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How the 'true blue' political maverick gave the senate to the donkeys

The Argyrian candidate

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How the 'true blue' political maverick gave the senate to the donkeys

The 2006 US Congressional elections saw a change in the political balance in Washington that promises to shape history. The House of Representatives shifted from Republican elephant red to Democrat donkey blue by a healthy majority.

The US Senate shifted the same way, but by only one seat. Six of seven tight Senate races went to the Democrats, including Montana. In that state, Republican incumbent Senator Conrad Burns was defeated by Democrat Jon Tester. The winning margin was only 2,565 votes (0.6 per cent).

But there was a third name on the ballot - Stan Jones - the Libertarian Party candidate. Jones received 10,324 votes (2.6 per cent). This was far beyond Tester's winning margin. It is generally regarded by political pundits that if Jones had not run, most of his votes would have gone to Burns. Burns would have won re-election. The Senate would have numbered 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats. Vice president Dick Cheney would have wielded the critical, deciding, tie-breaking vote, and the Senate would have stayed Republican instead of Democrat.

The role of Stan Jones in this historical event is pivotal. Jones did to Burns in Montana in 2006 what Ralph Nader did nationally to Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004. Jones is a "true blue" political maverick -ironic in Montana, a state known for its cattle and cattle ranches.

"Maverick" comes to us from Samuel A Maverick (died 1870) an American pioneer famous for not branding his cattle. "Maverick" originally referred to any unbranded range animal, especially a motherless calf. Now its most common usage is its political meaning.

"Maverick" refers to an independent individual who does not go along with a party, a faction, a group. And that is certainly true of Stan Jones. Among the many, shall we say, iconoclastic views of Jones, he believes that an international communist conspiracy centered in Europe and North America seeks to establish a one-world government. He believes that the US dollar will be appropriated and devalued by the Mexican peso and become something called the Amero. He supports the death penalty, bans on abortion, bans on gay marriage, and bans on the requirement that a social security number must be presented to acquire a Montana hunting or fishing license.

What will be very interesting to fans of this column is that Stan Jones also suffers from argyria. Argyria is a weird body condition caused by the ingestion of silver. It can be acquired through breathing in silver dust, silver compounds, or taking some silver-laden folk medicines. Argyria is from the Greek argyros meaning "silver". It was once common among silver miners, but is relatively rare today.

The most dramatic effect of argyria is that the skin and sometimes the eyes turn blue or bluish-grey. Most odd of all, once the effect occurs, it is permanent and irreversible.

In 2000, Jones acquired argyria by drinking a home-made colloidal silver solution. He manufactured it himself in his kitchen by electrically charging two silver wires in a glass of water. There is a view among some alternative therapies advocates, that colloidal silver can boost the immune system - something Jones desired.

Jones was also motivated by the fear that antibiotics would soon become unavailable world wide due to an international conspiracy of pharmaceutical firms and by a belief that colloidal silver is also a treatment against the bioterrorism disease of anthrax. Jones claims that his permanently blue skin is genuine and as such is certainly no political stunt. He also admits to being somewhat embarrassed by his blue skin, while never enough to blush pink, but not enough to refrain from running for public office.

In any case, history will note that in 2006, Stan Jones became the agryrian candidate - the "true blue" political maverick responsible for turning the US Senate Democrat, donkey, and "true blue" too.

Stephen Juan, Ph.D. is an anthropologist at the University of Sydney. Email your Odd Body questions to s.juan@edfac.usyd.edu.au

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