Merry…erm…Deluge? December 4, 2013Posted by ubi dubium in Rants.
Tags: atheism, christmas, decorations, Holidays, Noah's Ark, religion, service station, stupidity, ugly
Near my office is a service station that goes all out with decorating for holidays, and it’s all inflatables. For Halloween it was surrounded by animated ghosts, spiders and black cats. Come Thanksgiving, it was pilgrims and turkeys waving at passing motorists. Now for Christmas they have outdone themselves. Every inch of ground around their parking lot is filled with inflated Santas on motorcycles, elves on trains, and teddy bears and Tigger and anything else they could cram in, all moving or waving somehow.
But even considering all of that, this one made me do a double take:
Thoughts on Anna Karenina November 3, 2013Posted by ubi dubium in Books.
Tags: Anna Karenina, books, Tolstoy
I’m continuing with my project of reading all those great books I had always meant to get to, by listening to them on CD during my daily commute. I’ve read through Moby Dick, Crime and Punishment, and Great Expectations this way, among many others, and enjoyed them all.
So I was expecting to likewise enjoy Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy. It’s been called the greatest novel ever written, and it certainly has the makings of what could have been a masterful novel. It has one of the greatest openings of any novel I’ve read: “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Brilliant. Then it sets up three different, but linked families: First, the Oblonskys, with a jovial, personable, philandering husband, and a long-suffering wife exhausted by bearing and raising child after child. Then the Karenins, with a fussy, officious, and boring husband and his wife Anna, Mr. Oblonsky’s sister, a passionate emotional woman who adores her son, but finds none of her other emotional needs met by her marriage. She finds what she is looking for in Count Vronsky, the dashing but shallow beau of Mrs. Oblonsky’s sister Kitty. The third family is Kitty and her suitor Levin, their awkward courtship and the early days of their marriage as they work through problems with communication and jealousy. (more…)
Truth in Advertising October 23, 2013Posted by ubi dubium in Rants, Uncategorized.
Tags: advertising, homeopathy, quackery, Skepticism
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OK, so a week ago Sunday the Parade Magazine that came in The Washington Post ran this ad. (Sorry my scan is a little blurry. Click on the photo to see it more clearly.)
One line of medicines to treat all these different conditions? Suspicious. So I read over the ad to see what kind of medication this was. No mention of it in the main text, but when I went and got a magnifying glass, and looked at the images of the packaging, there it was in the upper right-hand corner. Illegible to the naked eye, and almost as bad under magnification. It said “homeopathic.”
Can you see it?
I went to the website for this company, and it was also pretty difficult there to figure out that they were selling homeopathic “remedies”. I thought that there ought to be some kind of oversight to prevent this sort of fraud, but this was during the government shutdown, so maybe they were taking advantage of the lack of regulators. But I needed to complain to somebody, and Rite-Aid’s logo was right there on the page, so I found their ethics complaint website, and sent in the following:
On Sunday, October 15, the attached advertisement ran in the print edition Parade Magazine which I received with my Washington Post, and as you can see this ad had your name and logo in the lower left-hand corner.
I spent some time reading the ad, attempting to determine what sort of medication this was, and what the active ingredients were. Eventually, I got out a magnifier and was able to just make out that each package was labeled “homeopathic”. Nowhere else in the ad could I find this indicated, and the labels were illegible without magnification. It appears that this ad is deliberately concealing the nature of what is being sold, a dishonest practice.
Homeopathic preparations generally do not contain any measurable level of active ingredients, and clinical trials have shown them to be no more effective than a placebo. While I understand that there is a market for such products, a major pharmacy should not give the impression that it endorses their use.
If Rite-Aid allows its name to be associated with an advertisement for a medication, I would expect that the ad would meet at least a minimum standard of honesty about the identity and efficacy of the product. I would expect that the word “homeopathic” to appear legibly in the ad, and that there be a disclaimer such as “these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA” or “The FDA does not evaluate these remedies for safety or effectiveness,” or a disclaimer that Rite-Aid does not guarantee anything beyond their safety and lack of side effects.
Considering that this company, Magnilife, is using your name and logo to sell boxes of sugar pills for $20 each, they stand to make quite a profit off the reputation of Rite-Aid. I ask, as a concerned consumer, that you respond as to whether their use of your logo and name was authorized, and what your policy is regarding truth in advertising in ads that bear your name.
As of today, I have heard nothing back from Rite-Aid. If I do get a response (and I doubt that I will), I’ll post an update.
Update – I checked at the Rite-Aid website on 10/31/13, and as of yet they have given no response.
What Century Is This Again? October 2, 2013Posted by ubi dubium in Rants, Responses.
Tags: atheism, Catholic, John Paul II, pope, relics, saint, scams, stupidity
This was in the Washington Post yesterday:
Catholics moved as date is set for canonizing Pope John Paul II, Pope John XXIII
And included this paragraph:
The shrine [in northeast Washington DC] held special prayer sessions all day to honor the setting of the April Mass dates. It typically takes out the piece of bloodied cassock only after midday Mass as a holy relic Catholics can venerate, or pray before, as a personal item from someone close to God. But the shrine kept it out most of Monday, encased in a silver cross-shaped vessel, so that people could come spontaneously to pray before it.
This is 2014 almost, not the Dark Ages. These people are worshipping a frikkin reliquary!!!
(I wonder how many pieces of “bloodied cassock” are floating around out there? Perhaps there’s money to be made selling them on ebay? Sounds like a better scam than the Madonna on grilled cheese, or Jeebus on a tortilla.)
Please, human beings, grow up already!
Extraordinary event, extraordinary evidence September 9, 2013Posted by ubi dubium in Rants.
Tags: atheism, Chelyabinsk, evidence, meteor, reason, religion, Skepticism
I’ve been thinking lately about standards of evidence. I see a lot of people make colossally outrageous claims (usually religious or pseudo-scientific), with little to nothing to back them up. And they are taken aback when challenged that an ancient book or a feeling in their “heart” doesn’t suffice to convince anybody else.
So I wanted to look at an actual extraordinary event, and the evidence pointing to it having happened.
Why we can’t win August 14, 2013Posted by ubi dubium in Rants, Responses.
Tags: atheism, CFI, feminism, MRAs, PZ Myers, Radford, Ron Lindsay, Shermer, Skepticism, Stollznow, Women in Secularism
I just needed to post this today.
God, you’re fired! August 2, 2013Posted by ubi dubium in Humor, Questions, Responses.
Tags: Astreja, atheism, fired, fun, god, morality, religion
Over on her blog, Astreja asked this question:
Armed only with a vivid imagination, assume the persona of a god and come up with one or more god-like responses….We hear about gods who hear the *thud* of the sparrow when it hits the living room window, chirps feebly and staggers off muttering rude things about the idiot who left the drapes open. Then there are the gods lurking “outside time and space,” wherever the Sam Hill that’s supposed to be, supposedly controlling reality without actually touching it. Finally, there are the gods who do things like wandering into the Inn and starting a riot, or arguing with a tree…. Where do you fit on this continuum?
So that got me thinking, if there actually were a god, and I could fire him and take his place, what would I do? And could I do a better job? So here’s my “perfect plan”:
After TAM, back to the land of Woo-Woo July 19, 2013Posted by ubi dubium in Events, Rants.
Tags: atheism, Ion bracelets, Las Vegas, Oxygen Bar, power balance, reason, scams, Skepticism, stupidity, TAM, The Amaz!ng Meeting, Tourmaline, Xtreme Energy
After a great weekend at TAM2013, my spouse and I extended our weekend with another couple of nights on the main Vegas strip, specifically the Excalibur hotel. The first night we headed up to their steakhouse for dinner, and lo and behold, look at what was just outside the door.
Yes, its the same “energy bracelet” scam that the skeptical movement keeps fighting. (Richard Saunders recently got these things banned in Australia.) But like a whack-a-mole game, this keeps turning back up. The two guys in the picture are apparently Russian, and they will come right up to you as you walk by, waving a bracelet at you. They were doing the same tired old balance tricks as “evidence”, the same tricks I have been teaching my RE class for years. This first night I showed them the bracelet I was wearing, a “Placebo” bracelet made by the same company in China that manufactures all the others.
They had no idea what “placebo” meant, and thought it might be “spaseebo”, which they said was Russian for “thank you”. I told them that it meant that energy bracelets were fakes, including theirs. They protested that they wanted to show me their “ion-meter” and show us their “science”. I was tired and told them “no way” and my spouse finally had to tell them to stop following us.
Here’s the website for their company, showing that they charge $39.00 and up for these things. http://www.xeband.com/shopxe.php
I had talked to a member of Granite State Skeptics earlier that weekend, who are the group responsible for having the Placebo bracelets made. He said that the Chinese company charges in the range of $0.85 to $1.00 each for them in the small quantities that they order. A company buying a huge order would pay rather less. That’s quite a markup!
By the next day I was ready to pry a little more into what they were claiming, so I headed back there with my camera, and fortunately found two different salesmen on duty, again Russian. I spoke to a very blond woman who was ready to show me just how wonderful her bracelets were.
She boasted that older hologram bracelets didn’t actually work, that it wasn’t the hologram that did anything. (Of course, their current bracelets also have holograms, which she didn’t explain.) But she said that their bracelets were made with Tourmaline in them, which produced negative ions, which were beneficial for your bloodflow, health and energy.
I started prodding her further: “What kind of ions does it make?”
“Negative ions,” she replies.
“Yes, but ions are atoms or groups of atoms that have lost or gained electrons. There are lots of different kinds of ions. What kind are these?”
“Negative ions produced by the tourmaline in the bracelet. The Tourmaline is a mineral, and it makes negative ions.”
“Yes, but what type of negative ions are they?”
“Tourmaline ions.” Yes, she really said that. I asked her to show me this ion meter that they had. Here’s a photo:
She first measured what she said was a fake bracelet they had there, which appeared to be a power balance bracelet with the hologram removed. I didn’t press her on why it was necessary to have the hologram removed, given her earlier claim that it wasn’t the hologram that did anything. But she used her meter on it, and it registered “3″. (She pressed the bracelet against a disc on the back of the meter, and a number read out on the front. I didn’t have a chance to try this myself, to see how it would read some other object, or whether the pressure applied affected the readout.)
“3 what?” I asked. “What are the units here?” “3 ions,” she replied. “3 IONS????” “Yes, 3 ions.”
She measured one of their bracelets, and it measured quite a lot of “ions”, over 1700 I think. I then produced my Placebo bracelet, and asked if she could measure it. It read 81 “ions”.
I asked her what the benefit of wearing this bracelet is supposed to be. She said that the negative ions increased bloodflow, and that this produced the beneficial effects.
“Really, so how do negative ions do that?”
“Well, you know, a lot of people say that it makes them feel relaxed. For instance, how do you feel when you go to the ocean or a lake?”
“Well a lot of people say it makes them feel relaxed. The negative ions produce relaxation.”
“Oh, you meant how I feel when I go near and ocean or lake!” (This woman was so clueless, I couldn’t help trolling her a bit.)
She also pulled up a bunch of woo-woo on the internet on the computer she had nearby, to show how true this all was. I asked her if I could take some photos, and got this photo of the claims they are making.
Later, I looked up whether Tourmaline has ever been shown to actually have any of these health benefits, and found this:
Which concludes that there are no studies that show any benefit from this kind of stuff.
In the same shopping area as the energy bracelets we also found an “Oxygen Bar”. And there was also one on the casino level as well.
Overdue thanks to Ron Lindsay July 7, 2013Posted by ubi dubium in Rants, Responses.
Tags: CFI, feminism, Ron Lindsay, WIS, Women in Secularism
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(I had meant to post this earlier, but I’ve had some personal travel, a knee injury, and a major Fourth of July concert to deal with, so I hadn’t gotten to it. Sorry.)
Back on June 22, Ron issued an apology:
To Ron Lindsay,
Thank you. An apology is what I was hoping to see.
I can’t tell from this apology whether you actually understand why we were so upset, but apologizing is hard and I appreciate your being able to do that. With this apology I am now willing to put this behind me, and can (cautiously) participate with CFI on future events and projects. I hope for amicable relations and good discussions in the future.
To the CFI Board,
I’m still peeved with you. All I have from you is your original non-answer. You don’t need to apologize for Ron’s speech, he’s already done that. But you do need to show some kind of support for Melody, Lauren and Debbie’s hard work, and you need to show real commitment to encouragement of diversity within the secular movement. This can best be shown by action, rather than writing. I suggest announcing your sponsorship of WIS3 as soon as possible. Or something else specifically aimed at making traditionally marginalized groups of people feel important and welcome in the secular community. (And a lack of specific support for the small but extremely vocal minority in our community that’s specifically trying to marginalize people, that would also be helpful in restoring my trust.) Show us that people matter, even people who are not the traditional core group of well-educated middle-aged middle and upper class white men. And please don’t claim that “we don’t have the resources.” The people from the diverse community you need to reach out to, with their large untapped pool of talent and energy, are resources that you need to build this movement for the future.
I’ll work with you for now. But I’ll also be paying attention to what CFI does in the next year.
Non-answer from CFI Board June 17, 2013Posted by ubi dubium in Events, Rants, Responses.
Tags: atheism, CFI, feminism, Ron Lindsay, Women in Secularism
The CFI Board has issued a statement:
The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.
The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, and this was the motivation for its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism conferences. The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.
CFI believes in respectful debate and dialogue. We appreciate the many insights and varied opinions communicated to us. Going forward, we will endeavor to work with all elements of the secular movement to enhance our common values and strengthen our solidarity as we struggle together for full equality and respect for women around the world.
That’s the entire statement? That’s IT????
“…unhappiness with the controversy”. They “…appreciate the insights and varied opinions…”. “Going forward we will endeavor to…”
No specifics. Nothing about how they will take action to avoid this happening in the future. Nothing about how Ron blindsided the CFI staff, and insulted and condescended to a roomful of dedicated secular activists, not to mention spending the rest of the weekend belittling invited conference speakers? Nothing about how maybe they could institute some guidelines for this sort of thing, or make sure that any speech to be given by someone representing CFI at a CFI-sponsored conference that has more substance to it than “howdy” will be available for review by the conference organizers first? Notice how the word “apology” was not included there, either.
They’ve shown us where the board stands on this issue, which is that they don’t stand anywhere. Maybe something happened internally, but that does nothing to cool the anger of those of us who were sitting in the audience for Ron’s sermon. I’ve been considering working on developing an education project with our local chapter, and while I know that the local staff would make me feel welcome, and that my efforts matter, my confidence that the national organization would be able to effectively address gender-related issues has just dropped another notch. I’ll have to think seriously about this before agreeing to work with CFI on any upcoming activities. If I were a position to make any donations, they would be earmarked for WIS3 only.
If nothing else, this whole thing shows how desperately the WIS conferences are needed. I’d hate for them to have to be held by a different sponsoring organization, but I wonder if that’s what needs to happen. I’ll be watching for the reaction of the other attendees, this should be interesting.