Six harmless participants: Me, Peter, Jay, Tom, Lucien, and Bill. And a group of advisors who don’t know about the project – who aren’t directly involved. They will help us think. It reminds me of Shulgin’s approach, described in PIHKAL, the first of his trilogy on psychedelic chemistry. He had a ‘tester’ group and a more extended ‘advisory’ group.
I’m the initial instigator and organizer – and the oldest of the group. I assume primary responsibility and legal liability. I’m the key connector, facilitator, and funder. My wife, Diana, knows my political interests and concerns, but knows nothing about harmless. Like Snowden’s girlfriend in Hawaii, she’ll only learn about it after it all happens, after I’m arrested, or after I tell her.
I know enough chemistry to be able to work closely with Tom. I have enough background and experience in pharmaceutics and biochemistry to work on the delivery and dosage needs. I still have an active (albeit Emeritus) faculty appointment and can purchase materials through my U account for use in my ‘lab’ (my Emeritus office, which doubles as a ‘shop’).
Jay is a tall, lean retired ‘facilities’ person. He knows buildings, spaces, ventilation systems, basements, remodeling, etc. He says he’s finally escaped his ‘learned helplessness’ by learning to trust and by using his imagination. He wants to make up for lost time.
Peter is a medical caregiver with considerable hospice experience. He’s also our most experienced chemical tester. He knows the health care delivery community and industry, can work with and around quite old people (like some Senators and Supreme Court Justices!), and is our direct link to the action and experience of the sixties and seventies. He travels to Amsterdam annually for drug-related enhancement, primarily via cannabis.
Lucien’s the youngest of the harmless. He’s experienced with natural, botanical materials, meditation, and related aids. He knows about environments, music, set, and settings. He will serve as our botanical collector, perhaps grower, as well as tester – and apprentice chemist.
Tom is our chemist – a very effective and experienced organic chemist. He can make the materials needed from precursors we will acquire, including botanically derived materials. The ‘safest’ precursors are likely to be those derived from natural sources. Tom’s time is very limited due to his newly diagnosed pancreas and now liver cancer. Although he’s in intense chemotherapy for the next four months – so far doing well – he may well be gone before harmless is completed. But by then the materials will have been synthesized, purified, characterized, formulated – and carefully stored – and in sufficient quantity to keep harmless supplied until we decide the project is finished.
Bill is our botanist and traveler. His Australian trips and connections will likely prove helpful. He has incredible knowledge of trees and shrubs, and has strong credentials and experience in botany and natural products, including a personal introduction to mescaline. He’s had a varied scientific career, is very personable, and is a superb connector – he seems to know everyone!
Those reading this account of the State Change Project need to think of themselves as part of the harmless team. Join in the dialog, the planning, and the execution of the plan. Suggest improvements, strategies, and methods. Participate. It’s your country and your future. Join harmless! Start a local ‘chapter’. And be prepared to go to jail.
“The plan is to read and digest what’s known about empathogens – their chemistry, actions, and delivery. We’ll study the current clinical trials – especially the overseas ones. We’ll then have to ‘guesstimate’ and test appropriate mixtures or sequences of agents for our unique purposes,” I said.
“Just about everything I need to know for synthesis and purification is in the Shulgin books,” Tom said. The first halves of PIHKAL (phenethylamines) and TIHKAL (tryptamines) are semi-autobiographical and detail some of his – and Ann Shulgin’s – experiences and even recommendations. The second half of each book is basically a chemical encyclopedia on hundreds of compounds. We’ll know in a week or so what our inventory list should include.”
“And for sure, I think, LSD and MDMA will be at the top of that list,” added Peter.
“Some of the agents, and most of their key precursors, are ‘readily’ available,” I said. “The Czechs have done – and continue to do – so much in this area. We could do a trip or two to Prague before we’re ready to start. I’ll also look into what’s possible via Portugal. Switzerland and The Netherlands may also be useful. It’s interesting that in Portugal and the Netherlands, marijuana is formally illegal – but small possession and use is not prosecuted.”
“There’s a little saying about the Dutch,” Peter added, “from a guidebook I read:
One of the most original of Dutch traits is the tendency to let in a little evil in order to keep the big evil out.”
“That’s so reasonable,” Jay said, “and wise.”
“The Rick Steve’s guide to Amsterdam is useful,” Peter continued. “There are ‘coffee shops’ with menus for sativa and indica preparations, seed shops for the grow your own crowd, and ‘smart shops’ for the fungi – psilocybin types. No convenient MDMA shops – it’s ‘on the street’.”
“The problem,” Jay noted, “is that you never know what you’re getting. Since MDMA is illegal, there’s no quality control, testing, or safety considerations. Most street stuff, including so-called Molly, is extended, filled, and otherwise adulterated, often with toxic and dangerous materials.”
“I suppose you all saw that recent Times piece on the Wesleyan Molly episode?” asked Bill.
“Yes,” I said. “The Wesleyan stuff was, according to the police, a very ‘bad batch’.”
“Q.E.D,” smiled Peter. “It’s interesting to note that ecstasy is the feeling, but ecstacy is the pill, although that distinction is rarely made.”
Peter’s not a scientist, but loves to read and learn science stuff. He picked up Q.E.D. from a Richard Feynman book he read.
“Molly became popular because the users became afraid of all the bad stuff in the pills,” Lucien added. “Earlier on they were told Molly meant purity. Now pills in Britain and the US are generally only one-third MDMA, but in Holland they can be up to two thirds MDMA.”
“That’s why on the street the suppliers sometimes say Dutch quality pills,” Peter said.
“And at least one third crap,” Bill grimaced.
“Yes, the problem is all the other stuff that’s in there,” I added. “There’s now new stuff from China called flakka, which is literally deadly. It is essentially poison. Although somewhat related to khat, it’s been engineered to be very potent and addictive. And other new stuff tries to get around Britain’s laws, which tend to be more specific than our more general ban in the U.S.”
We were all aware of the severe problems with street Molly or Ecstacy and the additives used to cheapen and extend it. There’s also even more concern about additives and extenders which are strong, addictive, and very dangerous drugs, including methamphetamine and heroin.
CheckIt! is a program in the Vienna area which goes back to about 1997 in which drugs are tested on site, for free, at raves and related events. According to a 2005 The Scientist story, Rainer Schmid and his volunteer team use a pair of HPLC units that can detect more than 1,000 psychoactive compounds – from LSD to MDMA, within 15 minutes. The results are anonymously posted and the user can then decide to use or not. They’ve found that even unadulterated, Ecstacy pills can contain as much as five times the typical dose. With the test results in hand, ravers often subdivide their pills. For every pill tested, the CheckIt! team conducts about five counseling or information sessions with ravers. CheckIt!’ has had an uneasy truce with the Vienna police department, in which no one will be arrested for drug possession in the booth’s immediate vicinity.
The UK government says that all street drugs are bad and illegal and refuses to implement a CheckIt! – like program, although there are some local efforts. Fiona Measham, a criminologist at Durham University, does some limited event testing as part of her research activities. There’s an Amsterdam equivalent at www.unity.nl/testing .
Drugs Unlimited, a fairly new book by Mike Power of The Guardian, discusses nearly all street drugs, including those available via the internet or DarkNet, and means and methods for monitoring drug production, sales, and distribution. Although there are several newer drugs with MDMA-like effects, there appears to be nothing superior to or safer than MDMA for our purposes.
“MDMA it is, then,” Tom concluded. “We will make everything from scratch, with good QC at every step.”
“I can start testing almost anytime,” Lucien volunteered. “I assume we’ll adopt the Shulgin five step self-testing scale.”
“Yes, that’s reasonable.”
Turning to Tom, I asked “Any thoughts on your lab?”
“Well, not my home or your U office,” he answered. “Perhaps some place very convenient, cheap, and largely invisible. And maybe in a state where the laws are not ultra hard-nosed.”
“Even though it’s Federal laws we’d be breaking, doing it in a semi-progressive state might help. That rules out Utah. Perhaps Oregon, or Northern California?” I asked.
“I vote for Oregon,” Peter said.
“Me, too,” agreed Lucien.
They both live in Oregon.
“And I’d love to get back to Oregon while I still can,” said Tom. “And – if my prognosis deteriorates – Oregon’s Death with Dignity law could be a real advantage.”
“But you’d have to be a formal Oregon resident to utilize it,” I cautioned.
“No problem,” added Peter. He knows, due to his hospice experience. “You just need to move, have a permanent residence, get an Oregon driver’s license, and register to vote in the state. It all takes six months or less.”
“And I probably have that long,” Tom said. “I may have to change doctors and hospitals, which might be a problem. I’ll look into it.”
We had also discussed California, now that they have a death with dignity law. But it was decided – Oregon’s the lab site.
“I’ve studied Shulgin enough to know that standard organic chemistry procedures will suffice – none of it will be very complicated or tricky, but it is quite time-consuming,” Tom said. “We can even set the lab up in an RV or small trailer if we had to, but a large bathroom and a storage closet will work.”
“We can rent a place for a short time,” I said. “Diana and I have done that often. VRBO.com works well.”
“Manzanita might be ideal,” Lucien noted.
“It even has its own airport,” Peter said, “ – at the adjacent state park. I can fly stuff and people in and out.”
Peter’s a pilot and has access to his aging dad’s aged Cessna. Manzanita is a low key place. We can rent a storage unit to store the equipment between visits. It could all be in the guise of family reunions and vacations.
“You know my constraint,” Tom added. “Once we begin – we need to have it all done in three or four months. And if I decide to become a resident, harmless can help me rent a place, right?”
“Sure,” I said.
“And I get to stay in Salt Lake and research the buildings, chambers, and events we’ll need to understand in order to effectively deliver our revelatory experiences.” Jay – our facilities man – is not that excited about Oregon. He prefers Utah’s red rock desert. He’d prefer to be a park ranger in Canyonlands or Arches – just like Edward Abbey.
So far, so good.
I’ve now read nearly all of Shulgin’s PIHKAL and TIHKAL, Holland’s Ecstasy: The Complete Guide, and Eisner’s Ecstasy – The MDMA Story – and looked at more sites, including www.shulginresearch.org, www.erowid.com, and, of course, www.MAPS.org .
“The New Yorker just published a piece profiling Earth and Fire, the couple who founded and run the Erowid site,” I reported.
“It’s been very helpful. Nearly everything on psychedelics and related chemicals is somewhere on that site,” Tom added.
Claudio Naranjo in The Healing Journey considers the psychotropic drugs in three functional categories: the ‘head’, ‘gut’, and ‘heart’ drugs. LSD is a head drug, ayahuasca a gut drug, and MDA, and later MDMA, a heart drug. MDMA elicits openness, awareness, communication, group interactions, trust, empathy with and for others, and absence of fear.
Grinspoon and Bakalar, in Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered, 1997, wrote:
Although [chemically] related to both amphetamines and psychedelic drugs, it [MDMA] does not produce either the stimulant effect of amphetamines or the dramatic emotional and perceptual changes associated with LSD or mescaline…it heightens the capacity for introspection and intimacy without distracting changes in perception, body image, and the sense of self. Intensified feelings and self-exploration are invited rather than compelled. Users often say they lose defensive anxiety and feel more emotionally open…
MDMA really is very unique. It’s essentially three neuro-drugs in one, with a delicate balance between the three functions: inducing serotonin release, inducing dopamine release, and blocking serotonin reuptake. Here’s one view from the recent book by Power, Drugs Unlimited, 2013:
The magical ratio of serotonin-dopamine-norepinephrine release and reuptake prompted by the presence of MDMA in the human brain is not produced by any other substance. Other recreational drugs come close, but the charged, empathetic, transcendent peak-MDMA experience has yet to be matched by any designer drug. It’s called Ecstasy for a reason.
It’s been said that the door, once open, stay’s open – or can be very easily opened again, without drug assistance. Bruce Eisner is reported to have said, ‘When you get the message, hang up the phone’.
That is revelation, epiphany, breakthrough understanding. Once you ‘get it’ – you can’t really unget it. Awareness and revelation is largely uni-directional. You can’t go back. Once there are openings – windows or doors – in the tunnel, they tend to stay there.
In Life Begins at Sixty, essayist Walter Houston Clark wrote
I have changed my attitudes, ideas, and sometimes my values quite radically since my watershed ingestion of that first dose of LSD.
Revelations are not just for the young. Had Clark used MDMA, he may have had an even stronger revelation related to values and attitudes.
Ralph Metzer’s co-author, Padma Catell, said: ‘Somehow MDMA has the unique and almost ‘magical’ power of reducing fear’.
Ann Shulgin said, ‘… it’s a lovely, gentle way for people to connect with each other’, and Sasha Shulgin added,
…the blending and integration of interactions between people is an extremely healthy evolutionary adaptation.
“Evolutionary adaptation?” Bill asked, smiling. “I like that.”
“It’s like MDMA cracks open the closed windows or closed doors, letting in some fresh air – fresh, unconstrained thinking and perspectives,” I added. “I don’t think there’s any point in looking for other agents or their combinations. MDMA seems to be ideal, except for delivery problems.”
Bill added: “There’s growing acceptance of its safety and role in difficult psychiatry cases, like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.” He had recently alerted us to the Diane Rehm NPR episode on MDMA and PTSD.
Some very recent work reinforces and expands upon the earlier studies and observations.
Baggott and co-workers reported that
…MDMA produced a prosocial syndrome that seemed to facilitate emotional disclosure and that appears consistent with the suggestion that it represents a novel pharmacological class.
It tends to increase self-awareness, personal authenticity, and decreases social anxiety. It tends to facilitate a ‘tend-and-befriend’ response rather than a fight or flight response.
Oxford University’s Molly Crockett’s recent work with dopamine and serotonin suggests that their control and modulation can result in enhanced moral decision making. Although she has not studied MDMA, her current conclusions and hypotheses appear to provide a mechanism for MDMA’s apparently unique ability to modulate and adjust serotonin and dopamine. In fact, in an online video titled Can Pills Change Our Morals she fantasizes ‘What if negotiators popped a few moral enhancers before heading to the [negotiating] table?’
“Diplomats, negotiators – better yet, Supreme Court Justices – and presidential candidates,” Bill enthused.
“We’ll get there,” I said, “voluntarily or – until enhancers are legal – involuntarily.”
“Let’s ‘deliver’ it the old fashioned way,” Peter suggested, “using liquids and drinks.”
“It apparently tastes terrible,” Lucien added, “so water won’t work.”
“If orange juice was good enough for the Shulgins and others, why not?”
“Coffee, tea?” asked Lucien. “Doesn’t it start with sassafras? And that’s used as a tea.”
“But one individual revelation does not make a functioning Congress – or Supreme Court,” noted Jay.
“No, but tipping points do evolve, tides and times change,” I said. “One of MDMA’s unique features is group empathy – group consciousness.”
‘Yes! Holland writes about the connection to others, the clan orientation. She discusses the ‘rave’ – group dance phenomena – like the tribal and native dances around the fire while under the influence,” said Lucien. “That’s the ayahuasca ritual – and with other drugs as well.”
“Did you see that recent New York Times story on Brazilian inmates participating in ayahuasca rituals?” Bill asked. “It really helps them calm down.”
“Holland even refers to ‘Dionysian rituals’ – our Eleusinian Mysteries,” I continued; “She says ‘This has therapeutic implications not only for the individual but for our society as well’.”
“Reminds me of LSD-Johnny Appleseed ‘Captain’ Hubbard,” said Peter. “He wanted to transform world politics via LSD – or was it his friend Humphrey Osmond?”
“Weren’t they the ones who turned Aldous Huxley on to LSD?” Lucien asked. “Or was it mescaline?”
“Trying to enhance the world via revelation engineering isn’t new,” I said.
The more we learn about psychology and politics, the more we understand that it is largely due to the neurochemical receptor and chemical concentrations in the human brain. A recent New York Times story, The Feel-Good Gene, is a good example. Apparently about 20% of Americans (of European descent) have a mutation which results in higher levels of a neurotransmitter – called anandamide – than the other 80% or so. The ‘mutants’ are less anxious and less fearful than the genetically disadvantaged majority. Anandamide is often called the ‘bliss’ molecule and is our own natural cannabis (actually THC, its psycho-active component) – our own natural marijuana. Those with the ‘mutant’ gene don’t need or like marijuana. The normal majority likes it more.
Perhaps the Greeks and other ancients understood this, psychologically – and the Eleusinian ceremony was a way to even the chemical-psychological playing field.
A recent New Scientist story on belief ties to all this. Apparently our default brain state is to accept – to believe – what we are told: ‘Belief comes easily; doubt takes effort.’ Our primitive brain ‘...is primed to see agency and purpose everywhere’, even when it’s not there, of course. And that ‘agency and purpose’ we see and accept facilitates our belief in religions and sacred books – and influences our politics. Believing people occupy different realities than those who can doubt and question – and those different realities result in different politics. Our culture – and our childhood rearing, via parents and teachers – build on our default state – to accept, to believe. And that results in a hard-wired brain, prone to belief-oriented politics – highly resistant to change. Our brain tends to construct – and rely on – a rigid tunnel, unless it is stimulated and empowered to do otherwise. The New Scientist piece concludes:
The world would be better if we all stopped believing in our beliefs quite so strongly.
Chris Mooney, author of The Republican Brain, did another fascinating piece recently, based on an analysis using Pew Foundation religious preference data. There is a strong correlation between religious preference and support for evolution AND for environmental regulation. Evangelicals, Mormons, and Seventh Day Adventists have little support for evolution and little support for environmental regulations. The more ‘liberal’ religious traditions (Friends-Quakers, Judaism, and Buddhist) and, of course, Atheists and Agnostics are very supportive of evolution and very supportive of environmental regulation.
“And where do Catholics fit in the correlation?” Jay asked.
“That’s very interesting,” I answered. “They are roughly in the middle – modestly supportive of both environmental regulations and of evolution.”
“And Muslims?” asked Bill.
“A little higher in environmental support, and a little lower in evolution support than Catholics.”
“I wonder if the Pope’s encyclical altered the present results for Catholics,” Bill said.
“With so many Catholics in Congress and on the Supreme Court there’s a chance the encyclical has had some impact on those Catholics.”
“Optimist,” Jay smiled.
“Hey,” I countered. “Nancy Pelosi is a Catholic. And so is Times’ columnist Ross Douthat. In fact he was just taken on in The Nation for his anti-women positions.”
“Douthat has a wide readership – if he tips, it could be significant,” Jay suggested.
“A Catholic shift may help make up for the Church stamping out the Eleusinian Mysteries in 400 AD,” Bill suggested.
“And we will be bringing the rites back, in a very altered form,” I said. “The Eleusinian rites functioned as a partial reset – a chemical ‘phone call’ to be less fearful, more open, more compassionate.”
“Which helped level the neurochemical playing field and the genetic dice perhaps dealt to many violent and warring sects and tribes,” added Bill. “If the world had continued as it apparently was in the Neolithic, with a true partnership between women and men in positions of authority and power, Eleusinian-like rites of passage may not have been needed.”
“Perhaps the remnants of the Goddess influence helped initiate the rites – to temper the growing influence of men – and their tendency to take over all power and authority,” I added.
“You obviously read Dianne Eisler’s The Chalice and the Blade,” Bill said.
“Yes, and the earlier book by Merlin Stone, When God was a Woman, which helped inspire Eisler. In about 400 AD, the highly patriarchal Catholic Church decided it didn’t want open minded citizens or Goddesses – and so they shut down the Eleusinian rites.”
“Men rule,” Bill concluded, “thanks to our dominator society.”
“Stone says that the Koran includes the text ‘…the pagans pray to females’ and that Mohammed stated ‘ When Eve was created, Satan rejoiced’. He also suggested the story of Adam and Eve may have been included in the early Bible ‘…as yet another assault upon the Goddess religion’.
“Perhaps this was all to reinforce the movement toward patriarchal domination of religion,” Bill said, “delivering civilization to a fully male-dominated, warring society.”
“Remember our earlier discussion with Lucien and Peter, about Terrence McKenna, and our pathologic egos?” I asked.
“Yes, and the need, he said, to do a drug-induced reset periodically,” Bill recalled.
“I learned recently that the talk from which that came was called Archaic Revival, as in Neolithic,” I said. “Neolithic man and woman apparently had a close relationship with active mushrooms, and perhaps other psycho-active plants.”
“So they were resetting regularly,” Bill smiled.
“Which may be why those early cultures, as Eisler said, were not dominator societies – were not dominated by males. In fact there was a recent Science Magazine report about the sex equality within hunter-gatherer bands relating to cooperation and the evolution of culture.”
“Cool – so as we moved into agriculture, we stopped the auto-resets provided by foraging magic mushrooms,” Bill suggested, “and assumption-laden egos took over.”
“Perhaps – it does seem to tie together.”
“You know,” Bill continued, “much of this was discussed back in 1968 in White’s classical Historical Roots of our Ecologic Crisis – about the same time as Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons.”
“Yes.” I agreed. “White pointed out that those historical roots pointed right to the dominator, patriarchal culture of Western Christianity, with its gospel of conquering nature.”
“And conquering women,” Bill added.
The New York Times recently ran a story on a small, matrilineal and 700 year old culture in the Chengdu region of Southwest China – the Mosuo ‘Kingdom of Daughters’. The Mosuo are a minority ethnic group said to be the country’s last matrilineal society, where children take
mothers’ surnames and daughters are preferred to sons.
According to Chuan-Kang Shih, an expert on the Mosuo at the University of Florida, the system is underpinned by a fundamental belief that women are more capable than men, mentally and
even physically. The Mosuo also believe that everything people value in the world came from a woman, not a man. All male deities are secondary to their patron goddess.
The recent National Geographic photo piece, Kingdom of Girls, shows a matrilineal tribe in northeastern India, called the Khasi. A German photographer, Karolin Kluppel, put together a photographic exhibit on them. She says:
I want everyone to know about cultures that are different from the patriarchal world we live in – and I want people to question that system.
Selecting the empathogen MDMA certainly simplifies the project. The problem becomes the synthesis of one drug: MDMA.
There are several synthesis routes, well documented in Shulgin’s books and papers. One route starts with safrole, derived from sassafras roots.
There are several sassafras trees in Corvalis, according to the Oregon State University web site, although it’s not common in the Northwest. It is found throughout the Eastern half of the United States and is common in the Northeast. Extracts of the root are still used clandestinely for herbal teas, although it has been declared toxic and thus banned by the FDA. It is well known as a source of chemical precursor for the synthesis of MDMA. There are also sassafras trees in Portland. There is a volunteer-produced Portland Tree Inventory on line. We found one tree in the Woodstock area and three in the Laurelhurst neighborhood. There must be many others.
“Sassafras is pretty common in Australia – in temperate rain forests, although it’s likely a different species than Shulgin’s,” Bill noted.
“I think I read in PIHKAL about the Shulgins using a sassafras-based synthesis when they were in Brazil,” I added. “But they don’t really use the safrole precursor approach in their books or papers, perhaps because they already had MDA to work from.”
“You can even buy sassafras seedlings via the Arbor Day Foundation,” Bill said. He’s already done the requisite homework. “I’ll order several and we can plant them in our various yards. Salt Lake is in their tolerance zone, as is Oregon.”
“My back yard should be just fine,” Lucien said.
You do know it’s sassafras root and bark,” Tom noted. “We – or at least I – may not have the time to wait for trees to grow.”
“Let me look into nursery sources,” Bill said.
“We can ‘appropriate’ several small trees from large, unguarded nurseries – or even purchase them for a specialty landscaping job,” I suggested.
“Let me look into that,” Bill said, “Perhaps the U Arboretum can serve as a cover.”
By focusing on MDMA and given our tight time frame, we had to reconsider our delivery aspirations and strategies. We decided to use liquid-based oral delivery. As the intrinsic taste of MDMA needs to be highly masked, strong tasting carriers need to be used. Orange juice is common. We need to address teas, coffee, wine, and other mild alcoholic drinks. That means taste-testing and drug inactivation studies. Although LSD is very sensitive to inactivation, MDMA is relatively stable.
We also have to consider set and setting. The drugs work best when the patients are in a calm, relaxed, responsive setting. In a recent Guardian story on the work of William Richards at John Hopkins, one of the participants said:
… it takes skilled facilitators to get people in those spaces … the compound gets people to those states but their compassion, their empathy, their guiding of the session is really what did that.
We assume that our ‘patients’ political positions should be gently ‘primed’ by being in environments in which they are comfortable and by being with people they respect and trust. And those people – and those settings – will not be under our control. Our delivery means and strategies must be able to take advantage of the situations, schedules, and engagements of each of our patients.
“Now I get to do something?” Jay asked, smiling. “You know, Vice-Oresident Biden swore in 13 newly elected Senators in the Senate chamber back at the start of Congress.”
“Yes, and the Speaker did the same for the new House members in the House chamber,” Bill added.
“I’ll start studying the nature of the Chambers and the ceremony details,” Jay said. “Do they serve water? Is there a reception? Are gifts or other items given or exchanged? What’s in the packets they get? Since they’ll do something similar a year or so from now, we may need to be able to use the next event for our harmless purposes.”
“I certainly hope harmless is finished well before that,” I said. “And what about their individual seats or desks during sessions? How are they served or serviced? Which staff are involved? And their own offices – layout, staff, schedules?”
“I read in the Times that they get lapel pins which allow them to breeze through security,” Peter added.
“What I’d like,” I said, “is their electronic voting cards!”
Peter continued: “There was a big piece in the Times on the new Ted Kennedy Library and Institute in Boston and its full scale reconstruction of the Senate Chambers – perhaps it’s a good place to learn the layout and details without the security concerns.”
“I’m on it,” Jay said, “including the heating and cooling systems, electrical outlets, lockers, if any. Maybe we can target them individually rather than in groups. And, of course, the restrooms. All’s fair.”
Bill added, “Do include the committee meeting rooms and restrooms – and their staff and protocols. Watch C-Span for Chamber details – easy to see because the Congressmen are hardly ever there. And C-Span covers many of the committee meetings. Ex-staffers may be especially helpful.”
“And there’s always the cafeteria, the food delivery people, and the restaurants,” I added. “And parties, open houses, receptions…and Congress-people are just the beginning of our list.”
“Did you see the Times piece on the wages of Capitol food service workers – really low – just Federal sub-minimum wage,” Bill said. “ A disgruntled food service worker or two could be very helpful.”
“Best ‘facilities’ challenge I’ve ever had,” Jay concluded. “As Clueless George used to say, Bring it on!”
Bill, Jake, and I were meeting again on our other projects – unrelated to harmless. Our discussions somehow got us to talking, again, about evil.
“We discussed 18th Century assumptions in Hans’ class,” Jake said. “Most of the evil now being done on the planet is based on a set of simple-minded, out of date assumptions which are intolerable in today’s 21st Century. Acts based on those simple-minded assumptions are evil acts.”
“Yes,” I added. “Basically, the 18th Century assumptions on which our current political and economic systems are still based are: resources are infinite, land-water-air are infinite, and the completely unregulated free market is best. These assumptions are no longer valid. We now live in a resource-constrained, over-populated, and increasingly polluted and adulterated world.”
“Which means that continued belief on a now invalid set of assumptions results in an ideology which produces actions which are damaging to the planet and to the well-being of mankind,” Jay continued. “That’s a moral perversity – that’s evil.”
“Pontificating at podiums – and passing laws which produce policies which result in economic inequality and enhance planetary pollution – that’s the moral perversion which has driven our society to feelings of helplessness, inadequacy, and hopelessness,” Jake added.
“Did you see the New Scientist review of Virtuous Violence?” asked Bill. “It says most violence is morality-based – from the perpetrator’s point of view.”
“Decreasing violence and evil, as we already know, means changing people’s long held beliefs – their assumptions, and thus their motives,” I responded.
“The New Scientist piece ended by saying ‘…stop violence by making it immoral’.”
“Which argues for revelation engineering,” I concluded.
Evil is a very difficult term. Earlier I had engaged close friends and colleagues in discussions on evil. That led to interesting and even heated, highly opinionated, sometimes defensive responses.
Who is evil? Most generally agree that Hitler and Stalin were evil, though differently so. Is ISIS evil? Boko Haram?
What is evil? When is a deed or action evil – and when might the same deed or action be considered not evil? Is terrorism evil? Is murder? Is destroying the planet?
Is evil only about death? Human death? Immediate death, or is facilitating death in the future also evil?
One of the better treatments I found on the subject is John Kekes’ The Roots of Evil, 2007:
Forces of barbarism continually break through the superficial layer of order and threaten the security of a substantial segment of humanity….
evil is a moral problem … an attack on the fundamental conditions of human well-being….
Social conditions can encourage or discourage evil acts, but they cannot be sufficient to explain them….
Attributing evil to injustice, poverty, or a noxious ideology is thus to misunderstand it….
the causes of evil are in us, not outside us…in doing evil we express a deep part of our nature….
Evil has an ominous connotation that goes beyond badness…
evil has primarily to do with serious harm caused by human beings to other human beings…
Evildoers … show contempt for and flaunt fundamental moral prohibitions….
the evil of an action … consists in … three components: …malevolent motivation…; serious, excessive harm …; lack of morally acceptable excuse…
evil has many causes; the scheme of things is nonmoral; we have basic propensities for both good and evil…; evil actions may be reasonable; evildoers may be held responsible…
faith, ideology, ambition, envy, honor, and boredom …motives that may … lead to evil actions…
Elementary decency … marks the boundary within which civilized life can be lived and on the outside of which barbarism reigns….
Coping with evil depends … on combining the cultivation of moral imagination and the enforcement of moral and legal prohibitions by punishment….
A brief summary might be: Evil is something done by a human evildoer that causes great harm to another human without a morally acceptable excuse.
Of course, ‘morally acceptable’ depends on one’s culture, civilization, societal mores.
So Kekes’ treatment is not sufficient – and most others are worse.
Albert Camus’ take on evil, related to God and free will, is relevant:
…either we are not free and God the all-powerful is responsible for evil.
Or we are free and responsible but God is not all-powerful.
I then I came across, very recently, an even older little book, On Evil, by John Morton, 2004. The book begins with this quote by C. S. Lewis:
The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labor camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice.
I like that. Lewis and Morton really understand the problem. Morton goes on to discuss evil acts, people who commit those acts, groups and societies who tolerate and encourage such acts, and the various fictions and realities we call evil. He considers moral perversity, preferential wickedness, and moral indifference. He also suggests that evil is associated with a lack of empathy, and with a moral certainty which is believed and never questioned or challenged.
harmless brings a different perspective to the question. harmless is concerned about the Planet upon which humanity survives. harmless has decided that willful, repeated destruction of that planet or of its major components is evil; those involved in that willful destruction are evildoers – are evil people. harmless has also decided that denial – and even willful ignorance – is no excuse. harmless understands that nearly the entire basis of modern civilization – both political and economic – is acting to willfully destroy – or at least very seriously damage – the planet upon which all humanity – and other life forms – depend.
harmless is committed to transforming, changing, and if necessary neutralizing those committing such evil. Harmless is now identifying and prioritizing such evildoers and referring to them as its ‘patients’.
Is this ethical? Is it moral?
I started coming across work on human ‘enhancement’ – asking the question ‘is it ok to enhance capabilities, performance’? Or is enhancement ‘bad’ because we are ‘tinkering with evolution’, ‘playing god’, etc?
We generally think ‘enhancement’ is ok for those physically disabled or disadvantaged. We have wheel chairs, prostheses, braces, exo-skeletons, etc. But mental enhancement has been considered more critically. We’ve also been very resistant to genetic ‘enhancement’, although perhaps more receptive to tinkering with genetics to help alleviate adverse diseases and conditions caused by ‘faulty’ genes.
The field of enhancement bioethics is rich, active, and very uncertain. We’re somewhat accepting of enhancement via drugs – to ‘enhance’ our disease resistance (vaccines), to help our natural healing processes, to treat infection (antibiotics). More recently, we’ve accepted drugs to treat attention deficits, depression, and other issues more directly connected to the brain and nervous system.
There’s even a new industry for cognitive and mental enhancement: brain exercises, smart pills, supplements, etc. There is some evidence that exercise does increase a factor, BDNF,
that promotes new neuronal formation and growth. Certain conditions, especially depression, can lower BDNF levels, according to the New York Times’ Richard A Friedman.
We’ve come to accept – or at least tolerate – certain performance enhancing drugs, such as Prozac or Ritalin – even Viagra and its cousins – but not others (such as steroids in sports contests). I suppose if male erections or penile turgidity were an Olympic competition, Viagra would then be banned.
We accept and even celebrate certain narcotics and addictive drugs, such as nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol. They are legal and a key component of our economy, if not our wellbeing. But chemical enhancers, drugs, useful for exploring our own consciousness, which elicit feelings of empathy and compassion, which aid with personal understanding and growth, and which are useful for those with depression, PTSD, pain, and other ailments – are illegal and banned.
Paul Krugman wrote recently that we live in an era of ‘compassionless conservatism’; that conservatives today believe that the poor have it easy, and a conservative goal is ‘punishing the poor’. Conservatives know nothing about the realities of modern life for the poor. They need compassion; they need empathy; they need reality.
Once we got over the immediate shock of Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s death, some began to reconsider his judicial legacy and ‘brilliance’. There was discussion of his social and emotional ‘intelligence’ – and statements that he lacked empathy – that he rarely understood how his rulings affected the lives of others.
Is harmless ‘playing god’ by providing empathogens to those with serious empathy and compassion deficiencies? Can we say we are ‘treating’ Empathy Deficit Disorder (EDD)? If we treat ADD or ADHD, why can’t we treat adult EDD? Is it immoral and unethical to treat and enhance those with serious deficits in critical thinking skills, with a distorted view of reality, with little or no concern for humanity itself – with distorted morals, ethics, values? Is ‘moral enhancement’ a bad thing?
One of the books on human enhancement is Beyond Humanity. Isn’t that exactly what the discussion of climate change is all about? If very serious climate change and global warming accelerate, humanity itself is threatened. ‘Beyond Humanity’ can refer to an Earth without man, as well as to an ‘enhancement’ of humanity.
harmless feels that it is not ethical or moral to ‘eliminate’ future generations – indeed, we feel that is evil. We feel it is not ethical or moral to subscribe to a political system which fosters, by brute monetary power, a plutocratic government rooted only in the present – with no concern for the future – a plutocratic government dedicated, therefore, to committing evil.
harmless has concluded that it is not only moral and ethical to engage in chemically-induced empathogenic enhancement, it is our duty to do so. And if that requires – even involuntary – chemical exorcism, so be it.
“Now that the harmless six are somewhat organized and developing a plan, we need to discuss which patients most need our services,” I suggested.
“There are two I want to be sure are high up on the list,” Jay said. “The recent The Nation story on Big Oil tells me that Rex Tillerson of Exxon-Mobil and John Watson of Chevron need to be there. They’ve basically both given their middle fingers to the climate change movements and to the government. They’re ignoring the ‘stranded assets’ argument, the divestment actions, and McKibben and Klein.”
Jay was referring to Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org and activist-visionary behind the international fossil fuel divestment movement. He was also referring to Naomi Klein, whose recent book This Changes Everything takes on capitalism and climate change. A film with the same name has been released. He was also referring to Naomi Oreskes’ recent Times op-ed: Exxon’s Climate Concealment.
“Yes, I also read The Nation story,” said Bill, “and the fact that Tillerson’s favorite novel is Atlas Shrugged.”
“It was mine, too, when I was 14. But then I went beyond adolescent puberty!” That was Peter, back in town for our discussions.
“That makes me recall,” Jay said, “that Jennifer Burns, an Ayn Rand biographer, said Rand’s books are ‘…part of the underground curriculum of American adolescence’.”
“Let’s consider some of the other anti-environment voices that need our attention.”
“Pope Francis’ encyclical related to climate and environment helps with our ‘set’ and ‘setting’ needs, especially for our top Catholic patients.”
“Yes, like Rubio and Ryan,” Jay said. “In fact, about 30 percent of members of Congress are Catholics – and many of the GOP 2016 Presidential aspirants – Bush, Rubio, and Cruz.”
“No. Cruz is now a hard core evangelist,” I corrected.
“Thirty percent – that’s much higher than I thought,” Lucien said. “And half the Supreme Court, too! I’ll set up a spreadsheet on all of them all so we can keep track of activities, preferences, opportunities.”
“Did you notice all the Catholic-oriented countries that have legalized same sex marriage? Interesting.”
“Tipping points do evolve,” Bill said. “I don’t think anyone would have predicted national same sex marriage just five years ago.”
“We might include the USA,” I said. “With a majority of Supreme Court justices and 30% of Congress being Catholics, we’re sort of a ‘Catholic’ country.”
“Amen, again,” Jay smiled, “although our planet probably doesn’t have five more years for a climate-carbon tipping point to ‘evolve’.”
“Have you heard of the ‘Koch Primary’?” I asked. “A recent NY Times piece talked about GOP hopefuls seeking audiences with the Brothers, literally being interviewed by them – the hopefuls and the Kochs seducing each other. And since the Koch Brothers’ actions, philosophies, and policies are destroying the planet – they are evil.”
“Didn’t the Times report that they and their cohorts are planning to spend nearly a billion dollars on the 2016 elections?” Lucien asked.
“Yes, more than either major political party,” said Jay. “They’re already on our list.”
“A large cover story on Charles Koch in USA Today,” Bill said, “reported that the Koch folks will, in 2016, anoint the one GOP candidate whose platform is most agreeable to them – giving his campaign additional funds.”
“Adelson is doing the same thing in Vegas,” Jay said. “The GOP hopefuls come to
genuflect before him, hoping he’ll put a spot or two of multi-millions in their hands.”
“Certainly more effective than holy water on their foreheads,” I said.
“I don’t know how far we can really get in 3 to 6 months,” Bill said. “Maybe we ought to rehearse and work towards the new President and Congress elected in late 2016. That’s less than 18 months away.”
“Interesting,” I said. “But the longer we wait, the greater the chance we’ll be discovered – and exposed and possibly arrested. harmless is now, I think, about engineering many individual revelations in a short time window – rather than transforming a large group all at once. We can reinforce those individual experiences via a coordinated campaign of messaging and input – working to make the experience ‘stick’ and become a revelation of sorts. Several of those on a key committee, for example, can lead to a new discussion. And it’s possible we may have to engineer several experiences for some individuals.”
“I agree,” said Jay. “That’s why our deployment strategy is very important. We can start to nucleate a change in perspective or conversation by focusing on key individuals in key positions.”
“Yes,” I agreed. “And the sooner we can start, the better. Also, since the nation is so tightly gerrymandered in the conservative direction, the 2016 Congressional elections may not lead to a very different Congressional population that we have now.”
The synthesis of MDMA is not easy, even if one starts from its ‘parent’ drug, MDA. It involves a variety of steps and procedures. Although they are all common and straightforward, they are time consuming and require excellent skills and technique.
Tom is up to the task. We reviewed the procedures in The Shulgin Index, Vol. 1, and PIHKAL (for MDA, MDMA), some of the original research reports, some of the forensics and drug enforcement studies, and the several on line ‘do it yourself’ drug synthesis sites. Then we got ready.
Our first visit (separately) was to the U’s Surplus and Salvage facility, close to the Departments of Pharmaceutics and Pharmacology and the Medical Library. We each acquired, on different days and in different amounts over several weeks, hot plates, stirrers, condensers, beakers, flasks, funnels, separatory funnels, a small vacuum pump, a small drying oven, thermometers, a water bath, and related organic chemistry lab supplies and equipment. I managed to find a small, portable chemical ‘hood’ – a venting system to keep the lab area free of vapors and odors. We also acquired several small transparent safety shields, several laboratory-rated fire extinguishers, eye shields, and needed clamps and stands for mounting and assembling glassware. We also picked up a small centrifuge, several pipettes and micropipettors, and a UV lamp.
In our respective small talk with the staff we discussed what we were doing with the equipment. I was designing chemistry activities for public science centers/museums. Tom was getting a lab experience together for a new charter school focusing on science. That was more than enough to establish our ‘legitimacy’.
We got together later to wash and dry everything and package it in small moving boxes as if it were dishes and cooking ware. We of course tested all the powered equipment (hot plates, stirrers, etc.) and either fixed or discarded what didn’t work.
I have a great collection of Vernier Instruments sensors, detectors, and monitors. Tom and I selected the ones we needed – pH, gas pressure, temperature, flow rate, turbidity, color density, mass/weight, and even optical density (absorption spectrometer). Any others we needed we could easily buy without suspicion. These devices are used in many high school and college chemistry courses and labs. I also had all the digital interfaces, an old i-Book Mac with the old software appropriate for these various sensors, and even some handheld, portable, Vernier LabQuest units.
“Amazing,” Tom said. “Vernier’s stuff is good, cheap, easy to use. They even sell gas chromatographs, melting point rigs, and other equipment.”
“They’ve used all the new technology so that you can set up a fairly complete lab in any basic science discipline for a few thousand dollars – or less.” I said. “If only I hadn’t given away my old infrared spectrometer, we’d of had it all.”
“That was a great instrument,” Tom said. “Did you give it to the Chemistry Department?”
“Yes – for their science teacher education lab – just a year and a half ago. Too late now.”
“I think we can do without IR spectra,” Tom said. “Or one of us – you especially – could get a few minutes on one of the U instruments in Pharmacy, I’m sure.”
“The Beckman infrared unit was so cool for teaching basic polymer science. I kept it on a lab cart, and would wheel it to my classroom. That was when our offices, labs, and classrooms were all in the large Engineering Building. Then, as I introduced the various fundamental classes of polymers, I’d have the kids run their thin film IR spectra – so they could see and identify the various molecular bonds. As the paper chugged along, the spectrum would slowly unroll and develop.”
“They don’t get that experience anymore. It’s all Fourier Transform – based now; no ‘real’ spectrum, just a mathematical transformation,” Tom noted. “But it is faster and far more sensitive and precise.”
“Enough nostalgia,” I said. “Fortunately Shulgin has laid it all out for us – and you may not have a lot of time.”
“Shulgin did have his own mass spec,” Tom noted. “You may have to arrange for a few runs on campus for me.”
“I’m sure the ‘lab’ you set up will be at least as good as Shulgin’s,” I said. “When I saw his lab in the Dirty Pictures documentary, it was hard to believe he actually ingested stuff made in it!”
“Have you guys seen the first few episodes of Breaking Bad?” asked Lucien. “Teacher, lab, drugs – it’s all there – and in an RV!”
“My lab will be clean and orderly – and hopefully as productive as Shulgin’s,” Tom said. “I’m making a final list of chemicals and related supplies,” he said to me, adding, “Can you check U Chemistry Stockroom to see what we might get via them?”
“Sure. And I’ll be sure there’s some money in my U personal Research Fund so I can order stuff via U processes. I need to have a new research project in case anyone asks. How about ‘Green Chemistry Experiments’?”
“That sounds tame enough,” Tom said. “I’m off to Oregon next week. I want to start looking at places and possibilities right away. I’ll look in Portland first. If I decide I want to move, that may be better for me than Manzanita.”
“And still fine for harmless,” I added.
“I’ve decided, for now, to stay with the U Cancer Institute for treatments, so I’ll have 18 day windows between treatments to get to and from Oregon and to do the work there. It should suffice. I only need to make 2 or 3 batches to provide all we’re likely to need.”
“Let’s plan on you flying to and from. The folks in Salt Lake and in Portland can provide local transportation.”
“Deal,” Tom said.
Green Chemistry is safe chemistry, so I can say, if asked, that it’s ok to use my existing U office/shop for my new project. There’s already a small work bench in it. I just added some beakers, flasks, and a small hot plate for show, and some vials/bottles of common safe, green chemicals – the stuff I used during my bioluminescence demonstrations for teachers decades ago. It’ll serve as a suitable ‘front’. The stuff I actually purchase will be taken home and then on to Tom in Oregon. I’ve always had green plants in my various offices, including cacti and euphorbias (because of an interest in their oil-containing latexes). Some new and different plants won’t attract any attention. Bill has a key to my office so he can tend them when I’m on the road.
“I’ve been thinking,” Jay said. “It’s challenging and fun to think of treating our patients in their chambers or offices, but the security in and near the Capitol and the nearby office buildings is likely to be a serious problem for us. It might be wiser to interact with them in the field – on their home turfs.”
“Well, they are nearly always on vacation,” Bill said. “It just means more travel for those of us delivering their therapy. We need to get into their events, town meetings, district offices – and find out who’s supplying the snacks, the lunches, and even the dinners.”
“We need to select a patient for each of us to focus on – and come up with a set of plans and strategies to access and interact with that patient. These will be our case studies or examples,” I said.
“OK,” said Jay. “Let’s each pick a state and patient.”
“I want Darrell Issa in San Diego,” said Bill. “He is certainly high up on my ‘needs a revelation’ list. His district is easy for me to get to.”
“I’m partial to Florida,” said Jay. “Perhaps Marco Rubio?”
“And I’ll do my ‘friend’ Chris Stewart here in Utah,” I said.
“We need to be sure our first ‘cases’ are evil enough to merit our initial attention. Looks like we all have more homework.”
“I’ll coordinate with Lucien to get them on his master spreadsheet,” Jay noted.
Bill was right on it: Darrell Issa, California House District 49 – www.issa.house.gov is his official site. District 49 spans the Southern California coast centered on Oceanside, between LA and San Diego. UC San Diego and La Jolla are just outside the District. Issa was negatively profiled in the New Yorker in 2011 and has been recently compared to the infamous Joe McCarthy. He’s a prolific tweeter @darrellissa . He posts regularly on YouTube. He has local district offices in Vista and Dana Point. He does local events, although no immediate upcoming ones on his Facebook page. His Facebook profile lists Atlas Shrugged as his favorite book.
“Another guy still trying to escape puberty!” Peter said.
“That’s just the beginning. Ethics issues, possible fraud, dogmatic, a denier,” Bill added. “He has a business BA degree from either Siena Heights (Catholic) University or Kent State, depending on which profile one reads.”
“He’s very pro-business – especially his businesses. His Congressional office and personal business office – in Vista, California – are in the same building – just a few doors apart. So much for conflicts of interest and full time work as a Congressman.”
“The New Yorker piece in 2011 is terrific – and his mother was a Mormon,” Jay said.
“Even better is his Wikipedia profile,” said Bill. “Problems with the law, auto theft, other issues; an in-your-face tough type. His wiki-profile was so negative that I’ve saved it, in case he insists on it being changed.”
“He’s not at all uncommon,” Lucien said. “There’s so many more like that – uneducated, dogmatic, arrogant, know-it-alls.”
“You don’t need to make them up,” Jay said. “Just look them up!”
“There may be an access issue,” Bill noted. “He doesn’t seem to have had a town or public meeting in the district for a long time. He may not be making local public appearances until the next election cycle.”
“Then we’ll just have to get to him in DC – perhaps at a Committee meeting, reception, or other event,” Jay suggested.
“Issa recently volunteered to be Speaker of the House – after railing at McCarthy for his Benghazi – Hillary political comments. He’s also criticized Chaffetz as being inadequate for the Speakership.”
“Testy ideologs don’t usually get along – they’re generally trying to outpiss each other,” Peter said.
“A good beginning,” I said. “Do set up columns in your spreadsheets for education, criminal-legal issues, company issues, offices, family, residences, schools, clubs, hangups,…and, of course, events, speeches, media, anniversaries, celebrations where we might be able to make some contact.”
My turn for case study – patient homework. I will do Stewart (Utah District 2), but a perhaps easier case is Mia Love, newly elected Republican – tea party darling in Utah District 4. Love is Mormon, a mother of three, very far to the right, child of Haitian immigrants, and black. She’s likely fond of Kool-Aid and Jello, Utah’s state desert. And I’m one of her constituents! She’s so young and inexperienced that I hope her neurons haven’t fully calcified yet – and that she might perhaps be more amenable to a facilitated revelation. She does have Mormon and tea party ‘bars’ on the few windows in her mental tunnel. I have some copies of the large picture book, Energy, by the Post-Carbon Institute, that I was supposed to present to Utah Congressmen – and now woman. I’ll arrange to see her. And I will get to Stewart as well (I gave him the same book earlier).
The harmless team now meets for coffee at The Roasting Company. Tom is now in Oregon and working with Lucien and Peter.
“Let’s discuss Hatch,” I said.
“Multilevel Marketing – or MLM – is Utah’s premier get-rich-quick industry – ” said Jay. “- marginally legal pyramid schemes. Nu Skin/Pharmanex and USANA are two major local players.”
“It’s Senator Hatch’s darling little industry,” added Bill. “There are so many to choose from. Perhaps the one who gives the most bribery money to Hatch?”
“They all give,” I said, “probably routed through the United Natural Products Association. Hatch’s job is to keep the FDA out of their territory. And he does a good job for them.”
“Yes, so good that the so-called Natural Products folks gave him a tribute luncheon a while ago, to celebrate and recognize the 20 year anniversary of the 1994 dietary supplement act,” Jay added. “That helped fuel Utah’s multi-level marketing industry and its pyramid scheme-like strategy for making big bucks off susceptible, largely ignorant people.”
“But it gives us the right to sell and buy such products,” Bill said, cynically. “Did you hear about the HBO TV program, Real Sports? It took Hatch on for allowing bad supplement crap to be sold to military men and women, impairing their health and wellbeing. He refused to be interviewed for the program, then foamed at the mouth when he learned how they presented him.”
“He deserved it. But he is technically interesting. He came out for stem cell research funding. He may not be completely hopeless,” Jay said, optimistically. “After all, Mormons believe in revelation.”
“We all mellow – or harden – with age,” I added. “Perhaps we can help him mellow.”
“Aged he is,” Bill said. “He’s now 81 and has several more years to serve in his seventh term.”
“His blatant plutocracy and hypocrisy is stronger than ever,” Jay added.
“Pray, tell,” Bill smiled.
“He’s been a strong advocate for the TPP – the trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal – until now.” Jay said.
“What changed?” I asked.
“He and his pharmaceutical industry buddies read the draft TPP, learning that USA biologicals will only get up to 8 years of exclusive, monopoly rights – rather than the 12 they wanted. So he’s cried foul and now threatens to oppose and derail the agreement.”
“He’s always been in the pocket of big pharma,” I said. “He’s been receiving more dollars from big pharma than any other member of Congress. And he’s been in their pockets for nearly 40 years.”
“Derailing the TPP is a good thing, I think,” Bill said, “but Hatch is doing it for the wrong reasons.”
“The Times article said there ‘…has long been a revolving door between his Senate office and the industry for employees’.”
“Including his son, Peter, a big pharma occasional lobbyist,” I added.
“At least Utah is consistent – our political hypocrisy is alive and well,” Jay said.
“As is our Mormon Church’s hypocrisy,” Bill smiled, “based on their recent LGBT and children non-revelation.”
“He’s so close and convenient, let’s put him on our list,” I said.
“Done,” Jay said.
I proceeded to make some multi-level marketing contacts. In doing my Mia Love homework, I noted that a significant donor to her recent campaign – thanks to the www.OpenSecrets.org site – is something called the Direct Selling Association (DSA). Another advocate for pyramid schemes?
A little homework told me that folks high up in Nu Skin, Herbalife, and Amway serve on the DSA Board, so question answered. Yes, it’s – at least in large part – about multi-level marketing. And they have a PAC, of course. Perhaps Mia Love is being tutored by Orrin Hatch?
My U office was now ‘presentable’ for receiving and storing needed supplies and chemicals. I let the Department office staff know I was initiating a new project, put several thousand new dollars in my Research Fund, and said I would be submitting a few purchase orders very soon. They were happy to see I was staying active in research.
I came across my old Molecular Fingerprinting poster for a prototype exhibit at The Leonardo. Molecular Fingerprinting teaches the concept of organic functional groups and organic molecule detection. The exhibit and the instrument were in The Leonardo’s basement, stored, unused, and without any plans for its use.
I was concerned that we didn’t have any real analytical tools for insuring that Tom’s chemical creations were indeed what we expected them to be and for insuring that other products present were not toxic or otherwise damaging to the project – or to our testers. Having worked with Raman spectroscopy, and even a bit many years ago with a semi-magical method called surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS), I did some homework.
Thanks, god, for Google! And for online library access. There’s a literature on the use of Raman for drug analysis. Although I knew that and it was part of the prototype exhibit, I didn’t know that SERS was being studied for analysis of illegal drugs – and apparently works very well. I found several good papers and protocols in the drug analysis literature.
The sample is first separated by thin layer chromatography (TLC), a simple, inexpensive, and very sensitive method to separate the molecular components of a sample. TLC is commonly used in science classes to demonstrate the physical properties of molecules, producing a set of spots on a plate.
Raman spectroscopy is generally not a very sensitive method, but by sprinkling some special silver-based powder (a colloid) on the spots, the silver surface greatly enhances the Raman signal, via the SERS mechanism, resulting in a spectrum which is interpretable in terms of the molecular bonds present – thus identifying the molecule in each spot.
The fiber optic Raman unit donated for and used in The Leonardo exhibit should work fine for the direct analysis of the purified and crystallized products of Tom’s synthetic organic chemistry work. So I retrieved it, cleaned it, and re-installed it in my U office – further enhancing the credibility of my new research activities!
And then I recalled that Nu Skin/Pharmanex – some years ago – actually applied a Raman-based skin analyzer to encourage the selling of its skin products.
It’s now called the Pharmanex S2 Biophotonic Scanner. The sales person or ‘diagnostician’ measures your Skin Carotenoid Score using a Raman measure of your skin. It generally says you are in need of carotenoids – skin antioxidants, which Nu Skin, of course, sells. ‘… it’s a business opportunity like no other in the world’, their site says.
The NuSkin approach has nothing to do with our drug analysis, but it is interesting in view of the Hatch-Love-Chaffetz (Utah Congress District 3) support for MLM and related ‘economic development’ activities for Utah. Chaffetz used to work for Nu Skin! Mother Jones magazine did an interesting piece in 2012 related to the Romney campaign – about the love-fest between Romney, Utah, and MLM.
It’s been said that MLM stands for ‘Mormons losing Money’. They dress so well – and exude such ethical confidence! – and fleece their Mormon ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’.
“And now we learn that Kirk Jowers, former head of the U’s Hinckley Institute of Politics, quit to become VP for International Activities of a local MLM firm,” I said.
“An MLM ‘opportunity’, eh?” Bill said. “And the state just got an A+ for financial literacy in schools! But they don’t understand pyramid, Ponzi, and charlatan schemes!”
“It’s difficult to be financially literate if you can’t add or subtract,” I added.
“Or multiply,” Jay smiled. “Jowers expected to be Mitt Romney’s Presidential Chief of Staff. He was one of Mitt’s Mormon followers.”
“He wasn’t a bad Hinckley Institute Director,” I said, “but hopefully his replacement will be less obviously partisan.”
“Back to Issa,” Bill said. “There’s a Chaffetz – Issa connection now. Chaffetz became Chair of the House Oversight Committee; Issa could not continue because of Committee Chair term limit rules in the House.”
“So Issa can’t go around issuing subpoenas to everyone anymore?” Jay asked.
“Right. In fact, Chaffetz said he would run things differently.”
“He issues the subpoenas now,” Jay smiled.
harmless West – Peter, Lucien, and Tom – just met in Portland – Peter filled me in:
They had met at the Library branch near Lucien’s place. Tom had been in Portland for several days. Lucien mentioned looking for and seeing the Woodstock sassafras tree.
“It’s in a backyard behind the discount store I often shop at – really beautiful and very large,” he said. “It would be a shame to have to retrieve its roots for Tom to do a steam extraction and distillation.”
Peter quickly came to its – and Lucien’s – defense: “You might get shot digging up someone’s tree roots. Bill is looking for some in nurseries that we may be able to set free,” he said.
“I’ll plant several in my yard,” Lucien said. “Not for harmless, but for me. I understand the leaves are multi-colored and beautiful.”
Lucien had suggested a small cottage for rent near his home. Peter thought it looked OK, and the price was right – about $1,300/month with a six month lease. It doesn’t smell of fungus or excess humidity, and the windows and doors are intact and lock. It had a small, secure, windowless garage, suitable to store stuff. Peter will attempt to meet the neighbors, to see if they appear too curious or problematic. The bathroom and kitchen are functional, decent, and their windows face to the back of the lot. Curious neighbors or kids are unlikely to see anything. And the yard has several large trees and lots of foliage.
“The foliage should keep the black helicopters from seeing much,” Tom joked. “I’d suggest we get it. Two month’s rent in advance. And it’s available in about 30 days.”
I was delighted, as that would give me time to get the additional materials via U orders and time for us to get the equipment and related materials to Portland. Tom would do a return trip to Salt Lake for his next chemo session and then return to his new duties in Portland.
Peter confirmed that the neighbors seemed OK. Tom viewed the place, confirmed the functionality of utilities, doors, windows, garage, etc., and was assured the roof didn’t leak, that the heating worked, and that he could live there for short periods. He rented the place in his name so he could begin to establish residency and arranged for energy utility services. Lucien provided a local reference.
We would soon be making illegal drugs – with the non-defense that they should indeed be legal. With a little luck we should have small, test amounts of MDMA within 60 days.
It was up to Bill now to get some sassafras root and up to me to get the rest of the chemicals and materials. Tom and I will meet to decide upon synthesis routes and related chemical details.
Bill was back from Vista and Oceanside, key towns in Issa’s District 49.
“Real quiet there,” Bill said. ‘The major paper seems to be the San Diego Union-Tribune, which has a North County section covering much of the District. There’s also The Coast News. It’s surprising that Oceanside, a city of nearly 200,000 residents, doesn’t seem to have a major daily newspaper.”
“Maybe that’s why they keep electing someone like Darrell Issa,” Jay said.
“Well, Salt Lake has two major dailies, and look who we elect,” Bill responded, continuing: “Issa’s Vista office, and the new Dana Point office, were very quiet, although his personal business office in Vista seemed to be busy. I did find IssaWatch and IssaOversight web sites, but they don’t seem too helpful. I’m afraid it’s his Facebook and Twitter feeds that will provide the most information: his Facebook handle is just Darrell Issa; according to Facebook, he does get to dog parks.”
“Now that he no longer chairs Oversight, perhaps he’s not so important,” I suggested.
“Since Barbara Boxer just announced she’s not running in 2016, the California Senate race is wide open. Issa might just consider a run,” Jay suggested.
“Maybe. He was actually running for Governor in 2003 – until Schwarzenegger stepped up. Maybe 2016?” said Bill. “Let’s keep him on the list – he definitely needs exorcising. We may have access via his new Committee assignment: House Subcommittee on the Internet, Courts and Intellectual Property. The House Committees occasionally have hearings and meetings outside of Washington.”
“And while we’re on politicos,” Bill said, “did you hear what our ‘friend’ Chaffetz just did? He just told one of his constituents that climate change is an Al Gore hoax. No big surprise, I guess. And as the new chair of the Oversight Committee, he took down Issa’s portrait and those of earlier chairs – wants a new look in the committee room.”
“No wonder Darrell was pissed,” Jay smiled.