Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quackery in Seattle

I often listen to AM 1090 Seattle (upstart progressive talk radio station and Air America / Nova M radio
affiliate).  What irks me are the many fringe/quack commercials and infomercials that air on the station.  I don't see many of the vendors listed on their sponsor pages so I'm not sure if they are just forwarding commercials from the networks, but I wish they would take a little more editorial control.

What doesn't help is that one of their prominent talk show hosts (that I actually like for his political acumen and rational take on issues) Thom Hartman tends to shill for many questionable products.  He seems fairly
gullible outside of the political sphere.  And this seems to only be reinforced now that I found that he owns his own company producing ADHD herbal treatments:  Enzymatic Therapy, Inc. - North America's leading manufacturer and distributor of dietary supplements and natural medicines. Seriously -- if there was something to what he discovered, it should result in a pharmaceutical product regulated by the FDA and controlled in dosage with well-done and documented trials to prove efficacy. Products that go the "natural" route don't have that kind of rigor and actual evidence backing them.

Some of the products featured that are total quackery (not science-based medicine):

which claims to rid you of "the five to twenty five pounds of waste that some experts say is trapped on the colon walls like spackle or paste"  This is a typical quack claim.  Anyone who has gotten a colonoscopy can tell you that you actually don't have "pounds" of stuff on your colon walls.  Your body expels solid waste fairly well, unless you have an obstructed bowel.  Then you would need serious medical attention, not some supplement that is not even regulated by the FDA. See How Clean Should Your Colon Be? (The American Council on Science and Health)

Super Beta Prostate,
formulated by Roger Mason, who has the book quackishly-titled, "The Natural Prostate Cure" and even one entitled "The Natural Diabetes Cure".  Do you think if someone had a "cure" for these diseases, especially one that was over-the-counter, that this would be HUGE news that the scientific and lay press would take a big interest in.  Not to mention the pharmaceutical companies that would love to synthesize a
cancer treatment.

I found this review from amazon.ca funny and to-the-point:

Roger Mason's little pamphlet has some serious flaws in it. He proclaims that the way to beat prostate
cancer is to eliminate meat and dairy in favor of whole grains and
vegetables. His authority for this is that a grain based diet is what
mankind has been consuming throughout recorded history.
This is
falacious reasoning at best. Archaeologists can tell him that they can
determine the eating habits from ancient skeletal remains by
examination of the teeth. Healthy, undecayed teeth are indicative of
someone whose diet was primarily meat; while teeth that demonstrate
considerable deterioration proves that their diet was primarily grains.
Why is it that grains do that and meat doesn't?! In addition, they
might also reveal that the natural
mode of human biology is for a mother to nurse for up to three years
and remain infertile throughout that time; while a grain based diet
interferes with the natural
biological cycle and returns a woman to fertility in as little as three
months despite nursing an extant child. Mason should also explain why
humans have incisors...

The Atkins diet plan is juxtaposed to Mason's views. It emphasizes the more natural
diet of meat and de-emphasizes grains and starches as the heaviest
carbohydrates. The results are startling - reduced weight and
cholesterol despite eating MORE red meat! Carbs get stored in fat cells
when there is an overabunbance. That leads to disease. The human body
can't store extra protein. It's the extra carbs that cause an
oversupply of estrogen in men, not the consumption of protein as Mason

Mason just doesn't know what he's talking about. Try
reading instead Drs. Eades & Eades' Protein Power, in which real
medical doctors give real medical evidence about estrogen, insulin and
how the body manages protein, carbohydrates and fats.

Regardless, the main ingredients in SBP are Beta-sitosterols and the
website claims that one capsule is equivalent to 100 typical Saw
Palmetto capsules for the amount of Beta-sitosterols.  So, one could
look at the efficacy (or lack thereof) of Saw Palmetto then to help
determine whether SBP could conceivably have any benefit.  As recently
as 2006 there was a large study that seemed to show (as is typical when
the effect is not real) the larger, well-done study tends not to show
an effect.  Meaning, that it is unlikely that saw palmetto and its
ingredients would be a good anti-cancer therapy. 
Study Casts Doubt on Saw Palmetto as Prostate Remedy : NPR
new study in The New England Journal of Medicine indicates "saw
palmetto" does not work to shrink enlarged prostates. At least 2
million men take the supplements, often on the advice of doctors.
Smaller studies have shown that saw palmetto does work, but this is the
largest study to date.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

There's a sucker born every 12,500,000 emails

I can believe this given how gullible relatives forward out obviously-false chain emails all the time.  There's a fine line between that behaviour and responding to these.

Spam gets 1 response per 12,500,000 emails | News | TechRadar UK
A new study details how spammers – the bane of our email inboxes – still make pots of money, despite only receiving a response to one in every 12,500,000 emails they spam out.

The study, by a team of seven computer scientists from University of California, Berkeley and UC, San Diego (UCSD) infiltrated the Storm network, which uses hijacked home PCs to relay much of the junk email you spend your days wading through while wondering 'who the hell responds to this stuff?'

Well. Now you know. One gullible idiot in 12,500,000 recipients. Or thereabouts.

Vote demographics 2008

I'm sure this will come in handy in future debates. Not to mention it is very interesting to see where the votes fell.

Daily Kos: The Poll That Counts: Obama 52 McCain 46

Deregulation behind the massive financial crisis

No, it wasn't Fannie and Freddie.  Alan Greenspan (who owns a lot of blame for the mess), the SEC chairman and John Snow agree it wasn't them.  Fannie and Freddie weren't even securitizing those mortgages in large numbers until 2005.

Wonk Room » The Perino Challenge: ‘What Specific Regulation Did We Eliminate?’  Lists several key ones.
Think Progress » Cox, Greenspan, Snow Agree: Freddie Mac And Fannie Mae Did Not Cause The Financial Crisis

GOP rebirth: Focus on new fundamentals (instead of fundamentalist views)

We can only hope.  You can't keep campaigning on social issues but falling down when in office on the other issues that should be more important (the economy, the war, veterans benefits, etc.)

Think Progress » Ensign: GOP shouldn’t focus on abortion or gay rights.
Although Ensign was not ready to call for a break from socially conservative ideologies, he said issues such as abortion or gay rights should not be at the core of the party.

“I think we lost our way on our fundamentals” in recent years, Ensign said, adding that “those are the issue that we can disagree on as a party.”

Cool site with newspaper headlines of Obama win from around the world

VERY cool.  Especially for those who couldn't get their hands on a paper copy the day-after.

Newspaper headlines of Obama election win, Nov. 5 2008 - Boing Boing

Healthy skepticism of court "tools" of the trade

A skeptic should be aware of the fallibility of eyewitness identification. This excellent 5-part series discusses 19 case studies and the specific techniques you may be familiar with from CSI and Law & Order that result in erroneous convictions if there isn't adequate corroborating evidence. Hopefully some municipalities will read this and change procedures as a result to prevent more wrongful convictions. It would be nice if the writers of the popular shows would feature these issues prominently...

"Eyewitness testimony is the crack cocaine of the criminal justice system."
Misidentifications have been cited as a key factor in an estimated 75 percent of the 220 wrongful convictions exposed by DNA testing nationwide since 1989

Eyewitness ID: A Primary Cause of Wrongful Convictions - TalkLeft: The Politics Of Crime
police and prosecutors view them as a useful "tool" of law enforcement precisely because they lead to convictions, even if the convictions are sometimes erroneous. Police and prosecutors too often value convictions more than they value the truth.

Most wrongful convictions that are based on eyewitness identifications will never be corrected, because no DNA is available to provide the certain proof that courts seem to want before admitting that a mistake was made.
Speaking of DNA evidence, there's a very technical book examining the state-of-the-art of DNA profiling. I watch a lot of CSI so just might have to pick up a copy of this.

Esp. pp 14-15

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Underwriter's knot -- safe wiring

I just repaired my 1940s-era radio that I thought had blown a tube.  Turns out that the stupid plug (does not appear to be original) was not wired safely so the soldered wire got pulled out due to strain on the cord over time.  Sure enough, when I opened it up, there was no Underwriter's knot aka UL knot to be found.  I made sure to tie one before re-soldering the wire so that it wouldn't happen again.

This site has great graphics for tying your own if you happen to be wiring a light fixture or fixing the plug on a cord.  Not only will it save your cord, it could save your life.

Electricity Lab Graphics

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Boy sent home from school for dressing as Jesus for Halloween

This is truly ridiculous.  The constitutional prohibitions against schools endorsing religion do not extend to what the students choose to do.  This is the wrong move from a first amendment standpoint.  So before the religulous get in a huff about how the government is trying to get religion out of our schools, etc., I agree with you that they should not have done this.  But, this was not an issue of state-sponsored-religion.

I still want to dress as Jesus on the bus to work one of these years...

wcbstv.com - Boy Sent Home From School For Dressing As Jesus

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Funniest nonprofit

They do sound like they are doing good work. But sounded like a joke at first mention. Don't miss the 2008 World Toilet Summit.

World Toilet Organization|WTO|Global Voice for Toilets & Sanitation
World Toilet Organization (WTO) is a global non- profit organization committed to improving toilet and sanitation conditions worldwide.

And the funniest icon:

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Vatican doesn't invite anti-evolution pseudoscientists

Heh.  Gotta hand it to the Catholics for their ability to not deny fundamental scientific advances to save face with their religious dogma.  The Vatican astronomer was great in Bill Maher's Religulous too.

Little Green Footballs - Pope Benedict Meets Stephen Hawking, Sans Creationists
Pope Benedict met Stephen Hawking at a Vatican-sponsored conference on evolution yesterday, and the pseudo-scientific shills of the Discovery Institute were not invited.