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A kinder and gentler 2009

At the start of 2004 I instituted a "kinder and gentler" policy for dealing with people with whom I might not normally be friendly. During 2004 the policy was reactive - I was kind and gentle when replying to critics. I extending the policy for 2005 to become proactive, and regularly reached out to people with whom I might not be in agreement.

I have decided to reintroduce my Proactive Kind and Gentle Policy again in 2009, where I write to people to ask them questions to clarify their positions or to point out problems with their arguments. By doing this I hope to establish a dialogue and to demonstrate my commitment to tolerance of their views.


The first one this year goes to ex-Dr Rebecca Carley

Dear Dr Carley,

I have been looking at your web site and it has raised a few questions for me. I note that you had your medical licence revoked a year or so back because at the time you were obviously barking mad. The content of your site today suggests that the pills, the counselling and the therapies are not working, and, if anything, you appear to be getting worse. I checked my thesaurus for possible conditions and I wonder if you might like to select your particular mental state or states from the following list:

ape, baked, bananas, barmy, batty, berserk, bizarre, bonkers, brainsick, confused, cracked, crazed, crazy, cuckoo, daft, delirious, demented, derailed, deranged, dingy, dippy, disarranged, disconcerted, disordered, displaced, distracted, distraught, disturbed, dotty, erratic, fatuous, flaky, flipped, flipped out, frantic, freaked out, frenzied, fried, fruity, idiotic, impractical, insane, irrational, irresponsible, kooky, loco, loony, loopy, lunatic, mad, maddened, maniac, maniacal, manic, mental, mentally ill, moonstruck, nuts, nutty, nutty as fruitcake, of unsound mind, off, off one’s rocker, out of one’s mind, out of one’s tree, out to lunch, paranoid, perplexed, potty, preposterous, psycho, psychopathic, psychotic, rabid, raging, raving, round the bend, schizo, schizophrenic, schizzo, screw loose, screwball, screwy, senseless, silly, touched, unbalanced, unglued, unhinged, unscrewed, unsettled, unsound, unzipped, wacky, whacko, wild, wrong

Judging by your attitude towards vaccination I would say that "psychopathic" is a close fit and it is obvious from things you said at your hearings that you are paranoid, but perhaps you might like to expand on these so that visitors to your web site can have the fullest possible information about you in order to assess what they see on the site and its relationship to reality.

Thank you.

Your friend, Peter.


A child died. Hooray! (14/3/2009)
I was banned from the Australian Vaccination Network's Internet mailing list many years ago. Since then I have found various ways of finding out what goes on there. It is a regular occurrence for people to be banned for expressing contrary opinions (known in the outside world as "talking sense"), but usually they get to post at least one message before dismissal; I didn't get to post at all before the powerful magic of my name became too much to bear. (The magic worked even better on another list - the owner of the largest anti-vaccination liar list closed it completely because she believed, on no evidence, that I might be a member.)

When the news broke that a child had died of whooping cough, the first in my state since 2000 and the first in Australia since 2004, I thought that It might be time to check the list traffic to see how the denizens were reacting. I found what I expected to find - trivialisation of the death and exploitation of it to attack vaccines. I thought it was time for some more Kind and Gentle activity, so I sent the following email to AVN President Meryl Dorey and someone known only as Sue who had recently rejoiced in a news story about a death from measles:

Congratulations. You must be very pleased that your work is achieving the expected results.

The reaction was predictable. Sue posted my email to the list with a paranoid comment about how spies must have given me her email address. Someone commented that it was sneaky of me not to post my email to the list that I am banned from posting to, and someone else ad hominemed me by ridiculing Australian Skeptics. None of these people bothered to contact me directly, but instead chose to talk about me (without referring to me by name - there's that powerful juju again) in a forum in which I am prohibited from participating. Of course, none of them showed any pity for the dead child or tried to explain why the death had anything to do with the dangers of vaccines.


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.


I love the smell of miracle cures in the morning (29/8/2009)
Noel Batten sells eBooks which purport to offer cures for some diseases, particularly Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. He was brought to my attention in the same week that by coincidence the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission had managed to shut down what appears to be an identical scam. To clear up any confusion, I emailed Mr Batten to see if I could get any further information.

Dear Mr Batten,

I notice on your web site that you sell eBooks with cures for Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. I wonder if the recent successful action by the ACCC against two publishers of eBooks offering miracle cures might have any application to your activities. In case you haven't seen it, the media release from the ACCC says:

International cooperation closes internet health cure scam

International cooperation between Australian and American agencies has shut down an internet medical eBook scam.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has obtained final orders, by consent, in the Federal Court of Australia against two individuals, Leanne Rita Vassallo and Aaron David Smith of Cecil Hills, New South Wales, for false, misleading and deceptive conduct in relation to a health cure scam.

The scam was brought to the ACCC's attention by the Washington State Attorney General's Department and our investigation was carried out in conjunction with them. They have also filed their own proceedings against Ms Vassallo and Mr Smith in the King County Court, Washington State, US.

The ACCC has also been working with the NSW Police.

The ACCC's court action alleged that over two years Ms Vassallo and Mr Smith operated a large number of websites selling eBooks containing claimed cures for a wide range of health conditions including acne, asthma, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, menopause and prostate cancer.

The court was satisfied that Ms Vassallo and Mr Smith sold the eBooks to more than 60,000 consumers internationally.

The websites were similar as each was dedicated to a particular medical condition. They featured a person who had supposedly suffered from the condition and had purportedly discovered an effective home remedy. Across a number of different websites the photograph of the author was the same, but with different names. The websites also contained testimonials from happy users of the eBooks. The testimonials were from the same people across numerous different websites. The ACCC's expert evidence was to the effect that the treatments would not have any therapeutic benefits for, or medical efficacy in the treatment of the health conditions.

On 30 July 2009 before Justice Moore, the ACCC obtained interlocutory injunctions, by consent, restraining Ms Vassallo and Mr Smith from engaging in the conduct on any website pending final hearing. The injunctions also required the respondents to take down the websites.

At the final hearing on Thursday 20 August 2009, Justice Graham, in an ex tempore judgment, found that Ms Vassallo and Mr Smith had engaged in false, misleading and deceptive conduct.

He described them as "purveyors of quack medical advice and of quack medicine."

He reached the conclusion that the testimonials were plainly contrived. He noted that the evidence showed that the respondents had received more than $US 1 million from the sale of the eBooks.

Justice Graham also made injunctions on a final basis preventing the respondents from making these or similar representations in the future. The respondents were also ordered to pay the ACCC's costs.

AACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said: "This is a warning to all internet scammers. It is becoming more and more common for agencies such as the ACCC to work with international agencies to bring about the demise of international scams like this."

Release # NR 205/09
Issued: 25th August 2009

I don't know whether the ACCC is aware of your activities, but they are probably the best people to decide whether the Vassallo and Smith ruling applies to you. In order to speedily resolve any doubt I have contacted the ACCC with the following message:

I refer to the ACCC media release # NR 205/09 "International cooperation closes internet health cure scam".

Noel Batten appears to be offering the same sort of eBooks as did Vassallo and Smith. In particular, he has two web sites offering books that claim to contain cures for Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis.

http://www.parkinsonsdiseasecure.com - Parkinsons Disease Cure - eBook - The Greatest Medical Blunder

http://www.ms-cure.com - Multiple Sclerosis Cure - eBook - The greatest medical mistake

As both the page titles and the domain names contain the word "cure" it would be hard for Mr Batten to make a credible case that he was not offering cures for these conditions. Although neither domain name has a ".au" and Mr Batten seems to spend a lot of time overseas, both sites display Australian telephone numbers.

The claims of cures, the promulgation of these "cures" through eBooks and the reliance on unsubstantiated anecdotes make it apparent that Mr Batten is doing what Vassallo and Smith were doing and I encourage the ACCC to take the same action against him as was taken against them.

Thank you

I look forward to receiving your comments about this matter. As is my usual policy, this email and any responses will be published on my web site at www.ratbags.com/rsoles

Thank you.


The last note about Advanced Allergy Elimination (I hope) (5/9/2009)
I mentioned last week that Advanced Allergy Elimination, now calling themselves Allergy Pathway, were ordered by a court to stop saying some things that were not true and to stop some misleading or deceptive practices. I wondered how they were going to keep busy for the next few years, so I sent a Kind and Gentle email asking for details:

I notice from an ACCC media release and a notice on your web site that you can no longer claim to be able to detect or treat allergies or to claim that your treatments are safe, and I also see that you have changed your name to remove reference to eliminating allergies.

If you can't do what you have been doing for some years, what are you going to do for the next three years until the court order expires? Will people with allergies just have to wait?


A chiroquactor quacks (3/10/2009)
Speaking of the HCCC, a chiropractor has lodged a complaint to the organisation about Australian Skeptics. Before going any further about the nature of the complaint I should point out that this is an Atlas chiropractor. That means that he apparently believes that it isn't the whole spine that causes and cures all dis-ease but just the ball-joint where the spine connects to the skull. It seems that adjusting this joint is all that is necessary to fix everything that ails you. It is worth noting that a really skilled hangman can't break this joint, no matter how carefully he constructs the knot and calculates the drop for the executee. Somehow, however, a chiropractor can get his fingers and thumbs in there. Put another way, Atlas chiropractors are on the fringe of the fringe. This one also likes to be called "Dr" as if this will make him into a real medical practitioner.

The complaint is apparently founded on the idea that Australian Skeptics are offering medical advice, The basis for this is that Simon Singh's article from The Guardian is reproduced on their web site. (It's here too!) This is the article that had the British Chiropractic Association reaching for lawyers when the "science" behind their treatments was questioned. Think about the mental processes behind the complaint to HCCC - someone reproduces a newspaper article critical of some form of quackery and this is seen as offering medical advice. If I didn't already suspect (from the chiropractor's advocacy of the Atlas idiocy) that the complainant had a poor grasp on reality then the wording of the complaint would convince me.

I will leave it up to the committee of Australian Skeptics to respond to the chiropractor and the HCCC, but here is my Kind and Gentle email to him:

Dear Mr Ierano,

I have been informed that you have lodged a complaint with the Health Care Complaints Commission over Australian Skeptics republishing Simon Singh's article from The Guardian about the lack of a scientific basis for chiropractic, although why you would think that the words of a British journalist published in a British newspaper would be of any interest to the HCCC eludes me.

I have also republished the article, and you can read it at http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/history/2009/07july.htm#28chiro. I assume that you will want to file a complaint with the HCCC about me as well, and I would appreciate it if you could tell me when this is likely to happen so that I can block out the time needed to write my response. I will be busy over the next few weeks so advance notice would be appreciated. One of the things that I will probably be doing to keep me busy is lodging a complaint to the HCCC about a chiropractor who has the clear and ludicrous implication on his web site that chiropractic can be useful in the treatment of Multiple Sclerosis. Oh, that's right - that would be you.

As is my normal policy this email and any response from you will be displayed on my web site at http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/, where, by coincidence, both of your web sites have been listed since 2001.


Tim's new love (7/11/2009)
I didn't take long for Tim Bolen, spokeswhore for quackery, to forget his very best friend Hulda Clark and find someone else to follow. Here is a newsflash from his newsletter to "millions of health freedom fighters":

TimmyWill Suzanne Somers New Book on Alternative Cancer Therapies Start the Cancer Revolt?...

October 19th, 2009 - Watch Larry King Friday night, October 23, 2009. He's interviewing Suzanne Somers about her new book "Knockout," which talks about REAL treatments, ones that actually work, for cancer.

This was an obvious opportunity to contact Tim and ask him for clarification, so I sent him the following Kind and Gentle email:

Hello Tim,

I see from your newsletter and web site that you now believe that Suzanne Somers has revealed "REAL treatments, ones that actually work, for cancer". Does this mean that you have finally woken up to the fact that your best friend Hulda Clark didn't really have "The Cure For All Cancers" or does it mean that you are just opportunistically jumping on the next bandwagon to come along? Still, seven weeks was long enough to grieve over Hulda's death before moving on, and with her gone you need another trough to feed at.

I have a couple more questions for you while I have the emailer out.

Was it difficult getting approval from the authorities for the release of toxic waste so that the charred remains of the dead Hulda could be dumped into the ocean?

How is your lawsuit against Google, Webring and Wikipedia going? It's coming up to two years now (708 days, actually) since you told me that I was to be engulfed in the legal tsunami involving these organisations and the quackbuster conspiracy. The head of the RatbagsDotCom legal support team at Farr, Gough and Dye has been nagging me about this because she needs to work on budgeting and staffing for next year.


Weekly dose of anti-vax idiocy (21/11/2009)
In marketing there is the concept of "brand extension" where a well-known brand identity is expanded and used on a range of products. Sometimes this can be varieties of the original product (the various different types of Coca Cola) or related products (toothpaste makers selling toothbrushes. insurance companies going into mortgage broking or banking). Sometimes the link can be quite tenuous where it is assumed that the cachet of the brand name is all that is important (Porsche sunglasses, anyone?).

AIDS DayIt looks like some brand extension is going on at the Australian Vaccination Network and they have now branched out into AIDS denial. Their Internet email list this week has been carrying a conversation with the usual idiocies - there is no such thing as HIV and even if there were, it wouldn't cause AIDS. This is inconsistent with claims on the AVN web site that vaccines can activate HIV to cause AIDS and that the MMR vaccine is being used in Africa to spread AIDS as a form of genocide, but nobody ever said that mad people have to make sense.

I felt that this justified a Kind and Gentle email, but this time it was merely copied to the President of the AVN rather than being sent directly. The principle addressee of the email was the AIDS Council of New South Wales:

Something that might interest the AIDS Council -

It seems that another organisation has climbed on the AIDS denial bandwagon.

The Australian Vaccination Network is apparently no longer content with spreading misinformation about vaccines and now appears to be spreading the standard lies about HIV and AIDS. All the usual stuff is there - there is no such thing as HIV and even if there were it couldn't cause AIDS, homeopathy and other forms of quackery are effective treatments (for something they say doesn't exist, but who ever accused them of consistency or logical thinking?), and so on.

Not content with containing this idiocy to private conversations on their internet mailing list, the president of AVN, Meryl Dorey, is publicly listed along with such people as Peter Duesberg and Matthias Rath as signatories to a statement denying the reality of HIV and AIDS.

http://rethinkingaids.com/quotes/rethinkers.htm

There is also a claim on the AVN web site that certain vaccines can cause AIDS (http://avn.org.au/library/index.php/vaccination-information/10-reasons-why-parents-question-vaccination.html - Item 3). Bizarrely, they claim in the same article that a vaccine can "switch on the HIV virus and cause it to become AIDS in humans". But I thought that there was no connection ... (I did mention their lack of consistency and logic.)

The AVN has a reasonably high media profile and are often consulted on news stories related to vaccination. It disturbs me to think that they might be given credence in the spurious "debate" about HIV and AIDS. They put enough people's lives at risk with their irrational scare stories about vaccines without also becoming a voice for AIDS denial.

AVN is currently under investigation by the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission for offering medical advice as part of their anti-vaccination activities. It seems that such advice has now extended to denying the reality of AIDS, just as they deny the seriousness of diseases such as measles, pertussis and polio.

As I commented after attending an AVN seminar where the claim was made that there is a deliberate policy by the World Health Organisation and others to spread AIDS in Africa through the medium of the MMR vaccine, there is madness about and it is manifested greatly in the anti-vaccination movement. Please do whatever you can to limit their attempt to spread the infection of their unscientific and dangerous ideas.

Thank you.


HONcode (5/12/2009)
The Health On the Net Foundation operates a system of certification of web sites based on the quality of the medical information they contain. This site is certified, and it is not simply a matter of filling in a form and asking for certification. I had to make some of my statements about funding, advertising and medical qualifications more clear before I was able to get certification, and sites are checked each year by the HONcode people before certification is renewed.

I was rather surprised, then, to see some anti-vaccination liars gloating about a site called Medical Voices Vaccine Information Center getting its HONcode certification. This news generated an immediate Kind and Gentle email from me to HONcode. I will report the results as soon as I hear something.

From: "Peter Bowditch"
Date: Sun, 06 Dec 2009 15:38:56 +1100
Subject: Anti-vaccination web site gains HONcode accreditation

Various anti-vaccination campaigners have been gloating that the web site "Medical Voices Vaccine Information Center" at http://medicalvoices.org has become HONcode certified.

> Medical Voices Vaccine Information Center
> http://www.medicalvoices.org
> Your personal HONcode ID number is: HONConduct385376

As this site exists solely to oppose vaccination and to both deny the effectiveness and safety of vaccines and to spread fear and lies about vaccines I feel that it is not an appropriate holder of HONcode certification. I notice that the site is not displaying the HONcode logo on its front page, so perhaps they feel that talking about it is all that is necessary.

I proudly display the HONcode logo on two of my sites and I do not like the idea that the logo and HONcode should be tainted by being associated with a site devoted to opposing one of the greatest life-saving medical advances of the last two centuries.

Please revoke the HONcode certification for Medical Voices Vaccine Information Center.

Thank you.



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