Unhappy anti-vaccinators. Boo, hoo. (2/5/2009)
The crisis is gradually easing and the migraines are less frequent, but I can't do too much this weekend. On Saturday I'm off to participate in a television program about vaccination. This is a follow-up to a program shown last weekend which encouraged parents to vaccinate their children. That program was prompted by the death of a baby a few weeks back from whooping cough, and there was the obligatory input from an anti-vaccination campaigner who managed to illustrate her idiocy by saying that whooping cough didn't kill (remember, this was a story about a dead baby) and that it could be treated with homeopathy and herbs. The Australian Vaccination Network's Internet mailing list (from which I am banned) went into melt-down mode about the terrible treatment that their representative got on the program and initiated a letter-writing campaign in protest. The station's reaction was to hold the forum that I will be attending as part of a select audience. As members of the AVN have in the past expressed distaste at the thought of being in the same room as me it should be an interesting afternoon in the studio. By the way, when the baby's death was reported in the press in March, the reaction on the AVN's mailing list was to dismiss the report as just being propaganda to promote mandatory vaccination. This triggered a Kind and Gentle email from me to the writers.
Here is the segment of the Sunday Night show which caused all the fuss. (The Sunday Night TV show was cancelled in 2020 and all its linked pages deleted.)
Mind Body Wallet (2/5/2009)
The other thing I am doing on the weekend is a trip on Sunday to the Mind Body Spirit Festival (referred to by doubters as Mind Body Wallet in deference to the commercial nature of many of the exhibits). I plan to have my chakras aligned and my sensibilities assaulted, but much of it is harmless fun. I might even report my adventures here. If you are in Sydney and don't have anything better to do on a Sunday afternoon, I'll be meeting some friends just before 2pm on the steps of the Exhibition Centre. I'll be the person with the bright golden aura.
Let's not be biased (2/5/2009)
I have written an article for a coming edition of the excellent magazine Australasian Science. It's about the ridiculous notion that every discussion should accommodate both sides of the argument. You can get a sneak preview here.
It will appear as the Naked Skeptic column. I now live in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, and it snows here in winter. Winter is still some time off but we had freezing temperatures last weekend (and 100+kph winds!) so I might have to cheat a bit about my clothing when I write columns during the actual winter seasons. It's a pleasant 12°C here right now, so the neighbours are probably going for a swim in the council pool.
Swine flu (2/5/2009)
Then there's the swine flu pandemic. This has been the only thing to push the outrage about the television show out of the way on our local anti-vaccination liar mailing list and is the hottest topic around among conspiracy theorists and anti-vaccination campaigners. Apparently a Level 5 pandemic warning from WHO is just a way of selling more vaccines and anti-viral medications when everyone knows that flu is just like a mild cold and that the 500,000 or so people who die each year around the world from ordinary influenza should have just eaten better organic vegetables.
Anti-vaccination liars still unhappy. How tragic. (9/5/2009)
The second television show that I mentioned last week went ahead. I was in the audience when it was recorded but I didn't get to say anything. The anti-vaccinators on the Australian Vaccination Network's mailing list (from which I am banned) were even less happy after the second show went to air than they were after the first, because they expected the host to be sympathetic to their complaints after the first episode. Apparently it was disgusting to ask someone what her medical qualifications were (none) and a major revelation when a real doctor admitted that vaccines were not 100% safe and effective (a fact known to and recognised by all sentient beings). The anti-vaccination doctor appearing on the panel objected to being introduced as such and then went on to say how opposed to vaccines she is.
Reports of the program from people who watched it on television almost universally misspelled the host's name, and in a wonderful example of the careless attitude to facts endemic in the anti-vaccination movement, one of the people there read out details of a court case in which someone had received compensation for damage caused by a badly manufactured batch. She misquoted the names of the parties and this was obvious to anybody who knew anything, because the "guilty" vaccine manufacturer she named was a charitable trust which conducts neither research nor manufacture. Her comment didn't make it to air, and in the official AVN report of this biased editing the company was given a different name, also wrong. Strangely, when I went looking for facts I only found the case reported on two of the most rabid anti-vaccination liar web sites in the world, and in both case the source was a 2001 newspaper report of a 1992 court case. The case was described as "recent".
Here is the television show. It is highly encouraging that the mainstream media have finally stopped treating these people as if they have some expertise, or even opinions that are worth listening to. When there is an epidemic of whooping cough and children are dying it is past the time to be polite to people whose activities can only increase the infection and death rates.
Complying with regulations (9/5/2009)
There were many stands offering information about health at Sydney's Mind Body Spirit Festival. I particularly liked the man selling water from a spring just down the street from my place. Apparently it cures cancer, although different words came out when the spruiker was asked to repeat the claim. A lady on the Australian Homeopathic Association's stand liked the RatbagsDotCom logo on my shirt, although I haven't been able to find out if she took my advice and looked at the site. I told her that she would like what she found here. I did like the comment in the AHS's brochure which said "It is important to note that naturopaths are not homeopaths. Naturopathic training does not meet the government's education standards for homeopathy". Speaking of government standards, there is a Code of Conduct set out by the New South Wales Department of Health. You can read the whole thing here (2015 version), but I found Paragraph 17 particularly enlightening.
At the top of the document it says "The Code of Conduct is prescribed by the Public Health (General) Regulation 2002", and goes on to say that it applies to suppliers of "services provided in other alternative health care fields". Perhaps you can guess how many of the alternative health stands were displaying the notice. Here's a hint – if you doubled the number it would make no difference.
And do homeopaths make claims which might cause problems if people with serious conditions turn to this form of magic? Here is more from the brochure (and from the AHA web site:
Homopathy can be of benefit for all ages, at any stage including pregnant women, mothers, fathers, babies, young children, teenagers, and the elderly. Homopathy can treat the symptoms of a wide range of conditions including, for example:
Depression? Shock? Trauma? Anaphylactic shock from bee stings? Asthma? Food poisoning? How do these bastards stay out of prison?
Fortunately, some of them might not manage to do this. The papers around my place this week have been running the story of a homeopath on trial for the manslaughter of his daughter. The girl had eczema, something which fits nicely into "Chronic complaints – skin conditions". Her parents refused medical treatment and she died of septicaemia when she could no longer fight the infections coming through her destroyed skin. She also suffered from malnutrition because the damage done to her mouth was so bad that she had difficulty eating. You can read about the case here.
You might like to guess at the reaction of the alternative medicine community to this obvious case of malpractice. I have been told that the fact that the father is a homeopath should be considered by the court as a mitigating circumstance, I have been told that homeopathy did not kill the child and did not even contribute to the death, I have been told that the father didn't know enough about homeopathy to treat the girl properly (he is a teacher at a homeopathic school – just as well he's not one of those lesser-educated naturopaths), I have been told that this is a witch hunt, I have been told that the real doctor who saw the child when the eczema was still manageable was at fault for not predicting the future, and, of course, I have been told that I don't know enough about homeopathy to be critical of the parents. What I haven't been told is that this homeopath caused a death because he didn't seek proper treatment for a sick child. If he had been a real doctor there would have been an outcry from other doctors and moves to remove his right to practise. Quacks don't do that, and there seems to be no level of incompetence or malpractice which can cause them to break ranks and turn on one of their own.
Where do you want to go? (9/5/2009)
If you believe in an afterlife, where do you want to spend it? Someone once said that Hell would have all the interesting people. (It might have been Oscar Wilde who said it. I haven't been able to verify that, but if it wasn't him who said it first it should have been.) Whoever it was might have been right, if the sign below is correct. I am a bit worried about the psychics though. Not that I might meet them in Hell, because some of them are very nice and interesting people. It's just that good psychics shouldn't need to be warned – they should already know where they are going. I would hope that the child molesters get all the nastier jobs, like head-down cleaning the bottom of the molten brimstone vats or providing their eyeballs for the pot smokers to use as ashtrays.
The Mannatech Nobel Prize lie (9/5/2009)
Apparently I have said "over and over again" something which I have not said, and this has been pointed out to me by someone who can't manage to find where I said the opposite. Is it any wonder that people fall for MLM and health scams when they can't read? See more about Mannatech here, including the statements by Mannatech that their rubbish is worthless.
From: Paul Krismanits
Subject: Question about Mannatech
Date: Tue, 05 May 2009 22:31:02 -0400
I read everything you have posted and I must ask, are you an idiot? You say over and over again that their doctor didn't win the Nobel Prize but I googled it and he DID win it in medicine in 1999. Look it up yourself https://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/medicine/laureates/1999/.
You might like to point to exactly where I said that Dr Blobel didn't win the Nobel Prize. If your Google skills are good enough, you might even find where I said:
Dr Gunter Blobel, who won the Physiology or Medicine Prize in 1999 "for the discovery that proteins have intrinsic signals that govern their transport and localization in the cell".
Did you notice the web link there? It appears to be the same one you gave me, and I had it in 2006.
So what it didn't have to do with their product?
If it had nothing to do with the product, why do they use his name as a form of endorsement?
The dude still works for them!
Does he? Then why did he get a lawyer to issue a Cease and Desist order against Mannatech for saying that his research had something to do with sugar pills? Most people don't stay employed if they set lawyers on the boss. Even you recognise (see above) that his research had nothing to do with Mannatech.
Also, I couldn't find ANYWHERE but your own site where it says 1994 for the prize.
I was quoting from a message sent to me by a Mannatech distributor. The fact that the lie doesn't appear elsewhere just makes it even more ludicrous.
Your attempt to discredit through this one area is ludicrous. So one salesman who didn't quite know what he was talking about e-mails you and you use that against the company?
No, I used it against the writer, but surely even you can find examples of fraudulent claims of Mannatech-related research winning Nobel Prizes. You can see some Nobel winners complaining about the lies here.
Since you know MLM so well, you should know that their salespeople are self-employed. THe company itself never made that statement.
Of course it didn't. MLM companies rely strongly on the distributors making the claims, so that the companies can use what is called "plausible deniability". It just seems rather a strong coincidence that the same lies keep coming from different distributors.
So what is it? Did you just try Mannatech and suck so now you have to go nuts on it?
The education in basic arithmetic I received in school prevented me from ever joining any pyramid scheme, however well disguised from the law they might be. I don't have to keep a dead dog in my house to know that something rotten smells bad.
That sure is open-minded. I read over and over your site, and your just a smug SOB who is twisting stuff to fit your own opinions, without any real regard for the truth or any desire to find out what it really is. You must be a Democrat.
Why? Do Democrats have a better grasp of reality than members of other parties?
Oh, and I bet this e-mail never finds its way onto your page. Coward.
You lost that bet, didn't you? On four pages to start off with, and then only three after it drops off the front page.
The Freethunk web site disappeared in January 2020.
It went to Facebook and then disappeared from there also.
Advanced Allergy Elimination eliminated? (23/5/2009)
We can only hope that the blatant quackery known as Advanced Allergy Elimination will shortly join the dodo in the list of extinct species. Not a moment too soon. Here is a welcome media release from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
ACCC institutes proceedings against Advanced Allergy Elimination Pty Ltd and its director, Paul Keir
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has instituted proceedings in the Fast Track list in the Federal Court, Melbourne against Advanced Allergy Elimination Pty Ltd for alleged contraventions of the Trade Practices Act 1974.
The action concerns alleged representations by AAE including that it can test for and accurately identify a substance to which a person is allergic and that it can eliminate and successfully treat a person's allergy. The ACCC alleges AAE cannot test for and treat a person's allergies. The ACCC alleges that in making these representations AAE has engaged in false and/or misleading conduct.
The ACCC has also taken action against AAE's director, Mr Paul Keir for allegedly being involved in certain of AAE's conduct.
The ACCC is seeking various orders including declarations, injunctions, corrective notices and costs. The ACCC is also seeking an order that Mr Keir attend trade practices law training.
A scheduling conference is listed before Justice Finkelstein on Wednesday 24 June 2009 at 2.00 pm in the Federal Court, Melbourne.
Release # NR 114/09
Issued: 18th May 2009
Weird email of the week (23/5/2009)
How did I get on this mailing list? Could it be that some kind person would like to see my soul get saved.
Good Morning Brother,
We would like to encourage you to take this opportunity to have Justin Peters, a well-known and respected American preacher and Bible teacher at your church (or if you know of any others who would like to have Justin, please pass this on). Justin Peters has been associated with Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron (The Way of the Master) and Paul Washer. We believe that you and your church will be hugely blessed by his ministry.
Please find following a link to Justin's website: www.justinpeters.org
Further, please find attached a flyer outlining Justin's tentative dates and other information regarding Justin's tour. (The Australian dates are from 29 August 2009 to 10 September 2009). ;
If interested, please don't hesitate to contact Andrew Whitaker (Rookie) or Douglas Davidson on the following contact details for further information and to confirm your interest:
ø Douglas Davidson: Phone – 0423 xxx xxx, Email – cwm-AUtours@christian-witness.org; or
ø Andrew Whitaker: Phone – 0409 xxx xxx, Email – email@example.com
lease find following a link to a recent youtube video:
There is also a video which can be watched that is more in-depth. It is about 35 minutes which can accessed by going to the Justin Peters website.
If you are interested please be in contact with us as soon as possible as dates are already being booked up quickly.
Astrology. An expert opinion is sought and given (23/5/2009)
I was recently asked to appear on the television show Today Tonight to talk about astrology. This particular form of woowoo is probably the most widely accepted form of nonsense in the world (other than religion), and seems to appear in almost every newspaper and magazine, no matter how seriously the publication takes itself and its journalism. Generally, astrology is a somewhat amusing distraction from the realities of life and is probably relatively harmless unless people take it too seriously and either spend too much money or use the predictions to make vital life decisions. (A friend of mine, an accountant, had a client who spent $97,000 in a single year ringing astrology and psychic help lines for business advice. None of them predicted the fact that the Australian Taxation Office would refuse to allow the expenditure as a tax-deductible business expense. I have also seen astrologers make predictions about the outcomes of serious diseases. If the stars didn't predict that you were going to get cancer they probably won't be able to tell you when you will either be cured or die.)
Here's the segment of the show, adding a few more seconds to my fifteen minutes of fame.
Who's a clever boy then? (23/5/2009)
Meryl Dorey is the President of the Australian Vaccination Network, an organisation dedicated to the welfare of quacks and the malfare of children. What happens if you type the search string "meryl dorey" into Google? (Insert sound of self-satisfied chuckle here.)
Should I be worried though? When I was sued by a company that had been found by a court to be operating illegally, one of the complaints they had was that my criticism of their illegal activities was placed higher in Google than their company web site.
Speaking of the AVN … (23/5/2009)
The Australian Vaccination Network used to have a Facebook page. Now they don't. How sad is that? To fill the void and make up for the missing AVN page there is a Facebook group called "Stop the Australian Vaccination Network". Obviously I could never ask people to join such a bigoted and prejudiced group which is trying to deny parents their right to make an informed choice after hearing all the evidence about all the dangers of injecting mercury, formaldehyde, monkey pus, aborted foetuses and other poisons into their children's bloodstreams, but if you go here you could get an idea of what the group is about.
The Atheist Cartoons site disappeared in 2014
I help out an old friend (30/5/2009)
The Australian Vaccination Network has a page on their web site where they ask for donations. When I looked there recently I found the claim that they are a charity. This is what it says on that page:
I am a naturally curious person, so I thought that I would check on the status of the AVN's charity status, and this was the surprising result:
I thought I would do my bit to rectify this oversight, so I asked the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing for clarification. (No, I do not know why charities are combined with booze and betting under the one regulatory authority.) I also acted on my Kind and Gentle policy and sent the following email to Meryl Dorey, President of AVN:
The Charity Authority number quoted on the AVN page asking for donations expired almost two years ago.
Should I notify the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing that you are displaying an expired authority and still using it to claim charitable organisation status? Oh, that's right – I already did.
CCRG back from the dead (30/5/2009)
I haven't heard much lately from Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group. Of course, ever since he wished for the death of my grandson I haven't been worried that rats might eat out his eyes and maggots might gnaw on his genitals, even though such thoughts are pleasant. He has been leaving me alone, and that is just how I like it. It appears, however, that there has been a lull in cancer curing in Ottawa and he has found time to complain about someone else's web site, in this case one run by Dr Terry Polevoy. Following the path now so frequently used by those who want to suppress criticism but can't call on any facts, he whined to Dr Polevoy's web host about a breach of copyright. I can't check now because the ISP folded and removed Dr Polevoy's site, but I would almost bet money that there was no copyright breach.
The ISP in question is BlueHost.com in Utah. Here is my email to them in support of Dr Polevoy's right to freedom of speech and opinion.
I have been informed that following a complaint from Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group you have disabled the web site of Dr Terry Polevoy at http://www.healthwatcher.net/
Before acting on complaints made by Mr O'Neill it might be worthwhile looking at Mr O'Neill's history of complaints and the character of the man himself.
At https://ratbags.com/rsoles/onews/onews.htm you can see several years' worth of attacks on me and my family by Mr O'Neill. If you care to wade through the bilge you can see several obscene references to my wife and daughters.
At https://ratbags.com/rsoles/onews/gal.htm you can see more of the same where Mr O'Neill made anonymous comments. I used to pretend that I didn't know it was him until he commented about the birth of my grandson with the message "kill it quick and kill it good before it multiplies" to a public newsgroup. (You can see the post at https://groups.google.com/group/misc. health.alternative/msg/2b61b27154abec78)
It's not just Dr Polevoy and I who have a poor opinion of Mr O'Neill. You can see a television show about him at https://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/20060127/ WFIVE_dr_hope_main_060127/20060131?hub=WFive in which he says that he can cure cancer and then denies saying it when presented with the evidence of the statement.
Please reinstate Dr Polevoy's web site. If you are going to act on complaints, then at least limit that action to complaints made by people whose opinions might matter.
This email will be published on my web site, The Millenium Project, and I will report your response as soon as I know what it is.
Yes, it's from The New Yorker
Nothing ever sleeps around here and the deadline for the July column rolled around with its predictable urgency, resulting in a column headed "I try not to know what just ain't so", which starts off:
Everyone must be familiar with the quote "It ain't so much the things we know that get us into trouble. It's the things we know that just ain't so". I once used it in something I was writing and being a pedant I went looking for the original author of the saying. Something in my mind said that it was Ralph Waldo Emerson, but something else said that it didn't really sound like Emerson. I knew it was an American, but it didn't sound like Walt Whitman, Edgar Allen Poe or T. S. Elliot either, so I checked. I found many attributions, and what all these attributions had in common was that the writer was absolutely sure that it had been said by Mark Twain. Or Josh Billings. Or Artemus Ward. Or Will Rogers. Or more
Nice video from CDC (30/5/2009)
The Centers for Disease Control has produced a video educating mothers about the advantages and safety of vaccination. I know that it will be ridiculed by anti-vaccination liars because of its source and its content, but perhaps it will reach some wavering mothers and convince them of the need to protect their children (and other children) from the harm caused by easily preventable serious diseases.