Non Sequiturs

By Michael Hawkins

~Who cares what Tiger does in his sex life? He’s good at a sport. That’s why I like him.

~Why do people listen to Glenn Beck? He’s wrong about pretty much everything.

~The Tea Party is the most ridiculous, haphazard mess since, well, the Bush Administration. I guess it hasn’t been that long.

~Obama has not earned the title “Socialist” yet. I hope he one day lives up to it.

~Time Warner is an awful company.

~So is Hannaford.

~Dogs clearly are better than cats.

~Remember Mystery Science Theater 3000? That was awesome.

~And Mr. Wizard? That was good times.

~The Caps are going to win it all this year. Damn it.

~ This is the last edition of Without Apology for some time. Maybe it will be back in the fall.

~It’s okay to weep.

~Mexican food really is awful. Just awful.

~What happened to Scrubs? Why would ABC ruin something that was once so great?

~The original aerial-view GTA was pretty awesome.

~Listen, Papi, we appreciate all you did, but that was so long ago. We don’t want to boo you, so please just hit the ball.

~And can it be said? Can it finally be said? As much as Manny would dog it down the line, Papi did, too. If anything, Papi did – and does – it far more than Manny.

~Baseball needs a serious salary cap.

~Evolution is true. Deal with it.

~Start watching Holmes on Homes.

~I wake up every day and thank my lucky stars I’m not from Mississippi.
~Of course, I don’t have lucky stars, though, because astrology is a bunch of malarkey.

~Oh, heck, I’ll mention him. Christopher Maloney is a quack.

~The best part of the Kennebec Journal is the comics.

~Except Mark Trail. Everyone HATES Mark Trail.

~Hiking is great.

~Despite popular belief, “Without Apology” does not reference a refusal to literally apologize for some given mistake. It actually refers to not qualifying every little statement with unnecessary pedantry. Nuance is okay. Not pedantry.

~Swimming across the pond at Bicentennial Park will get you “banned for life”. Trust me.

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The Streisand Effect

By Michael Hawkins

“The Streisand Effect” is a phenomenon named after the actions of Barbara Streisand. In 2003, she sued a website for hosting an aerial picture of her mansion, citing privacy concerns. She lost not only the suit, but even more of her privacy. The website found itself with 400,000+ hits over the next month. In short, attempts at censorship on the Internet are often met with higher publicity for the censored person, video, or picture. It is important to keep that in mind while reading the rest of this article.

Andreas Moritz is a quack from South Carolina who despises all good medical advice, acts against the well being of the sick, and preys on the vulnerable.

On his website, http://www.ener-chi.com, Moritz claims “Cancer does not kill a person afflicted with it! What kills a cancer patient is not the tumor, but the numerous reasons behind cell mutation and tumor growth. These root causes should be the focus of every cancer treatment, yet most oncologists typically ignore them. Constant conflicts, guilt and shame, for example, can easily paralyze the body’s most basic functions, and lead to the growth of a cancerous tumor.”

This is pure crackpot talk. The man has no education in oncology or basic biology and is outright dangerous. That’s why he tried to get my website, http://www.forthesakeofscience.wordpress.com, shut down.

It began May 24, 2009. I made a post titled “Andreas Moritz is a stupid, dangerous man”. In it I quote from an article written by Moritz in which he repeats much of the above anti-scientific, stupid, dangerous garbage above. He blames the victim, advocates against standard treatments, and is, well, stupid and dangerous.

Moritz soon responded, repeating his crackpot claims and demanding respect. As someone who actually likes science, I demanded evidence first. He had none.

Eventually, Moritz posted a nearly 10,000 word spam article of his (which, for some strange reason, ended with an anti-vaccine rant) and scuttled off. I presumed this was the last of my direct contact with this crackpot.

Soon my post started to show up as the number 2 result in Google for “Andreas Moritz”. The pleasure I took in this, however, was cut short February 17.

On that day, my hosting site, WordPress, suspended and blocked my website. The reason has to do with local naturopathic quack, Christopher Maloney.

Two weeks earlier I got a notice which suspended my posting rights for several days. After WordPress made me contact them (because telling me directly obviously doesn’t make sense, right?), I was informed they had received a notice which said Christopher Maloney was an actual doctor. This ran counter to a post I had where I stated precisely the opposite. They told me to edit or delete the post.

Since Maloney is a naturopathic doctor under Maine law, I corrected my post to state that he is only a doctor by a low set of standards and that the medical community rejects his status as legitimate. This apparently wasn’t good enough, hence the eventual block.

I quickly contacted PZ Myers of the blog Pharyngula, one of the largest science blogs on the Internet. He publicized my case, titling a post “Christopher Maloney is a quack”.

But it was soon discovered that Maloney was claiming to not be the one who contacted WordPress, counter to my assumption. As it turned out, Moritz would later send me an email where he bragged of his accomplishment – while also threatening “an expensive lawsuit”.

That was a mistake.

Myers soon had a post titled “Andreas Moritz is a cancer quack”. The story spread across the Internet, finding its way on to Richard Dawkins’ site, http://www.richarddawkins.net, and making the rounds through the rest of the blogosphere and Twitter. I was famous on the Internet.

It soon became apparent that Maloney and Moritz had been in contact prior to all this. That means Maloney’s claim of not being responsible for getting my site shut down is disingenuous at the very least. He shoulders the anti-science burden as much as the cancer quack.

After 6 days of the Internet tearing the two quacks apart, WordPress found its spine and returned my site. My post is again number two – but now there are far more sites which tell their readers of the quackery of Andreas Moritz. Oh, and do search “Christopher Maloney Maine”, sans the quotation marks, on both Google and YouTube.

Whatever pettiness may seemingly be apparent in all this is really a genuine, deep disdain for anti-scientific quacks. Maloney offers treatments which are ineffective, poorly evidenced, and not supported by the scientific community. His danger is passive in that what he offers does no direct harm, but it does do harm when it delays real treatments for real health issues. A person with stage 1 stomach cancer may see Maloney for an undiagnosed pain, only to be ‘treated’ with some useless herbal remedy. The cancer will continue on its path, ignoring the ineffective naturopathic ‘treatments’. By the time a real medical doctor makes a correct diagnosis, it may be too late. Why so many states, including Maine, allow people to this to other people is a mystery.

Moritz, on the other hand, is the lowest of the low. He preys upon the sick for monetary gain, offering actively dangerous advice. He blames the victim, incoherently babbles malarkey about real medical science, and tells people to forego real treatments. The disdain for this man should be high among all people, whether he got their blogs shutdown or not.

Naturopaths Are Not Doctors

By Michael Hawkins

Okay, maybe that headline isn’t entirely accurate.

Naturopaths are people who practice an alternative form of medicine which has little to no basis in reality. Under Maine law, they are actually considered doctors. They aren’t medical doctors, mind you. No, no. Maine law holds them to a lower standard, meaning they are Naturopathic Doctors (ND), not MD’s. This also gives them fewer rights than real doctors. Be thankful.

Naturopathy is a belief that the body can heal itself via its “vital force”. This is entirely magical thinking which has no basis in science, is contradicted by everything in chemistry and biochemistry, and has never had any significant research done in its favor.

One local naturopathic ‘doctor’, Christopher Maloney, wrote a letter to the editor of the Kennebec Journal several months ago. In it he espoused several untruths, verging into flat out lies. This is common practice for these sort of people, so it isn’t surprising. What was especially unfortunate, though, was that the KJ ran an extra blurb explaining that naturopaths are considered to be a certain type of doctor under Maine state law. This was entirely unnecessary and, if one is to use the standards of the medical community at large, dangerous because it gives undue gravitas to a field where relatively little medical training is actually required.

One of the dangerous things Maloney told readers was that the flu vaccine only provides 6 to 15 percent protection. He misconstrued some basic statistics. In reality (and according to the CDC), the flu vaccine offers upwards of a 90% reduction in becoming infected with the flu for healthy adults. And even in the instances where someone still gets the flu after being vaccinated, the virus is much less intense.

The reason Maloney and other naturopaths want the public to believe these things is that they are generally hyper-skeptical of vaccinations (just like Jenny McCarthy). While a faux-sympathetic tone towards vaccines is sometimes taken by these people, they actually seek to raise significant doubt; it’s one of their most obvious goals. Of course, ask them to supply any evidence to the general danger of vaccines and, well, “evidence” may well need to be defined for these people.

For instance, a review of Maloney’s site, http://www.maloneymedical.com, shows a section on autism and vaccines where Maloney offers several links to a single anecdotal story (which isn’t convincing on its own merits anyway). He ends with several other links, the most prominent of which may be his own personal anecdote.

This is not evidence.

Deepening the hole into which he placed his anti-scientific letter, Maloney goes on to state that the flu vaccine has no effect on deadly complications for any population group. What he doesn’t say is that the non-mountebank truth is that they reduce hospitalization in the elderly by 50-60% (CDC). Death rate falls by 80% (CDC).

Next – and this one really irked me – Maloney tells readers that black elderberry has been shown to “block” H1N1. The worst thing about this blatant falsehood was just how easy it was to find out the truth. PubMed features two peer-reviewed studies on this. Both (by largely the same group) show that black elderberry had some positive effects for the regular flu, but the study size was small and thus more research needs to be done. (In other words, no respected member of the medical field would ever start making recommendations on such a miniscule sample of evidence.) At no point in the paper was it indicated that black elderberry has any sort of vaccination properties (either for H1N1 or what it was actually studying – the regular flu), which is what Maloney seems to imply.

It’s because of this sort of malarkey that naturopaths are not generally considered doctors within the medical community at large. Maine law must change to reflect this fact.