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Not much has changed (3/8/2002)
As a result of The Great ISP Meltdown, in which the web hosting service holding the RatbagsDotCom site vanished overnight on Monday 29 July, I have not had much time to work on this site in the last few days. My priority has been to get the commercial sites of some of the other customers of the ISP back up again at another host and get their sites and email working again. Because of these diversions, and because this site was invisible in various parts of the world for a few days this week, I have left the front page content much as it was after the last update. The move was made in a hurry and I still have some technical issues to sort out with the new hosting service, so the internal site search facility and the Skeptic Tank radio program archives are temporarily unavailable. Everything will be back to normal again soon.
... but someone noticed (3/8/2002)
He has been quiet for a couple of months, but nothing excites Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group quite as much as when he can imagine that this site has been closed down. He has announced the closure of the site on no less than 56 occasions before and been wrong each time, so his resurrection this week to gloat over another apparent demise was not unexpected. His being wrong was also not unexpected, and a quick look at the very screen on which you are reading this will show how wrong he was. The tactic of trying to shut down critical web sites seems to be a standard one for people practising various forms of "alternative" or pseudomedicine, but all they really have to do to counter criticism is produce the evidence of the cures. Mr O'Neill would be more productive if he spent his time gathering the records needed to participate in the Cancer 100 Challenge. Despite all the things he has said about me, I will be the first to congratulate him when he receives the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his successful treatment of people with many forms of cancer.
Speaking of missing sites ... (3/8/2002)
A couple of sites of interest to me have gone missing in the last few days. They both relate to murderer Alan Yurko, Hero of Chiropractic and killer of small children. One site is the Woodlands Healing Research Center, which contained Harold Buttram's vile and unprincipled defence of the murderer, and the other is the Free Yurko site which was the killer's own personal site. These aren't just cases of sites which are temporarily unreachable because the Woodlands site is still there but devoid of any content and the Free Yurko site links to a statement by the host (Bizland) saying that the site has been suspended. What is going on? Has principle broken out? Are the free speech rights of child killers being infringed? I suppose I will just have to ask some of my friends on the anti-vaccination liar mailing lists.
Some thanking is required (10/8/2002)
I would like to thank everyone who rushed back to look at this site when it returned from its recent temporary disappearance. I have said in the past that without visitors it is not worth doing this, but the support in the last week has shown that not only is it worth the time I spend on it but the popularity of the site is beyond anything I could ever have imagined when I started out. According to the Alexa site ranking system, the ratbags.com domain is ranked today at position 71,556 among all sites on the web based on visitor count and page views. I'm not worrying Yahoo! (No 1), Google (5) or Microsoft (10), but I am continually surprised (and pleased) when I see that some of the sites that I have listed in The Millenium Project rank way behind this site despite having a lot of publicity and some big reputations. Thank you again, and I hope that I can continue to do whatever it is that keeps you coming back.
A special "thank you" has to go to the staff at Enet21, who now host this site. I had to find somewhere in a hurry not only for RatbagsDotCom but for my business site and the sites (and email) of several of my clients. The staff at Enet21 could not have been more helpful. Special mention must go to Winson, who let me open accounts without the official paperwork (or the prepayment of fees that their service agreements require!), Sven, who helped with the innumerable technical questions that needed to be answered to get background software working on the new servers, and Andrew, who responded immediately and forcefully to complaints and whines from Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group. If you are in Australia and need a web hosting service please consider Enet21, and tell them I sent you. I don't know if I will get any money for the leads, but they might give me an extra cup of coffee when I drop in and also be a bit sympathetic if I exceed my monthly traffic quota occasionally.
|The Enet21 business was sold to OzHosting at the end of 2003. The great service continues there.|
Things are still not quite back to normal
My time priority for the last week has still been on recovery from The Great ISP Meltdown, and real life has been getting in the way of important matters like this site. All the background software is now working again, servers are properly configured and everything seems to be working properly, both here and on the client sites that I actually make a living from, so next week I should be able to get back to looking for new places to list here to replace those links that no longer work, writing more commentaries, and generally annoying those people who require annoying.
Start saving up (10/8/2002)
The 30th Annual Cancer Convention run by the Cancer Control Society will be on at the end of the month. Many of your favourite cancer quacks and leeches will be there, and you can even have a bus tour of Mexican quackery centres.
Censorship and intolerance at iVillage (10/8/2002)
Someone was not impressed when I posted my comments from the previous entry ("Dead children can be useful") to an anti-vaccination forum at iVillage. This anonymous person complained, and in a fine show of support for free speech and uncensored opinion, iVillage deleted my message from their site and sent me the following email. Needless to say, the disruption and the "[h]arassing, offensive, vulgar, abusive or hateful communications" were only in the mind of the complainant, who, I assume, just happens to be the sort of person who opposes vaccination. You can read my response here.
We are very proud of our iVillage Community areas and we attempt to ensure that our members will have a safe and pleasant experience in iVillage. It has come to our attention that you have been disrupting the normal flow of discussion on an iVillage Message Board. When you joined iVillage, you agreed to abide by our Terms of Service. Our Terms of Service state that board disruption is not permitted. Further disruption of a message board including attacks on other members of our community will result in the revocation of your membership. Harassing, offensive, vulgar, abusive or hateful communications -- especially those aimed at sexual orientation, gender, race, color, religious views, national origin, or disability -- will not be tolerated. Thank you for your cooperation.
iVillage Community Staff
Someone noticed (10/8/2002)
The 99 names of ...
The mass media does its job. Not. (17/8/2002)
A few months ago, I was asked by a producer from a high-rated investigative television current affairs show to help with a story they were developing about cancer quackery in Australia. It soon became apparent to me that no research had been done and that the producer had no clue about the scale of the problem or even where to start looking. I was asked to make suggestions, so I developed a sketch for a story based on not-a-medical-Dr Hulda Clark.
(See the rest of this article here.)
Homeopathy - will it never go away? (17/8/2002)
If someone pointed a gun at you and demanded that you give them money, you could go to the police and have the thief charged with a criminal offence. If someone claimed that they could prevent or treat a life-threatening disease and charged you $200 per litre for water to do the job, you would waste your time going to the police because this form of theft is called "homeopathy" and there are no criminal sanctions against it. I find it impossible to believe that the people promoting this scam are not aware that it is fraud. I do not believe for a moment that anyone follows the manufacturing process that would be required to produce the extreme dilutions claimed on product labels. Why would you bother to spend money on all that diluting and succussing when the exact same effect can be achieved by filtering some tap water and putting it into small bottles? Click here for an illustration of how transparently ludicrous the fraud of homeopathy is.
Pyramid schemes - another thing that never goes away
Thinking about the mathematical absurdity of homeopathy reminded me about another way that scamsters exploit the fact that most people have no grasp of the mathematics of large numbers. During May last year I saved all the spam messages I received promoting pyramid schemes and published the collection. Judging by the stream of email I have received lately, nothing has improved since then. Unfortunately, it would seem that P. T. Barnum was right. Multi-level marketers certainly think so.
Hilarious Handicapped Harassment (17/8/2002)
It has been a quiet week, with only one fatuous threat of legal action against the RatbagsDotCom Empire and one promoter of a quack medical device running backwards on the spot. The high point was the invention of a new persona by Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group. Mr O'Neill has taken to calling himself "Walter Burnett" and has told a tragic tale about how "Walter" is a quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair since 1972 by a disastrous MMR vaccine reaction and now forced to use a wand on his head to tap out obscenities on the Internet. This saga would be funny if it wasn't so amusing.
Religion - can people really be this stupid?
Two stories in the news this week illustrate the absurdity of treating religion seriously. In Northern Ireland, some imbecile made death threats against the national soccer team and its administrators over the selection of a player. Was the objection that the player wasn't good enough, or that his particular skills were not the most important thing that the team needed, or even that the transfer price paid was too high? No, the reason was that the player had once been a member of a team with "Celtic" in its name and therefore he might be a Catholic. Unfortunately, that part of the world has had mass insanity over religion (more correctly sectarianism, because they all claim to be Christians) for so long that the authorities had to take the threat seriously.
The other story is about a woman in Nigeria who has been sentenced to death for having a baby. The tasteful method of killing her will be to bury her up to her neck and then have people throw stones at her head until she is dead, although, in a magnanimous gesture of sympathy for the convicted felon, the court has agreed to stay the execution until the baby no longer requires breast feeding. This ridiculous, primitive savagery is apparently dictated by Islamic law. What makes this brain-dead acceptance of the absurdity of Islam even more surprising is that Nigeria is in other ways pretending to be a modern country. For example, there is a concerted effort going on there to wipe out polio by vaccination We can only hope that no mad religious leader gets it into his head that the prophet was against sticking needles into children or they might be stoning nurses next.
Kiddie porn (24/8/2002)
Could there be any more bizarre concept than a child beauty pageant, with little kids dressed up like painted whores so that loser parents can bask in reflected glory while paedophiles drool over their children? Following up on a newspaper story, I came across a site this week that I won't list here (because I don't list pornography sites). It was a site devoted to a nine-year-old girl and it includes such useful information as her panty size (and photographs of her in them). The story is that this site was first created as a family site to share some photos but it was getting 20,000 hits per day after a short period. (A family site with no publicity gets 20,000 hits a day? Yeah, right!) The parents now push the girl into "little miss whatever" contests, and run this site for her. Perhaps I should write to the parents and ask how old she will have to be before they get her out turning tricks. Maybe they could auction her first time on eBay. They could make a video and put it up on her site.
Redefining "free" in scamspeak
Everyone who has ever watched television or read the paper has seen advertisements where something is offered for free as an inducement to try out a product or service. Mostly these offers are genuine, and the freebie has a long and creditable tradition as a sales tool. Sometimes, however, things are not as "free" as they seem. My daughter and her boyfriend answered an advertisement offering a free photography session. They were told that a sitting normally cost $125. That is, if someone walked in off the street, had some photographs taken, and then decided not to buy any of them, they would be charged $125 anyway. That fee was being waived for this special promotion. The youngsters went ahead and had some photographs taken. If they bought the pictures the total cost was going to be almost $800, so they paid $100 deposit. They later paid another $225, bringing the total paid to $325. Their circumstances changed and they decided that they couldn't afford to pay any more so they would write it off to experience (they haven't received any pictures).
The photography outfit is now demanding the rest of the money and threatening drastic action. In summary, the kids were told that they could have something that normally sold for $125 for nothing, they paid $325 for it and are being told that they had better pay a lot more than that. The photography company has set itself up so that the way its administration is structured introduces jurisdictional problems for consumer affairs authorities (invoices are raised in a different state to where the sale is made) and the amount of money is too small to be worth us paying a lawyer to fight the invoice.
This looks like being an expensive lesson for the young folk, but if this sort of thing can happen in a relatively skeptical family then it can happen anywhere. It won't be the last time that someone forgets the old adage that if something sounds too good to be true it probably is. We have all done it; we will all do it again. This was only a small financial scam (although probably repeated thousands of times), but multi-level marketing schemes, share-ramping scams and the Nigerian letters all offer something for nothing to get you interested.
It rises again, like miasma from a carcass
The Gutless Anonymous Liar has reappeared. It went away for 90 days (I wonder what sort of place you stay in for 90 days), but returned just in time for the full moon, spewing forth nonsense, threats, lies and gibberish. During its time away it must have been studying the writing style of Mr William P O'Neill, because it now sounds a lot like him. Uncanny. Maybe when the "Bacon wrote Marlowe wrote Shakespeare" debate is running a bit quiet the academics could put a few graduate students onto the mystery of who wrote the GAL Chronicles. In other harassment matters, the promised legal action over my infringement of someone's Australian constitutional rights has not eventuated, to nobody's surprise. You can see the state of all threatened law suits here.
Anencephaly on the bench (31/8/2002)
I have referred previously to the ludicrous defamation laws in Australia which severely hamper any attempt to expose criminal or distasteful behaviour (truth is not a defence). When the law is made worse by mad judges the danger becomes even greater for anyone who expects that free speech should be protected. While the situation here is generally better than what you read about at Overlawyered.com, decisions still come along occasionally which indicate that judges and magistrates take a perverse pleasure in rewarding the guilty rather than punishing them. Two cases in the last week illustrate this perfectly. In one, a heroin dealer was granted the right to claim a tax deduction for $220,000 stolen from him during a drug purchase transaction. To a sane judge, this would have been seen as the proceeds of crime; a half-sane judge would have asked for documented evidence of the existence of the money (and the associated goods and services tax reconciliation for the sales which produced it).
The second case involved a 16-year-old boy who was refused entrance to a hotel nightclub because he was drunk and underage (the legal age for the purchase and consumption of alcohol is 18). After the refusal he broke into the home of the hotel manager. The manager was frightened by a ranting, drunken stranger inside his home and hit the trespasser with something. The judge described the boy as "a grossly stupid, totally irresponsible, drunken teenage lout", but then went on to award the criminal $50,000 in damages and, just for good measure, to award the lout's mother $18,000 for the distress she was occasioned by having a drunken, trespassing criminal for a son. My worry is that I might have to appear in a court presided over by this sort of clown if, for example, I call a cancer quack a "quack". Contempt of court? What other emotion is possible?
Some good news for once (31/8/2002)
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the absurdity of homeopathy, and I illustrated this with an example of a supposed vaccine against meningococcal disease. The good news is that the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration has ordered the manufacturer of this expensive water to stop selling it, although, unfortunately, no legal action can be taken over the fraud. A representative of the scammers appeared on television and showed his contrition by saying that they were withdrawing it only because the label was confusing, as the product was not intended to be a vaccine but was in fact a homeopathic preparation of the real vaccine which was meant to treat the adverse effects of the vaccine itself. Somehow I was not surprised to see that someone who makes a living by lying and selling fake medicines should also be amongst the ranks of the anti-vaccination liars.
Speaking of expensive water ... (31/8/2002)
Some weeks ago I wrote about a PR campaign for magic water where some scamsters had succeeded in getting a large-circulation magazine and several high-rated television shows to run free advertising for a miracle cure under the guise of reporting the news. A victim of this fraud has written to me to say that he has finally realised that he was being deceived. Jock has lupus and, like many people with a chronic complaint, is prepared to try almost anything with a chance of improving his condition. Promoters of health fraud deliberately target such people and, like conmen everywhere, rely on the natural reticence of victims to come forward and expose themselves to embarrassment by admitting that they had been sucked in. Jock is prepared to face this embarrassment and intends to set up a forum to collect the stories of other victims of the same scam. He has to work around the Australian defamation laws which are specifically designed to protect the guilty, but as soon as he has something available I will publicise it here. We might not be able to get any of the millions of dollars back to the people from whom it was stolen, but the stories may act as warnings to potential victims when the next miracle cure appears in the newspapers and is touted as though nothing like this has ever happened before.
Harassment heats up? Hardly! (31/8/2002)
A pocket of gas from decomposition moved within the carcass of the Gutless Anonymous Liar this week and escaped as a small flatulence through some orifice or other, but apart from that the regulars stayed in their rooms and played with their crayons. A couple of people threatened legal action against Quintessence of the Loon, one apparently because he is smarter than me and another because I somehow infringed his constitutional rights, but I won't worry until the paperwork comes in. The following threat came in (you can see what caused the objection here), but as it came through an anonymous remailer it and its writer will be treated with all the respect they deserve. Which is none.
From: "Sara" <email@example.com>
Subject: Piece of SHIT!
Date: Thu, 29 Aug 2002 22:25:45 -0500
YOU ARE SUCH A PIECE OF SHIT! I can't believe you would use this webpage https://ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/qxci.htm to exploit a legal company who has obviously nothing to do with what you posted here. I have no idea what you are talking about as I visited the site you speak of and even searched the search engines and it seems like you are absolutely disillusioned. The only thing you prove are your own malicious lies!!!!!!! As an MD, QXCI Practitioner, and moral human being I found this disgusting display of pathetic self-righteousness (your webpage) sickening. You must be a 'Quackwatch' wanna-be. What a loser you are! If you think this is the end of what I have entered your life for, think again. YOU WILL NOT GET AWAY WITH YOUR BULLSHIT!