Jack be nimble, Jack be quick (7/8/2004)
Following my piece last week about amalgam fillings, several people wrote to me to point out that there is a German word "Quacksalber", and it means the same as "quacksalver" in English and Dutch, that is, it applies to a quack doctor. In all three languages this use can be traced back for several centuries. The German word for mercury is "Queksilber", which literally means "nimble silver". A friend of mine wrote the little poem below especially for those people whose prejudices make them see connections between words for no reason other than that the words share some letters. The poem is enigmatically titled "Through enough tough thought". The poet asked for anonymity, so I can't ask him to take a bough.
|A pig in a bit of a slough|
Said to his sow at the trough:
"Some bits are tough
And it isn't as though
The rough bits just pass straight on through".
Non sequitur of the week (7/8/2004)
Another response I received to the amalgam piece came from someone who believes that mercury is the most poisonous substance on earth and must be removed from anywhere where it can come into contact with humans. Her response was to ask why I hadn't accused a third party of lying when he said that the dangers of asbestos had been known for a long time and that doctors had not covered up these dangers. (The Australian health authorities had set the acceptable level of asbestos in the air in mines at 5 particles per cubic metre in 1961. This is rather clean air for a mine, and suggests that any medical cover-up existed only in the minds of conspiracy believers.) What asbestos has to do with tooth fillings was not explained. A close runner-up for non sequitur of the week was the person who responded to my comments about the 752,000 deaths from medical errors by saying that it was outrageous that at 195,000 per year, medical errors were the sixth largest cause of death behind "diabetes, influenza, pneumonia, Alzheimer's disease and kidney disease". Apparently the 195,000 is up from the 98,000 measured in 1999 (see here for what the 98,000 figure means), but no mention was made of how it is down from the 752,000 of a few weeks ago. When faced with arguments like these, the only appropriate response is to shout "What the ...?", usually abbreviated in emails to "WTF?"
AntiBio, AntiSense (7/8/2004)
My local non-commercial television station, run by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, has a weekly show named "The New Inventors". (The word "new" is in there because there was a similar program called "The Inventors" several years ago.) The premise of the show is to provide a forum for inventors to display their creations, and the public perception is that it is a way for amateur inventors to publicise their work. Another public perception is that the ABC is somewhat more reliable than the commercial networks when it comes to fact checking, particularly when anything scientific is involved. Both these perceptions were damaged a couple of weeks ago when the show featured a blatant piece of pseudoscience which has been on the market for about three years. The AntiBio System is supposed to purify water, and has been sold to several operators of public swimming pools where it is supposed to kill micro-organisms, reduce the need for chlorine, and make sand filters more efficient.
It doesn't take long looking at the AntiBio web site to see that this is pure crackpottery. The thing is supposed to use sound waves to disrupt the breeding cycles of bacteria and viruses (ignoring the fact that a virus has no independent means of reproduction outside a host cell), tear electrons off calcium molecules (sic), and keep the water sparkling clean, and to do this for an Olympic sized pool by apparently using the power of just one of those little nine-volt batteries that last for about six months in the smoke detector in my kitchen. It demonstrates the sorry state of science education and knowledge that nobody associated with the program even suspected that this device might not work. Here is the message I sent to the producers of the show. (To their credit, my message was published on the show's web site.)
When I first heard about this thing I thought that it was something to treat a domestic water supply, like a Britta filter. While I suppose it is possible to kill germs with sound (we have a brown dog who has to be kept away from some of my daughter's CDs in case the noise kills him), an AntiBio device on your kitchen tap would just be a financial scam.
When I read the ABS web site, however, I find that it works by stripping electrons off calcium atoms. This reduces the need for chlorine in pools. Perhaps it also rips out some protons, turning calcium into chlorine (this would require the release of some neutrons as well, but perhaps it's a way of making helium: Ca -> Cl + He + H). When I think of the sound level on the grid at the start of a Formula One race and the fact that Michael Schumacher can finish a race without jellied bones and green gas coming out of his nostrils, I'm not sure that I would like to be near anything with this much sound energy.
Did I mention that the sound from the ABS makes particles agglutinate better in the filter?
They call it ABS. Correct – All BS.
Abortion – Forward to the Past (7/8/2004)
It seems hard to believe that, in the 21st century, a government which claims that it is committed to the freedom of the individual could be making moves which suggest that there might be a possible return to the bad old days when abortions were illegal, difficult to get, and dangerous. Two actions of the Australian government over the last few weeks have caused supporters of women's right to safe abortions to be worried about the future. The first was a statement that the government is to give a grant of many millions of dollars to a new privately-owned, Catholic faith-based university for the establishment of a medical school. Sydney already has five universities (one of them called the Australian Catholic University), and two of the existing institutions have world-class medical schools. Leaving aside any argument about whether the city needs another university, it probably does not need another medical faculty (even if the hospital facilities existed for training more doctors). It almost certainly does not need a medical school which explicitly states that it is opposed to abortion.
The second event is much more sinister, because the grant to the university could just be seen as largesse to a senior politician's friend. The Federal Health Minister once trained as a priest, and he has publicly stated his opposition to abortion. Recently, two operators of abortion clinics have been threatened by his department with legal action related to the way that they bill patients. It seems that it is illegal to ask for a co-payment from the patient for surgical procedures which are conducted outside hospitals and where an amount is billed to the national health system. As it is not illegal to receive a co-payment for non-surgical treatments, one of the clinics has already announced that it will in future be charging $190 for a blood test which used to cost a fully-refundable $9.80. This transparent ruse will mean that patients will still be paying the same amount out of their pockets and the doctor will be receiving the same total payment as before. It will be interesting to see how long it is before this practice comes under scrutiny. It will also be interesting to see when and if other doctors who perform surgery outside hospitals (such as dermatologists, plastic surgeons and doctors treating certain cancers) start falling foul of the no-co-payment rule.
Abortion will always be a contentious issue, and there are legitimate arguments both for and against. I dislike the terms "pro-choice" and "pro-life" which have come to signify the opposite sides, because neither of them accurately describes the people wearing the labels. In any case, the argument is really about timing, not about abortion per se. Many people, myself included, who have no problem with early abortions are legitimately concerned at the performance of third-trimester terminations, and I would hope that there would be little support for the ideas of Professor Peter Singer and what I have called "fourth-trimester abortion", where you get to choose whether the child lives or dies after it is born. I am personally uncomfortable with the practice of using abortion as the fertility control method of choice, as there is a difference between carelessness and callousness, but there will always be occasions such as rape, bad personal choices, carelessness, impetuosity and contraceptive failure where women should have the right to decide between termination and having a baby. I know several women who have had abortions and I know others who have gone ahead with a pregnancy when it might not have seemed like a good idea to others, and I respect both the choices all have made and their right to make those choices. What I do not respect is a government using underhand tactics to limit hard-won freedoms and choices, particularly when it seems that the overall strategy is being driven by a religious agenda.
Most stupid question of the week (7/8/2004)
In a discussion about the safety of vaccines and how there is continual work being done to make them safer, an anti-vaccinator asked "How can you say they are safe and then talk about making them safer?" Presumably this woman refused to travel in a car until they all had anti-locking brakes, traction control, pre-tensioning seatbelts and sixteen airbags. Even then she would not have been satisfied, because road cars can be made even safer by fitting full roll cages and automatic fire extinguishers like they have in racing cars. What a nitwit.
Coincidence Department (7/8/2004)
Last week I mentioned the name of Martin Harris, a doctor who was at one time the President of the American Medical Association. I also had something to say about Mormons and how Joseph Smith translated the plate of Nephi from inside his hat. Could it be more than coincidence that the person to whom Smith dictated his translation was also called Martin Harris? What were the forces in the universe which led me to write about both of these in the same week? Is there a link between the AMA and Salt Lake City? Are Mormons more likely to become doctors than to choose another profession, or are doctors more likely to be Mormons than to belong to different faiths? Inquiring minds want to know.
Fahrenheit 9/11 (finally!) (14/8/2004)
I've seen the film that everyone is talking about, but I wanted to think about it for a while before expressing an opinion. Briefly, it was better than I thought it would be and worse than I thought it would be, it had brilliant parts and mediocre parts, there was too much Michael Moore and too little Michael Moore, there were compellingly presented facts and distortion to make fatuous points, it contained propaganda, polemic and opinion. In short, it was a Michael Moore film. Anyone going into the theatre expecting anything else was always going to be disappointed.
Much of the criticism of the film has concentrated on five scenes: two where Moore exaggerated by using cheap shots, two stunts where he was supposedly just showing his ego and aggrandising himself, and one where he exploited someone's grief in an unsympathetic manner. I agree with two of the criticisms, but I thought that the others provided some of the most powerful messages in the film. (You can see the rest of this review here.)
True Believers (14/8/2004)
I have written an article which will appear in the next edition of the magazine Australasian Science, based on something I wrote here a few weeks ago about the indestructibility of erroneous and irrelevant notions in pseudoscience. That piece attracted more email than any other thing I have written in the last few months, and I would like to thank everyone who took the time to write. The magazine is not on the newsstands yet, but you can read the article here.
Australian Biologics (14/8/2004)
I made mention recently of an Australian quackery testing laboratory which had fallen foul of the authorities. The owner of the place took offence at what I said and called in the lawyers, and because of Australia's draconian defamation laws I had to take the threat seriously. The letter from the lawyer, with my responses interspersed, appears below. And, yes, I did have my reply checked by a barrister before I hit the "Send" button.
From: "Richard Farago"
Subject: Australian Biologics & Burke
Date: Wed, 11 Aug 2004 13:03:42 +1000
Dear Peter Bowditch
We are solicitors acting for Australian Biologics Testing Services Pty Ltd and Jennie Burke.
We refer to the website article headed "The lying quack consents, and having signed, lies on (24/7/2004)" on your website ratbags.com/rsoles/. On any view the article, including the heading:
I have changed the headline on the article. I did this immediately upon receiving your email as an indication of my good faith in this matter.
I quoted verbatim from the media release issued by the ACCC, which can be seen at https://www.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/524259/fromItemId/2332 and I provided a link to that document on the ACCC web site. I have no access to the settlement documents, so I had to rely on the content of the media release; if the wording of that media release somehow misrepresents the settlement then that is a matter you should take up with the ACCC. If you could provide me with a copy of the settlement documents I would be able to see for myself where I was mistaken, and I would then, of course, immediately change my article to remove any misrepresentation. It would help if you could highlight those parts of the settlement which you believe I have misrepresented.
Please elaborate on the alleged defamatory statements. It is difficult to respond adequately without knowing what to respond to.
We are instructed to advise that unless the article is corrected (to be factually correct) or withdrawn forthwith we hold instructions to take any necessary action to protect our clients' reputation. This would include applying to the Supreme Court for an injunction and/or commencing proceedings for defamation against you without further notice.
Please advise me of the places where the article is factually incorrect. If you are referring to my opinions about the worth of the medical procedures offered by Australian Biologics, then I must say that I have seen no evidence of any scientific validity of these procedures published in peer-reviewed literature.
A search of the Medline database (available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi) for the phrase "live blood analysis" results in a message saying "Quoted phrase not found". This could be because the research has been published too recently to have been indexed on the date when I conducted the search (August 12, 2004), although this seems unlikely as the ACCC action against Australian Biologics and Ms Burke commenced some time ago and Medline is generally quite up to date for published papers. Another possibility is that the research has been published in journals which are not indexed by Medline.
A search for Bolen's Clot Retraction Test produced two citations, one from 1968 written in Italian and one from 1973 written in Russian. I do not know whether either of the respective journal issues would be available in Australia, and I wonder if there is some more recent research into this technique. The comments above about inclusion in the Medline index apply here as well.
Medline shows 5246 citations for "thermography" and it is obvious that I cannot read all of these to see whether they are applicable to the activities of Australian Biologics. In any case, according to the ACCC media release, Ms Burke has renounced the use of thermography as it was being used by Australian Biologics.
I am prepared to change my opinion about the worth of these procedures if I am presented with evidence. Please provide me with journal citations, if available. I have access to the excellent medical library at Westmead Hospital, so I should have no trouble acquiring the articles and published papers.
On a philosophical note, it would appear that Ms Burke and Australian Biologics have a serious dilemma. Medical procedures fall into two broad categories – diagnosis and treatment. As Ms Burke has apparently conceded that the procedures mentioned above have no diagnostic value (although the actual terms of the settlement, which I have not seen, may not really say this) and she is not, as far as I know, claiming that they cure or treat anything, one must ask what benefit accrues to any client of Australian Biologics who pays for these services. I am sure that you can advise Ms Burke of the legal term for offering a service with no benefit in exchange for money.
Should our client be forced to commence legal action we will also be seeking orders that you pay our clients' legal costs.
As is my normal policy, your email and my response will be published on the Millenium Project web site at the next regular update.
Schadenfreude Corner (14/8/2004)
The web site belonging to racist radio announcer Hal Turner has been missing in action for several weeks. Whether this means that he has finally joined the human race, lost all his listeners and visitors or he just ran out of money is not known, but he will be missed. Not because his ideas had any worth, but because he was a great example of how bigotry can become a parody of itself when it is taken to extremes. As an example of Hal's work, the advertisement at the left is for some coffee mugs which he had for sale at one time. Further comment on the design is unnecessary.
You can read some other things I had to say about Hal Turner here.
Coming up on the radio (14/8/2004)
I was interviewed during the week by a radio current affairs program about my comments a few weeks ago about a local "church" which seemed to be using the name of Amnesty International to attract people to a function which was to benefit the "church" rather than the well-known human rights organisation. I spoke to Amnesty at the time and they knew nothing about it. The interview will go to air shortly, and I will post a link to the show archive as soon as it is available.
Yet another apology (21/8/2004)
This week's update is late because I had to waste some work time responding to a legal threat, and I was also advised that a client who owes me some money is not about to pay me. It looks very much as though they may have exploited a loophole in the corporate laws in order to transfer the assets of the company to another corporation while leaving the debts and employee entitlements behind in a valueless empty shell. You will understand why lawyers (and some accountants) are not very popular around my place at the moment. Also, I spent the weekend out of town to attend a short conference about global warming and the environment. Because of all these other demands on my time, I have invited two guest authors to write about some of the issues addressed by The Millenium Project. But first ...
Australian Biologics (continued) (21/8/2004)
The legal attack made last week on my freedom of speech has continued. Briefly, the story is that someone said that they can do something, I said that it was unlikely, they said that they had strong evidence, I said "Show it to me", and they threatened to sue me. How clearly can I say this? "Show me the evidence and I will go away". Here is the latest correspondence between the lawyers and me.
From: "Richard Farago"
Subject: Australian Biologics & Burke
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 2004 13:54:09 +1000
Dear Peter Bowditch
We refer to your email response of 12 August. It is noted that apart from changing the heading to the article you have not altered your website article with the result in our clients' view that the defamation is continuing.
Please provide us with an address for service of court documents on you.
In my subsequent email of August 13, I offered to make any changes to errors of fact in the article. As you may not have received this later message, I have included a copy below.
I believe that this matter could be settled amicably if I could see the settlement documents and the scientific evidence for the efficacy and validity of the procedures carried out by Australian Biologics. I intend to apply for access to this data by making a Freedom of Information request to the ACCC, but this should not really be necessary. If the settlement documents exonerate Australian Biologics then I can see no reason why they should not be proudly made public.
In any case, it says on the page headed "Enforcement Priorities" on the ACCC web site:
Formal administrative resolutions
To resolve a possible contravention of the Act, the ACCC may decide to accept formal administrative settlements or undertakings from businesses, including in addition to or in lieu of taking legal proceedings.
It usually does so pursuant to its power under the Act to accept court-enforceable undertakings.
The ACCC does not accept offers of such undertakings unless the undertakings are to be made public and do not contain denial of contravention of the Act. (emphasis mine)
The ACCC may enforce such undertakings in court if they are not honoured.
(Note: In early 2013 the ACCC remodelled its entire web site. A new enforcement policy was issued in 2012 (you can read it here). The words quoted above come from the policy in effect in August, 2004.
PB June 1, 2013)
A media release issued by the Natural Health Care Alliance over the signatures of Dr Mark Donohoe and Ms Burke contains at least two implications of "denial of contravention of the Act". The ACCC were apparently unaware of the NHCA media release, but they have been advised of it and of its implied allegations of deliberate deception by the ACCC. You can see the NHCA release at http://www.australianbiologics.com.au/documents/Aust%20Bio%20-%20nhca%20press%20release.pdf
In that release it also states that "[t]he scientific evidence filed by Australian Biologics in support of its tests was extensive, impressive and compelling". Surely research of this nature should be made available to the medical community, and I look forward to receiving the relevant citations from peer-reviewed journals, or perhaps even copies of the papers themselves.
As I said above, this matter could be settled by making the terms of the settlement available. If they are so supportive of Australian Biologics' position, I can see no reason why the settlement documents could not be made available on the Australian Biologics web site, along with the supporting research.
I reiterate my willingness to correct any defamatory statements or statements of fact in my article, but I cannot correct anything if I do not know what is wrong. If Ms Burke cannot enumerate her specific complaints, then I am led to assume that her threats of legal action are simply a tactic to stifle my freedom to express an opinion. I should state here that Ms Burke is free to say, write or publish anything she likes about me and I guarantee that I will never take legal action against her for defamation.
I realise that Australians have no constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech, which is why people are free to exploit the legal system to silence and impoverish critics. It is ironic, then, that Australia was not only a significant contributor to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (as one of the eight countries represented on the drafting committee), but an Australian was the President of the UN General Assembly at the time that it was adopted. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade we still support the Declaration, and I do not see where Article 19 is excluded from that support.
As is my normal policy, your email and my response will be published on the Millenium Project web site at the next regular update.
It now looks like the following is indicated:
What science does when it is wrong (21/8/2004)
The major thing which separates science from other human activities (including things pretending to be science) is that science is self-correcting. In science, everything is always open to revision, expansion and even rejection in the face of new evidence. I wrote about this in the article for Australasian Science that I mentioned here last week, but I thought that I would get someone who could really write to express the importance of falsifiability and my mind immediately turned to Umberto Eco, author of Baudolino, The Name of the Rose, and Foucault's Pendulum. As it happens, Professor Eco had already thought about the problem and had written a short article to be published in the newspaper. You can read it here.
(Copyright note: I first read this article in the print version of the Sydney Morning Herald. I asked the Herald for permission to reproduce it and I was told that it first appeared in the New York Times so I should ask them. According to its archives, the NYT had only published one article by Professor Eco in the previous ten years, and it wasn't this one. Google didn't find the article anywhere at all. About two weeks after I published it here, The Guardian published it and, confusingly, both claimed the copyright for itself and also attributed it to Professor Eco. As the only thing I can be sure of is who wrote it, I have also acknowledged Professor Eco as the copyright owner.
Where are those gods? (21/8/2004)
When people ask me if I believe in God, I always like to ask them which one they mean. People have believed in many gods over the ages, and all of these gods had wonderful powers, usually including omnipotence, omniscience, and immortality, but many of these gods have been abandoned. As I am writing this, the Olympic Games are happening in Athens. Much of the imagery in the opening ceremony of the Games was related to Greek mythology and referenced many gods, and much of Greece's tourist industry is based on people who want to look at the monuments to these gods. Despite this, it would be hard to find anyone today who really believes in the powers of Zeus or Thor (and who could be taken seriously). To get an experienced writer's view of this I immediately thought of our old skeptical friend, the journalist and iconoclast Henry Louis Mencken. Unfortunately, Henry died in 1956, but fortunately he wrote something about this in 1922, and you can read it here.
A baby slaughterer gets away with it (28/8/2004)
O. J. Simpson has a new golfing partner. Murderer Alan Yurko is to serve only 2317 days in prison for beating his girlfriend's baby to death, after Circuit Court Judge C. Alan Lawson ruled that problems with the baby's autopsy report justified a new trial. The autopsy report seems to be an extremely sloppy document, prepared by a medical examiner with a history of carelessness, and the judge correctly ruled that the jury in Yurko's original trial might have come to a different conclusion if the autopsy evidence had been presented differently. (In an interesting example of doublethink, Yurko's lawyers claimed at one point in the hearing that the examiner had mixed up the parts of two bodies which were being autopsied at the same time, and at another point stated that there were no other autopsies carried out for a week either side of the one for Yurko's victim. That must have been one very messy and untidy morgue.) Despite what Yurko's supporters are claiming, the judge did not declare him "innocent", and the quashing of the conviction did not support the insane idea that vaccination had anything to do with the baby's death. In fact, the judge quite explicitly rejected the testimony from the usual collection of demented anti-vaccination doctors who appeared before him to tell him why Yurko could not possibly have hurt the child. The anti-vaccination liars don't care about this, though, and they are celebrating the decision with the same fervour that they would apply to, say, news of a measles epidemic in New York kindergartens or the failure of a clinical trial of an AIDS vaccine.
As Yurko's defence strategy has only two components – defence witnesses lying about the terrors of vaccines, and derogation and defamation of prosecution witnesses – and Judge Lawson had pointedly rejected both of them, there was no way that Yurko could risk another trial where the prosecution would be prepared for his tricks. As soon as the order for a new trial was made Yurko's lawyers started plea bargaining, and Yurko pleaded nolo contendere to a charge of manslaughter. Judge Lawson accepted the plea and sentenced Yurko to time served on the original murder conviction, which meant that he could be immediately released from prison. A "nolo" plea means that the defendant does not contest the charge and is prepared to accept whatever the court decides. The difference between nolo contendere and a "guilty" plea is that the "nolo" does not require the allocution which is sometimes ordered when someone pleads guilty to a lesser charge. Allocution is a statement to the court admitting guilt to the charge and expressing contrition, and Yurko's lawyers were never going to let him make any such statement. (Yurko is now saying that he really was responsible for the baby's death because he allowed the child to be vaccinated!) The practical effects of the plea are the same as for a "guilty" plea, in that Yurko's criminal record will show that he has served a custodial sentence as the result of a conviction for manslaughter.
Alan Yurko now has seven convictions for violent crimes recorded against his name – four for aggravated burglary in Ohio, one for battery of a police office in Florida, one for aggravated child abuse, and a manslaughter conviction gained by plea bargaining down from a murder charge. He was also convicted for escaping from custody at the time he bashed the police officer. He is a violent man, who only seems to be able to control his violence while in prison surrounded by other, possibly more violent, criminals. As soon as he was paroled from prison in Ohio he broke his parole and fled to Florida to set up house with Francine Ream, so there is an encouraging possibility that he will soon be back in an Ohio prison to finish the time he owes there. It says much about the anti-vaccination liars that they can use a man like this to advance their agenda, but, as I have said before, if your raison d'être is causing harm to children then it makes a kind of perverse sense to respect someone who commits the ultimate form of harm.
You can read a report about the court decision in the Orlando Sentinel. Please remember that this newspaper has been sympathetic towards Yurko for some time. Also remember when you see the baby being called "Alan Ream-Yurko" and referred to as Yurko's son, that Yurko was in prison when the baby was conceived and that Francine Ream did not marry her husband until after he was convicted of murdering her son. (At one point she said that she could not remember the baby's birthday.) I was criticised once for suggesting that part of Yurko's motivation for killing the child was that he did not want to be continually reminded of the fact that "while he had been inside a prison, someone else had been inside his girlfriend". Apparently this rather tasteless remark was a worse crime than adding the effects of violent shaking to the broken ribs which had been inflicted in prior assaults on the child during his short but tormented life.
The End of Faith (28/8/2004)
I am part-way through reading an excellent book called The End of Faith by Sam Harris. Harris's thesis is that the world is threatened by faith, which is belief without justification. I hope to have a review of the book here in two weeks, which will be an appropriate time to think about blind belief and what it can lead people to do.
You can't say that they are not persistent (28/8/2004)
Another week, another lawyer. It looks like Australian Biologics aren't using the expensive services of the Sydney law fraternity any more and have called in someone from out of town. It seems strange that a person and company who are both in Sydney should use a lawyer from another state to threaten someone in Sydney, especially as defamation laws are not exactly the same in both states. I am still waiting for someone to tell me what mistakes, misrepresentations and untruths I have committed. Surely someone can list them. If they exist, of course.
27 August 2004
re: AUSTRALIAN BIOLOGICS TESTING SERVICES PTY LTD
I confirm that I am the solicitor acting for the company referred to above and have received instructions concerning a web site article placed by you on your ratbags.com.au site.
The contents of the article are untrue, not based on any facts and are defamatory to my client.
The purpose of this letter is to demand that you withdraw the article within 24 hours of receipt of this fax failing which I have instructions to institute appropriate proceedings.
In the event that my client is forced to take any action against you an application will be made for an order for payment of costs by you.
W H BENNETT
Dear Mr Bennett,
RE: Australian Biologics Testing Services Pty Ltd
I received your fax today requesting that I remove certain material from my web site at www.ratbags.com (no ".au"). I have had previous correspondence with Mr Richard Farago of the law firm Langes about this matter, and I have twice asked to be given specific details of any errors of fact in what I wrote. I have received no answer, despite my unqualified offer to correct any error as soon as evidence of the error is provided to me. I make the same offer to you — tell me in which way "the contents of the article are untrue, not based on fact and are defamatory" and I will do my best to rectify matters.
I will also repeat to you my promise not to take action for defamation against your client, whatever is said or published about me. As evidence of my good faith, I refer you to an article by Eve Hillary, titled "The Jennie Burke Story", which was published on more than one web site in late 2003. That article accused me of being malicious and underhand, and also suggested that I was an active and aware participant in one or more conspiracies. As you can see, my commitment to the principles of free speech extends to allowing people to make ludicrous and unsupportable statements accusing me of criminal activities.
I do not know why Australian Biologics Testing Services Pty Ltd no longer appears to be using the legal services of Mr Farago and Langes, and has chosen to use a lawyer in Queensland rather than in New South Wales where the parties are located. I assume it is not to bypass Section 8A of the NSW Defamation Act 1974 (as amended by the Defamation Amendment Act 2002) (1), which limits the ability of corporations to sue for defamation in New South Wales.
As is my normal policy, your fax and my response will be published on the Millenium Project web site at the next regular update.
Note 1: The NSW Defamation Act 1974 was repealed by the NSW Defamation Act 2005. The prohibition on defamation suits by corporations still applies.
Another one dusts the bite (28/8/2004)
Mr Stephen Naghdi did not like something I wrote in June 2000 in Quintessence of the Loon, and has had this to say:
You probably work for the CIA or Department of Defense. I am not certain. I am going to sue you someday for false accusations and slander. The Curse of All Curses you discuss was entirely deleted years ago from Internet and never returned in any form. I would like my name removed, Mr. Stephen P. Naghdi.
Why don't you delete Curse of All Curses and save yourself a large lawsuit? I can and am going to if you don't remove it. How would you know most of what the CIA andDepartment of Defense have done? What if tables were turned and the CIA scientist did things to you?
Stephen P. Naghdi
San Francisco, CA
The first job I had after leaving school was with the government, and the work was so secret that the law did not allow me to tell my mother how to contact me during the day or what I did at work. The contract I signed on my first day at work bound me to secrecy for life, and I remember being shown copies of the Commonwealth Crimes Act three times, with the harsh penalties for loose lips underlined. As Australia has certain mutual cooperation agreements with the USA concerning matters of national security and defence, I can neither confirm nor deny the suggestion that I have a connection with either the CIA or the US Department of Defense. There is a remote possibility that I could crack under torture, but until Mr Naghdi shows me the thumbscrews, iron boots and red hot pokers I prefer to remain silent on the matter.
Because of the legal restrictions on what I can say about my involvement with spying and warmongering, I have to think seriously about how to reply. For the record, here is what I said in June 2000 that has so upset Mr Naghdi. The part in italics may provide some clue as to why Mr Naghdi wants his words kept from public examination.
Curse of all Curses added 30 June 2000
Back in March I mentioned that there was some dispute about the succession of the Papacy. Now I find that there are serious questions about the authority of the various Presidents of the USA since Ike assumed the Oval Office. I was having a bit of trouble reading this site, but I just twiddled a dial or two on the little control panel behind my left ear and it all became clear. Just read it and judge for yourself: "This is the medieval ages as far as what goes on behind the scenes by the multi-billion dollar corporations and the others in the corporate-military-intelligence complexes of many countries. Today, 300 plus ??? are American, British and Canadian Holocaust and in several other countries. this is certain to be the case or even many more 1 or 2 generations from now." This site only tells part of the story, though. When I think back to 1953 when Eisenhower became President, I am reminded that that was the same year that the Throne of England changed hands. Yes, the reign of Queen Elizabeth (or "Elizardeth", as she is known to her friends) parallels the false presidencies. Another piece of the jigsaw falls into place. Remember you read it here first.
Speaking of lawyers ... (28/8/2004)
This new outbreak of threatened litigation is the first for several months. Perhaps this is because my "kinder and gentler" policy since the start of the year has encouraged the various liars, charlatans, hypocrites, bigots and scumbags who come under scrutiny here to show some respect for my right to express my opinions. Maybe it's because I haven't been trying hard enough to annoy these low-lifes. Whatever the reason, I will have to lift my game, otherwise the partners in the fine law firm of Farr, Gough & Dye will complain that there is no work for them to do when they get back from the Olympic Games next Wednesday. In the meantime, you can see the catalogue of past and present legal threats against me and this site by clicking here.
More persistent people (28/8/2004)
I would come as no surprise to anyone familiar with this site to find that the anti-vaccination liars are repeating lies which have been shown to be lies many times. The latest assault on children's wellbeing is about to appear in a rag named The Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons, published by the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, a group which despite its impressive name is just a collection of anti-vaccination whackos. Several "experts" have found flaws in a recent study in Denmark which showed that there was no connection between MMR vaccinations and autism. One of the authors, Dr Fouad Yazbak, usually seems to divide his time between blaming autism on MMR vaccines and on the thimerosal preservative which was used in some vaccines in the past, although I have to admit that I cannot recall him ever conflating these two "causes" by saying that the MMR vaccine contains thimerosal as many other anti-vaccination liars will claim. (Dr Yazbak, along with Dr Jane Orient, head of AAPS, appeared as an expert witness for baby slaughterer Alan Yurko in Yurko's retrial hearing last week.) Another author is the discredited Dr Andrew Wakefield. The new set of problems with the Danish study are attempts to confuse the statistically illiterate by the use of bogus statistics and lack the imaginative property of previous discreditation attempts which suggested such startling ideas as Danish children being so different genetically to children in the rest of the world that the results of the survey could not be generalised. I confidently predict that future "research" by anti-vaccination liars will turn up many new and unexpected ways that vaccines can damage children. They are only limited by imagination and mendacity.