Brain supplements are a waste of money.

If you’re getting on in years you may have noticed that a lot of web advertising these days consists of pitches for supplements that are supposed to improve “brain health” and prevent things like Alzheimer’s and Dementia. The industry that makes these products pulls down $3.2 billion every year showing that there’s lots of folks worried about falling victim to these conditions as they age. There’s just one problem with these products: None of them have been demonstrated to do a damned thing other than drain your wallet.

“This $3.2-billion industry … benefits from high-penetration consumer advertising through print media, radio, television and the internet,” the neurologists wrote. “No known dietary supplement prevents cognitive decline or dementia, yet supplements advertised as such are widely available and appear to gain legitimacy when sold by major U.S. retailers.”

Are brain supplements a big waste of money? – MarketWatch.com
Image by Melanie Simon from Pixabay

It’s bad enough that these bullshit products are sold alongside legitimate medicines at your local pharmacy, but apparently there are also licenced medical personnel that are pushing pseudo-medical treatments:

“Some of these practitioners may stand to gain financially by promoting interventions that are not covered by insurance, such as intravenous nutrition, personalized detoxification, chelation therapy, antibiotics or stem cell therapy. These interventions lack a known mechanism for treating dementia and are costly, unregulated and potentially harmful,” the article states.

There are a lot of companies out there that are eager to cash in on your fears. According to the MarketWatch article, the FDA ‘issued a statement saying it posted 17 warning and advisory letters to domestic and foreign companies that illegally sell 58 products — many of them dietary supplements — that claim to prevent, treat or cure Alzheimer’s disease and other serious health conditions. […] “These products may be ineffective, unsafe and could prevent a person from seeking an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.”’

Unfortunately, the MarketWatch article takes a nosedive in the latter half by talking with a naturopath who proscribes Homeopathic treatments which is another big woo-woo bullshit industry. To her credit she agrees that using dietary supplements that aren’t backed by solid research is a problem, but that’s about the only credit she deserves. Homeopathy is an even bigger batch of nonsense than the dietary supplement industry. At least the supplements contain actual ingredients.

Don’t fall for the bullshit. The causes of Dementia and Alzheimer’s are complex and promising research is ongoing, but so far nothing has been shown to be an effective preventative of these conditions. Not only are brain health supplements just a waste of money, but they’re also potentially harmful and could end up interacting with other prescription drugs you may be taking in negative ways.

Hell, this is true for dietary supplements in general. Most do nothing other than cost money. Some are dangerous when taken with other prescription medication. Vitamin supplements are arguably useful, but only when your doctor says you actually need them. If you’re already getting all the vitamins you need from your diet then you will literally piss away anything extra you get from a supplement.

A new meta-study shows Homeopathy is still bullshit.

It boggles the mind that in 2015 there are still people out there who buy into the idea of Homeopathy.

Homeopathy demotavational poster.

That’ll be $150, kthxbai!

As a refresher, it’s an “alternative medicine” predicated on the belief that “like cures like” and “water has a memory.” In short, if you take something that causes the same or similar symptoms in an ailing patient and dilute it in water and then feed it to them it’ll cure whatever their ailment happens to be. Here’s the best part though: The more diluted the solution is the more powerful it becomes.

I shit you not. Here’s an explanation of the dilution process from the Homeopathic “Educational” Services website:

Each substance is diluted, most commonly, 1 part of the original medicinal agent to 9 or 99 parts double-distilled water. The mixture is then vigorously stirred or shaken. The solution is then diluted again 1:9 or 1:99 and vigorously shaken. This process of consecutive diluting and shaking or stirring is repeated 3, 6, 12, 30, 200, 1,000, or even 1,000,000 times. Simply “diluting” the medicines without vigorously shaking them doesn’t activate the medicinal effects.

It is inaccurate to say that homeopathic medicines are extremely diluted; they are extremely “potentized.” “Potentization” refers to the specific process of sequential dilution with vigorous shaking. Each consecutive dilution infiltrates the new double-distilled water and imprints upon it the fractal form of the original substance used (fractal refers to the specific consecutively smaller pattern or form within a larger pattern). Ultimately, some type of fractal or hologram of the original substance may be imprinted in the water.

If you have half a brain you should already be questioning the intelligence of the people who dreamed this bullshit up just based on this little snippet of nonsense from this one website.

What all of this gobbledegook boils down to is this: Homeopathy is a way to sell you expensive water that isn’t going to do shit to heal whatever you problem is. If you get better after using Homeopathic medicines then you would’ve gotten better regardless of whether you had used them. This has shown to be true in study after study, yet these cranks are still out there peddling their bullshit and trying to weasel their way into being covered by insurance plans and health organizations.

Now Australia’s National Health and Medical Research Council along with an independent company (to ensure there was no bias) has done a meta-study that involved analyzing over 1,800 scientific papers and more than 225 medical studies that determined (emphasis added):

There was no reliable evidence from research in humans that homeopathy was effective for treating the range of health conditions considered: no good-quality, well-designed studies with enough participants for a meaningful result reported either that homeopathy caused greater health improvements than placebo, or caused health improvements equal to those of another treatment.

For some health conditions, studies reported that homeopathy was not more effective than placebo. For other health conditions, there were poor-quality studies that reported homeopathy was more effective than placebo, or as effective as another treatment. However, based on their limitations, those studies were not reliable for making conclusions about whether homeopathy was effective. For the remaining health conditions it was not possible to make any conclusion about whether homeopathy was effective or not, because there was not enough evidence.

And their conclusion was:

Based on the assessment of the evidence of effectiveness of homeopathy, NHMRC concludes that there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.

Homeopathy should not be used to treat health conditions that are chronic, serious, or could become serious. People who choose homeopathy may put their health at risk if they reject or delay treatments for which there is good evidence for safety and effectiveness. People who are considering whether to use homeopathy should first get advice from a registered health practitioner. Those who use homeopathy should tell their health practitioner and should keep taking any prescribed treatments.

In short, the shit don’t work. When you sit down and read what promoters provide as the explanation for how it supposedly works this shouldn’t come as a surprise. For starters, they love their buzzwords: Fractals, holograms, nanopharmacology, the Principle of Resonance, the list goes on and on. The idea seems to be that if you toss enough buzzwords at people they’ll assume you’ll know what you’re talking about simply because the have no idea what you’re talking about.

Alas, that works and you can find all manner of Homeopathic products at your local drug store as proof. Why do the stores carry them if they don’t work? Because they make decent money off of people who don’t know any better. Capitalism at its finest!

For those of you interested in reading the study for yourself you can find it here. *PDF File

 

New study concludes that “colonic irrigation” does not work and could be damaging.

Pic of Charlie Brown.

I'm right there with you on that one, Chuck.

It seems shoving a hose up your ass and flooding your bowels with water doesn’t have any practical health benefits at all.  Not only that, but according to the study done at Georgetown University, it could have a number of adverse health effects ranging from minor stuff like nausea, cramping, and bloating all the way up to renal failure and possibly even death:

Lead author Dr. Ranit Mishori, a physician at the university, said, “There can be serious consequences for those who engage in colon cleansing whether they have the procedure done at a spa or perform it at home.”

She added, “Colon cleansing products in the form of laxatives, teas, powders and capsules … tout benefits that don’t exist.”

The report, which looked at 20 previous studies on colonic irrigation published in medical literature over the past decade, said that as well as no evidence of any benefits, the spas and clinics administering the treatment have no significant medical training.

via Colonic irrigation does not work, US scientists say | Herald Sun.

Of course this really shouldn’t be news. The idea of showering the inside of your shitter stretches all the way back to the ancient Egyptians and it maintained a certain level of popularity among the medical community right up until the early 20th century. Around 1919 a publication in the Journal of the American Medical Association dismissed the theory of “auto-intoxication” — which colonics were supposed to be a treatment for — as being full of shit. Colonics soon fell out of favor with most people with the exception of fans of some very kinky fetish porn. There is one situation in which a colonic is still performed by the medical industry today and that’s usually just prior to a colonoscopy, but the idea of doing it to cleanse the body of “toxins” is pure [bull]shit.

Which, of course, means it’s enjoying a comeback among proponents of “alternative medicine” hence why the folks at Georgetown University felt the need to take another look at the research done on it. And that is at best a waste of time as the Alties are unlikely to be swayed by a report from scientists that disputes anything they hold dear.

Still, it never hurts to try and talk sense to the woo-beholden among us. Every once and a while one of them might listen.

If you buy organic water you’re a fucking idiot.

Bullshit in a bottle.

Sometimes I despair over the huge number of people who have no ethical issues with latching onto the latest buzzword to try and scam people with bullshit products. It doesn’t help that the general public is aware of said buzzwords, but doesn’t generally understand what they really mean.

Take the word “organic.” For a lot of people that word is synonymous with “natural” which they assume means that it’s good for you.  Among the health food conscious, “organic” has been a buzzword for years so it’s no surprise that it’s slapped on all sorts of products that aren’t truly organic. Take, for example, bottled water:

Organic Water: A New Marketing Wave : Shots – Health Blog : NPR

Perched on a white tablecloth we noticed some very sleek water bottles, labeled Illanllyr SOURCE. A serious guy named Eric Ewell eagerly offered us a taste, “Try this pristine organic water.” We choked back a giggle. Organic? Really?

As the company’s website says, “Illanllyr … comes from our sources beneath certified organic fields in west Wales in the UK.” So, Ewell says, the water has never been tainted with chemicals, making it organic as it as it emerges from the ground.

Ewell is full of shit. First off, water is a chemical. Most of us don’t think of it as a chemical, but it is so to say that it’s “untainted with chemicals” is technically untrue. Perhaps that’s nitpicky, but it’s also true that water from natural aquifers often contains other trace chemicals that occur naturally in the environment.

Second, water contains no carbon and is not the product of decay or capable of decay so it is not an organic material, which is part of what defines something as being “organic.” The fact that they extract their water through a “certified organic field” does nothing to make the water organic.

Now perhaps the standards for labeling something as organic in the U.K. are vastly different than here in the U.S., but according to the USDA both water and salt can not be certified as organic:

Can salt & water be certified as organic under the NOP?

No. Salt and water cannot be certified as organic. They must also be excluded when calculating the percentage of organically produced ingredients.

I could only find one place online offering the product and I’m not going to link to them, but apparently this stuff sells for $1.59 for a 11.2 ounce bottle (and Google Shopping estimates that with taxes and shipping your total jumps to $11.41 a bottle!). That’s roughly $18.17 a gallon!

Granted, all bottle water is ridiculously overpriced, but here you’re paying extra for bullshit claims that add nothing to the product other than cost. But damn if those bottles aren’t purty!

Sadly, it doesn’t appear these guys are the only ones trying to market organic water. If you buy any of them you have Cheez Whiz for brains.

“Pet psychics” now pass as legitimate columnists in supposedly serious newspapers.

Catherine Ferguson learning that this horse used to be Abraham Lincoln. What are the odds??

Not to suggest that crap like this is why newspapers are dying a slow death, but I’m sure it doesn’t help. It seems you can write into The Jersey Journal for a reading from a “Pet Psychic” who will reveal your pets’ innermost thoughts and dreams:

My 9-year-old cat Lotus lives the good life in that she sleeps and eats all day. My question for you is as follows: She tends to meow and twitch a lot when she sleeps. I’ve often wondered if she is reliving a previous life. Could this be the case?

By now I’m sure you can guess that the “Pet Psychic” is going to answer in the affirmative, but you’ll never guess what one of Lotus’ past lives was actually spent as:

Lotus tells me that you are very wise, in general. But, she is quick to add that you are way off base this time. She does admit to having a past life as a Roman general, but that’s not what she’s viewing when she sleeps.

Got that? Kitty used to be people and an important people she was! But that’s not what she’s dreaming about:

Instead, she is frequently living scenes of great conquest in animal form. She is a tiger, or sometimes another big cat, stalking then pouncing on her prey. She is proud to wind up with hard-to-catch, but delicious fresh food.

Well isn’t that just a stunning revelation. Well, no, it’s not.

Here’s the great thing about being a Pet Psychic: You can make up whatever bullshit story you want and the one person who could call bullshit on you… can’t because they’re an animal now. So go wild and claim whatever nonsense enters your head! Fluffy was once Cleopatra! Tickles used to be a famous 18th century German brewmaster!

Apparently the Pet Psychic in question is Catherine Ferguson who advertises herself as a psychic for pets and people as well as a Reiki master, and she has a PH.D (probably in advanced bullshitting). Her fees for readings run from $25 for one question via email or snail mail for approximately 15 minutes worth of a reading at a limit of 15o words to $90 for a 60-minute consultation in person or via phone, e-mail or snail mail. That’s roughly a buck and a half per minute which is a good rate of pay if you can manage to bullshit well enough to get it.

Here’s the thing I don’t get: Since when is this something worth putting in a newspaper? Granted, I haven’t subscribed to a paper in years so maybe I’m unaware of the sudden legitimacy of “psychics” as columnists, but it doesn’t seem like the sort of thing that would encourage people to take your paper seriously. Given that I just wrote a similar entry a week or so ago about a local news website, Ann Arbor.com, also putting woo in its pet advice column, I guess I must be totally out of touch with current trends in pet care. But at least in the latter example it wasn’t a full-time woo column like this one appears to be.

However, there is once again a silver lining in the comments to this article the first of which reads: “Oh, for #$%&’s sake.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

I didn’t write about the Astrology uproar over changing signs…

Pic of Astrology for Dummies cover.

A more accurate title I can't begin to imagine.

… because, despite what some practitioners would claim, astrology is nothing but pure bullshit.

Just like tasseomancy (reading tea leaves), palmistry, cartomancy (tarot), extispicy (animal entrails), clairvoyance, I Ching, kau cim, numerology, scrying, spirit boards, and — yes — even prayer.

It’s all bullshit bought into by gullible people caught in the grip of wishful thinking. None of it will tell you anything useful about what the future holds any more than pulling random guesses out of your ass.

So the signs have moved and there’s a new one that’s been added called Ophiuchus (which isn’t really new at all) and tons of people are suddenly having some sort of identity crises because all these years they thought they were a Virgo and now suddenly they’re a Leo and no wonder their horoscopes have been so disappointing because they’ve been reading the wrong one for their entire life and trying to do what it says and why didn’t they realize it must be the wrong one…

Isn’t it bad enough that surveys suggest 25% of Americans actually believe in astrology? Did we really need every news organization to devote so much time and attention to the topic? Was there really nothing else of any importance going on that day that you felt the need to spend so much air time and column space on what the ramifications of this change would be for the average American?

I can tell you what the impact will be for the average American: Absolutely nothing. Because it’s bullshit.

Kimberly Daniels warns us of “The Danger in Celebrating Halloween.”

Update: The original entry on CBN.com has been yanked after just about everyone on the Internet noticed it and started linking to it. So I’ve updated the link to point to the article’s home on the Charisma magazine website.

Nope, this isn’t another article in the yearly tradition of warning you about checking your Halloween candy before eating it or wearing costumes that restrict your vision. This one comes from the founder of Kimberly Daniels Ministries International and was published on CBN.com Charisma Magazine and it starts off with a question:

Halloween—October 31—is considered a holiday in the United States. In fact, it rivals Christmas with regard to how widely celebrated it is. Stores that sell only Halloween-related paraphernalia open up a few months before the day and close shortly after it ends. But is Halloween a holiday that Christians should be observing?

Almost any time an article starts off like that you can pretty much bet the bank the answer is going to be a resounding “No.” Chances are the person writing it is a religious nutcase who is out to rain on someone’s parade and Mrs. Daniels doesn’t disappoint:

The word “holiday” means “holy day.” But there is nothing holy about Halloween. The root word of Halloween is “hallow,” which means “holy, consecrated and set apart for service.” If this holiday is hallowed, whose service is it set apart for? The answer to that question is very easy—Lucifer’s!

The first couple of sentences start off OK, but then she dives off the deep end with the last sentence in the paragraph. Halloween grew out of old pagan rituals and has nothing to do with Lucifer outside of the minds of crazy Christian fundamentalists. But I’m sure that little fact won’t stop this lady from going on to weave a story full of bullshit.

Lucifer is a part of the demonic godhead. Remember, everything God has, the devil has a counterfeit. Halloween is a counterfeit holy day that is dedicated to celebrating the demonic trinity of : the Luciferian Spirit (the false father); the Antichrist Spirit (the false holy spirit); and the Spirit of Belial (the false son).

Did you know Lucifer has his own Trinity? That’s news to me and I’ve read the Bible several times over. But maybe I missed that part so let’s skip ahead a little and see if we can’t get to what the real dangers of celebrating Halloween are:

The key word in discussing Halloween is “dedicated.” It is dedicated to darkness and is an accursed season. During Halloween, time-released curses are always loosed. A time-released curse is a period that has been set aside to release demonic activity and to ensnare souls in great measure.

[…] During this period demons are assigned against those who participate in the rituals and festivities. These demons are automatically drawn to the fetishes that open doors for them to come into the lives of human beings. For example, most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches.

Hoo boy, we’re into some Grade A Crazy now!

Really? Witches? You’re going to seriously suggest that the candy being sold at this time has been prayed over by witches transforming it into some sort of Tylenol delayed-release of evil?

I do not buy candy during the Halloween season. Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons cannot tell the difference.

Yep, she’s seriously going to suggest just that. So there’s one of the great dangers of celebrating Halloween. If you eat any candy that’s been prayed over by witches you’ll be possessed by demons too dumb to tell the difference between candy you begged for and candy you bought for yourself at the store.

But she’s not done with the crazy just yet. She’s got lots of it and she’s handing it out in lieu of treats this year:

Even the colors of Halloween (orange, brown and dark red) are dedicated. These colors are connected to the fall equinox, which is around the 20th or 21st of September each year and is sometimes called “Mabon.” During this season witches are celebrating the changing of the seasons from summer to fall. They give praise to the gods for the demonic harvest. They pray to the gods of the elements (air, fire, water and earth).

Well at least she got the name right, though Mabon is celebrated by neo-pagans and has nothing to do with the Christian concepts of Lucifer or demons or a “demonic harvest.” The name for the Autumnal Equinox was coined by Aidan Kelly around 1970 and is a reference to Mabon ap Modron who is the Welsh personification of youth. Ironically if you do your research you’ll learn that in Celtic lore Mabon ap Modron has more to do with rebirth, the start of Summer, than the Autumn harvest, but when you’re making up your own religion based off old pagan ideas no one ever said you couldn’t move things around a bit. After all it’s not like the Christians didn’t move Jesus’ birth to the other end of the year so they could usurp a major pagan holiday.

Continuing…

Mother earth is highly celebrated during the fall demonic harvest. Witches praise mother earth by bringing her fruits, nuts and herbs. Demons are loosed during these acts of worship. When nice church folk lay out their pumpkins on the church lawn, fill their baskets with nuts and herbs, and fire up their bonfires, the demons get busy. They have no respect for the church grounds. They respect only the sacrifice and do not care if it comes from believers or non-believers.

Gathering around bonfires is a common practice in pagan worship. As I remember, the bonfires that I attended during homecoming week when I was in high school were always in the fall. I am amazed at how we ignorantly participate in pagan, occult rituals.

Apparently if you worship Mother Earth with fruits, nuts, and herbs you unleash demons. This is yet another amazing bit of nonsense she pulled out of her ass. The second paragraph makes me wonder if she participates in any of the common Christmas traditions of decorating a Christmas tree or kissing under mistletoe or exchanging gifts as those are all pagan rituals from Yuletide on which Christmas is based. Considering how much bullshit she spreads around to paint Wiccans and Neo-pagans as devil worshipers I can only imagine she has just as much bullshit to justify the pagan-based rituals she does partake in.

The gods of harvest that the witches worship during their fall festivals are the Corn King and the Harvest Lord. The devil is too stupid to understand that Jesus is the Lord of the Harvest 365 days a year. But we cannot be ignorant of the devices of the enemy. When we pray, we bind the powers of the strong men that people involved in the occult worship.

It’s clear now, with her citation of the Corn King and the Harvest Lord, that Mrs. Daniels is engaging in the age old Christian tradition of painting the Pagans as being Satanists, which just isn’t true in the slightest. I’m sure Mrs. Daniels would be more than offended if a pagan were to portray her religion as a sick zombie worshiping death-cult (which, depending on how you look at it, is a fair description) yet she has no problems portraying the pagans as evil people intent on unleashing demonic forces on unwitting Christians. Hypocrisy is not a value I remember Jesus endorsing.

In case you don’t think she’s really portraying pagans as evil all we have to do to see this is true is to continue reading:

Halloween is much more than a holiday filled with fun and tricks or treats. It is a time for the gathering of evil that masquerades behind the fictitious characters of Dracula, werewolves, mummies and witches on brooms. The truth is that these demons that have been presented as scary cartoons actually exist. I have prayed for witches who are addicted to drinking blood and howling at the moon.

Got that? She’s prayed with real, live witches that were addicted to drinking blood and howling at the moon. How can you not take her seriously?

Incidentally, it’s interesting to read what the neo-pagans have to say about the Corn King and the Harvest Lord:

Yet another kingly God from Wiccan traditions is the Corn King, who grows during the hot summer months only to give himself up for the good of others when harvest comes. The death of the Corn King is a powerful image of sacrifice—of one who lays down his life for the welfare of those he loves. Many vegetation Gods play this sacrificial role, one well-known example being Dumuzi, the Sumerian consort of the Goddess Inanna. In most mythic stories, the sacrificial God dies and is reborn at the beginning of the next season. Of course, the theme of the dying-and-reviving God found it’s most enduring form in the mythic story of the death and resurrection of the Christian God, Jesus of Nazareth.

[…] HARVEST LORD is an ancient symbol of the Slain God, the willing sacrifice, the sacred king, and sacred seed. He is the Green Man seen as the cycle of Nature in the plant kingdom. The Harvest Lord is cut down and his seeds planted into the earth so that life may continue and be ever more abundant. This mythos is symbolic of the planted seed nourished beneath the soil and the ascending sprout that becomes the harvested plant by the time of the next Autumnal Equinox.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that both of these pagan myths sound remarkably like the Christian story of Jesus. If you’ve studied ancient religions to any degree you will be more than aware that the idea of a God sacrificing himself for the sake of his creation—sometimes in human form and sometimes not—is a recurring idea that predates Christianity. There’s a lot of such myths out there and the Christian version is hardly novel.

The point being that there’s clearly nothing evil or demonic about the pagan myths. That, in fact, they express some of the same ideas that the Christian myth does. Mrs. Daniel’s attempts to twist them into something evil and demonic not only does a disservice to a harmless holiday, but is an act she would never tolerate against her own beliefs.

But she won’t let that fact get in the way with cranking the crazy knob all the way up to 11:

The word “occult” means “secret.” The danger of Halloween is not in the scary things we see but in the secret, wicked, cruel activities that go on behind the scenes. These activities include:

  • Sex with demons
  • Orgies between animals and humans
  • Animal and human sacrifices
  • Sacrificing babies to shed innocent blood
  • Rape and molestation of adults, children and babies
  • Revel nights
  • Conjuring of demons and casting of spells
  • Release of “time-released” curses against the innocent and the ignorant.

Another abomination that goes on behind the scenes of Halloween is necromancy, or communication with the dead. Séances and contacting spirit guides are very popular on Halloween, so there is a lot of darkness lurking in the air.

Sex with demons? Orgies with humans and animals? More Tylenol-like time-release curses? Man, apparently I’ve been getting invited to all the boring Halloween parties!

It should come as no surprise that Mrs. Daniels offers absolutely nothing in the way of evidence to back up any of those claims. It’s just more bullshit she made up to paint the holiday and pagans in a bad light. I’d love for her or one of her followers to show me anything that remotely supports the claims she’s making here. They can’t because it doesn’t happen.

The rest of her column is the standard Bible quotes and calls for people to repent that usually closes out such idiocy. There’s a certain irony, from an atheist standpoint, of watching one delusional person attack the delusions of a different group and try to paint them as evil.

The real evil here is being committed by Mrs. Daniels who sees nothing wrong with spreading lies and demonizing another religion’s beliefs to score points with her fellow believers. If she really believes the nonsense she’s spewing then she’s arguably crazy. If she doesn’t then she’s classically wicked. Sadly, she’s hardly alone in her approach.

Mike Hickmon of besthomemadenergy.com is a comment spamming asshole.

This is going to be very long so bear with me.

A little under two weeks ago I got the following email:

Subject: Link spam issues
From: Mike Hickmon

les

You probably do not realize it but your site has spam linked my site with hundreds of links causing my rankings to drop.

can you please remove all of the links from your site pointing to my site:  http://besthomemadeenergy.com

sincerely
Mike

He’s right, I didn’t realize it as I can’t recall ever linking to a URL that at first glance sounds like it’s at best full of dubious claims and at worst a scam. So I did a few searches on SEB’s entries and comments and there weren’t any links to http://besthomemadeenergy.com to be found. So I sent back a reply asking Mike to supply me with a specific entry to look at as I wasn’t finding anything at all. Here’s the reply I got back:

Les

Go to:  http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/search        and type in:  http://besthomemadeenergy.com

click on the inlinks button and this should come up:  http://siteexplorer.search.yahoo.com/search?p=http%3A%2F%2Fbesthomemadeenergy.com&fr=sfp&bwm=i

as regards to how the links got put there i am not sure, but it is hurting my rankings

Thanks for the mega fast response!

Mike

So I tried that and there are, indeed, several links to http://besthomemadeenergy.com from SEB listed there. Entries included one about a Spiderman comic, one about the fourth season of Doctor Who, one about Microsoft’s web-based version of Messenger, one about the PS3, and one about a true believer murdering an atheist. All of which were clean of any links to http://besthomemadeenergy.com.

There are other links from SEB back to http://besthomemadeenergy.com listed in that Yahoo! Site Explorer search and you have to go through quite a few of them before you find one where the topic might somehow have anything to do with energy production. I was at a loss as to why so many unrelated entries would be showing up in the search, however, as all the links were clean. Then a possibility occurred to me and I sent the following reply:

Mike,

I’ve checked every link on every page that shows up in your Yahoo listing. There aren’t any links in any of the content I’ve produced or that my commenters have left that point directly to your site.

The only thing I can think of is you must be using Google AdSense for your advertising in which case ads for your site may have popped up on SEB from time to time. For example at least one of the ads that popped up while I was checking was for http://www.power4home.com/ for reasons I cannot begin to fathom as the topic of the entry it was on had nothing to do with energy.

You probably need to check things out with Google AdSense. They probably have some way for you to define URLs you don’t want your ads to show up on. The links aren’t from anything I’ve put on my site so I can’t help you.

Les

At this point I was satisfied that I had done all that I needed to do. Mike felt otherwise:

Les

That is weird, i have nothing to do with google AdSense.  Well Keep looking to it.

Mike

Keep looking into it? To what end I wondered. It wasn’t really my problem in the first place and I was merely being courteous checking into it. OK, I have to admit I was also satisfying my own curiosity, but the point still remains that I have very little reason to give a shit if I’ve checked my entries and found them to be clean.

So today I get the following email in my inbox from Mike:

Les

I found out how this started.  I hire a guy from India to do blog posting and on 9/9/09 he posted to the below page.  you must have erased it which is OK but somehow i got 250 links from your site.  i don’t want to beat a dead horse but if there is anything that you can do i would appreciate it.

https://stupidevilbastard.com/index/seb/comments/guy_who_invented_the_super_soaker_has_a_new_high_efficency_solar_power_cell/

Mike

Holy jumping Christ on a pogo stick! This fucker just admitted he’s a comment spammer! OK, technically he’s not doing the spamming himself, but he is paying someone else to do it which is just as bad in my book. Without people like him there’s nothing for the comment spammers to spam. The reason so many entries linked back to his site is probably due to Yahoo! crawling SEB before I got around to removing the spam and the comment showing up in the recent comments side bar on every page Yahoo! hit.

I don’t know why this possibility didn’t occur to me beforehand, but I didn’t stop long enough to think about it. It was at this point that I took a look at http://besthomemadeenergy.com itself. It’s a small site consisting of links to other websites that are selling DIY energy creation kits such as solar panels and windmills with outrageous claims about how effective they are and how little they cost. Mike’s site includes “reviews” of each of the five sites he links to and, not surprisingly, they’re all rated five stars. Mike Hickmon is an affiliate parasite comment spammer.

It’s a simple concept: You find a bunch of websites that offer affiliate payments for every click you send them and then you set up your own website with said link backs and glowing reviews of the sites in question. Then you spam the living fuck out of every website you can in hopes your page rank goes up and generates enough click throughs to make you a millionaire for little real effort. It looks like Mike is making use of ClickBank which a lot of scam websites make use of for their affiliate programs. Not every affiliate program ClickBank handles is fraudulent, but it tends to be very popular with the people running hustles and they have enough people using them that I’m sure policing all the accounts has to be a nightmare.

Needless to say I was now pissed off and I sent back the following reply:

Mike,

So, in other words, you hired a spammer to spam a bunch of blogs and he picked one you don’t want to be associated with? I’ve got two words for you now: Tough Shit. You deserve what you get for hiring an unscrupulous asshole in the first place. Comment spam is something I am constantly cleaning up after and I have absolutely no sympathy for anyone who makes use of it. Here’s a suggestion: Stop using spammers to advertise your site and you won’t have to worry about which ones your link shows up on.

Not only do I not give a shit that it’s hurting your page ranking, but now I’m highly motivated to look into what you’re selling and see if it’s a scam itself and then writing a nice big post about it with links back to your site just to make sure the page rank is nice and high. You want links to your site from blogs? I’ll give you some links. I am literally stunned at the unmitigated gall you’re exhibiting here.

Les

A Google search for http://besthomemadeenergy.com returns some 67,700 websites that link back to it. A good portion of which is because they contain comment spam left by Mike’s Indian spammer. They made sure to hit any site they could find dealing with topics such as green energy or home improvement or do it yourself, but they also hit any site that so much as mentions in passing anything to do with energy such as SEB.

Of course there is a chance that the sites Mike is pushing on his affiliate parasite page are legit so I took a look at one of them. He ranks Earth4Energy as the number 1 best site so let’s check it out. Right on the front page we get the following in big bold type:

How to make your own solar panels for less than $200

Did you know? The cost of solar panels can be slashed by making them at home? You have probably read about it or seen it on TV, but have you tried it yourself?

“I made my own solar panel. It was simple and saved me a lot of money!”

Right there you should have a shit load of red flags waving and it should only get worse the further you read down the page.  If you’ve been to similar websites before then the pitch is very familiar. Lots of noise made about the cost of “traditional” solar systems for your home being in the $28,000 to $30,000 range followed by claims that you can make your own solar panels for $200. Testimonials interspersed between from people who claim to have made upwards of 2 panels for $100! Amazing! Eventually you get to the pitch for the “instruction kit” they’ve put together which they claim to sell for $246 but which you can get through a (supposedly) limited time deal of only $49.97! HOW AMAZING IS THAT?!?

It’s bullshit is what it is and they’re pushing it hard. If you try to close your browser or navigate away from the page it pops up a window pleading with you to reconsider that you have to close before you can leave the site. If you’re skeptical, like me, the next thing you do is type in earth4energy scam into Google. The very first link is to this page: RIPOFF REPORT: Earth4Energy Scam – Earth4Energy Review – Revealing the truth about the Earth4Energy product. Sounds like a skeptical look at the Earth4Energy claims, right? Except that it’s not. They don’t even try to maintain a skeptical tone for more than a paragraph and it’s clear by the time you get done with the page that this site is probably constructed by the same folks who own the Earth4Energy website. You’ll find several similar supposedly skeptical reviews such as this one at Ezine@rticles. Speaking of which: Has anyone seen an entry at Ezine@rticles that wasn’t spam of some sort? It seems to be a favorite of spammers as I’ve removed literally hundreds of comment spams that link to that site. So much so that I have since blacklisted Ezine@rticles completely.

As it turns out this is a technique for selling questionable products called Internet Saturation Marketing. The basic idea is that in addition to the site you’re selling your craptastic products on, you go out and register a whole bunch of other sites that you then use to make your craptastic product site look legit. In particular you want to snap up any variations on your sites’ name with the words “sucks” or “scam” added onto it to ensure any of your unsatisfied customers don’t get them first. Then you install a blog or a generic website that claims to be skeptical of your craptastic products and is surprised to find they really do work. Then you sign up with the ClickBank people so you can have an affiliate program that will help to spread your garbage even further. Even with all that effort it doesn’t take too long before you can find a few sites that are actually critical of Earth4Energy, but it really shouldn’t take much more than a read through of the site to determine this for yourself.

But all of that is getting away from my good buddy, Mike Hickmon. It seems trying to push DIY energy scams isn’t enough for old Mikey as I learned from his Twitter page. Mike’s been a very busy affiliate parasite with websites devoted to cats, fish, dogs, and pets in general all of which use a variation on “The X Whisperer” to cash in on the popularity of that particular phrase. You’ll just love the disclaimer he has for his pet sites. Here’s the disclaimer for his The Pet Whisperer site:

Pet-Whisperer.com provides articles and information for educational and entertainment purposes only.

Furthermore, by using this site, you agree that Pet-Whisperer.com cannot be held responsible – directly or indirectly, in full or in part – for any damages or losses that may be suffered as a result of taking action on the information published on Pet-Whisperer.com

You assume any and all risks associated with any actions taken as a result of reading Pet-Whisperer.com

Due Diligence

Pet-Whisperer.com provides “reviews” and “recommendations”, as well as outgoing hyperlinks for a variety of People and record finder products & solutions, including a direct link to the company’s website.

Every effort has been made to accurately represent the third-party solutions, products and websites referenced on Pet-Whisperer.com, and ongoing efforts will be made on a consistent basis to ensure that the accuracy of this information remains current and up-to-date.

However, Pet-Whisperer.com is ultimately not in control of any third-party company or website, and cannot necessarily guarantee that a given review, recommendation or opinion of a third party website or product is going to be accurate at any given time due to a number of factors, including – but not limited to – the third-party’s website hosting conditions, changes in ownership or staff, changes of the company’s policies or activities, and other unforeseeable factors.

Therefore, by using this site in any capacity, you agree that it is your sole responsibility to do your own due diligence in order to protect yourself prior to using any third-party (non- Pet-Whisperer.com) product, service or advice.

Pet-Whisperer.com is not responsible for any damages or losses that may potentially result by accessing/using a website URL published on Pet-Whisperer.com. You must do your own due-diligence when visiting another company’s website or using another company’s product.

In other words: “I know the products I’m helping other people to sell in hopes of garnering a few pennies in affiliate fees are probably bullshit that are most-likely harmless, but on the off-chance you kill your pet with any of them I put this disclaimer here so you can’t sue me. Yes I am ironically telling you that you should seek out information on whether the products I’m pushing are any good while at the same time putting out misinformation claiming that they are good and then covering my ass just in case they aren’t any good. Funny old world, ain’t it?” The disclaimer also lies in suggesting that it provides, and I quote, “a direct link to the company’s website.” Mike doesn’t provide a direct link as all his links go through the aforementioned ClickBank service. He can’t directly link to the company’s websites because he wouldn’t garner any affiliate fees that way.

Based on his Twitter page Mike Hickmon has dozens of affiliate parasite websites set up for all manner of craptastic products. I know they’re all his because he shows up in all the domain registrations I checked:

Registered through: GoDaddy.com, Inc. (http://www.godaddy.com)
Domain Name: PET-WHISPERER.COM
Created on: 05-Jan-09
Expires on: 05-Jan-10
Last Updated on: 05-Jan-09

Administrative Contact:
Hickmon, Michael goebusiness@gmail.com
12019 herman dr
riverside, California 92505
United States
(951) 687-2129

I’m half tempted to give Mike a call and tell him how I feel about his business undertaking and comment spamming ways directly, but I think this rather amazingly lengthy blog rant is more than enough. I’ve made a point of linking to his http://besthomemadeenergy.com site repeatedly to ensure that Yahoo! and Google know that I’m linking to it. I think others should know about Mike Hickmon’s businesses and how they push questionable products. He’s not exactly a scammer himself, but he’s helping the scammers and cluttering up websites with spam in doing so. There’s certainly nothing illegal about what Mike is doing, but that doesn’t mean it’s legit.

So yeah, as you can tell, I’m pretty pissed off about this and I’ve spent probably way more time and energy looking into it and then ranting about it than I should have. However, if it stops one person from falling for the bullshit being pushed by assholes like Mike Hickmon then it’ll be worth it.

Irony Defined: Skin sanitizer recalled due to bacterial contamination.

If you’ve got any skin sanitizer products produced by Clarcon Biological Chemistry Laboratory Inc. of Roy, Utah then you may want to throw them out. Seems the FDA has issued a warning that the products are contaminated with bacteria:

Analyses of several samples of over-the-counter topical antimicrobial skin sanitizer and skin protectant products revealed high levels of various bacteria, including some associated with unsanitary conditions, according to the agency. Some of these bacteria can cause opportunistic infections of the skin and underlying tissues and could result in medical or surgical attention as well as permanent damage.

Examples of products that should be discarded include Citrushield Lotion, Dermasentials DermaBarrier, Dermassentials by Clarcon, Antimicrobial Hand Sanitizer, Iron Fist Barrier Hand Treatment, Skin Shield Restaurant, Skin Shield Industrial, Skin Shield Beauty Salon Lotion, Total Skin Care Beauty and Total Skin Care Work.

The FDA said its findings, following a recent inspection of the Clarcon facility, are particularly concerning because the products are promoted as antimicrobial agents that claim to treat open wounds and damaged skin and protect against various infectious diseases. The inspection uncovered serious deviations from FDA’s Good Manufacturing Practice requirements, the agency said.

Looking at the Clarcon Labs website it doesn’t take long to see these people are selling bullshit products. Take, for example, this description of their Citrushield Lotion:

The CitruShield solution has been developed by professional dermatologists with the purpose of protecting your skin while healing and moisturizing at the same time.  The solution protects the skin by first acting as a Anti-Microbial killing 99.9999 percent of not only germs but, bacteria like MRSA, C-Dif, staphs, gram positive and negative bacteria, germs, salmonella, ecoli, parasites, fungus, molds, and viruses continuously with only one application meaning you don’t need to keep re-applying until your skin exfoliates or until you use harsh soaps.

OK right off the bat we’ve got ridiculous claims and buzzword bingo going on. The 99.9999% claim is pure hype and is clearly false considering the FDA’s findings. I love the bit about how it kills “not only germs but, bacteria…”. Bacteria are microorganisms a.k.a. germs, but that doesn’t stop them from mentioning “gram positive and negative bacteria” later, which is a distinction only meaningful to microbiologists. (If you’re curious, most of the bacteria that are pathogenic in humans are gram negative but there’s a handful that are gram positive.) Then they mention germs again in case you missed it the first time. Germs are, by their very nature, parasites so it seems a little redundant to use that term. The claim that you don’t need to reapply it until your skin exfoliates is odd as you’re constantly exfoliating so how would you know you’ve exfoliated too much and need to reapply?

Additionally CitruShield repells caustic substancers like dirt, grease, oil, glue, paint, acids*, fibers, resins, inks, chemicals, and all similar products out of the skin’s pores; making it possible to remove these substances off of your skin with just a couple drops of water and rubbing your hands together creating friction then rinsing. Finally, as a moisturizer it repairs the acid mantel of your skin and relieves the problems of eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis. It sounds impossible but it’s real, just try it and you’ll see how easy it is to keep your hands healthy and clean by using this gentle product.

Since when is dirt caustic? Or grease, oil, fibers, inks, or paint? Some acids and resins, sure, but “chemicals” is a very broad term. In the next sentence it sounds like they suggest washing your hands to get rid of these substances which makes one wonder why you’d need their product. If CitruShield “repells” [sic] acid out of the skin’s pores then how does it repair the skin’s acid mantle?  Not to mention the fact that the only references I can find to the skin’s acid mantle are from questionable dermatology products. It also doesn’t help that they misspell the word as “mantle” which is something you have over your fireplace.

As for the claims that it “relieves the problems of eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis.” Well, dermatitis is a very broad term that covers all manner of skin inflammations including eczema, which is ALSO a very broad term, so having both in the same sentence is redundancy for sake of sounding impressive. Moisturizing your skin is a common treatment for a number of different forms of dermatitis, including psoriasis, so if the product actually moisturizes then it may help, but then so would any brand of hand moisturizer. Though the implication in the breathless ad-copy suggests it’s more akin to a cure than just a relief from symptoms.

That was just the first paragraph on that page and the more you read the more the aroma of bullshit will start to invade your nostrils. They go on to suggest that you should use this product in place of standard soap and water in part because “its base is biological and can be killed by using other chemicals” and it’s “better than a regular antibacterial soap, because if your skin is damaged from using other hand cleansers, this product will promote healing of cracks and cuts on your hands.” They don’t bother to mention how it accomplishes all this, you just have to take their word for it. Oh, and the word of the people giving testimonials. You gotta have testimonials for a product like this and, of course, they’re all amazed at how good it is.

And that little asterisk they put next to the word acid in the first paragraph? It points to the following disclaimer:

*There are many types of Acids that are designed to perform certain functions.  Some more caustic and dangerous than others, some that produce extreme gases that can cause illness and even death.  Additionally, each person has different chemistry and can react differently to acids and its gases and should be very careful how they deal with acid.  In as much that Clarcon is not sure how a certain type of acid may be used and in what format nor are they aware of the physical chemistry of each individual it is recommended that you research the type of acid you will be using and how and understand your chemistry and still take precautions against the use of acid.  The miss application of CitruShield or the “wearing off’” of CitruShield could leave you exposed to the effects of acid; therefore Clarcon Biological Chemistry Labs assume no responsibility for injuries that may occur when someone may be exposed to acid as there are too many variables that can take place when dealing with acids and/or improper application of CitruShield.

SEB Translation: If you spread CitruShield all over your naked body and then go swimming in a vat of hydrochloric acid, don’t come crying to us. The fact that you’re stupid enough to buy our products tells us you might be stupid enough to try such a stunt and then sue us.

“Airborne” cold remedy settles yet another lawsuit.

Back in March I wrote about the makers of Airborne settling a class action lawsuit to the tune of $23 million for misleading claims that their product diminishes or prevents the common cold. Now the company has reach a second settlement this time filed by 32 Attorney Generals against the company for making misleading claims. The award is a paltry $7 million dollars and a promise to stop making health claims:

As a part of its multistate settlement, Airborne Health Inc. agreed to discontinue claims about the “health benefit, performance, efficacy or safety” of its products in preventing and treating ailments, Legal Newsline reported Tuesday.

“Consumers who purchased Airborne to treat their colds were not getting their money’s worth as there is no proof that Airborne can lessen your cold symptoms,” Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said.

[…] The attorneys general lawsuit, filed by Bob Cooper of Tennessee, claimed Airborne’s marketing materials implied that its products had been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“Airborne dramatically misrepresented its products as cold remedies without any scientific evidence to back up its claims,” California Attorney General Brown said. “Under this agreement, the company will stop advertisements that suggest that its products are a cure for the common cold.”

Of course as part of the terms of the settlement the company doesn’t have to admit to any wrongdoing. So now you can expect to see new commercials for Airborne that are similar to the ones for “Head On”—another herbal supplement that got in trouble for claiming it cured headaches—wherein no specific claims are made about what the product does, but they encourage you to buy it anyway. Not that this will hurt the company in real way. Their estimated profits for the year 2006 alone is around $150 million so $7 million here and the $23 million back in March are but the cost of doing business with the overly credulous.

This is a shame as the product is potentially dangerous:

Airborne contains too much vitamin A. Two pills contains 10,000 IU, which is the maximum safe limit, but the instructions say to take three pills per day. So taken as directed Airborne contains more than the safe limit of vitamin A. This would also have to be added to vitamin A consumed in food, and of course many consumers may also be taking a multivitamin without realizing that Airborne is essentially just another vitamin pill itself.

Most folks won’t hear about this second settlement and for the True Believers it won’t matter if they do. Airborne will ride this out without much concern until someone is hurt and/or killed by the product.  Who knows? Even that might not be enough to get it pulled from the market.