I risk my life (2/5/2015)
It's amazing what a relocation of a few kilometres can do. Where I lived before (Wentworth Falls) was in an area with the second-lowest levels of vaccination in the country. The Blue Mountains is an enclave of woo, with a plethora of crystal shops, vegetarian and gluten-free menus, chiropractors, homeopaths, naturopaths, other assorted quacks, and believers in all sorts of paranormal nonsense. Where I am now (Oberon) is in an area with vaccination rates in the very high 90% range, and where you have to book a week in advance to get a flu shot because of the demand. There seems to be only one each of chiropractor and naturopath and they are quarantined in a "Wellness Centre" so people don't come across them by accident. The towns are separated by 80 kilometres by road, 40 kilometres in a straight line, a large valley and 200 metres in elevation.
I have been to the doctor and had my immune system exposed to no less than 26 diseases – three in the influenza vaccine and 23 in the pneumococcal vaccine. As any anti-vaccinator will tell you, this can cause an overload of the immune system which is far worse than moving from a place full of gum trees and koalas to somewhere with lots of sheep, cattle and pine trees. Another thing that anti-vaccination liars lie about is that nobody is ever told about any possible adverse effects of vaccination. As is traditional, I will provide links to the readily available consumer information about the two vaccines I received, plus a leaflet I picked up in the doctor's waiting room. By the way, I did suffer an adverse reaction – the spot which received the pneumococcal vaccine was quite sore for about 12 hours. Oh, wait – that is mentioned in the consumer information leaflet for the vaccine.
Recycled sewage (2/5/2015)
In 2011, Meryl Dorey, then President of the Australian Vaccination Network, likened vaccination to "rape of a child".
Court orders rape of a child. Think this is an exaggeration? Think again. This is assault without consent and with full penetration too. If we as a society allow this crime to take place, we are every bit as guilty as the judge who made the order and the doctor who carries it out If anyone knows this family, please put them in touch with me – 99 9999 9999 – I would like to see if there is anything the AVN can do. MD
When challenged on this obscenity, she offered the following reply:
To anyone who was insulted or hurt by my comparing the forced vaccination of a child against the custodial parent's wishes with rape, I do apologise wholeheartedly and without reservation.
I looked up the definition of rape prior to posting that comparison and in the dictionary sense of the word, it is accurate. But I do understand that this is a vexed issue and for those like the two who are dose to me and who have been victims of rape, the last thing I would want to do is cause them more pain.
Perhaps the term violation would have been better and in future, I will use that word. Because this mother and her child are being violated In so many ways if s hard to know where to start
Just before she tried to get a court to silence me in 2012 she exploited a suicide attempt by a minor celebrity who had been having a hard time on Twitter.
No Mary Jane Healey – I will not stop using the word rape if it fits the sentence. And it did in this case. I was talking about how victims are blamed instead of the blame being placed on the perpetrator which is exactly what happens with many rape victims and I know this to be the case. If you are not happy with my use of the word in this sentence, I'm sorry you feel that way but I will not change the words and I do not feel that my use of them is in any way inappropriate. MD
If you thought that you would never hear anything as offensive again from the anti-vaccination liar community you seriously underestimated their venality. This graphic appeared on the AVN's Facebook page a few days ago.
The President pro tem of the AVN immediately denied responsibility and claimed that the Facebook page had nothing to do with the AVN, that the offensive image had been posted by someone with no connection with the organisation, and that she didn't know who the administrators of the page were so she couldn't ask them to remove it. It is only a minor thing that the "About" page for the main Facebook page says:
That's a familiar web site address. And "Benjamin Rush" with the gmail address who apparently owns the page? Nobody has ever managed to find him or engage him in conversation. Possibly because he died in 1813. The image was grabbed by the disgusting "Dr" Sherri Tenpenny and published on her Facebook page, but we have always known that these vile creatures always offer mutual support to each other.
One good thing to come out of this is that the image was picked up by responsible media outlets around the world and used to demonstrate the depths to which anti-vaccination liars will descend to further their perverted agenda.
I don't think that the adverse publicity will affect them though. Their lies are immortal. While reshelving my book collection after the move I had to find a place for a book co-written by Meryl Dorey in 1998 which contains most if not all of the lies that they tell today. Luckily I had some antiseptic handwash available after I touched the thing, because I would have felt less queasy picking up a turd.
Here's another example from the past from when Edward Jenner was preventing smallpox by using cowpox. There was never any possibility that the vaccine could cause people to erupt in cow parts, but any lie is good enough. Some things never change.
Somewhere you need to be (2/5/2015)
I'll be giving a talk there so feel free to come along and mock or cheer, or even to give a talk yourself. Speaking spots are allocated on the day to anyone brave or silly enough to grab themself a time slot. Talks go for about 15 minutes with a few more for questions. Everything is free including lunch, and some lucky people will win some books which are duplicated in my collection.
The writing business (2/5/2015)
The latest edition of Australasian Science magazine is on the newsstands and subscribers mailboxes and as usual it contains words written by me. This article is about they way that the mainstream media unquestioningly publishes nonsense, and mentions the "wellness Warrior" Jess Ainscough who rejected treatment for her cancer and built a business promoting quackery. She eventually died from the cancer that was being "cured". Also mentioned is Belle Gibson who built a profitable business on the story that she had cured herself of cancer. Since my article went to press she has admitted that she never had cancer and just made up the story to make money. Media outlets who gave them uncritical publicity are now backpedalling so fast that the IOC is considering having "Riding a bicycle backwards" as a demonstration event at the next Olympic Games.
You can read the article here, but I encourage you to subscribe to the magazine or demand that your newsagent stocks it. There's a lot of good material there each month, some (most?) even better than what I write.
As the first snow of the year fell on my new home on April 7, ten weeks before the start of winter, I'm having serious thoughts about getting into character to write a column called "The Naked Skeptic" when the real season kicks in. Maybe it will be acceptable if I just wear an overcoat with nothing underneath it.
Another from the New Yorker, this time by Benjamin Schwartz
Force majeur (2/5/2015)
Usually, delays and disruptions to updates to this site are my fault – moving house, illness or injury, work, away at conferences, ... . A new variable has been added to the mix.
First a bit of background. I have two computers which I use for my everyday life (I have a third but it just sits in my lounge room and pumps DVDs, recorded and downloaded movies and content from TV stations' catch-up web sites to my television screen). The two computers are the main one with all the disks and screens that I'm sitting at right now and a laptop that I use when travelling or for training and presentations. Both machines have the software for all the things I regularly use (Microsoft Office, Adobe Master Suite, Act!, MYOB accounting, MS Expression Web, ...) plus all the relevant data files. All the suppliers of this software allow two installations provided that both can't be used simultaneously. Before I go anywhere all the data on the main machine is copied across to the laptop, and the process is reversed when I come back home. (I synchronise the machines about once a week anyway as another form of backup.)
Two weeks ago WS_FTP stopped working on my main machine and told me that it was not a registered copy. This sort of thing happens occasionally with even the best software so I simply tried to register it again and I was informed that I had exceeded my activation count. Again, I've seen this sort of thing before so I contacted the supplier to get it fixed. I was told that my licence only allows installation on one machine and if I wanted to do what I had been doing for almost two decades I would have to pay $122.56 for an additional licence (which apparently only lasts for one year). I was not amused. Pointing out that none of the other software companies I deal with have this restriction did no good.
I don't have time right now to investigate a replacement for something that does what I want perfectly, so to get this update out I have to tell Expression Web to do its publishing bit, then copy all the published site over to the laptop and send it to the web server from there.
I am not happy.
Chiropractic "ethics" (23/5/2015)
On a single day last week the following two things appeared in my Facebook news feed.
I don't know about you, but my doctor doesn't seem to be taking time out to attend courses on how to bring in lots more patients and keep them for life. The vet where I take my dog doesn't have a plan that requires Cody to come in weekly for "maintenance". I've moved house recently so I don't know if my new doctor will remind me every six months that I'm due for my regular diabetes checkup and pathology tests, but I do know that if he orders too many tests or wants them too often he will have the regulators paying him some attention.
People keep confusing chiropractors with health professionals. They are certainly professionals, but the billing and the visits and the customer acquisition and retention seminars and training are all about money and nothing to do with health. Casinos like you to come in regularly too and almost certainly have marketing plans to attract new customers, but at least you can sometimes leave a betting shop with a benefit in your wallet. It might be rare, but it's a lot more likely than it will happen at a chiropractor's office.
It's that time again (23/5/2015)
I've been getting my hands dirty with clay tablets again and another issue of Australasian Science magazine should be on its way to newsagents and post boxes very soon. As usual it has my Naked Skeptic column in it. As the frost we had a couple of days ago killed all my potplants and it isn't even winter yet I might have to consider the level of nakedness I adopt when getting into character for the next few columns. I can't really take my laptop to the pub and sit in front of the log fire with no clothes on so it will just have to be lots of room heaters and my merino sheep slippers.
Also as usual I encourage you to subscribe the the magazine. There will be something of interest to everyone in every issue and it's written for a lay but literate audience.
Two classic songs from my youth had the title "Do it again". One, by the Beach Boys, has become a staple on oldies' adult rock radio stations, and the other, by Steely Dan, can be regularly heard on smooth jazz outlets. I don't think that Brian Wilson, Walter Becker or Donald Fagen were thinking about science when they wrote these songs, but they always remind me of the importance of replication and reproducibility in the process of scientific research.
Foot shoot ricochets into own-goal (23/5/2015)
There was mass excitement in the pro-vaccine world (otherwise known as "sane people") over the last couple of weeks when it was discovered that a prominent anti-vaccination liar site had produced a list of pro-vaccine trolls, people who should be blocked and banned from mailing lists, Facebook pages and anywhere else where their words might be heard. Apparently this list had been developed by looking at the membership of pro-vaccine pages on Facebook, and the wonderful thing was that there were 30,000 names listed. That doesn't mean that there were 30,000 people because many of the names were sock puppets that people use to post in places where they are already banned and many names were duplicated for no apparent reason so it was generally a source of great amusement. What was not so amusing was that the list included parents whose children had died from vaccine-preventable diseases. That's right – you are a troll and should be attacked if your children die because irresponsible people don't vaccinate their children. Not that that's surprising of course, because it is a basic tenet of anti-vaccination philosophy that nobody's children matter except your own.
I was very pleased to find that I was on the list (if I hadn't been there I would have been concerned that I've not been doing my job properly). There was of course the inevitable t-shirt produced, with all profits going to Médicines Sans Frontières. My shirt hasn't arrived yet (I was hoping to wear it at SkeptiCamp next weekend) but I have an email telling me that is on the way. I will wear it with pride.
AVN! Stopped! (23/5/2015)
The impetus for starting this site in 1999 was that I found a group of child killers called the Vaccination Awareness Network had changed its name to the much more inoffensive and deceptive Australian Vaccination Network. For the next decade I battled along by myself fighting this organisation, and then Facebook happened. In 2009, appalled by vicious attacks by the AVN and its supporters on the parents of a child who had died of whooping cough, my friend Daniel Raffaele created a Facebook group called "Stop the AVN". This brought together a large number of people with diverse skills and backgrounds who committed themselves to driving this vile organisation into the ground.
It now looks like we have succeeded, and all that is left is for a priest to perform the Last Rites and for dirt to be shovelled into the grave on top of the coffin.
We've had some success over recent years in forcing a change to a less deceptive name and having the AVN's deceitful charity status revoked. Prominent figures in the organisation seem to have disappeared (generally by having their real names hidden behind sock puppets). Now, however, it looks like the implosion is almost complete. This is the current situation:
The following piece of drivel appears prominently on the AVN's web site:
No, the debate is polarising because one side uses science and the other just makes up lies. There might be doubt, but there is no reasonable doubt.
It makes me feel so good that I think I have to say it again. In big letters.