Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

Voodoo Pharmacology Literalized: The drug that turns people into flesh-eating zombies – Jacob Sullum

In News on May 31, 2012 at 3:40 pm

On Tuesday I noted that news outlets were uncritically regurgitating fact-free speculation that some sort of drug—”bath salts,” possibly, or imitation LSD, or maybe cocaine—made Rudy Eugene eat Ronald Poppo’s face on Miami’s MacArthur Causeway last Saturday. Since then, the coverage has become, if anything, more lurid and credulous, in the manner typical of drug panics, with one outlet after another recycling the same rumors, baseless pronouncements, and horror stories (some of which I have noted here before). One commendable exception: Writing in Time, which historically has not been known for calm, well-informed reporting on drugs (or pretty much anything else that scares people), Reason contributor Maia Szalavitz explains “Why Drugs Are Getting a Bum Rap in the Miami Face-Eating Attack.” Szalavitz notes that the vast majority of “drug-related” violence is in fact prohibition-related violence, resulting from black-market disputes rather than the malign psychoactive effects of prohibited intoxicants. She adds that, given all the millions of people who have used drugs said to cause murder and mayhem, you would expect to see a lot more violence if the allegations were even close to true. She points out that journalists routinely rely on police, who have a strong incentive to exaggerate the dangers posed by illegal substances and whose views are skewed by the sorts of drug users they tend to encounter, for expert advice about the effects of forbidden chemicals. Both cops and reporters, she observes, tend to focus on extreme examples that by definition tell us little or nothing about the behavior of the typical drug user. Whether or not it turns out that Eugene consumed “bath salts” before attacking Poppo (and it bears emphasizing that there are no toxicological results yet), it should (but sadly does not) go without saying that his behavior was highly unusual, if not unique, among people who consume these quasi-legal speed substitutes:

Stimulants of any type rarely lead to violence in people who don’t have a prior history of violent behavior. Typically, drugs enhance or disinhibit pre-existing tendencies, rather than provoking entirely new behavior. And drugs are far from the only reason that a person might strip naked and become violent, as the Miami man did.

Indeed, the best predictor of violent behavior is a previous history of violent behavior, which we now know that the Miami man had. He was apparently the first person ever to be tasered by North Miami Beach police. Why? He had beaten and was threatening to kill his mother.

Also, while overdoses of stimulants do overheat the body, they certainly don’t, as the Miami police representative suggested, “burn organs alive.” Blaming LSD for violent behavior is even further off base. No research has associated LSD or related psychedelic drugs with violence, and higher potency isn’t likely to change that.

Without detracting from the consistently thougtful and level-headed work produced by Szalavitz, who is almost singlehandedly atoning for Time‘s historical hysteria about illegal drugs, I would argue that there is less excuse than ever for the anti-drug alarmism that is still routinely peddled by reputable news organizations. Here are some of the more embarrassing headlines generated by the “Causeway Cannibal” story:

CBS News: “Bath salts, drug alleged ‘face-chewer’ Rudy Eugene may have been on, plague police and doctors

Reuters: “Did Drugs Make Rudy Eugene Chew on a Naked Miami Man’s Face?

U.S. News & World Report: “Miami’s ‘Naked Zombie’ Proves Need to Ban Bath Salts, Experts Say

Toronto Sun: “Miami cannibal may have been high on ‘bath salts‘”

National Post: “Highly addictive drug blamed for cannibal attack in Miami a growing threat in Maritime Canada

The Huffington Post: “Bath Salts: The ‘Cannibal’ From Miami’s Alleged Dangerous Drug Of Choice

In my book Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use, I call the persistently popular belief that drugs make people do evil “voodoo pharmacology,” a term I use because it calls to mind zombies animated by magic. Here you have a literalized example: a drug that supposedly turned someone (who may or may not have actually used it) into a flesh-eating zombie. And the press, rather than questioning this outlandish claim, amplifies it. Even if it weren’t easier than ever before to look up research and seek out alternative perspectives, how much sense does it require to be skeptical upon being told that an alarmingly popular drug commonly causes irrational outbursts of violence? How could such a drug ever gain a wide following? This is not rocket science; it is just journalism.

via Reason.


Justin Amash defends Congress’ only Libertarian seat – Garrett Quinn

In News on May 31, 2012 at 1:58 am

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Michigan), who rode to Congress in 2010 on the national wave of outrage over Obamacare and government spending, could face a tough challenge to his seat this November.

Amash scored a commanding win in a five-way Republican primary in 2010, and went on to win easily in the general election. Michigan’s Third Congressional District was heavily Republican and had a history of favoring libertarian Republicans like Amash.

Now the district has been redrawn with more Democrats, and Amash’s principled voting record in the House has alienated some members of his own party. Amash, who is described by many (includingReason.com) as the next Ron Paul, is looking at a potentially tough reelection fight in Michigan.

Democrat Steve Pestka, like Amash, has very deep roots in Michigan’s Third District.

Pestka spent most of his adult life in the public eye, as an assistant district attorney, elected county official, state representative, and most recently as a Michigan Circuit Court judge. During that time he practiced law on the side but eventually stepped down as a judge in 2009 to get more involved with his father’s real estate business. Now, three years later, the socially conservative Democrat is jumping back into the public eye and running for Congress.

Pestka’s campaign excites Michigan Democrats. “Pestka may have started late but he is definitely on people’s radar,” said Todd Cook of Mainstreet Strategies, a Michigan consulting firm.

“A lot of Democrats here in the state definitely see this seat as a potential pickup,” said Joe DiSano, Cook’s partner at Mainstreet.

The most recent fundraising numbers for the candidates in the Third show how Pestka’s run is picking up steam. Though he only entered the race in early March, Pestka raised over $218,000 in his first month. (That figure includes a personal loan to the campaign of $70,000, and substantial giving by a handful of people named Pestka.) Pestka has $195,509 on hand and $78,468 in debt.

Meanwhile, Amash’s war chest is light. In the first quarter of 2012 the freshman congressman raised $139,451. He has $200,551 on hand with $150,000 in campaign debt.

Amash does have the comfort of not facing a primary challenge. Pestka is being challenged by Trevor Thomas, a former local TV news producer and aide to former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. (In order to skew its influence in the presidential primary, the Motor State now holds votes in February and August [pdf], a practice that, counting the November general election, will require voters to turn out to the polls no fewer than thee times this year.)

Thomas entered the race late, too, and raised slightly over $100,000, of which only $2,012 is from Thomas himself. Thomas has attacked Pestka for his positions on abortion and, in particular, a 2001 vote on funding for Planned Parenthood. He has picked up some attention from prominent liberal blogs nationally for his positions but he has some local Republican backers, too.

Former Kent County Republican Party Chairman Bob Eleveld is backing Thomas because of his pro-choice stance on abortion and his dissatisfaction with Amash.

“Amash is not loved by the party. He’s a strong Ron Paul guy, he’s really a libertarian in Republican clothing,” said Eleveld, a member of Thomas’ finance committee and self-described moderate Republican.

When asked whom he would back in a race is between pro-life Amash and pro-life Pestka, Eleveld said he wasn’t sure what he would do.

“Maybe an independent will get in,” he said.

Other Michigan Republicans are, as one would expect, brushing off the Democratic challenges to Amash.

“He might do some things that are untraditional but it is tough to see this really become a race.  If he faced a primary opponent it would be a different story,” said Stu Sandler of Decider Strategies, a Michigan consulting firm.

There were rumblings that Amash would face a challenger in the Republican primary, but none emerged.

“Most Republican primary challenges come from the right, not the center,” said Sandler.

The only polling on the race shows Amash up on Pestka by 11 percent but when those surveyed were presented with more information that gap closed to two percent.

Cook Political Report rates the race as competitive but rates it “Likely Republican” with a partisan voter index of +6 in favor of the GOP.

“Pestka will make him work hard and not take anything for granted but this race isn’t going anywhere. This contest is one step below a foregone conclusion. Still, Amash has not done enough to squash the talk of this race being competitive,” said Jake Davison of Advantage Associates, a Lansing based consulting firm.

The National Republican Congressional Committee said that they were watching the race but were not overly concerned. The bulk of their resources in Michigan are currently being deployed in the Upper Peninsula, helping reelect freshman Congressman Dan Benishek in the First Congressional District.

“It’s definitely on the watch list,” said NRCC deputy communications director Andrea Bozek.

via Reason.

Japan and China to start direct currency trading on Friday

In News on May 31, 2012 at 1:51 am

Japan and China will start direct currency trading this week, Tokyo said Tuesday, the first time Beijing has let a major unit other than the dollar swap with the yuan.

The move, which will scrap the greenback as an intermediary unit, comes as China introduces measures as part of a long-term goal of internationalizing its currency to rival the dollar.

The two-way trade will also be allowed to move in a wider range than the narrow band at which the dollar and yuan change hands, Dow Jones Newswires and the Nikkei business daily reported.

China will set a daily rate based on dealer quotes with trade allowed to move within a 3% band above or below that rate, the reports said, compared with a 1% band fixed to yuan-dollar trading.

The Chinese central bank earlier Tuesday introduced a rate of 7.9480 yuan for every 100 yen, Dow Jones said.

However, there will be no fixed rates in Tokyo trade with the currencies trading freely, according to the same media reports which provided no further details.

The yen does trade freely against other major currencies on global foreign-exchange markets, including the greenback, with the dollar buying 79.50 yen in Asian afternoon trade on Tuesday.

“From June 1, the yen-yuan exchange rate will be constantly indicated in both markets, facilitating full-fledged direct exchange trading,” Finance Minister Jun Azumi told a regular press briefing.

By not using the dollar as an intermediate currency “we can lower transaction costs and reduce settlement risks at financial institutions as well as making both nations’ currencies more useful”, he added.

The announcement comes as China introduces measures as part of a long-term goal of internationalizing the yuan to rival the dollar as the world’s benchmark currency.

Beijing’s tightly managed currency policy has triggered huge trade deficits in the United States, which accuses China of artificially undervaluing the yuan to boost exports, and has been a long-running source of friction between the world’s two largest economies.

On Tuesday, Beijing described yuan-yen trade as an “important step” in “strengthening cooperation between China and Japan in developing financial markets and mutually promoting direct trading between the two currencies based on market principle.”

China overtook Japan to become the world’s second-largest economy in 2010, and the neighbors are forging closer business ties despite frequent diplomatic spats over territorial claims and lingering historical animosities.

China is Japan’s largest trading partner, but about 60% of their mutual trade is denominated in U.S. dollars.

In March, Japan said it had won approval from Beijing to buy Chinese government bonds for the first time—Beijing does not allow investors to freely purchase its debt, requiring official approval instead.

Tokyo said it got the green light to buy Chinese government bond issues worth about 65 billion yuan ($10.25 billion), a relatively small amount that was seen as largely symbolic.

The economic powerhouses have also agreed to promote the use of their currencies in bilateral transactions—such as yuan-denominated foreign direct investment by Japanese companies in China—to reduce foreign exchange risks.

The yen, meanwhile, hit historic highs against the dollar last year, denting exporters whose products become less competitive overseas when the currency strengthens.

Japanese finance officials have vowed to step into foreign-exchange markets again to tame the value of the unit, which is increasingly seen as a safe-haven currency as the euro takes a hit owing to worries about the debt-hit eurozone.

via Japan Today.

Cannabis smokers show greater lung capacity and lower cancer levels than non-smokers – Raw Michelle

In News on May 31, 2012 at 1:45 am

For many years, the demonizing claims being made against cannabis have been crumbling as research slowly dispels them. Fifty years ago people earnestly believed that the consumption of cannabis was directly linked to the development of an array of mental illnesses, and violent and hypersexual behavior.

Medical opinion must be guided by research

But these prejudices are still hanging on. Today, an individual who responsibly informs their doctor of their marijuana use, because, as with any medicine, chemical interactions may change the resulting chemical behavior, are most frequently urged to cut back. Various reasons are given for a physicians concern. Some, who appear to have fallen behind on the research, still express concern about “brain cell damage” a remnant from the Reagan era’s Just Say No campaign.

The main objection, that even the most well-informed physicians feel justified in making, is that even if cannabis itself is not particularly harmful, its most common method of ingestion, smoking, is bad for the lung tissue, regardless of the harmlessness of the substance being smoked. The belief piggybacked its way in on the back of growing opposition to tobacco, and the understanding that tobacco obstructs pulmonary flow and shortens breath.

When a chemical defined by its action doesn’t act

Because some of the same chemicals, which have identifiable carcinogenic impact in cigarettes, are also found in cannabis smoke, many believe that the cancer-causing potential of cannabis is proportionate to the amount of these chemicals. The fact that cannabis contains four times more tar (or oil) than cigarettes sparked the 1990s claim that smoking a joint was as bad for the lungs as smoking four cigarettes. This extrapolation makes perfect sense at face value, but doesn’t hold up when compared to actual cancer rates.

Rewriting the medical records

The results of a new government-run research program are now forcing medical authorities to overturn these beliefs. The study has been ongoing for the past twenty years, following the smoking habits of over 5000 people. Researchers found that, contrary to popular belief, smoking cannabis, does not interfere with lung function or capacity. This holds true for ongoing regular -even including daily- and long term consumption. Curiously, as a general rule, cannabis smokers had better lung function than nonsmokers, which researchers attribute to the smoking action itself, rather than the cannabis. Pot smokers inhale deeply and hold those breaths to make the most of their supply, expanding the lung’s capacity.

Dr. Tashkin found that, in almost all instances, cannabis consumers had rates of cancer that were no different from those who didn’t smoke cannabis. The one exception to this rule was between cannabis smokers and individuals who didn’t smoke anything (including tobacco), in which marijuana smokers actually had lower levels of lung cancer.

via Natural News.

US confirms ground campaign in Yemen – Jason Ditz

In News on May 18, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Doing away with the pretense that US troops in Yemen are exclusively there on a “training mission,” officials are confirming that “about 20 US special forces” are on the ground and engaged in a “focused counter-terrorism campaign.

With drones pounding southern Yemen on a near daily basis, the confirmation shows that the troops are not just in Yemen, but are actually directing the Yemeni military in their suddenly aggressive offensive against the Abyan Province.

The revelation comes just days after the most recent denial by Leon Panetta, who insisted that there was no consideration of US ground troops inside Yemen. President Obama had likewise ruled out such a move repeatedly.

Though this is the first official acknowledgement of the mission, the Pentagon accidentally confirmed the operation in early March, when it announced that a US “security team,” which was never reported deployed in the first place, had come under attack in Aden.

via Antiwar.com.

Sending your kids to public school is child abuse – Jeff Berwick

In News on May 18, 2012 at 5:24 pm

I don’t know why it was so obvious to me.  School was prison for kids.  That’s the way I saw it.  But as I looked at my fellow school inmates around me they didn’t seem to notice.

By the time I reached high school I had resigned myself to just getting a passing grade to make my parents happy and move on.  My goal: 50%.  I didn’t want 51%… if I got that, I was trying too hard.  I’d rarely show up.  And when I did I’d sit in the back row listening to the horse race reports from the warmup sessions at the track where I would go each evening and, in nearly 100 visits, perhaps recorded a loss at the end of each evening once or twice.

As for school, I’d really only go for the tests.  I’d go two hours early and speed read the textbook and make sure I knew just enough to pass.  I was quite good at it, to the point where on my final exam of high school I had planned it perfectly so passing the course would give me just enough to graduate and I even knew the exact score I needed on the test to pass: 62%.

It was social studies, which I detested for having to memorize obvious propaganda, but it was easy enough to pass the exam.  I’d short-term memorize as much as I could and the dates and places that I couldn’t remember I’d write on my forearm, or my leg, or on any number of cheat sheets I had.  It was a two hour exam and there were multiple choice questions worth 70% and essays worth 30%.  I went through the multiple choice in about 30 minutes and knew I had enough to get 62% so I didn’t even bother with the essay section.  I got up to leave and was informed that there was a “minimum time requirement of 1 hour”.

“A minimum time requirement,” I complained!  “But, I’m done!”

“Go sit until the hour is up,” they admonished.  Servitude to unworthy authoritarian figures is the real goal of schooling in the west.  Angry, and bored for the next 30 minutes, I went on to write some of the more disturbing and outright erroneous essay answer questions probably ever recorded in social studies history.

But, finally the hour was up and I could escape.  And I did pass that course and finally was allowed out of child prison.


Even back in the 1980s school was atrocious.  But when I look at what is going on today I can only come to one conclusion: sending your child to public school in the US is child abuse.

Think I’m exagerrating?  Hear me out.

Let’s just start with all the injections your child will receive if you force them to go for their government training.  The fascist US Government which is one in the same with the pharmaceutical industry continues to want to inject more and more heinous chemicals into your children while they have them under their “care”.

In one instance, a 14-year-old girl was forced to take vaccinations for hepatitis A, seasonal influenza, meningitis, and HPV (Gardasil) in a Detroit area school despite her parents previously-stated opposition to their daughter receiving medical treatments from the school (see story here).

This is just standard operating procedure at most school’s nowadays.  “Parents give up their rights when they drop the children off at public school,” said Melinda Harmon, a US Federal Judge, recently.

Giving multiple vaccines is “like a sudden onslaught to the body’s immune system“, according to this Australian Government study.  And, when given to youngsters whose immune system hasn’t yet fully formed, it can be catastrophic for health… which is probably the point.  Remember, people like Bill Gates, Ted Turner, Al Gore and more are trying to do as much as possible to reduce the global population.  Bill Gates has even stated publicly that vaccines are one of the best way to do this.

Now, in a new amendment to California’s Health and Safety Code as it relates to vaccinations will take effect this fall for the 2012-2013 school year, and will require all incoming seventh graders, as well as eighth and twelfth graders for the first year, to get a Tdap booster vaccination for pertussis (whooping cough) before being admitted to school.  Mandatory.

“A number of clinical laboratory studies demonstrate that vaccines may cause chronic damage to the G.I. tract, immune system, brain, and other organs,” says Bernard Rimland, Ph.D., an American research psychologist, writer, lecturer and advocate for autistic children.

And, once your child has had their immune system attacked by countless unnecessary and dangerous vaccines (autism has increased 1000% since 1990 due to vaccines) then the government will be looking to give them all manner of other chemicals.

Your child has a little too much energy and doesn’t want to sit and listen to complete morons trying to brainwash them with garbage?  They’ll be sent home with a prescription for the highly addictive and dangerous chemical, adderall.


When they aren’t being dumbed down by drugs or having their immune system destroyed by vaccines they have to actually deal with their Lord of the Flies type environment.

Many parents actually are aware of this environment and will support it stating it is good… it will toughen them up, they say.  We’re not so sure sending your five, ten or fifteen year old into something that is not that different than a high security prison to avoid getting shivved in the bathroom is the best way to teach them about life.  You could just rent Oz for them and save them some terrible emotional scars.

Read the rest via Lew Rockwell.