The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘health care’

Charlatan Kevin Trudeau Goes to Prison

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 22, 2014

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about that most infamous of anti-medical charlatans, Kevin Trudeau, and how he was doing all that he could to dodge both common decency and the law by continuing to push his “Natural Cures” nonsense…

Many times you’ll hear skeptics venting their spleens about this huckster or that charlatan and “How is it possible they’re allowed to get away with this crap?!”  One of the worst such pseudoscientific offenders in recent years has been “natural cures” quack Kevin Trudeau, who has used his infomercial sales pitches to convince countless people that he has a cure for cancer (he doesn’t) and that they shouldn’t trust modern, science-based medicine because “‘They’ don’t want you to know the truth”.  I think it would be reasonable to say that Trudeau has not only bilked people out of millions of dollars with his bogus “cures”, but in addition that his nonsensical anti-scientific conspiracy mongering has even gotten some people who believed him killed. …

… Well, I think this is one case in which the charlatan is getting his just-desserts.  Of course, to Trudeau’s followers, this will likely be interpreted as more evidence of their “Big Pharma/Big Medicine/Big Government” conspiracy theory, and they will paint Trudeau as a martyr for the alt-med cause. Which is fine with me, so long as Trudeau is a martyr in jail. [emphasis added]

Well, today I am happy to report that, while the wheels of justice do indeed grind slowly, Kevin Trudeau has finally gotten what he deserves: a long stay in prison 🙂

TV pitchman Kevin Trudeau gets 10-year sentence

Best-selling author Kevin Trudeau, whose name became synonymous with late-night TV pitches, was sentenced to 10 years in prison Monday for bilking consumers through ubiquitous infomercials for his book, “The Weight Loss Cure ‘They’ Don’t Want You to Know About.”

As he imposed the sentence prosecutors had requested, U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman portrayed the 50-year-old Trudeau as a habitual fraudster going back to his early adulthood. So brazen was Trudeau, the judge said, he once even used his own mother’s Social Security number in a scheme.

“Since his 20s, he has steadfastly attempted to cheat others for his own gain,” Guzman said, adding that Trudeau is “deceitful to the very core.” …

I could go on, but suffice it to say that despite Trudeau’s lame attempts to defend himself and his actions, the judge was having none of it.  Too often hucksters and liars like Trudeau play upon the fears and ignorance of science and critical thinking among the general population in order to line their own pockets or push an agenda (other notable examples include the late Sylvia Browne and creationist Ken Ham).

What is so satisfying about this outcome is the fact that, when the chips are down and someone like Trudeau and his ilk wind up in court, what really matters isn’t talking points, it’s all about evidence and logical arguments.  That’s why creationists have consistently lost in the courts, and that’s also why Trudeau is now going to prison… because they have no evidence to back up their baseless claims.

Personally, I’d like to see more of this kind of thing; hopefully, it will send a message to those pseudoscientists who want to play doctor but not actually be responsible for what they say.  But for now, I shall bask in the afterglow of Trudeau’s epic pwning…

pwned-facekick

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Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Give the Cuddly Atheist Some Good Vibes

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 30, 2010

Some of you know Kate, the Cuddly Atheist, and for those of you who don’t know her, you really need to get to know her – she’s a wonderful person.  Sadly, despite what the fairy tales tell us, some really awful things can happen to some really great people, which is why I’m posting this message.  You see, Kate had a stroke recently, and she’s also beset by all manner of other health issues which are even more unfortunate given her young age (she’s only 30).  I’ll refer you to a post that her husband, Jay, had put up over at Kate’s Cuddly Atheist blog…

The stroke – more details and how you can help

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This is Kate’s husband, Jay, again. My last post was a bit short on information. It’s been a bit of a hectic week. We are now home fro the hospital, and resting comfortably in our own bed again.

To recap, Kate had a stroke on 19 November and as a result now has Broca’s aphasia. Broca’s aphasia is what is known as an expressive aphasia. It limits her ability to express the ideas in her head, whether in speech or in writing. She is still “all there”; she just has extreme difficulty in communicating. As you can well imagine, this is extremely frustrating, particularly for someone so rightly proud of her communication skills as Kate. She has shown some improvement over the last week, and I am also getting better at interpreting her.

There are two pieces of hopeful news. Strokes cause swelling in the brain as well as damage, both of which can lead to impairment. As the swelling goes down over the next two to three weeks, any impairment due to the swelling, as opposed to damage, should spontaneously reverse. Significant improvement is likely, though not certain, soon.

Also, Broca’s aphasia is generally quite responsive to speech therapy. She met with a therapist in the hospital a few times last week, and seemed to really enjoy her sessions. Monday, I will call the speech therapy clinic to set her up on an outpatient schedule. The therapy will last up to a year, depending on how well and how quickly her communicative abilities return.

Many people over the course of the last week have asked me what they can do to help, and several have asked to send money. A lovely friend at the JREF Forums is taking up donations on our behalf at her site. Be sure to indicate in the comments why you are sending her money, or she might just spend it on hookers and blow. If you decide to do this, know that we are very grateful.

Far more important than any amount of money, though, is support and encouragement. From everything I’ve read or heard from doctors and therapists this week, the effectiveness of speech therapy will be highly influenced by Kate’s attitude. Right now, she is very upbeat and excited, but it will be a long and frustrating process. Any little words of encouragement you could leave would be worth their weight in baby tears.

Thanks for reading, and thanks especially to Hemant Mehta and Heidi Anderson, who have graciously agreed to repost this.

 

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

“Natural Cures” Quack Kevin Trudeau in Big Court Trouble

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 13, 2010

Many times you’ll hear skeptics venting their spleens about this huckster or that charlatan and “How is it possible they’re allowed to get away with this crap?!”  One of the worst such pseudoscientific offenders in recent years has been “natural cures” quack Kevin Trudeau, who has used his infomercial sales pitches to convince countless people that he has a cure for cancer (he doesn’t) and that they shouldn’t trust modern, science-based medicine because “‘They’ don’t want you to know the truth”.  I think it would be reasonable to say that Trudeau has not only bilked people out of millions of dollars with his bogus “cures”, but in addition that his nonsensical anti-scientific conspiracy mongering has even gotten some people who believed him killed.

Well, now it seems that Trudeau has finally gone too far.  Recently he was in an Illinois federal court as the latest chapter in his long-running battle with the Federal Trade Commission, and he messed up, BIG time when he encouraged his followers to send emails to the judge.  Here’s the Chicago Tribune article on the matter…

Best-selling author and infomercial pitchman Kevin Trudeau was held in criminal contempt Thursday and threatened with jail after he urged visitors to his Web site to unleash a massive barrage of e-mails that crashed a federal judge’s computer in Chicago.

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman’s computer became hopelessly clogged with e-mails from admirers of Trudeau’s diet book and other volumes, the judge told a hearing. Court technicians had to be called in to make his inbox usable again. Something similar happened to his BlackBerry, Gettleman said.

Gettleman has overseen Trudeau’s long-running legal battle with the Federal Trade Commission, which claims ads for Trudeau’s books offering cures for dozens of ailments — from faltering memory to hair loss — misrepresent the facts.

The judge said Trudeau urging the deluge of e-mails was harassment.

“The penalty I will impose will probably include some custody and a fine,” the calm, soft-spoken Gettleman said after holding Trudeau in direct criminal contempt. He ordered Trudeau to post a $50,000 bond and surrender his passport.

Gettleman said the glut of e-mails delayed court business and will force the U.S. Marshals Service to do a threat assessment.

Trudeau arrived in court voluntarily after Gettleman threatened to send marshals to bring him in. He sat silently through the hearing before being led away for fingerprinting and a mug shot.

Well, I think this is one case in which the charlatan is getting his just-desserts.  Of course, to Trudeau’s followers, this will likely be interpreted as more evidence of their “Big Pharma/Big Medicine/Big Government” conspiracy theory, and they will paint Trudeau as a martyr for the alt-med cause. Which is fine with me, so long as Trudeau is a martyr in jail.

Posted in medical woo, Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

Good News – Alt-Med Gets Whacked in 2009

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 6, 2010

It looks like, upon looking back at the year 2009, that in many ways it was a good one for science & skepticism – at least, it was good for medical science.  That’s because, according to a breakdown by LiveScience.com, various forms of alt-med woo woo got a well-deserved smackdown.  That’s because a number of popular alt-med ideas were – gasp!actually tested out under controlled conditions to see if they actually do what their practitioners claim.  Let’s look at the results…

Reiki

Reiki is a spiritual practice developed in Japan in the early 20th century that, in the hands of Westerners, has evolved into a new-age healing practice. Popular in Hawaii and California by the 1970s, reiki has since become a staple at health spas and in granola-loving cities across the United States.

Reiki involves a practitioner (that is, someone who has taken a couple days of training) who places her hands on or just above a patient’s body to transmit healing energy — the “ki” or reiki, better known as qi in Chinese traditional medicine. Reiki has all the trappings of new-age healing: restoring balance and instilling life energy through mysticism and/or vibrational energy. Akin to a hands-off massage, reiki is said to relieve stress, fatigue and depression and promote self-healing for just about any disease, including cancer.

The two largest scientific reviews of reiki, published last year in International Journal of Clinical PracticeJournal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, reveal that reiki is not an effective treatment for any condition. and in November 2009 in the Also in 2009, the U.S. Catholic Church weighed in, stating at a March meeting of bishops that, “since Reiki therapy is not compatible with either Christian teaching or scientific evidence, it would be inappropriate for… Catholic health care facilities… to provide support for Reiki therapy.”

Reiki is not an outright scam; the practitioners seem to believe in what they are doing. In the end the soft music and whispery speech of the practitioners during the reiki sessions merely helps one relax.

Well, regardless of the Catholic Church’s theological opinion on reiki, one thing is clear: the science shows that, despite the fervent belief held by its practitioners, reiki doesn’t work. I can wave my hands in the air just as well as a “qualified” reiki practitioner and achieve exactly the same results… nothing at all. What’s next?

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Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Why So Much of Polling is B.S. — F**k You, Frank!

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 3, 2009

“The numbers don’t lie” goes an oft-quoted saying… and that’s true, for the most part.  Numbers don’t lie, but what does lie is the people who are reporting the numbers.  The recent brouhaha over health care reform in the United States has brought this fact about numbers & statistics into stark relief of late.  Most people, when they read a poll, don’t really think about the numbers all that much, or they are too innumerate to really understand what they’re reading – which is how so many are easily manipulated.  And oftentimes the polls are self-contradictory.

For example, look at this recent article – which is, refreshingly, a good example of critical thinking in the modern media – concerning the question of polling public opinion on health care reform…

Health care polls leave pols dizzy

Legislators hoping to learn what their constituents think about the issue — and how to vote to keep them happy — face a dizzying deluge of hard-to-reconcile data, some of which suggests that voters are more than a little confused, as well.

What to make of it, for example, when one poll finds that 63 percent think “death panels” are a “distortion” or “scare tactic,” and only 30 percent think the issue is “legitimate,” while another finds that 41 percent believe that people would die because “government panels” would prevent them from getting the treatment they needed?

Or when one survey finds that 55 percent of Americans support the public option, while another says 79 percent favor one — but also notes that only 37 percent people surveyed actually knew what “public option” meant?

And because there is such ambiguity in these polls, those with an agenda can usually cherry-pick whatever data they want to make a case for their particular argument.  Even changing the wording of a particular question just slightly can have a huge impact…

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Posted in mathematics, media woo, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Rep. Barney Frank PWNs Holocaust Deniers at his Town Hall!

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 19, 2009

In the ongoing drama that are the August town hall meetings in the U.S., the stupidity displayed by some continues to amaze me. Probably the most vile thing being spewed by various rightwing nutbags are comparisons of health care reform to Nazism.  In fact, this can be viewed as a kind of Holocaust denial, because it ignores & distorts the real reasons why the Nazis murdered so many people in that dark period of human history…

Health care debate turns vile with Nazi analogy

Right-wing loudmouths distort history, diminish true evil of the Holocaust

Rush Limbaugh and those invoking the Nazi analogy to attack President Barack Obama’s effort to reform health care in America are not “insane” as David Brooks pronounced on last Sunday’s “Meet the Press.” Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and the rest of the loud-mouthed right wing are, when they even hint at an analogy to the Nazis in talking about Obama’s health reform effort, engaged in something far worse than insanity. They are engaged in the vile evil of Holocaust denial. …

But if you want a REAL treat, just take a few moments to watch this video of Rep. Barney Frank from Massachusetts putting one of these lunatics in her place:

Let me put this very simply: this isn’t about whether you prefer Obama’s health care plan or not, it is about crushing nonsensical, conspiracy theorist b.s.  Politicians of both parties should watch Frank’s response and copy it in their town halls. If they don’t have the balls to stand up to some fruitcake spouting “health care reform = Nazism” nonsense, then they don’t deserve to be in office. I don’t care who they are… Republican or Democrat. That sort of vile & stupid talk has no place in civil and mature discourse, and our elected officials should have the courage to stand up against it.

Frank’s response was spot frakkin’ on. Win 😀

Posted in Holocaust denial, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Sarah Palin: A Case Study in the Politics of Lies & Nonsense

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 14, 2009

I recently posted about how irrational & uncivil the discourse on health care reform has become, and the role that extreme right wingers have in it.  Well, now former VP candidate and Alaska governor Sarah Palin has provided a perfect example of how insane & dishonest these nutters can be in the pursuit of their ideology.

Recently, Palin made an outlandish, and completely false, claim about President Obama’s proposals to overhaul health care – specifically, she made a claim about “death panels” that would encourage euthanasia of the elderly & children with birth defects which was subsequently & thoroughly debunked by non-partisan sources…

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin says the health care overhaul bill would set up a “death panel.” Federal bureaucrats would play God, ruling on whether ailing seniors are worth enough to society to deserve life-sustaining medical care. Palin and other critics are wrong. Nothing in the legislation would carry out such a bleak vision. The provision that has caused the uproar would instead authorize Medicare to pay doctors for counseling patients about end-of-life care, if the patient wishes.

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Posted in politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

On Health Care, Rightwing Nutbags Choose Lies & Misinformation Over Civil Discourse

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 12, 2009

Okay, so the hot U.S. political topic of the day is health care reform.  I am not going to make this a post about advocating for or against a specific kind of legislation, though personally I do have my preferences.  Rather, this post is about the manner in which the debate, or lack thereof, is progressing concerning this all-important topic.

Sadly, there is a large amount of misinformation and outright lies being spread about health care reform, and much of it is being fueled by uncritical & hysterical thinking via TV ads and the Internet.  Most of these lies are being spewed by various rightwing groups with the express purpose of derailing any kind of reform, and the movement is encouraging people not to take part in a civilized debate & discourse (which is needed).  Rather, this movement is actively encouraging people to attend Congressional town hall meetings solely for the purpose of disrupting them with angry shouts and even death threats.  Yes, that’s right – some members of Congress have been getting death threats.

So what can one do to cut through all the b.s. and get “just the facts”?  I’d say the best thing to do is go to a non-partisan source, such as FactCheck.org.  They’ve been doing a bang up job of looking into various claims about health care reform, as well as some of the outrageous garbage which is causing such a stir.  Let’s take a quick look at some of the big lies repeated of late, and how FactCheck.org takes them on…

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Posted in politics, psychology | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

 
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