Home > History > Front page updates November 2004
A question of race (6/11/2004)
How many members of the US Senate elected over the last 30 years have had one parent who was not born in the USA? Does anybody know? Does anybody care? Given the hysteria which has surrounded the election of Barack Obama it is surprising that parental provenance has not always been an issue. Much is being made of him being the only black senator and how few of them there have been in history. Except that he is not what most people mean when they say Black American or African-American. He is not a descendant of slaves - he is a person who just happens to have dark skin because his father was Kenyan. In 1963 Martin Luther King dreamed of "a nation where [people] will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character". Senator-elect Obama is being judged solely by the colour of his skin. This is racism in its purest form.
Drug interactions (6/11/2004)
A few weeks ago I had one of those "energy drinks" at about noon and I felt a bit strange shortly afterwards. I have drunk this stuff many times without any problems so I thought no more about it. Last Friday I was rushing back to the office after seeing a client and I grabbed a can of Red Bull to have with my ham sandwich for lunch. About half an hour later I had a strange form of anxiety attack. As the time of day seemed to have something to do with the reaction to this kind of drink, I thought about what else I do at about the same time each day and the obvious answer was the medication that I take at breakfast time. I went to Google to look for sites mentioning guarana and the medication. The vast majority of sites offered to sell me both the medication (which is available on prescription only) and various mixtures of herbs and spices, but none of them mentioned any possible interactions. They never do. A couple of sites warned that excessive consumption of energy drinks could induce panic attacks, but I feel it safe to assume that one can is not "excessive". The site for the book Herbal Remedies for Dummies had the most relevant information, where it listed a whole lot of dangerous possible interactions between herbs and drugs just after saying that drug-herb reactions are rare(!).
Most people seem to think that it is the caffeine in energy drinks which has the most effect, but a can of Red Bull only has as much caffeine as one cup of filter coffee or two cans of Coca Cola. I drink coffee all day without any weird effects, so there must be something else in the mixture which causes my strange drug interaction. It could be related to the rate of metabolism of the drinks (Red Bull say that the effect kicks in at about 30 minutes) and it almost certainly has to do with the time since the pill was taken. I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with drinking Red Bull or any other energy drink, but my experience shows that it is not always possible to know in advance how the various things you put into your body will get along with each other. This one of the reasons why I object to amateurs prescribing mixtures of herbs of unknown composition to treat complaints for which there is no evidence of the herbs' effectiveness. You can see something else I have written about this here.
Liars just can't help themselves (6/11/2004)
Every so often, someone asks me why I call anti-vaccination liars "liars". The suggestion is that some of these people are just misguided or misinformed. That may be so, but once people are informed of facts they no longer have available the excuse that they were ignorant of the truth. At least once a month I see someone repeat something which is not true, has never been true and which the person saying it knows not to be true. When people act like this, it is called "lying".
A newspaper story from February this year was circulated on some anti-vaccination liar mailing lists this week under the title "CDC Knew of Potential Link between Vaccines, Autism". It was a retread of an old story about how the Centers for Disease Control supposedly made the callous decision to allow children to become autistic rather than take action which might impact the vaccination program, a story which gets wheeled out on a regular basis. The first few paragraphs of the article say:
Five-year-old Ryan Anderson of Jacksonville Beach is an animated, happy child.
But that wasn't always the case.
"His course of deterioration from a happy, developmentally appropriate child to the problems he began to develop, started right after he received the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine," says Ryan's father, Bruce Anderson.
Now, several therapies are underway to restore Ryan's cognitive and behavioral development, which began to show significant impairment at age 18 months. Ryan also presents evidence of a persistent, active measles virus.
Ryan's doctor, Jeff Bradstreet of Melbourne, is a specialist in autism-related disorders. Using clinical diagnostic testing, he has documented a genetic defect in children that Ryan carries. That defect, says Bradstreet, made him vulnerable to a preservative in his vaccinations.
The preservative is called thimerosal, and it contains mercury, a known neuro-toxin. Until just a few years ago, children who received a full schedule of vaccinations were injected with mercury in amounts far exceeding EPA guidelines. Bradstreet says some children's bodies just can't handle the onslaught of the toxin.
The fact is that the MMR vaccine does not now and never has contained thimerosal or any other preservative. It is a live, attenuated vaccine, and the addition of thimerosal would render it totally ineffective. If Dr Bradstreet is a real doctor and not just some anti-mercury loon stealing money by pretending to cure autism, then he knows this fact. Of course, I allow for the possibility that he is a real doctor and is also deceiving desperate parents. In any case, he is saying something which is not true and which he knows to be not true. I don't blame the reporter for being conned into writing this, because she was probably presented with sincere-looking people in white coats with lots of impressive certificates on their office walls. She was not to know that she was seeing a theatrical performance where props and play-actors are used to convince the gullible that something real is going on. I sent her the following email:
Dear Ms Ross,
During the past week, certain people opposed to vaccination have distributed an article written by you in First Coast News, apparently from February this year, with the headline "CDC Knew of Potential Link between Vaccines, Autism". In that article there is the clear implication that the preservative thimerosal can cause autism and that children can be exposed to the chemical via the MMR vaccine.
Apart from the fact that several large epidemiological studies covering several million children have failed to show any correlation between MMR vaccine and autism, the vaccine does not now and never has contained thimerosal. MMR is a live vaccine, and the addition of a preservative would render it completely ineffective. The people who suggested to you that autism might be caused by a mercury compound in the MMR vaccine were lying to you. They were not mistaken. They knew the truth, but they chose to lie.
I have never been able to understand the motivation of the anti-vaccination liars, although I can see the objective of their tactic of using the threat of having an autistic child as a way of frightening parents out of their moral and medical responsibilities towards their children. The motivation of the charlatans and quacks who offer useless treatments for autism is obvious, as all they are interested in is money and they don't care who gets hurt while they collect it. When these two groups of amoral people combine forces and both work on the principle that the end justifies the means, then it is inevitable that many will be hurt. Most of the time it is the children who suffer, but sometimes an innocent bystander like yourself becomes "collateral damage" when drawn in to lend unwitting support to the crazed agendas of people who in another context would probably be diagnosed as psychopaths.
I am sorry that you were deceived by these people into writing an article which they can use to lend authority to claims that vaccines are dangerous and that parents should withhold from their children the protection which has save more lives and prevented more illness than any other medical intervention.
Looking back (6/11/2004)
The long job of changing all the pages in the site to the new menu system is progressing, and everything has been done except for about 60 of the commentaries. The process gives me a chance to look at each page and tidy things up where necessary. While working through The Collected Works of William P. O'Neill I was reminded of how much amusement Mr O'Neill provided both to me and to the readers of this site. While I don't miss his disgusting remarks about my family, I sometimes wonder what Mr O'Neill does to fill his time now that he no longer appears to be obsessing over me. For a nostalgic look at the futility of evil go to the CCRG Correspondence File or The GAL Chronicles. Mr O'Neill's efforts were surpassed on one occasion when Jack Shulman sent me one of the finest pieces of hate mail ever sent to anyone anywhere. You can read Jack's masterpiece here.
Quintessence Corner (6/11/2004)
While I was feeling nostalgic I decided to revisit an old Loon of the Month winner, George Hammond, who has discovered a Scientific Proof Of God (yes, he does say SPOG). Note that this is not SHOG, a Scientific Hypothesis Of God, or STOG, a Scientific Theory Of God, but an actual Proof. George tells us that he is one of the smartest people on the planet, and reinforces that by suggesting that people should not read his Proof until they have the prerequisite knowledge, a smattering of which can be obtained from reading some introductory pages on his web site. A couple of years ago George lit up Usenet science newsgroups like an enormous comet, debating all challengers with a combination of wit and erudition not seen since the departure of Earl Gordon Curley. Then, suddenly, he disappeared, taking his web site with him. Fears were expressed that he may have done some harm to himself, but optimists hoped that he had retired to something like the Oort Cloud or the Kuiper Belt to await the time for his return. There have now been early sightings and he has a new web site, which you can see here. [When Geocities ceased to exist in late 2009, this site went with it. If it finds a new home the link will be restored.] Be warned, though, that if you want to debate George you will need your wits about you. Here are just two examples of how George answered questions from me using wit and repartee which would make Oscar Wilde and Grouch Marx gasp in awe:
You're not only a snot nosed asinine and boring writer, you've got an ugly smelling contempt and ignorance for the higher levels of scientific ability. It's scum like you who need to be cleaned out of Science and put back in uniform where you belong. It's time that the academic community stopped mollycoddling loudmouthed yuppie scumbags like you. You're a disgrace to your family name.
No asshole.... I'll TELL YOU what the f--- is going on. Retrograde loudmouth criminal vandals and morons like you have been harassing a serious, competent and dedicated scientist on the Internet for 3 years now... and WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN because of your reckless, criminal, indefensible behavior is that somebody is going to get accidentally hurt just like when you start playing Chicken with a freight train, you stupid basteds. Someone is going to get hurt, and it ISN'T going to be me because I'm the freight train. It's going to be one of you. In this case it may be Mike Varney Keep up your criminal, vandalistic, loudmouthed, wiseass harassment and abuse of a serious and dedicated scientist trying to present a serious scientific discovery and sooner or later one of you will accidentally get himself killed, you "fuckin moron".
Pending disruption (6/11/2004)
There might be some disturbance to the update schedule of The Millenium Project over the next couple of weeks. From next Friday night until Sunday afternoon I will be involved in running the Australian Skeptics Convention where I am a speaker as well as chairing some of the sessions. Acting on the principle that you don't belong in the circus if you can't ride two horses at once, on Sunday morning I will be giving a presentation to a medical conference which, of course, is being held at a beachside hotel about 130 kilometres away from everything else I have to do that day. Bad Astronomer Phil Plait will be in town as a guest speaker at the Skeptics convention, and as Vice President of the organisation I will be spending some time welcoming him to the country, getting him to the places he needs to go to and (he says without a trace of embarrassment) basking in reflected glory. We will be launching the new web site for Australian Skeptics at the convention so I have to finish the work on that, and then there is the Australian Council Against Health Fraud conference which still needs some organising. Did I mention that the Australian Museum is having a seminar on conspiracy theories that I probably should attend?
What I need to do now is work out how to get paid to do all this so I can free up all those hours that I waste earning a living.
You could just die laughing (13/11/2004)
Over the weekend of November 13 and 14 I was a speaker at the 2004 Annual Convention of Australian Skeptics and the 2004 Annual Conference of the Manly Warringah Division of General Practice. I gave the same speech about the outer limits of medical quackery to both audiences. It is much too long to have on the front page, but you can read it here.
Psychic parasites (13/11/2004)
One of my local television stations is running an occasional series with the title Sensing Murder. The format is to take an unsolved murder and then get some psychics to try to find some clues that the police have missed. (To make it even more offensive to me they are running the next episode in the time slot usually reserved for Law & Order, although the silver lining is that I can watch the final episode of The Practice on another channel without having to record anything for later.) I have only seen one episode of this travesty, and apparently what they do is to take a big group of psychics and test them in some unspecified way to find the best two. These two are then asked to think long and hard about what might have happened, and they are then driven around until they find familiar places and can tell the stories about what they sense there. Of the two psychics on the show I saw, one was really impressive in the sorts of things he was able to come up with.
The narrator of the show made a big point about how these people were describing scenes and people that they could not possibly have known anything about beforehand. What the narrator forgot to say next was "unless they had read The Age newspaper of February 6 this year", because if they had read that paper they would have seen that this particular missing person case was quite famous. The article in the newspaper even included a lot of the details that the psychics "discovered". Apologists for the show and for psychics would probably say that it was a long time between February and September when the show went to air, but anyone who has ever had anything to do with documentary making for television knows that you can spend a lot of weeks to get an hour's television.
I think that psychic detectives are one of the vilest forms of the creatures who use pseudoscience and witchcraft to deceive desperate people. They arrive on the scene when families are worried about or grieving for their loved ones and they offer nothing but disruption and delay when the police are working in the most critical period after a crime. As if that is not enough, they keep coming back to remind people of their loss. And then along come the scumbags like John Edward to make things worse, but that is another story.
In one of those remarkable coincidences, a lawyer in the episode of The Practice which ran against Sensing Murder said something like "further victimising the victim is one of the grossest crimes there is". She could have been talking about what was going on two places along the dial. Perhaps the writers of that episode were psychic.
The following passage is a quotation from John Tate, whose daughter Genette disappeared 25 years ago and has never been found. It says all that has to be said about these crooks who exploit grief. The quotation was originally in the 1986 book Investigating the Unexplained by Melvin Harris, but I saw it in by my friend Lynne Kelly.
Many people came to us offering threads of hope. We clutched at them desperately in the early days … But the promises of the psychics were all lies. They raised false hopes in us. At times we really believed we were onto something. The suggestions and ideas preyed on our minds … But always, when it came to the crunch, the so-called leads and ideas led absolutely nowhere but into a pit of despair ...
We soon found that the psychics who came up our garden path were ‘foot-in-the-door’ types who, once they had wormed their way in, were very reluctant to leave again. They were strong characters who were not afraid to assert themselves. They rode rough-shod over our feelings – which were in a desperate state already. In one week, our emotions and normal grip on life had gone through a wrenching upheaval, and the influence of psychics started to have an unpleasant effect. Even when we didn’t want them they were there, on our doorstep, always expecting to be met with an open door ...
We discovered that the work of the psychics was not just ludicrous and laughable. It was sinister and evil. Once we got into that web of deceit – and that is what it was – we found it very hard to struggle free. None of it ever led anywhere except to despair and disappointment, misery and confusion. We had become enslaved to the suggestions of the psychics.
An anti-vaccinator lies to me. So what's new? (13/11/2004)
I received an email this week from someone who has written to me on several previous occasions but has forgotten about those messages. Despite having five years to research the matter, she still can't find out my name. Is it any wonder that she believes things which are patently untrue. I replied to her in the kind and gentle manner which has become a hallmark of my correspondence with child-killers. Here is her email, with my responses in italics.
From: "Dawn Winkler"
Subject: Vaccine Liars
Date: Sat, 13 Nov 2004 15:16:14 -0700
Dear whoever you are,
I just love it when people who claim the ability to thoroughly research all the supposed dangers of vaccines exhibit their incompetence at research by not being able to find my name on my site. My name has been on the site since the very first day, more than five years ago. By the way, you have emailed me on at least three occasions, back when you were the Vice President of Concerned Parents for Vaccine Safety. (See here, here and here.)
You should be ashamed of yourself. Your website it just horrifying. My daughter died as a result of vaccination (you can check me out all you want, I'm for real and this is the truth).
Which vaccination? What was the exact nature of her reaction? Was the cause of death determined by autopsy? I am sorry for your loss, as I am sorry for the thousands of children who die daily from vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles.
My story is not unlike Christine Colebeck's and good for her if she is suing Aventis Pasteur. She should sue them. Yes, vaccines containing mercury cause autism, Asperger's, ADD, and a host of other horrifying problems including death.
How much is your story like Christine Colbeck's? Did you have a child die of SIDS and then several years later invent a story about how it was a death caused by vaccines so that you could extort money out of someone? I would hate to think that anything in my life was like the life of a liar and a blackmailer.
You might think, despite all evidence, that the tiny amounts of mercury bound into thimerosal molecules caused all these things, but what you think doesn't change the facts. In any case, the "mercury" has been removed from almost all vaccines now. I know that you have some denials of this citing Boyd Haley on your web site, but you, I and Haley all know the truth. The difference between us is that while three of us know the truth, only one tells it. And that isn't you or Haley.
I pity you for your ignorance.
I pity the children who will die or be disabled if ignorant people like you get your way and parents stop vaccinating their children.
I am not a liar. The people who killed my daughter are liars. Lord have mercy on their souls, and yours. May you never know the pain of watching your own child die from mercury poisoning.
What are the precise symptoms of mercury poisoning? I ask again, was this poisoning determined by autopsy and pathology tests, or is it what you think happened? May you never know the pain of seeing a hospital ward full of iron lungs or of blind children with their meninges destroyed by measles. But, then, you probably think that these would be small prices to pay to make the world free of vaccines.
I have never witnessed such blatant stupidity and ignorance as I have on your website. I am literally going to vomit.
Be careful if you go near the vomit. A large part of it is muriatic acid, which is 94.4% poisonous gas by weight, a gas which has been used in warfare as a weapon of mass destruction. Get Boyd Haley to explain it to you.
Health Advocacy in the Public Interest (HAPI)
Thank you for this web site to add to my collection of anti-vaccination liars. Due to its egregiousness, it will be added to the general Liars list as well.
Investigate Before You Vaccinate...Your Kids, Your Rights, Your Choice
More from the anti-vaccinator (20/11/2004)
Last week I included some correspondence I had with someone who runs an anti-vaccination liar web site. The lady was so unhappy with what I had to say that she could not contain herself to a single message but instead had to send me two, nine minutes apart. As they raised issues which are exemplary of the values, thought processes and lies of the anti-vaccination liars, I decided to continue the correspondence for one more round.
From: "Dawn Winkler"
Subject: Re: Vaccine Liars
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2004 08:24:22 -0700
You are truly an idiot and I don't want to know what your name is. Your site is disgusting. You care nothing about children. You deserve whatever you get in this life.
See ya, wouldn't wanna be ya.
Using someone's name when you are communicating with them is simply a matter of good manners. I am not surprised at your deliberate rudeness (or at the schoolyard taunt at the end of your message) because it is consistent with the selfish attitude of the anti-vaccination liars which places their (your) comfort in such an exalted position that the rights and safety of others becomes inconsequential. I am also unsurprised at your admission that you have not the slightest interest in ascertaining a fact, an attitude which is again consistent with the dogmatic, self-centred ideology you espouse.
As for my caring about children, it is not I who is campaigning to deny the hope of a safe future to the tens of millions of children who die or who are damaged each year by vaccine preventable diseases. Perhaps, though, you think that because they are not your children they deserve whatever they get in life.
From: "Dawn Winkler"
Subject: Re: Vaccine Liars
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2004 08:33:31 -0700
By the way, my organization tested mercury free vaccines and we are getting ready to do it again using a lab that does work for the EPA. They weren't mercury free despite the manufacturer's claims that they were so it has not been removed.
Why did you choose Doctor's Data? What specific tests did they perform? What were the detected amounts of mercury? Was the concentration detected less than that which occurs naturally in seawater, and if so, would you let your children swim at the beach? What is the accuracy of their measuring instruments at the levels supposedly detected? What work does this new lab do for the EPA? (Please don't say that they have passed some inspection under EPA standards for laboratory conditions.) Why are you planning to have the test done again if it was conclusive the first time? So many questions, so little time to make up lies.
I see that on your web site where you discuss your testing you have a paragraph which says:
Thimerosal, a 50% mercury compound is still being used to produce most vaccines, but the manufacturers claim to be "filtering it out" of the final product. However, according to Boyd Haley, PhD, Chemistry Department Chair, University of Kentucky, mercury binds to the antigenic protein in the vaccine and cannot be completely filtered out. It is now well known that mercury in vaccines is associated with autism and other neurological disorders in children; 1 in 166 children is now autistic and 1 in 6 have neurological disorders such as ADD, ADHD, etc.
Thimerosal is not 50% mercury. It is 4.35% mercury by composition, 43% by proportion of protons and 49.5% by weight. The last two percentages are meaningless and would only be used by people who know no chemistry or who want to deceive people who know no chemistry.
What does Dr Haley mean by "the antigenic protein in the vaccine"? Would it be possible for him to be more specific, or is he claiming that whenever a protein associated with a pathological organism goes near a molecule of thimerosal, the mercury atom leaps out of one molecule and joins up with another? If this attraction is so strong and so permanent, what happens when the vaccine is injected into the body? Why does the antigen protein now release the mercury atom to do its deadly work? Does this man have a clue what he is talking about, or doesn't he care?
It is not well known that "mercury in vaccines is associated with autism and other neurological disorders in children"; in fact, all of the research has shown quite the opposite - there is no connection.
The diagnostic criteria for autism have changed, so that many more children are included than would have been some years ago. The reasons for this are complex, as there are both medical and political variables in the equation.
Alternative medicine rejects diagnoses of ADD and ADHD and says that the apparent increases in these are solely due to changed diagnostic criteria introduced for the benefit of pharmaceutical companies. Please try to keep up with the dogma.
If you don't get the mercury is the most toxic substance on earth next to plutonium and an extreme neurotoxin then you are just not capable of reason.
Plutonium is nowhere near the "most toxic substance on earth", so if mercury is less toxic all you can say is that it is less toxic. Before you start citing crackpots like Dr Helen Caldicott and her "one pound of plutonium could kill everyone on earth", please be aware that in 1973, ten years after the USA, the USSR and Britain stopped above-ground nuclear testing (France and China kept going for a few more years), there was an estimated 10,000 pounds of plutonium distributed throughout the atmosphere. In 1962, when everyone was testing bombs in the atmosphere, the amount was about 75,000 pounds. Put another way, if plutonium was even 0.1% as toxic as scaremongers make out then the entire population of the world would have been wiped out before the Beatles had their first hit record.
I watched my daughter die from mercury poisoning, she received 172 times the amount the EPA considers OK via her vaccinations (123 micrograms is not a tiny amount of mercury, hey, ever read Heavenly Intrigue? Great true story about how an astronomer killed another astronomer using guess what, mercury, 400 year ago).
I keep hearing about the EPA's safe limit for exposure to mercury. It appears that there is some dispute about what it is as the amount of the "massive dose" from vaccines seems to vary between claimants - you say 172 times, others say 25 times, some say just over the daily limit. Which is it to be?
What fascinates me is how secretive the EPA are about this. Their IRIS database, which lists the risk assessments of many chemicals has only two entries for mercury. One is for elemental mercury and gives a limit for mercury vapour in air, and the other is for methyl mercury, the kind found in fish. Neither of these have anything to do with thimerosal and the way in which mercury is bound into the molecule. Please give me a precise reference to where I can read the EPA's guidelines on exposure to mercury in the form presented by thimerosal.
Nobody has ever denied that certain compounds of mercury are dangerous, but nitrogen is essential for life even though there is a chemical which is more than 50% nitrogen (by weight) and which can kill you in seconds. You might like to get Professor Haley to explain the differences between Hg, CH3Hg and C9H9HgO2SNa. If he can.
She suffered blatant symptoms of mercury poisoning and died.
What symptoms of mercury poisoning did she show?
Some children cannot detoxify mercury from their system due to which type of APOE they get from their parents (2,3,or4), this is well documented in scientific peer reviewed medical journals.
Which alleles of APOE are in your DNA? Which alleles of APOE are in your husband's DNA? Please remember that 50% of the population have the e3 allele. There appears to be a connection between e4 and susceptibility to Alzheimer's Disease, and between e2 and certain cardiovascular conditions, but which of the six combinations did your daughter have - e2+e2, e2+e3, e3+e3, e3+e4, e4+e4? She was autopsied, I assume, and tissue samples were taken for DNA analysis. By the way, the query "apolipoproteins E[majr] AND mercury[majr] AND english[la]" entered into PubMed with no time limitation on the search returns the list "No items found", so perhaps you could provide me with the citations for the research you refer to.
If you are so scared of measles, and you vaccinate, than what do you or other vaccinators have to be afraid of?
Vaccines are not 100% effective, which is why some of them need to be given multiple times. What I am worried about is that my child may not have achieved full immunity before being exposed to the infectious, pox-ridden children of irresponsible, selfish parents. Like you.
Please visit www.healthsentinel.com and view the true history of disease (graphs on left courtesy of US Census Bureau and Vital Statistics Data, maybe you can add the US Census Bureau to ratbags.com, I'm sure they are liars too). We have been scammed. You are perpetuating that.
I have seen the graphs on several anti-vaccination liar web sites, and they say nothing about the effectiveness or otherwise of vaccination. They show that with progress in the treatment of infectious diseases, deaths from these diseases dropped over time. They would mean something if the only two possible outcomes of vaccine-preventable diseases were death or complete recovery. The continued misuse of these graphs by people who have had this explained to them is just one of the reasons why I call these liars "liars".
Let's be balanced! (20/11/2004)
Every now and then I receive an email which accuses me of bias against the things which I list here and declare I don't like, to which I can only answer "Guilty, your honour". The funny ones are those which suggest that I should show some balance by presenting the views of the other side. This is funny for two reasons. The first is that I feel no need to provide a forum at my expense for the charlatans, liars and other disgusting people who are the targets of this site. If they want to have their say, let them get web sites of their own. That brings us to the second funny point, which is that to be here they have to already have a web site of their own. You can see why I have a good laugh every time someone tells me that I should present the other side and by this statement shows that they are incapable of independent thought, otherwise they would have noticed the thousand sites listed here. Still, I have come to expect somewhat less than an adequate capacity for critical (or sometimes any) thought from the supporters of the sort of sites that make up the Millenium Project lists.
I was reminded of this over the last few weeks as I have been chasing publicity for the Australian Council Against Health Fraud's conference. It was promoted to journalists associated with major news outlets, many of them having titles which suggested that they had some responsibility for health information appearing in their publication or on their radio or television station or network. Several commented that the conference was not really balanced and that I should have representatives of the quackery industry there to present their views. One even suggested two suitable people - one is an anti-vaccination doctor and the other runs a department of alternative medicine at a real university and teaches homeopathy as if it is a science. I was also told by someone that nobody uses the term "alternative medicine" any more - it is "complementary" or "integrative".
Much of this nonsense can be put down to the combination of postmodernism and political correctness which is rotting the intellectual values of university humanities departments these days, the departments which contain the schools of journalism. Every point of view has equal value and it is impolite to challenge anyone, so every media outlet seems to want to outdo the others in fairness and presenting both sides. This is ridiculous. News is news and truth is truth. The strange thing is that this false sense of fairness only seems to extend to scientific matters (and perhaps history, where Holocaust deniers are treated with cautious politeness). If I was running a seminar on financial planning or the legal aspects of property development nobody would expect me to give any time or space to timeshare slammers or peddlers of gambling schemes, but try to teach children about evolution or their parents about the superiority of medicine over witchcraft and there are cries everywhere about unfairness. Tragic.
Then there is the really scary stuff. Several of the "journalists" criticised me for rejecting homeopathy and being close-minded about it. Remember that these people write supposedly factual, researched stories for reputable media outlets. Be afraid.
ACAHF gets its first hate mail! (20/11/2004)
The Australian Council Against Health Fraud has its own job to do, so the staff there have outsourced the work of handling hate mail. As the ACAHF office is on the campus of Northmead Technology Park, it made sense to give the job to the highly-experienced staff on the Millenium Project desk at Ratbag Castle. Here is some cogent criticism, plus a kind and gentle reply.
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2004 06:37:50 -0800
You are a perfect example of what can happen to a person when he chooses "evil" too many times. You are probably full of so many demons that you cannot even choose anything "good" or "fair" and certainly not "reasonable". I don't know why I'm even writing as I know one cannot reason with insanity. Or...maybe you are just really, really stupid.
Dear Harry and/or Linda,
Congratulations on being the first person to submit what is traditionally known as "hate mail" to ACAHF, although I suspect that you are not very experienced at the genre as all the words were spelled correctly and seemed to be in the correct order.
ACAHF welcomes comments and criticism. We thank you for your interest and for taking the time to write to us. Your email has been passed on to the person in the organisation who is best qualified to deal with it.
Loopy email of the week (20/11/2004)
I am not sure if Brad was actually reading this site, as he seems to have some misconceptions about it. Even if he was thinking about some other site, he wrote to this one so good manners requires an answer.
From: "Brad Davis"
Subject: Your Site Blows Dick
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 2004 00:03:14 +0000
You website is the worst knock off of Maddox i have ever seen.
Who or what is a "Maddox"? As my site is well over five years old, I doubt that it could be "knocking off" anyone else.
Take your opinions and shove them up your ass because no one cares.
The several thousand visitors who come to the site each day seem to care.
Start something origional; don't take something cool and throw your homosexual spin on it and call it your own.
My site is original, or even "origional" if you like.
Thank you for pointing out my homosexuality (not that there's anything wrong with that). I am surprised that you noticed it but my wife and kids didn't.
Andrew Wakefield - another bucket tips (27/11/2004)
Earlier this year I wrote about how Dr Andrew Wakefield, hero of the anti-vaccination liars and suppressed great scientist, had been found with his hand in the cookie jar. A television program shown on British TV last week has revealed that his other hand and both feet were in the jar as well. The attacks on the reporter have started in earnest, of course, because it is beyond the imagination of anyone opposed to vaccines that anyone who offers any support to them could in any way be tainted by deception, pride or financial greed.
I would like to thank all the people who thought of me when they saw or heard about the television program and then either mentioned me in Internet forums or emailed me to tell me about it. A special thanks must go to Jim from the Association for Skeptical Enquiry who arranged for me to get a copy of the show. I will have something to say about this next week, but in the meantime I have to watch the show again so that I can bask once again in a fine feeling of Schadenfreude.
A buzz from the hive (27/11/2004)
An Ambot is critical of what I said about the deceptive practices of Amway executives. Here is the correspondence so far:
Saw your thing on the web.
You need to get your facts right.
What your saying is so far from the truth you should be embarrassed.
Perhaps you could point out the specific errors I made in reporting my conversations with Amway executives. By the way, are there more than 23 pictures of diamonds on the wall at Amway's Australian headquarters now, or is that still the pathetic record of how few people can achieve in over 30 years what everyone is told is possible within months?
Check out Alticor.com
I notice that Alticor is boasting about $6 billion world-wide sales. How does that compare to Coles Myer in Australia alone. Pretty sad, isn't it? (Here's a hint - Coles' gross profit for the last reported year exceeded total annual sales for Alticor.)
That URL doesn't work because Amway haven't configured their server correctly. It needs the "www".
A turd by any other name would smell as sweet.
By Dawn's early light (27/11/2004)
For the last two weeks I have been carrying on a conversation with Ms Dawn Winkler, webthinger of an anti-vaccination web site. Each time I replied, she wrote back with more messages than the last round. I have yet to determine the formula for the series progression, but I could see the possibility of both of us eventually spending all of our waking hours writing to each other. To avoid clogging up the front page of this site any more, I have moved the conversation here.
Radio Ratbags (27/11/2004)
I will be on ABC radio across Australia at 10:00pm on Sunday, November 28, to talk about alternative medicine. The program is usually available from the ABC web site within a day or two of the broadcast and can be heard for about two weeks from then onwards.
A disclaimer (27/11/2004)
I came across the following disclaimer on an alternative health site this week. It is reproduced here in the exact size and typeface used on the Healthtree site. Enjoy!
The Health Tree website contains a wide variety of content on health and medical issues for general, educational and informative purposes only. Health Tree is not diagnostic or prescriptive and does not replace the services or advice of a qualified health care professional. Health Tree does not give, or purport to give, any medical advice and is not qualified to do so. To the extent permitted by law, Health Tree expressly disclaims all responsibility for, and liability in respect of, the accuracy of the content on the website. Read the full disclaimer here
Chemistry by numbers (27/11/2004)
Mercury and the proportion 50% play a big part in the mythology of both the anti-vaccination liars and the anti-amalgam loons, where mercury is supposed to be 50% of the preservative thimerosal and also 50% of dental amalgam. This is a remarkable coincidence. Even allowing for the fact that there is only one mercury atom among the twenty-three in a thimerosal molecule, the organic chemistry related to thimerosal and its reactions would seem to be only distantly related to the way that the atoms of the different metals interact to give an alloy its distinctive properties. Put another way, thimerosal is not a mixture of mercury with other stuff and dental amalgam is not just a solution of silver in mercury. In both cases there is something else going on.
Professor Boyd Haley claims special knowledge of mercury and is beloved by both of the aforementioned groups of fanatics. He is not just some out-of-the-mainstream whacko, but the chair of the chemistry department at a real university (the University of Kentucky), so I thought I would write to him to clear up some confusion over who said what. To make matters simple, I thought that I would just start with thimerosal and we could address the problem of the chemical and physical properties of amalgam later. This is what I wrote to him:
Dear Professor Haley,
I am continually being told that the chemical thimerosal, once used as a preservative in multi-dose vaccine packages, is 50% mercury. As mercury is just a single atom in the 23 which make up the thimerosal molecule it is obvious that the "50%" claim is absurd.
What concerns me, and should concern you, is that I have been told that you are a source of this ludicrous piece of disinformation. I find it impossible to believe that anyone associated with the chemistry department of a reputable university would ever utter such idiocy so I am sure that it did not originate with you and that you have never claimed it to be true.
I would welcome a statement from you dissociating yourself from this nonsense so that I can have some ammunition to use the next time someone tells me the lie.
This email and your response will be published in the next update of my online magazine, The Millenium Project.
Thank you for your time.
You may be familiar with the old joke about the helicopter pilot lost in a fog who spots someone getting out of a car in an office car park and asks him "Where am I?" The office worker replies "In a helicopter", the pilot says "Thanks" and flies off. The passenger in the helicopter asks the pilot why he thanked the man on the ground for such worthless information, and the pilot says that he now knows that he is flying over Microsoft's office because the answer he got from the man on the ground was both factually correct and totally useless. I had a feeling of deja vu when Professor Haley's reply came in. My responses are in italics, and I await the next instalment from Kentucky. I will also be contacting some other chemists to see if I can get any facts.
It was certainly not meant to be a joke. The lies told by the opponents of vaccination are very far from jokes, and when they say something as absurd as this it should be treated seriously.
I would not take total credit for the "claim that mercury is 50% of thimerosal" but it is a statement that I would back and agree with. The % of an element found in a compound is based on the % weight the element gives to the total weight of the compound. The sodium salt of thimerosal contains the following elements:
|atom||#atoms||atomic weight||total weight|
The above gives a formula weight for the sodium salt of thimerosal of 404.59, and mercury contributes 200.59. Dividing 200.49 by 404.59 = 0.4959 and converting to % this equals 49.59%. Therefore, mercury is 49.59% of the weight of thimerosal as determined using conventional chemical calculations. I hope that this helps you.
I knew all that, but is a meaningless answer. Just because something is a true statement does not make it a useful statement. My house is more than 50% bricks by weight; my boat is more than 50% aluminium by weight; the oceans are more than 50% oxygen by weight; if you combine one atom each of hydrogen, carbon and nitrogen into a molecule the resulting compound is more than 50% nitrogen by weight, but it will kill you.
What does an atom's proportion of the molecular weight of a compound have to do with the action of that compound? I realise that the "50% mercury" nonsense is used by the anti-vaccination liars to frighten parents, but surely professional chemists should be calling for accuracy in the use of words.
Sincerely, Boyd Haley
Professor and Chair Dept. of Chemistry
University of Kentucky
Peter: The toxicity of mercury from ingestion, i.e. that level set by the EPA in the USA is 0.1 microgram Hg per kilogram body weight per day based on ingestion of methylmercury from a fish diet. Notice that the level of mercury is presented in a fraction of grams. Therefore, to determine the toxicity of mercury in thimerosal or ethylmercury you have to determine the amount of mercury in fractions of grams. This is the way that all toxicologists do this. The amount of mercury by weight in the vaccines would make it safe by EPA standards if the subject getting the shot weighed 125kilograms or 275 lbs. If you are so convinced that I am wrong with this approach why don't you find an another academic chemist or toxicologist that would agree with your analysis or provide you with another way of doing this?
Your analysis using HCN is part of the answer in that compounds are defined as toxic by their action on living systems, not their elemental content. In this evaluation, thimerosal is known to rapidly release ethylmercury in aqueous systems. Ethylmercury is extremely neurotoxic, killing neurons at 10-25 nanomolar levels. For your information the vaccine is 125,000 nanomolar in thimerosal and injecting one vaccine (12.5 micrograms) into one 4-6lbs infant would represent a very toxic exposure. Furhter, unlike many elements (N,O,C, etc.) Hg has no known usefulness in biological systems, being toxic to them all. Also, all occurring forms of Hg (methylmercury, ethylmercury, thimerosal dental amalgams, Hg vapor, Hg2+, etc.) have been reported to be extremely toxic. Your analysis that the anti-vaccine crowd uses the 50% mercury in thimerosal to scare people may be right, but they ought to be scared about injecting this much mercury into an infant. I am very pro-vaccine---I was raised on a farm and I own one today and I know the problems that can come from not vaccinating animals. However, that doesn't mean I have to accept anything less than a proven, safest vaccine and vaccine program for our children. I am under the opinion that thimerosal has been removed from most childhood vaccines, do you think our governments would do this if they did not think there was a problem?
I give up. A professor of chemistry does not understand the difference between safe daily dose over a lifetime and dosage received on a single day. A professor of chemistry deliberately talks about two different chemical compounds (ethylmercury and methylmercury) as if they are interchangeable and have identical properties. A professor of chemistry is not aware that a "4-6lbs infant" is at high risk simply because of the very low birth weight, and no doctor is injecting these premature or high-risk babies with anything without very careful observation. (Perhaps a professor of chemistry is confused about the difference between pounds and kilograms.) A professor of chemistry is "very pro-vaccine" but appears on more than 700 occasions on web sites condemning vaccines, and is prepared to speak at conferences run by anti-vaccination liars and share the platform with people who he knows are not telling the truth.
The Maddox Mystery (27/11/2004)
Thank you to the several readers who emailed me with a possible explanation of the "Maddox" referred to by an irate correspondent last week. I have had a look at this site which I am supposed to have "knocked off" and I must agree that there certainly are similarities. For example, both appear to use a form of English as the main language and both sites are coded in HTML. There are some differences, however. One site is literate, witty, urbane, displayed in colours which would not make Jackson Pollack gag, and has an author whose vocabulary means that he does not need to use profanity as the first form of response. The other is Maddox.
Is it really you, GAL? It's been so long. (27/11/2004)
why dont you and i sit down together so i can have the opportunity of blowing your fucking head off! better yet ill just drop by!
Hillsong "Church" (27/11/2004)
I have mentioned Hillsong "Church" a couple of times in the past (see here and here). This pretend church runs its business from an industrial park near my place. It is very big on taking money, but when it gives any back it is in small amounts which the "church" would not miss. As an example, at the time of writing this there is a proud boast on their web site that the "church" has just donated $AU106,000 to help World Vision feed people in Sudan. This represents 0.3% of the "church's" admitted yearly tax-free income. Remember that the vast majority of the income is in the form of unaccountable cash.
While looking at the Hillsong web presence, I noticed a couple of strange things. The first is that with all its money and commitment to life in Australia, it has its web site hosted in New Jersey. The second is that it has registered at least three domain names in Australia - hillsong.com.au, hillsong.net.au and hillsong.org.au. When you enter any of these names into your browser you are taken to hillsong.com and the New Jersey host. According to the rules of Australian domain names, .com.au and .net.au are restricted to Australian commercial businesses and .org.au domains are only available to non-profit organisations and charities. I have asked the appropriate authorities how it can be possible for the same commercially-registered company to have use of all three names. I realise that Hillsong is really a business pretending to be a church to avoid tax, but I would have thought that their lawyers would have advised them not to be so open when leaving traces in public records.