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Congress will soon lose its foremost supporter of quackery, but will it matter?

I don’t much like Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), and, I daresay, neither do any of my fellow bloggers here.

The reason should be painfully obvious. Arguably, no single elected official currently serving today (or ever) has done more over a longer period of time to promote quackery in the United States. I make this harsh assessment because Senator Harkin was the legislator who created the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and has been its most powerful patron, promoter, and protector. It’s a center in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) of which we at this blog have regularly been quite critical, right from the very beginning, when I pointed out how our taxpayer dollars were being wasted on pseudoscience and quackery, while Wally Sampson provided some perspective on how this situation came to be and I gave a bit of history of NCCAM. Since then, we’ve been hammering away at NCCAM as a blight on the the science of the NIH, whether intramural or extramural.

Three years ago, we even managed to attract the notice of Josephine Briggs, the current director of NCCAM, who invited us to Bethesda for a meeting. It was a very cordial meeting, as described by Steve Novella and myself. Unfortunately, in the name of “balance,” Dr. Briggs turned right around and met with a bunch of homeopaths and then drew a false equivalency between us “skeptics” and proponents of quackery as represented by the homeopaths. Clearly, she didn’t get it, or, if she did get it, her position was such that she couldn’t bite the hand that feeds NCCAM. A year after that, NCCAM published a five year strategic plan, which I characterized as “let’s do some rigorous science for a change,” given that that’s about all it said. It’s a nice sentiment. We’ll see if it actually happens, although I doubt that it will. Although studying herbs is nothing but a form of pharmacognosy (natural products pharmacology) and studying lifestyle interventions is science-based medicine, neither of them are actually “CAM” per se, because there is nothing “alternative” about them other than their having been co-opted as a “foot in the door” grafted onto the more serious woo. Like a stray limb grafted onto Frankenstein’s monster, they don’t belong and don’t fit.

But I digress. NCCAM has that effect on me.

A Congressional champion of quackery decides to quack no more (after 2014, anyway)

It turns out that over the weekend, Senator Harkin announced that he will not seek a sixth term as a Senator:

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin said Saturday he will not seek a sixth term in 2014, a decision that eases some of the burden the national Republican Party faces in retaking the Senate.

Harkin, chairman of an influential Senate committee, announced his decision during an interview with The Associated Press, saying the move could surprise some.

The 73-year-old cited his age — he would be 81 at the end of a sixth term — as a factor in the decision, saying it was time to pass the torch he has held for nearly 30 years, freeing a new generation of Iowa Democrats to seek higher office.

“I just think it’s time for me to step aside,” Harkin told the AP.

Harkin, first elected in 1984, ranks seventh in seniority and fourth among majority Democrats. He is chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and chairman of the largest appropriations subcommittee.

So, after his 30 years in the Senate promoting quackery, after January 3, 2015 we at SBM won’t have Tom Harkin to kick around anymore. This comes hot on the heels of the retirement of the other biggest promoter of quackery in Congress, Representative Dan Burton (R-IN), who declined to run for re-election last year and went off into the sunset a few weeks ago when the new Congress was sworn in. He’s been a fairly frequent target of criticism, albeit less so than Tom Harkin, on this blog as well, in particular for his promotion of his antivaccine views, his defense of the supplement industry against the FDA, his key role in the the Dietary Supplement Caucus, and his role in instigating one of the most unethical, wasteful clinical trials of all time, the randomized trial of the Gonzalez therapy for pancreatic cancer, a trial that was not just negative but showed that patients undergoing the Gonzalez therapy actually did considerably worse than patients undergoing standard treatment.

The ironic thing about Tom Harkin is that, if you ask researchers and officials at the NIH, they’ll tell you that Harkin is a major supporter of the biomedical research in general and the NIH in particular. In addition, organizations like The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, Research!America, and the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, and others from declaring Harkin a “champion of research.” For instance, the National Alliance on Mental Illness declared him a “champion of neuroscience research,” and an organization to which I belong, the American Association for Cancer Research, recently awarded him an AACR Award for Distinguished Service and Global Impact in Cancer and Biomedical Research. These are just the most recent awards and recognitions of many over the years. While it’s true that Harkin seems a strong supporter of the NIH on the surface, at the same time he is a corrosive influence, inserting his belief in CAM (or, as it’s increasingly being called, “integrative medicine”) into the NIH and pushing to promote it. Losing him is not going to be an unalloyed good in that the NIH and biomedical research will lose a champion just as much as the quacks will.

Harkin and Herbalife: Two great woos that woo great together

The question, of course, is: Why now? Why is Harkin retiring now? Sure, it might have something to do with his stated reasons. He might be tired. He’d be 81 at the end of another term, and maybe he wants to relax. On the other hand, the history of the Senate is replete with octogenarians and nonagenarians like Strom Thurmond and Frank Lautenberg serving until they’re carried out feet first. Compared to them, Harkin is a mere pup. He could potentially serve another two terms at least, given the propensity of senators to keep legislating until they drop.

Maybe this story, published around the same time as Harkin’s announcement, might at least partially explain his puzzling decision. Basically, it’s the story of how Senator Harkin has been the biggest patron of Herbalife, so much so that the title of the story refers to Harkin as “(D-Herbalife):

Harkin has served as Herbalife’s chief patron in the federal government for decades. Harkin attended the company’s “New Orleans Extravaganza” in June 2002 to speak to Herbalife officials and distributors about “the status of preventative healthcare in the U.S.” Harkin also spoke at the company’s 25th Anniversary “Atlanta Extravaganza” in April 2005. “Il Senatore Tom Arkins” addressed a confab of some 35,000 Herbalife consultants about a bill he sponsored to make “good nutrition available to everyone,” according to an English translation of a report from Leonardo di Paola, an Italian Herbalife distributor.

An interview of Harkin in Herbalife’s internal newsletter illustrates the symbiotic relationship.

Indeed it does. In the interview, Harkin expresses pride for having been one of the chief architects of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. This law, which is about as bad a law as you can imagine, basically gives supplement manufacturers a nearly free pass in marketing and selling their supplements. As long as they don’t make specific health claims for their supplements, they can sell practically anything, or, as Peter Lipson put it, “sell whatever you want, just don’t let us catch you.”

As for Harkin’s relationship with Herbalife, let’s just say that it’s been longstanding and mutually profitable. Harkin gets campaign cash (Herbalife has been Harkin’s top donor for many years now) and now gets cash for his new policy institute, while Herbalife gets legislation favorable to its interests (such as the DSHEA) and a champion in Congress in the form of a very senior senator who has a history of fighting tooth and nail against any attempt to pass laws imposing meaningful science-based regulations on the supplement industry while trying his best to insert coverage for CAM therapies in the 2009 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). It also gets quality face time with the Senator, as described in the story in The Iowa Republican:

In the summer of 2011, when most Hawkeye State politicians spent sweaty sessions with constituents in Iowa’s communities, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) sat down to a steak dinner with a team of corporate lobbyists and executives in Beverly Hills, Calif.

Harkin, along with Jeremy Gold, the finance director for his 2014 Senate campaign, met Herbalife International executives at the Four Seasons Hotel at 8 p.m. on Aug. 16. Before Harkin’s rendezvous with Herbalife’s high command, he took a meeting with Hollywood mogul and Democratic donor Steve Bing, according to Harkin’s official schedule, which was provided to TheIowaRepublican.com by a source in Harkin’s Washington, D.C. office.

After Harkin’s meeting with Bing, whose company donated $250,000 to Majority PAC, Senate Democrats’ so-called super PAC, he met with Herbalife executives—CEO Michael Johnson, chief legal officer Brett Chapman and chief lobbyist John Venardos. The fivesome dined at CUT Restaurant, the “classic steakhouse” designed by chef Wolfgang Puck, where a steak can set you back $160. The “chic spot in the heart of Beverly Hills… has become the place to see and be seen,” according to CUT’s website.

Harkin and Herbalife officials chatted about America’s obesity epidemic, which Herbalife aims to combat with its line of weight-loss products, and Federal Drug Administration regulations, Venardos said. The 32-year-old company sells its products through independent distributors in more than 80 countries.

In Oct. 2011, two months after the swank supper, Venardos pledged $100,000 on behalf of Herbalife to the Harkin Institute of Public Policy at Iowa State University in Ames. He is the company’s senior vice president of worldwide regulatory, government and industry affairs, but he is not registered as a federal lobbyist (he terminated his registration in 2007).

The wag in me can’t help but note that this meeting among “natural health” advocates didn’t take place in a vegan—or even vegetarian—restaurant, but in a steakhouse, and a very expensive and swanky one at that. I suppose that those Herbalife products must protect very well against the health consequences of eating all that fatty red meat. In any case, given Harkin’s advocacy of positions beneficial to Herbalife, it’s not surprising that the company would see value in not just donating to his campaign but in donating to his policy institute as well.

It’s been noted that this arrangement is not illegal. It does, however, understandably raise ethical issues, as it’s obviously a method by which a donor can further ingratiate himself with a legislator. As a representative for the Center for Responsive Politics put it, an institute named after a politician “helps to cement the lawmaker’s image as a substantial person,” and donations to the institute help bolster the institute’s strength and visibility.

Also more than a bit fishy is the way this institute came into being. It turns out that Harkin’s wife sits on the Iowa Board of Regents, which created and oversees the Harkin Institute of Public Policy, which will be housed at Iowa State University in Ames. It further turns out that Harkin’s wife appears to have used her influence to bypass opposition:

The Harkin Institute has been dogged by controversy since its inception.

Mrs. Harkin rushed the institute’s approval through the Iowa Board of Regents in April 2011 before two of the senator’s allies on the board rotated off. She excluded two “conservative Republicans” from internal board discussions about the institute, according to current board president Craig Lang, because they might not have supported the institute.

And:

The Iowa Board of Regents voted to prohibit future institutes from being named after an active politician after it approved the Harkin Institute.

Which strikes me as a good idea. Otherwise, powerful politicians with connections on the Board of Regents might use that influence to create such policy institutes. Oh, wait. That’s what the Harkins did. Too bad such a policy wasn’t in place two years ago.

Whither NCCAM (and Senator Harkin)?

The shenanigans that produced the Harkin Institute and the further shenanigans that led Herbalife to donate to it aside, I must admit that I was pleasantly surprised by a detailed description of how Harkin drove the creation of NCCAM:

In 1992, Harkin appropriated $2 million to establish the Office of Unconventional Medicine, which was later renamed the Office of Alternative Medicine. At a congressional hearing, Harkin claimed that bee pollen cured his allergies, according to a report by Stanford University emeritus professor of medicine Wallace Sampson. Harkin appropriated $200,000 to Royden Brown, who sold Harkin the bee pollen, to study the remedy, according to “Natural Causes: death, lies and politics in America’s vitamin and herbal supplement industry,” a book by journalist Dan Hurley. Roydon was later fined the same amount ($200,000) by the Federal Trade Commission for making false claims. Harkin then blasted OAM for its science-based research guidelines, which he described as “the unbendable rules of randomized clinical trials.” Harkin packed OAM’s council with his cronies, such as a travel agent from the Bahamas, where Harkin owns a vacation home.

When then-NIH director Harold Varmus tried to place stricter scientific research standards on the agency, Harkin changed the agency’s status so it would no longer have to answer to NIH and increased its appropriations to $104 million per year by 2002, an increase of 5,130 percent in ten years. In fiscal year 2012, it’s budget was $128 million, a 22 percent increase from 2002.

And so it continues. NCCAM is basically untouchable, thanks to its powerful patron. Any move by an NCCAM director to try to increase the scientific rigor of the center is virtually guaranteed to provoke a rebuke from Senator Harkin, with the implicit threat being that Harkin can easily seek (and get) the removal of an NCCAM director who pursues research or policy changes he doesn’t like. After all, when Harold Varmus ran the NIH and tried to rein in NCCAM, holding it to tighter scientific standards, Harkin’s showed him.

Another important thing to remember is that NCCAM was not created in response to a perceived scientific need or public demand. It was not, as I have said before, the result of a groundswell of support among physicians and scientists who saw all this quackery out there and said, “Hey, we really ought to study homeopathy (or reiki, or therapeutic touch [or: INSERT FAVORITE QUACKERY HERE]) to see if there’s anything to it.” Instead, NCCAM was created primarily through the effort of a single person, Senator Tom Harkin, a woo-friendly legislator who believed that bee pollen had somehow cured his allergies. It’s worth fleshing out yet again the historical background of NCCAM in the above article documenting Harkin’s Herbalife connections.

NCCAM, as befits the subject matter to which it is dedicated, is a bizarre beast. Ostensibly charged with the rigorous investigation of modalities considered “alternative,” NCCAM all too often applies state of the art science to what is at its heart, prescientific mysticism, such as various “energy healing” techniques, acupuncture, and even homeopathy, a practice that Harriet Hall once aptly dubbed “Tooth Fairy science.” As was pointed out above, it was Harkin who first assigned $2 million of his discretionary funds to establish the Office of Unconventional Medicine in 1992. The OUM was soon renamed the Office of Alternative Medicine (OAM). Then, as detailed in Wally Sampson’s classic article Why the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) Should Be Defunded, the first director of OAM resigned under Senator Harkin’s pressure because he quite properly objected to nominees to the OAM Council who had been involved in Laetrile and Mexican cancer clinic scams. In 1998, then NIH Director Harold Varmus tried to bring the OAM under tighter NIH scientific control to make its studies more rigorous and was stymied when Harkin introduced legislation to elevate OAM to an independent Center.

Although it’s been discussed on multiple occasions on this blog, it’s worth repeating any time the topic of NCCAM comes up, NCCAM is constituted so that even its director is hamstrung in what she can do. The reason is that charter of the National Advisory Council for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NACCAM), the committee that oversees NCCAM’s activities, requires that council members be chosen from practitioners and “leaders” in the CAM field, for instance a former president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. In other words, true believers control the agenda, and it is difficult for even scientifically inclined NCCAM directors like Dr. Briggs and her predecessor Dr. Stephen Strauss to keep NCCAM from wasting precious grant money investigating the more ludicrous and implausible CAM “therapies” out there–like reiki or homeopathy. The bottom line is that by design there just isn’t that much an NCCAM director can do to change the way NCCAM operates, at least in terms of how it awards its grants and how it disburses its training grant money. Caught between the Scylla of scientists and physicians practicing science-based medicine and the Charybdis of her alt-med constituency, led by her center’s powerful Congressional patron, Dr. Briggs (or any NCCAM director who wants to support decent science) really is in a virtually no-win situation. All of this is due largely to Senator Harkin.

NCCAM history makes the allegations about the relationship between Senator Harkin and Herbalife all the more interesting, because if there’s one constant about NCCAM it’s that, in addition to the research it funds, NCCAM also funds “educational” programs that promote unscientific practices and, in particular, supplements. There’s a reason why the supplement industry in general (and Herbalife in particular) love Tom Harkin, and it’s not because they think he’s such a nice guy. It’s because Harkin fights for causes they believe in, namely laws like the DSHEA that hamstring the FDA, preventing it from interfering too much with the business of selling supplements with a “wink, wink, nudge, nudge” about the many health claims that are made to sell them, all with the not-so-plausible deniability of the Quack Miranda Warning that’s so ubiquitous on the websites and in the literature used by supplement manufacturers to sell their wares. It’s because Harkin is a true believer. Indeed, my favorite quote of all time from him about NCCAM demonstrates this quite nicely:

One of the purposes of this center was to investigate and validate alternative approaches. Quite frankly, I must say publicly that it has fallen short. It think quite frankly that in this center and in the office previously before it, most of its focus has been on disproving things rather than seeking out and approving.

Clearly, Harkin doesn’t understand the nature of science, which involves trying to falsify hypotheses. To him, NCCAM was (and is) clearly intended as a vehicle to produce studies that support the unscientific treatments he believes in. I suppose I should take comfort in Senator Harkin’s bitter disappointment that NCCAM hasn’t validated any of the quackery it studies, even after a couple of billion dollars and 20 years. It’s not for lack of trying, though.

In any case, given the integral nature of the relationship between Harkin and NCCAM, the natural question in wake of Harkin’s announcement is: Whither NCCAM? What will happen in a little less than two years, when NCCAM’s most powerful champion retires, riding off into the sunset to his policy institute and, very likely, a position on the Herbalife board of directors? One also has to wonder whether Harkin will try to do some mischief before he leaves, much as Representative Dan Burton did with his one last antivaccine hurrah in November.

The question as I see it is whether there will be a window beginning in 2015 when there is a possibility that NCCAM might actually be dismantled. After all, two of the most powerful supporters of NCCAM (Representative Dan Burton and Senator Tom Harkin) will be gone from Congress. That just leaves Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT), who, as I’ve documented before, is a huge champion of the supplement industry. There’s also Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who is, not surprisingly, also from Utah, which is the capital of the supplement industry in the U.S. He’s a former supplement company executive turned U.S. Representative and co-chair of the Dietary Supplement Caucus. Then there’s Darrell Issa (R-CA), who is known for attacking the NIH for funding studies he doesn’t like. Would it be possible to dismantle NCCAM in the wake of Harkin’s departure?

Alas, I have to conclude: Probably not. While the retirement of Senator Harkin will leave a huge hole in Congressional support for NCCAM, given that he has defended and nurtured it for 20 years and neither Orrin Hatch, Darrell Issa, Jason Chaffetz, nor any other members of the supplement caucus seems particularly interested in NCCAM, except as a political tool, the other side of the equation is lacking. There appears to be no one in Congress with the “fire in the belly” for science-based medicine willing to do what it would take to dismantle NCCAM and distribute its component parts back to the appropriate institutes and centers of the NIH that could do the job better. On the other hand, perhaps in these days of budgetary concerns and deficit reduction, maybe the case could be made that wasting $125 million or so a year to study fairy dust is not an expenditure that the government should be making when that money would do so much more good funding the rest of the NIH.

A guy can hope, can’t he?

Posted in: Politics and Regulation

Leave a Comment (56) ↓

56 thoughts on “Congress will soon lose its foremost supporter of quackery, but will it matter?

  1. Janet says:

    This post is a sound argument for why Shruggie-ism is so harmful. There are people in Congress who know better, but no one (probably) considers it a priority to rid us of NCCAM–what’s the harm if supporting this little pet project if it gets Harkin’s cooperation on bigger fish?. The bottom line problem is that ANYone’s pet project should ever become law with so little scrutiny. The tacking on of pet legislation to larger bills is a blight on our system.

    You will have a tough row to hoe, though, with Harkin, for as you point out, he is very highly regarded for some of his other contributions. I wouldn’t bring your column to a seriously disabled person, for instance, and hope to gain support for getting rid of NCCAM–it just wouldn’t be a priority for people who have benefitted so much from his signature piece of work. Although I grumble when the only parking places in the lot are an abundance of handicap spaces, I know that ultimately I support the ADA, and that is what Harkin is mostly known for.

    I do think there is an opportunity with Harkin’s retirement to lobby for eliminating NCAAM as a “frill” when budget-cutting comes around, especially as Obamacare gets tweaked. What we need is our own lobbyist(s)!

  2. Xplodyncow says:

    Any chance of getting a pro-science non-Shruggie to fill Harkin’s seat?

  3. Quill says:

    “I don’t much like Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), and, I daresay, neither do any of my fellow bloggers here.”

    I had no idea all of you had met him and spent enough time in his company to form such an opinion. Or did you mean to write that you don’t much like his ideas, legislative agenda and forms of odious political patronage?

  4. David Gorski says:

    That’s some mighty fine pedantry ya got there, pardner. Ya got som’n ta say about the substance of the post?

  5. Scott says:

    What really boggles my mind is how few people seem to notice the egregious ethical violations. If regulation of the oil industry were largely driven by a single senator, and that senator’s biggest donor were Exxon Mobil, there’d be an uproar in Washington I could hear here in Boston.

    But when the supplement industry buys legislators to write the regulations governing them, eyes do not bat.

  6. Quill says:

    That’s a mighty weak straw man-like retort ya typed there, doc. It is not pedantry to point out a flaw which detracts from an otherwise interesting post, which should be pain-freely obvious.

    When the lead sentence of a post states an anecdotal position on one’s emotions, should that entice someone to go on to look for substance? As it turns out it is a pretty detailed discussion of the peculiar things done by one Senator that have affected many levels of society from science to nutrition to taxes, but one would never know that from the beginning.

  7. Jeff says:

    The post seems to suggest the so-called “Quack Miranda Warning” is an industry-wide conspiracy to achieve “not-so-plausible deniability”. In fact supplement companies are simply complying with the law. From the FDA’s website:

    Why do some supplements have wording (a disclaimer) that says: “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease”?

    This statement or “disclaimer” is required by law (DSHEA) when a manufacturer makes a structure/function claim on a dietary supplement label. In general, these claims describe the role of a nutrient or dietary ingredient intended to affect the structure or function of the body. The manufacturer is responsible for ensuring the accuracy and truthfulness of these claims; they are not approved by FDA. For this reason, the law says that if a dietary supplement label includes such a claim, it must state in a “disclaimer” that FDA has not evaluated this claim. The disclaimer must also state that this product is not intended to “diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease,” because only a drug can legally make such a claim.

  8. David Gorski says:

    @Quill: You appear have such a narrow concept of what “don’t much like” means that you seem able only to understand the term as meaning not liking someone personally. Again, if you have something to say about the substance of the post, I’d be happy to hear it. However, if attacking me for writing “I don’t much like” Harkin is your only criticism of this post, then I really see no point in responding further. Your complaint has been registered.

  9. David Gorski says:

    @Jeff: I am aware of the law, because the Quack Miranda warning is part of the law that allows sellers of supplements to make almost any claim they want, as long as the claim is sufficiently vague and they use the Quack Miranda Warning in the law. Indeed, one could look at the Quack Miranda Warning as Harkin and Burton’s “get out of jail free” card for quacks.

    http://whitecoatunderground.com/quack-miranda-warning-2/

  10. Quill says:

    And some at SBM wonder why they have trouble getting their message across. *sigh*

    The masthead lists editors yet there is often no copy editing and when, after a call for ideas about how to better communicate, a complaint is made, what happens? The messenger is attacked instead of a simple correction or improvement made.

    But I am being a bad guest I suppose. Offering things not asked for is not the best use of anyone’s time. I’ll hush.

  11. Narad says:

    The masthead lists editors yet there is often no copy editing and when, after a call for ideas about how to better communicate, a complaint is made, what happens? The messenger is attacked instead of a simple correction or improvement made.

    Hey, can I speak as a professional copy editor? I wouldn’t have touched the sentence that you’re on the fainting couch over. In fact, this “call for ideas about how to better communicate” is somewhere between an Evel Knievel version of Miss Thistlebottom and just plain sad.

  12. Chris says:

    Quill have you read the book Natural Causes? It goes into more detail, and is mentioned in a quote in the “Whither NCCAM (and Senator Harkin)?” section of the article.

  13. Chris says:

    Quill have you read: Tom Harkin’s War on Science (or, “meet the new boss…”), Senator Tom Harkin and Representative Darrell Issa declare war on science-based medicine, and all the other articles here mentioning Harkin and NCCAM? Just use the search box on the upper right of this page to find out more.

  14. Jeff says:

    Dr. Gorski: The law states clearly supplements can’t make health claims, only structure/function claims. A Zinc supplement may state it provides:

    Immune Support
    Enzyme Function Support

    Seems fairly innocuous. Dr. Lipson tries to tell us this is a “sinister” attempt to communicate medical information. The claim plus the disclaimer tells us this: this product may make your immune system work better, but it won’t cure any disease.

    The real problem is with those rogue companies that make false, illegal claims, like being able to prevent the flu or cure cancer.

  15. Rogue Medic says:

    Jeff,

    The Quack Miranda Warning essentially states –

    I am a quack.

    What I am selling is only for entertainment value and to make me money.

    The astrology section of the news paper has a similar disclaimer.

    You claim that zinc provides “immune support” and “enzyme function support.”

    There may be some research that suggests that there is some change in something related to the immune system and/or to enzyme function, but drug companies have had a lot of drugs pulled from the market because their wonder drugs were dangerous, even though the drugs seemed to improve something that was related to what the drug was sold to improve.

    What you are stating is that supplements can be just as dangerous as FDA approved drugs, but can be sold with much less understanding of the harms they can cause.

    That is the problem.

    The nod, nod, wink, wink is the same as the double talk used to find out where to buy cocaine, or heroin, or other drugs that are dangerous.

    DSHEA is cover for frauds.

    Bernie Madoff might still be making millions on Wall Street – if only he could hide behind something as dishonest as DSHEA.

    That kind of fraud is what you are defending. You should be ashamed, Jeff.

    .

  16. windriven says:

    Ah Quill, save your breath. I love SBM but ad hominems, straw men, arguments from authority, and expression that means what the author means, not what actually writes, are all fair when aimed at the sCAMmers and recalcitrant commenters but never under any other circumstance. And fair enough. It is their blog so they get to set the rules. Does ring like a lead bell sometimes though.

  17. windriven says:

    Of course that should have read “[N]ot what s/he actually writes…”

  18. mousethatroared says:

    ^ Hey, I thought I was supposed to be the designated ‘thorn in their side’ – you guys horning in on my territory?

  19. Chris says:

    I’m sorry, I did not need the clarification because I had been reading the Harkin posts here for years, plus the book Natural Causes (which I thought was reviewed here, but I cannot find, though it has been mentioned many times). So I am pretty familiar with Harkin, his “bee pollen cured me” story and alt-med proclivities (like taking money from supplement companies)… plus how NCCAM is regarded by the authors of this blog.

  20. Jeff says:

    Rogue Medic: “What you are stating is that supplements can be just as dangerous as FDA approved drugs, but can be sold with much less understanding of the harms they can cause.”

    This is not what I was saying. According to FDA data, prescription drugs are potentially much more harmful than supplements:

    For supplements: http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/FDATrack/track?program=cfsan&id=CFSAN-OFDCER-Number-of-mandatory-adverse-event-reports-from-dietary-supplement-industry-entered-into-CAERS&fy=2010

    For prescription drugs: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/Surveillance/AdverseDrugEffects/ucm070461.htm

    In 2010, the agency received 471,291 serious AERs for prescription drugs vs. 830 total AERs for supplements. Supplement critics often tell us how dangerous supplements supposedly are, but never provide any supporting data.

  21. Rogue Medic says:

    Jeff,

    Since supplements are not treated as drugs, their side effects, and adverse effects, are not tracked rigorously.

    If you were to go to the emergency department for a supplement-related emergency, it will be difficult for a supplement-related adverse event to be identified, because many doctors, nurses, and paramedics will not ask about supplements that are being taken. Many patients will not volunteer this information for a variety of reasons.

    Supplements can be just as dangerous as FDA approved drugs, but can be sold with much less understanding of the harms they can cause.

    We do not know if supplements are more dangerous, less dangerous, or just as dangerous, because supplement adverse effects are not tracked accurately.

    This makes sense, since information about supplements is not presented honestly, or accurately.

    Then there is the problem of sick people taking supplements, rather than real medicine. This is encouraged by plenty of quacks. How many of these patients die due to delayed treatment, or due to not receiving any treatment? How many of these patients become disabled due to delayed treatment, or due to not receiving any treatment?

    We do not know, so the FDA numbers on supplement adverse events are the best case scenario.

    If supplements were treated as medicines, and had to demonstrate efficacy and safety to be approved for use for specific medical conditions, there would be better data. But supplements are not legally held to the same standards as real medicines.

    The quacks hide behind the Quack Miranda Warning. Tracking of adverse events due to supplements is rare, but there is no good reason to suspect that the adverse events are anywhere near as rare as the reports.

    One of the reasons for the number of adverse events due to real medicines is that too many medications are prescribed to people, which does not mean that adding supplements, or replacing the medications with supplements, is an any way better for patients.

    Another reason is that many of the patients who have adverse events are very sick patients nearing the end of their lives, regardless of what is done for them. Adverse events will be much more common among the weakest patients.

    Supplements tend to be taken by healthy people who are much less likely to experience adverse events, whether taking real medicine or taking supplements.

    You are comparing apples and plastic apples that look like apples, but only have the most superficial appearance of apples.

    .

  22. David Gorski says:

    Dr. Gorski: The law states clearly supplements can’t make health claims, only structure/function claims

    Oh, please. Structure-function claims are health claims. They’re just less specific health claims than claims to diagnose and/or treat specific diseases, and, of course, the way the quacks do it there is often considerable overlap.

  23. David Gorski says:

    Hey, can I speak as a professional copy editor? I wouldn’t have touched the sentence that you’re on the fainting couch over.

    Of course not. It was awesome.

    But I keed. Regular readers should know that I’m not the warm and cuddly SBM blogger here. That much is obvious. :-)

  24. bhami says:

    I can’t parse the following sentence. Please fix:

    “In addition, organizations like The Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, Research!America, and the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, and others from declaring Harkin a “champion of research.””

  25. Narad says:

    I demand an immediate retraction of the comma in “restaurant, but in a steakhouse.”

  26. Xplodyncow says:

    I’m not the warm and cuddly SBM blogger here.

    Then who is?

  27. Quill says:

    narad queried: “Hey, can I speak as a professional copy editor?”

    I’ve no idea whether you have that ability or not, but based on the content of your comments here, it is not unarguably in evidence.

    windriven commiserated: “Ah Quill, save your breath. I love SBM but ad hominems, straw men, arguments from authority, and expression that means what the author means, not what s/he actually writes, are all fair when aimed at the sCAMmers and recalcitrant commenters but never under any other circumstance. And fair enough. It is their blog so they get to set the rules. Does ring like a lead bell sometimes though.”

    A cogent observation and wise advice, thank you.

    It is not very reasonable of me to expect most science-based medicine doctors to write well, given that many have to spend what little time they have for reading with medical journals, papers and reports which are almost always dry and usually written with minimal display of composition competence. What is sad, here, is the default to the juvenile and the snark instead of the mature and constructive. This is partly explained by the “other side,” largely consisting of people whose writing is passionate but hardly persuasive and who also find solace in reducing things to teenage quips. Nevertheless, the whining about SBM not reaching more people can’t be reconciled its written presentation, such as it is.

    And thanks to several for the reading recommendations — always appreciated. It will probably serve everyone best if I take windriven’s advice and go back to my reading chair with a good book.

    Absit injuria verbis.

  28. Narad says:

    I’ve no idea whether you have that ability or not, but based on the content of your comments here, it is not unarguably in evidence.

    Did you work on that one, or did it come naturally?

  29. Chris says:

    Quill:

    go back to my reading chair with a good book.

    Here is a good book: Natural Causes. It is where I learned about Christopher Grell’s personal loss from unregulated supplements.

    Again, my apologies for assuming that those who read and comment on this blog might have read previous articles written about Harkin and NCCAM. Or assuming they know about Dr. Gorski’s hate of pedantic comments.

    (Narad, that reminds me of a Sherlock Holmes quote)

  30. BillyJoe says:

    Oh dear, all that background detail about Tom Harkins and NICCAM to digest, and all we get from some quarters is a complaint about style. No doubt your own blog posts reveal a far superior style of communication.

  31. mousethatroared says:

    You know the thing that is telling about this thread. Quills criticism was pointed, but not particularily aggressive or acerbic. I suppose he could have gentled it up more, knowing that he was dealing with a prickly character, although I doubt it would have made a difference. But the response from multiple folks seems so much more heated than the original critisicim warranted.

    Good to know that human society and it’s tendency to enforce conformity isn’t being destroyed by the Internet.

  32. David Gorski says:

    Oh dear, all that background detail about Tom Harkins and NICCAM to digest, and all we get from some quarters is a complaint about style.

    Yep. It’s not as though I haven’t been at this blogging thing for over eight years now, having managed to build one of the more successful medical/skeptical blogs out there single-handedly and to participate in the building of an even more popular one (this one) as editor, is it now? :-)

    It’s also not as though I haven’t learned to recognize tone trolling when I see it, either. Quill thinks I can’t take criticism. Although I was snarky here, that’s not correct. If several readers had contacted me and suggested that maybe what I wrote about Harkin was over-the-top, I’d listen. If even a single reader made a cogent point that caused the proverbial lightbulb to go on over my head, I’d listen. Quill’s complaint was neither. It was pearl clutching at a mildly provocative opening sentence—and I do mean “mildly.”

  33. Chris says:

    mousethatroared:

    Quills criticism was pointed, but not particularily aggressive or acerbic.

    Though his reply was more acerbic (“That’s a mighty weak straw man-like retort ya typed there, doc”).

    Perhaps it is our fault for assuming that Quill had actually read the previous posts about this blog’s attitude towards Harkin and NCCAM. This article does require a bit of background knowledge, which is included in the several hyperlinks in the paragraph right after the sentence that Quill quoted.

  34. Chris says:

    Ugh… I hope I did not italicize the internets, only the first line is supposed to be in blockquotes. Though the passive/aggressive attitude was intended.

  35. multimodalmama says:

    I really wish this money had been instead spent on examining the effacacy of various natural substances that the drug companies cannot patent, and, therefore, avoid developing.

    Lithium carbonate fell into this hole until special action was taken. Bacterial cocktail replacements for feces in fecal transplants for intractable c.diff. infections may also not be developed for lack of industry interest, despite recent trials that were compelling.

    Something similar may be said for evaluating non-drug therapies, particularly for behavioral issues.

    In any case, we should be getting rigorous evaluation of unusual but potentially beneficial things for our money here – and we have not been getting that.

  36. mousethatroared says:

    I guess I’m confused. Is italics supposed to indicate passive/aggressive attitude? I can’t keep up with all the html subtext these days.

  37. mousethatroared says:

    DG “It was pearl clutching at a mildly provocative opening sentence—and I do mean “mildly.”

    What is the point of writing a provocative sentence if no one is provoked? Mildly, of course.

    If Mapplethorpe’s photographs had been greeted with exclamations of “What lovely tonality he achieves in his representations of leather.” I doubt he would have been a happy artist.

    But folks are supposed to be provoked, but not say anything? I don’t get it. Is it some sort of exposure therapy?

  38. mousethatroared says:

    @ Quill – regarding “I had no idea all of you had met him and spent enough time in his company to form such an opinion. Or did you mean to write that you don’t much like his ideas, legislative agenda and forms of odious political patronage?”

    I’m sure you are sick of the responses, but here’s my take…

    If a financial advisor wrote an article opening with. “I don’t much like Bernie Madoff and, I daresay, neither do any of my fellow financial advisors.” You maybe wouldn’t criticize the line. Because at some point a person IS inseparable from their actions.

    It’s often important to avoid personal attacks and focus on actions and ideas in criticism, but that can only go so far. At some point it no longer matters if someone is a good husband or father, funny at dinner parties or pleasant to have a beer with. When their intentional action have caused substantial damage, it becomes personal and a normal person reacts personally. I think that David Gorski’s opening line can be viewed as emphasizing that.

    But I don’t think your criticism was pedantic. I think it could have been used as an opportunity to redeclare a dislike for Harkin based on his actions.

    Just IMO, though – and now my paint is dry and I must get back to work.

  39. David Gorski says:

    What is the point of writing a provocative sentence if no one is provoked? Mildly, of course.

    Easy. Because my intent when I actually wrote it was not to provoke. Regular readers here probably know that when my intent is to provoke, it will be flamingly, mind-numbling obvious and people will be provoked. Does anyone who’s read me a long time doubt this? When I want to be provocative, I’m about as subtle as a bag of hammers. Such was not the case here. It’s only from Quill’s reaction that I now realize that the sentence must have been mildly provocative to one person, and quite frankly I still can’t figure out why. I also don’t care why anymore.

    The Bernie Madoff example was a better example than I was going to use in response in that…well, let’s just say the example I intended to use to say basically the same thing bordered on Godwin territory. (No, it wasn’t actually Hitler.) mousethatroared’s use of Madoff to demonstrate the point about what a person does and who he is often being, for all practical intents and purposes, one was less…provocative than what I had in mind. Good thing I restrained myself, eh?

  40. kb says:

    Well here is some good news for scientists in the US, or actually anywhere except in Europe: The European Commission has announced the selection of the Human Brain Project (HBP) as a flagship project and will award it with €1 bn (that $1.4 bn) from tax payers money over a period of 10 years, to create a computer simulation of the human brain, from the level of ion channels in individual neurons, piece by piece, bottom up.

    What is wrong with that? Almost everything. Many neuroscientists are extremely skeptical of this project, as the current level of knowledge is no way near what is required to make this a feasible research program. Attempts to reconstruct the brains of far simpler organisms have not been successful. Even worse, the leader of the winning project, Henry Markram has not published the results of his predecessing project (Blue Brain), which tried to simulate a single cortical column in the somatosensory area of young rat brain. Instead of publishing the data in peer reviewed journals, Markram communicates through the media, video’s, lectures and advertisement – all the things we loath in CAM. Read it and weep (caution: pdf).
    Another similarity: The HBP project is making promises that cannot be kept, such as understanding consciousness, testing drugs for mental diseases virtually and thereby making animal experiments unnecessary, and developing treatments for Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. How this will be achieved remains vague, with lots of hand waving and rhetorics.
    Why is this good news for all you non-Europeans? Well, the aim of the massive funding from the European commission was to catch up with US, but given the poor choice that they have made for HBP, and the bleak economic situation, this is likely to drain the funding from many smaller, more modest and more sound research such that the gap with the US will only increase, but this will be realized a decade too late.

  41. Quill says:

    “I’m sure you are sick of the responses, but here’s my take…”

    Not at all — they have been interesting. And thanks for your take. I appreciate your view and replies.

    If anyone needed any further evidence to prove the point that Dr. Gorski needs to widen his audience by improving his writing, he has given it to me:

    Regular readers here probably know that when my intent is to provoke, it will be flamingly, mind-numbling obvious and people will be provoked. Does anyone who’s read me a long time doubt this?

    This is a classic, teacher-textbook example of an immature writer, one who imposes the burden of work on the reader that he should do himself. A writer’s job is to let the words on the page stand alone, not demand the reader come to them with prior knowledge of what the writer has already done or with an inventory of the writer’s personal quirks and ticks. In addition, such immaturity assumes provocation produces a good effect or advances the discussion when it usually, after the first fifty or so times, is just boring and off-putting. Sure, the blogging world is a free-for-all where anything goes and usually does, but when one persistently claims the high road of science-based medicine, it is reasonable to expect that the writing would be better. That’s how one reaches a larger audience, by rising above the noise instead of making more of it.

    It should go without saying that Dr. Gorski is of course free to do what he likes in his own virtual space, yet it does not discount the desires of those who wish he’d grow up a bit, not consider his every sentence quite so precious, and demonstrably evolve an adult frame of mind.

    Lastly, I have been told that in the world of GorskiOrac it is customary to end with some kind of witty insult, laid out like bait, in hopes of generating more comments. So here goes: the way Dr. Gorski believes in himself can be seen as very refreshing in these atheistic days when so many believe in no God at all.

  42. mousethatroared says:

    DG “Easy. Because my intent when I actually wrote it was not to provoke.”

    Oh well, that explains that. I thought you meant intentionally mildly provocative…like adding a bit of pepper.

  43. Narad says:

    It’s only from Quill’s reaction that I now realize that the sentence must have been mildly provocative to one person, and quite frankly I still can’t figure out why.

    Oh, I can. It’s a combination of superficial reading and superiority/control fantasy that plagues people who actually have to clean up the mess after the author gets the typescript back.

  44. Chris says:

    Quill:

    A writer’s job is to let the words on the page stand alone, not demand the reader come to them with prior knowledge of what the writer has already done or with an inventory of the writer’s personal quirks and ticks.

    And it is the reader’s job to actually read past the first sentence. Dude, it was spelled out right after that first sentence in the second paragraph. Why do you expect Dr. Gorski to spell out for you again when he provided a boatload of previous articles in the links!?

    Seriously, your own lazy lack of reading the links is what is causing you issues. The folks who have been here for a while know about Harkin’s shady deals and problems with NCCAM. If you had actually bothered to read the links in the second paragraph you would have known that.

    That second paragraph starts with: “The reason should be painfully obvious. Arguably, no single elected official currently serving today (or ever) has done more over a longer period of time to promote quackery in the United States.”

    Why is that confusing?

    And in that same paragraph are no less than three links to other SBM articles on problems with NCCAM, which (quoting that same second paragraph): “I make this harsh assessment because Senator Harkin was the legislator who created the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) and has been its most powerful patron, promoter, and protector.” Harkin created the tax sucking entity that was the subject of those links.

    You are being criticized for not actually reading the article, and the accompanying links.

    Now read the article, and then provide real reasons why Harkin should not be criticized despite the funding he has received from Herbalife. Defend Harkin with data, not pedantic comments on an article that you clearly have not read.

    Seriously, dude, read the book Natural Causes.

  45. Narad says:

    Now read the article, and then provide real reasons why Harkin should not be criticized despite the funding he has received from Herbalife.

    “Language mavens” don’t read, they elevate themselves to the clergy, which is why “a writer’s job is to let the words on the page stand alone” is distressingly ironic. This trip wouldn’t last two weeks in journals publishing, which is probably the closest comparable, and I doubt it would stay afloat much longer in books.

  46. Quill says:

    Well, of course Chris and Narad, it’s obliged by your wits to be all my fault, my most grievous fault, as I must be a lazy Dude, a pretender, a fallen white-collared maven and all that. No other interpretation can manifest in you. It must gratify and be a great comfort to you both to give knowledge a shrewd discount and prefer to see these things with such fulsome certainty.

    The internet is a funny thing, isn’t it? People too often mistake it as a means of expressing thought when it is only a tool of transcribing thought. And since net expressions often exist in perpetual first-draft form, readers have to become accustomed to a raw read of pieces of another’s private mind instead of the polished public form it has taken in the past.

  47. Narad says:

    And since net expressions often exist in perpetual first-draft form, readers have to become accustomed to a raw read of pieces of another’s private mind instead of the polished public form it has taken in the past.

    Rapid publication formats have never been “polished.”

  48. Narad says:

    Of course, if one goes to weekly deadlines, there is some polish. Let us consider this indelicate lede (since the whole complaint stems from the lede) from the 1962 Saturday Evening Post:

    The game of football has been thumping itself on its hairy chest lately and claiming not only that it has become the national pastime but that it offers the finest example of manly hardihood remaining in this age of general flabbiness. This is poppycock.

  49. Narad says:

    Or, perhaps, Mike Royko from 1967:

    Many people depend on Vogue magazine to tell them what to wear, what to talk about, and what–if anything–to think.

    If Vogue tells them to wear bed pans trimmed in daisies in the Easter Parade, they will run to the nearest medical supply store to be fitted.

    See, there’s some polish.

  50. mousethatroared says:

    @Quill – don’t let em get you down. In my recollection, you’ve been a reasonable thoughtful commenter. I put it all down to the fact that disagreements are a natural consequence of folks having different brains and life experiences.

    Also the internet breeds attribution bias like a locker room breeds mold.

  51. mousethatroared says:

    also Quill “This is a classic, teacher-textbook example of an immature writer, one who imposes the burden of work on the reader that he should do himself. A writer’s job is to let the words on the page stand alone, not demand the reader come to them with prior knowledge of what the writer has already done or with an inventory of the writer’s personal quirks and ticks. In addition, such immaturity assumes provocation produces a good effect or advances the discussion when it usually, after the first fifty or so times, is just boring and off-putting. Sure, the blogging world is a free-for-all where anything goes and usually does, but when one persistently claims the high road of science-based medicine, it is reasonable to expect that the writing would be better. That’s how one reaches a larger audience, by rising above the noise instead of making more of it.”

    My thoughts on that, for what they are worth. I’m clearly not a writer, myself.

    I suppose one could say that particular quote* from DG is one of an immature (I’m not wild about that word) writer, but I would say that that quote is not indicative of DG’s work as a whole. Sure he tends to lean on the inflammatory quite heavily, but in posts, such as those about Steve Job’s and those about women who have pursued alternative medicine for breast cancer, I think he has shown a compassion and emotional nuance that is distinctly mature and well reasoned. I also think he is excellent with explanations of technical concepts, which is something that many “mature” writers struggle with.

    It’s true that DG has a distinctive voice and I can’t imagine him become the kind of flexible writer that can change his voice based on the needs of the piece or even necessarily what he strategically wants to accomplish. Luckily, he’s probably never going to have to work writing copy for a marketing firm. Having that specific voice does give him the weight of sincerity, though. When you are reading his work, you get the sense that you are getting his genuine thoughts and feelings, not thoughts that have been run through the focus group/marketing/position statement mill. That does have some value, in my mind.

    Of course, those strength’s do not make DG flawless. I will say some of my least favorite artists are one’s who have found their “style” and never feel the need to grow. But people tend to grow in the direction that they find appealing and quick criticisms in the comment box do not seem to motivate DG very well. :)

    Yes SBM is currently a niche blog. If they wish to attract a more mainstream audience, IMO it would probably be good to discard the idea that the reader has a responsibility to “know the author” or have a background in the topic. In my mind that comes across as cliquish and exclusive, approaches that are probably less likely to appeal to viewers unfamiliar with the topics discussed.

    I would also suggest that they get that “warm and cuddly” blogger.

    But I don’t know if that the editor WANT to become more mainstream?

    Also – somewhat unrelated aside. I drives my absolutely mad that “tone” is somehow considered to be a taboo subject. If people are going to complain about how deaf the public is to their point, it seems only reasonable to examine how that point is being communicated. You can not have a realistic discussion about communication without examining tone. It’s like someone making a documentary – complaining about it’s negative reception by the public, but being unwilling to discuss the soundtrack. I just don’t get it.

    Okay, that’s it.

    *Do you ever really believe when a writer or artist tells you about their work? I don’t, sure they’re probably partly correct, but often I don’t think they really understand all the influences that are affecting their work.

  52. Quill says:

    @mousethatroared: Thank you very much for taking the time for these comments. I appreciate them, especially when you note that “…quick criticisms in the comment box do not seem to motivate DG very well.” Now that I am aware of this I will take it into account should I dare venture to write again about such matters.

    I also appreciate your comments about the niche nature of this blog, the desirable idea of it being less provincial, and discussions of tone and style. And that “weight of sincerity” is definitely in evidence, but is alas, another hallmark of the immature writer harboring dualistic thinking who desires to be praised for what they say and not how they say it, as if one can be separated from the other. (And I’m using the word immature in its critical sense, not in a personal way.) If a writer has an oft-stated desire to enlarge his audience then it is only rational to say that the writer should adapt to his purpose and not expect the audience to contract their minds to accommodate him.

    But as you say, as a niche blog, it is usually interesting, often very good, and a counter to the Ozmania and other manifestations of this degenerate age. I’ll also add that I feel a certain debt to the bloggers here as they have save me from several trips to Quackville and thus contributed to my health. Perhaps this has colored my replies and desires as a person tends to get emotionally attached to things that prolong their life. :-)

    One last thing, as you asked: “Do you ever really believe when a writer or artist tells you about their work? I don’t, sure they’re probably partly correct, but often I don’t think they really understand all the influences that are affecting their work.”

    For me it is totally dependent on which writer or artist. I have worked with and interviewed many and the range of self awareness regarding their work went from nearly none at all to a kind of breathtaking objectivity that surpassed the most savvy critics and scholars.

  53. mousethatroared says:

    @Quill – “Perhaps this has colored my replies and desires as a person tends to get emotionally attached to things that prolong their life.”

    People who care deeply about something are such a pain the the rear. :)

    Well personally, I could go on all day offering counter views and I’m sure I could add points to your argument as well…but I’m afraid I’d be beating a dead horse. Cheers!

  54. annappaa says:

    Just as there are plenty of woo-mongers who dine on steak, there are plenty of vegans who eschew the woo. The veg*n/woo correlation is probably more tenuous than people think.

    I didn’t know NCCAM had a loophole that put the naturopaths and company in charge of the agenda, and that even a science-minded leader couldn’t stop inquiries into homeopathy and other modalities with absolutely no plausible basis. Well, that’s depressing. I thought that NCCAM could at least have some utility in investigating products with the possibility of efficacy (e.g., herbs), which might provide a value to consumers even if only to regularly debunk almost everything in succession. I guess I’m actually dreaming of a National Center for CAM Debunking — though, yes, I’d rather that money be put toward investigating more promising medical advances than the run-of-the-mill herbs favored by CAM practitioners.

    Let’s hope that Iowa Democrats can elect someone more rational to take Harkin’s place.

  55. jebradley says:

    > Let’s hope that Iowa Democrats can elect someone more rational to take Harkin’s place.

    As an Iowa resident, I have to concur. But, I have to say that I’d rather see Harkin in the seat than to have Rep. Steve King (R). It looks like King might run for the seat. He sounds intelligent when he sticks to his talking points, but he doesn’t show much when he gets off track.

  56. Geekoid says:

    I couldn’t find a general forum here, so I decided to post the under the more recent NCCAM post I could find.

    I started a defend NCCAM petition. It needs 150 signatures before it’s searchable, and 25000 before it expires on April 5th.

    http://wh.gov/GGYk

    Thanks.

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