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PreviousNextUpdates made to The Millenium Project in November 2010

November 6, 2010

Just a reminder (6/11/2010)
Meryl Dorey, erstwhile president of the Australian Vaccination Network, has been overseas at a child endangerment conference and might have been neglecting to keep her diary up to date. To jog her memory, here is something that the New South Wales Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing said:

Revocation of Australian Vaccination Network's Authority to Fundraise

Minister for Gaming and Racing, the Hon Kevin Greene MP, has revoked the fundraising authority formerly held by the Australian Vaccination Network Inc (AVN).

An investigation by the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing, a division of Communities NSW, found that AVN had breached charitable fundraising laws and potentially misled the public.

The revocation, which took effect on Wednesday 20 October 2010, means that AVN is no longer licensed to conduct fundraising appeals in NSW and is not entitled to accept donations from members of the public via any method of collection including face-to-face and online appeals. AVN is not prevented from receiving donations from its members as this is not considered fundraising for the purposes of the charitable fundraising legislation.

The OLGR investigation also took into account the findings of the Health Care Complaints Commission (HCCC) which established that the website operated by AVN provided information that was solely anti-vaccination as well as information that was incorrect and misleading.

The HCCC has published a public warning stating that AVN's failure to post a disclaimer on its website may result in members of the public making improperly informed decisions about whether or not to vaccinate posing a potential risk to public health and safety.

The revocation by the Minister is subject to an appeal lodged by AVN in the Administrative Decisions Tribunal and is listed before the Tribunal on 10 December, 2010

Just to keep Ms Dorey up to date, here is a gentle reminder.

Hey, Ms Dorey – you have only


until you have to convince the
Administrative Appeals Tribunal
that you respect authority

It would have been so much easier to simply display the notice requested by the HCCC and then get back to killing children, wouldn't it? You could have avoided all this bad publicity and just gone quietly about your business of providing irresponsible and dangerous medical advice to people who don't know any better.

This just in (6/11/2010)
You've all heard of the HAARP project, that secret operation in Alaska which is being used by the controllers of the world to influence weather as a means of population control? You might think that this is just conspiracy nut nonsense, but maybe you are wrong. Look at this error message my wife got when she tried to access the web site that shows our local weather conditions. Be afraid, be very afraid.

NWO now!

What. The. Eff. Question mark. (6/11/2010)
Web oldtimers will have fond memories of Geocities, home of some of the most kooky ideas expressed with the craziest web designs that colour-blind people could come up with. All is not lost, because there is still Tripod, and a wonderful example was offered to me this week. I found it because someone offered as proof that homeopathy works the quote "The Second Law of Thermodynamics contradicts the First Law of Thermodynamics". Apparently this comes form a book called Occult Science Dictatorship, in which the evil of orthodox science is revealed. I went looking for the perpetual Nobel Prize winner who had discovered this and found William Lyne. This web site is kook gold


The site is named "Pentagon Space Aliens", but that's just the start. After that it gets weird. I can't really do it justice here, so you will have to go see for yourself. Go ahead, look at it. But please, don't drink coffee while you are looking and keep your asthma medication handy so you don't die laughing. I want you to come back here, and I would hate to have your deaths on my conscience.

Synapses exploding when exposed to idiocy:

Which got me thinking ... (6/11/2010)
Another thing that was mentioned during the week apropos of nothing much at all was the Fresh Kills landfill site on Staten Island. It was closed for receiving garbage in 2001 and is eventually going to be transformed into parkland. In the discussion the picture below came up and somehow it immediately reminded me of the minds of people like William Lyne and those who for some reason unimaginable to rational people take ravings like his seriously. There are some things which are so obviously nonsense that it is amazing that anyone who can manage to get out of bed and put their shoes on the right feet without instructions can believe that there is anything worthwhile there.

A kook's mind

Something for Halloween (6/11/2010)

See more of Cectic here

Speaking of cartoons ... (6/11/2010)
Reader David H was the first one in to tell me that the cartoon I had here last week that I couldn't find the source for came from the book Science Made Stupid by Tom Weller. It's an excellent book and I am disappointed in myself that I hadn't come across it before. I've added the book to the bookshop here and put a link to Tom's web site in a couple of categories at The Green Light. You can go here to see more about the book, and you will even find a couple of ways that you can get it for free. Enjoy!

And while I'm in a thanking mood I have to congratulate the people at Ipswitch. Not only did they set a new world record by replying to a report of an error in their software in four minutes but they had the fix available the next day. It would be nice if every software company reacted like that, but I doubt that our hearts could stand the constant shock.

Hear (and see) him speak (6/11/2010)
I'll be up on stage on the next two Sundays, so if you are in Sydney you are invited to come along to be entertained and informed. If you don't like me, you are invited to come along to heckle and have your prejudices reinforced. Either way you are welcome.

The following weekend I will be at TAM Sydney. I'm not part of the official program so I'm hoping I will have the opportunity to meet lots of people whom I only know through the Internet. If you are going, make sure you say hello.

Little Pharma has the shackles on (6/11/2010)
You know how those evil pharmaceutical companies bribe doctors with trips to luxury resorts, country club memberships, high-class call girls, recreational drugs, expensive food and beverages? Not to mention pens and post-it notes. Well, maybe that's what you believe if you are an anti-real-medicine campaigner or have been listening to one of them. The reality is different, as can be seen from this media release from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. This one deals with the manufacturers of generic drugs. (You know, those ones like aspirin, insulin, acetaminophen, metformin, vitamins, etc. The things that nobody makes any more because they are out of patent and therefore not profitable. Have I mentioned the lies of the anti-real-medicine campaigners?) There is a similar oversight of Big Name Big Pharma, but this is the one which happened to drop into my intray this week.

ACCC conditionally authorises generic medicines code

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has granted conditional authorisation to the Generic Medicines Industry Association's Code of Practice 2nd edition for three years.

The code is a self-regulatory framework for the supply of generic medicines in Australia.

"The ACCC is granting authorisation subject to conditions which will provide greater transparency around the relationship between the manufacturers of generic medicines and pharmacists," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said today.

This decision affirms the ACCC's draft decision, released for public comment on 3 August 2010, although the ACCC has reworked the conditions that were initially proposed.

"Following the draft decision, the ACCC received support from a range of interested parties to maintain conditions providing transparency, despite submissions from the GMiA that these conditions were not necessary."

The ACCC's condition extending the code's public reporting on the hospitality and entertainment provided at educational events to medical practitioners as well as pharmacists is largely unchanged from the draft decision. The ACCC considers that the administrative burden on GMiA members will be limited, as pharmacists generally received training in-store with limited hospitality.

The ACCC remains of the view that a condition to provide transparency around the provision of hospitality to pharmacists at educational events would help to maintain public confidence that such relationships are able to withstand professional and public scrutiny. This is one of the aims of the code.

A second condition, designed to provide high level disclosure around the nature and extent of the gifts and other non-price incentives provided by manufacturers to pharmacists as an incentive for the pharmacist to stock their brand of product, has been reworked by the ACCC following the draft decision.

Under the revised condition the GMiA will report annually in a table the accumulated total cost to each member of providing the non-price benefits, other than more favourable trading terms, to pharmacists and identify the types of non-price benefits provided by each of its members in the reporting period.

In order to reduce the compliance burden on the GMiA's members the ACCC has reduced the number of reports required under the term of authorisation from six to three.

This condition responds to concerns that the offer of loyalty programs or other non-price incentives to pharmacists undermines public confidence in the generic medicines industry. This was a concern raised by interested parties. The ACCC considers that making public the nature and size of such benefits imposes its own constraint and the companies conferring such benefits are likely to ensure they are in a position to publicly explain them.

The GMiA code is a newly developed code and as such the ACCC is granting authorisation for three years, rather than the five years sought by the GMiA. Should the GMiA seek authorisation at the end of this time it will be important for the GMiA to demonstrate how the code has been enforced and how effective it has been in regulating member behaviour in the areas governed by the code.

Authorisation provides protection from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974. Broadly, the ACCC may grant an authorisation when it is satisfied that the public benefit from the conduct outweighs any public detriment.

The ACCC's determination will be available from the ACCC website.

Release # NR 242/10
Issued: 3rd November 2010

Close to Home
See more Close to Home here.

November 13, 2010

This week's reason for a brief update (13/11/2010)
It's coming up to the end of the teaching year and for some reason students expect me to set final assignments and mark the work they have already done. They think that just because they pay course fees and turn up to classes that I should spend all my spare time working out whether what they write can be interpreted as answering the questions I set. Unreasonable creatures, but I do forgive them every second Thursday when my pay goes into the bank.

Another distraction this weekend is that I have to go out into the wilderness to do some location scouting for a proposed film. Filming will happen in January and we know the approximate geographical area we want to be working in, but scripting and planning logistics dictate that we need to know what is really there. We want to use three abandoned early twentieth century constructions that have been allowed to decay, so we need to know how close they are to each other. An additional problem is that an expensive tourist resort has been built in the area and we need to know how much of the historic built environment was destroyed to construct this place that only people with more money than sense would want to go to. It is quite possible that everything we want to use is now under swimming pools (there are 41 of them!), tennis courts and golf courses or is covered with signs telling the brain-dead things that they could work out for themselves if they bothered to try. (Do you get the impression that I am a terrible person to have on a packaged tourist trip?)

See more SMBC here

You were saying, George? (13/11/2010)
In October 2009 the world was warned of the dangers of swine flu vaccine in a widely publicised piece of work by an illiterate moron named George Mamouzellos. You might think I am being unkind in calling him an illiterate moron, but my only worry is that I might be offending morons by linking them with George. George claimed to be a pharmacist with the authority to dispense drugs, and even made this comment about his thoughts while at work.

You know what really pisses me off? The Pill. Everytime I give out the pill, I imagine shagging that girl (not always a good thing btw, theres some UGLY people out there having sex...brrrrrr ech yuk bleh) and it makes me realise that no matter how many chicks im shagging, theres yet another one I havnt shagged, and I get all insecure. wtf is up with that? I dont know.

If the above isn't enough to convince you of George's illiteracy and moronicity then you can see an email exchange I had with him here. The only reason I or anybody else bothered with George is that his lies about the swine flu vaccine went viral and were being quoted and cited across the world. (I had a client ask me about it when I was in his office to talk about computers, not vaccination.)

An interesting addition appeared on George's Facebook page this week and I reproduce it here in the spirit of completeness and Schadenfreude.

Oh, George!!

Some lies never die (13/11/2010)
Speaking of illiteracy, I received the following email during the week.

From: On Behalf Of Dr. William H. Bates
Sent: Sunday, 7 November 2010 1:12 PM
Subject: How To Restore Your Eyesight Without Surgery?

Don't Let Your Vision Problems Stop You From Living A Care-Free Life If Glasses and Contacts Harms Vision and Surgery Is Too Risky, Then How Can I Improve My Eyesight?

I am very impressed by Dr Bates getting someone to write to me as I thought he died in 1931, which was some time before the invention of email. His resurrection, however, does not alter the fact that his method of eye exercises does nothing to correct defective eyesight. This is a classic case of the way that no matter how often or how comprehensively some form of quackery is debunked it never goes away. Some people believe that the only difference between medicine and the incorrectly-named "alternative medicine" is that the former has been shown to work and the latter hasn't. Another difference is that real medicine abandons things that don't work or can be done better; quackery never discards anything, because efficacy is never an issue. To a true alternaut, if it don't work it don't matter. Just keep right on selling it.

Dr Bates and an assistant
Dr Bates looks at his assistant

Self-deception in action (13/11/2010)
I have been severely chastised and set straight in this email. My responses are in italics. It is a classic case of self-deception

From: Angela Bonham
Subject: ACCC case against allergy elimination treatments
Date: Mon, 08 Nov 2010 02:56:46 +0000

Hi there

I am 100% living proof that the natural allergy elimination treatment DOES work. You can cross examine my medical specialist if you wish – be my guest! It's PROVEN, and it's REAL.

I had chronic health problems all my life, including perennial rhinitis (all year round hayfever), and severe asthma – occurring 3-4x per day and during the night – requiring ventolin 'reliever' medication, inhaled steriod 'preventer' medication, and also when they didn't work - emergency trips to hospital for nebulizers, injections and further treatment. I was sickly all through my childhood – had no vitality, felt fatigued easily, and was especially prone to infections, colds and flus – which made managing my asthma and sinus problems even worse.

You can buy homeopathic broad spectrum placebos to treat chronic hypochondria.

After extensive testing – by medical allergy specialists – I was diagnosed with an IgE (or "true") allergy to dairy, and also tested positive for reactions to sulfites & nitrites (which gave me hives), eggs, mushrooms, mould, grasses, dust, and cat dander. Doctors told me I was "a very sensitive type" and to avoid all these allergens 100%, especially never to have dairy in any form (even in tiny amounts – meaning I had to read the ingredients on every single packaged food, and never enjoy pizza, ice cream or chocolate ever again).

Doctors told me that being an IgE allergy, my allergy to dairy was totally INCURABLE.

Did they? Lots of allergies are related to IgE and you can grow out of them. I no longer have a reaction to several things that triggered hay fever in the past.

That was 9 years ago, when I was 31. The doctors were right. Within 4 days of leaving dairy out of my diet, I no longer got asthma attacks. This discovery was nothing short of amazing. Only when I accidentally ate something with dairy in it (such as eating food at restaurants, despite my best efforts to avoid dishes with milk, cream, yoghurt, cheese etc) did I get an asthma attack within a couple of hours, and I had to use my reliever medication.

So you still carried the Ventolin even though you had been "cured" for nine years?

Then in 2008, after one particularly nasty incident, eating out one evening, which resulted in a terrible asthma attack – I decided to do some some research on the internet, to find out if there was anything that could help to reduce my allergic reaction to dairy products in foods – especially as dairy is one of the most common ingredients in every day foods, and very hard to avoid.

Devi NambudripadI came across a website for a naturopath, also a qualified nutritionist, who was trained in natural allergy elimination technique (NAET).

NAET does not stand for "natural allergy elimination technique". It is "Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques", a proprietary form of quackery invented by Devi Nambudripad. The little vials of magic that you have to hold in your hand while the arm pushing goes on have to be purchased from Nambudripad. It is not Advanced Allergy Elimination, which is the fraud that the ACCC took action against. That was a similar fraud, but changed just enough to get around the need to pay Nambudripad for anything, with the inclusion of such idiocy as the little chiropractic spring hammers to tap on imaginary acupuncture points.

I phoned and asked about the treatment. Then I pondered for a few weeks about whether to try it. When I mentioned it to my GP – he said he knew nothing about the principles of Chinese Medicine (that NAET is based on).

NAET is not based on traditional Chinese medicine. It was an invention from whole cloth.

He said that he could not give recommendations one way or the other about things like homeopathy or naturopathy, or any other alternative treatments, because he was not trained in them ... and not being qualified as such, medical insurance does not cover doctors who give this kind of advice!

Rubbish! As a doctor he is perfectly entitled to tell you that there is no science in unscientific practices. You don't have to be trained in something to recognise it as wrong. Using that sort of logic would require juries in murder trials to be made up solely of murderers.

He said a lot of complementary therapies are "outside the paradigm" of the western medical model of healing.

They are outside the paradigm of science and rationality. By the way, chiropractic and homeopathy are both western forms of medicine.

But, he said, since it only involved tapping on 'acupoints' of the body, he couldn't see the harm. He warned me however, that as such treatment had yet to be tested and verified by the medical profession (as far as he knew), it could be of no effect whatsoever, and possibly a total waste of money.

Good advice.

But being curious, I decided to give it a go. My first session involved testing (using kinesiology) to identify issues with food and other allergens. (I had deliberately withheld what I already knew about my medically diagnosed IgE and other allergies, to see what would be detected).

I know kinesiology well. I use it in my presentations about medical quackery. It took me five minutes to learn the technique, and the reason it took this long is that I use three different techniques.

As it turned out, the therapist's NAET technique identified every allergen I had already be medically diagnosed with. He also said that dairy was a major problem for me – and advised me to avoid it totally, until after having treatment.

It's called "cold reading" and is a staple of the magician's art. (And the conman, too, of course.) In this case what is known as the "scattershot" technique was used, where a whole range of possibilities is presented to the mark, who only remembers the hits. Also, any competent quack "testing" for allergies always mentions dairy. It's in the instruction manual. I would have been surprised if you hadn't been told to stay away from dairy products until after you had been "cured".

A couple of weeks later I had the NAET "tapping" treatment. It was explained to me in layman's terms, and although I could not understand how it worked (even many doctors don't understand the exact pathway of how a lot of medications work!), I was willing to give it a go.

Not understanding the exact mechanism of operation of medications is nothing like not knowing how undetectable, imaginary lines through the body work.

After the treatment, I was told to avoid dairy 100% for 2 more days (which was easy for me, as I had avoided it for 7 years!), and I could then try a little dairy – eg. a teaspoon of milk, to see if the treatment had been successful.

Two days? Did they explain why the delay was necessary. And do you remember at which point you told the NAETer about your dairy allergy? Of course you don't, but you did.

I might add that I was extremely reluctant to try even the smallest amount of dairy, at that point – so accustomed had I become to the terrifying asthma attacks it had caused me, in the past (and since discovering my IgE allergy – equating the word "dairy" with "poison" !!!)

I have an IgE reaction to wheat pollen, but I wouldn't call it poison. By the way, people who are totally free of IgE are rare. Maybe even nonexistent.

But I eventually worked up the courage, made sure I had my medication handy (just in case!) and had a little bit of milk – to test it.

No reaction.

Nine years after you had been tested by a real doctor, during which time your body had rearranged its immune system several times. It happens.

The following day, I had tried again, with two teaspoons of milk.

No reaction.

So a couple of days later, I had a little yoghurt.

No reaction.

Then when visiting a friend's house a week later, I really tested it – and had a whole serving of ice cream!

Still no reaction.

A couple of weeks later, I ate a slice of pizza.

No reaction!

Chocolate. Croissants. Custard. A cream bun!

No reaction ... still no reaction!!!

I was TOTALLY amazed.

You shouldn't have been, but at least you can enjoy food again without triggering paranoia.

It took me 3 full months of trying all sorts of dairy, even one day eating a hefty amount of cheese – from a huge cheese platter ... before I finally had to admit ... I was no longer having ANY asthma, or other allergy symptoms, from eating ANY kind of dairy.

That was 2 years ago.

Excellent! You have now outgrown all your allergies. Have a happy, sneeze-free life.

I have since had northing short of fantastic results using NAET treatments for my issues with sulfites & nitrites, mushrooms, grasses, mould, dust, etc. The only treatment that I had to have done again – was one for eggs. And now even that is fully *eliminated*.

Have you had all the allergy tests again? I mean the real ones – those done by real doctors using tried and proven methods.

Now I have my life back ... and the life I do have is WAY beyond what I ever even thought *possible*, given the western medical diagnosis of "INCURABLE", only a few years before.

When I went back to my GP and reported that I'd had the NAET treatment, and now I no longer had asthma after eating dairy – he told me I must have had a "spontaneous remission" of my allergy. I said "Both you and the allergy specialists told me that an IgE allergy is totally INCURABLE. Now an illness is either incurable – or it's not. If as a medical doctor you are suddenly making allowances for "spontaneous remission" – where the allergy no longer exists, is that not a case of a CURE?

No, it is not. It is something which happens for no apparent reason.

And in cases of several other people I now know of, who have also had their allergies eliminated, does that not mean the medical profession should look into this technique, since we have each of us ... all proved it to be EFFECTIVE? And that perhaps doctors should do studies on this? His reply was that it is usually only pharmaceutical companies that can afford to pay for such research, and they are hardly likely to be interested in a relatively simple technique – even if it does work – as it would in no way benefit them (not promoting any medications they sell).

If pharmaceutical companies could get into the business of selling empty bottle of "energy" to "cure" allergies they would be in it tomorrow. No testing costs, no production costs (the vials have to be returned to Nambudripad after use, so they can be endlessly recycled), no danger (because there is nothing there that can cause harm). It would be like heaven to them.

Well, that is true. I for one no longer have to spend a lot of money on medications I previously had to rely on ... day in, day out. And now I want others to know about it ... so they at least have the choice.

I am an avid fan of NAET. I would highly recommend it to anyone with allergies, intolerances or sensitivities. And I hope that you are willing to reconsider your position, given the compelling evidence ... of at least my own medical case, if not others.

You have an anecdote. Anecdotes are interesting but not evidence of anything.

You can cross examine me to your heart's content. I know what I know. And I will do everything I can to promote NAET, to help others who suffer so much, like I did.

That's the nature of religious conversion.

Yours in true health

November 20, 2010

Advance apology (20/11/2010)
There will be no update to The Millenium Project next week because I will be at TAM Australia. I know that some regular readers will be there, so make sure you introduce yourselves. I've been to a lot of conferences and often the best parts (and the best memories) are the meetings with old and new friends, including those friends that you only know as email signatures or Facebook names. I'll be easy to to recognise, because I will be the person wearing the faint smile of someone who knows that he doesn't have a deadline to meet for a few days.

TAM 2010 Australia

Schadenfreude corner (20/11/2010)
I've Bangles! Magic!mentioned Power Balance magic bangles several times. These are little plastic wristbands which sell for $60 and are supposed to increase strength, flexibility and proprioception. If all (or even any) of the claims were true then wearers would be able to win gold medals in both weight lifting and gymnastics at the Olympic Games. The selling price is ridiculous (I have been offered them by the manufacturer for $1.17 each, including display packaging), but if charging too much for something were a crime by itself then a lot of makers of Swiss watches, jewellery, French handbags, cosmetics and running shoes would be out of business. Voluntary taxation is not a crime.

The difference is that Gucci and Rolex only claim to impress your friends and neighbours, not change the way your body works. They also stay away from claiming that the laws of the universe are suspended when their logos are put on their products. It is useful, therefore, to occasionally remind people that not all the things that are said by people selling plastic strips with holograms on them are actually true. It was good to see that the sellers of the bracelets decided to remind their customers of this and published the following notice on their web site. Oh, wait, they didn't decide, they were forced to admit they had been lying. Crooks are like that.

Power Balance vs TGA

Unfortunately the TGA's Complaints Resolution Panel web site is running a bit behind reality and the determination is not there yet, but as soon as it is there it will here as well.

Atheist doorknockers
See more Bizarro here

And more Schadenfreude (20/11/2010)
I have sad news for people in London who are relying on woowoo to treat what ails them. The London College of Traditional Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine has gone broke. It is an ex-quackatorium. It has ceased to be. It has joined the meridian invisible.

LCTA bites the dust.

I am mailed (20/11/2010)
I am always open to criticism and suggestions about how I can do my job here better. Here are a couple of constructive emails I received during the week, with my responses in italics.

Date: Mon, 15 Nov 2010 20:27:21 +1030
Subject: lutec free energy
From: Harry

Just reading posts on a website I assume is yours

That is usually the case when you follow an email link on a web site.

about the lutec free energy device. I assume you still think lutec are crooks. What is funny to me, is that you are wrong.

So they really do have a perpetual motion machine! When are they going to stop asking for money and start showing us how all of physics is wrong? By the way, telling me I'm wrong without offering more information is not the way to convince me of anything.

See more about the Lutec scam here.

From: LP
Date: Tue, 16 Nov 2010 19:25:14 -0500
Subject: Award

Thank you for your comments.

You should get the *Absurd Asshole* of the year award. It is beyond me, and others who find your slamming natural medicines, naturopaths, vaccines (Autism....anyone?), reputable Labs and any other *Absurb* lie you try to convince the "sheeple"community remotely convincing. But then, being one yourself....(Sheeple, that is....then Asshole...or....vice/versa) that totally makes sense.

I have a rule that I stop reading at the first occurrence of the word "sheeple" as it is evidence that I am dealing with the brain-dead. I did glance ahead, however, and as your email provided some amusement I decided to carry on. The evidence I mentioned is still there, of course.

See more XKCD here

So....why don't you get a toxic vaccination, go see a drug-pushing allopathic doctor so he can give you more drugs (obviously YOU are on many...and it appears they are *Psychotropic*), apply for a job at the FDA (Food and Death Administration) so you too can be in collusion and join the elitists of the world to keep the people dumbed down and drugged up, and continue on with the depopulation agenda........and then after you've done all that............

"Depopulation agenda"? What was that I was saying about brain-dead?


Manners, please!

People like you are SO pathetic....and I'm quite certain there are a plethora of descriptions for you.....but unfortunately, I cannot think of any other than the award that goes to the likes of your kind which is: *Absolute Asshole*.


Your email has been printed out and posted on the noticeboard in the Ratbags HQ staff tearoom so that all the workers can have a good laugh.

Handling threats (20/11/2010)
Over the years I've had my share of threats of legal action. Most of them come to nothing, although a few complainers have wasted some money on lawyers. In 2005, however, I was dragged into court by a company which had been found to be operating an illegal pyramid scheme, my offence against them being to report that a court had found them guilty of operating an illegal pyramid scheme. They were also unhappy about the fact that I had identified the loophole in the trade practices legislation that they were exploiting and I reported on their adventures with the law in other countries. You can read all I'm legally capable of saying about the matter here.

Even though the case was settled without my having to pay either damages or the other side's costs it was still a very expensive and frustrating waste of time. In most countries the law favours those with the deepest pockets, and even if you win you can still suffer financial loss. In my case, even if I had won all I would have been able to recover without initiating more legal action would have been my legal bills. I would not have received anything to cover the losses to my business caused by my absence (I am a consultant and when I'm not working I don't get any income) or because a couple of big clients jumped ship because I was being sued by a great big multinational corporation (the quality or reputation of that company didn't matter – look up "halo effect" in your nearest search engine).

The British organisation Sense About Science has published an excellent guide to what you should do if you are accused of defamation about something you have published online. (This could have been very useful to me in 2005.) It is based on the legal situation in the UK, but is still very useful for people in other jurisdictions such as Australia or the US. You still might need to talk to a lawyer, but following the advice in the guide could minimise the damage. You can read So You've Had A Threatening Letter – What Can You Do? here.

Jesus and Mo
See more Jesus and Mo here

Randi and me

Lying with the truth (20/11/2010)
I mentioned the halo effect above. This is where some thing, person or event is associated in the minds of observers with some other thing, person or event and the perception is influenced by the qualities and authority (whether real or perceived) of the reference. In layman's terms it's called "reflected glory". It's what motivates people to have pictures on their office walls of them shaking hands with famous or influential people. I would never do it myself, but I can see why other people do it.

The halo effect can be used to deceive, and one way that it is used constantly by pseudoscientists and quacks is to rent meeting rooms and then use the name of the venue or institution in promotion or after the event reporting to suggest that whatever was said was somehow endorsed by the owner of the venue. Universities are very open to this sort of abuse and I am sure we have all seen things like "It was announced at Harvard yesterday ..." followed by a report of something that was said at some event which was related to the university only because it was said there. I went to a recording of a television show about a psychic once and for some reason the show was recorded in one of the lecture theatres at Westmead Hospital (which are available for public rent and use). Mercifully, nobody made any announcements about how psychic powers had been demonstrated at Sydney University's medical school. Perhaps nobody thought of it.

A few years back some UFO nuts rented a meeting room in some office building in Washington that houses support staff for US Senators. Because the building has the word "Senate" in its name, they actually put out press releases about their idiocy which started out "It was announced in the Senate today ...". Of course the true believers lapped it up and repeated the lie, although, unlike the conference organisers, they might not have known it was a lie. Similarly, a bunch of 9/11 Troofers tried to hold a conference in public lecture theatres in Sydney's Powerhouse Museum with the obvious intention of linking their idiocy with a scientific establishment. Luckily I was able to inform the Museum staff of the potential for abuse and embarrassment that the place was facing and the Troofers were told to peddle their madness elsewhere.

Another example of this deceit dropped into my mailbox this week under the heading "Dr. Andrew Wakefield speaks at Parliament on Autism". You will remember Dr Wakefield as the author of a paper published in The Lancet in 1998 which suggested a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, a paper which led directly to reduced vaccination rates and the deaths of children. The paper has since been retracted by the journal and Dr Wakefield's ability to practise medicine has been withdrawn. These actions followed revelations of Wakefield's unethical behaviour, extreme conflicts of interest and deliberate stretching of research conclusions beyond what was in the data.

As I couldn't imagine why any parliament of any respectable country would want to have anything to do with a discredited and deregistered ex-doctor, and as in most places the only people who get to address houses of legislation are foreign heads of state, I immediately assumed that I was being lied to. Actually, as the email had come from someone who would lie to his grandmother about the day of the week if that could cast doubts on vaccines I probably didn't have to check any further. I noticed, of course, that the announcement said "at Parliament", not "to Parliament", but I am certain that the nuance will be missed by true believers. The implication is there, and that is all that is needed when the badness of vaccines is being discussed.

And did ex-Dr Wakefield speak "at" a parliament? Well, yes he did, in a rented meeting room at the European Parliament HQ in Brussels. Did he speak "to" parliament? No, although some members might have gone along because they had nothing better to do. Did the European Parliament endorse his lies? Not that I could see. And did he tell lies about vaccines and autism? That is a rhetorical question, as of course he told lies about vaccines and autism because that is what he does for a living. I watched the first five minutes of the video of his speech and I didn't need to distress myself any further because he had already started lying and had put up a PowerPoint slide showing the topics he was going to lie about for the rest of the talk.

I predict that Wakefield speaking to a parliament will be part of anti-vaccination liar folklore within weeks, and it will be used to "prove" that his advocacy of placing children in harm's way is gaining acceptance from legislators and politicians. It will be a lie of course, but there is a very good reason why I call anti-vaccination liars "liars".

A version of this appeared as the Naked Skeptic column in the January 2011 edition of Australasian Science


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