new witch trialsThat’s a tradition that Jody Hice has expressed a special affection for. On his congressional campaign web site, Hice celebrates the Puritan theocracy as a “rich spiritual heritage” that the United States of America should seek to renew. “Dating back to the Pilgrims and the Mayflower Compact, our society has been based upon Christian principles,” Hice writes.

Should we really base our system of government upon what the form of government that the Puritan colonists of Massachusetts established generations before the United States of America became an independent nation?

If we did, here’s what it would look like:

– Kissing between husbands and wives on Sunday prohibited
– Women outlawed from wearing short sleeves
– People thrown in jail for the criminal offense of not going to church
– Territories splitting away from U.S. states over religious differences
– State governments telling citizens which churches they should go to
– Non-Christian religious practices banned
– Religious dissidents deported
– Christian ministers owning slaves
– Non-church members not allowed to vote in public elections
– Government given the power to punish churches for deviating from approved doctrines and religious rituals
– A system of spies, controlled by the government-sponsored church, reporting all failures to obey government codes of religious behavior
– A return to witch hunts

If this Puritan theocracy is what you want for the United States of America, by all means, go ahead and vote for Jody Hice.

One Year Bible for Kids Leaves Out God’s Tips for Assaulting Slaves

As I discussed last week, the One Year Bible for Kids promises to have “your 8- to 12-year-olds read the bulk of God’s Word in one year — you bet!” Tyndale House, the Christian company that publishes The One Year Bible for Kids, declares explicitly that kids should get to know God and that the best way “to know what God is like and what he wants you to do” is for kids “to spend time with him. One of the best ways to do that is by reading his special message to you — the Bible. And the cool truth is that as you spend time with God, you will see how he works in your life.”

In last week’s initial glimpse, I noticed an odd gap in the Bible passages the book makes available for children to read.  In readings for the month of March, kids were encouraged to read 1 Samuel 13, and 1 Samuel 14, and 1 Samuel 16, and 1 Samuel 17, and 1 Samuel 18 … everything except 1 Samuel 15, a passage in which the character of the Lord God is said to command that every man, woman, child and baby of the Amalekite nation be slaughtered because 400 years prior, Amalekites went to war against Israel.  The One Year Bible for Kids omits a highly relevant character trait of God — that he is a mass murderer who kills kids and babies because once their very distant ancestors declared war.  This is no God of peace.  This is no God of love.  This is a genocidal baby-killing God of bloody revenge.  The One Year Bible for Kids has decided it’s best for kids to stay in the dark about that.

Today I decided to take another look at The One Year Bible for Kids’ reading plan for the year.  Are there any other gaps?  Right away, another one popped out.  Look at these scheduled readings of Exodus:

The One Year Bible for Kids, February Reading Plan: Where's Exodus 21?

Now, it’s the darndest thing, but if you look closely you’ll notice that throughout February, the Bible asks kids to read Exodus, Exodus and more Exodus, right up to the end of Exodus 20.  Why doesn’t The One Year Bible for Kids include Exodus 21?

Read Exodus 21 for yourself.  You’ll see God’s commandments:

If a man is a slave, gets married, has kids and then gains his freedom, he must leave his wife and children behind, because his wife and kids are someone else’s property. (Exodus 21: 1-4)

If that man refuses to leave his wife and kids after gaining his freedom from slavery, then the slaveholder should ram an awl through the man’s ear and own him, and the wife, and the kids, forever. (Exodus 21: 5-6)

A man can sell his daughter into slavery. (Exodus 21: 7)

A child who hits his or her parent, or even just shows disrespect to them, must be put to death. (Exodus 21:15,17)

If a slave owner beats his or her slave, then as long as the slave doesn’t die the owner should not be punished. (Exodus 21: 20-21)

In this passage of Exodus, the very passage that The One Year Bible for Kids neglects to show kids, God is revealed as a callous proponent of slavery, human trafficking, family dissolution, daughter selling, slave beating, and child killing.  No wonder The One Year Bible for Kids doesn’t want kids to know about this side of the character called God.  It’s enough to make a conscientious young person reject Christianity — and that’s the last thing the editors of the heavily-censored Bible for Kids would want.  If the authors have to hide religious truths from children to keep them in line, well, so be it.

P.S.  Careful observers may notice another missing piece of Exodus from the February reading list: Exodus 17.  Why would the editors of The One Year Bible for Kids remove Exodus 17? Read Exodus 17 and you’ll find out the horrible, awful sin committed by the Amalekites that in God’s eyes justified the wholesale slaughter of their great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandchildren 400 years later.  The Amalekites engaged in military attack upon the Israelites — a common enough act at the time — and lost.  For this, the killing of every Amalek man, woman, child and baby — 400 years later, in 1 Samuel 15 — is justified?  Better to leave Exodus 17 out of The One Year Bible for Kids than to have to explain why a wonderful, lovable God would command something like this.

Who Checks The Checkers?

The Consumer Product Safety Commission has the job of ensuring that the products and services we buy operate properly, at least to the extent that they are free of hazards. To that end, the CPSC operates SaferProducts.gov, where people can report products that have dangerous design faults, and gain access to other citizens’ reports about unsafe products and services…

… though these reports may be completely useless. The CPSC posts a statement on the bottom of the SaferProducts.gov web site warning that “CPSC does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the contents of the Publicly Available Consumer Product Safety Information Database on SaferProducts.gov”.

safety not guaranteedIf the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s SaferProducts.gov web site is supposed to keep people informed about which products are dangerous to them, but the reports on the web site are unreliable, doesn’t that make SaferProducts.gov itself unsafe? I would report SaferProducts.gov as an unsafe product on SaferProducts.gov, but then, the accuracy, completeness and adequacy of my report there would not be guaranteed.

A paradox, a paradox, a most ingenious paradox…

Yankee Doodle’s Unfinished Business

As members of Congress abandon their task of crafting legislative solutions to America’s problems in order to find corporate patrons to bankroll their re-elections, there is much talk about the unfinished business of the 113th Congress. The unfinished business of Congress goes much further back than just the last couple of years, however. There are years and years of unfulfilled promises in the closets of Capitol Hill, enough bills that never received a vote, or even a committee hearing, to provide an entire generation of children enough material to make paper airplanes to their hearts’ contents. My heart sinks when I see what might have been.

In particular, I pause over one worthy piece of legislation from the 109th Congress, introduced by Martin Meehan 9 years ago: H.Con.Res.243 – Expressing the sense of Congress that Billerica, Massachusetts, should be recognized as “America’s Yankee Doodle Town”.

Now, it may be true that Yankee Doodle never came to Billerica. Sticklers for historical accuracy will note that no person named Yankee Doodle ever existed, and that the song Yankee Doodle was actually invented in Europe long before the American Revolution. So, if reality matters to you, then you’ll have to admit that Yankee Doodle really has almost nothing to do with Billerica, Massachusetts.

Still, the fact remains that Congressman Meehan promised to support a resolution calling for the official recognition of Billerica as Yankee Doodle Town. H.Con. Res. 243 may have been filed as with the Clerk of the US House of Representatives, but Meehan never managed to get the leader of his own committee to give the bill a glance,

Consider the consequences. To this day, the USA lacks a Yankee Doodle Town. Is it any wonder we are so divided? Is it any wonder Lady Gaga has replaced Johnny Mathis on the Hit Parade? What’s next? Cats sleeping with dogs? Ice Bucket Challenges in church? Rick Santorum running for President again?

Congress, stop the madness! America demands that you reconvene this week and give Billerica its due as a silly little town with nothing but shopping malls to attract visitors! Young Billericans need something to pin their hopes and dreams on, and what could fit that need better than Yankee Doodle?

The time for the Yankee Doodle Town has arrived! Billericans, unite! You have nothing to lose but your macaroni!