May 31, 2008

How Interesting...

I was going to spend this post talking about the opposition to Bill C-51, a bill proposed to limit the health claims of "suplements" and some of the rather hysterical claims about the same, but it seems that the web site I was referring to ( has stopped functioning.

There are other sites that insist jackbooted government thugs will be kicking in the doors of anyone who plants garlic in their back yard, but StopC51 was a special place: it was a classic example of astroturf, having been started by Ian Stewart, the director of regulatory affairs at Truehope - a supplement company that claims multivitamins can eliminate mental disease. Specifically, their multivitamins can cure mental disease.

No mention of links between vitamin e and cancer, though. Or the 67 studies of 230,000 people showing the uselessness of taking "precautionary vitamins" to ward off disease. I used to do this (one multivitamin a day) for a couple years, but that's just not in my plans any more. Frankly, I didn't notice any diference when started and haven't noticed any difference since I quit.

I think I'll leave it to Michael Pollan:

"Don't eat anything your grandparents wouldn't recognise as food."

And that seems to be workingfor me.


posted by Thursday at 8:41 pm 0 comments

May 29, 2008

Macho Dogs and First Impressions

The Significant Other and I own a rottweiler (her choice - I prefer northern dogs) and he Count Yousef Lucky has been an absolute sweetheart, so long as other people aren't around. This makes him a bit of a challenge, as we do like having people over and his natural tendency to be very protective of his home and his humans. We don't really want to discourage this, but we do nee him to learn when such behaviour is appropriate; taking him for walks is easier now that he knows they are public access, and anyone can use them without being an affront to his manliness.

Meeting other dogs is a bit tricky, too; it's better when they don't have humans with them, as the dogs will work out who's what on their own without having to worry about protecting anything o picking up on their owner's nerves at meeting a rottie.

Some folks are quite good about it, though, and you can tell who has been around dogs and who simply owns one. Today, Lucky and I met a fellow named Tiger on the trail, and the owner and I decided to lt the two meet off-leash (they gotta be equals when they say hi, or don't bother). She was a little nervous, as Lucky is an alpha male even though neutered. I kept close enough to grab Lucky as much to comfort her as to reassure him that these two weren't a threat and we were perfectly happy to let them use the path (etc etc).

He approached an anxious Tiger with hackles up and head low, and Tiger held stll to let him sniff first. Lucky padded closer, tense but unagressive; he leaned in, and... Promptly started licking Tiger's penis.

Not the response anyone present expected, including an extremely nervous Tiger who had no idea where to turn at this point. The two humans were no use as we were both laughing too hard to call our dogs.

I'm not sure what this is going to do to the reputations of rottweilers as a breed, but for some reason the episode mde me think of an old Eddie Murphy routine...


posted by Thursday at 12:18 pm 0 comments

May 27, 2008

Picture This

You're a small town (pop. 2,400) person, living a small town life. One day, you notice the windows of the biggest employer in town are painted black: no one knows why.

One week later, nearly four hundred people are arrested. Many of those taken away had lived in the town a decade or more.

With timing that was oddly coincidental with an investigation into employee abuses by the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, a processing plant in Postville, Iowa has just had all their undocumented workers arrested. These are the same undocumented workers they were paying two dollars less than minimum wage; the same ones that weren't allowed to use the bathoom during 10-hour shifts; and the same ones management charged "immigrations fees" to, garnishing their already pathetic wages.

The employers don't seem to be facing any charges yet; they could still be coming, but don't provide as good a sound bite and 20-second video as black helecopters agents rolling heavy chains from steel buses.

Any guesses who's trying to put immigration back on the political map? Could it be... the same folks who are lagging so far behind that their opponents could field both their potential candidates, splitting their votes, and still win the next election?

It's quite the little story. Check the comments, too: a few of them are even worth reading.


posted by Thursday at 9:55 pm 0 comments


I've been intending to write a review of Dan Hurley's Natural Causes: Death, Lies and Politics in America's Vitamin and Herbal Supplement Industry (an excerpt here) for a while now, but trying to condense the sheer volume of information down to a simple blog post was damn near impossible: the ground he covers stretches from the original Clark Stanley Snake Oil Liniment (yes, there was a real "Snake Oil" salesman!) through the Wiley Act (AKA the Pure Food and Drug Act) in 1906 to the Kefauver-Harris Amendments (an insistence that drugs be shown safe before they can be sold - a response to the thalidomide disaster in Europe and, to a lesser degree, Canada) and the creation of the Office of Unconventional Medicine by Representative Tom Harkin.

Still, with Bill C-51 before Commons (it's an amendment to the Food and Drug Act), I'm feeling inspired. Even so, I'm going to limit myself to two parts of the story he covers: the people involved and the recent history of pesudo-health in the United States.

Perhaps the best of his historical revelations is the full chapter devoted to the origin of the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, which literally created a third category between "Food" and "Drug" - "Supplement" - which was subject to neither sets of rules that applied to the other. Hurley gives the example of lamb's brain: put it in a food, and you will have to prove it will not harm your customers; put it in a drug, and you will have to prove not only that it does no harm, but also that it is effective in relieving whatever ailment you claim it does.

Anyone find either of these terms excessively restrictive, or even unreasonable?

By wrapping lamb's brain in cellophane and calling it a supplement, on the other hand, you could move it to market immediately - no evidence of any kind (beneficial or otherwise) being necessary. In fact, the government has to prove that a supplement is harmful before it can be removed from store shelves. Given that there are an estimated 29,000 various supplements available just in the United States, there are years of sales before even the tiniest percentage can be tested for the first time. Meaning a lot of unproven and unknown drugs can be sold, with a lot of money coming the other way.

Speaking of which, one of the recurring themes in Natural Causes is the fascinating tales of the founders of some of the largest supplement companies:

Gary Caton, founder of Alpha Omega, was a counterfeiter;
The founders of Metabolife had previously been impisoned for running a methamphetamine lab;
Robert Occhifinto, whose company (NVE Pharaceuticals) sold ephedrine pills deliberately named after street terms for speed (Yellow Jackets and Black Beauties) served 18 months for importing hashish before he realized where the real money was;
Kevin Trudeau had spent two years in prison for larceny (cheque and credit card fraud) before his $2.5 million in fines for making false and misleading claims;
A. Glenn Braswell, founder of the Journal of Longevity, has had: 138 complaints of false representation lodged against him by the U.S. Postal Service; mail fraud, perjury, and tax evasion convictions; been sentenced to 3 years in prison; and over $11 million in fines levied against him and lost $3.5 million in seized assets. His magazine promoted and reviewed (always positively) supplements manufactured and sold by subsidiaries of GBData Systems, a company owned by A. Glenn Braswell.

Is there a lesson there? Certainly: Braswell's companies have thus far grossed over a combined $1 billion. Who couldn't learn from that? In 1999, 22 vitamin and supplement selling companies were charged with anti-trust behaviour, forming global price-fixing cartel nicknamed "Vitamins, Inc." and were fined nearly $750 million for their practices: all those companies are still around, and in business, today. From the New York Times (October 1999):

"It was, in the words of Joel I. Klein, head of the Justice Department's antitrust division, 'the most pervasive and harmful criminal antitrust conspiracy ever uncovered.'"

There is, natually, a backlash against C-51 (including at this rather hysterical website, which I'll be going back to for a later post): it mostly consists of variety on the theme of how "Big Pharma" is out to drive the truth underground and to ensure people stay sick... forever! BWAhahahahaa! Watching the formation of an astroturf organization as it lobbies against any government controls and how they bring up the same claims of Big Brother/Big Pharma/EvilEvilEVIL that we hear over and over again in Natural Causes proves informative and slightly nauseating at the same time. Yes, it invovles the making of laws...

Handily, Natural Causes includes a short list of folks who attended the Council for Responsible Nutrition's annual meeting in 2004:

Archer Daniels Midland Co.;
BASF Corp.;
Cadbury Adams;
and the Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness.

That last one's Coca-Cola, if you were wondering; and Cargill is the largest privately held company in the world. The others I imagine you recognise. Now I don't consider multi-nationals inherently evil, but I do have a great deal of mistrust of them, and consider that a perfectly natural feeling. Against that line-up, the majority of world nations could be considered "The Little Guy"!

All told, the book is well worth pulling out of the library - though you may wish to buy it if you plan on following it up by reading the hundreds of reference works Hurley used in building this story. He's a good writer, though much of the story is captivating without interpretation. I imagine the opening chapter, following the experiences of nurse Sue Gilliat as she explores an alternative cure and ends up with large pieces of her face missing, is designed to catch the reader's attention; but I think it would have been a better closer, to be read after learning about the world she was stepping into. Horrific endings are always better built up to.


posted by Thursday at 3:12 pm 0 comments

May 24, 2008

Up For A Cause

The last marathon (indeed, the only one) I've managed to complete was twelve hours of CSI on Spike. That being said, here's one I think I can handle:

National Mastrubation Month

It is a fundraiser, of course. Yes, it's a Wank-o-Thon tomorrow for the Center for Sex & Culture, who have been around more than ten years now, and have focused on education and sexual health in that entire time. Personally, I find the "Tantric" side of sex is only suitable for people who take it way too seriously, but they teach enough of the practical aspects of living with (and accepting) various aspects of sexuality that they get my support, if not any video proof.


posted by Thursday at 9:18 pm 0 comments

May 22, 2008

About God's Plan...

Now that McCain has finally noticed Pastor Hagee wants the United States to be destroyed in the near future and has denounced him, I suppose it's time to move on to his views on gay marriage as brought up by... Ellen DeGeneres? Well, you take the stories where they lie, I suppose.

In any case, while he opposes (still) the federal banning of gay marriage he still thinks that marriage should only be between one man and one woman. Everything should be legal and all - cohabitating couples should be allowed to get insurance together, for instance - just so long as they don't get married.

What the difference is, he declined to say.

It's clearly not just a matter of the word "marriage": if that were the case, then there would be no reason for him to oppose a federal ban on it. It would just be a word, after all. So what gives?

The only even slightly difficult argument I've seen is the most emotional one: "God says so."

To which I can only reply: Which one, yours? Does this mean Jewish marriages are no longer considered valid? How about Muslim ones? And Shinto ceremonies, are they still to be allowed, or do they get God's Loving Disapproval(tm) as well? How about those ones done by all the hippie freaks who got mail-order ordinations and hitched up their buddies in back yards across the nation? Or maybe you think God got it right with all those other faiths, but only where it regards wedding ceremonies.

Until you demand the government annul all marriages performed by other faiths as being illegitimate, I'm afraid using the dictates of your religion simply isn't going to be a good enough excuse.

UPDATE: It seems that Jesse Ventura agrees with me. Weird.

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posted by Thursday at 8:46 pm 0 comments

'Round Here

We don't take too kindly to them thar "dirty" joke tellin'. So you should go here, instead!

The 87th Edition of the Skeptics' Circle is up, running, and apparently Irish.


posted by Thursday at 2:49 am 0 comments

May 20, 2008

Our Music Only!

Ambling about the internet, I wandered across a recording of the Barenaked Ladies over at Crooks & Liars. Mentioned is the strange juxtapostion of a pop-heavy group of white kids from Canada playing "Fight the Power".

Many of the replies were either fans or critics of the song, which is fair enough; but a few were violent objections to the very idea that anyone should cover that song that isn't black, poor, or at the very least American.

This is not only stupid, but utterly missing the point of the song.

Granted, these guys aren't the first you think of when the talk turns to rap, but the ideas from Fight the Power carry through:

"No we're not the same
Cause we don't know the game
What we need is awareness, we can't get careless
You say what is this?
My beloved lets get down to business
Mental self defensive fitness"

What do you think that means? It's about awareness as much as it is about creating change. Public Enemy was smart enough to realise that only controled change could be benificial - either you controlled the change that was happening, or someone else would:

"There is chaos under heaven, and the situation is excellent."

Is there some way in which the need for self and political awareness doesn't include white people? Never mind the idea of reverse racism, but how is this going to hurt the ideas that Public Enemy was promoting? Maybe it's just me, but isn't someone who has a completely different audience from your own spreading your ideas a good thing?

To quote:

"Every fan black that I got, was probably his in Exchange
For every white fan that he's got, like damn, we just swapped, sittin' back lookin' at shit, wow,
I'm like my skin is it starting to work to my benefit now!

Outside that, the Barenaked Ladies are a politically aware group, and often do pitch unpopular and/or socialist ideas. The fact that they do it using pop makes it all the more subversive: you can't even hear the wink in "Shopping", their devestating attack on the very idea of "If you love this country, go buy things!"

In short, these guys are not the updated Pat Boone.

Trying to limit musical forms to a single group only limits the form itself. The idea that Jazz is only for blacks is missing at least half the story. Think country music is universally tight-assed conservative? Then you don't know the artists who make up it's past and present. Figure pop is only for the translucent folk? How quickly we forget!


posted by Thursday at 7:51 pm 0 comments

May 16, 2008

If You Go Into The Woods Today...

There's a reason why it's illegal to hunt bears using bait - it's too easy. You leave your pic-a-nic basket out in the open and you know what? Yogi's not going to devise some cunning plan to have Boo Boo dress up an an old lady to distract the park ranger: he's just gonna walk right up and eat it. And why is that? Because he's a predator, and predators eat things. It's what they do best, really: walk up to things and eat them. Sometimes lunging is involved, but that's the basic formula. They never consider themselves prey.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the secret to investment scams.

You have some money: perhaps for the first time, perhaps it's from years of saving. You feel like you should invest it, but the balance between low return bonds or high-risk stocks has you perplexed. You don't want to invest it blind, of course - you're not a predator, and you know it.

But! Along comes a bear! A bear with five cars, two jets and a freakin' helicopter, fer cryin' out loud! It's a bear who has publicly donated millions for hospitals, police, and universities. He's invited you to dinner with a billionaire, yes with a "B". He's friends with a supermarket magnate, and works with a long time investment company. He owns a $4.5 million mansion.

THIS guy's a predator. And he's saying "Trust me".

That's right - he's a predator who's on your side. He can get you a huge return on your cash. And he does, with the $10,000 you decide to start him with. After all, you don't really know this guy, so you're smart enough not to give him all your money... But out on the golf course a month later (he's paying) he hands you a cheque for $1,000, and that's only the first dividend. Plenty more where that came from, but with a larger investment, it's going to be easy living. Of course, if you were really smart you'd reinvest more and take out smaller amounts; if you didn't need it right then you could reinvest all of it, pumping the profits back in and turn that investment into a perpetual money making machine! Heck, I didn't get all those cars by thinking small. You don't normally think small, do you friend?

Just think of your kids...

Later he invites you to a lavish dinner with $10,000 bottles of wine (and a few for the jet) and tells you how great your investments are doing, and there's a bank in Jamaica that's jst churning the stuff out, already split twice, but only the big investors are allowed in, sorry... Would you like to go down and see it? We could stay at the bungalow I can use as a member of the bank's board.

So what's your property worth, anyways?

I happen to know someone who can get you a great mortgage at a rate that will be a quarter what this investment is going to return. Rock solid, that. I'm sure I can get you in at the bottom, say a half million? Less than the minimum, but we can work something out...

Two years later he files for bankruptcy while in another country - one that doesn't extradite for financal crimes - and you know what was the predator, what was the bait, and what was the prey.

Bottom line: if somebody comes along and tells you he can get a 150% return in one year, but only if you invest BIG; or a perfectly nice guy asks you to do him a favour - and it involves the mail, $3000, and a cashier's cheque; or if he pulls solid gold bars out of his butt (or his Borneo); then you're not getting a deal.

You're getting hunted.


posted by Thursday at 9:49 pm 0 comments

May 14, 2008

"Worst Day Ever" Nominee Is...

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die."

Picture this:

You're a college student. You're 23 years young, healthy, and have an opportunity to see a part of the world that is totally different from your own. As different as, say, Kenya is from Cranbrook, B.C. So you take it, living in another culture, experiencing another world, while getting an education to use anywhere you care to go.

One afternoon, as you're walking down the street to mail a letter home, headphones on and enjoying a sunny day, a helicopter falls on you and you die.

This could take some explaining to Mr. Isaiah Otieno's parents. Perhaps the last winner of this award could help...


posted by Thursday at 11:17 pm 0 comments

May 13, 2008

"English" is the Language

...And American is the accent.

It's offical!

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posted by Thursday at 6:08 pm 0 comments

May 12, 2008

You Know Them

In school. At clubs. Even, embarrassingly, in public during daylight hours.


Tough guy, but a real tough guy, not just a loudmouth who hasn't yet learned that size means nothing in a fight; hard. Carries himself with an air of capable volence. Doesn't think about it much, but then, he doesn't have to: he does what needs to be done. Surprises him sometimes how often it "needs to be done". Every problem looks awfully similar...


Beautiful. A confidence that's become arrogance when she knew how to use what she had. Everything - everything - has come easily to her all her life. Accustomed to discarding what she has and snapping her fingers for what she wants. All she's ever learned to hate is rejection, which sends her into a screaming froth. Fucks like it's an endrance test. Looks are all she has, and she has no clue that they are temporary. Beautiful, but good lord not attractive.

The sad news? They have kids.

Little boy:

Constant drone for attention, smacking his mom until she threatens him. Recoils, giggles, and shouts that he'll drop things on the floor. Has things taken away from him, immediately bellows for their return until his dad glares at him. Recoils, then smiles and leans back in cart starting a laughing chant of "I hate you, I hate you, mooom, I hate you, I hate you, mooom" which the parents ignore.

Little girl:

Says nothing. Stays in the corner of the cart where she was placed.


Helping them select lights for their new home for twenty minutes, frantically trying to not pick the girl up and tell her that it will be all right, that life gets far better once you can leave home, that just because they think violence will do for them does not mean it's what works. That she should get the hell out of that family as soon as she can, and never look back except to learn. I can only hope the boy learn how to use the humour defense well enough before he turns psychotic.

My life is not a large one. It's not exciting, or dramatic; neither is it global in scope or sway. But it's fun and it's lively and it's occasionally cheerfully mad. And it's one of the best among the people I've seen, the people I've known, and the people I've met; and it suits me perfectly.

Think I'll keep it.


posted by Thursday at 9:39 pm 0 comments

Out With The Old

New! This Week! Changing over to a better, smaller laptop! Now with a visible screen!

Old 'puter went boom - new 'puter taking a bit of getting used to, but at least it has a functioning monitor...


posted by Thursday at 9:37 pm 0 comments