Flutterby™! : Two stolen from SE

Next unread comment / Catchup all unread comments User Account Info | Logout | XML/Pilot/etc versions | Long version (with comments) | Weblog archives | Site Map | | Browse Topics

Two stolen from SE

2008-10-06 01:24:29.45577+00 by Dan Lyke 12 comments

Steve Warshak, "Enzyte" penis enlargement fraudster, sentenced to 25 years in prison and $93,000 in fines:

Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals and other defendants in the case were ordered to forfeit more than $500 million.

This is the winner who sold the placebo, and when refunds were requested asked for a note from the purchaser's doctor verifying that, in fact, the purchaser had a small penis. Via

And House in Saginaw sells for $1.75 on eBay:

She will pay additional charges, aside from the dollar and change it cost her to win the auction. Back taxes and a trash/weed clean-up will set the final price tag around $850. The fee is due by Tuesday, March 31, or the city will foreclose on the property.

Half of me, exposed to California, thinks we're overpopulated and houses will continue to go up because of population pressures. The other half of me... Apparently the purchaser isn't going to go see the property, just try to flip it, so we'll never find out how many days it takes to hitch-hike to Saginaw now Via.

[ related topics: Politics Sexual Culture Bay Area Law Current Events California Culture Real Estate ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-06 02:41:58.379269+00 by: ebradway

Wow - sucks for the seller: Southern Investments, LLC. They paid $26 and only got $1.75!

Looking at the sales history, $1.75 might be just about right in the current housing situation.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-06 12:29:59.228694+00 by: petronius

The author of the Enzyte article asks why the FDA doesn't regulate this stuff. He gives a short answer, but the upshot is that the entire healthfood community, producers as well as users support keeping the feds out of it, since the government will impose strict, Western concepts of evidence, like...evidence.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-06 12:49:24.285129+00 by: JT

I can give my kid a tic-tac and tell him it will make his headache go away... 10 minutes later he swears it's gone. Some people are happy with placebo effects, even when they know deep down that it's a placebo.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-06 14:56:09.588711+00 by: Dan Lyke

Petronius, Charlene's into a lot of the alternative medicine, and as I've watched her struggle with conventional medicine I've been mulling over an essay about why the alternative stuff is so attractive. My theory right now boils down to that conventional medicine is so scattershot and generally ineffective that when faced with "we've got no clue, you're going to have to suck it up and deal" anything providing even the slightest credibility for actually having a clue is worth trying.

Especially, since, as JT points out, often that works just because of psychosomatics.

Further, given that the evidence for many modern drugs is bought and paid for by those marketing the drug, and is often contradicted when real studies happen, for a large class of modern conventional drugs, especially in things like SSRIs and anti-depressants, there's not a whole lot a lay-person can take away that's any more compelling than the equivalents off the vitamin aisle.

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-06 16:02:53.538166+00 by: m

The so called "placebo" effect should be looked at differently. It is a negative feedback (engineering, not psychosocial) pathway for pain. As such it is both a desirable and necessary mechanism from the viewpoint of survival.

Neither pleasure nor pain are particularly well designed process control mechanisms in animals. They are drive/warning processes to control behavior, that frequently suffer from positive feedback, overshoot their desired targets, as well as exhibit hysteresis and a host of other defects that would never survive any peer review system.

The biological function of pain is ideally warn an organism to stop doing whatever might cause physiologic damage. If that level of prevention fails, then pain causes the animal to take steps to heal the damage, or at least refrain from continuing to exacerbate the injury. Further pain is a negative, as it prompts the release of many hormones that interfere with healing, utile bodily processes such as sleep and nutrition, and often causes positive feedback cycles where pain becomes its own initiator. In the extreme, pain can cause shock, unconsciousness and death.

Placebo effects, when working properly, are the feedback systems for the pain control systems . Such effects are mediated by purely psychological mechanisms as well as endogenous biochemical processes that promote sedation, pain relief and the reduction of inflammation.

The placebo effect is real, desirable, assists healing and is prosurvival. Its abuse as "all in one's head", though technically true as all pain is perceived in the mind, leads to the misuse of the biological properties of the placebo effect. "Fooling" the organism into gaining a placebo response when utilizing invalid treatments is contrasurvival.

The Libertarian in me strongly supports the "freedom of the pharmacopoeia". But it also rejects the frauds perpetrated by panaceas and nostrums. Not that such items shouldn't be available, but rather that claims should be grounded in truth, not the fraudulent fancies of hawkers, hucksters and wish fulfillment peddlers. That labeling and documentation be treated as contractual matter. If it doesn't do what it says it does, the vendor should be liable for cost, personal damages and punitive damages. If the vendor knew, or should have known that the item was not effective, criminal penalties must apply.

If a carpenters hammer was advertised to not only be good for removing nails, but making screws vibration proof, measuring voltage, producing CAD drawings, improving potency, and providing all necessary nutrition while assisting the obese in achieving ideal bodyweight, then said hammer would clearly fail the implied warranty of merchantability. Why are peddled nostrums, whose functions are certainly far more occult, not held to the same, if not a higher standard?

#Comment Re: Placebo effect and $700B Bailout ... made: 2008-10-06 16:20:14.699778+00 by: jeff

What is the placebo effect of the current $700B "financial crisis" bailout medicine?

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-06 16:48:44.925053+00 by: ebradway

Jeff: Give me the $700B, and I can guarantee I'll never complain of the financial crisis or a headache!

  1. Hmmm... A good smash on the head of a screw with a hammer tends to fuse it with the surrounding material: vibration proof. I could potentially use a hammer to prop my digitizing tablet and produce better CAD drawings. By wearing out my arm, hammering, I might not be able to masturbate and thus get erect more easily and feel more potent. And if the hammer weighs enough, it would help me lose weight.

The general problem with Occidental medicine is the Occidental patient. We WANT an all-knowing doctor to be able to diagnose our illnesses and provide accurate treatment. We don't want to make the effort ourselves to figure out what's wrong. We also want the treatment to involve swallowing a single, tiny pill. We want the same treatment to work on everyone and not interfere with other treatments. The irony is the body is basically a "black box" to doctors and, generally, all healing is done by the body itself.

The purpose of many alternative treatments is to first, get the "patient" to feel a little more of their body's conditions and second, promote the body's own ability to heal. The efficacy of these treatments depend on the patient's own ability to allow this to happen. So you cannot control for the variability in the patient physiology and psychology in alternative modes of treatment.

There was a great episode of Northern Exposure where the local native healer "shadowed" Dr. Fleischmann for a few days. He initially stated "I love how Western medicine can make diagnoses so fast. I sometimes have to live with a patient for days to figure out what's wrong."

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-06 17:45:51.560868+00 by: JT

I take these pills... 1500mg of Glucosamine, 800mg of Chondroitin and 750mg of MSM. I know they probably don't do much good, but I have had knee problems in the past. After my knees started bothering me again after a mountain bike mishap in Chattanooga, I started taking these pills and it seems to make the pain go away. Is it proven? no. Is it placebo? probably. But it reminds me of when I was a kid, I went hunting with my uncle and ended up with a headache. He told me to chew weeping willow bark, which we found a willow tree after not long and I chewed on a healthy chunk of bark which seemed to make my headache go away. Oddly, much later in life, I find white willow has salicin, a pain reliever close to aspirin, so it actually would have made my head feel better, even if I hadn't just trusted my uncle's opinion. Was it salicin? Was it placebo? Did my headache go away? Regardless of the first two answers, the third answer is "yes".

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-06 19:23:35.185734+00 by: petronius

In general all of you are talking about relief of symptoms, rather than underlying causes. Antibiotics do, in fact, kill germs, and will save your life if you get a raging infection. Vaccinations do reprogram your immune system to protect against measels. Insulin will do much to keep you from going blind. Also, would you prefer to gnaw on a bit of bug-shit infested willow bark or get the salicin straight up in a nice, clean aspirin tablet?

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-06 19:45:53.80072+00 by: JT

petronius, chewing bug-shit infested bark will, in fact, change chemistry in your body to cause a reaction of pain relief. Because of this chemical change, should it be regulated? if it should be regulated, how does it affect mom and pop companies putting echinacea into cold relief mixes as opposed to the amount of insurance/etc it would take to start their own pharmaceutical company in order to produce herbal supplements on remedies?

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-07 08:00:27.881308+00 by: m

ebradway, East v West -- no, that is not a viable delineation. Medicine works, or it doesn't. It is reproducible, or it is not. There is a basis for causation, or there is not. There are physiologic structures and biochemistry, or there are imagined energies, organs no one can display, pathways that do not exist.

What is the difference between the all knowing MD, and the all knowing shaman or witch?

#Comment Re: made: 2008-10-07 09:57:11.249952+00 by: topspin

The irony is the body is basically a "black box" to doctors and, generally, all healing is done by the body itself.


The body, while wonderful... almost magical, cannot always heal itself. Refuse Activase and various methods of lowering your blood pressure after an ischemic stroke, eric.... and let your body "heal itself?" BS..... Deadly BS.

Sure, getting in touch with your body and listening to it WILL promote your health AND communicating that internal knowledge/feeling WILL help someone (medical or alternative) who dedicates themselves to helping those with health care issues. Be reasonable, however; all healing isn't done by the body.

Alternative medicine is much like religion and it AMAZES me that those who'd point out the logical fallacy in someone believing in $DIETY because generations of their family did and it makes so many people feel good..... will believe in an alternative remedy because grandma used it and lots of others use it and it makes them feel good. When the guy at the health food store starts touting and selling prayer forehead headache application cloths, perhaps y'all will get a clue?

That said, there is TONS and TONS of bullshit, smoke and mirrors, and outright fraud in traditional medicine. There is a huge lobby and huge infrastructure in America associated with keeping traditional health care lucrative and making it appear credible. Much of the system is corrupt and, in particular, drug manufacturers control or manipulate the FDA in every conceivable manner to maintain huge profit margins. The next big "socialization" is the health care industry. That should help.... right?

Where does that leave us? Caveat infirmus.