Home > History > Front page updates December 2014
Where has he been? (13/12/2014)
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are some pictures.
(Actually, I wasn't at the convention - I came down with some sort of plague and spent the weekend coughing, wheezing and sleeping. Possibly Man Flu.)
It can't hurt you. It's natural. (13/12/2014)
Imagine that you sold a product which caused the death of a child. What would your reaction be? Would be to apologise, withdraw the product from the shops and promise to try to do better in future, or would your response be that the product is perfectly safe, had a label on it which said "Not for human consumption", and was obviously therefore never intended to be drunk? Would you package it so that it appeared to be identical to a safe product and encourage retailers the place it on shelves next to the safe product?
Well, a few days ago a child died in Victoria as a result of drinking raw milk, and several other children were made sick by drinking the same product. The milk was packaged in two litre containers, just as pasteurised milk is, but was labelled "Bath Milk" and promoted as supposedly being only for cosmetic use. The dairy farm that produces this stuff has denied all responsibility and has continued to claim that it was obvious that the milk was intended for washing in not for drinking. The health food shops which sold the rubbish have been silent. Supporters of pseudoscience have been carrying on about the healthy aspects of raw milk and how pasteurisation affects the nutritional quality of milk.
Have I mentioned that raw milk killed a child?
There are very good reasons why raw milk cannot be sold to the public, but the scoundrels who produce, package, distribute and sell this stuff had managed to get some good legal advice about how to get through loopholes in the law. One of these ways is the way the milk is labelled. They can then claim it is totally the responsibility of the end purchaser to keep the milk in its standard milk packaging away from children and only store it in the bathroom in the same secure cupboard as the bleach for cleaning the toilet. Oh, and keep it refrigerated. Another loophole in the law allows dairy farmers to drink unpasteurised milk from farms that they own, so the charlatans have set up a facade of a cooperative where people buy shares in order to pretend that they are part owners of the dairy. The fact is that this concession to dairy farmers is only supposed to apply to drinking milk within a very short period following milking, not several days later when the pathogens in the milk have had time to reproduce. And, of course, there is the obligatory lying with the truth – the dairy farm makes a lot of noise about how their cows are "grass fed", relying on the ignorance of consumers who may not be aware that all dairy cattle on all dairy farms are fed on grass. But as the young folk say: "Liars gonna lie".
I have seen people who should know better try to put all the blame on the end consumers and the parents of the dead child, but the people who make, distribute and sell this product know exactly what they are doing. They know the product is dangerous and they have obviously spent money with lawyers to find legal ways that they can continue to sell it. I have also seen people expressing sympathy for the parents of the dead child, saying that they have suffered enough. These parents might be ignorant of science or the truth, but I'm not sure that the same sympathy would be shown if they had harmed the child in some other way. They fed their child with something that every rational person knows is dangerous; they fed their child something that is labelled "Not for human consumption"; they didn't for a moment think that the label "Bath milk" meant that they should wash the children rather than feed them the milk.
It is almost obscene that someone can use a loophole in the law to sell a dangerous product to the public, particularly when it is obvious that they know the thing is dangerous and they do not care. If Mountain View Farm Share were to decide to go into a different line of business and convert their milking shed into a laboratory for the manufacture of methamphetamine the police would be all over them like a cheap suit and labelling the plastic bags "Bath Salts" and "Not for human consumption" would be ridiculed if offered as a defence in court.
I have no real problem with people charging a little bit more for "organic" products because it is just a form of voluntary taxation (organic homogenised and pasteurised full cream milk sells for $4.15 per litre in my local health food shop, and is nutritionally and chemically identical to the milk sold for $1 per litre in the local supermarket), but when the naturalistic fallacy is used to promote dangerous products it is time for action. The sale of raw milk, however it is labelled, should be totally banned, and people who produce, package, distribute or sell it should be treated in exactly the same way as people who do these things with illegal drugs.
The dairy has the following statement on their web page:
"Voluntarily"? Pull the other one. Here is what the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has to say, and here is the official government announcement of the recall. They volunteered after they were told to. And that web site address in the recall notice and on the bottles of milk? It has been "fixed" so that it no longer works.
Mountain View have now closed their Facebook page because they didn't like the comments. It will be a better day when they close their web site selling raw milk and close the business as well.
"Ethical"? They wouldn't recognise an ethic if it jumped up and bit them on the face.
Merry Christmas (20/12/2014)
The staff at the RatbagsDotCom Empire would like to wish all our family, friends, website visitors, supporters, correspondents (both complimentary and non-complimentary), and even our sworn enemies a very Merry Christmas and an excellent Happy New Year. I know there are people who object to the word "Christmas" because apparently it has some religious connotation. Christmas around my place is a secular holiday and an opportunity to spend relaxing time with friends and family. If anyone wants to email me to whine about my apparent celebration of a religious festival they should send their emails to firstname.lastname@example.org where the messages will be ridiculed, laughed at and then immediately deleted.
And here's a note for people who tell me I should use "Xmas" to display my atheism and the people who rant about the use of "Xmas" because it takes "the Christ out of Christmas" - "Christ" is not a name, it comes from the Greek word for "anointed one", and those people should look at the first letter in the word "Χριστός".
Enjoy yourself over the festive season but remember to restrict your enjoyment so that it doesn't cause harm to you or to others, and I hope to see you all back here next year. The plan is to resume updates to this website on January 10th, but if something remarkable and newsworthy happens between now and then there might be an emergency update.
A mystery comic stolen from someone who stole it and posted it to Facebook.
Let me know if you know who made it.
Wakefield runs away (20/12/2014)
Every time I write something about the despicable Andrew Wakefield I hope it's the last time I have to mention him but he keeps bobbing to the surface like a turd in a swimming pool. Last month I mentioned that he had applied for an extension of time to lodge an appeal to the Supreme Court of Texas in his ongoing campaign of litigation against the British Medical Journal and others. As he was pursuing a defamation action in a court in Texas against people and organisations resident in the UK there was never any hope that any court in Texas would accept that they had jurisdiction in the matter. He has managed to drag this on for a couple of years and in November was given until December 3 to lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court. Here is a notice from the Supreme Court allowing his most recent extension plea:
That date has long passed and the court record is now showing the following progress of rulings and documents in the case. You will note that no appeal was lodged by December 3.
For all thinking people this must mean that the whole thing is over and done with and can never be revived, but I don't think it would surprise me if some lawyers were to advise Wakefield that there was a possibility of wasting even more of the court's time so that the pretense of a lawsuit can continue to be publicised by Wakefield's supporters. I do hope however that he now goes into the obscurity which he has always deserved. It is highly probable that there will be no cessation of the lies that are continually told about how this gallant whistleblower was crushed by the orthodoxy, but there is a precedent (AlanYurko) of heroes of the anti-vaccination liar movement being discarded as soon as their usefulness is over, so maybe something good can come of this.
And it was a SLAPP suit under Texas law and that means Wakefield has to pay the defendants' costs. I did say something good might come of this.
One source of endless amusement throughout this whole farcical legal saga has been the commentary by our old friend Patrick Timothy Bolen, spokescretin for the most egregious of quacks on the planet. In one of his numerous bloviating comments about the case he had the following to say:
You can be sure that TEXAS will give your little country all of the respect it deserves. I feel confident that your shining star (choke) British Medical Journal will get its day in court. Please have your attendees dress appropriately. Keep in mind that in OUR Court system men don't wear dresses and girly wigs.
Here is a photograph of the Justices of the Supreme Court of Texas. Please pay attention to the way the men are wearing dresses.
The Placebo Effect (20/12/2014)
With the fine weather we've been having lately it has not been too unpleasant getting into character to write my Naked Skeptic column for Australasian Science magazine. Cody The Religion Hating Dog no longer sniggers when he walks past my office but I still have to be careful opening the door to the lady from the Post Office when she delivers parcels from eBay. I can still remember the shrieking from last time.
My most recent column contains highly scientific anecdotal evidence about the action of the Placebo Effect and you can read it here. As usual, I encourage everyone to go to the Australasian Science website and subscribe to this excellent magazine or at least go to the newsagent and demand that he stocks it if he doesn't. It's always full of interesting articles which can be understood by people without degrees in science (like me).
Read the fine print (20/12/2014)
Finding myself in a loose end, I decided to read the rules for people using the website belonging to the crooks at Doctors Data. Generally the rules for using a website or services of a business are quite simple and usually boil down to the level of copyright being enforced. Doctors Data go a little bit beyond this and have many thousands of words telling people what they can and can't do with their website and with the services provided by the "laboratory". The section quoted below is rather intriguing, and I invite you to pay attention to the highlighted words.
The information and communication services contained in this site are intended for our professional healthcare provider customers and should not be construed as medical advice. DDI's site SERVICES, SOFTWARE, and INFORMATION (the "Services") accessed through DDI's site are provided "AS IS" without warranty, express or implied. The information and statements made in DDI's site have not been cleared or evaluated by the FDA. The Services are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. DDI hereby excludes all implied warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular use or purpose with respect to the Services. There are no warranties, which extend beyond the description on the face of this Agreement. DDI makes no warranty as to the reliability, accuracy, timeliness, usefulness, adequacy, completeness or suitability of the Services. DDI cannot and does not warrant against human and machine errors, omissions, delays, interruptions or losses, including loss of data. DDI cannot and does not guarantee or warrant that files available for downloading from this online site will be free of infection by viruses, worms, Trojan horses or other code that manifests contaminating or destructive properties. DDI does not warrant or guarantee that the functions or Services performed in DDI's site will be uninterrupted or error-free or that defects in DDI's site will be corrected. Users of DDI's site are responsible for (1) implementing and maintaining adequate procedures and checkpoints to satisfy their particular requirements for accuracy of data input and output and (2) maintaining a means external to DDI's site for the reconstruction of any lost data.
I find it rather strange that the services of a diagnostic laboratory "are not intended to diagnose" anything. Actually I'm not very surprised at all, because Doctors Data aren't really in the business of diagnosis, they are in the business of providing their customers with the answers that they want. You want to find heavy metal pollution so you can apply some chelation to extract money from wallets? This is the laboratory for you. Want to prove that the mercury that is not in vaccines can be found in your child's hair, giving you grounds for a fraudulent court case? You've come to the right place. Want to convince someone living in Australia that they have Lyme disease from ticks that can only be found 12,000 km away so you can steal their savings? Have we got a test for you? Found a potential patient with both money and an itch? Just say the word "Morgellons" and the results are on their way.
I also find it amusing, but not in any way surprising, that they don't even like to make a suggestion that their tests might be reliable and accurate. Why would they need to be either when the job is to provide what the customer wants? I'm a bit surprised at the disclaimer about timeliness, as surely the "results" could be typed up as soon as the test request comes in. Why waste time and materials with all those test tubes and CSI props when you already know the answer?
Have I mentioned that Doctors Data is a bunch of crooks? I apologise if I've given you any indication to the contrary.
Pat's off his meds. Again. (20/12/2014)
As I have mentioned both Andrew Wakefield and Doctors Data it would be remiss of me not to point to the latest blatherings from Patrick Timothy Bolen, as both of these are things he fantasises about on a regular basis. He has been predicting massive victories in court for both for several years now, but it is a well-known fact across the US legal profession that when Pat predicts the outcome of any court proceedings he will invariably be wrong, so wrong that you could bet your life savings on the opposite.
Pat's latest ranting to his "millions of health freedom fighters" includes a marvellous explanation of how Twitter works. You might wonder why anybody has to explain Twitter to anyone these days but when you see that Pat's corporate Facebook page only has 70 "likes" and that Pat himself has only about 270 Facebook friends it becomes obvious that the millions quite possibly have no idea about how social media works or even participate in it themselves.
His misunderstanding of Twitter is so great that he seems to think that every tweet that contains a particular hashtag is some sort of billboard advertising something. No, Pat, they are Twitter messages that contain the specific string of text and are ephemeral - for all practical purposes they don't exist a short time after first appearing. He is ranting on about the specific hashtag #CDCwhistleblower, and I have actually used that myself several times while debunking the nonsense and lies being told about the almost non-existent whistleblowing. I don't think that those tweets that I made are actually billboards advertising anything. Of course nobody should be surprised at Pat Bolen being ignorant of something. After all a man who can't remember where he lives or where he went to school and college probably doesn't know much at all.
You can read the hilarious rant here, but be warned that Pat's inability to construct a webpage means you might have to use a very big screen and set the browser window as wide as possible. Web design is obviously another thing in the collection of Pat Bolen's ignorance.
And yes, Pat – we are laughing AT you, not WITH you.
Homeopathy Plus! bucketed in court (24/12/2014)
On Monday, December 22nd, Justice Perry of the Federal Court of Australia handed down her decision in the matter of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission vs Homeopathy Plus! and Fran Sheffield. I was there to hear and cheer at the result, and I hope to be there on February 4th when the penalties are announced. As the Court has the power to apply penalties of more than a million dollars to corporations I imagine Fran Sheffield will be very busy selling hundreds and thousands sweets for 15 cents each over the next month to pay the fine and her legal bills. And the ACCC's costs too, of course. Here is the shortened form of the judgment.
THE COURT DECLARES THAT:
1) The First Respondent and the Second Respondent have in trade and commerce:
2) The First Respondent and the Second Respondent have in trade or commerce:
THE COURT ORDERS THAT:
3) The matter is listed for directions at 9.30 am on Wednesday 4 February 2015 in order to set a timetable for any further evidence on the question of penalties and submissions including on the injunctive and other final orders sought by the Applicant.
The full judgment is more than 100 pages long, so I'll just say that you can read it here.
Here is the ACCC's media release:
Court finds Homeopathy Plus! vaccine claims misleading
23 December 2014
The Federal Court has found that Homeopathy Plus! Pty Ltd (Homeopathy Plus!) and its director, Ms Frances Sheffield, engaged in misleading conduct and made false or misleading representations regarding the effectiveness of the whooping cough vaccine and homeopathic remedies as an alternative in breach of the Australian Consumer Law.
The Homeopathy Plus! website contained statements to the effect that the whooping cough vaccine is "unreliable at best" and "largely ineffective" in preventing whooping cough, and that homeopathic remedies are a proven safe and effective alternative for the prevention of whooping cough.
The Court found that Homeopathy Plus! and Ms Sheffield engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false or misleading representations by publishing statements on the Homeopathy Plus! website to the effect that:
when in fact the whooping cough vaccine is effective in protecting a significant majority of people from
contracting whooping cough.
The Court also found that Homeopathy Plus! and Ms Sheffield engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct and made false and misleading representations to the effect that there was an adequate foundation in medical science for the statement that homeopathic treatments are a safe and effective alternative to the whooping cough vaccine, when in fact no such foundation exists and the vaccine is the only treatment currently approved for use and accepted by medical practitioners for the prevention of whooping cough.
"Representations that may mislead consumers about the effectiveness of medical products or treatments are of significant concern to the ACCC," ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
"In this case, there was a real risk that consumers might be influenced by the representations not to use the whooping cough vaccine and instead to rely solely on homeopathic products for the prevention of whooping cough. This is against the advice of medical professionals and the Commonwealth Department of Health."
The matter returns to court on 4 February 2015 to set a timetable for further evidence on penalties and other remedies. The ACCC is seeking injunctions and pecuniary penalties, in addition to the declarations already made by the Court.
Whooping cough is a highly infectious respiratory disease which is most serious in young children. The Australian Government Department of Health recommends children receive the whooping cough vaccine as part of routine childhood immunisation.
In April 2012, Homeopathy Plus! removed representations from its website at the request of the ACCC, after the ACCC had expressed concerns they were misleading. Similar claims were then reinstated in January 2013, after which the ACCC instituted proceedings against Homeopathy Plus! and Ms Sheffield.
Now let's get the ACCC going after the rest of the quackery industry.
Child abuser dies. Nobody cries. (24/12/2014)
Speaking of other aspects of the quackery industry, the good news continued the next day. One of the most disgusting charlatans around, Dr Mayer Eisenstein, had died. According to the report on one anti-vaccination liar web site "he was rushed to the ED and died peacefully in his sleep". Even in death, his followers had to lie about him, because being rushed to hospital is not compatible with peaceful dying while sleeping. The conspiracy theorists were immediately on the case, asking why a very healthy man who knew all the right supplements to take should die at any age:
(I assume the "MCG" was an autocorrect of "MUCH". The writer probably lives in Melbourne
and her Facebook client thought she meant "Melbourne Cricket Ground". As you do.)
And why would anti-vaccination liars be such fans of this creature? Because he was apparently the person who first thought of administering Lupron to autistic children. This drug is used for the chemical castration of sex offenders and this man thought that it was appropriate to give it to prepubescent children for no scientific reason, but certainly for the financial reason of stealing parents' life savings at a cost of several thousand dollars per month. I assume that, like the Geiers, he was submitting false insurance claims, because Lupron is not approved for the treatment of anything other than precocious puberty.
People often say that you should only say good things about the dead. Mayer Eisenstein is dead, and that is a good thing to say. Unfortunately his family is already talking about how to continue the business. We are supposed to feel sorry for his family but they knew full well what he was doing and they were happy to spend the money he stole from parents and insurance companies.