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December 1, 2007

Brief, truncated and attenuated (1/12/2007)
This week's update will be short because I have to do the preparation for a recertification examination for my real life job. It's a pity when needing to pay the bills takes priority over the hobby stuff, but unfortunately real life is like that. This might all change one day, of course, and even though the bookshop here lists a book called 200% of Everything in which it is demonstrated that you do not statistically increase your chance of winning lotto by buying a ticket, I keep watching those dropping balls. Psychologist and skeptic Richard Wiseman tells of a man who complained of having nothing but bad luck all of his life, an example being that when he won lotto he had to share first prize with someone else. If I win lotto I too will have a very small amount of bad luck associated with the win. As I work for myself, I will be denied the great pleasure of going into the boss's office on Monday morning and telling him where he can shove his job and which bit of furniture he should use to push it home.


Who's madder than whom? (1/12/2007)
Anybody who has seen a newspaper or read a blog in the last week will be aware of the idiocy that has broken out in Sudan over some little kids naming a teddy bear Mohammed. (I almost said "christening a teddy bear Mohammed" there, something which would have caused the lunatics to want to kill the children as well as the teacher.) You might think that this is the height of madness, but that would mean that you hadn't run into any conspiracy theorists this week. Some of them have taken time out from ranting about the towers of the World Trade Center being demolished to destroy the film set used for the fake moon landings and how a puff of smoke was seen from the top of the canteen building at Area 51 as the second gunman shot out the tyres of Princess Di's car. They have determined that the teacher in the Sudan imbroglio was really a CIA agent moonlighting for Mossad and the teddy bear had secret listening devices inside it, presumably to spy on the diplomatic activities of the parents of the kids in the class when the kids took the bear home. I am not making this up, and I have no idea how anyone else could either.


Speaking of madness ... (1/12/2007)
DuringWilliam Hogarth : Inside Bedlam the week I was offered some convincing evidence of the dangers of vaccines. The evidence came in the form of a statement from someone named Guylaine Lanctot, M.D. (Note the medical degree.) I thought the name was familiar, and sure enough I had once before been referred to a book (The Medical Mafia) by this person. Here are a couple of quotes which show how mad someone can get when they really try to set the bar high.

Vaccination enables the selection of populations to be decimated. It facilitates targeted genocide. It permits one to kill people of a certain race, a certain group, a certain country. And to leave others untouched. In the name of health and well-being, of course.

and

Vaccination is a biological weapon at the service of biological warfare. It permits the targeting of people of a certain race, and leaves the others who are close by more or less untouched. It makes it possible to intervene in the hereditary lineage of anyone selected. A new speciality is born. Genetic engineering. It is flourishing, enjoys much prestige, and is receiving substantial research funds. The challenge is staggering. To find a vaccine which gives an illness against which we already have the vaccine! In this way, we would be able to send in troops who have already been vaccinated against the killer vaccine, which they would then spread among the enemy. It is absolutely crazy and insane!

You said it, Dr Lanctot - it is absolutely crazy and insane!


The Sabin saga (1/12/2007)
I Dr Albert Sabinhave received a preliminary reply to my enquiry at the Sabin Vaccine Institute about an obviously false statement attributed to Dr Albert Sabin. I wrote:

In my unending battles with the people who lie about the dangers of vaccination I continually come across claims that authoritative people have condemned vaccination or suggested that it is too dangerous. The most recent of these is the following:

"Official data have shown that the large-scale vaccinations undertaken in the US have failed to obtain any significant improvement of the diseases against which they were supposed to provide protection." Dr A. Sabin, developer of the Oral Polio vaccine.

Usually, if the quotations can be tracked down to anywhere other than anti-vaccination liar web sites they are either misquotes or taken completely out of context. As I cannot imagine Dr Sabin ever saying anything like this in any context at all I am assuming that it is just another lie told by these people as part of their insane campaign to ensure that children continue to be put at risk.

I felt that the Sabin Institute would be an appropriate place to ask whether Dr Sabin ever said anything remotely like this, and if he did, in what context.

Thank you.

Nate from the Institute wrote back:

Dear Peter,
I am checking a couple of places I think might be able to help us with this. Thanks for your diligence in pointing this out. I think it's obvious that the quote has been cut and pasted from website to website without any real thought by the fact that most of them say "Decemebr" 7, 1985! I'll let you know what I find out.

The original quoter has now informed me that evidence for the veracity of the "quote" is that it first appeared on an anti-vaccination liar web site in 1998. I do not find this argument convincing.


A common failing (1/12/2007)
You may notice that Nate from the Sabin Vaccine Institute observed that the same spelling mistake appeared on many anti-vaccination liar web sites. In the item above about Dr Lanctot, the expression "research funds" appears. I found fifty web sites which used the words "research hinds" instead, which is obviously a problem of character recognition from a scan. Fifty different web sites! Those anti-vaccination liars sure hate to do any individual research, don't they? If one liar says it it most be true, so let's just copy it.

These creatures don't just steal from each other. The classic of anti-vaccination liar cut-and-paste was a page where the list of liar sites here had been copied. I found this by accident because there was a JavaScript error on the liar's page and I looked at the page source to see what the problem was. What I saw were several broken links to an image I used to use in my site listings to indicate that a new link had been added.


Some good news for a change (1/12/2007)
This news is causing some wailing and gnashing of teeth in some parts. Just think of all those children who have missed out on the benefits of measles. And it has made more work for me, because I have had to adjust my year-to-date measles deaths counter.

Measles deaths in Africa plunge by 91%
Africa leads a strong decline in global measles deaths

29 NOVEMBER 2007 | ATLANTA/GENEVA/NEW YORK/WASHINGTON -- Measles deaths in Africa fell by 91% between 2000 and 2006, from an estimated 396 000 to 36 000, reaching the United Nations 2010 goal to cut measles deaths by 90% four years early. The spectacular gains achieved in Africa helped generate a strong decline in global measles deaths, which fell 68% worldwide – from an estimated 757 000 to 242 000 – during this period.

The progress was announced today by the founding partners of the Measles Initiative: the American Red Cross, UNICEF, the United Nations Foundation, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and WHO. The data will be published in the 30 November editions of WHO’s Weekly Epidemiological Record and CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"This is a major public health success and a tribute to the commitment of countries in the African region," said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General. "We need to sustain this success and intensify our efforts in other parts of the world, as there are still far too many lives lost to this disease."

Read the rest here.


Tim talks about lawyers (1/12/2007)
Our old friend Tim Bolen, spokesturd for cancer quacks, doctors who grope their patients and dentists who file fraudulent insurance claims, has informed me that I am in great danger of legal action:

You too, peter, are in trouble - for you, through your stupidity, made yourself liable under US Court jurisdiction when you joined the "anti- quackery webring..." based in Ashland, Oregon.

Well, I'm just shakin' in my boots over this.

And, of course, this:

December 8, 2007

There was no update to this site on the weekend of December 8.

So where was I?

Moving the contents of my daughter's house from one place to another. It was all very exciting because I got to drive a truck and almost got into a fist fight with a drug dealer after someone stole my mobile phone (*). I taught the World's Finest Grandson how to rest his elbow on the truck's window sill and we rented Smokey and the Bandit from Blockbuster on the way home. My family have hidden the mesh-backed CAT baseball cap, the rye whiskey and the country music tapes, and everything should be back to normal soon.

(*) I say "almost" because the drug dealer (who was supporting the thief's mother) hit me for standing too close but I didn't hit back. I think I was supposed to be intimidated and run away but instead I just took a step closer. Exit moron confused by an unexpected reaction to a threat. Running this site for the past few years has taught me a lot about how to respond to bullying.

December 15, 2007

I was moving furniture ... (15/12/2007)
and I started thinking about the consequences of putting things in the wrong places. Perhaps an expert could help.


See more of Tim Whyatt's work here


It's sometimes difficult to be colour-blind (15/12/2007)
I believe that one of the greatest disservices that can be done to anyone is to treat them unequally before the law because of something which is outside their control, like ethnicity or disability. It is also a disservice to society when people are treated differently because of matters of choice, like religion. It is a tradition in many countries to display a statue representing the concept of justice with fairness and equality for all being illustrated by a blindfold.

The papers around my place have been full of outrage lately about the sentences handed out to nine men who raped a girl. Six of the men will serve no time in prison at all and the judge ordered that no criminal offence should be recorded against their names. The other three men were sentenced to six months each, but the sentences have been suspended and they will stay outside unless they reoffend in the next year. The sentences were made on the recommendation of the crown prosecutor, who told the judge that the incident was just one of "childish experimentation" and that the girl had consented. The men's ages ranged from "too young to be mentioned in the media" to 26. Did I mention that the girl was ten years old at the time?

The only reason for the bizarre leniency in sentencing and the affront to civilisation is that the rape took place in an Aboriginal community. Apparently such behaviour is unexceptional in such an environment. My opinion is that rape is unacceptable anywhere at any time. It is particularly egregious when the victim is a child, and no amount of sophistry can convince me that a ten-year-old girl is emotionally able to give consent to sex with even one man, let alone nine. It is disgraceful that any officer of the court should even be able to suggest that consent should be a consideration in sentencing when the law quite clearly states that the victim is too young to give consent.

It does Aborigines (or any other group in society) no favour to treat them differently under the law. Yes, indigenous people have been treated badly in Australia in the past (we are not alone in this) and there is a lot to be done to improve health and education for Aborigines, but one of the fundamental principles underlying the idea of "country" is that there is one legal system which applies to all citizens. Rape is rape whoever commits it. Sex with a ten-year-old girl is outrageous no matter what the girl says at the time. People who commit these crimes have no right to freely live in a civilised society, and this applies whatever colour their skin is or whatever they happen to believe about the way the universe works.

Coincidentally, while this story was breaking I was accused of racism for wanting an Aboriginal boy to be found and punished for stealing my rather expensive (and new) mobile phone. His mother made the generous offer to have a group of her friends and relatives come around with baseball bats to work on my white arse for "putting shit" on her son for no other reason than that he had dark skin. My first response was that I had no idea what colour he was until she appeared in a cloud of vile language (some other neighbourhood boys had fingered him, without mentioning anything other than his name), my second response was that I didn't care what colour the thief was because that didn't excuse thieving. My final response was delivered in a quiet voice with my face about five centimetres from hers, and was a reaction to her continued loud screeching (in front of some very young children) of suggestions that I should engage in sexual activity. I told her that there weren't enough antibiotics in the world for anyone to want to do that with her. It didn't get my phone back, but it made me feel better.


Speaking of bullying ... (15/12/2007)
I was involved in a discussion about the rape on some online forum and someone suggested that I wasn't in possession of all the facts and therefore could not make a comment on whether the event had been rape or just a fun night out. I replied that all I had to know was the girl's age, and added the question which experience has shown is never answered by people supporting paedophilia (but claiming not the be paedophiles themselves):

Let's put it this way - how young would a girl have to be to be too young for you?

The moron offered the following reply:

I suppose your refusal to consider all the relevant facts at least explains how you arrive at your fanciful conclusions.

Not that my personal preferences have anything to do with Judge Bradley 's decision or hysterical attidudes (sic) to paedophilia.... but I am not seeking a girl of any age so there is no answer to your question.

There was only one possible way I could reply to this, and it was with another question:

Then I'll rephrase my question - how young would a boy have to be to be too young for you?

To nobody's surprise I have not received an answer, although elsewhere the poster has since suggested that it was all a beatup by the "jewsmedia" and of little concern anyway as Aborigines are no different to animals and we don't worry when animals have sex. Somehow I feel that rational discussion with this piece of filth would be an impossibility.

The conversation, such as it was, reminded me of someone who claimed (again in a public forum) that I was infringing the free speech rights of paedophiles by giving a Highly Commended award to the North American Man-Boy Love Association in my 1999 Millenium Awards. That particular supporter of child abuse ran away and was never heard of again after I asked him how old his children would have to be before he handed them over to strangers for casual sex.


And another conversation (15/12/2007)
I Girl being put at risk of fainting.have mentioned before how the vaccine against human papilloma virus is causing much heartache in the anti-vaccination liar community. Someone posted the following extract from a newspaper article to the Usenet newsgroup misc.health.alternative:

WITH almost 500 Australian teenage girls suffering serious reactions to the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil, parents should be worried about its safety.

Reports of women collapsing, convulsing in seizures, breaking out in severe rashes and even worse - death - are enough for any mother or father to prevent their young girl from being immunised.

Someone else then dared me to comment on it:

Ratbags will be sure to put that on his website.
Oh, sorry. I forgot only flaming, lies and spam are there.

How could I resists this challenge? Here is my reply:

I assume you mean me. I have noticed that anti-vaccination liars have trouble saying my name, perhaps because of the powerful juju.

I will be featuring it in the next update to the Millenium Project, as an example of how anti-vaccination liars will selectively quote material in the hope that nobody will bother to check. I will pay particular attention to quoting the title of the article - "Cervical vaccine may still be worth risk", and I will make specific mention of the paragraph which says "Every year more than 200 Australian women die from cervical cancer. At the same time another 800 women are diagnosed with the disease".

I realise that deaths from disease are irrelevant to anti-vaccination liars, but 200 dead women is a concern to me, especially as such deaths are now preventable.

I will also mention the last two paragraphs in the article, which for some reason were not quoted in the original message:

"Five hundred women becoming ill from the vaccine is nothing to be taken lightly.

"But nor is the 200 mothers, daughters and girlfriends who could still be alive today if they had the chance to be guarded for life".

And would I encourage my daughters to get the vaccine? No, actually, because the word "would" implies the future. I did my encouraging in the past, so in my case the correct wording is "have encouraged".

And as for the "only flaming, lies and spam":

You really need to find out what words mean before you use them. "Flaming" and "spam" are words associated with email and Usenet, not web sites. It is impossible for a web site to contain spam.

As for "only ... lies", I invite you to point out the lies in the following pages:

http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/tjapaltjarri.htm
http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/litvlit.htm
http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/coincidence.htm
http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/creationdebate4.htm
http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/martinlutherking2.htm
http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/mlmarithmetic.htm
http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/marydaly.htm
http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/parasites.htm
http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/science.htm
http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/umbertoeco.htm

For your convenience I have not listed any pages referring to either quackery or vaccination. Two of the articles are the work of people other than me. I am particularly interested in the analysis of lies on those pages.

I don't expect a coherent answer soon. Or any answer at all. Ever. I do expect, however, to be accused many times in the future of riddling this site with lies and each time a request to enumerate the lies will be met by either silence, diversion or non sequitur. Oh, and those "500 Australian teenage girls suffering serious reactions" - it seems that most of the reaction was fainting or feeling dizzy. Very serious indeed.


Warning words (15/12/2007)
There is a convention in Internet forums called "Godwin's Law", and it states that a conversation has run out of usefulness as soon as anyone mentions Hitler or the Nazis (except where actually relevant, of course). The usual way it works is that someone gratuitously accuses someone else of acting like Hitler (or respecting Hitler), a self-appointed referee calls "Godwin! You lose!", and everyone gets on with some other topic.

I have discovered certain other words which indicate that no further reading may be required, generally because they are clichés which either expose the writer for what they are or indicate lazy thinking. Here are just four of them.



More of Jesus and Mo here

December 22, 2007

Have a good one! (22/12/2007)

I'm going to be very politically incorrect and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. I realise that as an atheistWillam Blakk : Newton (Click for larger view) I should be saying Merry Newtonmas, but ever since Pope Gregory XIII imposed his extreme form of daylight saving on the calendar even such authorities as the BBC have been saying that the anniversary of Isaac Newton's birth is January 4, not December 25. In some matters, however, I am an extreme conservative and I am not having any Pope tell me when I should break out the apple cider and integrate a few equations. Newton is important to Christmas celebrations anyway because his theories and discoveries explain the trajectory of the champagne cork as it travels from the bottle to the forehead of the sleeping Uncle Arthur, causing him to wake up with a start and exclaim "What?" and thereby signal to the gathered tribe that the festivities can now officially begin.

Also, as an atheist, I am supposed to dislike Christmas carols. Actually, I like carols a lot and have even been known to sneak in and stand at the back of the hall when one or other of my local churches has its annual carol-singing event. Some of the best music ever written is religious music, and you don't have to believe in anything except aesthetics to enjoy it. On the other hand there is that mess of inanity collectively called "Christmas music". When I was a mere slip of a lad at high school I had a job in the local supermarket, and the several weeks each year of being forced to listen to repetitions of songs about snow, burning Yule logs and reindeer have left their scars. Where I live it won't be snowing at Christmas any time between now and the next major ice age, and the only flakes falling from the sky at this time of year are ashes from bush fires. Some of these songs are egregiously bad, and if I ever get to meet Bruce Springsteen I will tell him to his face that John - click for a larger viewBorn to Run, Dancing in the Dark, The River, American Skin (41 Shots) and the excellent Eyes on the Prize from the Seeger Sessions only go part of the way to redressing the horror of Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Everything else he has ever done almost balances the scales (but not quite). (People of a certain age who bought those tens of millions of copies of Hot August Night should probably feel the same way about Neil Diamond and Jingle Bell Rock.)

There is one exception I make to my dislike of non-religious Christmas songs, and in fact I don't declare my own festive season officially open until I hear it on the radio. It was written about three decades ago by someone who can reasonably be assumed to have been an atheist, but unfortunately, as with much of the protest music of the sixties, we are still waiting for it to come true. (Speaking of the sixties, did I mention that Bruce Springsteen does a very passable version of We Shall Overcome?)

So this is Christmas
And what have you done?
Another year over
And a new one just begun
And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

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

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


Listen to John

I would like to see everyone back here next year, so as I do each year I suggest that you drink sensibly, drive carefully and do them on different days. It has been a difficult year for my branch of the family tree and many of us are going to experience a Christmas with an enormous hole in it, but things are looking optimistic for 2008. I will be taking a couple of weeks off so unless something startling happens the next update to this site will be a brief one on January 5, with everything back to full power on January 12 for the announcement of the 2007 Millenium Awards.


Science report (22/12/2007)
Put aside Creation Science and its bastard child, Intelligent Design. New discoveries have been made in the war on science and rationality. Here is the scoop from The News of the Times:


See more from Ruben Bolling here.


Coincidence? (22/12/2007)
It might be a coincidence or it might not be, but at least two things associated with Scientology disappeared from the wwweb recently. One was the site ScienTOMogy.info which showed the wonderful video featuring Tom Cruise and Oprah's couch. The other was a video at YouTube about the murder of Elli Perkins by her schizophrenic son. Here they are.


Getting in early (22/12/2007)
The new year hasn't quite begun yet, but the January/February issue of the magazine Australasian Science is already in the shops. This is an excellent magazine and I recommend it to everyone, not just Australians and not just scientists. My enthusiasm for the magazine should not be seen as a function of the fact that my words appear in it several times each year, and 2008 is off to a good start with an article by me about the lack of arithmetic skills which allows people to fall into the multi-level marketing trap. You can read the article here. (Yes, the column is called Naked Skeptic, and while I usually try to enter into the spirit of things it was a cool day when I wrote this piece so I kept my underpants and woolly merino slippers on.)


Some recent email (22/12/2007)
This came in a few days ago:

From: "Don Conner"
Subject: subjectivism is you.
Date: Thu, 06 Dec 2007 12:21:30 -0600

I really don't know how you can pretend to have informed opinion and hold a regular job. In choosing a research project such as vaccination and its perceived benefits or lack there of, I have spent 13 years of in depth analysis. I can say that the methodologies used to factor statistical information have left me with the determination that I have neither the time or the money to pretend to have a fully informed opinion of whether vaccination is useful or not. My opinion is not to name call and denigrate those whose beliefs are either for or against, but rather present arguments for examination from both groups and let the viewer or reader decide for themselves. At the other end of that pointing finger there are three pointing back at you. My subjective opinion of your site, It sucks big wind. My objective opinion of your site. The author(s) and compiler(s) suffer(s) from a major case of megalomania. Remember all perception is projection. No, is it the other way around? I'll leave that to the deciders, you and George Bush.

Live Love, be well and prosper

Don ConnerTM
I am called through Christ's Love to be dedicated in partnering with you, to respond to your highest and greatest good, at your level of intent, for the purposes of achieving maximum well being for Spirit, mind and body.

Speaking of megalomania, the writer include the following quotation at the bottom of his message:

"An evil exists that threatens every man, woman, and child of this great nation. We must take steps to ensure our domestic security and protect our homeland."
- Adolf Hitler, proposing the creation of the Gestapo in Nazi Germany

I think it's time to declare Godwin. I have no idea why anybody would think that this quote is in any way appropriate to a discussion of the pros and cons of vaccination (or anything else for that matter). It does mean, however, that it would be a waste of time to try to engage the correspondent in debate.


Another use for vaccine ingredients (22/12/2007)


See the rest of Red Meat here.



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