Jacky Stardust and the Transistors from Mars (2/11/2002)
I have received a most impressive piece of hate mail from someone who believes in aliens. It is too long to put here on the front page, but you can click here to read it. Enjoy!
Apology in advance (2/11/2002)
There will probably be no update to this site next weekend, or it may be delayed for a couple of days, because I will be at the Australian Skeptics' Annual Convention. I will have my computer with me, but my psychic skill of precognition tells me that I won't be spending a lot of time in my hotel room typing.
A disappointing education choice (2/11/2002)
Some time ago, someone wrote to me with an enquiry on behalf of a friend who had applied for a post at an American university. The friend had a degree from Greenwich University on Norfolk Island and his prospective employer had wanted reassurance that this place had some accreditation from an appropriate authority. I was contacted because I had mentioned the place in a Usenet posting somewhere. I investigated and had to give them the bad news that the place might be located in a place which is nominally part of Australia, but the institution has no standing. Its degrees are worthless, although they are not cheap. Frauds like this are not a threat to life or health like some of the health frauds listed in The Millenium Project, but being caught in a scam can be very expensive, not only in money but in time and embarrassment. I feel sorry for people who are deceived by places like this, because it is not an obvious scam like the diploma mills who just charge a few dollars for a piece of paper. Nobody could be fooled by them, but this place goes through the motions of tertiary education. I was reminded of Greenwich again this week when a graduate of the place took me to task for my comments. You can read what I had to say about this "university" here, together with the latest letter and my reply.
The people have no bread. Let them eat nothing. (2/11/2002)
What would you do if you were surrounded by almost three million people on the verge of starvation and someone offered you free food for them? If you were the Zambian government, you would listen to some nonsense about the dangers of genetically-modified food and you would then say that it was better for those millions to die than to give them perfectly acceptable food to eat. What makes this tragedy even worse is that the "natural" maize approved by the anti-GMO movement is hundreds of years, hundreds of generations and hundreds of mutations away from the "natural" grass that it originated from. It has been undergoing a process of man-made genetic modification for centuries, but for some reason it is very bad to use a process of specific, targeted and accurate gene modification rather than just mixing everything up at random and seeing what pops out at the end. I expect that I will now receive emails making stupid statements like "I don't want flounder genes in my corn", to which I will just have to say "Is there a problem with flounder genes if you eat them in a flounder?".
Some people were not happy (2/11/2002)
I ran a story last week headed "A preview of Hell" about attending an anti-vaccination seminar. As well as publishing the story above on this site, I also posted it to several Internet forums where the anti-vaccinators hang out. Not surprisingly there was no discussion of any substantive issues, but two things seemed to create a lot of concern. One was my mention at the end of having a drink in the Catholic Club and the other was my comment about someone announcing where I was sitting when I was actually somewhere else. The club comments ranged from someone who wondered why an atheist would talk about Hell, to someone who thought that the $5 we spent on two beers would have been better spent saving some children somewhere, to someone who tried to turn the issue into a discussion of paedophile priests (the Illawarra Catholic Club is a sort of mini-casino and probably has little to do with the theological or administration aspects of the church).
The seating position comment produced an interesting result. I was initially attacked for being egotistical and expecting everyone to know who I was. I replied that my comment was really about the bizarre leap of non-logic that took two isolated facts – I was known to have been in the room (I had signed a list that had been passed around) and someone left early – and from them derived the conclusion that I was the person who had left. Someone then told me that she had recognised me on the night (she had been seated right behind me) and had told the person who made the "he left early" statement about me. This was supposed to make things better, but what it told me was that the person who announced the next day that I had been sitting in the front row had known at the time that this was not me. Telling people that it was me was not a case of very poor inference creation but a deliberately untrue statement. It is what the rest us call "lying". Why was I not surprised?
Quackery under threat (16/11/2002)
On 31 October, 2002, the Minister for Health in the New South Wales Government (Australia) held a press conference to announce the formation of a committee to review some of the more objectionable aspects of "alternative" medicine. You can read the press release about this here. (One of the triggers for this action by the Minister was some work done by members of the Australian Skeptics which exposed the fraud of homeopathic vaccines against meningococcal disease.)
Nobody thought that the purveyors of quackery would accept this without saying anything. Not surprisingly, the responses took the form of ad hominem attacks, lies, fabrications and deliberate disregard for the truth. Here are some examples:
Something stirs in a crypt in Ottawa (16/11/2002)
The Canadian Cancer Research Group has a new web site, after having a one-page bookmark for many months. The new site includes much of the content of the original, but I notice that the page of news stories is still under construction. I wonder if it will eventually contain the glowing stories which appeared in the 4 July, 1998, edition of the Ottawa Sentinel and which were reproduced on the original CCRG web site. One of the testimonials was from Annette Pypops, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer in March 1997 and had been told that her life expectancy was two years unless she had surgery. She chose instead to go to the CCRG for help. The Sentinel article included these words:
She fought depression and self-doubt, and emerged determined to give her body a chance to defeat the enemy within. This meant a regimen of natural therapy (called Gerson therapy) that some people consider pure quackery, and others see as nature's way of healing.
Shark's cartilage. Coffee enemas, four times a day. Ten glasses of organic carrot juice a day. Essiac tea. Acupuncture. A careful diet of only organic foods. Herbal supplements that her mother and grandmother used to take. Three months of cancer vaccine therapy from Georgia.
Ms. Pypops believes she is better now. Her energy level, since starting therapy, is way up. To the touch, her tumour appears to have stopped growing. And blood and cell tests suggest good news. "If the doctors are right, I should be dead by April. But I'm not on that road, the way I feel".
Ms Pypops was not alive in April. She died in December 1998, well within the two-year period mentioned by the real doctors she had consulted in 1997. For more than two years after her death the CCRG site carried the testimonial, despite the dismal failure of that organisation to extend her life and her time with her loved ones by even a single minute. And Mr William P O'Neill of the CCRG has the hide to call me names, lie about my "criminal record" and abuse my family.
Speaking of Mr O'Neill … (16/11/2002)
As of 10:00am, 18 November, 2002 (Australian Eastern Summer Time) and until further notice, mail from email@example.com will be deleted unread by my mail server. Mr O'Neill will need to find another anonymous email service unless he wants to talk to himself, because I won't be listening.
The 100,000 needless deaths (16/11/2002)
A couple of years ago, a study was published which claimed that the number of deaths caused by medical errors in hospitals in the USA was somewhere between 48,000 and 94,000 each year. The size of this range of results is enough to indicate that the values are meaningless, and the numbers have been debunked by others so I won't repeat that work here. I am interested in the "100,000" number which gets repeated ad nauseum. Someone keeps ranting at me on newsgroups and demanding that, as well as looking at quackery, I should be investigating those real doctors who keep killing people. Constant reference is made to the "100,000 needless deaths" each year in the US, and I am asked what I have to say about this horror. On 7 December, 1999, I sent a message to the Healthfraud Discussion List commenting on the 48-94,000 numbers in which I said: "There appears to be a lot of uncertainty in the data gathering. The alt-medders will use the upper estimate, of course (rounded up to 100,000 and with the qualifier "more than" to indicate uncertainty)". So my comment on the 100,000 needless deaths is that the number is just made up. I know this because I was the person who made it up.
Quackery under threat, and they don't like it (23/11/2002)
Last week I mentioned that a committee had been set up by my state government to investigate medical quackery. The quacks and their fellow travellers have gone into overdrive with lies, ad hominem attacks (and even some real-life telephone attacks) and anything else they can think of in a desperate attempt to prevent them being forced to show evidence that their claims of miracle cures have any substance. Surely, if they can do what they say they can do there is no problem. All they have to do is produce evidence of effectiveness and safety, like real medicine manufacturers have to do, and they can keep on with business as usual. I suspect that they really know that their "cures" are worthless and that they are committing fraud. On second thoughts, I don't suspect it, I know it. Now they have the opportunity to prove me wrong. Running away won't prove me wrong, it will just demonstrate the worthlessness of their snake oil.
I have created a page to collect the opposition to the committee and my comments about it. You can see the sorry spectacle here.
Will you be praying? People with consciences won't. (23/11/2002)
A plea has been issued for people to pray for murderer Alan Yurko. The date chosen is 29 November, and the reason given is that this is the day between Thanksgiving and the start of Hanukkah. It is also, coincidentally, the fifth anniversary of the day when Yurko committed an aggravated assault on a police officer in an attempt to escape from custody. It is significant that nobody is suggesting that anyone pray for the soul of the baby that this animal beat to death. The anniversary of the boy's killing is 27 November, a date which passes without notice for Yurko supporters.
A new tribute page (23/11/2002)
A few weeks ago I mentioned that netloon Jack Shulman (who believes that transistors came from outer space) had sent me a truly magnificent piece of hate mail. Now I have found that he has created a web page about me of such awesome imbecility that I felt humbled by the experience of reading it. Well, amused more than humbled … You can see this masterpiece here.
Speaking of tribute pages … (23/11/2002)
Someone sounding suspiciously like Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group has apparently created a web page for me, but I don't have any details as yet. It was announced to me in an anonymous email message that said "Wonderful new listings concerning your fabulously successful business have been registered! And thank you for the "wayback" tip. It's been useful since you deleted your client list from your organ". Mr O'Neill should be aware that as of 10:00am, 24 November, 2002 (Australian Eastern Summer Time) and until further notice, mail from firstname.lastname@example.org will de deleted unread by my mail server. He will need to find another email service unless he wants to fantasise about my organ by himself, because I won't be listening.
Speaking of abusive fools … (23/11/2002)
Tim Bolen seems to have fallen on hard times as it looks like he is no longer the spokeslout for quack not-a-medical-Dr Hulda Clark. Tim's effort this week was to sneer at the death of Dr Victor Herbert, a scientist of a standard than Bolen would never even hope to meet in the alternative medicine gutters where he resides. You can see an obituary for Dr Herbert here, where we can all see what sort of a man caused Bolen to say "Hell burns a little brighter this week". I think I know why Bolen has had a falling out with Clark. She sells stuff to do bowel cleansing, but just reading anything by Bolen has the same (or even greater) effect so he is costing her money.
The quacks are still shrieking (30/11/2002)
While ever the snake oil sellers continue their ad hominem, strawman and outright lying opposition to the NSW anti-quackery committee, I will keep updating my collection of what they have to say. This week we have a petition to the NSW Parliament (complete with egregious selective quoting), and an admission that a cited document never actually existed. I keep telling these people that they have nothing to fear if they can do what they say they can do. Their panic is ample evidence of their knowledge that what they do is fraud. They can't defend what they do, they can only attack anyone who wants to shine a light on their deceit.
You can see the unfolding drama here.
How many people do those doctors kill? (30/11/2002)
The proponents of quackery and health fraud love to tell us about how many people are killed by doctors each year. In the opposition to the NSW anti-quackery committee the number of iatrogenic deaths in Australia has been mentioned several times to make the point that doctors should clean up their own act before trying to do anything about charlatans and pretend doctors.
(See the rest of this article here.)
What would Mohammed do? (30/11/2002)
This week the world saw another horror story as mobs went mad in Nigeria and killed almost 200 people. The cause of this outrage was that the Miss World competition was to be held in the country and this offended some Muslims. They became extra offended when a newspaper reporter suggested that Mohammed would have admired the contestants. Offices of the newspaper were set alight, people were killed in the streets, and the reporter has lost her job (and has disappeared – initially it was feared that she had been murdered, but it seems she has managed to get out of the country). The Miss World people fled back to London, taking all the money they were going to spend in Nigeria with them. Everyone lost, except the loony bigots who believe that religion matters enough to kill people over it. In one sense, though, I agree that the journalist may have been wrong. Why would anyone who "married" a six-year-old girl have any interest in a group of twenty-something women with attractive adult bodies?
But it isn't just Muslims who are mad (30/11/2002)
Just up the road from my house, a group of Muslims want to set up a place where they can get together at weekends to pray and read the Qur'an. The maximum number will be about 100 and it isn't going to be a mosque (there's a large mosque about half an hour's drive away), it's just somewhere for informal gatherings. The locals have gone berserk. To read the local paper, you would think that Al Qaeda was about to set up a training camp and there will be suicide bombers practising at the local supermarket. Strangely, nobody will admit that they don't want Muslims nearby, and the objections are on environmental grounds (pressure on the utilities and services, etc), traffic problems, dangers of kids running into the street, and so on. Hypocritically, none of these people seemed to mind a 3000-seat pretend Christian church which opened out their way recently. I say "pretend" because it is a Benny Hinn style money laundry, not any sort of church that Jesus would recognise. Much as I dislike the extremes of Islam (or extremes of any other religion), I have no problem with individual worshippers or groups if they keep to themselves and don't hurt anyone. I find a money-clawing holy roller circus much more offensive than a small group of people in funny clothes who just want to read and pray.
Harassment highlights (30/11/2002)
Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group has requested permission to join a mailing list for members of the Australian Computer Society. The list moderator approved the application, so we are all eagerly awaiting Mr O'Neill's contribution to the discussion of computer-related issues. It must have been a list-joining week for Mr O'Neill because he spent his Saturday attempting (and failing) to subscribe me to a raft of lists. As he had also demanded during the week that I send some information to his lawyer I did just that. The letter to the lawyer appears below.
Dear Mr Grieve,
Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group has suggested that I should send you a fax with information I have about him. The complete collection of all the messages I have from Mr O'Neill which were either to or about me would occupy several hundred pages of fax paper, so I (and no doubt your secretary) would prefer that you read it on the web. You can start at https://ratbags.com/rsoles/onews/ More messages, written in a style highly congruent with that of Mr O'Neill but transmitted through anonymising services, can be seen at https://ratbags.com/rsoles/onews/gal.htm
To give you an idea of the flavour of Mr O'Neill's activities, I have attached the 112 email messages I received this morning as a result of his attempting to subscribe me to some mailing lists. (The 10 messages which identified the IP address of the person doing the subscribing have also been forwarded to the abuse handlers at Sympatico.) He has done this in the past, and no doubt will do it in the future. Apparently he thinks this inconveniences me in some way (it doesn't – I simply do not reply to confirmation requests) and that tactics like this, announcing my non-existent bankruptcy and criminal record, and making disgusting remarks about my family might make me close my web site. He will remain a disappointed man.
World AIDS day – December 1 (30/11/2002)
For reasons beyond the imagination of sane people, the anti-vaccination liars are opposed to research to find an AIDS vaccine. (Further evidence, if any was needed, of why these contemptible people must be despised.) With five million new infections this year, only someone with no soul or conscience could not recognise the problem. The search for an answer is a test of our humanity. There is money available (the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $100 million campaign for India recently) but little will happen without the commitment of politicians and governments, and politicians won't act unless they think people want action.