American Sophists

Plato fought and died for his principals way back in the fifth century BCE, but here we are again, faced with a corrupt educational system and body politic similar to the state he gave his life to expose. Two of your columnists seem to praise the abilities of a couple of standard bearers of this corruption. Jason Stanford, in his article “Give Ted Cruz a Gold Star” (5/15/15 TPP) points out how “brilliant” a speaker Ted Cruz is and reports on Cruz’s stellar debate career in Princeton and Harvard. While I take his point, I think he misses the big picture here. As rhetoricians, we need to be more cognizant of the power of words.

Psychologists tell us we have among us many types and levels of intellect; one of these is “street smarts”, slickness, or as the Athenian rhetoricians of Plato’s time self-identified—sophists. In our reading classes, we call its methods propaganda—an appeal which uses our emotions to blind us to the truth and, thus, manipulates us out of our ability to be logical. Sophists are taught how to make a weak argument appear the stronger. Teachers like Plato called sophistry a “sham art,” since it is not supported by facts or real truth. As do all good teachers, Plato maintained that education should lead to wisdom, not slavery.

Sophistry has no logic to it. Its followers are not insane; they are illogical and ill-willed. They vary between sociopaths or psychopaths—both defined as personality disorders; they lack compassion and hide behind the tolerance of others of their type like bigots and religious hypocrites. They are pathological haters and liars.

Ted Rall in his article “Rand Paul Proves that the Political System Is Broken” (5/15/15 TPP), who, himself, seems to have a bit of pathological hatred for anything Obama, calls Rand Paul “interesting” and a “poor soul” who must present himself as “boring and stupid” in order to be a viable Republican “leader.” Pobrecito.

Paul self-identifies as a Libertarian—an illogical, impractical and mean-spirited sophist movement which calls for bigots to rage free, but women and minorities must obey. Libertarianism is a patriarchal, anti-social movement. The more one has, the more one deserves, as long as the one is a white male religionist. As Thrasymachus ( a sophist) says in The Republic: “Justice is the interest of the stronger,” and Gorgias says: “truth” creates the greatest good for the people through mastery of others” — both ideas pretty far from maintenance of individual liberty — at least the American spirit of liberty.

Plato maintained that rhetoric could be good or evil: good rhetoric upholds the truth and aids the personal evolution and wisdom of man and his society, but bad rhetoric uses language to sicken the minds of the young and, therefore, the body politic. Plato’s mentor, Socrates, stood up against the powerful sophists of his time and took poison rather than recant his strong opposition to sophistry. The fact that the world had to endure the Bush era (Yale), Cruz (Princeton/Harvard), and Rand Paul (Duke) shows the level of corruption in our once-great schools. These people are not a point of pride (and certainly are not good) for the nation.

It’s time to reintroduce liberal arts education so that when all else fails, we may look back to the wisdom of our past.

P. Ann White
Meridian, Texas

Keep Pharma’s Hands Off Supplements, Homeopathy

Pharmacist Sam Uretsky’s rant [“Who Polices Food Supplements and Herbal Remedies?,” 5/1/15 TPP] about the supplement industry and homeopathy reveals profound ignorance and perhaps a dash of self-interest.

Mr. Uretsky is apparently baffled that anyone would want to bar the FDA from regulating supplements, given rampant fraud in the industry. Um, maybe it’s because the FDA is wholly captured by PHARMA and the biotech giants, and expansion of the agency’s mandate would likely result in bans on many safe natural remedies that compete with pharmaceuticals for market share. Recall the l-tryptophan scare of 1989, wherein a spate of poisonings resulted in thousands of illnesses, at least 1,500 consumers being disabled, and about 3 dozen deaths. The problem was clearly traced to a single Japanese manufacturer that recklessly employed genetic engineering to save cost and speed production, yet the FDA — in deference to the biotech industry’s concern about its image — ignored the facts and absurdly banned sale of the normally harmless amino acid.

Regarding homeopathy, Uretsky parrots the same nonsense that we see on PHRMA-financed, alt-med-bashing websites: It can’t work because there’s no active ingredient left, water can’t possibly have memory, there are no reputable studies to back it up, blah, blah, blah. Of course, most rational people know that proving a therapy works and discovering the means are two different things, and recognize that lab and real-world results should always trump theory. Moreover, close observers of the homeopathy debate are aware that a corrupt and dogmatic scientific establishment has done everything in its considerable power to destroy homeopathy’s reputation. A case in point is the Benveniste affair, in which therapeutic effects were seen with extreme dilutions that probably lacked any active ingredient. Although 3 other labs (whose principals were co-authors) replicated Dr. Benveniste’s team’s results prior to publication, the journal Nature published the study (June 1988) with a condescending introduction and initiated a witch hunt to discredit homeopathy and make an example of Dr. B. Of course, if the editors of Nature found the study substandard, they could simply have refused to publish it, but that would limit its propaganda value. So, they published the study and then broke every norm of scientific protocol and basic decency to destroy Benveniste, such as sending a team including the showman James (“The Amazing”) Randi — who has no scientific credentials — to take over Dr. B’s lab and purposefully fail to replicate the results. In this charade, the other 3 labs were ignored, because it would have been unbelievable that 4 labs could simultaneously be so incompetent. Despite these stifling tactics, occasionally brave researchers study homeopathy, and a pan-European team replicated the Benveniste results in 2004 (Belon et al., Inflammation Research).

Jim Shaw
Grand Blanc, Mich.

Don’t Confuse Homeopathy with Herbs

I was very disappointed to read Sam Uretsky (5/15/15 TPP) when he “blended” homeopathic medicines with herbal supplements. I realize that he is a pharmacist after all and believes in his pills always having the right doses, but I was in Australia in 2003 when an antihistamine killed two people before being pulled from the market having a concentration 15 times what it should have — and that is not the only case. 

I realize herbal medicines/supplements are not controlled, and they should be, as these products can indeed cause harm if taken incorrectly and/or with the view that it is herbal and can’t hurt you, etc., (look at the problems with kava recently). But that is also no reason to dismiss them for conventional expensive medications with side effects on a mile-long list. Just look up aspirin or Tylenol and see what it can do to you.

We all need to be educated about what we are using for health. Homeopathy is a different way of looking at the symptoms of a disease, and is about much more than “water remembering” as Sam dismissed it. It DOES work in certain cases, some others not but does NOT have side effects, one of the plusses. I point out Arnica Rub and arthritis medications and medicine for leg cramps which we use with great success — there is nothing in the pharmacy that can equal these remedies. They will relieve your pain right away without causing you GI bleeding or upset and to date I know of no effective medication without side effects for leg cramps.

We would do well to embrace all the methods of relieving suffering and use the one indicated at the proper time and place instead of Big Pharma trying to dominate the field for its own gain and profit, no matter if the people could have something more suited to their problems.

Judy Coulter
Registered Nurse (Retired)
Fiji Islands

Obama Ruins Legacy

Obama is selling-out our entire American economy by fast-tracking or passing the TPP! Obama is not as smart as he thinks he is. Every American union is against this trade deal. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is about the worst thing that could happen to this country; it’s about foreigners dictating American policy on many different fronts. Obama is completely ruining his legacy and this country with TPP. He is shooting himself in the foot — and so is any Congressperson who cares so little for this country as to pass TPP. It is almost traitorous! Obama is doing this out of fear. Fear that China will do this deal, if we don’t. Let them! If China reads the document, they probably won’t do it. Here, no one is allowed to read/study it. They can only vote yes or no, on something written in secret that they haven’t read. The world wants to emulate the USA, not China! We are the world’s biggest customer and still hold the illusion of freedom, democracy and justice! We don’t need to be afraid of China; now we need to be afraid of Obama. He’s gone to the dark side with TPP.

Rusudana Jason
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Climate Challenges

Two recent headlines should have grabbed the attention not to mention the hearts and minds of readers world wide. One was “Carbon Dioxide increasing at record pace” and the other “Shell wins battle in war over Arctic oil.” Dieter Dans from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports, “It’s both disturbing and daunting” when talking about carbon dioxide that hit global averages of 400.83 parts per million. The planet has not seen levels like this in over 2 million years. Couple this carbon dioxide report with the more recent news breaker about the Shell corporation’s great Arctic victory regarding drilling and you have an emerging horror story that will imperil human civilization and life on this great and dying planet.…

It is not too late but the window is closing. Ignoring climate change and increasing carbon dioxide levels while promoting ever more fossil fuel exploration and exploitation is a suicide pact for humanity and all future generations. … We can stay on our present course which will insure total and probably irreversible environmental collapse and an end to human civilization. Or we as a race can make the collective decision to safeguard both the planet and future generations and embark on a clear and clean energy revolution that promises both hope and a sustained quality of life. One great political philosopher once offered this insight: the only thing more powerful than organized money is organized people. It’s all in our hands-and always has been.

Jim Sawyer
Edmonds, Wash.

From The Progressive Populist, June 15, 2015


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