When a product reformulation goes bust

When I was 10 years old, my mom brought home a box of Life™, a new brand of cereal produced by Quaker Oats. I fell in love with it at once; it was sweet but not too sweet, crunchy but not too crunchy, with a little hint of softness to it, and it had a unique flavor that I found completely appealing.

Life is still out there, even though it has been reformulated a few times. But the worst change came in 1997 when Quaker introduced a “new, improved” Life, and then the world collapsed around their ears. I, like many other aficionados, wrote to Quaker screaming, “You’ve ruined my life!” It was completely different, nothing like the original, and it failed so spectacularly that the company went back to the original formulation and sent out an apology letter to those who had complained. Since then, except for the introduction or trial of a few additional flavors, their product has remained pretty much the same. But I wish I could have the original formula back.

Now we come to Tums™. I’ve suffered heartburn for a long, long time and always had to have a supply of something or other around to put out the fire (this was in the days before the beta-blockers and PPI’s.) Originally I used Rolaids (which absorbs 47 times its weight in excess stomach acid!) but always found it a bit too chalky for my taste, ultimately switching to Tums as an alternative.

I carry around this little jawn on my keyring that would hold 5 or 6 Tums of the 750mg variety, and was partial to the assorted berries flavor. I would buy them at WalMart, but for the last year or so they stopped selling these in favor of the 1000mg strength, which didn’t fit my keyring doodad.

So I was delighted to find a bunch of the 750 strength at RiteAid’s website, and bought 10 bottles, thinking that this would last me probably for the rest of my life. To my horror, they are nothing like the Tums I used to know. Chalky, bland, and with a flavor that made me think they had scooped up a bunch of the blue stuff you find in airplane toilets and turned it into tablets. The aftertaste was even worse.

Here’s a rundown of what changed:

Tums old and New Formulas

So essentially they added crospovidone, dextrose, magnesium stearate and maltodextrin, and dropped the mineral oil and sodium polyphosphate. No way to tell what changed in the “flavors” category, because they never tell you such things. But in all honesty, the result is the abomination of desolation, and now I’m stuck with 10 bottles of a product that makes me want to gag. I’d rather go back to Rolaids than keep using these.

I called Glaxo Smith Kline at their customer service number, and politely expressed my unhappiness; I’m aware the agent has virtually nothing to do with such things, but I was gratified that the agent had the honesty to tell me I’m not the only one who has called in to express dissatisfaction with the new formula. So it’s not just me.

GSK, I hope you’re listening.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

BOO! You’ve been Scammed!

I have written often and at length about fraudulent enterprises and scams, and I am sharing this one here because it deserves to be seen far and wide.

Full disclosure: I was part of a network marketing / MLM / Relationship Marketing firm for about 10 years. I cannot believe how hard I drank the Kool-Aid™. I am ashamed. But it just goes to show how seductive these things can be.

‘Magic dirt’: How the internet fueled, and defeated, the pandemic’s weirdest company

Brandy Zadrozny

(From NBC News)

Thu, December 2, 2021, 7:49 AM•21 min readThe social media posts started in May: photos and videos of smiling people, mostly women, drinking Mason jars of black liquid, slathering black paste on their faces and feet, or dipping babies and dogs in tubs of the black water. They tagged the posts #BOO and linked to a website that sold a product called Black Oxygen Organics.

Black Oxygen Organics, or “BOO” for short, is difficult to classify. It was marketed as fulvic acid, a compound derived from decayed plants, that was dug up from an Ontario peat bog. The website of the Canadian company that sold it billed it as “the end product and smallest particle of the decomposition of ancient, organic matter.”

Put more simply, the product is dirt — four-and-a-half ounces of it, sealed in a sleek black plastic baggie and sold for $110 plus shipping. Visitors to the Black Oxygen Organics website, recently taken offline, were greeted with a pair of white hands cradling cups of dirt like an offering. “A gift from the Ground,” it reads. “Drink it. Wear it. Bathe in it.”

BOO, which “can be taken by anyone at any age, as well as animals,” according to the company, claims many benefits and uses, including improved brain function and heart health, and ridding the body of so-called toxins that include heavy metals, pesticides and parasites.

By the end of the summer, online ads for BOO had made their way to millions of people within the internet subcultures that embrace fringe supplements, including the mixed martial arts community, anti-vaccine and Covid-denier groups, and finally more general alternative health and fake cure spaces.

And people seemed to be buying; parts of TikTok and Instagram were flooded with #BOO posts. The businessman behind Black Oxygen Organics has been selling mud in various forms for 25 years now, but BOO sold in amounts that surprised even its own executives, according to videos of company meetings viewed by NBC News.

The stars appeared aligned for it. A pandemic marked by unprecedented and politicized misinformation has spurred a revival in wonder cures. Well-connected Facebook groups of alternative health seekers and vaccine skeptics provided an audience and eager customer base for a new kind of medicine show. And the too-good-to-be-true testimonials posted to social media attracted a wave of direct sellers, many of them women dipping their toes into the often unprofitable world of multilevel marketing for the first time.

But success came at a price. Canadian and U.S. health regulators have cracked down on BOO in recent months, initiating recalls and product holds at the border, respectively. And just as an online army of fans powered BOO’s success, an oppositional force of online skeptics threatened to shut it down.

Just before Thanksgiving, the company announced in an email it was closing up shop for good. Sellers packed video calls mourning the death of their miracle cure, railing against executives who had taken their money and seemingly run, and wondering how they might recoup the thousands of dollars they paid for BOO that never arrived.

The announcement was the apparent end of one of the most haltingly successful companies to ride a wave of interest in online and directly sold alternative medicines — immunity-boosting oils, supplements, herbs, elixirs and so-called superfoods that, despite widespread concerns over their efficacy and safety, make up a lightly regulated, multibillion-dollar industry.

In a world where consumers flock to alternative health products, BOO seemed to provide an answer to the question: Just how far are people willing to dig to find their miracle cure?

A social post from Black Oxygen Organics and a Facebook post from a fan of the page

What is BOO?

Monica Wong first learned about BOO in May. The 39-year-old was scrolling Facebook from her home in Brentwood, California, and saw a Facebook ad that caught her eye: A woman in a bright green shirt emblazoned with a marijuana leaf holding a sign that read, “F— Big Pharma!” alongside a kind of treatment that promised to “detox heavy metals.”

Wong had been looking for such a product, for her boyfriend and herself, and while the price was steep, a little internet research convinced her that the health effects would be worth it. Wong clicked on the ad and bought some BOO.

Wong said that for two months she dissolved a half-teaspoon of the black stuff in a glass of water and drank it every day. But unlike people in her new BOO Facebook group who posted miraculous testimonials of cured diseases, weight loss, clearer skin, whiter teeth, regrown hair, reclaimed energy, expelled worms and even changes in eye color (from brown to blue), Wong didn’t feel like any toxins were leaving her body. In fact, she started having stomach pains.

“I can’t say it was the BOO for sure,” Wong said she remembers wondering as she went to the hospital for tests, “but wasn’t it supposed to heal my gut?”

Wong quit taking BOO and told the head of her Facebook group, a higher-ranked seller who earned commission off Wong’s participation, about her new pains. When asked why she didn’t alert others, Wong said the group administrators, BOO sellers themselves, censored the comments to weed out anything negative. “They’d never let me post that,” she said.

These online groups are filled with true believers, acolytes who call it “magic dirt.” They post that they are drinking, cooking, soaking, snorting and slathering BOO on their bodies and giving it to their families, children and pets.

“Who would have thought drinking dirt would make me feel so so good?” one person in a 27,000-member private Facebook group posted, her face nuzzling a jar of black liquid.

Another user posted a photo of a baby sitting in a bathtub of water colored a deep caramel. In the caption, she shared that the baby had contracted hand, foot and mouth disease — a virus that mainly affects children and causes painful sores. “Tiny is enjoying his Boo bath!” she wrote. “We’re happy to say our bottom feels happier and we’re in a better mood!”

Many such posts are dedicated to tactics for getting kids and loved ones to take BOO.

“Boo brownies for the picky family,” one poster offered.

Testimonials like these make up the majority of posts in dozens of Facebook groups, set up and overseen by BOO sellers, with hundreds of thousands of collective members, where BOO is heralded as a miracle drug. Teams of sellers in these private Facebook groups claim that, beyond cosmetic applications, BOO can cure everything from autism to cancer to Alzheimer’s disease. Conveniently in these times, BOO proponents say it also protects against and treats Covid-19, and can be used to “detox” the newly vaccinated, according to posts viewed by NBC News.

None of the posters contacted by NBC News returned a request for comment. But there may be an incentive for the hyperbole.

The MLM boom

Black Oxygen Organics products can’t be bought in stores. Instead, the pills and powders are sold by individuals, who theoretically profit not only off their sales but off those of others they recruit. It’s the type of top-down and widening profit-modeled business, known as multilevel marketing or MLM, that has led critics to label BOO and products like it pyramid schemes.

Participation in MLMs boomed during the pandemic with 7.7 million Americans working for one in 2020, a 13 percent increase over the previous year, according to the Direct Selling Association, the trade and lobbying group for the MLM industry. Wellness products make up the majority of MLM products, and, as the Federal Trade Commission noted, some direct sellers took advantage of a rush toward so-called natural remedies during the pandemic to boost sales.

More than 99 percent of MLM sellers lose money, according to the Consumer Awareness Institute, an industry watchdog group. But according to social media posts, BOO’s business was booming. In selfies and videos posted to Facebook, Instagram and TikTok, women lather BOO on their faces and soak their feet in sludge-filled pasta pots while, they claim, the money rolls in.

Black Oxygen Organics’ compensation plan, like most MLMs, is convoluted. According to their company handbook, sellers, called “brand partners,” can earn income in two distinct ways: through retail commissions on bags of BOO they sell, and through recruiting other sellers, from which they earn additional commission and bonuses. The more recruits a seller brings in, the more quickly the seller rises in the ranks — there are 10 titles in the company, from brand partner to director to CEO, with compensation packages growing along the way.

A common strategy for MLM participants, including BOO sellers, is to create Facebook groups to collaborate and attract new customers.

“I earned $21,000 in bonuses in my first 5 weeks!” one post read. “I am a single mom, 1 income family, this business was the best decision!!!”

Black Oxygen Organics’ vice president of business development, Ron Montaruli, described the craze in September, telling distributors on a Zoom call viewed by NBC News that the company had attracted 21,000 sellers and 38,000 new customers. Within the last six months, sales had rocketed from $200,000 a month to nearly $4 million, Montaruli said, referring to a chart that showed the same. (Attempts to reach Montaruli were unsuccessful.)

Facts around the company’s actual income are as hazy as the mud it sells, but the secret to dealing dirt seems to be Facebook, where sellers have created dozens of individual groups that have attracted a hodgepodge of hundreds of thousands of members.

The largest BOO Facebook groups, including one with over 97,000 members, are led mostly by MLM jumpers, the term for people who sell a range of MLM products. The groups have also attracted more general alternative health consumers, as well as people seemingly suffering from delusional parasitosis, a condition characterized by the misguided belief that one’s body is being overrun by parasites. Users in these groups mimic activity in anti-parasite internet groups by dosing according to phases of the moon and posting photos of dirty water from foot baths or human waste from toilets asking others to identify a mystery worm.

Facebook did not respond to requests for comment on the BOO groups or whether their claims violated the company’s content policies.

User testimonials about the Black Oxygen Organic dirt posted to social media. (Obtained by NBC News)

In the last several months, the groups have seen a rise in members from anti-vaccine and Covid-denial communities, including prominent activists who sell the product to raise funds for anti-vaccine efforts.

A profile of one top seller featured in BOO’s semiregular glossy magazine, “The Bog,” noted that Covid had drawn more people to the industry.

“It’s been kind of a blessing,” the seller said.

While it undoubtedly attracted sales and built teams, Facebook also created a unique problem for Black Oxygen Organics: Those testimonials might have violated federal law that requires efficacy claims be substantiated by “competent and reliable scientific evidence.” They also attracted attention, not only from customers, but from health professionals, regulatory agencies and a group BOO executives have dubbed “the haters.”

After a summer of unbridled success, the internet backlash began.

The rise of MLMs online prompted criticism from some people who have created informal activist groups to bring awareness to what they say are the predatory practices of MLM companies and organized campaigns to disrupt specific businesses. Many of the groups use the same social media techniques to organize their responses.

Online activists who oppose MLMs formed Facebook groups targeting BOO for its claims. Members of these groups infiltrated the BOO community, signing up as sellers, joining pro-BOO groups, and attending BOO sales meetings, then reporting back what they had seen to the group. They posted videos of the company meetings and screenshots from the private BOO sales groups and urged members to file official complaints with the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration.

YouTube creators made videos debunking BOO peddlers’ most outrageous claims, ridiculing BOO executives and making public recordings of the private company meetings.

Image: Ceara Manchester (Courtesy of Ceara Manchester)

Ceara Manchester, a stay-at-home mother in Pompano Beach, Florida, helps run one of the largest anti-BOO Facebook groups, “Boo is Woo.” Manchester, 34, has spent the last four years monitoring predatory MLMs — or “cults,” in her view — and posting to multiple social media accounts and groups dedicated to “exposing” Black Oxygen Organics.

“The health claims, I had never seen them that bad,” Manchester said. “Just the sheer amount. Every single post was like, ‘cancer, Covid, diabetes, autism.’”

“I don’t feel like people are stupid,” Manchester said of the people who purchased and even sold BOO. “I think that they’re desperate or vulnerable, or they’ve been preyed upon, and you get somebody to say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this product that cures everything.’ You know when you’re desperate like that you might listen.”

The mudman

Black Oxygen Organics is the brainchild of Marc Saint-Onge, a 59-year-old entrepreneur from Casselman, Ontario. Saint-Onge, BOO’s founder and CEO, did not respond to calls, texts, emails or direct messages.

But decades of interviews in local press and more recently on social media offer some details about Saint-Onge, or, as he likes to be called, “the mudman.”

Saint-Onge describes himself as an orthotherapist, naturopath, kinesitherapist, reiki master, holistic practitioner, herbalist and aromatherapist. As he said in a video posted to YouTube that has since been made private, his love of mud began as a child, chasing bullfrogs around Ontario bogs. Years later, he went on to practice orthotherapy, a kind of advanced massage technique, to treat pain. He said he packaged dirt from a local bog, branches and leaves included, in zip-lock baggies and gave them to his “patients,” who demanded the mud faster than he could scoop it.

Saint-Onge said he was charged by Canadian authorities with practicing medicine without a license in 1989 and fined $20,000.

“Then my clinic went underground,” he said on a recent podcast.

He has sold mud in some form since the early 1990s. Health Canada, the government regulator responsible for public health, forced him to pull an early version of his mud product, then called the “Anti-Rheuma Bath,” according to a 1996 article in The Calgary Herald, because Saint-Onge marketed it to treat arthritis and rheumatism without any proof to substantiate the claims. Saint-Onge also claimed his mud could heal wounds, telling an Ottawa Citizen reporter in 2012 that his mud compress healed the leg of a man who had suffered an accident with a power saw, saving it from amputation.

“The doctor said it was the antibiotics,” he said. “But we believe it was the mud.”

In the ‘90s Saint-Onge began selling his mud bath under the “Golden Moor” label, which he did until he realized a dream, “a way to do a secret little extraction,” in his words, that would make the dirt dissolve in water. In 2015, with the founding of his company NuWTR, which would later turn into Black Oxygen Organics, Saint-Onge said he finally invented a dirt people could drink.

In 2016, he began selling himself as a business coach, and his personal website boasted of his worth: “I sell mud in a bottle,” he wrote. “Let me teach you to sell anything.”

The troubles

In September, Montaruli, BOO’s vice president, led a corporate call to address the Facebook groups and what he called “the compliance situation.”

“Right now, it’s scary,” Montaruli said in a Zoom call posted publicly, referring to the outlandish claims made by some of BOO’s sellers. “In 21 years, I have never seen anything like this. Never.”

“These outrageous claims, and I’m not even sure if outrageous is bad enough, are obviously attracting the haters, giving them more fuel for the fire, and potential government officials.”

Montaruli called for “a reset,” telling BOO sellers to delete the pages and groups and start over again.

One slide suggested alternatives for 14 popular BOO uses, including switching terms like ADHD to “trouble concentrating,” and “prevents heart attack” to “maintain a healthy cardiovascular system.”

Screenshot of a Facebook post about the Black Oxygen Organics dirt.
(Obtained by NBC News)

And so in September, the Facebook groups evolved — many went private, most changed their names from BOO to “fulvic acid,” and the pinned testimonials from customers claiming miracle cures were wiped clean, tweaked or edited to add a disclaimer absolving the company from any liability.

But that wasn’t the end of the company’s troubles. While individual sellers navigated their new compliance waters, regulatory agencies cracked down.

Days after Montaruli’s call, Health Canada announced a recall of Black Oxygen Organics tablets and powders, citing “potential health risks which may be higher for children, adolescents, and pregnant or breastfeeding women.” Further, the regulatory agency noted, “The products are being promoted in ways and for uses that have not been evaluated and authorized by Health Canada.”

“Stop taking these products,” the announcement advised.

Inventory for U.S. customers had already been hard to come by. In private groups, sellers claimed the product had sold out, but in the company-wide call, Montaruli confirmed that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration was holding its products at the border.

Jeremy Kahn, an FDA spokesperson, declined to comment.

Saint-Onge did not respond to requests for comment from NBC News. Phone messages and emails sent by a reporter to the company, its executives and its legal counsel were not returned.

What’s in BOO?

BOO is not the only dirt-like health supplement on the market. Consumers have the option of dozens of products — in drops, tablets, powders and pastes — that claim to provide the healing power of fulvic and humic acid.

Fulvic and humic acids have been used in traditional and folk medicines for centuries, and do exhibit antibacterial qualities in large quantities. But there is little scientific evidence to support the kinds of claims made by BOO sellers, according to Brian Bennett, a professor of physics at Marquette University who has studied fulvic and humic acids as a biochemist.

“I would say it’s snake oil,” Bennett said. “There is a lot of circumstantial evidence that a pharmaceutical based on the characteristics of this material might actually work, but I think eating handfuls of soil probably doesn’t.”

Beyond the questions of the health benefits of fulvic acid, there’s the question of just what is in Black Oxygen Organics’ product.

The company’s most recent certificate of analysis, a document meant to show what a product is made of and in what amounts, was posted by sellers this year. Reporting the product makeup as mostly fulvic acid and Vitamin C, the report comes from 2017 and doesn’t list a lab, or even a specific test. NBC News spoke to six environmental scientists, each of whom expressed skepticism at the quality of BOO’s certificate.

Assuming the company-provided analysis was correct, two of the scientists confirmed that just two servings of BOO exceeded Health Canada’s daily limits for lead, and three servings — a dose recommended on the package — approached daily arsenic limits. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has no comparable daily guidelines.

In an effort to verify BOO’s analysis, NBC News procured a bag and sent it to Nicholas Basta, a professor of soil and environmental science at Ohio State University.

The BOO product was analyzed for the presence of heavy metals at Ohio State’s Trace Element Research Laboratory. Results from that test were similar to the company’s 2017 certificate, finding two doses per day exceeded Health Canada’s limit for lead, and three doses for daily arsenic amounts.

Growing concern among BOO sellers about the product — precipitated by an anti-MLM activist who noticed on Google Earth that the bog that sourced BOO’s peat appeared to share a border with a landfill — pushed several to take matters into their own hands, sending bags of BOO to labs for testing.

The results of three of these tests, viewed by NBC News and confirmed as seemingly reliable by two soil scientists at U.S. universities, again showed elevated levels of lead and arsenic.

Those results are the backbone of a federal lawsuit seeking class action status filed in November in Georgia’s Northern District court. The complaint, filed on behalf of four Georgia residents who purchased BOO, claims that the company negligently sold a product with “dangerously high levels of toxic heavy metals,” which led to physical and economic harm.

Black Oxygen Organics did not respond to requests for comment concerning the complaint.

Screenshots of user testimonials about the Black Oxygen Organics dirt. (Obtained by NBC News)

‘A heavy heart’

The lawsuit hit at an inopportune time, just as the company had “reformulated” its products and added a new label on the powder that now specifies the product is “not for human consumption.”

“Things are starting to settle a little bit,” BOO executive Montaruli said in a video meeting explaining a change from tablet to capsules and a relabeling of the powder.

The powder is “strictly for cosmetics,” Saint-Onge said on the call, a recording of which was shared with NBC News by an attendee.

In the BOO groups, the company’s sellers were undeterred.

“You can continue to use the powder as you choose in your own home,” the admin of one Facebook group wrote to members announcing the product update. “Know that it is the same powder.”

“We cannot TECHNICALLY tell customers to use the product internally,” Adam Ringham, a “Royal Diamond CEO” (BOO’s highest seller title), told his group. “WE CAN HOWEVER — tell them that the powder is THE EXACT SAME as before … ”

Ringham did not return requests for comment.

Just as the BOO sellers were planning their Black Friday sales, the rug was pulled out from them again, this time, seemingly, for good.

Two days before Thanksgiving, an email landed in the inboxes of BOO customers and sellers.

“It is with a heavy heart that we must announce the immediate closing of Black Oxygen Organics,” it read. Details in the note were sparse, but Black Oxygen executives and employees offered an explanation in company Zoom meetings that afternoon.

According to BOO President Carlo Garibaldi, they had weathered the FTC complaints, the FDA seizures, the Health Canada recalls and the online mob. But the “fatal blow” came when their online merchant dropped them as clients.

With no actual product in stock for the last two months, sellers had been urging customers to “preorder” BOO. Now, the throng of customers responding to the nonconsumable “reformulation” by asking for their money back had spooked their payment processor.

“This is our baby,” Garibaldi said, flashing his Black Oxygen elbow tattoo to the screen. “We needed this to go on forever.”

Saint-Onge appeared briefly, holding his head in his hands. “This was my limit,” he said.

Members of anti-BOO groups celebrated.

“WE DID IT!!!!!!” Manchester, the group administrator, posted to the “Boo is Woo” Facebook group. “I hope this is proof positive that if the anti-MLM community bans together we can take these companies down. We won’t stop with just BOO. A new age of anti-MLM activism has just begun.”

In a separate Zoom meeting unattended by executives and shared with NBC News, lower-rung sellers grappled with the sudden closure and the reality that they were out hundreds or thousands of dollars.

“I am three weeks to a month away from having a baby and I’ve been depending on this money to arrive in my bank account,” one seller said through tears. “It’s the only income we have.”

The future of BOO is uncertain. Tens of thousands of bags remain in warehouses, according to Black Oxygen executives. Sellers are unlikely to receive orders, refunds or commissions. The federal lawsuit will continue, Matt Wetherington, the Georgia lawyer behind the proposed class action lawsuit, said.

But in the land of MLMs, failure is just another opportunity. Saint-Onge may have walked away from this cohort of customers, but for those who sold it, BOO was more than just a product; it was a way of believing. Now, the thousands of BOO acolytes still convening in BOO Facebook groups are funneling into a new Facebook group, named “The Solution,” and turning their outstretched hands toward a new direct-sales company, one that BOO’s top sellers claim offers an even purer fulvic acid product and a colloidal silver as well.

“Thanks for all your continued support,” The Solution’s admins wrote in a welcome post. “Moving forward is all we can do.”

Vaccine denial is still a thing… and it’s killing people.

Jason Chatfield, The New Yorker

People can believe whatever they want. They can preach it from the street corners, or on TV, or the radio, or the Internet. Flog your religion, be a vegan. Most beliefs are lifestyle choices and are pretty harmless. But some things cross the line, and vaccine misinformation is one of them. And it enrages me that this is still a thing, even after all these years.

This popped up on my Facebook feed just yesterday:

And the light of a candle shall shine no more at all in you [Babylon]; and the voice of the bridegroom and of the bride shall be heard no more at all in you: for your merchants were the great men of the earth; for by your sorceries [aka pharmakeia!] were all nations DECEIVED.Revelation 18:23I have warned about this way before it came out, but PLEASE, just say NO to cv vaccine. 😭🙏
Inform yourself of the ingredients:
mRNA
Luciferase
Hydrogel
Aborted fetal cells
Toxic chemicals & poisons
Don’t take my word for it.
Research it yourself.

In the case of wild, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories and science denial, “research it yourself” is equivalent to “watch the YouTube video that supports my position.” Because that’s not how science works.

So let’s look at the actual ingredients in Pfizer’s vaccine:

  • Active Ingredient
    • nucleoside-modified messenger RNA (modRNA) encoding the viral spike glycoprotein (S) of SARS-CoV-2
  • Lipids
    • (4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis (ALC-3015)
    • (2- hexyldecanoate),2-[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide (ALC-0159)
    • 1,2-distearoyl-snglycero-3-phosphocholine (DPSC)
    • cholesterol
  • Salts
    • potassium chloride
    • monobasic potassium phosphate
    • sodium chloride
    • basic sodium phosphate dihydrate 
  • Other
    • sucrose

mRNA: ✓. That’s how the vaccine works, and it’s quite miraculous. Instead of injecting the body with dead or living virus so the immune system can ramp up to deal with a future real attack, it teaches the body how to build the part of the virus that attaches to our cells, so when a real virus attacks us, the immune system recognizes that protein spike and goes after the invaders. That’s crazy cool, and it’s completely harmless because no actual virus gets anywhere near the patient.

luciferase: ✘ Luciferase is one of two chemicals fireflies use to attract mates, and it has nothing to do with Lucifer. The roots of this word are Latin: “lux, lucis” meaning “light,” and “fer-” from the verb “to carry” whose principle parts are ferro, ferre, tuli, and latus. Hence “a substance that carries light.” Now, “Lucifer” is basically the same word, and the wanker is described in the Bible as an angel of light who fell from heaven. But there’s none of him in the vaccine. According to Fr. Tad Pacholczyk, a neuroscientist and priest in the Fall River, MA diocese:

Luciferase, an enzyme involved in firefly illumination, is being used in various testing and development stages ahead of the production of a COVID-19 vaccine, but is not itself part of the injected material included in human vaccinations. Luciferase is a commonly used biomedical research tool, and has been used, for example, in lab animals to study the most effective way to deliver mRNA vaccines, whether by an injection into the skin, muscle or a vein. (emphasis mine).

Click for more from Fr. Tad.

Remember the game of “telephone” that you played in grade school? It goes by other names, too – but you sit in a circle and the first person whispers something into the ear of the person next to them, like “Johnny kissed Mary under the apple tree.” And you can’t ask for a repeat or clarification. (This rule was called “no operator!” if I remember correctly.) And by the time it gets back to the last person, what comes out is completely different, like “My mother made apple pie for Thanksgiving.” This is how rumors spread and become twisted. Because very few people are trained in critical thinking, and people don’t understand what “doing research” really entails. They hear things from people they know, and repeat them in mommy groups or around water coolers or at football games or on the Internet, and all of a sudden the Pfizer vaccine contains the Devil, because sadly – in far too many cases – religious belief trumps anything based on centuries of scientific research.

hydrogel ✘ Hydrogels have many uses, including “injectable hydrogels which can be used as drug carriers for treatment of diseases or as cell carriers for regenerative purposes or tissue engineering.” That said, none are being used in Covid-19 vaccinese. This is an unsubstantiated myth.

aborted fetal cells ✘ From the University of Nebraska:

When it comes to the COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for emergency use, neither the Pfizer nor Moderna vaccines used fetal cell lines during the development or production phases. (So, no fetal cell lines were used to manufacture the vaccine, and they are not inside the injection you receive from your doctor.)

To be clear:

Fetal cell lines are not the same as tissue from aborted fetuses. Fetal cell lines are cells that grow in a laboratory. They descend from cells taken from elective abortions in the 1970s and 1980s. Those individual cells from the 1970s and 1980s have since multiplied into many new cells over the past four or five decades, creating fetal cell lines. Current fetal cell lines are thousands of generations removed from the original fetal tissue. 

This is a standard scare tactic used by the religious right, linking anything that they are afraid of to abortion – one of their favorite hot-button issues.

Toxic chemicals and poisons ✘ To many who view science as a product of the Devil, anything they can’t understand or can’t pronounce is “toxic poison.”

Far too many proponents of natural health repeat this claim far and wide on the Internet and in published works. But let’s look at the “toxic chemicals and poisons” which make up an organic blueberry:

Every bit of food that we eat is made up of chemicals, many of which you would have to be an organic chemist to understand or pronounce. Look closely, and you’ll find that most of these health-oriented websites are linked to something that they want to sell you: a supplement, a product, or a service.

The lipids and salts used in the Pfizer vaccine are there as lubrication to encase the mRNA and ease its passage into our system, or as preservatives to prevent its degradation before it can be effective.

The Pfizer vaccine contains four salts, one of which is ordinary table salt. Together, these salts are better known as phosphate-buffered saline, or PBS, a very common ingredient that keeps the pH, or acidity, of the vaccine close to that of a person’s body. You’ll understand how important that is if you’ve ever squeezed lemon juice on a cut. Substances with the wrong acidity can injure cells or get quickly degraded.

Sucrose ✓ Sugar. It’s there to keep the mRNA particles from sticking together when the vaccine is frozen. No danger to the human system, especially given how much sugar we humans like to consume.

In addition to the massive amount of testing that went in to the development of these vaccines, all of the real ingredients in the vaccine are present in such minuscule amounts as to render them entirely innocuous. Beyond that, there’s nothing in the Pfizer vaccine that people (unjustifiably) scream about – no mercury, no thimerosal, and no microchips.

Just as a matter of passing interest, here’s my vaccination schedule:

DPT Vaccine
1st11/13/1951
2nd11/27/1951
3rd12/11/1951
1st Booster4/8/1961
Polio
1st12/18/1955
2nd1/11/1956
3rd10/8/1956
4th8/1958
5th4/14/1961
Smallpox
1st1951
2nd4/14/1961

As a result of these vaccines, I survived childhood with only chicken pox, German measles, and mumps – and didn’t die from easily preventable diseases. And over the course of my life I’ve had many other vaccines, including TB, Tetanus boosters, Yellow Fever, influenza, shingles, and a host of others. And I’m still alive, and I’m no more autistic than I was when I was born twitch twitch (that was a joke, folks. I suffer from ADHD but it has nothing to do with vaccinations.)

Now it’s time to repeat something that shouldn’t have to be repeated, but sadly does: vaccines don’t cause autism, and they don’t poison people

This viral image enraged a scientist who published this response (his screen name is kinda crude, so I don’t want to use it here, but it’s out there if you need to find it, and I have only slightly bowdlerized his or her essay):

You are the worst person.

You can be a vegan and whine at people, that’s hurting nobody but when you tell people to not take vaccines, you’re endangering public health.

If YOU mixed mercury, aluminium phosphate, ammonium sulfate, formaldehyde and viruses and injected it into someone, you’d kill someone because you have no pharmacological experience. 

If someone in a lab mixed those together, they know how they work, they have medically assessed and peer reviewed evidence and strict guidelines to follow to create a safe and effective product. Why is it legal? Because they know what they’re doing and know how to spell “phosphate” and “ammonium”.

Why don’t YOU educate yourself instead of subscribing to the notion that all scientists are evil and want to poison you are your natural, vegan lifestyle. I say this as an IMMUNOLOGIST, you are single-handedly responsible for the skyrocketing resurgence of deaths caused by TB, measles and the worrying prospect of smallpox returning.

Let’s break this one down and give you some education.

Mercury is an element in the compound thiomersal which was part of many vaccines. It has been claimed with NO tangible evidence other than a multifaceted correlation that thiomersals cause autism. This has been investigated thoroughly and no causal link has been found.

Aluminium phosphate is an aluminium salt which is used as an adjuvant in vaccines. An adjuvant is a compound which causes an immune response to be higher and stronger, so that the immune system comes into contact with the attenuated virus more, so that it can recognise the antigens of the virus and provide immunity. They are a necessary part of the vaccine if you want it to work well.

Ammonium sulfate is used in the process of purifying the proteins in the synthesis of a vaccine. It is also found in bread and flour, so you’d better learn to enjoy rice if you want to avoid it.

Formaldehyde is used in the treatment and purification of vaccines and stops contamination. Most of this is removed before the vaccines is shipped, although some remains.

In my personal and scientifically backed opinion, the war against disease is a hundred fold more important than the mum-led war against vaccines. Do you want your child to die a slow, painful, agonising death? If not, then shut up with your so called “facts” you got from Yahoo Answers and get your kid vaccinated.

I am going to sound derogatory, but if you don’t have formal education in at least biology, you have no role to talk about the way vaccines should be done. You have no idea of the actual function and mechanism in which they work, and you have is a vague knowledge that mercury used to make people mad, formaldehyde is used in embalming and that ammonium sulfate and aluminium phosphate sound scary.

Vaccinate your kids if you want them to live. End of. If you don’t then you clearly don’t love your kids and would prefer to see them die of completely preventable diseases.

This has been a rage filled, alcohol induced response from a scientist.

To say it again: VACCINES DO NOT CAUSE AUTISM.

So I didn’t “take your word for it,” and I “researched it myself.” And came up with a bunch of baseless lies, misrepresentations, and scare tactics. And by encouraging the susceptible not to take the Covid vaccine, you’re killing people.

Your move.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Footnotes:

¹ Human genetics and chemistry are so complex that no medication is without possible risk or side effect for someone in the general population. I would be a fool to say that nobody has ever had adverse responses up to and including death from some vaccine or medication. But when one is dealing with wide societal health issues, the concept of risk/benefit has to be considered.

If the MMR vaccine protects countless, numberless children (and later adults) from crippling or even fatal diseases, and there’s a one in a million chance that a child will respond adversely to a vaccination, is that a reason to tell people not to take the vaccine? The loss or injury of a child to its parents and loved ones is incalculable and should never be minimized – but how many lives have been saved, and how much disease averted, by the simple act of keeping a population protected?

The Great Barrington Crime Against Humanity

I just saw something come across my newsfeed about the “Great Barrington Declaration,” a document which essentially recommends against any Covid-19 protections, like social distancing and wearing masks, and promotes the development of herd immunity by exposing less-vulnerable people through living normal lives.

But consider this, from Wikipedia (emphasis mine.)


The World Health Organization and numerous academic and public-health bodies have stated that the proposed strategy is dangerous, unethical, and lacks a sound scientific basis.

They say that it would be impossible to shield all those who are medically vulnerable, leading to a large number of avoidable deaths among both older people and younger people with underlying health conditions, and they warn that the long-term effects of COVID-19 are still not fully understood. Moreover, they say that the herd immunity component of the proposed strategy is undermined by the limited duration of post-infection immunity. The more likely outcome, they say, would be recurrent epidemics, as was the case with numerous infectious diseases before the advent of vaccination. The American Public Health Association and 13 other public-health groups in the United States warned in a joint open letter that the Great Barrington Declaration “is not a strategy, it is a political statement. It ignores sound public health expertise. It preys on a frustrated populace. Instead of selling false hope that will predictably backfire, we must focus on how to manage this pandemic in a safe, responsible, and equitable way.”

The Great Barrington Declaration was authored by Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University.

The costs were paid for by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian think tank that is part of a Koch-funded network of organizations associated with climate change denial.


These social inconveniences – and that’s what they are, not oppressive, draconian measures – are admittedly not fun. It is a pain not to see people’s smiling faces. It is difficult to not go places we want to go, see people we want to see, travel to other cities or countries, gather in restaurants and bars for fun and celebrations, enjoy blockbuster movies in theaters, see Broadway plays, be at the side of loved ones who are going through difficult times, attend weddings and Bat Mitzvahs and funerals and Christmas parties and all the things we used to take for granted. Yes, it’s a massive pain in the tuchus.

But it’s the only way we will continue to fight the spread of this very evil, very nasty virus that kills across all spectra and leaves countless others with reduced quality of life forever, until the healthcare researchers can understand this virus and develop effective treatments and viable vaccines.

If you have never worn a mask in public because you think the government is oppressing you, or that the liberal left is promulgating a hoax, and you’re exercising your rights as a free American, or something else equally inane, you’re not a patriot. You’re an asshole. You may be maiming or killing people. And you need to go home and re-examine your life.

This restaurant in Las Vegas has the right idea:

The supposed “FTBA Mask Exemption Cards” are bogus and carry no legal or social weight of authority. If someone gives you one of them, give them back one of these:

For the love of all that’s holy; for the sake of decency and caring about your own health and that of your fellow humans around you, wear a mask and practice social distancing until this pandemic is under control and treatments and vaccines are available.

The Old Wolf has Spoken.

Amy Wright and the “How Dare You” COVID essay

When something becomes a meme on the Internet, you can be pretty sure there’s a kernel of truth behind it. Tidbits of wisdom, even when inspiring, are often attributed to the strangest, though incorrect sources. I can only assume this usually happens out of ignorance (meaning, they just don’t know the source and feel like adding a “likely” origin) rather than malice, but once something is out there, it can spread like wildfire – and pretty soon everyone and their sister’s cat’s grandmother thinks the quote is accurately sourced.

This has happened in recent days with a powerful essay that is circulating on Facebook and elsewhere about the Coronavirus, widely attributed to Dr. Fauci. The trouble is, the authoress is Amy Wright, who wrote it and posted it on Facebook on June 14, 2020. You can see the original post here.

I have replicated the full text of the post below, because it deserves to be widely seen with correct attribution.

Here is my take. Short-sighted people want to dismiss COVID-19 as “just a virus”. You may hear some suggest it’s “like a cold”. Maybe that makes them feel better because it’s familiar and makes this crisis feel less overwhelming.

But here’s the problem with that:

Chicken pox is a virus. Lots of people have had it, and probably don’t think about it much once the initial illness has passed. But it stays in your body and lives there forever, and maybe when you’re older, you have debilitatingly painful outbreaks of shingles. You don’t just get over this virus in a few weeks, never to have another health effect. We know this because it’s been around for years, and has been studied medically for years.

Herpes is also a virus. And once someone has it, it stays in your body and lives there forever, and anytime they get a little run down or stressed-out they’re going to have an outbreak. Maybe every time you have a big event coming up (school pictures, job interview, big date) you’re going to get a cold sore. For the rest of your life. You don’t just get over it in a few weeks. We know this because it’s been around for years, and been studied medically for years.

HIV is a virus. It attacks the immune system, and makes the carrier far more vulnerable to other illnesses. It has a list of symptoms and negative health impacts that goes on and on. It was decades before viable treatments were developed that allowed people to live with a reasonable quality of life. Once you have it, it lives in your body forever and there is no cure. Over time, that takes a toll on the body, putting people living with HIV at greater risk for health conditions such as cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, diabetes, bone disease, liver disease, cognitive disorders, and some types of cancer. We know this because it has been around for years, and had been studied medically for years.

Now with COVID-19, we have a novel virus that spreads rapidly and easily. The full spectrum of symptoms and health effects is only just beginning to be catalogued, much less understood.

So far the symptoms reported include:

Fever
Fatigue
Coughing
Pneumonia
Chills/Trembling
Acute respiratory distress
Lung damage (potentially permanent)
Loss of taste (a troubling neurological symptom)
Sore throat
Headaches
Difficulty breathing
Mental confusion
Diarrhea
Nausea or vomiting
Loss of appetite
Strokes have also been reported in some people who have COVID-19 (even in the relatively young)
Swollen eyes
Blood clots
Seizures
Liver damage
Kidney damage
Rash
COVID toes (weird, right?)

People testing positive for COVID-19 have been documented to be sick even after 60 days. Many people are sick for weeks, get better, and then experience a rapid and sudden flare up and get sick all over again.

A man in Seattle was hospitalized for 62 days, and while well enough to be released, still has a long road of recovery ahead of him. Not to mention a $1.1 million medical bill.

Then there is MIS-C. Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. Children with MIS-C may have a fever and various symptoms, including abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, neck pain, rash, bloodshot eyes, or feeling extra tired. While rare, it has caused deaths.

This disease has not been around for years. It has basically been 6 months. No one knows yet the long-term health effects, or how it may present itself years down the road for people who have been exposed. We literally *do not know* what we do not know.

For those in our society who suggest that people being cautious are cowards, for people who refuse to take even the simplest of precautions to protect themselves and those around them, I want to ask, without hyperbole and in all sincerity:

How dare you?

How dare you risk the lives of others so cavalierly. How dare you decide for others that they should welcome exposure as “getting it over with”, when literally no one knows who will be the lucky “mild symptoms” case, and who may fall ill and die. Because while we know that some people are more susceptible to suffering a more serious case, we also know that 20 and 30 year olds have died, marathon runners and fitness nuts have died, children and infants have died.

How dare you behave as though you know more than medical experts, when those same experts acknowledge that there is so much we don’t yet know, but with what we DO know, are smart enough to be scared of how easily this is spread, and recommend baseline precautions such as:

Frequent hand-washing
Physical distancing
Reduced social/public contact or interaction
Mask wearing
Covering your cough or sneeze
Avoiding touching your face
Sanitizing frequently touched surfaces

The more things we can all do to mitigate our risk of exposure, the better off we all are, in my opinion. Not only does it flatten the curve and allow health care providers to maintain levels of service that aren’t immediately and catastrophically overwhelmed; it also reduces unnecessary suffering and deaths, and buys time for the scientific community to study the virus in order to come to a more full understanding of the breadth of its impacts in both the short and long term.

I reject the notion that it’s “just a virus” and we’ll all get it eventually. What a careless, lazy, heartless stance. Being intentional and taking basic, common sense precautions has permitted me to avoid many common viruses. I’ve never had the flu. And while I’m not saying I never will, I also am not about to run out and intentionally expose myself to “get it over with”.

I, and several other people, posted comments on Facebook to Amy indicating that her writing was being shared widely, either with the Fauci attribution or with others trying to claim authorship. She responded with this:

In a spirit of complete openness, Ms. Wright also confessed that with regard to accuracy, only the list of symptoms has been verified through multiple sources, and that the thrust of her essay was that we know so very little about SARS-CoV-2 that it will be a long time before we fully understand the virus.

That said, I found that the entire essay struck a chord with me, and I include it with gratitude here.

The Old Wolf has shared.

67 looks different now

One of my all-time favorite books has always been The Human Comedy by William Saroyan. It’s a lovely novel about good-hearted, hard-working people living in a terrible time of death, destruction, and fear – the days of World War II. It is also written in a simple, delicious style, reflective of a certain simple goodness that much of our society no longer seems to prize.

In the course of the story, Homer Macaulay, a 14-year-old boy whose father has died and whose brother Marcus is away at the war, takes a job at the local telegraph office. There he meets Mr. Spangler, the manager, and Willie Grogan, the old-time telegrapher.

The following excerpt from the novel has always moved me because of Saroyan’s writing, but now more than ever since as of today I am no longer sixty-seven years old, the same age as Willie.

Homer sings “Happy Birthday” to Mr. Grogan

Spangler asked suddenly, “You know where Chatterton’s Bakery is on Broadway? Here’s a quarter. Go get me two day-old pies — apple and cocoanut cream. Two for a quarter.”  

“Yes, sir,” Homer said. He caught the quarter Spangler tossed to him and ran out of the office. Spangler looked after him, moving along into idle, pleasant, nostalgic dreaming. When he came out of the dream, he turned to the telegraph operator and said, “What do you think of him?”  

“He’s a good boy,” Mr. Grogan said.  

“I think he is,” Spangler said. “Comes from a good, poor family on Santa Clara Avenue. No father. Brother in the Army. Mother works in the packing-houses in the summer. Sister goes to State College. He’s a couple of years underage, that’s all.”  

“I’m a couple overage,” Mr. Grogan said. “Well get along.”  

Spangler got up from his desk. “If you want me,” he said, “I’ll be at Corbett’s. Share the pies between you—” He stopped and stared, dumbfounded, as Homer came running into the office with two wrapped-up pies.  

“What’s your name again?” Spangler almost shouted at the boy.  

“Homer Macauley,” Homer said.  

The manager of the telegraph office put his arm around the new messenger. “All right, Homer Macauley,” he said. “You’re the boy this office needs on the night-shift. You’re probably the fastest-moving thing in the San Joaquin valley. You’re going to be a great man some day, too— if you live. So see that you live.” He turned and left the office while Homer tried to understand the meaning of what the man had said.  

“All right, boy,” Mr. Grogan said, “the pies.”  

Homer put the pies on the desk beside Mr. Grogan, who continued to talk. “Homer Macauley,” he said, “my name is William Grogan. I am called Willie, however, although I am sixty-seven years old. I am an old-time telegrapher, one of the last in the world. I am also night wire-chief of this office. I am also a man who has memories of many wondrous worlds gone by. I am also hungry. Let us feast together on these pies— the apple and the cocoanut cream. From now on, you and I are friends.”  

“Yes, sir,” Homer said.  

The old telegraph operator broke one of the pies into four parts, and they began to eat cocoanut cream.  

“I shall, on occasion,” Mr. Grogan said, “ask you to run an errand for me, to join me in song, or to sit and talk to me. In the event of drunkenness, I shall expect of you a depth of understanding one may not expect from men past twelve. How old are you?’

“Fourteen,” Homer said, “but I guess I’ve got a pretty good understanding.”  

“Very well,” Mr. Grogan said. “I’ll take your word for it. Every night in this office I shall count on you to see that I shall be able to perform my duties. A splash of cold water in the face if I do not respond when shaken— this is to be followed by a cup of hot black coffee from Corbett’s.”  

“Yes, sir,” Homer said.  

“On the street, however,” Mr. Grogan continued, “the procedure is quite another thing. If you behold me wrapped in the embrace of alcohol, greet me as you pass, but make no reference to my happiness. I am a sensitive man and prefer not to be the object of public solicitude.”  

“Cold water and coffee in the office,” Homer said. “Greeting in the street. Yes, sir.”  

Mr. Grogan went on, his mouth full of cocoanut cream. “Do you feel this world is going to be a better place after the War?”  

Homer thought a moment and then said, “Yes, sir.”  

“Do you like cocoanut cream?” Mr. Grogan said.  

“Yes, sir,” Homer said.  

The telegraph box rattled. Mr. Grogan answered the call and took his place at the typewriter, but went on talking. “I, too, am fond of cocoanut cream,” he said. “Also music, especially singing. I believe I overheard you say that once upon a time you sang at Sunday School. Please be good enough to sing one of the Sunday School songs while I type this message from Washington, D. C.”  

Homer sang Rock of Ages while Mr. Grogan typed the telegram. It was addressed to Mrs. Rosa Sandoval, 1129 G Street, Ithaca, California, and in the telegram the War Department informed Mrs. Sandoval that her son, Juan Domingo Sandoval, had been killed in action.  

Mr. Grogan handed the message to Homer. He then took a long drink from the bottle he kept in the drawer beside his chair. Homer folded the tele- gram, put it in an envelope, sealed the envelope, put the envelope in his cap and left the office. When the messenger was gone, the old telegraph operator lifted his voice, singing Rock of Ages. For once upon a time he too had been as young as any man.

Saroyan, William, The Human Comedy, Harcourt, Brace and Company (1943)

Willie is 67, and has lived a hard life. Alcoholism takes its toll. I don’t feel as old as Willie, but I haven’t lived through two world wars or known the privations of the Depression. But the number stuck in my mind, and brought back these recollections.

Age is a funny thing. It’s relative. When I first read The Human Comedy as a young man (one of the few books that has ever made me weep like a grade-schooler), sixty-seven seemed far, far away and ancient. Now that I’ve passed that mark, aside from the wear and tear that comes with an aging body I don’t feel as old as Willie – somehow I’m still around 24 inside. Or sometimes 15. Or sometimes five.

I remember that even as a child, I was amused by Gelett Burgess’ poem “Consideration” found in Goops and How To Be them:

When you’re old, and get to be
Thirty-four or forty-three,
Don’t you hope that you will see
Children all respect you?

Will they, without being told,
Wait on you, when you are old,
Or be heedless, selfish, cold?
hope they’ll not neglect you!

But it’s important to remember that life expectancy has changed radically over the last century and a half.

  • Today, in 2019, the average human can expect to live to age 79.
  • in 1943 when The Human Comedy was published, the average US life expectancy for a male was 62.4, so Willie was well past the mark.
  • In 1900, when The Goops was written, the number was considerably lower: 46.3
  • And in 1853 when Herman Melville wrote “Bartleby the Scrivener,” lower still – around 38, so the narrator can be forgiven for calling himself “a rather elderly man,” ” somewhere not far from sixty.”

Much of the rising life expectancy can be attributed to advances in medical science, the eradication of many infectious diseases, and the judicious application of vaccines against diseases such as polio, smallpox, and the many childhood diseases that carried so many people away.

Public Service Announcement: Vaccines are generally safe and prevent far more suffering than they cause.

I’m to the point now where I can no longer count on the fingers of both hands the number of family members, friends and associates who have graduated from mortality at an age younger than I am today. We never know when our number will be called; like everyone else I will board the bus (“Heart and Souls” reference) when it comes for me, and while I hope for significantly more time here on earth I will be grateful for what I’ve been given. By the standards of days gone by, I’ve already beaten the odds by a mile.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Snake Oil from the 1890s

I saw this today over at Teresa’s Frog Applause strip, and thought I’d share it just because I found it fascinating.

Phytolacca Decandra, if you were not sure, is pokeweed – a toxic plant with no known legitimate medical uses and a host of applications in folk medicine.

It’s poisonous. That’s all I need to know about it. Unlike the fugu (puffer fish of Japan) which is supposedly delicious if prepared properly and fatal if not, this stuff really has no compelling reason to eat it unless one were starving, much like the pioneers in Utah who survived on sego lily bulbs after their arrival in the Great Salt Lake basin. It did keep them alive, but I’ve never been tempted to try them.

As I mentioned in earlier articles, thanks to cable television and the internet, there seems to be a new “hot” thing every year or so, hawked by the likes of Dr. Oz and a horde of affiliate marketers – green coffee extract, garcinia cambogia, exogenous ketones, chitosan, bromelain, coral calcium, the list is endless.

Take a pass on any remedy that claims to allow you to lose weight effortlessly. Just don’t waste your money. None of them work. It’s a sad fact that most of us love to eat, that the most comforting foods are high-density carbohydrates (often cooked in delicious, satiating fat), and that pounds are frightfully easy to put on and frightfully hard to take off. The only way to release weight consistently is to live with a caloric deficit, even a slight one. Eat a healthier, more balanced diet, burn more than you eat (exercise helps in a lot of different ways, but pushaways are the best dinner-table exercise you can do), and you will drop pounds.

Stay away from the snake oil.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Affiliate Marketing – How many lies can they cram in?

I’ve written before about affiliate marketing, and what a plague it is on the internet. I just had a tab pop up on my browser – despite two ad-blockers being active – and I thought I’d share an image or two.

Health experts recommend losing between 1-2 pounds a week for healthy weight release. This claim amounts to close to 1 lb per day. Ain’t gonna happen, unless you’re eating 500 calories per day and burning 3,500. In addition, this claim is not backed by Fox News (as disreputable as they may be in other areas), the NY Times, Today, Oprah, Style Watch, or Redbook.

This is not going to happen in 22 days. Look, children, this is what we call “a lie.”

Limited time only: Lie
Only 4 Bottles Still Available: Lie
40% discount: Negated at the purchase page.
Offer ends Today: Lie

Countdown timer at the bottom of the page: Another Lie.

Let’s look at the purchase page:

This page claims to send you free bottles: Lie
Only 241 promotions left: Lie
Endorsements: Lie
Lose weight without exercising: Lie

So if you want that free product and provide your information (which, by the way, will be sold to every marketer with two coppers to rub together), you get this:

Oh look, you’re being charged $59.95. That’s not free, nor is it the 40% discount promised on a previous page. And if you don’t notice that the 6-bottle option is checked, the charge on your credit card is going to be horrendous.

But wait, there’s more!

Buried deep on the purchase page in light gray print is the link to “terms and conditions,” which very few people will bother to read. If they do, they’ll find a wall of text, which includes these hidden gems (there’s a lot more of it)

Terms
SCOPE & APPLICATION
1.1 You expressly agree and accept the Conditions set forth herein unconditionally as a binding contract (“the Agreement”) enforceable by law… (How well this load of BS would stand up in court is an open question)

PRODUCT AND BILLING
2.1 All product purchases made from this website are required to be paid in full. For more information about our products, please visit http://www.ketopurediet.com.
2.1.1. The prices for the products are as follows: $199.99 or $28.57 each for the 7 bottle package;$149.95 or $29.99 each for the 5 bottle package; $99.99 or $33.33 each for the 3 bottle package and $69.99 each for the 1 bottle package, plus $7.95 shipping and handling. Shipping and handling is non-refundable.
2.2 You authorize us to initiate a one-time charge to your credit card as indicated upon your purchase. (So, not free at all)

This next one is a real treasure:

16.7 I also acknowledge that I understand that by placing my order of Keto Pure Diet, I am automatically enrolled in the Keto Pure Diet health community program. I further acknowledge that I understand that my membership in Keto Pure Diet is included in my product purchase, that my complementary membership will remain active for as long as I remain an active custom of Keto Pure Diet, and that once I am no longer an active customer of Keto Pure Diet the membership dues shall, at my option, become my responsibility. I hereby grant authorization for the monthly membership dues to be charged to the credit card or debit card used to complete the purchase of Keto Pure Diet. I further acknowledge, agree to, and accept the Keto Pure Diet Privacy Policy, the Keto Pure Diet Website Use Terms and Conditions, the Keto Pure Diet Terms and Conditions, and the Keto Pure Diet Health Coin Terms and Conditions. I acknowledge that I understand that my Keto Pure Diet my Keto Pure Diet membership can be canceled at anytime by calling 1-888-628-6284, by emailing support@ketopurediet.com. Your Keto Pure Diet membership entitles you and your household dependents to consultation fee free calls with licensed doctors 24-hours per day, 365-days per year, as well as access to thousands of dentists with typical savings of 50% off regular bills, vision care savings, and prescription savings at most pharmacies in the US. To learn more value to the included Keto Pure Diet program, go to http://www.ketopurediet.com, and look for emails explaining the programs and services included in the membership.

Notice that if you stop ordering this product, you have just given permission for monthly dues to some worthless program to be charged to your credit card, and nothing is ever said about how much those monthly dues are until you’ve bitten the hook.

There’s a lot more legal noise in those terms and conditions, which mostly assure you that the company has all rights and that you have very few.

But what about the product itself? Is it any good? will it work? Wow, it’s so easy:

The ketogenic diet has been around for a long time. There is a massive body of information out there about it, some positive and some negative. While the marketeers would have you believe that exogenous ketones (i.e. the stuff that comes from outside your body) can put you into a state of ketosis in minutes, that’s highly debatable. So if you want to release weight with a ketogenic diet, follow step 2 above (but be sure to consult with your healthcare provider before beginning any program of this nature.) Step 1 can be safely replaced with:

  • Singing opera 10 minutes a day
  • Painting with Bob Ross
  • Learning to speak Turkish
  • Taking homeopathic weight loss drops
  • Not taking homeopathic weight loss drops
  • Standing on your head and spitting nickels
  • Anything
  • Nothing

… and you’ll get exactly the same results, whatever those are.

The Internet is awash with pages like this, because most affiliate marketers will say absolutely anything to get you to buy the product, for which sale they get a commission. And most affiliate marketers have the ethics of an angry honey badger.

Don’t be taken in by “offers” like this from sleazy, irresponsible salespeople. Stay away from any product that claims to help you lose weight fast.

Be careful out there.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Cannabis: the case against decriminalization

Cross-posted from Livejournal and updated 11-8-2018

☞ The executive summary is, “Because it doesn’t go far enough.” ☜

A photo gallery at Time Magazine brought this issue to the front of my mind again, where it has been many times. Swirling around in the mass of insignificant facts and rabid squirrels that inhabit my brain are thoughts that keep coming back to me over and over again, many of which have to do with the overwhelming societal cost that we are paying for a failing war on drugs.

If recent statistics (CDC, 2009) are to be believed, 6.6% of people over 12 were using marijuana at least once a month – a total of 23.1 million people (minus the ones under 12). That’s us. We’re the ones who are funding the carnage in Mexico as drug cartels battle for turf and slaughter countless people in their quest for American drug dollars.

Prohibition is Ineffective

We saw how well Prohibition worked… all it did was put the country’s alcohol revenue into the hands of the criminal element. Whenever money is to be made, the bad guys will be there in force, because they don’t care how they get it.

“Although consumption of alcohol fell at the beginning of Prohibition, it subsequently increased. Alcohol became more dangerous to consume; crime increased and became “organized”; the court and prison systems were stretched to the breaking point; and corruption of public officials was rampant. No measurable gains were made in productivity or reduced absenteeism. Prohibition removed a significant source of tax revenue and greatly increased government spending. It led many drinkers to switch to opium, marijuana, patent medicines, cocaine, and other dangerous substances that they would have been unlikely to encounter in the absence of Prohibition.” Cato Institute Policy Analysis

The Social Costs are considerably less than those associated with tobacco and alcohol

The societal costs of alcohol are enormous, whereas the social impact of cannabis use is significantly less.

“In terms of (health-related) costs per user: tobacco-related health costs are over $800 per user, alcohol-related health costs are much lower at $165 per user, and cannabis-related health costs are the lowest at $20 per user.” (Cannabis, Tobacco and Alcohol Use in Canada)

I can’t recall the last time I heard of some high-flying husband beating his wife and children; it’s hard to be aggressive when you’re giggling. That’s said somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but in all my life I have never encountered an angry pot user, whereas the number of bar fights that go on in cities and towns all around America, followed by nights in the slammer and subsequent taking out of infantile anger on innocent domestic partners and children is beyond anyone’s ability to count. The same holds true for violent crime, sexual assault and date rape.

Ask any emergency-room doc, nurse, or EMT: alcohol use contributes to reckless behavior and serious injuries, and it is highly associated with emergency room visits; such visits directly associated with cannabis would hardly make a blip on the radar.

Take the Money Away From the Criminal Element

Drug tunnels like these, as well as illegal farms in national forests and elsewhere, with all their associated risks to innocent citizenry, would become a thing of the past if cannabis were freely available, regulated and taxed in the same way tobacco is.

“The libertarian Cato Institute just issued a detailed statistical analysis on how ending prohibition – a favored term for supporters of pot reform – could help America’s budget woes. According to the much-discussed study, legalizing all illicit drugs would save the government $41.3 billion a year in law-enforcement costs and generate some $46.7 billion in tax revenue; marijuana would account for $8.7 billion of the savings, and another $8.7 billion in taxes. Legalized marijuana would certainly help fatten state coffers in debt-crippled California, where pot is the biggest agricultural crop, with $14 billion a year in sales that never appear on tax returns.” (Newsweek, “The Conservative Case for Legalizing Pot”).

Further thoughts on the tax advantages appeared in the LA Times on 8/27/10.

Prosecution of recreational THC users and those who require it for valid medical reasons is wasting billions of tax dollars directly and indirectly, and taking valuable law enforcement hours away from issues that are significantly more important. Based on everything I’ve seen, heard and read, legalization will have a negligible impact on usage which is already there, and will have societal benefits far greater than any potential increase in disadvantages.

I’m by no means for blanket legalization of all illicit drugs, but at this point marijuana appears to be a no-brainer in terms of cost-benefit analysis. The usage is already there. In a sense, not legalizing it is an immoral act, given how much blood and carnage is resulting from the activity of the Mexican cartels which we are directly funding.

If people could walk down to their local package store for some quality-controlled, legal cannabis, who in their right mind would risk buying it from illegal sources? The illegal marijuana market would simply dry up.

There will be those who question why I’m taking such a position, especially in light of my own religion’s stance on the use of things as mild as tea and coffee, let alone alcohol, tobacco and illegal drugs. Make no mistake: I’m convinced that if people would give up the use of all harmful and/or addictive substances, the physical, emotional and spiritual health of our nation would rise dramatically, and countless billions of dollars would be saved. That said, I am simply looking at the numbers. Legalization would save lives, free up law-enforcement resources, and redirect funds from the criminal element to other critical social needs. I can’t look at it any other way.

Progress is being made. Canada has legalized marijuana, and just this week they experienced a severe legal problem: there isn’t enough of it.

In the United States, the non-medical use of cannabis is decriminalized in 13 states (plus the U.S. Virgin Islands), and legalized in another 10 states (plus the District of Columbia and Northern Mariana Islands), as of November 2018. (Wikipedia)

It’s time to get cannabis out of the hands of criminals, and good people – who have committed an offense no worse than a three-martini lunch – out of prison.

The Old Wolf has spoken.