BillDo Has A Totally Practical Solution to Zika

Looks like it’s time for another edition of Bill Donohue Is A Terrible Person.

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights commented on the current Zika epidemic:

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Friday, adding that laws and policies that restrict access to sexual and reproductive health services in contravention of international standards, must be repealed and concrete steps must be taken so that women have the information, support and services they require to exercise their rights to determine whether and when they become pregnant.

So if women get to decide when they get pregnant, there’ll be fewer pregnant women with Zika, and thus fewer kids with microcephaly. Does that sound pretty reasonable to you? Yes? Well, that’s because you’re not a frothing anti-contraception dogmatist like BillDo.

The way he sees it (emphasis emphatically added):

Zeid wants restrictive abortion laws repealed. More than that, he is fuming over the notion that women are in charge of their bodies. They are not. Moreover, he smirks at the advice that women should delay getting pregnant. According to the High Commissioner such advice “ignores the reality that many women and girls simply cannot exercise control over whether or when or under what circumstances they become pregnant, especially in an environment where sexual violence is so common.”

Okay, back up to that “They are not” for a moment. Is that poor phrasing, or did Bill just say that women are not in charge of their bodies? And if the latter, is it safe to assume he means something abstract and nebulous like “all our bodies ultimately belong to Baby Jesus, and we’re just caretakers”, rather than a more concrete bit of horribleness like “men get to decide whether women get and stay pregnant”? (I mean, we know he endorses the “stay” part of that, but I don’t know to what extent he’s willing to say so out loud.)

Be that as it may, he continues:

Here’s some advice for Zeid. Number one, girls should not be getting pregnant, and it is his job to say so.

Okay so far. I’m curious to know how BillDo proposes to enable them to make this choice.

Second, women are not the powerless wimps that he says they are: they can, in almost all circumstances, control when to have sex and with whom.

Yes. In almost all circumstances (let’s say over 95%), women decide when and whether to have sex. The other cases are called rape.

Third, he needs to man-up and name those Latin American nations (those were the ones he was addressing) where rape is commonplace.

Oh, Jesus Mary-fucking Christ on a consecrated cracker! Is this really that hard to look up in the age of Google and Wikipedia? Here’s a chart of rape rates in Latin America. And here’s Wikipedia’s section on rape in Brazil, one of the countries currently worst-hit by Zika.

Whichever way you slice it, we’re talking about tens or hundreds of thousands of women whom BillDo dismisses with a wave of his in-almost-all-circumstances, women far more alive and breathing than the virgin Mary, the only woman he seems willing to protect.

Fourth, killing innocent persons is never a morally acceptable remedy for any disease. Fifth, he ought to be policing the U.N. instead of lecturing us about the wonders of abortion

For some reason, BillDo doesn’t mention that the document he’s complaining about isn’t a paean to abortion, but rather talks in more general terms about letting women control their bodies, including sex ed, medical services, and contraception, as well as (and preferably before) abortion.

But I guess none of that matters, because when women use contraception instead of abstinence, it makes Baby Jesus cry.

Still, I’d like to end on a positive note by treating Bill better than he would half the human population, and allow him to choose for himself whether or not to choke on a barrel of contraceptive jelly.

A Modest Proposal

Another day, another shooting two shootings. As usual, people will shrug and say that as long as the Second Amendment (peace be upon it) guarantees the right to carry a gun in your pocket (especially if you’re not glad to see me), these sorts of massacre will continue to happen.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from conservative discussions about abortion and voter registration, it’s that just because a right is in the constitution doesn’t mean that it should be easy to exercise. So herewith, I present a few suggestions on how to curb gun violence, without actually repealing the Second A:

  • Gun sales are limited to registered weapons dealers. Close the gun-show loophole.
  • All gun dealers must have admitting privileges at a local hospital. Just in case something goes wrong during the sale.
  • To purchase a gun, you must first attend a series of counseling sessions showing the aftermath of all of the mass shootings in the past year.
  • Purchasing a gun also requires a transvaginal (or, for men, anal) ultrasound. Yes, it’s medically unnecessary. So what?
  • No federal money shall go to any organization that advocates for gun ownership, or is involved in weapons sales, or conducts weapons training, or has a gun range.
  • To purchase a gun, you must complete a gun safety course and demonstrate proficiency at an approved gun range. I think there’s one in Billings, Montana. Hurry while they still have some slots open for 2020.

Update, Dec. 4: Alert Reader LP points out that Missouri state legislator Stacey Newman has proposed a bill along the same lines as above. I wish her luck.

Such Customer Service

Some companies really know how to make their customers feel valued as individual people:

WELCOME TO $COMPANY

Dear
c79dc7497a95472065ca031d908cc4493375c7178ca33bf0c8acdc5dfc4447177d803fde9fa9e339
f019673cef7b434090970e0e3fac10953fb720b370fc2b1beff12d550da1c797 C28AC3,

Do we have to be so formal? Just call me c79dc749.

How Do You Spell “Booze”? C-V-S

(Update: Thanks to alert reader Fez for pointing out that 20% alcohol by volume is 40 proof, not 80. Oops. This somewhat mitigates, but doesn’t invalidate the rest of my points.)

We all know, of course, that the whole point of homeopathic remedies is that there’s no active ingredient in the bottle. So you might think, so who cares if people take this stuff? Either it’s just water and they’re not doing any harm, or else there’s something to this whole homeopathy thing, and they’re maybe doing some good. Except, of course, who knows what else is in the bottle?

Enter Yvette d’Entremont, who goes by SciBabe. I came across this news story of how she found a bottle of homeopathic laxative at a CVS drugstore that contained an obscene amount of alcohol. Go watch that.

I don’t know d’Entremont, so I thought I’d see if I could find this online, and what do you know?

CVS brand homeopathic constipation remedy, with 20% alcohol.

Wow. The ingredient list is right there: 20% ethanol, and water. That’s 8040-proof white lightning right there.

And it turns out that the CVS house brand isn’t the only one that sells hooch in a medicine bottle: Nova has this “throat complex” that lists “20% USP alcohol by volume”.

Oh, and this “Bloating Complex”, whatever that is. And this And this. And this. Basically, just about every bottle of orally-ingestible fluid from Nova that I saw listed in CVS’s web store was one-fifth alcohol.

I also liked Liddell’s claim that their homeopathic pain-killer is “20% Organic Alcohol”. As a Russian, I can’t disagree that a shot of 80- 40-proof will numb what ails you. As for the “organic” part, all alcohols have carbon atoms, and are therefore organic. Even the ones that’ll make you go blind or kill you.

I feel compelled to point out that if you’re under 21 and want to buy booze without getting carded, the stuff above retails for $8-$19 an ounce. By comparison, you can find 80-proof Mr. Boston vodka (Seriously? Someone thought “Mr. Boston” was a good name for vodka?) sells for $7 a bottle, which works out to 27 cents per ounce. Even fancy Stolichnaya works out to 63 cents an ounce.

(Update, from above: 40 proof would be your schnapps and brandies, some rums and tequilas.)

Now, I’m not going to criticize people who make an informed decision to drink themselves into an expensive stupor, if they so choose. But what about feeding it to someone who can’t give informed consent? I’m so glad you asked.

From what I saw, the homeopathic remedies aimed at toddlers and babies (yes, there is such a thing, because people suck) don’t seem to contain alcohol, and some of them prominently advertise this right on the label. So that’s ok— wait, what’s this?

Why, it appears to be a homeopathic substance aimed at animals (see “people suck”, above). Like the others, it’s 20% alcohol, or 80 40 proof. Should we give this to the nice German shepherd pictured on the label? My money’s on “not the smartest idea in the world”, but that’s just me.

And finally, there’s this abomination, also from HomeoPet, also 80 40 proof, except apparently you’re supposed to put it on your pet’s nose. Your furry friend whose sense of smell is a kajllion times more acute than yours. Yeah, if you think that’s a good idea, maybe you should stick your face in a bowl of chopped onions for half an hour.

FDA Homeopathy Circus, Day 2

Yesterday was day two of homeopathy hearings at the FDA. There were some audio and connectivity problems, and again, I was distracted, but I tried to pay some attention.

One or two presenters tried to explain why you can’t perform randomized double-blind clinical trials to demonstrate the efficacy of homeopathic remedies. Apparently it boils down to “homeopathy doesn’t work that way”, though I didn’t catch the specifics. Apparently you can’t test homeopathic remedies on animals because, um… I’m not sure. Also, a homeopath will prescribe a whole array of remedies, tailored to the needs of the individual patient; just like what oncologists do, and somehow that gets in the way of studying homeopathy, but not cancer. And homeopathy often involves evaluating subjective self-reported symptoms, so you can’t study homeopathy clinically, even though doctors study self-reported subjective symptoms like pain all the time. So the upshot of this line of argument was that homeopaths should be exempt from the rules that say you have to demonstrate that your medical treatment actually works.

In fact, one presenter, if I heard him correctly, went so far as to claim that all the other homeopaths have it wrong. This guy had a slide saying that when you dilute a substance, the “Initial substance transits to a new physical condition”. I’ll just leave that authentic frontier gibberish there for you to marvel at.

Another line of argumentation, advanced by several presenters, particularly those on the business end of things, was that homeopathy is big business and growing, and therefore it should not be regulated. I think one person at least tried to make that into a coherent argument by claiming that regulating homeopathy would throttle innovation. You know, kind of like how you never hear from Novartis, Pfizer, or Merck these days because they’ve closed up shop.

Throughout the day, there was a steady drumbeat of “homeopathic remedies are safe”, although usually with an caveat: “properly-prepared homeopathic remedies are safe”. Properly-prepared homoepathic remedies are just distilled water, which I agree is safe. But homeopathy is currently unregulated, or nearly so, and thus no one is checking to make sure there’s nothing bad in your expensive distilled water.

In fact, as we heard in the previous day’s testimony, a lot of times manufacturers will combine things, e.g., take a regular zinc supplement and sprinkle homepathic water on it, and sell it as a hybrid or stick a “homeopathic” sticker on the box. People who have heard that homeopathy, whether it works or not, is at least safe, can and do take more than the recommended dose, and ingest unhealthy amounts of zinc. That by itself should be an argument for regulation and proper labeling.

But perhaps the most depressing aspect of the hearings were the practicing doctors testifying in favor of homeopathy, using the same arguments as everyone else: “I’ve seen it work. And it’s popular. Plus, it’s safe”. These are smart, well-educated people, who every day prescribe medications that have gone through rigorous controls to eliminate things like personal bias and proof by anecdote, committing those very errors.

At any rate, the current phase of the circus is over. With any luck, the FDA will start cracking down on this woo. I’d call it snake oil, but statistically speaking, there’s probably not a single molecule of the original oil left.

FDA Homeopathy Circus, Day 1

Today and tomorrow, the FDA is holding hearings to see about updating its regulations for homeopathy. Or, as NPR puts it, FDA Ponders Putting Homeopathy To A Tougher Test. Here, “a tougher test” means applying the same rules to homeopathy as to every other proposed medical treatment: see whether it works.

So to that end, they’re holding two days of hearings. I was able to stream part of the proceedings, and even hear some of it (though I was busy, and thus missed a lot).

If you want to follow along tomorrow, it’ll be at https://collaboration.fda.gov/hprapril2015.

But first, it might be good to review what homeopathy is. homeopathy.com explains:

Homeopathy’s basic premise is called the “principle of similars,” and it refers to recurrent observation and experience that a medicinal substance will elicit a healing response for the specific syndrome of symptoms (or suffering) that it has been proven to cause when given in overdose to a healthy person.

[…]

Most homeopathic medicines are made by diluting a medicinal substance in a double-distilled water. It should be noted that physicists who study the properties of water commonly acknowledge that water has many mysterious and amazing properties. […]

Each substance is diluted, most commonly, 1 part of the original medicinal agent to 9 or 99 parts double-distilled water. The mixture is then vigorously stirred or shaken. The solution is then diluted again 1:9 or 1:99 and vigorously shaken. This process of consecutive diluting and shaking or stirring is repeated 3, 6, 12, 30, 200, 1,000, or even 1,000,000 times. Simply “diluting” the medicines without vigorously shaking them doesn’t activate the medicinal effects.

In other words, you find a substance that produces a given symptom in healthy people; you dilute that substance in water until there’s none of it left, and you give your bottle of water to a person who suffers from symptoms like what you found earlier.

Or, as Mitchell and Webb described it, “trace solution of deadly nightshade or a statistically negligible quantity of arsenic”:


So the question before the FDA is to determine whether homeopathic substances, which are touted as remedies for everything from gout to nonspecific unease, should be subject to the same regulations as, say, Tamiflu or Ibuprofen or Viagra. The sorts of regulations where if you say that your product is good against X, the FDA comes along and says, “proof or STFU”.

Apparently Michael de Dora of the Center for Inquiry testified early on, but I missed it. His testimony can be summed up as “Science has known for a long time that homeopathy doesn’t work. The US government knows this. Hell, the FDA has said as much. This year. Let’s not support pseudoscientific quackery.”

The first speaker I caught was giving an overview of studies on homeopathy. At first, he couldn’t do better than saying that there are studies that show that it works, and others that don’t. But he was able to drag in other factors, like the file drawer effect (that negative results tend not to get published) and the Hawthorne effect (people who know they’re being watched behave differently) to cloud the issue enough to be able to say that the science isn’t settled. Sadly, he was one of the most reasonable speakers of the day.

Several ideas came up in different people’s testimony before lunch:

  • That homeopathy has organizations of practicing professionals, therefore it works.
  • That homeopathy has a standard reference book, therefore it works.
  • That there’s quality control (i.e., people check that your bottle of 99.99999% water really does contain 99.99999% water), therefore it works.
  • That members of the general public don’t really know a lot about homeopathy (this might become significant, later).
  • That I just know that it works, therefore it works. (Who needs double-blind clinical trials when you have feelz?)
  • That homeopathy is popular, therefore it works.

One speaker made the argument that France has an excellent public health-care system, and that homeopathy is popular in France (therefore, presumably, homeopathy works). He also mentioned, or implied, that it had been approved by Swiss healthcare regulatory bodies. During the Q&A period, he was asked how French and Swiss researchers had evaluated the effectiveness of homeopathy, and in response he went off on a tirade against US regulators. I believe that’s called evading the question.

During the afernoon session, several more ideas came up several times:

  • Homeopathy works in conjunction with other treatment (I had a headache, so I took an aspirin and a homeopathic remedy; my headache went away; therefore, homeopathy works).
  • Homeopathy is popular, therefore there’s no need for stricter regulation. (I wonder if that argument also applies to heroin.)
  • Homeopathy is big business, therefore there’s no need for stricter regulation.
  • Homeopathic remedies are already marked “homeopathic”. What more do you people need? Informed customers (which morning testimony said many people aren’t) can make an informed choice.

One shining light was Luana Colloca of the University of Maryland, Baltimore. She actually cited studies and showed empirical results, and even graphs with error bars, mirabile dictu! She gave an overview of the power of the placebo effect, though I’m not sure what her point was. Was it that hey, placebos lessen people’s pain, therefore let’s let people have their sugar pills?

But beyond that, the theme seemed to be that things are fine the way they are; informed consumers can caveat emptor their way through drug store aisles. And besides, it’s popular, and big business. So why should Big Alt-Med be regulated the same way as Big Pharma? Unfair!

What I found notably missing from the proceedings, and which I would gladly have welcomed, was anything along the lines of “Yes, homeopathy is effective against X, Y, and Z. And we have the double-blind, statistically-significant clinical trials to prove it.” I suppose that was too much to expect. Ah, well. I still has feelz. And a tall drink.

Not Impressed By the “Power of Prayer”

This past week, Bill Donohue took a break from complaining about perceived slights to his religion of choice, and posted something more inspirational, entitled The Power of Hope and Prayer. He tells of a family whose newborn son had a heart disease, but who was cured thanks to hope, prayer, and the best medical care that a Fox News anchor’s salary can afford.

Here’s a sampling of what Donohue has to say about the power of prayer:

[…] Bret and Amy were not alone—they were one with the Lord. Bret’s prayer was quintessentially Catholic: he was not angry with God—he thanked the Lord for the gift of his son and asked for his help. But most of all, he did not despair. By praying for Paulie’s “recovery that will follow,” he evinced optimism and hope.

Jesus said at the Last Supper, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.” How can this be? […] New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan put it in a way that really drives home the essence of Jesus’ words. He explored what he called “the theological reasons for laughter.” Why are people of faith happy, he asked. “Here’s my reason for joy: the cross. You heard me right: the cross of Christ!” The death of Jesus was not the last word. His resurrection was. After Christ was crucified, Dolan says, it “seemed we could never smile again…But, then came the Sunday called Easter! The sun—S-U-N—came up, and the Son—S-O-N—came out as He rose from the dead. Guess who had the last word? God!” […] It is a theology grounded in hope, and hope is the natural antidote to despair.

When Pope John Paul II died, I happened to be at the studios of the Fox News Network in New York City. I knew he was dying, but I had no idea that I would be the first guest to go on the air when he passed away. When asked by Shepard Smith what my thoughts were, I answered, “On the one hand, great sorrow. On the other hand, great joy. Sorrow that he’s no longer with us. Joy that he’s with God, with his Lord.”

For those who skipped past that, he basically says that prayer makes people happy and gives them hope. Basically, pretty standard inspirational-chain-email stuff.

I can’t help noticing that he fails to mention any kind of medical benefit or, indeed, any benefit to the patient. All of the benefits he mentions could, it seems, be provided equally well by prayer to Krishna, or a sacrifice to Dionysus, or even by meditation.

People can get these benefits of Donohue’s religion even if they’re not true. It’s enough that people believe them. In other words, from everything Donohue has said, Jesus might as well be an imaginary friend.

If he’d left it at that, I wouldn’t have bothered writing this. But he had to throw in some digs at atheists:

The Baiers are practicing Catholics. What would they have done had they been atheists? It must be tough going it alone, and indeed the evidence shows exactly that.

Note that he doesn’t actually mention what any of this evidence might be.

And in case you were wondering about ellipses, above:

Jesus said at the Last Supper, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy.” How can this be? It is not something atheists can grasp. It eludes the secular mind. New York Archbishop Timothy Cardinal Dolan put it in a way that really drives home the essence of Jesus’ words. He explored what he called “the theological reasons for laughter.” Why are people of faith happy, he asked. “Here’s my reason for joy: the cross. You heard me right: the cross of Christ!” The death of Jesus was not the last word. His resurrection was. After Christ was crucified, Dolan says, it “seemed we could never smile again…But, then came the Sunday called Easter! The sun—S-U-N—came up, and the Son—S-O-N—came out as He rose from the dead. Guess who had the last word? God!” There is probably nothing more baffling to an atheist than this “theology of laughter.” It is a theology grounded in hope, and hope is the natural antidote to despair.

I know that Donohue has been around long enough, has spoken to enough atheists that this can’t be dismissed as simple ignorance. He’s going out of his way to insult a class of people with whom he doesn’t agree.

And coming from the guy who throws a fit every time someone dares point out some bad about his religion, that’s pretty rich.

The Blaze Warns of New Threat to Christian Televangelists From Atheist Roku Channel

Over at Glenn Beck’s The Blaze (so you know it’s sane and rational), Billy Hallowell warns, “Do Christian Televangelists Have Something to Fear? Atheists Reveal New Effort to Impact Culture”.

By this he means that American Atheists have announced that they’ll be launching an atheist TV channel for the Roku set-top video-streaming box. So yeah. I have a Roku, I’m happy with it, and I expect it’ll be something like The Young Turks or one of the more popular cable-access-ey YouTube channels.

But the headline asks whether Christian televangelists have anything to fear. From what? From one Internet streaming channel on one device, somehow sneaking past your kids’ defenses and indoctrinating them into godless atheimism and satanic debauchery or anything? Well, I suppose that’s something to worry about. I mean, it’s not as if there are any religous channels on Roku already, is it?

Unless you count

Those are just the religious channels that were added in May and June 2014 (Sources:1 2 3 4 5 6)

Yes, how can Christians possibly compete with one atheist channel? They’re obviously doomed. Doooooooomed.

Lowering the Bar for Christian “Persecution” Yet Again

(Yes, I know I’m late to the party. I’ve been battling floods and a cold. Give me a break.)

The American Family Association-owned One News Now has a sad. A very deep sad, because their religious freedom is under attack, yet again!

See, Mississippi recently passed the Religous Freedom Restoration Act, which basically says that if you have religious objections to the existence of gay people, then you don’t have to serve them in your establishment open to the public. In other words, you can’t put up a sign that says “We don’t serve your kind here” but you can have one that says “Jesus doesn’t want us to serve your kind here.”

Mississippi sticker
But some businesses in Mississippi have evidently decided that they love Mammon more than Jesus, because they’ve started putting up stickers that say, “We don’t discriminate. If you’re buying, we’re selling.” Can you think of a more anti-American sentiment than that? No, you can’t. Shut up; I’m telling you, you can’t.

This is not the sort of thing that the AFA is going to take lying down:

Buddy Smith, executive vice president of Tupelo-based American Family Association, offers his take on the sticker campaign.

“It’s not really a buying campaign, but it’s a bully campaign,” he says, “and it’s being carried out by radical homosexual activists who intend to trample the freedom of Christians to live according to the dictates of scripture.

“They don’t want to hear that homosexuality is sinful behavior – and they wish to silence Christians and the church who dare to believe this truth.”

Yes, a sticker that doesn’t tell anyone what to believe, or what to say and what not to say, is an attempt at silencing Christians. That’s how insidious they are!

I’m still working on figuring out what “freedom of Christians to live according to the dictates of scripture” refers to. Possibly the freedom to stone gay people to death; the freedom to live in a town where no one dares to admit that they’re gay. Something like that, probably.

Imagine, if you will, the anguish that these people are living: of knowing that somewhere out there, there are people who don’t believe exactly as they do! Shall we shed a tear of sympathy for their suffering?

No, let’s not.

Worldliness Makes Baby Jesus Cry

So the other day I was listening to Mark Driscoll’s series on James the brother of Jesus, and heard:

When he’s [James] talking about “the world” here and worldly conflict, let me give you a simple definition of what it means to be worldly: worldly means that things are put together in a way that Satan likes.

That’s all that it means. It means that things are put together, organized, brought together in a way that causes Satan to be glad and causes Jesus to grieve.

It’s when anything is put together and Satan’s, like, “That’s the way that I wanted it” and Jesus is, like, “That’s not the way that I wanted it.”

And all this time I thought the expression “X makes baby Jesus cry” was just a cheap shot at unsophisticated bible-thumpers, not something that anyone would actually say; and certainly not a prominent preacher with probably a few decorative degrees and a megachurch and such. But apparently I was wrong.

(Oh, and Pastor Mark, in case you stumble upon this: unless you’re a thirteen-year-old girl, using “to be like” as a synonym for “to say” makes baby Jesus cry.)