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December 6, 2003

Guest editorial, 23 years on (6/12/2003)
War is still not over. I guess we didn't want it enough.
So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong
And so this is Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight

A very Merry Christmas
And a Happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

Words have only one meaning … (6/12/2003)
One of the sillier aspects of political correctness is how words take on magical properties which imbue those words with power derived from the letters or phonemes making up the words. As a postmodernist would say, there is a conflation of signifier and signified in the matrix of mental space. A recent case of this is the ban placed by some Californian authority on the use of the words "master" and "slave" to describe, for example, the relationship between multiple hard disk drives in a computer. I can see how these expressions could cause alarm to the brain-dead, but surely the rest of us know what the words mean. Similarly, there was a story some time ago of a woman in a university English class who objected to the use of the word "niggardly". The correct response from the university should have been to point out that anyone who thought that this word was somehow racially offensive had no place studying English in an institute of higher learning and should instead be enrolled in a remedial language class.

In my experience, political correctness reaches its most amusing level in feminism. Biologist Richard Dawkins wrote a book review in which he mentioned two examples of such mindlessness that they would qualify the creators for Nobel Prizes if such prizes were given for stupidity. One was a feminist critique of Einstein, where the author rejected the equation "e=mc2" because it somehow breached principles of equality by placing the speed of light in a superior position to other physical measurements and therefore symbolising patriarchy. (I am not making this up.) The other was an explanation of why the complexity of turbulence is not as well understood as other features of the universe. This is apparently because physics is male and the different characteristics of the male and female genitalia determine that only rigid things can be studied and understood because nothing else is important enough to bother with. I have been told that women are not allowed to use computers because "the computer is a penis" (this was in a textbook written by one of my sociology lecturers!), and one of my fond memories of studying with these loons was being told that "logic is a patriarchal construct and has no place in women's experience".

This would be much funnier if these idiots were not in a position to teach nonsense to our children. It is a real danger when people with no ability to think at all, let alone think critically, have power over the lives of others.

… Except when they have two opposite meanings (6/12/2003)
It is almost impossible to carry on a meaningful conversation with someone unless you are both speaking approximately the same language. Life becomes almost surreal when you are both speaking the same language but one party is making up the meanings of words as they go along. I suffered through a wonderful example of this during the week.

Someone appeared from nowhere in an alternative medicine forum and started to quote clichés and shibboleths like a seasoned professional. She soon got around to the horrors of Aspartame and said that Monsanto owned the Nutrasweet company. When I pointed out that this was incorrect, she replied that I was wrong and that she knew people who worked for Monsanto. (Nutrasweet was bought by J.W. Childs in May, 2000.) I told her that she was still wrong, so in a nice non sequitur she told me that Pharmacia was a subsidiary of Monsanto. I pointed out that this was also incorrect. At this point she left the conversation, and her side was taken up by another person who accused me of lying, and offered as evidence the fact that Pfizer had acquired Pharmacia and that Pfizer made drugs and had once been fined a large amount of money for price fixing. What this had to do with the relationship between Monsanto and Pharmacia was left to the imagination of observers, but as it didn't alter the facts. I simply reaffirmed my statement that Pharmacia is not now and never has been a subsidiary of Monsanto. I pointed out that the word "subsidiary" has a legal definition when talking about the relationships between corporations.

In the next round, I was accused of lying again and told to ask Monsanto what they thought because then I would see the truth. I was referred to a web site which contained the following words:

The Monsanto Company (a subsidiary of Pharmacia Corporation).

When I pointed out that this said exactly the opposite of what the person referring me to it believed and supported my position exactly (a corporate subsidiary relationship is not symmetrical, and can only operate in one direction), I was given the knockout blow. I was told "Truth is always relative". At that point I gave up.

Is it any wonder that people who can think like this can believe the rubbish spouted out by medical quacks and charlatans? If a word can be redefined to mean its exact opposite in order to put down a critic, then discussion is pointless. The best that sane, honest people can hope for is to get in first and warn potential victims that they will be dealing with people who believe that "truth is always relative". In other words, who believe that lying is legitimate.

Greenpeace goes mad(der) (6/12/2003)
You know that a pressure group has become desperate when they have to invent problems that do not exist, and you know that these people have abandoned all morality when they deliberately exploit the invented problems and pretend that they are real when, of course, they know they are not real. The anti-vaccination liars are champions at this, which, as an example, is why and how they keep coming up with new reasons why vaccines cause autism. (There is overwhelming evidence that there is no link between measles vaccine and autism, but a good liar never gives up. This week I saw the first suggestion that it is probably the rubella component of MMR which is really the culprit. So much for Dr Andrew Wakefield and his "research".)

This tactic has been used for a long time by Greenpeace, but this week saw one of the most obvious and egregious uses of outright lying and fear mongering that you would see this side of an NVIC conference. I will quote the full news item from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation without any further comment. It speaks for itself.

Saturday, December 6, 2003. 7:31pm (AEDT)
Greenpeace protests against GM food

Greenpeace volunteers have taken to the streets to stage individual protests across Australia against the use of genetically modified (GM) soy in chicken and turkey feed.

Greenpeace says they have tested the chicken feed used by Inghams and found that 70 per cent of the soy content is made from genetically modified soy beans.

Spokeswoman Tina Meckel says the organisation has spent the day letting the general public know that they could be eating genetically modified turkey this Christmas.

"People generally didn't know about this because products from animals fed GM don't have to be labelled so they were quite surprised," she said.

"Most of them were shocked and very disappointed that they are getting something in their food that they don't know about and that they really don't want."

Strange days indeed (6/12/2003)
In real life I have several real estate agents as clients. My business web site does mention a product targeted at the property industry, so it would be reasonable to assume that if anyone wanted to talk to me about real estate they would address the email to my business email address. Imagine my surprise then to find that the RatbagsDotCom site had won an award for real estate excellence.


Your web site has won our Top Local Site award for providing outstanding local Real Estate content and/or services.

We believe local Real Estate markets are best served by the professionals that actually live and work in the area their web site represents. This award is designed to recognize these professionals and the valuable services they provide their community.

Please take note that this award is unlike others you may have encountered. By that we mean that this award has no costs or obligations, such as having to join a directory, being added to an e-mail list, taking part in link-exchanges, and so on. The award is simply yours to show off on your site---so go ahead, you've earned it!

Of course it's a trick, and the evidence for this is where it says that no links will be exchanged. These people want other people to link to them but they don't want to return the favour, and the idea was probably suggested to them by some "expert" who has told them that to get high listings in Google it helps to have a lot of sites linking in. Still, it is an award and I have won it, so I will show it here. I just won't tell anyone where I got it

December 13, 2003

Gallons of vaccines! (13/12/2003)
The following paragraph appeared in a press release which was distributed through some anti-vaccination liar mailing lists during the week. "Pickert" is a lawyer who is trying to extort money out of pharmaceutical companies on behalf of people who have been deceived into thinking that their children's autism was caused by vaccination.

During the late 1980s, Pickert said, several "pharmaceutical giants," including E.I. Lily and Merck began shipping some of their vaccines in gallon containers in addition to individual vials. "The physician could pop the top and draw the vaccine out," said Pickert. "It would be more convenient. "The only problem is, once you unsealed it, how do you keep it fresh? So they added this preservative called thimerosal. But thimerosal, unbelievably, is comprised of 49.6 percent mercury."

As soon as I saw the mention of "gallon containers" I knew I was being lied to. (Actually, I already knew that. This was just confirmation.) I asked a few doctors who might know the truth, and here are some sample answers:

I was a doctor in the Army in the late 1980's – if there was ANY outfit that would use vaccines in gallon bottles, the US Army would be it. However, we had to use the miniscule 5 or 10 ml multidose vials, since no larger vial was available. The "gallon container" is just a myth, and not a very good one.

In the late 60's and early 70's I worked for a little organization called the US Navy. One of my many duties there was working mass immunization clinics, where we would vaccinate as many as 300 new recruits per day. We used compressed air guns rather than hypodermic needles to speed up the process. If any organization needed large quantities of vaccine, it was the military. The largest vial I recall using was 25 mL.

I'll make the point another way. I work in a very busy clinic in a medium sized city. We have a very high rate of influenza immunization, of which we are proud. However, calculating the doses we have administered this year (at 0.5ml per dose) we are still well short of having used a gallon of vaccine. The vials we use contain 5 ml (approximately 1/6 fluid ounce) which equals 10 doses. Even with the preservative, the vial is refrigerated. Our purchasing agent tells me we ordered in 100 vials, and have as of yet, not run through the entire supply. We may reach that point in the next 10 days. This would equal a half liter (roughly 2 pints)

So, why does this lawyer talk about "gallon containers"? Because he doesn't care about the truth. Because he believes that even the most transparent lies might be useful to deter some people from vaccinating their children. Because he is no different to the other anti-vaccination liars who believe that the end justifies the means. Oh, and thimerosal was first added to vaccines long before the "late 1980s", but what does an extra lie matter?

Speaking of vaccines … (13/12/2003)
I had a flu shot this afternoon as part of getting ready for my trip to the USA next month, and I heard yesterday that I was exposed to Hepatitis A in a restaurant two weeks ago so I had to have a Hep A shot at the same time. It's just as well my hair is already grey and I am not planning to have any more children. I will apologise in advance just in case I am a bit too autistic when I give my talk at Randi's conference in Las Vegas. I might be OK, though. I had two amalgam fillings replaced with composites on Wednesday so my immune system has had a couple of days to rebuild itself before the vaccine assault.

And speaking of hepatitis, if you wonder why I am concerned about the damage that the madder forms of "alternative medicine" can cause you have to look no further than the picture at the right. This shows, according to a form of quackery known as "ear reflexology", where you have to place magnets on your ear in order to cure all forms of hepatitis. This shows a left ear. I wonder if left-handed people have to put the magnets on their right ears. I think I'm still glad I had the shot.

Is that a cart or a barrow that horse is pushing? (13/12/2003)
This is the title of an article I wrote which will appear in the next issue of the magazine Australasian Science. You can go here to read it. If you live in Australia and are interested in science I recommend this magazine. You can see more about Australasian Science here.

Accepting diversity of opinion (13/12/2003)
I have commented previously about how sensitive some practitioners of quackery are to any form or criticism, real or implied. I have always maintained that if I had a guaranteed, proven cure for cancer or MS or diabetes then I wouldn't give a damn about what other people think. I would just wave my Nobel Prize in their faces. Many quacks, however, know that what they are saying is lies and so they try to make sure that the people they preach to and prey on receive as little exposure as possible to the truth. This doesn't just apply to medical quackery, of course. The moves by creationists to have the teaching of evolution banned in schools is the same tactic – children will be more likely to believe the nonsense if they have no framework of truth to compare it to. Someone wrote to me this week to tell me that they had been banned from a Yahoo! mailing list devoted to discussing the insane ideas of cancer quack not-a-medical-Dr Hulda Clark. The banning took place within a short time of the person posting a message to the list. (At least this person posted something. I was banned before I posted anything, simply because of the powerful juju of my email address.) The offending message has since been removed from the archives at Yahoo! so that list members can be protected from its awful power. You can read the message below, and you might like to think about the mental state of someone who could be so terrified of this question that they would kill the messenger.

Hi! I'm new to the list. I joined because I read Dr. Clark's book "Cure for All Cancers" and couldn't find anyone locally who could answer my questions. I found Dr. Clark's ideas fascinating, but I'm still a bit skeptical – it seems too simple, especially when compared to the information I'm getting from my oncologist. Can anyone on the list point me to some studies that support Dr. Clark's theories?

Thanks in advance,


The madness of spam (13/12/2003)
Every time I check my email and get another hundred offers of great wealth, huge genitalia and videos of naughty heiresses I reconsider my opposition to the death penalty. I use a program called Mailwasher to examine messages on the server before downloading, and generally it does a great job. I highly recommend it (and it's free if you accept some restrictions). It does introduce one problem, though, and this is related to the futility of trying to filter spam based on the apparent source. As it is trivially easy for spammers to forge certain header information, blindly following the suggestions of any spam filtering program can cause you to miss genuine messages. Allowing your filter program to automatically blacklist addresses can mean that things just get worse. In the last week I have seen Mailwasher attempt to delete and blacklist some legitimate mail based on entries in the SpamCop database. The ones I detected were messages from the University of New South Wales, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Optus (Australia's second-largest telecommunications carrier) and, wait for it, VeriSign (the Internet security company). All were rejected because SpamCop has their IP addresses listed as spam sources, but the likelihood of any of these places actually being a spam originator is nil. By all means use filters and anything else you can find to defeat spam, because spammers are vermin. Just be careful, and remember what your mother said about babies and bath water.

December 20, 2003
Tim O'Ranter

I've been usurped, or acquired, or something (20/12/2003)
Everyone's favourite public relations man, Tim Bolen, made a startling announcement in one of his recent missives to the millions of health freedom fighters. Apparently, Dr Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch now owns the RatbagsDotCom sites! This came as something of a surprise to me, and I will have to take it up with Dr Barrett when I see him at Randi's Amazing Meeting next month. How dare he steal my web site! Of course, Tim could be mistaken. It would not be the first time that he has said something which isn't so. Or even the thousandth time. In fact, his record with the truth is such that his saying something is so is almost a guarantee that it is not so. I will have to discuss this with him when I drop into his mailbox office in San Juan Capistrano while on my way to vomit outside some Tijuana cancer quackery clinics. Just to remind everyone, here is a photograph of Tim Bolen's office. As Tim and others have made mention how my office is in a basement rather than a mailbox, I have also included a photograph of the subterranean trees visible from my office window.

Tim Bolen's office – a mail dropHow does he fit his desk and office equipoment into one of those little rooms?
Tim Bolen's officeThe mailboxes within

The view across the Ratbag Castle estate
The view across the Ratbag Castle estate.

Down under secrets revealed (20/12/2003)
As I left the recent Mind, Body, Spirit Festival in Sydney, I picked up a free newspaper devoted to madness, superstition and quackery. There was an article in it by a "journalist" named Eve Hillary. I commented to a bystander at the time that I had only read three words before I knew that it was a pack of lies. Those three words were "by Eve Hillary". The same article was published on the web site of the Australian Vaccination Network, where readers were told that the article had been suppressed and nobody could read it. When I read this censored and suppressed article, my prejudices were confirmed. It was a story about how a girl had been taken from her parents because they were refusing to provide her with proper medical treatment. Ms Hillary claims that the girl and her family were not identifiable from her article, but as they came from a very small country town there was no way that their identities could be hidden from the neighbours. To give you an indication of the truthfulness of Ms Hillary and her complete contempt for both facts and her readers, I will mention four statements which appear on just one page of the story. Feel free to reconcile them with each other.

  1. The girl was far too sick and weak to travel to school
  2. The girl was able to travel a couple of hundred kilometres to a quack's office, where she "jumped around his consultation room while he tried to elicit a history from her. Finally, he let her twirl around in his office chair in order to test her stamina".
  3. The girl was being schooled at home because of her inability to travel to her public school.
  4. When asked about her condition, the girl's public school had said that she was "always well groomed and cared for".

Eve Hillary has now come to my attention again because of something she wrote in November this year. I don't know where it was published and I first heard about it when our friend from above, Tim Bolen, advised his millions of acolytes about the dire straits of alternative medicine in Australia. The article has a lot to say about me and again illustrates that Eve Hillary is either an extremely gullible and incompetent journalist who is incapable of researching the truth behind what she writes, or she just doesn't care whether what she writes is factual or not. I won't address all the lies and misconceptions in the article, because that would involve me commenting on almost every sentence. You can read the full thing here. I will just comment about three things that caught my eye.

Ms Hillary raves on about the 18,000 needless deaths in Australian hospitals, and even provides a reference to a 1995 article in the Medical Journal of Australia written by a Professor William Runciman. I have read that article, and the 18,000 figure is an estimate with a 95% confidence range of 12,000 to 23,000. A range like this suggests that further research is needed, and in fact Dr Runciman has done just that. He published further research in 2000 which suggested that the estimate might be as high as 10,000, but only about half of these could be prevented. (The 2000 Runciman report is cited in several places on the 'net with a comment that it shows the number as 14,000. These citations always refer to the executive summary of the report (without telling anyone where to read it) but the numerals "1" and "4" do not occur together anywhere in the paper, not even in a page number. The people citing it and saying 14,000 are lying. Not mistaken. Lying.) You might say that perhaps Eve Hillary is not aware of Dr Runciman's later research and so she is still quoting his original paper. You would be wrong, because in an attack on an attempt to clean up quackery she quoted the second report. She thought that nobody would notice. Someone did.

The purpose of the article by Ms Hillary is a defence of a quack named Jennie Burke who specialises in defrauding people by using the scam of "live blood analysis". Much is made in the article of a committee set up last year by the New South Wales government to investigate the more egregious forms of quackery, of which Jennie Burke's particular scam is a good example. What Ms Hillary has forgotten to tell us is that this committee has representatives of the "alternative medicine" industry on it, and one of them just happens to work out of Jennie Burke's office premises. I can only assume that the relevant bureaucrats at the health department are unaware of this connection and that there is someone on the committee who must be committed to its failure. I am still amazed at the reaction to this committee. Why would the industry not want the crooks rooted out? Perhaps because there would be nobody left.

The third thing is something so funny that I couldn't make it up. Eve Hillary is a great believer in conspiracies, and goes on at some length about how the World Bank is driving the attack on quackery. (Good for them if they are.) Like all conspiracy believers, she sees demons under every bed and has no sense of humour or irony. In her article she says:

Bowditch also has a link to a restricted access discussion group that is only open to "approved" members. The discussion group, QuackbustersOfTheIlluminati, states its purpose as being: "This is a meeting place for the anti-alternative-medicine committee of the Illuminati, where we can meet and consider our attack on health freedom within the broader agenda of world domination." It is not known what relationship Bowditch has with this group, why it is secretive or why it was formed.

My relationship with this group is that it is a mailing list at Yahoo! which I set up as a joke. That's "JOKE", Ms Hillary. As I have supreme power over membership in the group, I have logged on to Yahoo! and performed the necessary ceremonies to invite Eve Hillary to be a member. If she accepts the invitation, I promise to teach her the secret handshake. She will have to be a member for some time however before I can introduce her to the Pope, Bill Gates, Queen Elizabeth and other members of the Illuminati's top committees.

Speaking of quackery in Australia … (20/12/2003)
It must be time to mention the Australian Council Against Health Fraud again. Could it have been coincidence that an attack on me was published just when I had started talking about this new anti-quackery organisation? Well, if I was as paranoid as the quack supporters are I might think that it wasn't a coincidence, but that would be giving them too much credit.

My adverse reaction to flu vaccine (20/12/2003)
Last weekend I had a flu vaccination and a shot for Hepatitis A (because I had been exposed in a restaurant). To my chagrin, I have to report that I have suffered absolutely no adverse effects at all from either injection. Not even a sore arm from the flu shot, which is apparently the most common adverse reaction and therefore one which sends anti-vaccination liars into a mouth-foam of indignation. As far as I can tell, my level of autism has not changed (despite there being mercury in the flu shot), my Alzheimers has not got any worse, and I have not suffered from any bleeding in the eyes, spinal column or brain or developed any other signs of Shaken Adult Syndrome. Still, I am only one of millions of people who have received flu vaccinations so my anecdotal experience cannot be seen as representative of the carnage and destruction which we are constantly told is the inevitable result of putting these foreign poisons into our bodies.

Bill's back, but from where? (20/12/2003)
After 174 days (a little less than twice the 90 days last time), the attendants cracked open the door of the room with the soft walls and the straps on the bed. Like ferrets up a trouser leg, the Gutless Anonymous Liar and Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group raced each other to the asylum's computer to log on to tell the world more lies about me. I was a bit disappointed that after so long to think about what to say next, neither of them could come up with much that was original. It was the same old crap about me being a bankrupt criminal with a closed web site and a depraved family. There were a couple of new twists however. Mr O'Neill tried to add this site and my commercial site to the Antiquackery Webring, apparently under the misapprehension that the ring manager might not know me. The attempt failed, of course. He also announced that my passport had been seized by the police, although he didn't explain why the police should have relayed this fact to him and not to me. Still, I must welcome him back to the world of humans and I look forward to more of his fantasies in the future.

Live vets are still lying (20/12/2003)
A couple of week ago I mentioned that a sleazebag called Joel Wallach had been touring Australia to attract more victims to his multi-level scheme to sell quack medicines. Wallach is famous for a tape called "Dead Doctors Don't Lie" in which he makes ludicrous claims which have been disproved many times. I saw Wallach on a television show which had filmed one of his talks, including the expulsion of a man named Stuart Adams. Mr Adams has developed a web site which comprehensively addresses the various claims made by Wallach in his tape and speeches, but Wallach does not like criticism and there has been a constant campaign of harassment against Mr Adams since the television show. One tactic was to serve him on a Saturday with a summons to appear in court at 9:30am on the following Monday, giving him no time to find and brief a lawyer of his own. Someone with access to the email addresses of all of Wallach's distributors in Australia had sent out a spam mentioning Stuart Adams' web site, and Wallach's lawyers said that this must have been Adams himself and wanted to seize his web site. I leave it up to your imagination to think of who could possibly have access to a complete list of Wallach distributors and would want to use this list to disparage Stuart Adams, but I don't think it would be Mr Adams himself. When they couldn't get him to close his web site, they demanded that he remove an image which they said infringed Wallach's copyright. Like that other now-dead and not lamented multi-level operator, Nutrition for Life, they were using a false appeal to intellectual property law to suppress criticism because arguing the facts was not possible for them and because they thought that bullying would work. You can see the "copyright" image below. I acknowledge that the image is an original creation of Stuart Adams and that he therefore holds the copyright on the image, but I am sure he will not be dragging me into court to have it removed from this site.

Dead doctor's mightn't lie, but you can't say that about some live veterinarians
Image Copyright © 2003 Stuart Adams

Speaking of crooks and pyramid schemes … (20/12/2003)
I received an email this week from someone who has been placed in a position where his marriage (and his financial stability) could be threatened because his wife thinks that she can get rich through a pyramid scheme. People often ask me why I do what I do with this site, and this gives an example of why it is necessary to resist and expose the scamsters who care for nothing except money. You can read the email below. I have edited it so that the people involved cannot be identified, but should this man's wife recognise herself then perhaps she might also recognise that crimes like fraud are not victimless and that the victims are often the innocent bystanders whom we love.

My wife is currently positioned on the bottom rung of a multi-level marketing scheme which operates under the name of Usana. Ever heard of them?

I would welcome the opportunity to detail the daily nightmare that we are having to endure as a result of her blind faith in this company, its products and the people who signed her into the organisation. She is drawing a large proportion of her monthly income from a well established, respectable [deleted] franchise and pouring it into an MLM operation over which she has no control.

Honestly, I am at my wits end.


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