July 22, 2023

Election 2024: Silly Season or Stinky Season?




By Hal Brown

Read today's blog story on single page here.

Click above to enlarge


#sneakergate is now a hashtag on Twitter:
Click images to enlarge
They don't link to Twitter


Then there's this...

 See "Trump shares image of his minor son being used in political attack"

The two articles above caught my eye this morning. I thought how downright absurb, or silly if you will, they were. 

I suppose one way look at this is that there are some creative Trump supporters. After all, how does one turn the fact that instead of wearing sneakers meaning that President Biden is athletic they say this is proof postive he's senile? 

I'm 79 and mentally and physically fit. The four pairs of shoes I own languish in a box at the back of my closet since I rarely wear them.  In fact, I don't even own a necktie. Then again, in case you hadn't noticed, I'm not president of anything. As you can see I am one of the many who have discovered HOKA shoes which I wear in warm weather whenever I don't wear sandals.


Perhaps this Rosanna_RosannaDanna, who may or may not have made the image but did post it on Truth Social, thinks they are a brilliant satirist. Whoever it is took their handle, with the name spelled not quite correctly, from the Gilda Radner SNL character. They've been on Reddit (here) for four years but never posted anything.

The youngest Trump progeny (that we know of) has been kept out of poltics (though he still makes the news on some websites like this article about how he supposedly won't tell his father he loves him). From what I've read Melania wants to insulate him from daddy's poltical world. She might not be happy that Big Daddy reposted this image on Truth Social and that this is a story being shared. Horrors upon horror, not only did it make Raw Story, but it's on my blog.

It breaks my heart that Melania might be perturbed at Donald.

As for Rosanna: what a way to get national attention! It tempts me to join Truth Social and see if I can get Trump to re-post something I put on his personal online sandbox. One might ask "Who let the cat do his business in that particular sandbox?"

These attempts to smear President Biden are all rather silly, but then we have the likes of the class-act Marjorie Taylor Greene who thought it appropriate to hold up those photos of Hunter Biden with a scantily clad woman, supposedly a prostitute, at a House committee hearing.

We already have Jim Jordan's jingoistic juggernaut, James Comer's crime confabulations, and of course the master of miserable himself, Donald J. Trump... one may ask:

For those not familiar with the reverse question mark, it means the statement is rhetorical.






July 20, 2023

Gullible people who believe Donald Trump may also believe anti-vaxxers like RFK Jr. and Dr. Zach Bush, and snake oil salespeople pushing products like Prevagen



By Hal Brown

Read on single page here.

 This is major revision version of the story I posted on Daily Kos on April 18, 2021

_______________________________
Click above to enlarge.
You may have seen many of these commercials


See their commericals here.


If you watch MSNBC as many of my blog readers do, and have a decent memory, you may recognize the name Robert Strictler. He’s one of the people who appeared in ads for Prevagen which is supposed to improve memory in people over 50. There are lots of the people giving paid testimonials ( see how many you recognize here, trivia points for each one). The ads featuring Strickler were running on almost every evening MSNBC show when I first wrote this.


If you haven’t seen the commercials they are all pretty much like this Robert Strickler one.


It should be a no-brainer (pun intended) that if there was a medication that actually improved memory in seniors, or anybody for that matter, it would be a boon to humanity. Everyone would be taking it. 

So what’s the deal with Robert Strictler with his dulcet baritone, and all the other incredibly healthy looking people, touting how this pill improved their  memories? Should you believe them? (I think I answered that in my illustration.)

Prevagen is marketed as a brain supplement supposedly based on a discovery coming from analyzing a species of luminescent jellyfish. This could convince the gullible. They say it contains a protein called apoaequorin, which is made by the Aequorea victoria jellyfish.

I mean, why not, it makes on species of jellyfish glow so why should’t it light up your brain? The jellyfish even kind of looks like a human brain.

Glowing jellyfish, Aequorea victoria


"Brilliant" marketing, eh what?

He’s either lying and making the commercials for money, or actually thinks it has improved his memory. I won’t rule out the possibility that he’s a true believer and making money is a bonus. The placebo effect is very powerful.

Does it really work aside from a placebo effect which has been scientifically demonstrated to be powerful in many circumstances (read The Power of the Placebo Effect). The simple answer is no. You can reach this conclusion with a simple DuckDuckGo web search of Prevagen hoax or real.

You’ll find articles like this from a 2017 NBC News article.


There are numerous articles like this including this one from a Harvard Medical School newsletter: FDA curbs unfounded memory supplement claims.

Now lets do another DuckDuckGo search. Here’s what you’ll find if you search the following:

Why are some people more gullible than others. 

The top article that comes up actually has the title of my Internet search. It's from The Conversation:



Here’s are excerpts from this article that apply to both dietary supplements and how Donald Trump exploited the gullibility of a large segment of the public.

Homo sapiens is probably an intrinsically gullible species. We owe our evolutionary success to culture, our unique ability to receive, trust and act on stories we get from others, and so accumulate a shared view about the world. In a way, trusting others is second nature.

But not everything we hear from others is useful or even true. There are countless ways people have been misled, fooled and hoaxed, sometimes for fun, but more often, for profit or for political gain.

Although sharing social knowledge is the foundation of our evolutionary success, in this age of unlimited and unfiltered information, it is becoming a major challenge to decide what to believe, and what to reject.

Gullibility in public life

Gullibility and credulity have become important issues as a deluge of raw, unverified information is readily available online.

Consider of how fake news during the US presidential election influenced voters.

Stories that generate fear and promote a narrative of corrupt politicians and media can be particularly effective. In Europe, Russian websites “reported” numerous false stories designed to undermine the EU and to bolster support for extreme right-wing parties.

Credulity and gullibility are also of great commercial importance when it comes to marketing and advertising. For example, much brand name advertising subtly appeals to our need for social status and identity. Yet, we obviously cannot acquire real status or identity just by buying an advertised product.

Even water, a freely available colourless, tasteless, transparent liquid is now successfully marketed as an identity product, a multi-billion dollar industry built mostly on misleading advertising and gullibility. Dietary supplements are another large industry exploiting gullibility

.

There's a sucker born every minute

This is a phrase closely associated with P.T. Barnum though there’s no actual evidence he ever said it.  Wikipedia

I’d say that with the birth rate in the United States now being a baby being born every eight seconds (Reference) there are currently many more suckers than merely one being born here every minute.

Con artists probably have uttered these words as they laughed all the way to the bank.  Not to assume Trump ever said these words I wouldn't be surprised if he thought about it as he turned lying into an art form. I would expect that those working on his campaign either said it or thought it.

Another quote which is apropos when considering how gullible people are has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln but it is also unclear whether he ever said it: 

“You can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” Reference

All I can say about the future of America is that whether Lincoln said this or not, I damn well hope it is true since it appears that about 40% of the voting public believe Trumpian lies. These number have been holding true since I originally wrote this

I hope that number of gullible people who swallow the scare tactics from the hard right hook, line, and sinker never gets high enough to turn us into the kind of country the likes of Trump and his minions want it to be.

I am not sure of the authorities of the FDA and the FTC and how they intersect or overlap when it comes to regulation or possible banning the advertising claims of supplements. This is the authority of the  FDA for supplements. They say that “a firm is responsible for determining that the dietary supplements it manufactures or distributes are safe and that any representations or claims made about them are substantiated by adequate evidence to show that they are not false or misleading.”

I think the FDA which is a scientific body should do a rigorous review of research used by the manufacturers of supplements to make their claims, or commission their own studies.  Then if appropriate the either the FDA or the FTC could issue the ban.  

There’s another three letter government entity, a commission and not an agency, which is relevant in this discussion, the FEC. The is the Federal Election Commission. They seem to be a toothless tiger when it comes to keeping our elections honest. See “Senate confirms new members and restores power to long-hobbled Federal Election Commission” from 2020.

I suspect that those taking advantage of the payouts ordered by the FTC never reach the predicted amounts (see “Prevagen Payouts Could Reach Tens of Millions of Dollars Due to False Advertising” ) because even if those who purchased the product hear about it not that many will go to the trouble of submitting a claim. Even if they learn of the settlement they need proof of purchase and only are eligible to receive 30 percent of the retail cost of Prevagen, with the total not to exceed $70. How many people have proof of purchase and will bother making the claim to get a maximum of $70?

Note that the original FTC false advertising charge was issued in 2012 and the payouts weren’t ordered until 2020. It seems to me that a company that has made hundred of millions selling a bogus health supplement doesn’t care about paying out tens of millions to consumers anyway.

Here's an excerpt about Prevagen from GoodRx:

Is there any scientific evidence supporting Prevagen’s claims?

The evidence to support Prevagen’s use is limited and flawed. Quincy Bioscience published a small study in 2016 comparing 10 mg of apoaequorin per day to placebo (a pill with no medication in it) for 90 days. All study participants self-identified as having memory problems, but none had any serious memory loss conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

At the end of the study, people taking apoaequorin had higher scores than those taking placebo on some of the tests used to measure their overall memory. The study authors noted the difference between the two groups was significant, and Quincy Bioscience — who also sponsored the study — has been using these results to back up Prevagen’s claims.

But there are a few issues with the study. First, it only included a little over 200 participants and only ran for 90 days. This number of people is smaller than what we typically require when trying to prove a medication is effective for the general population. Also, conducting the study for only 90 days means we don’t know the long-term safety or effectiveness of Prevagen.

Another problem with this study is the types of tests the researchers used to test memory. None of the cognitive assessments used in this study are standard tests used by healthcare providers to look for and diagnose memory loss conditions. Using a non-standard test makes the results difficult to interpret, so we can’t say for sure just how effective Prevagen is.

The only way I can see to protect gullible consumers is to ban such advertising. In the world of politics there's no feasible way to ban false advertising. The only was to fight against people being misled by poltical lying this is to educate the public so they are more skeptical and become adept at critical thinking. This would take an enormious bipartisan public education campaign. Getting the GOP on board with this is about as likely to happen as Trump going on Fox News and admitting he was the biggest liar of all time and suckered all of his supporters since he didn't give a crap about them. 

----- Case Study: Dr. Zach Bush -----

Dr. Zach Bush made a case against getting vaccinated for Covid to his many followers when the vaccine first came out. This year we have RFK Jr. spinning similar dangerous lies about vaccines.

Well known medical doctors like Dr. Oz who promotes pseudoscience have a significant following but lesser known ones like Zach Bush  promoted false claims to a gullible audience not only about various health subjects but dangerous theories about Covid including in Zach Bush’s case recommending against vaccination. 

I researched Zach Bush because he'd been recommending against Covid vaccination. If you search him on DuckDuckGo you have to go far into the results to find anything debunking him. If you add the search terms pseudoscience, quack, debunked, and fraud  you will find several articles explaining how he is promoting pseudoscience. 

If someone worried about the Covid vaccine talked to a friend who gets their medical information from Zach Bush and his like and then they looked them up online they would find what seem to be logical medical reasons not to get it. When I first looked at some of what Bush wrote it look like a lot of scientific gobbledygook, but I could see how lots of people would find what he said to be credible. Then I did my deep dive into the Internet to learn more about him.

I learned from one of those websites exposing him as a fraud that several years ago he hired a company to assure that he could flood Internet search results with his own material. It was successful. This fraud is a slick self-promoter who even sells his own products on his various websites.

Zach Bush is a good case study because of his credentials. This is some of what Medika,an excellent website. says about him in Who Not To Trust: A List of 10 Covid-19 Charlatans and “Medical” Snake-Oil Salesmen.” Note that he's number three on their list. They consider him, as do I, a real danger to the public health.  They call him the poster boy for predatory health. From what I can tell he mixes reasonable sounding and at least, to some extent, scientifically researched medical and scientific  opinion with pseudoscience. 

As a showman he is a slick as the snake oil he sells. In fact, he actually does sell products like this:

I could call him the Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. of the medical profession.

Click below to enlarge:
Bush has his own page on the Medika website:

I am always suspicious about anything posted on Reddit, however I found the comments posted there about Zach Bush to be worth reviewing. 

I joined and post my first comment which was abut Bush here.

Just who are the the Trump supporters? I see three general groups.

By Hal Brown, MSW

Retired after a 40 year career as a psychotherapist and a mental health center director, who was a reserve police officer for 20 years, and also a cranberry farmer in Massachusetts.

Read Disquis comments and this blog story on single page

I was just thinking about the latest poll (above on Morning Joe) which shows Biden five points ahead of Trump in a national election and wondering who those who would vote for the latter are and why they'd do this. I've broken them down into categories.

There are, of course, many dyed in the wool Trump supporters, but they seem to fall into several groups. 

I'll try to break them down into general categories here.

One are the actual Trump worshippers who are often considered members of his cult. 

They swallow hook, line, and sinker all of the propaganda that he is some kind of savior whether religious or secular, or a combinaiton of both. They look at the images on the digital trading cards and think that this somehow his the "real" him as if the evidence of their own eyes decieves them. It's as if they are watching a Superman TV show or movie and see Clark Kent and know that under his suit is a iron-muscled super hero (who as in the photo of ⅓ scale statues you can own for $4,379, below, is actaully a few inches taller than the Daily Planet reporter).

The question about what may be wrong with these people has been asked and answered - I'm not going to bother citing references from noted mental health professionals - except to say the usual conclusion is that they are engaging in wishful thinking which is, in some instances, suggestive of their having a clinical deusional psychiatric disorder.

You have to add to this that some of these Trump supporting zealots, whether or not they have a mental disorder, is that they have IQ's below the national average. 

Everyone, whether they were on the honor roll or D students is suspectible to propaganda, especially when the message supports what they want to believe. If you're reading this you probably know what confirmation bias is and understand it's power:

Confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms or supports one's prior beliefs or values. People display this bias when they select information that supports their views, ignoring contrary information, or when they interpret ambiguous evidence as supporting their existing attitudes. The effect is strongest for desired outcomes, for emotionally charged issues, and for deeply entrenched beliefs. Confirmation bias cannot be eliminated, but it can be managed, for example, by education and training in critical thinking skills. Read more here.
There are also a what I lament may represent a large percetange of the population who are just plain gullible. Some may believe in outlandish QAnon claims, others may think that most of the X-Files TV shows were based on facts, and no doubt since they still advertise, numerous people believe that Prevagin really inproves memory. I wrote in some depth about those I'll call the "Prevagen People" here:





This
group may include members of the first, but among them are people with no 
impairments in mental health, intelligence, or ability to engage in critical thinking. They are those with deeply held racist, and/or bigotted, and/or fascist beliefs. The "and/or's" are improtant since there are those who are mostly or exclusively racists, which would include anti-Semites and members of the LGBTQ+ community, and those who are fascists who believe the country should be an autocricy run by a dictator who shares their beleiefs.

These people don't need demographic predictions to know that the country is becoming less White. All they need to do is look around them. From watching pop culture to walking down Main Street they will see that Americans who have assumed jobs and had roles usually held mostly by Whites now come in all shades of skin color.

They look at a version of the Pride flag we celebrate through a decidely dark lens:
The flag on top includes black and brown stripes 
to represent marginalized LGBTQ+ communities
 of color, along with the colors pink, light blue
 and white, which are used on the 
Transgender Pride Flag.

Another way to depict them and their reaction is with a decidely White version I made of The Scream (original here):





Again, none of these groups are mutually exclusive. However, I do see a fairly descrete group which for want of a better term I'd call "the enemy of my enemy is my enemy" contingent of Trump supporters.

They will align themselves with anyone no matter how dumb they are or outrageous their behavior is as long as they also support Trump.

These are people who hate the Democrats, whether President Biden in particular or any Democrat, with a visceral passion. They may or may not buy into the notion that Democrats are some kind of demon communists or socialists. The smart ones know full well this isn't true and the uniformed couldn't even define the terms. 

Some of the savvy group are hard-core capitalists who think that having a safety net for less the fortunate which costs taxpayer money (noting some of these people avoid paying their fair share of taxes) takes money away from their bottom lines. 

Some may be those who feel that because they worked hard to get where they are, owners of small businesses for example, nobody deserves to get a leg up from the government. It doen't matter to them that they might have benefited from low interest small business loans or other help from the government. 

In this group you'll find that there are some whose businesses or investments are effected by government regulations. 

These people would rather vote for the Devil himself rather than vote for a Democrat.

Update/adendum

Below is a comment from someone who read this blog on anther platform. I don't know where they fit into my three categories but it is clear to me they buy much of the GOP propaganda (against Joe and Hunter Biden for example) and don't understand how the special proescuter is not "throwing indictments" at him without good cause, and there is a rigorous process for how such judicial procedures are conducted. 

It seems that you and some Democrats are the haters. The four years we had under Trump wasn't so bad. And if those same 4 years were under by a different president, Biden, Clinton, or another Republican, there would be a good chance that person would be reelected in 2020. 
But the name Trump makes some people go nuts and he wasn't reelected.
Yes, he's a bombastic egotistical, loud mouth self promoter as well as other things.
I didn't vote for Trump in 2020, or Biden. And there's no way in hell can I vote for Biden in '24.
Yes, Trump is a jerk and all, but the way they are throwing one indictment after another against him all in the name of hoping he will not run is not what this country is about.
You don't try and lock up a possible political opponent by any means. You don't threaten lawyers who want to represent Trump with the possible loss of their law licenses or if they are up for a judgeship by squashing it.
John Adams said, "Even a scoundrel has the right to consul." And he defended the British soldiers who shot at Americans at the Boston Massacre.
Come '24, if I vote for Trump, it won't be because of his policies and such. It will be a protest vote on what is going on with the Justice Department and Attorney General in this.
And Biden had better look over his shoulder. He and Hunter and the rest of the Biden clan might be in deep shit as day after day, more evidence is coming forward on what they have been doing. 

Adapted by Hal Brown from Tacosunday Public Domain

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Compassion doesn't count ballots: Biden does the moral thing on immigration and it will hurt him with many voters. All Trump needs now is his own Willie Horton. by Hal Brown, MSW

In the news today a top story  (read article)  is that President Biden has once again demonstrated that he has a heart and good sense when i...