Saturday, December 26, 2020

Herbalife 1: Science 0 -- How MLM gets away with SLAPPing science again and again

BehindMLM just reported that Herbalife, through legal threats against scientific journal's staff and publisher, has forced a study finding heavy metal in Herbalife products into MIA status (no longer linked or even published, completely missing, as even "retracted" studies stay online). 

This is very discouraging as this is basically SLAPP: strategic lawsuit against public participation. They are threatening to sue in order to BURY some inconvenient truth. When it didn't work against the researchers who wrote the study, they went after the journal and publisher as well, and they caved despite their editorial panel recommending "retain" for the study. And this is AFTER Herbalife stooge scientists failed to challenge the science

But you have to remember, this is Herbalife, who wore down the FTC so it was ONLY fined 200 million back in 2016, and got FTC to dance around the words "pyramid scheme" in the settlement. Given that Herbalife annual revenue is almost 5 billion ($4.89 billion as of 2018), 200 million is an ouchy, not a serious wound. 

If you do not want to see this stand, it's time to engage the Streisand Effect: publicize this censorship attempt. What are they trying to hide that they used legal teams on multiple continents and tried to (and failed) rebuttal via their own scientists (in Brazil)? 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

The Psychology of Karen: How willful blindness and self-righteousness lead to crazy behaviors

In 2020, the name "Karen" became a pejorative, meaning a probably white woman acting in an extremely socially inappropriate manner. The name Karen is now the embodiment of "white entitledness" usually a white female in her 40's wearing a particular shorter haircut. (note: the male version is often named "Chad")

But Karen is real. Earlier in 2020, Amy Cooper was dubbed New York's "Central Park Karen" when she called the police and claimed a black man threatened her life. In reality, a bird-watcher (who happens to be black, also surnamed Cooper, no relations) asked her to leash her dog in a leash zone in Central Park. If not for him recording the encounter on his phone, "Karen" false accusations may have resulted in him going to jail. 

Many "Karen" tales appeared on in the various "TalesFrom______" subreddits where "a wild Karen appeared" usually preceded by "ahem!". "Karen" then starts making outrageous demands of another person with words such as, "you were moving inventory, you MUST work here! Why don't you serve me? Get off your lazy *** or I'll get you fired!" The story then diverges, but often involving either Karen physically attack the narrator for ignoring her, or summons a manager to deal with the "rude employee". "Karen" then started to embellish the story in her own retelling, claiming to have been attacked by the narrator. The ending may feature "Karen" getting her comeuppance at the hands of either security guard or police. 

Many of which are obviously fictional, but they are rather popular tales. They SOUND plausible. And in the case of Amy Cooper, they actually do exist.  All because Mr. Cooper asked her to leash her dog (that she was supposed to), Amy Cooper called the police to report that an "African American man" threatened her life. It was documented by her 911 call. When the story went viral, Amy Cooper was fired from her job and surrendered her dog, her life basically ruined.  

But what was she thinking? How could she justify her outrageous behavior, even go as far as making a false report to the police? And if a seemingly normal white person can do that... who else is capable of this? And how many other black people or other minorities have suffered from this sort of false reporting in the past? It is an extremely disturbing thought. 

To figure out what a "Karen" was thinking, we need to dive into the mind of a narcissist. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

MLM Absurdities: Does essential oil diffusion actually clean the air?

There was a series of wildfires in California in recent weeks, and the air quality around SF Bay Area suffered as a result. The woo peddlers and the oil slick huns decided to use this opportunity to push pseudo-science, such as the idea that "diffusing essential oil will clean the air". 

Here is one example: 

Smoky House? Helpful tip: simmer pot of water on stove w/ 
cedar, fir, thyme, sage, or rosemary (or any combo of them!)
it attaches to smoke particles pulling to the ground to help clean the air and make it more breathable
Add drops of peppermint oil every 20 minutes for extra soothing relief

Note the specific claims, and alleged mechanism "attaches to smoke particles pulling to the ground to help clean the air". 

If you google "essential oil clean air", there's no surprise you'll find doTerra on top of the list. 

However, the mechanism was not discussed. 

Doesn't stop others from making vague generalizations though. Some even used pseudo-science babble... 

Let's go through the claims one at a time, shall we? 

Scam Analysis: The Fake Rental Scam

Fake Rental Scam happens frequently. With free listing service like Craigslist, but also other rental sites, it's proliferating like mad, as it costs virtually nothing to perpetrate, and yields quite a bit of money at a time. It was estimated that 12% of all rental listings on Craigslist are probably fake. And with COVID-19 running around, it's getting WORSE!  

What's even stranger, you can be victimized even if you're not renting!

I will detail three variations of rental scams, how they work, and how you can spot and avoid them. 

First variation of the Scam:

A1) A is looking for a place to rent, found a listing by B (on Craigslist or similar place). Prices are below market, and it seems to be a VERY nice place.

A2) A contacts B, who claims to be out of town. B will probably cite a sob story about how previous tenant broke the place and it was a hassle to fix, and he is trusting A to be a good tenant. Now, if A will send the deposit via (untraceable) means like Western Union, Paypal, Venmo, Cash App, and so on, B will send the keys via courier, or even "left with a neighbor". There is a discount if A chooses to prepay the rent in advance instead of month to month. A sent the money.

Generally, B was never heard from again. Though sometimes, for lulz, they will claim the "the old tenant needs a few extra days". 

Turns out, the photos are real, but the place is not for rent. It was cloned from a real estate 'for sale' listing.

Some really blatant scammers will tell A to "go peek through the window", leading to police calls about a prowler or worse. 

This variation is often perpetrated by foreign scammers who know just enough English to clone listings and conduct rudimentary email and maybe text convos, but will probably not talk to you live (but some may). Mistakes can be blamed on autocorrect. Their reply often contains a sob story (previous tenant trashed their place), a lot of virtue signaling (they're doing missionary work in X, they are traveling salesperson, they are in the military, etc.) about why they can't meet you, but you should trust them and send them money anyway. They may even fake a "credit check" (to steal your identity).  But there is no house to rent. They take your money and disappear.

RECOMMENDATION: NEVER rent from someone out of town, EVEN IF they are using a "local" area code phone number (those are easy to get with VOIP). 

WARNING: Do NOT accept even if they claim to have a "relative" or "friend" in town to meet with you. It could be just another scammer. Also see second variation below. 

But wait, there's more!

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

If you resorted to name-calling, you've already lost

 One of the refrains in network marketing is "how to deal with haterz". 

Usually one laments over "why do you hate my dreams". Here is one example of this ranting moan:

These companies are gold mines. Yeah, I said it. Have I personally made thousands from one? Nope. Could I? Dang right I could. If I truly set my mind to it and wanted to be dedicated to it, I could be filthy rich before the age of 35 from one of these Multi Level Marketing (MLM) companies.

Translation: "I could be filthy rich because they say so. Why do you hate me for wanting that?"

In other words, she can't see the difference between hating MLM vs. hating her dreams. To her, they are one and the same. 

The article was at least polite in that it calls for "don't be so mean to people who have a dream!" There's nothing wrong with asking that, but I am NOT going to be polite to people who (samples from /r/antiMLM):

And various other cringeworthy, tone-deaf, random-dart, deceptive marketing practices. 

And let's face it... How much of MLM marketing would be left if you filter out all the cringe stuff?  

I'd wager... not too much left. 

If you are a MLMer who doesn't do that, great!  Good for you! But you are a MINORITY... an unicorn, even! 

So blame your UNSCRUPULOUS competitors for CREATING this "haterz" environment, ever since the 1950's, long before MLM came along! 

Frankly, if you have to label who criticize your "industry" as "haterz"... You've already lost the argument. 

Because the 'best' defense, coming out of your mouth (or fingers) is an ad hominem, not a logical argument. If you cannot defend your position with fact or logic, you've lost. 

Tsk, tsk. 

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Just because it's on a famous website doesn't mean the advice is any good

I like my water with a little flavor, so between lemonade mixes, Crystal Light, and so on, I am looking into the world of water enhancers. You've seen those in supermarkets... Either in a box of 6-10 little sachets or in a little bottle that you squeeze a squirt or two into your bottled water or such.

Obviously, people have opinions on what's good or bad, but are there any studies or scientific discussions on what's good and what's not? I decided to do some research. What I read disappointed me, as a lot of the websites, even big name ones like, the companion site to the "eat this, not that" series of books, are prone to "food babe" type hysteria and bad advice.

(If you forgot who "Food Babe" was, here's a reminder.)

Anyway, back to the rant. Here's the part of the article that bothers me.

"The second ingredient in these little bottles is propylene glycol, a preservative, thickening agent, and stabilizer, also used as antifreeze to de-ice airplanes, as a plasticizer to make polyester resins, and found in electronic cigarettes."

There is little NOTHING here that explains what's good or bad about MiO. Yes, it listed a lot of alternate uses for propylene glycol, but again, NOTHING that explains why having this is "bad". Instead, we're left with insinuations as the item was linked to various "bad" things like "anti-freeze", "electronic cigarettes", "preservative", and so on.

And I'm not kidding, that was ALL the author wrote on MIO.

Clearly, the author has nothing bad to SAY about MiO, but the author wanted us to dislike MiO, so she chose to link MiO with a bunch of "bad words" but are still factual.

That is propaganda and manipulation.

This becomes obvious when you read the part about one of the items she DOES recommend...

Sunday, April 12, 2020

How Article Writers Cheat To Make Subject Matter Look Better

Recently, I came across this article in my news feed:

6 Reasons You Should Eat Organic from
I am a skeptic. I doubt most things I read, and the "goodness" of organic food is one of those "it smells" things. And I am not surprised that the writer cheated on several counts to come up with six items, and most of those are extremely one-sided, but then, a website named "" is hardly a neutral source.

First thing to note... the original URL says "4 reasons"... Article says 6 reasons. So clearly, it's been "edited" to inflate the number of reasons.

So, what are the reasons?

  1. Organic food can reduce the amount of chemicals in our bodies
  2. Organic food can lead to more nutritious or vitamin-enriched fruits and vegetables
  3. Organic dairy and meat can be healthier than non-organic varieties
  4. Organic food may have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids
  5. Organic food is GMO-free
  6. Organic food might be better for the environment
Just looking at the list and you can see they repeated a few. 3 is basically a subset of 2. 4 is again, a subset of 2.  

Let's rewrite that to cut away the redundancy, and we're left with
  1. Organic food can reduce the amount of chemicals in our bodies
  2. Organic food can lead to more nutritious or vitamin-enriched fruits and vegetables  can be more nutritious/healthier
  3. Organic dairy and meat can be healthier than non-organic varieties  (see 2)
  4. Organic food may have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids  (see 2)
  5. Organic food is GMO-free
  6. Organic food might be better for the environment
Now let's examine the statements one at a time. 

Myth 1) "Organic food can reduce the amount of chemicals in our bodies"

The statement in itself is already inaccurate. What it should say is "eating organic food may reduce the amount of chemicals we consume in our food". 

Yes, organic food has, in general, fewer synthetic pesticide residue than conventional food. That, however, doesn't make it "less chemicals" overall.

What the organic promoters don't want you to think about is "poison is poison". And pesticide, no matter synthetic or "natural", is designed to KILL pests. If it doesn't kill pests, it's not a good pesticide. And because "natural" pesticide is not as effective as the synthetic ones, farmers need to use more of it to grow the same crops.

A natural poison is still poison. Given that no synthetic pesticide is used in organic farming, it's a GIVEN it should have less than conventional farming... balanced by all the NATURAL pesticide residue. But because we don't measure that...

One of the more dangerous all-natural pesticides, Rothenone, wasn't banned by USDA until 2018. Before then, it was perfectly acceptable to use as a part of organic farming. 

Those who want a more concrete example are welcome to look up the toxicity figures of organic fungicide pyrethrum and organic pesticide copper sulfate, and compare them with their synthetic equivalent: chlorothalonil and chlorpyrifos, respectively. You may be surprised.

What the organic promoters also won't tell you is that any "synthetic chemicals" you consume now is, on the average, less than 1% of allowable daily limits as set by the FDA.


Myth 2) "Organic food can be more nutritious"

More vitamins in fruits. More antioxidants in onions. More omega-3 fatty acids in meat. Yes, organic food often has small gains in nutrition.

However, the gain are minor, and not commensurate with the increase in price. Still, it's accurate enough.

Conclusion: TRUE / If you don't read more into what it actually says

Myth 3) "Organic food is GMO-free"

This statement is basically... irrelevant. It doesn't explain whether it's good or bad for you. But given the nature of the website, I have to assume they meant that as a pejorative.

I honestly don't see why GMO is the big boogeyman some folks are so dead-set against. We've been selectively breeding plants for thousands of years. But the real question here is... "Is GMO good/bad for you?" And this basically turns into a question of opinion... and science is definitely "undecided".

Conclusion: TRUE / but relevance is debatable

Myth 4) "Organic food may be better for the environment"

If you assume both are "locally sourced", that may be true... or it may not be. Organic farming is less efficient and often yields less than 20-40% than that of conventional farming. So you need 20-40% more acreage to produce the same amount of product. Sure, you use less synthetic stuff, but that doesn't mean it's better for the environment in itself, as the "natural" substitute may work less efficiently, so you end up needing MORE of it...

And when you throw in the international nature of agriculture, when your "organic" beans may be from South America, and your organic garlic may be from China... just the carbon footprint calculation may drive you nuts.

Conclusion: INCONCLUSIVE / too many variables

In Conclusion

In the "6" points shown, 2 are duplicates, 1 inconclusive, 1 false, and both of the 2 remaining "True" items have caveats that were basically glossed over.

That's not a news item, but a propaganda piece, using the following tricks:

  • Count inflation by subdividing reasons
  • Ignoring the gray areas
  • Cherry-picking evidence
  • One-sided statements with no pretense at balance

And now you know.

Pardon for the long hiatus

Suffice to say, my life circumstances have changed, and while I'm trying to settle down, it's my time to write about things is severely limited.

I am back, but I still won't be writing that often. Figure once or twice every month.