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True madness (7/2/2009)
People with access to reasonable news services in almost all parts of the civilised world would be aware that the state of Victoria in Australia has been facing a disaster over the last few days with bushfires killing 173 people (at the time of writing) and destroying a huge number of homes, farms and businesses. A couple of less-reputable politicians have tried to use the fires to attack the government but as this has been coming from the usual loons nobody has been taking much notice. There have also been attacks on environmentalists, who are said to oppose hazard reduction burning even when they say they are in favour of it, but again these attacks have been written off as the expected rantings of troglodytes.
Now, however, we have been told the real reason for the fires. They were not caused by the Prime Minister's overseas travel or the Greens opposing the damming of rivers and the culling of quokkas, but by the recent action of the Victorian Government to effectively decriminalise abortion. And this must be true, because a group of Christians have told me and Christians never lie. You can read "Media Release - Abortion Laws To Blame For Bush Fires?" right there on the Catch the Fire Ministries' web site. Or here.
Media Release - Abortion Laws To Blame For Bush Fires?
February 10th, 2009
Media release - For immediate release from Catch The Fire Ministries Inc.
Abortion laws to blame for bush fires?
Churches throughout Victoria have rallied together to assist the bush fire ravaged communities of Victoria. Coordinated by Catch the Fire Ministries (CTFM), four trucks have been booked to distribute essential relief items such as clothes and food to consolidate the efforts of the Salvation Army in assisting suffering families. CTFM is calling on all people, Christians and non-Christians alike, to donate blood via the Red Cross. Please visit their website at www.redcross.org.au/vic/ for more details.
We at CTFM, along with the rest of the Christian community, are in absolute shock, grieving at the loss of life, property, and the immense suffering of all those affected. We offer our deepest condolences to the families and friends of all those who have lost loved ones, homes, businesses, and their livelihood.
CTFM leader, Pastor Danny Nalliah said he would spearhead an effort to provide every assistance to devastated communities, although he was not surprised by the bush fires due to a dream he had last October relating to consequences of the abortion laws passed in Victoria.
He said these bushfires have come as a result of the incendiary abortion laws which decimate life in the womb. Besides providing material assistance, CTFM will commence a seven day prayer and fasting campaign for the nation of Australia tomorrow Wednesday the 11th February.
CTFM has called upon all Australian Bible-believing God-fearing Christians to repent and call upon the Lord Jesus Christ for His mercy and protection over Australia once again.
"Yesterday (Monday 9th February 2009), the front page of the Herald Sun newspaper reported "The Darkest hour for Victoria". A few months ago the news media should have reported "The darkest hour for the unborn" but unfortunately the "Decriminalization of Abortion bill" went through parliament and was passed, thus making many people call Victoria 'the baby killing state of Australia,'" Mr Nalliah said.
He said on November 7 last year we had sent out an email to our national network and a posting on our website (www.catchthefire.com.au) carried an urgent post titled, 'sTOP PRESS. URGENT PRAYER NEEDED REGARDING AUSTRALIA, ESPECIALLY THE STATE OF VICTORIA' following a dream he had on the 21st of October 2008, which he shared with his team on 22nd October.
Following is an excerpt from the dream which was published in the article.
"In my dream I saw fire everywhere with flames burning very high and uncontrollably. With this I woke up from my dream with the interpretation as the following words came to me in a flash from the Spirit of God.
That His conditional protection has been removed from the nation of Australia, in particular Victoria, for approving the slaughter of innocent children in the womb."
"We at CTFM have spent the last few days in prayer and weeping, watching the news and learning that more than 170 people have perished and more than 750 houses have gone up in flames with much property and personal belongings of people all wiped out within hours," he said.
"Australia is based on Judeo-Christian values. How far have we as a nation moved from these principles instilled in our nation's inception. How much does it take for a nation to return to God? The Bible is very clear, if you walk out of God's protection and turn your back on Him, you are an open target for the devil to destroy.
"Can we stop the fires? Yes we can! But it will take God's children to rally together and repent and cry unto Him as in 2 Chronicles 7:14 (The Holy Bible). We at CTFM have seen this happen several times in the past in Australia, which was also covered by many mainstream media outlets."
"In our prayer and fasting campaign, we are particularly repenting for the passing of the 'Decriminalization of Abortion Laws of Victoria' in addition to other unrighteous, ungodly, and unjust laws and practices which have seen a holocaust of some of the most helpless members of the human race, the unborn.
The seven day national prayer and fasting campaign will culminate on Wednesday 18th of February with a united prayer and repentance solemn assembly from 12pm to 2pm at the Victorian State Parliament building. (venue is subject to confirmation - see www.catchthefire.com.au for details)
Pastor Nalliah urged Christians to attend the gathering at the Victorian State Parliament on February 18 to stand in solidarity in this hour of crisis for the nation. CTFM calls on all Australians to declare the 18th February as a National Day of Prayer, Repentance, and Mourning.
CTFM will be collecting the following relief items tomorrow on Wednesday the 11th of February from 10am to 8pm at the church located at 23 Melverton Drive, Hallam Melways ref 96 G 2.
Items needed include: Dry Rations - Sugar, Milk Powder, Coffee, Tea bags, Canned food, Cereals, etc., Clothes - Under wear (NEW), Shorts, T/Shirts etc - New or good as new., Toiletries - Towels, Tooth Paste, Tooth Brushes, Soap, Shampoo, Toilet Paper., Bed Linen - Pillows, Pillow Cases, Sheets etc., Crockery - Plates, Cups, Mugs, Knifes, Spoons, Folks etc.
The goods would be distributed on Thursday 12th February throughout various bush fire effected areas.
May God Bless Australia with His Rains of Mercy!
Danny Nalliah is available for interview on 03 9794 8211
Media contact: Jason Golden on 0404 952 768
Oh, damn! How am I ever going to get the vomit out of this keyboard?
Keep it up, Ben (7/2/2009)
One of my favourite columnists is Ben Goldacre, writer for The Guardian and owner of the Bad Science web site. Ben shares my contempt for anti-vaccination liars and recently took one named Jeni Barnett to task for some idiocy that she demonstrated on a radio program. The immediate reaction was a threat of legal action for breach of copyright. This being the Internet, however, the recording is available all over the place, including from the very web site you are reading now. (Click here to download a copy or use the little player below to listen.)
Ben is offering a free copy of his book to anyone who can listen to the whole thing and come up with at least one of the standard anti-vaccination lies that Barnett has failed to use. I've been busy lately and I've run out of Imodium, so I will have to wait a few days before I can do the analysis myself. (I should also wait until my new keyboard arrives in case the spare I'm using gets clogged with vomit like the last one.) Remember to keep a bucket handy, and don't wear your best clothes while listening.
Yes, I was wrong about something. Regular reader Peter Williams was the first to point out that it was Dean Martin, not Rowan & Martin, who signed off a television show by saying "Keep those cards and letters coming in". The real pity is that, unlike Dean, I don't have a handy excuse for a damaged brain. I think I'll just go and fall off a piano in penance and hum a few bars of Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime.
Keep that Carley craziness coming in (7/2/2009)
Despite reservations by some regular readers, I didn't send the insane Dr Carley over the edge by writing to her last week and asking her to identify her species of madness. I didn't think it would, because she is so far over the edge anyway that another push would be redundant, but there was a certain attraction to the possibility of triggering a collapse that would have put her in the asylum where she wouldn't be able to harm any children with her anti-vaccination lies.
Dr Carley took my letter very seriously, and here is what she had to say, with my responses in italics. I wonder if there will be another round.
Date: Thu, 05 Feb 2009 22:20:03 -0500
Subject: Re: Mental health
As pharma schills can never do, you did not dispute a single word on my site.
I wasn't attempting to dispute the words on your site, because they have all been disputed and rebutted many times before. In any case, I don't have time to address all of your lies, as I expect that I will be dead by 3014.
Calling me names is childish.
But you feel free to call me names, although I am not sure what a "pharma schill" is. I have, of course, been called a "pharma shill" many times by unimaginative quacks defending the indefensible.
Why don't you call into my radio show sometime and tell my listeners what information I give is incorrect?
As I said above, I don't have enough time left in my life to waste it like that.
I have clients all over the world (including Australia),
Oh, so you know that I am in Australia. That sort of makes a mockery of your invitation to ring your radio show, unless you are planning to pay for the call.
my protocol reverses all autoimmune diseases and cancer, in people and in pets.
Why have you never asked for my help to get yourself a Nobel Prize for being able to cure cancer? It's too late for this year, but perhaps you might like to try for the 2010 prize. I look forward to hearing about the people you have cured. Only if they exist, of course.
Thousands of people listen to my internet radio show every week.
Thousands of people read my web site each week.
I don't need a medical license, as I am a teacher now that the Hippocratic oath has become the hippocritic oath.
People are waking up BIGTIME as to the true intention of the medical mafia; i.e., causing disease and curing nothing. MediSIN is dying, and there is nothing that you and your "Quackwatch" minions can do to stop it.
What has Quackwatch got to do with me? I realise that it is a convenient bogey man for quacks and charlatans but mentioning it here just sounds like another example of your paranoia. As if any more examples were necessary ...
Eventually you will be the only ones using medical sorcery. And I certainly hope you are taking all vaccines available....
I certainly am. Why would I want to get sick from easily-prevented diseases? I'm not the one who's mad.
In Service to the TRUTH, I AM,
Rebecca Carley, MD
You say that you don't need a medical licence but you can't give up all the trappings of being a doctor, can you? Why not drop the "MD", or do you choose to keep that in order to add some credibility to your ravings? Isn't that a bit "hippocritic" for someone who calls medicine "MediSIN" and accuses doctors of "causing disease and curing nothing"? Come on, reject the badges of the medical mafia. You have already rejected everything you learnt in medical school, so why not reject the degree as well?
So there you have it, folks. Megalomania, paranoia and hypocrisy all neatly wrapped up in a tidy parcel. Is it any wonder that the anti-vaccination liars hold her in such high esteem?
Some mail (7/2/2009)
There is a time warp somewhere. Here are two emails I received this week from the same person, presented in date and time sequence. Both messages seem to be referring to a previous message, but I have never heard of the writer before (and yes, I did check my spam traps). He mentions water so it could be that he's trying to make some point about homeopathy, so perhaps he lives in a universe where the space, time and physical rules used in our universe don't apply. A place where time moves backwards and dilution increases potency. He also mentions marketing, so perhaps he is coming from the universe where the rules of mathematics make multi-level marketing plausible and and success with the scam possible.
From: Andrew Cox
Date: Fri, 06 Feb 2009 01:40:28 -1000
oh, just wanted to mention, that if you decide to post my email, I will not be offended if you removed the insult, although I meant it. I wish people like you would really do your homework before bashing something. Oh, and yeah, alot of the sales guys are assholes. Marketing, duh. Oh, and my reason for mentioning that is that insults tend to take away from the directness I felt I had.
From: Andrew Cox
Date: Fri, 06 Feb 2009 02:04:23 -1000
ooh, and btw it is illegal for me to say that I can sell water that cures you of thirst, unless of course it is FDA approved water...
Near all of the advertisements on this site there is a link which says "Millenium Project advertising policy". I get a trickle of emails telling me about anomalous advertisements appearing on this site, but there's not much I can do about it if I want to keep the dollars rolling in for the Australian Council Against Health Fraud. There's a certain irony in the fact that quacks are paying for advertisements and a share of the payment goes towards fighting quackery, but that doesn't mean that I have to like the ads. Google allow me to specify up to 200 domain names that will be blocked from displaying ads on this site and I have blocked some of the obvious ones (like Hulda Clark), but the process is very time consuming and manual.
It doesn't just happen to me, of course, and the picture below shows an extract from the Consumer Affairs web site announcing that a court had ordered the sellers of the Q-Ray bracelet to refund all the money they had stolen from customers. Yes, CA has a disclaimer about ad content at the bottom of the page, but the rubbish still gets through. Pay particular attention to the first ad displayed by Google:
You have to love the judge in this case. How many judges comment like this about a fraudster: "Defendants might as well have said: Beneficent creatures from the 17th Dimension use this bracelet as a beacon to locate people who need pain relief, and whisk them off to their homeworld every night to provide help in ways unknown to our science."? Of course, the presence of the advertisement shows that for the scammers it is business as usual, but what would they care?
Oh, and don't confuse the Q-Ray bangle with the QLink pendant as promoted by self help guru Anthony Robbins. That's a complete different scam and fraud. Speaking of self help gurus, I really like the way that the self help and actualisation movement abbreviates down to SHAM.
Happy 200th birthday, Charles (14/2/2009)
On 17th January, 1836, Charles Darwin wrote in his diary:
In the middle of the day we baited our horses at a little Inn, called the Weather-board. The country here is elevated 2800 feet above the sea. About a mile & a half from this place there is a view exceedingly well worth visiting; following down a little valley & its tiny rill of water, an immense gulf is suddenly & without any preparation seen through the trees which border the pathway at the depth of perhaps 1500 ft. Walking a few yards farther, one stands on the brink of a vast precipice, & below is the grand bay or gulf, for I know not what other name to give it, thickly covered with forest. The point of view is situated as it were at the head of the bay, for the line of cliff diverges away on each side, showing headland behind headland, as on a bold Sea coast. These cliffs are composed of horizontal strata of whitish Sandstone; & so absolutely vertical are they, that in many places a person standing on the edge & throwing a stone can see it strike the trees in the abyss below: so unbroken is the line, that it is said to be necessary to go round a distance of sixteen miles in order to reach the foot of the waterfall made by this little stream. — In front & about five miles distant another line of cliff extends, thus having the appearance of completely encircling the valley; hence the name of Bay is justified as applied to this grand amphitheatrical depression. — If we imagine that a winding harbor with its deep water surrounded by bold cliff shores was laid dry, & that a forest sprung up on the sandy bottom, we should then have the appearance & structure which is here exhibited. The class of view was to me quite novel & extremely magnificent.
To celebrate Darwin's 200th birthday on February 12, I invited some friends to walk over the track used by Darwin in 1836. The plan was to reach the point of the "extremely magnificent" view, scatter the ashes of a creationist publication into the valley below to bless the endless forms of life most beautiful and wonderful that live there, and then repair to the nearby New Ratbag Castle for a barbeque. In preparation, I assembled my new gas barbeque last weekend in temperatures of about 45°, watching the tree ferns in the yard die as I burnt my fingers on metal parts which had caught the sunlight. It was not a pleasant experience, but I knew everything would be worth it when we gathered around the machine with cold beers in hand to toast Charles Darwin. I even cooked dinner on the thing to test it. Delicious! I ordered my special apron with the message "On the 8th day, God created the barbeque" and had Cody The Religion Hating Dog measured for a hat with fake floppy ears so that he could come to the party dressed as a beagle.
Then it rained. And rained, and rained, and rained ... Darwin's "tiny rill of water" turned into a river and the extremely magnificent view became a solid wall of fog. It was so miserable that even the Yowies stayed in their caves. So did we. There will be many more weekends, but in the meantime I am planning to hire out my barbeque to places where droughts need to be broken.
A great big "Thank you" has to go to The Complete Work of Charles Darwin Online for the text of the Beagle diary.
Speaking of auspicious days (14/2/2009)
I have been working in, on and around computers for so long that I am entitled to wear the titles of geek and nerd with some pride. I am pleased to announce that on Friday February 13, 2009, the time counter in Unix machines (including Linux and Mac OS/X) rolled over to 1234567890. I just thought that you should know that.
One of my favourite entertainers, Tim Minchin, will be back in Australia soon. I recommend that anyone who likes a good night out with a smattering of skepticism thrown in should get themselves into a ticket office somewhere and book a seat. For those unfamiliar with Tim's oeuvre, here is a recording of Storm. We have all met people like Storm at parties, and we have all wanted to say what Tim says in the poem.
You can find out more about Tim at his web site.
Another gutless anonymous liar (14/2/2009)
Dr Paul Offit is being sued over something that appears in his excellent book, The details of the suit appear on the anti-vaccination liar web site Age of Autism. The wording starts off by saying:
DR. PAUL OFFIT SUED FOR INVASION OF PRIVACY
IN THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE STATE OF OREGON FOR THE COUNTY OF MULTNOMAH
PLAINTIFF, an individual,
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS, a New York corporation, and PAUL A. OFFIT, M.D., an individual, Defendants.
Plaintiff alleges as follows:
1. Nature of Action This is an action brought by Plaintiff against Columbia University Press ("the Press") and Paul A. Offit, M.D. ("Offit") (collectively, "Defendants") for false light invasion of privacy arising from a fictionalized online "conversation" between Plaintiff and Kathleen Seidel.
You will notice that the plaintiff does not reveal his name. You will also notice that the "plaintiff" makes the simultaneous claim that the reported message was both "fictionalized" and an invasion of privacy. A reasonable person might ask how revealing the contents of a non-existent message can have anything to do with privacy if the message didn't exist, but we are talking about an anti-vaccination liar here, so anything is possible.
Here is what it said in the book (page 145 in my copy):
Seidel was also appalled by the Geiers' and J. B. Handley's constant promotion of chelation therapy as a cure for autism. In 2000, only a handful of children were chelated; by 2005, the number had purportedly climbed to more than 10,000 a year. On her Web site, Seidel pleaded with Handley to stop promoting a "therapy" that had never been shown to work and was potentially dangerous. Handley wrote back: "I have no respect for your movement," he said. "We are spending our time constructively engaging doctors to help our babies. If you don't like what we have to say, stop listening. We will bring the full resources of myself and Generation Rescue to stop this. We will sue you for libel and will go after your home and assets. My lawyers live to investigate and sue people like you. This will be your only warning."
By the way, Handley doesn't deny saying the quoted words. He just denies saying them to Kathleen Seidel.
I posted the following message to the discussion of the suit at the Age of Autism site. There are no prizes for guessing whether it was allowed through by the moderator. And, yes, unlike the gutless anonymous "plaintiff" in the suit I used my real name when I posted.
Two questions for JB Handley:
1. Why are you so cowardly that you need to redact your name from the court papers?
2. If the exchange is fictional, how can it also be an invasion of privacy to publish it?
These questions and your reply (or non-reply, or failure to allow this message to get through the moderation process) will be published on my web site at the next scheduled update.
Latest from the Vaccine Court - boo hoo anti-vax liars!
My mail box this week has seen a constant stream of emails telling me about how the Vaccine Omnibus Case has been decided, with the ruling being that there is no connection between autism and MMR vaccines or vaccines containing mercury. You can read the good news here, here, and here (where you can get the full text of the decision).
Given the quality of the witnesses for the plaintiffs I was surprised that the case dragged on for so long, although the involvement of about 5,000 "victims" was designed to keep the bad publicity for vaccines going as long as possible. Here is something I wrote in 2007 about one of the star witnesses:
I must be an expert! (23/6/2007)
I mentioned last week that The Trial of The Century had started, where the parents of 4,800 autistic children are being encouraged to abuse the legal process in order to bolster the claims of the anti-vaccination liars. The witness for the plaintiffs called on the fourth day was brilliant, and she has decided that the first case was definitely caused by the MMR vaccine, plus thimerosal for good measure. Her name is Vera Byers, and the fun started when opposing counsel started asking her about her CV. It seems that she is "board eligible" as an allergist with the American Board of Allergy and Immunology, but unfortunately the board doesn't recognise the term "board eligible". Strike one. She says she is on the faculty of Nottingham University, but the University says this is not so. Dr Byers says "I think I dropped off". Strike two. She claims to have been the medical director at Immunex for the Biological License Application for the drug Emberel, but sadly her name does not appear on any documentation filed with the FDA. Strike three. The best, however, is her justification for including an affiliation with the University of California - San Francisco on her CV. I can do no better than to quote the words she said on the stand: "I use their library and I go to their parties". Is this woman a good witness or is she a joke? Even Dr Boyd Haley couldn't be as silly as this one. Read and enjoy here.
I checked my wallet and I found that I have the qualifications to be an expert witness in court cases such as this. The Westmead Hospital library is actually part of the University of Sydney's medical school, so all I need now to call myself "Doctor" is to go to a few parties.
The reaction of the anti-vaccination liar community has been predictable. Safe Minds has issued a media release saying that it is all part of the great cover up and conspiracy and there is an obvious conflict of interest because the government department responsible for the vaccine program was one of the defendants (!) and the results would have gone the other way if only the government had given more money to the plaintiffs' lawyers. The National Autism Association repeated the lie that the government had already declared that vaccines cause autism so what was this case all about? Autism Speaks revealed their mendacity by saying "Today the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program ruled that the combination MMR vaccine -- with and without the preservative thimerosal -- did not contribute to three particular children's autism" while knowing full well that MMR has not and can not contain thimerosal. Ex-Dr Rebecca Carley (q.v.) gloated that as the decision seemed to be specifically related only to mercury and MMR it proves that her theory that vaccines cause autism by demyelisation of nerves must be correct. The best response, however, was someone who told me that the decision could be interpreted as a statement by the government that vaccines cause autism. The lies won't go away.
Crackpot Carley craziness continues (14/2/2009)
I will leave my comments on ex-Dr Carley's response to my latest email until later (I have to clean the mouth foam out of the monitor), but here are some emails from her acolytes, sent to me as a result of her announcing my perfidy on her mailing list. I note that almost none of them used any of the email links on this site, which suggests that they haven't been here to read what I have to say. But why would I expect any more?
Calling someone names is sooooo professional.
I agree. It was very childish of ex-Dr Carley to call me a "pharma schill" (sic). And so unimaginative, too.
Since you have plenty of time to make unfounded attacks on Dr Carly, and as a fellow countryman of yours, I very much look forward to your acceptance of Dr Carly's challenge to debate her armed with your facts and prodigious research.
I have found from long experience that attempting any form of debate with insane people or people who are prepared to lie without remorse is generally a waste of time. I will, however, listen to her radio program over the next few weeks and make some notes. I am sure that I will detect many lies and paranoid claims that can be easily refuted, although I don't expect for an instant that ex-Dr Carley will ever admit to being wrong about anything.
WE invite you to come on Dr Carley's show real soon.
Truth does not worry about investigation......bring it on....
[I sent Jo the same reply as I did to Malcolm]
I do wish to take a moment to write to you regarding the slander which you have written to Dr. Carley which she has forwarded on to me.
Slander is spoken. If I had defamed ex-Dr Carley (which I have not) it would be libel.
I do not attempt to judge you or the situation which presents itself to you, although I do know that you have judged others unwisely and in haste.
That sounds like you are judging me.
Dr Carley has done a great service to this world in attempting to save peoples injured by vaccinations. I speak from my own experience in having seen Dr. Carley's therapies save my child from what was certainly a lifelong diseased state, if not a fatal injury as a result of vaccination.
I'm sorry to hear that your child had a problem. It was almost certainly not caused by a vaccine and it was absolutely certainly not cured by anything that ex-Dr Carley did or said.
In speaking out in anger toward Dr. Carley you have insulted someone whose knowledge and experience might one day be able to help someone you love.
I can guarantee that there is nothing that ex-Dr Carley could do which would help any member of my family,
Instead of burning the bridges that bind us together, we should think first, if not of others, than selfishly of ourselves. With the negativity which you have surrounded yourself with regarding this issue, you have only served to bring more negativity into your own life. As in all things, your cowardice and slander do little to support your claims and only paint your reputation in a questionable light. Instead of approaching others in anger, perhaps you should examine the true cause within yourself of why you feel the need to lash out against others. In this I wish you peace because I do believe that God forgives wrongdoing and guilt when approached out of remorse.
If I believed in a god I would hope that he would forgive ex-Dr Carley for the potential damage she does to children by her opposition to vaccines. Having said that, many religions preach compassion for the mentally ill, and remember that we are told in Matthew 8:28-32 how Jesus cured two mad people by transferring their madness to pigs. Perhaps you should pray that he could do the same for Dr Carley.
Respectfully (as I do hope you will remain in the future),
I am always respectful of those who deserve respect. People who lie about vaccines do not fall into that class.
Heather wasn't pleased, so the following exchange took place:
I have no interest in reading your email.
I do not exchange words, written or otherwise, with imbeciles.
Then why did you write to me in the first place?
I see you have dropped the pretence of being respectful.
Next week (14/2/2009)
Another thing I will leave to next week is a discussion of the latest adventures of Dr Andrew Wakefield. It seems that he was even more dishonest than we thought.
I received the following offer which was almost too good to be true. It caused me to give serious consideration to retirement.
Dear owner of ratbags.com,
I noticeded that your domain "ratbags.com" expires in a few weeks, which means that it is going to be publicly available soon. I'd like to buy this domain name before it expires.
I assume that you are not interested in keeping it for yourself.
I can buy this domain for $60 plus any renewal related expenses. What do you think?
Thank you for your kind offer. You may have also noticeded (sic) that there is a button on every page of the site which allows you to pay me money. Upon deposit of the sum of $US1,000,000 (one million US dollars) into my PayPal account I will immediately arrange transfer of the domain name to you.
No limit should be placed on the disgust (21/2/2009)
I mentioned recently that a loony "Christian" group had blamed the more than 200 deaths in the recent Australian bushfires on a change in the laws relating to abortion. It didn't take long for someone to trump that idiocy, and it was no surprise that the new outrage should come from the rotting brain cells of Fred Phelps from the Westboro Baptist Church. You can see his latest media release here.
I have just finished watching the memorial service on television, and what I saw was people from every part of the country's political, religious and ethnic spectra united in a common cause. I don't know if the promised delegation from the Phelps asylum turned up, but if they did I hope that the crowd temporarily abandoned the almost universal Australian trait of tolerance and threw them into the Yarra River to the accompaniment of loud cries of "Go fornicate yourself". I try not to think ill about people, but I can see how an argument could be made that the world would be a better place without Fred Phelps and his followers. In a spirit of charity, of course, I would hope that if he dies his death is soon, protracted and very, very painful.
[You can see more about the fires here.]
Thais untie Harry (21/2/2009)
In January I commented on an author who had been sentenced to three years imprisonment in Thailand for the medieval crime of lèse-majesté. Sanity has now broken out and Harry Nicolaides is back in Australia a free man. It was interesting to note that in media conferences held by Thai officials leading up to his pardon, Mr Nicolaides was referred to informally as "Harry", indicating that these officials were embarrassed at having to enforce such a ridiculous law.
Earn more, think less (21/2/2009)
A nice opinion piece by journalist Adele Horin appeared in my local Saturday paper, the Sydney Morning Herald. It was commenting on the apparently strange fact that rates of vaccination are lower in more affluent areas and had the wonderful title "Selfish dummy mummies need consciences pricked". I particularly liked the way that the tone of the article was set in the first paragraph with the words "These are women who spend too many hours on wacky internet health sites and become convinced immunisation is a giant conspiracy". Far too often the media leans over backwards to appease the opponents of reason in the name of "balance", so it was good to see someone presenting facts without worrying about keeping the anti-vaccination liars happy or offering them the right of reply before publication. I assume that the Letters to the Editor mailbox is full this morning with complaints. Here is my small contribution. I will be watching the SMH Letters page with more than the usual interest over the next few days.
Nice story by Adele Horin in Saturday's SMH, with one mistake: "the movement got a big boost in the late 1990s from a bogus health scare that linked autism with a preservative, thimerosal, in the measles/mumps/rubella jab. At least 16 epidemiological studies have disproved the link. And the British doctor responsible for the scare, Andrew Wakefield, stands accused of having doctored the results of his study, according to an investigation by The Times published earlier this month. Wakefield's theory was based on 12 cases, and now even that evidence is questionable".
Wakefield certainly started a scare with his fraudulent "research" funded by lawyers, but MMR has never contained thimerosal. It is a live vaccine and the preservative would render it useless. The thimerosal scare is just another of the ways that the anti-vaccination liars try to frighten parents, and as truth is of no concern to them it is not unusual to see the "MMR contains thimerosal" story repeated on their web sites even though they know it is not true. Thimerosal was removed from most vaccines many years ago, but the lies about it persist.
Also, there is a mention that Mosman has a low rate of vaccination. This could have something to do with the fact that a Mosman GP, Dr Mark Donohoe, is a leading light in the Australian anti-vaccination movement. I would assume that none of his patients are having their children vaccinated. I saw Dr Donohoe speak at a liefest organised by the Australian Vaccination Network and he announced that he was very pleased when his daughter picked up a dummy in the street and put it into her mouth, because this would give her "natural immunity". (He was one of three medical practitioners who spoke against vaccination on the night; another one of them came across as totally insane. My report of the night can be seen at https://ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/inferno.htm)
You can see a news story about rates of vaccination here.
Debating the undebateable (21/2/2009)
The Professor Booy mentioned in that news story above once made the mistake of appearing in a series of radio programs to discuss vaccination and was paired with a very prominent anti-vaccination campaigner. Unfortunately, Professor Booy expected a rational debate and not the ambush of lies with which he was confronted. I am coming around to the view that it is pointless to engage some people in public spoken debate because there is never time to counter the lies. If you speak first they just get up and lie about something not related to what you said. If they speak first there is never enough time to explain why what they said is not true. Debating creationists is another example of unproductive activity for rational people; as Richard Dawkins put it: "Such a debate will look good on their CV and bad on mine". Think about it - try to explain to a lay audience in less than one minute why any of the following statements are untrue:
The problem is manners - we are taught from an early age not to be aggressive in conversation so we lose whenever aggression is called for and we don't use it. The problem is confounded if we call a lie a lie because then the charge of ad hominem attack is raised. The fact that this is not ad hominem can't be quickly explained and any attempt at explanation just takes time away from the real debate.
Do you need curing? (21/2/2009)
The following photograph was sent to me by reader David Rosenberg. It sort of says it all about quackery, doesn't it?
David has suggested some other possible signs. Feel free to make your own suggestions.