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Did you know that most smokers will never contract lung cancer?

Experts and media economical with the truth

Studies on the subject are, not surprisingly, hard to find, but every now and then, a small item appears in a news article, such as this one in Time magazine, dated April 2, 2008 (emphases mine):

… what about the 80% of smokers who don’t develop lung cancer? Are they just the lucky ones?

The article goes on to say that lung cancer and smoking depends on a genetic variant which researchers in Europe and the United States studied:

While the variants were associated with an increased risk of lung cancer in smokers, that genetic predisposition is not destiny.

However, this is not new. A 1985 article from the Los Angeles Times, ‘Researcher Admits that 80% of Smokers Don’t Get Cancer’ begins as follows:

A researcher who testified in a $1-million wrongful death suit that smoking causes lung cancer later admitted “perhaps 80%” of smokers do not contract the disease.

Dr. Michael B. Shimkin acknowledged under cross-examination Wednesday that “most people who do smoke–even heavy smokers–do not get lung cancer.”

Shimkin refused when pressed by R. J. Reynolds Co. attorneys to set the number at 90%, but said it is “a heavy number, perhaps 80%. . . . This is one of the many questions in medicine, why some of us have resistance to this and others do not.”

Another doctor, James P Shiepman, MD, did his own private research on many of the anti-tobacco studies available on the Internet. His short but informative essay, based on 50 hours of research, is entitled ‘Smoking Does Not Cause Lung Cancer’. I recommend it to everyone.

Those seeking actual tables from the WHO and Center for Disease Control can examine his table of risks per demographic at the bottom of the page.

Excerpts from his essay follow (emphasis his in the third paragraph):

… the risk of a smoker getting lung cancer is much less than anyone would suspect.  Based upon what the media and anti-tobacco organizations say, one would think that if you smoke, you get lung cancer (a 100% correlation) or at least expect a 50+% occurrence before someone uses the word “cause.” 

Would you believe that the real number is < 10% (see Appendix A)? Yes, a US white male (USWM) cigarette smoker has an 8% lifetime chance of dying from lung cancer but the USWM nonsmoker also has a 1% chance of dying from lung cancer (see Appendix A).  In fact, the data used is biased in the way that it was collected and the actual risk for a smoker is probably less.  I personally would not smoke cigarettes and take that risk, nor recommend cigarette smoking to others, but the numbers were less than I had been led to believe.  I only did the data on white males because they account for the largest number of lung cancers in the US, but a similar analysis can be done for other groups using the CDC data.

You don’t see this type of information being reported, and we hear things like, “if you smoke you will die”, but when we actually look at the data, lung cancer accounts for only 2% of the annual deaths worldwide and only 3% in the US.**

He takes the media to task for misusing words, particularly ’cause’ (emphases his in the second paragraph):

Look in any dictionary and you will find something like, “anything producing an effect or result.”18 At what level of occurrence would you feel comfortable saying that X “causes” Y?  For myself and most scientists, we would require Y to occur at least 50% of the time. Yet the media would have you believe that X causes Y when it actually occurs less than 10% of the time ...

If they would say that smoking increases the incidence of lung cancer or that smoking is a risk factor in the development of lung cancer, then I would agree. The purpose of this article is to emphasize the need to use language appropriately in both the medical and scientific literature (the media, as a whole, may be a lost cause).

Yet, his own scientific world does not dispute the media’s message; they say the same thing. The aforementioned articles from Time and the Los Angeles Times focus more on the anti-smoking aspect than the fact that only a small percentage of smokers will ever get lung cancer.

Shiepman follows his essay with a section called ‘The Untold Facts of Smoking (Yes, there is bias in science’. Among the facts are these:

4. All cancers combined account for only 13% of all annual deaths and lung cancer only 2%.**

7. Second hand smoke has never been shown to be a causative factor in lung cancer.

9. No study has shown that second hand smoke exposure during childhood increases their risk of getting lung cancer.

11. If everyone in the world stopped smoking 50 years ago, the premature death rate would still be well over 80% of what it is today.1 (But I thought that smoking was the major cause of preventable death…hmmm.)

He concludes:

Yes, smoking is bad for you, but so is fast-food hamburgers, driving, and so on. We must weigh the risk and benefits of the behavior both as a society and as an individual based on unbiased information. Be warned though, that a society that attempts to remove all risk terminates individual liberty and will ultimately perish. Let us be logical in our endeavors and true in our pursuit of knowledge. Instead of fearful waiting for lung cancer to get me (because the media and much of the medical literature has falsely told me that smoking causes lung cancer), I can enjoy my occasional cigar even more now…now that I know the whole story.

At the bottom of the page is this (italics his):

For those of you who actually read the whole article…

As long as I’m being controversial by presenting both sides of the story, do I dare tell you that a woman is three times more likely to die from an abortion than from delivering a baby (WHO data).

Why lung cancer rates are increasing — despite smoking bans

A British health site, Second Opinions, has an in-depth article on the puzzling rates of lung cancer from the 20th century to the present. Many people wonder about the strange rise of the disease among non- and never-smokers in an era where smoking is banned nearly everywhere in the West.  ‘Does Smoking Really Cause Lung Cancer?’ which appeared at the Millennium is required reading.

The article looks at the research done by the late Dr Kitty Little who worked for 50 years as a research scientist both in Oxford and in Washington, DC. She spent the first decade of her career studying the effects of radiation on the body for the Atomic Energy Research Establishment. She went on to Oxford Medical School practising orthopaedics. She then spent time in the United States working with their armed forces as a pathologist. When she returned to England, she worked at the MRC (Medical Research Council) on DNA and the causes of dental caries. She also wrote a textbook at Oxford about bone pathology and bone cancer. Dr Little died in 1999.

In 1998, Little wrote an article called ‘Diesel Smoke and Lung Cancer’ (see aforementioned Second Opinions link). In short, she concluded (emphases mine, unless otherwise indicated):

  • tobacco smoke contains no carcinogens, while diesel fumes contain four known carcinogens;
  • that lung cancer is rare in rural areas, but common in towns;
  • that cancers are more prevalent along the routes of motorways;
  • that the incidence of lung cancer has doubled in non-smokers over past decades;
  • and that there was less lung cancer when we, as a nation, smoked more.

A summary, accompanied by excerpts, of her research into the 20th century history of lung cancer follows.

It should be noted that the effect of smoke in the lungs was first debated in 1306 by the English Parliament when coal began to be used as fuel. Tobacco had not yet reached Europe.

Lung cancer rates started to rise in the 1930s, inexplicably eclipsing the incidence of other cancers. The pattern of lung cancer cases was equally unusual. In South Africa, cities with frequent breezes (e.g. Port Elizabeth, Cape Town) had lower rates than urban areas with little to no wind (e.g. Durban, Johannesburg).

Another factor was that most cities had already experienced decades of urban smoke. Why the sudden explosion of lung cancer in the 1930s?

In rural South Africa, lung cancer rates were lower, even where much of the population — both men and women — smoked. Rhodesia, which had a high percentage of smokers, had very little lung cancer.

The culprit appears to have been the introduction of diesel-fuelled vehicles which appeared at the beginning of the 1930s, first in the UK, then South Africa and New Zealand a few years later. British immigrants to other parts of the Commonwealth began contracting lung cancer before the populations of their host countries did. This included non- or never-smokers.

Little concluded:

Statistics such as these that have been quoted provide almost complete proof that diesel smoke has been the cause of the rise in incidence of lung cancer, but statistics on their own can never provide complete proof. One also needs confirmation from an investigation into the biological mechanisms involved. This includes seeking to identify the carcinogenic agent or agents responsible.

Urban smoke and cigarette and tobacco smoke contain a chemical, 3:4 benzpyrine, that is weakly carcinogenic. However, it oxidises very easily, and has never been shown to cause lung cancer – conditions in the lungs would favour rapid oxidation to harmless compounds. There is, however, evidence that diesel smoke contains at least four strongly carcinogenic compounds. (4) It has also been shown, from field observations, that local concentrations in some traffic conditions can be very high. (5)

In 1950s Britain:

it was quite clear that the increase in lung cancer had been due to diesel smoke, and that cigarette and tobacco smoke had nothing to do with it. Yet on 27th June 1957 the anti-smoking campaign was launched, (6) with the Health Education Council being formed to help push its propaganda. (The Health Education Council, and its successor the Health Education Authority, have been primarily concerned with promoting bogus medical propaganda).

By the early 1960s, this anti-tobacco campaign resulted in fewer Britons smoking. Nonetheless, lung cancer rates continued to rise, particularly among men who worked amidst diesel emissions — notably garage attendants and lorry drivers. The solution for the former was to introduce self-service filling stations.

By 1970, lung cancer rates continued to rise as road traffic increased along with the amount of diesel emissions. Towns near motorways and cities with heavy traffic had a higher incidence than those communities in a cleaner environment:

Thus, in the Abingdon and Faringdon district lung cancer deaths rose by 65% in 1970 as compared with previous years. (7)

Regardless, the British medical establishment continued to press on with the message that smoking tobacco was deadly:

There was no attempt made to check if any doctor with an early lung cancer had some other condition recorded as a cause of death. One such case would have been sufficient to invalidate the conclusion.

Little’s research points out that researchers and physicians have completely ignored the effect of diesel smoke — now increased over the past 15 years with family vehicles running on the fuel:

This invalidates all their results, since statistics always seem to give an answer, but it is only the correct answer when all the relevant variables are taken into account – and the effect of diesel smoke is undoubtedly relevant. It is interesting that lawyers issued instruction on how to confuse a court should an action for damages resulting from diesel smoke be initiated. (9)

The fact that many of the cases of lung cancer involve non-smokers became something that could no longer be ignored. Therefore, as diesel family cars came onto the roads, an attempt has been made to implicate “passive smoking”. Evidence already quoted shows that this suggestion must be false. Not only does tobacco smoke not contain a carcinogenic agent that could cause lung cancer, but the high levels of smoking, in this country before diesel was introduced, and in South Africa and elsewhere in places where diesel had not been introduced, never resulted in lung cancer from “passive smoking”. If the suggestion was valid they would have done.

Little concluded her article by condemning the Tobacco Control industry:

Since the effect of the anti-smoking campaign has been to prevent the genuine cause from being publicly acknowledged, there is a very real sense in which we could say that the main reason for those 30,000 deaths a year from lung cancer is the anti-smoking campaign itself.

Second Opinions also examined American research on the rise of lung cancer. Dr David Abbey studied 6338 non-smoking men, aged 27-95, who lived in California between 1967 and 1992. In 1999, he published his results which centred on vehicle emissions and lung cancer in non- and never-smokers (emphasis in the original):

PM10 exposure was strongly associated with lung cancer, raising the risk by 2.38 times. PM10 exposure was also associated with all natural causes of death in men and with an increased mortality from non-malignant respiratory disease in men and women. PM10s are particles of less than 10 µm in diameter exhausted from Diesel engines. David Abbey, leading author of the study noted that men who spent longer outside were at greater risk than men who spent most of their time indoors.

In addition, ozone exposure was implicated in increased risk of lung-cancer mortality in men, and sulphur dioxide (SO 2 ) exposure was independently associated with increased risk of lung-cancer mortality in both men and women. These too are found in vehicle exhaust emissions.

Today’s ‘cleaner’ diesel is still problematic with regard to lung cancer. Abbey discovered:

these may be even more harmful … “recent studies on the short-term effects of atmospheric particles on respiratory and cardiovascular diseases have shown that PM2.5s and even smaller particles are more important than PM10s.”

It is to be hoped that the lies about tobacco which have been foisted on the world over the past 60 years — from Sir Richard Doll’s 1954 study onward — will soon be exposed.

The real cause of our lung cancer rates is likely to be vehicle emissions. More experts need the bottle to break out of the conventional mould and research this, particularly with the continuous decrease in the number of smokers and venues where smoking is allowed.

My past two posts — here and here — have centred on LSD and its use by the CIA in rendering a bright, innovative society drugged and compliant.

Today’s post concludes the story, which includes British intelligence dating from the Great War — World War I.

Aldous Huxley

When Aldous and Julian Huxley (first director of UNESCO) were studying at Oxford, their tutor was a fellow Fabian, H G Wells. Wells had also introduced Aldous to Aleister Crowley.

Wells headed British foreign intelligence during the First World War. He devised what he called

The Open Conspiracy: Blue Prints for a World Revolution”a “one-world brain” which would function as “a police of the mind.”

In her 1980 book The Aquarian Conspiracy author Marilyn Ferguson says that, in the 1930s, the British government sent Aldous Huxley to the United States

as the case officer for an operation to prepare the United States for the mass dissemination of  drugs.

Huxley went to California in 1937 and spent the whole of the Second World War there. When he wasn’t working as a screenwriter, he was establishing Isis cults:

In effect, Huxley and [Christopher] Isherwood (joined  soon afterwards by Thomas Mann and his  daughter Elisabeth Mann Borghese) laid  the foundations during the late 1930s  and the 1940s for the later LSD culture,  by recruiting a core of “initiates” into the Isis cults that Huxley’s mentors,  Bulwer-Lytton, Blavatsky, and Crowley, had constituted while stationed in India.

Huxley did not return to the UK until 1952. That same year, the CIA initiated MK-Ultra. It is possible that both British intelligence and OSS (Office of Strategic Services) were also involved. Allen Dulles was CIA director at the time MK-Ultra started. He had also been in the OSS when Albert Hofmann was conducting his early research on LSD.

Incidentally, James Warburg, whose banking family had an interest in Sandoz, had worked with Huxley. He founded the Institute for Policy Studies in 1963.

Huxley returned to the United States in 1952 accompanied by his family doctor, Humphry Osmond. Osmond had previously attended a seminar Huxley had organised in London. Osmond and another seminar participant J R Smythies wrote a paper called ‘Schizophrenia: A New Approach':

he asserted that mescaline — a  derivative of the mescal cactus used in  ancient Egyptian and Indian pagan rites  — produced a psychotic state identical in  all clinical respects to schizophrenia.

On  this basis, Osmond and Smythies  advocated experimentation with  hallucinogenic drugs as a means of  developing a “cure” for mental disorders.

Dulles invited Osmond to play a prominent role in MK-Ultra.

Osmond, Huxley and Robert Hutchins — from the University of Chicago, also Ford Foundation programme director — planned a series of meetings through to 1953 regarding a second, but private, initiative concerning LSD and mescaline.  When Henry Ford II got wind of it, he sacked Hutchins. That said, the proposal was not dropped.

In 1953, Osmond began supplying Huxley with mescaline. In 1954, Huxley wrote The Doors of Perception, considered to be the first manifesto of the cult around hallucinogenic drugs.

Later that decade, he worked privately on LSD and mescaline research, recruiting candidates from his Isis cult centres from around California. Among them were luminaries such as Margaret Mead’s ex-husband Dr Gregory Bateson — also in the OSS working as an anthropologist — and the defrocked Anglican priest Alan Watts who went on to embrace Buddhism.

Bateson directed hallucinogenic experiments at the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Hospital. He was able to lure some of his subjects into Huxley’s Isis cult groups. Bateson was also the first to give LSD to Ken Kesey.

Watts launched the Pacifica Foundation which had two radio stations, one in San Francisco and another in New York City.

Late in 1960, Huxley was appointed visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Boston. This enabled him to form a core group of insiders, among them Osmond, Watts, Leary and Alpert.

Whilst at MIT, Huxley wanted Leary to form a group of LSD users among the elite:

and lead a psychedelic conspiracy to brainwash influential people for the purposes of human betterment. “That’s how everything of culture and beauty and philosophic freedom has been passed on,” Huxley tells him. “Initiate artists, writers, poets, jazz musicians, elegant courtesans. And they’ll educate the intelligent rich.”

Nevertheless, only a few years later on the other side of the country in 1964, ‘Baby’ Jane Holzer — a young, beautiful New York socialite who spent much of her time at Andy Warhol’s drug-ridden Factory in Manhattan — said:

It was getting very scary at the Factory. There were too many crazy people around who were stoned and using too many drugs. They had some laughing gas that everybody was sniffing. The whole thing freaked me out, and I figured it was becoming too faggy and sick and druggy. I couldn’t take it.

Whilst at MIT, Huxley contacted the president of Sandoz. Sandoz was fulfilling a CIA contract for MK-Ultra, consisting of large quantities of LSD — 100 million doses — and psilocybin. By the late 1960s, these had flooded the streets. By the way, Leary was purchasing his LSD in large quantities from the pharmaceutical manufacturer as well, albeit privately.

In 1962, Huxley strongly influenced the founding of the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California, where he was one of the lecturers. Their purpose was to promote

behavior group therapy, for Zen,  Hindu, and Buddhist transcendental  meditation, and “out of body”  experiences through simulated and actual hallucinogenic drugs.23

As described in the Esalen Institute  Newsletter: “Esalen started in the fall of  1962 as a forum to bring together a wide variety of approaches to enhancement of  the human potential . . . including  experiential sessions involving encounter groups, sensory awakening, gestalt awareness training, related disciplines.  Our latest step is to fan out into the community at large, running programs in  cooperation with many different institutions, churches, schools, hospitals, and government.”24

My comments: First, I have not met any Briton yet who has a good thing to say about Aldous Huxley. Secondly, there are many American WASPs who also discount his opinions and lifestyle. Thirdly, it is quite possible that the UK government wanted to put the Huxleys in other roles — and keep the H G Wells people quiet — by transferring them to the US. That way, the UK would never have to hear from them again. It seems to have worked!

I do not think there was a conspiracy of the UK gaining supremacy over the US because, in order for the US to achieve smooth passage of the Nazi doctors and their families across the pond, diplomatic intervention would have been required. The British were in the best position to achieve this — in negotiations with the Germans and the French (who would also have had a say). Therefore, the British did what the Americans asked and … in return, the Americans got their Nazi doctors — and Aldous Huxley.

Later developments

Also in 1962, the Rand Corporation of Santa Monica, California, began a four-year experiment of marijuana, peyote and LSD. (During the Second World War, Rand had a pivotal role in determining the psychological effects bombing had on the population of German cities.) Rand researchers studied 30 humans in 1963 and concluded in their report, ‘Short-Term Effects of LSD on  Anxiety, Attitudes and Performance’ that

LSD improved  emotional attitudes and resolved anxiety problems.

It is of note that James Warburg’s Institute for Policy Studies became the US branch of the British Russell Peace Institute. Not surprisingly it drew its operatives from British-dominated institutions, including the US branch of the Tavistock Institute, National Training Labs.

Oddly, the SDS — Students for a Democratic Society — received financing from the IPS. The general idea for this unusual financing was to promote love — hedonistic pleasure — instead of war. It didn’t work in the IPS’s favour all the time, considering the violent student protests on university campuses and the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968.

According to Ferguson, all this would eventually progress to an American programme developed in May 1974

on how to transform the United  States into Aldous Huxley’s Brave New  World. The counterculture is a  conspiracy at the top, created as a  method of social control, used to drain  the United States of its commitment to  scientific and technological progress.

She refers to:

“Changing Images of Man,”  Contract Number URH (489~215O, Policy  Research Report No. 414.74, prepared by  the Stanford Research Institute Center  for the Study of Social Policy, Willis  Harman, director.

The 319-page  mimeographed report was prepared by a  team of fourteen researchers and  supervised by a panel of twenty-three  controllers, including anthropologist  Margaret Mead, psychologist B.F.  Skinner, Ervin Laszlo of the United  Nations, Sir Geoffrey Vickers of British  intelligence.

The aim of the study, the authors state,  is to change the image of mankind from  that of industrial progress to one of  “spiritualism.” The study asserts that in  our present society, the “image of  industrial and technological man” is  obsolete and must be “discarded”:

“Many  of our present images appear to have  become dangerously obsolete, however .  . .

Science, technology, and economics  have made possible really significant  strides toward achieving such basic  human goals as physical safety and  security, material comfort and better  health. But many of these successes  have brought with them problems of  being too successful — problems that  themselves seem insoluble within the set  of societal value-premises that led to  their emergence . . .

Our highly developed system of technology leads to higher vulnerability and breakdowns.  Indeed the range and interconnected  impact of societal problems that are  now emerging pose a serious threat to  our civilization . . . If our predictions of  the future prove correct, we can expect  the association problems of the trend to  become more serious, more universal  and to occur more rapidly.”

The report advised that change should come about quickly. Indeed, that is how it feels to many today: that we are too successful and have to lose our freedom of choice, action and thought.

Conclusion

It seems to me — whether good or bad drugs, CIA involvement, British activity and what not — that drugs can never succeed. They are simply a dangerous idea.

And, if Ferguson’s book is correct, we are well on the road to social control and technological mediocrity.

No wonder there is a drive to get us off alcohol and tobacco.

Drugs — stay away from them or risk your God-given personal identity, intelligence and integrity.

And for those who suspect a British conspiracy here, let me assure you the same thing is going on here: UK Decay (first coined by the now-defunct Spy magazine as ‘UK DK’ in the 1990s; I did not wish to copy their intellectual property directly). We have much unemployment among second-generation Britons, not to mention increased drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, ‘mum’s boyfriend’ syndrome and all the rest.

The same is going on in France, where Marseille is undoubtedly going to be renamed Detroit. Yes, it’s that bad.

So, this is not a conspiracy against America, but rather against the Western world. That said, I am sorry that so many Americans, particularly honest servicemen, were prey to government or intelligence programmes which ruined their minds and left them less than able to love their wives and children, head a household and hold down a job. May God help them and their families.

All this makes remembering our war dead next month sad and poignant. I’m sure they did not give their lives so that we could be drugged up to the eyeballs and live according to the dictates of the government. Surely that is what they least wanted for themselves and for future generations.

Yesterday’s post gave a brief history of LSD and the 19th century quest for higher consciousness.

If you missed reading it, it’s helpful if you do so before reading this entry.

Before I get into the rest of the story, it seems fitting that I first discuss LSD’s inventor in more detail.

Albert Hofmann

Albert Hofmann was born in Baden, Switzerland, in 1906. It seems he was always attracted to mystical experiences of one form or another. He had a creative mind and considered studying the arts or the humanities at university. Instead he pursued chemistry, because:

Mystical experiences in childhood, in which Nature was altered in magical ways, had provoked questions concerning the essence of the external, material world, and chemistry was the scientific field which might afford insights into this.[6]

After having discovered LSD in 1938, he didn’t really pursue it until 1943. When he resynthesised it that year, he inadvertently absorbed some of it through his fingertips. Later, at home:

I lay down and sank into a not unpleasant intoxicated[-]like condition, characterized by an extremely stimulated imagination. In a dreamlike state, with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors. After some two hours this condition faded away.[10]

He became the director of Sandoz Laboratories’ natural products department and studied more hallucinogenic substances. He was able to synthesise psilocybin and identified active hallucinogenic compounds in certain plants.

Before he died at the age of 102, he said that LSD was

medicine for the soul.

Hofmann criticised Western counterculture of the 1960s for misusing the drug, which several countries declared illegal in the mid-1960s. Some would say CIA programmes were also responsible. Hofmann’s product was ‘pure’, whereas experiments by others produced an impure LSD.

Hofmann was keen to see the drug used in a clinical setting under proper supervision. Swiss medical authorities approved new experiments in December 2007, which psychotherapist Peter Gasser undertook.

In theory, the drug should not be addictive. Furthermore, every trip should be as pleasant as Hofmann’s.

However, in reality, we know this is not the case. Timothy Leary said that LSD requires ‘set and setting’ (emphases mine):

the “set” being the general mindset of the user, and the “setting” being the physical and social environment in which the drug’s effects are experienced …

If the user is in a hostile or otherwise unsettling environment, or is not mentally prepared for the powerful distortions in perception and thought that the drug causes, effects are more likely to be unpleasant than if he or she is in a comfortable environment and has a relaxed, balanced and open mindset.[23]

There are also reports of flashbacks in a minority of users. No one really understands how this process actually works. LSD supporters do not believe users experience flashbacks. I knew a woman who did. She took it with her boyfriend over a two- or three-year period. She had very disturbing ones and, just as bad, ended up on disability allowance because the drug left her with brain damage. Never once did I hear her string a sentence together. She could barely function. She certainly could not have held down a job.

She told me to never experiment with drugs; they were too risky, she said: ‘And I’m proof’.

The 1998 film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas adapted from Hunter S Thompson’s book, has these lines in the script which seem to describe the druggy reality for many:

We are all wired into a survival trip now. No more of the speed that fueled that 60’s. That was the fatal flaw in Tim Leary’s trip. He crashed around America selling “consciousness expansion” without ever giving a thought to the grim meat-hook realities that were lying in wait for all the people who took him seriously… All those pathetically eager acid freaks who thought they could buy Peace and Understanding for three bucks a hit. But their loss and failure is ours too. What Leary took down with him was the central illusion of a whole life-style that he helped create… a generation of permanent cripples, failed seekers, who never understood the essential old-mystic fallacy of the Acid Culture: the desperate assumption that somebody… or at least some force – is tending the light at the end of the tunnel.

Now back to Timothy Leary and others from the 1960s, courtesy of ‘The Sequoia Seminars — A History’. Emphases in bold in the original, unless citations come from Wikipedia; purple highlights are mine.

Timothy Leary

I mentioned yesterday that Leary met CIA agent Cord Meyer in 1948 when the former was in graduate school at UC Berkeley and the latter was infiltrating un-American organisations.

It’s possible that Leary was doing some work for the CIA after that time, since Meyer had asked for his help. The CIA was also doing research via military and civilian institutions into work on a ‘truth serum’ or ‘truth drug’ which would help the US interrogate enemies.

Between 1954 and 1959, Leary was the director of clinical research and psychology at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in Oakland, California. It seems that, during this time, he developed the psychometric test — the Leary Interpersonal Behavioral Test — which the CIA used when assessing prospective employees.

One of Leary’s grad school classmates, Frank Barron, was a CIA contractor during this period. He worked at the CIA-staffed and funded Berkeley Institute for Personality Assessment and Research.

In 1960, Barron was asked to head the government-funded Harvard Psychedelic Drug Research Center at Harvard University. Leary joined him at Harvard that year and worked as a lecturer in psychology until 1963.

Also working with or at the Center was former OSS psychologist HenryHarry’ Murray, one of the monitors of the ‘truth serum’ experiments in the 1940s. One of Murray’s 1960s subjects was Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. Kaczynski’s Wikipedia entry states:

While at Harvard, Kaczynski was among the twenty-two Harvard undergraduates used as guinea pigs in ethically questionable experiments conducted by Henry Murray.[5] In the experiment each student received a code name. Kaczynski was given the code name “Lawful”. Among other purposes, Murray’s experiments were focused on measuring people’s reactions under extreme stress. The unwitting undergraduates were submitted to what Murray himself called “vehement, sweeping and personally abusive” attacks. Assaults to their egos, cherished ideas and beliefs were the tools used to cause high levels of stress and distress. These experiments were conducted at Harvard University from the fall of 1959 through the spring of 1962.[6]

In 1963, Harvard fired Leary and fellow colleague Richard Alpert — who later became the celebrated Ram Dass. The two moved to Millbrook, New York, where they established the International Foundation for Internal Freedom (IFIF) – later renamed the Castalia Foundation. They later found themselves in trouble with future Nixon adviser G Gordon Liddy, then the Dutchess County district attorney, for their black market LSD manufacturing operation.

Leary made public appearances and was seen as a counterculture hero. He was best known for a motto that Marshall McLuhan gave him:

Turn on, tune in, drop out.

Leary had scrapes with the law, served time in prison, associated with underground radicals and was married several times. He continued to be a public speaker in later years. He died in 1996.

The CIA and LSD

LSD supporters blame the CIA for ‘bad acid’ and other derivatives which hit the streets. They say the CIA deliberately laced good LSD with strychnine to create propagandistic ‘horror stories’ to put people off taking it.

These products were known as ‘psychedelics’ and comprise:

- STP, developed by Dow Chemical in 1964 to incapacitate an enemy;

- PCP, used in conjunction with LSD between 1955 and 1975, tested on enlisted men at Edgewood Arsenal in Maryland;

- BZ, or brown acid, developed by Hoffmann-LaRoche (no relation to Albert Hofmann), and tested at Edgewood.

All of these have very serious side-effects which can last for days.

Incidentally, Frank Zappa’s father Francis was a chemical warfare specialist who worked at Edgewood Arsenal for several years.

Connecting with the arts and music world

Ronald Hadley Stark was a CIA operative who could speak five languages and had many senior contacts both in government and the private sector.

It was Stark who supplied LSD to Beat novelist Ken Kesey and his friends, the Merry Pranksters. Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test describes their journey across the US in a dayglo bus.

Stark gave them thousands of LSD doses which the Merry Pranksters distributed across the country.

Later, in 1969, during a shortage of LSD ingredient ergotamine tartrate, Stark managed to get production back on track. With financing from a bank in the Bahamas and help from a French pharmaceutical firm, a new type of LSD derivative entered the market: orange sunshine.

Stark was also connected with a Scientology breakaway sect called The Process Church of the Final Judgement. It attracted many rock ‘n’ roll stars of the 1960s as well as Charles Manson and his followers. Manson and his followers are thought to have taken orange sunshine prior to committing the Tate-LaBianca murders in 1969.

Orange sunshine was more bad acid. It eventually put an end to the so-called love-ins and hippie utopias. By the mid-1970s, all that had died out.

My Sunday/Monday post will conclude on LSD and hallucinogens with Aldous Huxley’s extensive involvement in MK-Ultra which he was able to start contributing to in the 1930s — before it was even devised.

Erik Vance is an American scientific journalist who writes about sustainable markets for fish and seafood.

His assignments occasionally take him to northern Mexico, along the drug supply route to California.

Vance wrote for Slate about his encounter with Mexican fishermen who have no choice but to help drug cartels. The article is called ‘Cocaine Is Evil’, and he compared cocaine purchase to ‘donating to the Nazi Party’.

The hundreds of comments in response reveal that cocaine users were none too happy with the comparison. As is the fashion today, they clamoured for legalisation. I wonder. Too few dissenting voices pointed out that cocaine is equally illegal in Mexico. Also, one American who lives in a state where marijuana is legal said that everyone he knows still goes to their dealers — because the product is cheaper (no tax)!

Anyway, what Vance discovered in and around Sonora, Mexico, horrified him (emphases mine):

I remember one interview in particular in which a fisherman told us about his relative who occasionally ran drugs for the cartels in between seasons. In this area, it’s not blood in, blood out. Cartels have porous edges, where people drop in when they need the money and get out as fast as possible. And we are not talking about characters from Breaking Bad here—these are poor fishermen with no other choice. And mostly they hate it.

Fishermen are great mules because they know the waters and they don’t draw attention. And if you have to chuck your haul overboard to avoid the military, other fishermen can dive to retrieve it.

Vance says the fisherman said that his relative had a long, possibly stormy, journey to his destination. Once he arrived:

and he met the men who would take the cargo across the border, they put a bullet in his head and tossed him overboard to feed the fish he should have been catching. It’s cheaper to kill the mule than to pay him.

That story made Vance think about his upper middle class friends who think nothing of doing a line of coke or, when on the end of a credit card or house key, a pile of it, which is called a ‘bump':

It’s a marvel of the English language that something so horrible, so corrosive can have such a cute little name. I wonder what that fisherman would have said to that innocuous little word. “Glad I could help brighten the party,” maybe?

Not that the fisherman here are wholly innocent—many of them do meth and coke to stay awake on the water, and some have become addicted. But we all know who drives the drug trade. It’s us. At our hip little parties, our New Year’s Eve celebrations, our secret back rooms, and on the counters of people from well-off families who are destined for rehab.

He cites the number of drug-related deaths linked to coke:

Around 60,000 were executed as witches during 150 years at the height of the Spanish Inquisition. Mexico alone has seen perhaps twice that many deaths during its seven-year drug war. From 1990 to 2010, Colombia had some 450,000 homicides, overwhelmingly due to coke. Add all the rest of Latin America (counting all the military actions that were driven by efforts to control trafficking routes as much as by politics), the U.S. share (15,000 per year on the high side, counting all kinds of drugs and overdoses and such). Now add an estimate of all the uncounted murders and overdoses and track that carnage back to the 1960s when the modern drug war began. The number starts to be in the league of the atrocities of Nazi Germany or American slavery.  

He adds:

the magnitude and gruesomeness of the atrocities committed to acquire and maintain drug trade routes to the United States actually are comparable. Decapitations and burning people alive are just the start. Chainsaws, belt sanders, acid—these things are used very creatively by cartel torturers. They disembowel bloggers and sew faces to soccer balls. Children are forced to work as assassins, people are forced to rape strangers at gunpoint, and lines of victims are killed one at a time with a single hammer. Many of those people disappear into unmarked graves. If their bodies are ever found, they are described in the media with antiseptic words like “mutilated.”

He concludes:

So yes, I say that paying for coke is equivalent to donating to the Nazi party. The unspoken thing here is that the reason Americans aren’t more outraged or guilt-ridden is that the people dying are poor brown people—many of them in a tragic irony are classified as narcos so governments can claim it’s just gang-on-gang violence.    

So perhaps you can see why I sometimes feel a little silly covering the ocean fisheries crisis, telling people what’s not sustainable and why. It’s true, consumer choices are behind the ocean crisis. But you can eat sustainably every day of your life and give to charity every year, and it all gets wiped out with one line of coke ...

There’s no such thing as cruelty-free cocaine

Parents, pastors and youth leaders could help by discussing this hideous reality at home and in church groups for mature students.

I remember my adolescence and university days. Most of my friends and I discreetly experimented with illegal drugs coming from Latin America, some more than others. Today’s students are no different and, with all the calls for legalisation or decriminalisation, perhaps more inclined to do so.

I don’t know what the smuggling situation was 30-some years ago, but this is what today’s is like. Some might call this subjective morality, but if I’d heard this story and read this article (complete with a gruesome photo), it would have stayed in my mind: thanks, but no.

In the same edition of The Observer which featured articles about drugs on the dark net and the UK’s head of the drugs disruption unit, was a gem by Anonymous.

Anonymous’s article is called ‘I like the way MDMA gives you a deep sense of connection to your friends’.

A better title would have been ‘Why I — and many others — take cocaine’.

Some of what he says is breathtaking and not in a good way (emphases mine):

I probably take class-A party drugs such as MDMA or cocaine once a fortnight, and have done since I was 16 (I’m 27 now). I like the way cocaine gives you a new lease of life, like a mushroom in Super Mario, to carry on with a night out. I like the way MDMA softens the edges of reality and gives you a deep sense of connection to your friends that you can never get when you meet them for dinner and they moan about their jobs. I like how when you’re coming down from a pill another person’s touch has a comforting, almost electric capacity. If you’re suffering from exhaustion, anxiety or stress, recreational drugs can give you a bit of a leg-up.

On the other hand:

Drugs can also be a total pain. Ecstasy can make you feel like you’re floating in a cloud, but just as often it’s an admin nightmare: you come up at different times from your friends; only half the people in a group remembered to get sorted and there’s endless hassle at a party trying to get more. Even when you’re having a great time, there’s a self-doubting internal monologue running through the whole process

There’s the key to the whole problem: self-doubt. Entirely normal for that age group, but why do so many young people evade the issue and instead get completely out of their box?

Anonymous doesn’t think the British public are honest and open enough about drugs. I suspect they are not, but Anonymous does go a bit too far in the opposite direction. And most of what he has to say hardly applies to everyone who’s ever fallen on the dark side of drugs.

He describes himself and his friends:

In my demographic – under 30, living in London, job in the creative industries, disposable income – almost everyone is a recreational drugs user.

Where I grew up in south London, it was pretty uncommon to find someone who didn’t at least smoke weed. The children of more middle-class parents were taking cocaine, ecstasy, ketamine and mephedrone almost every weekend. These were not reprobates ruining their lives: they were intelligent, bright people who got three As at A-level and went to good universities ...

In some families drug use had less stigma than smoking.

At university, he enjoyed mephedrone — a legal drug no longer available:

Mephedrone was incredibly cheap – about a tenner a gram – and incredibly available. You could order it with next-day delivery to your university PO box. Mephedrone was a drugs phenomenon of which I have never seen the likes before or since. Everyone started doing it

On nights out during this time, everyone would be raging – making out with one another, dancing with total abandon. But the comedowns were immediate and severe, far worse than ecstasy. By 4am people would be lying on the floor sharing the most intimate and personal shames and secrets, as if the drug was somehow compelling them to be honest. Some people called it a truth serum. Friendships were forged in the hot irons of that emotional exposition, as were the most horrendous hangovers.

Mephedrone was banned within two years of it taking off. People talk a lot about one legal high being banned only for another to take its place, but the real legacy of mephedrone was to numb the stigma of harder drugs. By the time I left university, many of the drug abstainers who had tried mephedrone became relaxed about most illegal drugs, too.

This is part of the issue I have with legalising drugs. We do not know what the full effects of many of these compounds, natural or synthetic, will be in the long run. Therefore, there is no justification in being ‘relaxed’ about it.

Even in the short term, he concedes they inhibit normal functioning for the next few days, which is why he takes cocaine:

Ecstasy and mephedrone make it pretty hard to get much done in the days after taking them. You can’t regularly use them and be a successful, functioning adult, so they become a rarer treat once you leave student life. In their 20s most people are overworked: they have second jobs and work incredibly long hours. If they’re going to go out on a Friday night they need a pick-me-up. And that is why cocaine remains the young professional’s drug of choice.

He says:

I also appreciate that’s it’s easy to be blasé about drug use when you’re a well-adjusted middle-class white guy who has never been stopped by the police and has a distant non-social relationship with their drug dealer. For many people, drugs aren’t something they can dip in and out of and separate from their lives. People entangled in the economic and legal realities of drugs – dealers, those convicted of possession, addicts – don’t have the luxury of my relaxed attitude.

Wow, just wow! The arrogance!

A reader, fictionfanatic, replied in the comments below with his own, opposite, experience:

I found this article excruciatingly painful to read. Not because the article is poorly written, in fact, I found the author to be incredibly articulate, but because I have twice overdosed on class A drugs and am now five years in recovery from active addiction

In the early years of my using I had some wonderful experiences on drugs. I agree with a great deal that this writer has to say and I particularly support his argument that drugs should no longer be the ‘taboo’ subject that it is today.

However, there is one sticking point for me. The reference the writer made to drugs giving him the confidence, the laughs and the energy that he doesn’t believe he already possesses.

As an addict I became painfully aware of what drugs had taken away from me when I got clean …

Various drugs do indeed boost confidence, increase energy levels and lighten the mood, however, if a person requires a chemical to do this then even the most casual user is denying themselves the opportunity to have fun, gain confidence and increase energy levels without the use of a drug. I learnt this when I fell threw the doors of a rehab and realised the overly confident, work hard/play hard exhibitionist had disappeared with the class A’s and I was left to rebuild the anxious, self-conscious, shattered shell of a human being that had relied for too many years on drugs to help me be somebody I was not.

Five years later I am now naturally confident and I laugh more than I ever did. I still go out all night sometimes, but I don’t have to pay for it with two days in bed or ‘suicide Tuesdays’.

drugs don’t add to our life experience, they merely mask what isn’t naturally there.

And, one final point… I have never, ever, ever met anyone that is better company when they are on coke. Not once!

I agree. I remember a few acquaintances from the 1980s who took coke. They just were not very nice to be around. They were abrupt, picked arguments and became aggressive. Everything was all about them. Cocaine is not a ‘nice’ drug.

Speaking of the 1980s, I remember reading a lengthy first-person magazine article at that time about a guy from New York who was absolutely broken through cocaine use.

At first, he had it all: great job, superb salary, stunning girlfriend and a beautiful flat. He and his girlfriend eventually started spending more and more on coke because their highs were no longer as long-lasting.

The ending was chilling. He and his girlfriend started having violent arguments. She left him and went into rehab. He stayed behind in the flat. He was having trouble making his mortgage payments. His boss was on the verge of firing him.

The last two days he spent in the flat involved his crawling around on hands and knees sniffing his carpet for any remaining coke dust that might be there. Finally, a friend of his stopped by. The addict fell into his friend’s arms crying like a baby.

By then, he had no job. He hadn’t a penny left. He’d lost the woman he loved.

He had allowed cocaine to destroy him and a beautiful life.

He came out the other side and wrote the article post-rehab. He said he would never be able to recapture what he once had. He was working a rather low-paid job in another industry. But, he said, at least he was clean after a few years of rehab and therapy. He wanted to stay that way but was worried about what the future would hold.

He hoped his story would serve as a warning against drug use, especially cocaine.

No good can come of drugs, particularly this one.

Regardless of whether one smokes tobacco, it is instructive to read of the effects smoking bans have on the leisure industry.

The Pub Curmudgeon has a tally of the numbers of pubs which have closed since July 1, 2007, the date England’s smoking ban came into effect. As I write, the number of defunct pubs now totals 14,192.

Now there are those who do not go to pubs, however, when one thinks how one piece of legislation could cripple such an inherent part of English life and culture, it beggars belief. Think of all the jobs lost through this draconian law.

To be sure, there are other factors, and the Pub Curmudgeon explores these — such as drink drive laws as well as large pub companies’ arrangements with their tenants — but, there is no question that the smoking ban is killing our pubs.

The Pub Curmudgeon says (emphases mine):

This is not a beer blog. It’s a view of life from the saloon bar, not entirely about the saloon bar – which of course is a metaphorical place as well as a physical one. It is as much about political correctness and the erosion of lifestyle freedom as it is about pubs and beer. And, while I enjoy cask beer, I don’t assume that it is the only alcoholic beverage worth consuming.

I’m a non-smoker, but not an antismoker. I believe the owners of private property should be entitled to choose whether or not smoking is permitted on their premises. If any supporter of pubs still thinks the smoking ban was a remotely good idea, just look around at all the pubs that have closed since 1 July 2007. The smoking ban is what prompted the creation of this blog back then and, while it touches on many other topics, it remains essentially its core theme. However, there remains much to be enjoyed and celebrated in pubs despite the effects of the ban.

I condemn drunken driving, but there is no evidence that driving after consuming a small quantity of alcohol is dangerous, and the campaign to discourage driving even within the British legal limit has been a major cause of the decline of the pub trade in recent years. Reducing the current legal limit – a proposal fortunately rejected by the Coalition government – would lead to the closure of thousands more pubs and would not necessarily save a single life. In my view, this is at least as much a threat to pubs as the smoking ban.

When Labour MPs discussed the smoking ban on news programmes, many cited how well local, then afterwards, statewide bans worked in California. Hmm. Not many Britons would compare our climate to California’s.

However, the California comparison seems to have been used in the US as well. Yet, whereas it’s relatively easy to spend time outdoors on a bar or restaurant terrace there for a smoke, the rest of the United States has a variable climate depending on where one lives. This makes the California comparison particularly disingenuous.

The Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis has a few articles on the impact of smoking bans by state or region, including their effect on casino revenue.

In 2009, the St Louis Fed noted that Illinois was the only state at that time which extended the smoking ban to casinos. ‘No Ifs, Ands or Butts: Illinois Casinos Lost Revenue after Smoking Banned’ states:

In the first year after the smoking ban took effect, revenue at Illinois casinos fell sharply from the previous year.4 As shown in the figure, the decline in revenue stands in sharp contrast both to the growth of recent years and to the performance of casinos in nearby states.

The Illinois Casino Gaming Association, they say, disputes that and says the economic downturn was responsible.

I’m not a huge casino fan, but I do have empathy for people who may have lost their jobs there during that time. Casinos have gift shops and restaurants, too. They also generate a lot of tax, some of which gets put back into schools and communities.

The Fed’s chart shows that Illinois — in contrast to Indiana, Iowa and Missouri — experienced a huge drop in revenue in 2008:

Using our estimates of revenue losses and declining attendance at each of the casinos in Illinois, we find that the tax loss was more than $200 million in 2008. For the local communities, the total loss in tax revenue amounted to over $12 million.

The economic effects of the Smoke-Free Illinois Act—specifically with regard to casino revenue and government tax receipts—represent only part of the act’s overall impact. In a full analysis, these costs need to be considered alongside other costs and benefits, including the public health benefits of the legislation. But as policymakers in Illinois and elsewhere ponder the implications of the Illinois smoking ban, the impact on revenue, attendance and taxes should not be ignored.

It’s quite easy for people who live downstate to go to St Louis. Those in the Chicago area can spend an hour or less travelling to Indiana. Iowa is a stone’s throw away for many in western Illinois.

However, back to the California comparison. Another St Louis Fed article from 2008, ‘Clearing the Haze? New Evidence of the Economic Impact of Smoking Bans’ tells us:

A previous article in The Regional Economist (“Peering Through the Haze,” July 2005) described some early evidence on the economic impact of smoke-free laws and suggested that the findings were far from conclusive.1

As more communities have adopted smoke-free laws and more data have been gathered, economists have discovered new, significant findings. As an earlier article suggested, economic costs often focus on specific business categories—those that smokers tend to frequent.

They cite research saying that bar employment has gone down between 4 and 16 per cent. Restaurants have experienced less of a decline, however, it depends on where they are located and whether the majority of their clientele are smokers.

However, the real issue is climate:

Restaurants in warm climates fared better than those in cooler climates. The authors suggest that the reason for this might be that restaurants in warmer climates can more easily provide outdoor seating where smoking is not prohibited … Restaurants that suffered the dual curse of being in regions with colder climates and a high prevalence of smokers suffered statistically significant employment losses, on average.

California, therefore, cannot be used as a template for everywhere else in the Northern Hemisphere.

The article features an item about the effects of the smoking ban on restaurants in Columbia, Missouri. It says, in part:

Since January 2007, all bars and restaurants in Columbia, Mo., have been required to be smoke-free. Only some sections of outdoor patios are exempt from the requirement.

Some local businesses have continued to oppose the Columbia Clean Air Ordinance, circulating petitions to repeal the law by ballot initiative. According to local press reports, owners of at least four establishments have cited the smoking ban as a factor in their decision to close their doors in 2007.

Recent data from the city of Columbia show a distinct decline in sales tax receipts at bars and restaurants. After rising at an average rate of 6.8 percent from 2002 through 2006, tax revenue declined at an annual rate of 1.3 percent over the first seven months of 2007. (See graph.) Although the data are still preliminary, initial analysis suggests a 5 percent decline in overall sales revenue at Columbia dining establishments since the implementation of the smoking ban. This estimate takes into account past trends, seasonal fluctuations in the data and an overall slowdown in sales tax revenue in Columbia. 6

Of course, as is true everywhere else, the answer is outdoor patio space:

One owner was quoted as saying, “You have to have a patio to survive.”7 The expenses associated with these renovations may help buffer the sales revenue of these establishments, but they also represent profit losses that are above and beyond the measured sales declines.

Two things are certainly true of smoking bans: they harm business and create unemployment.

Smoking bans appear to be all about health.

However, when we allow state, local or federal government to dictate to private businesses and property owners what we can and cannot do in these premises, we are on a slippery slope that will affect more of us than just the smoking population.

Sean Turner, writing for New Visions Commentary — the National Leadership Network of Conservative African Americans — says we should be concerned about this downward trajectory.

In ‘Property Rights Going Up In Smoke’, he explains (emphases mine):

The attempt by federal, state and local governments and with various anti-smoking organizations to modify our behavior is bad enough.  I believe there is a greater issue relating to smoking bans, however, with which we must concern ourselves.  This concern is the threat to property rights.

A property right is the exclusive authority to determine how a resource is used – whether it’s a car, house, business or any other resource of which one is the owner.  Additionally, private property rights confer an exclusive right to the services of the resource – as well as the right to delegate, sell or rent any portion of the rights by exchange or gift based on mutually agreeable terms.  Conversely, public property is property controlled by the state (government) or a community.

While most would agree with these definitions, many seem to suffer a severe logical disconnect when leaving their homes (i.e., private property) and enter into a restaurant, retail store or other places of business that they do not own (i.e., someone else’s private property). 

Though a business exists to provide a product or service to potential consumers, it should be allowed to do so under the terms of those who own it and not those of the state, or some third party using the state as a tool of coercion.  These terms include the environment in which those products or services are offered.  If the terms are agreeable to both the business owner and potential consumer, a transaction occurs and both parties walk away having benefited.

Just as one lacks the unfettered right to enter into another’s home – much less restrict smoking in it – one also lacks the right to enter into another’s business.  One is given access to the business by the owner who hopes to conduct a transaction, not cede control of the business.

Contrary to popular belief, one does not have the unfettered right to dictate the usage [of] another’s property – whether it be a house or place of business – particularly when one has the ability and choice to avoid that place, and its real or perceived ill-effects.

Few argue the ill-effects of smoking tobacco, as the CDC other organizations continuously point them out.  As someone who believes in the principles of liberty, I find it deplorable when anti-smoking policies are applied to private property and violate the U.S. Constitution.  Not only does this violate the fundamental principal of property rights, but it is also anathema to the concept of a free society.

In the UK, the smoking ban prohibits smoking tobacco in a company vehicle. That is not a decision individual companies make; it is the law. In time, this may be extended to people in their own vehicles where children are passengers.

Wouldn’t it have been better to let companies, pubs, clubs and other privately-owned establishments to decide whether to allow tobacco smoking in or on their property, be it grounds, vehicles or a building?

Incidentally, the Palace of Westminster still has a bar where smoking is allowed. Our politicians are exempt from a law they passed for the rest of us, the people whom they are supposed to serve.

Yesterday’s post discussed supposedly new powers to block extremism in Britain. The problem is that they a) concern freedom of speech and b) do not appear to be too different to what is already in place — ineffectual for real extremists.

Now on to the United States.

How many of my American readers knew that the First Amendment suffered the risk of being altered last month? Thankfully, Republican senators came to the rescue.

It’s been difficult finding media links to this vote held in September 2014. Apparently, the First Amendment is unimportant to left-leaning journalists and their editors.

On the face of it, Senator Edward Markey’s (D-Massachusetts) bill would have restricted wealthy Republican Party backers to supposedly influence elections. The Washington Times explains:

This battle over the First Amendment traces back to a 1970s-era Supreme Court decision that ruled campaign money is equivalent to political speech.

In 2010, the Supreme Court built on that ruling in the Citizens United decision, holding that labor unions and corporations can spend their own money on ads expressing their political views — though they are still prohibited from giving directly to candidates.

Democrats argue that those decisions have imbued corporations with rights the founders intended to belong only to individuals. They say allowing corporations to advocate for positions could end up swaying voters and swinging elections.

Red Mass Group succinctly stated what this would have meant in reality (emphases mine):

S.J. 19 was seen as a response to the Supreme Court ruling on Citizens United.  It would make all political speech subject to the regulatory powers of the state.  SNL skits? [A]s Ted Cruz showed, those could be illegal under this amendment.

It seems in many quarters of the US, that is already the case. No centrist or conservative wants to discuss politics there; it’s too fraught with leftists who will take offence that someone actually dares utter disapproval of their statist ideas.

Red Mass Group makes this point:

The fact that just about every Democratic Senator signed on as a cosponsor of this legislation should scare every single American.

Ed Markey should be ashamed.

He should be, but, then, anyone acquainted with Massachusetts politics over the past 30+ years knows what Markey is like. How he keeps getting re-elected is beyond me.

Arizona Central columnist Doug McEachern thinks that this is only the beginning of restricted rights of free speech in America:

the idea is out there now. More important, the frame of mind is out there: The belief that the views of others are so pernicious, so wicked, so Nixonian, that stopping them is more important than free speech itself.

Something so fundamental should have been on every news outlet — online, paper, television. Yet, do a search yourselves and see how hard it is to find anyone other than bloggers discussing it.

Two comments on Behind the Black are instructive:

Peter F: Did this REALLY happen? I didn’t see it on the news … 

Edward: … Where are the pro-conservative, pro-Republican articles, essays, or even the discussions on conservative radio over this proposed anti-American amendment? There has been no public debate, now it is all over, and only the Democrats got any traction on this issue — that the Republicans are evil for opposing campaign reform

The Democratic base is already in favor of shutting up any opposition to Democrat policies, beliefs, or tyrannical takeovers, and they have no problem in exercising shut-uppery, even if it goes against everything that America has stood for for most of a quarter millennium …  

… students across the country are so bold about shutting down conservative speech that they make sure that other prominent conservatives who are likewise invited to speak on campuses are *disinvited*. They see nothing wrong with disinvitating conservatives after an invitation has been accepted, because it is more important to shut them up than it is to be civil

Centrists should also be concerned about where all this will lead.

Libertarians are already be on top of the situation. Reason.com has this to say:

Americans’ right to free speech should not be proportionate to their political power. This is why it’s vital to stop senators from imposing capricious limits on Americans.

It is true that 16 states and the District of Columbia, along with more than 500 cities and towns, have passed resolutions calling on Congress to reinstitute restriction on free speech. Polls consistently show that the majority of Americans support the abolishment of super PACs. So it’s important to remember that one of the many reasons the Founding Fathers offered us the Constitution was to offer a bulwark against “democracy.” Senators may have an unhealthy obsession with the democratic process, and Supreme Court justices are on the bench for life for that very reason.

On Monday, Democrats offered an amendment to repeal the First Amendment in an attempt to protect their own political power. Whiny senators—most of them patrons to corporate power and special interests—engaged in one of the most cynical abuses of their power in recent memory. Those who treat Americans as if they were hapless proles unable to withstand the power of a television commercial are the ones who fear speech. That’s not what the American republic is all about.

So true.

In fact, the more one reads about it — in the little content that there is — the more it seems the debate will rage on.

American men and women have fought wars in order to preserve essential liberties enshrined into law by the country’s Founding Fathers.

One supposes that, now, with the Democratic hegemony in place, such liberties will have to go. Not enough legislators seem to care about people who battled — and died — for universal ideals of liberty.

Keeping track of three countries’ politics — Britain’s, France’s and the United States’ — leads me to conclude that we have the politicians we deserve.

The UK

Britons are dissatisfied with the fallout after last week’s Scottish independence referendum. Scots are now unsure whether they will get devo-max. Elsewhere in the UK, many people of all political persuasions say some form of the Coalition’s pledged devolution or federal government must be established for England. But we wonder whether our notional leaders are being economical with the truth once again?

Our Labour Party’s annual conference is taking place this week in Manchester. Former Labour Party and union official Dan Hodges (who is also Glenda Jackson’s son) asks whether Ed Miliband is ‘really fit to lead our nation?’ He explains why not (emphases mine):

Miliband’s conference speeches have tended to be a reflection of his broader leadership: tactical successes, but strategic failures. On each occasion he has arrived at his party’s annual gathering under pressure. And he has departed on a high, sometimes even managing to set the political agenda for a month or two. But then the conference sugar-high has worn off, and the agenda has moved on. The big strategic questions – on leadership, the economy, Labour’s political direction – are left unanswered.

Fellow Briton and Telegraph blogger Tim Stanley says we need better political leaders:

Dare I say it, but I suspect that policy is being made up on the hoof! And that’s a particularly troubling prospect when we’re talking about the constitution of the country – the thing that frames decision-making and defines the nation state. Put it this way, do you really, really think that our current political leaders are the calibre of men capable of reframing the way our democracy works? Does Ed Miliband, with his little constitutional convention, strike you as the Benjamin Franklin of his era? Or David Cameron as its Robert Peel, bringing fresh powers to the shivering masses? Nick Clegg at least seems aware of his total irrelevance. The man who failed to pass even the most lukewarm variety of proportional representation knows that he ain’t no Lloyd George.

He concludes:

If we had strong leadership capable of building consensus and delivering results, do you think we’d be having what promises to be a long, boring, confused conversation about constitutional reform? If parts of Glasgow weren’t so depressed and blighted by poverty and socialist incompetence, do you think they’d have voted to leave the UK? If immigration was under control and the EU slimmed-down, do you think Ukip would exist? Oh for a politician who simply says what he/she wants to do and delivers it. The future of our great Union would rarely be called into question again.

It would be hard to disagree with either his or Hodges’s perspectives.

When was the last time we had a statesman? Like them or not, it was during the 1980s with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.

Today’s politicians aren’t even close to that. On a superficial level, you can see that just by looking at them. They look and act like middling executives or local government officials. And why is every government matter so complicated? Because they make it so. We elect people who are supposed to be the best in the country at what they do and all we get is disingenuous waffle.

Unfortunately, there is no one in the House of Commons truly fit to be a party leader or, sadly, even an MP. Not one of the 600-odd is impressive, world-stage material, even the handful I don’t mind listening to.

The US

I haven’t followed US politics in such great detail lately, but I was somewhat surprised to see former Republican Senator Bob Dole, age 91, appear on stage at a political rally in Kansas at the weekend.

During his time, Bob Dole was considered a middling politician by those outside of his native Kansas. Today, he looks statesmanline, even if he is now confined to a wheelchair. Many Americans today would agree, judging from the comments following the article I read.

How times have changed.

Once again, it’s hard to come up with a single senator or congressman who is impressive. The same goes for the past few presidents, which takes us back to Reagan.

And, just as in the UK, the same old people keep getting re-elected term after term. Why? Can’t the Democrats and Republicans find better candidates? It seems they’re all on the gravy train together in one massive, comfortable ‘combine’ (machine politics).

France

RMC’s talking point on Monday’s current affairs shows revolved around the fact that 8m people watched former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s television interview Sunday night on France2 where he announced his re-entry into politics.

The hosts asked their panellists and listeners whether Sarkozy had changed, whether he was still electable after his campaign financing scandal and so on. And if the UMP (his party) don’t choose him again, what other UMP parliamentarians would fit the bill? Oh my, was that an unanswerable question! No one in the UMP is impressive.

It’s gobsmacking that the French are coming full circle to seeing Sarkozy as being able to save the country once again. It was only in 2012 when they turned their backs on him in disgust for François Hollande (PS, Parti Socialiste) who now has the lowest popularity ratings of any French president in history. I saw that coming as soon as he was elected.

Last week, some in the PS mooted putting forward disgraced but still highly esteemed Dominique Strauss-Kahn in the picture as a possible presidential candidate in 2017. One of RMC’s hosts said, ‘It sounds weird, but, after all, he is one of the world’s best economists!’

How low must we sink as a people before we start putting our thinking caps on and getting some morally decent and plain-speaking politicians who present a clear, concise plan and follow through with it?

Where are our leaders? Where are our statesmen?

Maybe our societies are just too decadent and perhaps we are too apathetic to deserve better?

To judge from popular home pages (e.g. Yahoo), it seems all most of us care about are celebrities, reality television and sports. It’s getting harder and harder to find national news on some of these home pages.

I read one rationale for this shift which was that people just cannot be bothered with reading the news.

If so, we Westerners are in more trouble than we realise.

On Thursday, July 31, 2014, Meriam Ibrahim and her family arrived in New Hampshire to begin a new life.

My last post on this lady concerned her exodus from Sudan to Rome to meet Pope Francis. She, her husband Daniel Wani and their two children spent a week in and around the city, meeting other Christians and sightseeing. That week helped to provide a degree of normality for the family. Their Italian hosts and sponsors — diplomats, senior politicians, charity workers and journalists — ensured the family were well looked after.

Of the week in Italy, Ibrahim said via journalist Antonella Napoli:

We have been very happy here. We have felt like a real family.

From Rome, the family flew to Philadelphia. There, Mayor Michael Nutter met with them privately. He lauded Ibrahim as a ‘world freedom fighter’ and ‘courageous, grace-filled woman’. Nutter has provisionally invited her to appear publicly with the Pope should the pontiff appear in Philadelphia next year.

The final destination that day was Manchester, New Hampshire, where Wani’s brother and extended family live. Manchester is home to 500 Sudanese, a number of whom attend the Sudanese Evangelical Covenant Church. Although Wani is a Catholic, it would appear that the Christian community bonds are strong in Manchester. The Revd Joel Kruggel, pastor of  the city’s Bethany Covenant Church, said that his congregation will work with the Sudanese to welcome and help accustom the family to their new life in the United States.

Wani is relieved to return home to his family in Manchester. He and his family fled during his childhood when civil war in Sudan made life untenable there. He became a US citizen but returned to South Sudan as an adult.

Wani married Ibrahim in 2011; together, they started a profitable business. Relatives from Ibrahim’s father’s side found out about the couple’s success. According to a Daily Mail report, a half-brother and half-sister whom she barely knew then brought charges of apostasy against this lifelong Ethiopian Orthodox lady in the hopes that they would be given the business if she were imprisoned. And there began Ibrahim’s nightmare which lasted nearly a year.

Now the couple have a chance to start a new business in a new country with the support of the Wani family and new American friends.

It’s a marvellous good news story and an incredibly happy ending. So many people from Sudan, Italy and the United States worked tirelessly to make a distant dream a distinct reality.

My thanks to reader Lleweton for keeping me apprised of the situation by sending me links to online articles — greatly appreciated!

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