The Millenium Project
"And I'll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it, And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it"

We all know that "millennium" comes from the Latin words "mille" and "annus" and means a thousand years. The word "millenium" comes from the Latin words "mille" and "anus" and means something else. This web site is devoted to the millenium of sites which don't deserve a place on the Web. We are not putting them on a pedestal - we are offering them a stool.

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April 5, 2014

New!Good news about vaccination 1 (5/4/2014)

Almost the best best news you can hear about vaccination, almost as good as hearing that a disease has been wiped out (Australia was officially declared free of measles by the WHO on March 20, 2014 - all cases in the last three years have been traceable to someone entering the country from elsewhere) is the decline of an anti-vaccination liar organisation. The death throes of the formerly-named Australian Vaccination Network are running on nicely. As well as the forced name change they are no longer a charity. It was originally thought that they had simply decided not to renew the licence (it was due to expire in April 2014 anyway) but the truth is that the status was surrendered at the request (order?) of the NSW Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing.

In a wonderful show of rewriting history, AVN spokesfolk have been claiming that they never wanted the charity status in the first place, they never used it, that they only got it by accident when they absorbed another organisation back in the day, that they had tied to cancel it but couldn't, it was a "millstone" they were glad to be rid of, ... Unfortunately these claims seem to be in conflict with their action when the licence was temporarily suspended in 2010 (they fought it in court), the gleeful announcements when it was restored (due to a technicality in a 1993 piece of legislation), and the statement made many times on the AVN web site and in blogs and emails that they were a charity.

For example, in 2009 I noticed this on the AVN web site:

I also noticed that their charity licence had expired and informed OLG&R. Ms Dorey offered this action of mine to a Court as evidence of harassment. From at least 2007 the AVN's web site claimed on the "Donations" page that it was "a volunteer run charity organisation". It even said what charitable works the donations would be spent on (including one place that had never heard of the AVN and wouldn't have anything to do with them anyway)

Now for the investigations into where the money went when they were a charity. I can hardly wait.

Here is the media release by the Minister.

Tuesday 18 March, 2014

AUSTRALIAN VACCINATION NETWORK (AVN) NO LONGER A LICENSED CHARITY

Minister for Hospitality George Souris today warned the public not to make charitable donations to the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network Incorporated (AVSNI), formerly known as the Australian Vaccination Network Incorporated (AVN), as it is no longer a registered charity.

Mr Souris said the association had surrendered its 'Authority to Fundraise' under the Charitable Fundraising Act following an investigation into its anti-vaccination activities by the Office of Liquor, Gaming & Racing (OLGR).

"OLGR issued a 'show cause' notice to the association requiring it to respond in writing on why its Authority to Fundraise should not be revoked," Mr Souris said.

"As a result, the association has now surrendered its Authority to Fundraise to OLGR effective immediately".

Under the Charitable Fundraising Act, if an organisation intends to fundraise for a charitable purpose it must be the holder of an Authority to Fundraise.

However, an Authority to Fundraise for a charitable purpose can be revoked if determined to be in the public interest. One of the objects of the Charitable Fundraising Act is to prevent deception of members of the public who desire to support worthy causes.

"OLGR's investigation sourced expert medical evidence challenging the accuracy of information provided on the association's website in relation to the risks and benefits of vaccination," Mr Souris said.

"The investigation highlighted a range of potential concerns, including risks arising from the associationís anti-vaccination advocacy and the potential for misinformation to influence important health decisions resulting in potentially adverse public health consequences.

"As the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network Incorporated does not hold an Authority to Fundraise from OLGR they can no longer fundraise for a charitable purpose".

Minister for Fair Trading, Stuart Ayres, said the association recently changed its name, to the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network Incorporated, following a direction from Fair Trading and an Administrative Decisions Tribunal decision requiring it to adopt a name accurately reflecting its scepticism about vaccinations.

"I warn members of the public against making donations to this organisation.

"NSW Government agencies will continue to monitor the organisationís activities to ensure it does not fundraise for a charitable purpose."

Minister for Health Jillian Skinner said she is very proud of the NSW Liberal & Nationals Governmentís commitment to childhood vaccination.

"On January 1 this year, new legislation came into effect to ensure no child can be enrolled at a child care facility unless the parent/guardian provides an official immunisation record which shows the child is fully immunised or has been granted an exemption after the parents/guardian have met with a GP or nurse immuniser.

"Our Government is determined to protect our children from the devastating consequences of vaccine-preventable disease.

"While NSW has a very high rate of vaccination among children, we will continue to do all we can to protect those children who remain unvaccinated.

"Forget the scaremongering - there is nothing to fear from vaccination," Ms Skinner said



See more from Cathy Wilcox here


New!Good news about vaccination 2 (5/4/2014)

The other bit of good news about the AVN is that the Health Care Complaints Commission has told them to clean up their web site. Also, HCCC has issued a draft of a Public Warning (nobody from AV-SN can complain about me reproducing it here because I downloaded it when they published it on their Facebook page). Objections to the idea of a public warning have of course been lodged, but as these objections took the form of issuing ultimatums to the HCCC and were expressed in several chapters, each with a volume of text approaching that of a later Robert Ludlum novel, I will leave discussion of them for later.

Here's what the Public Warning is likely to say. (The whole thing is a bit long to reproduce here, so I've only included the final warning. You can read the full statement here.

Warning

The Commission considers that AVN's dissemination of misleading, misrepresented and incorrect information about vaccination engenders fear and alarm and is likely to detrimentally affect the clinical management or care of its readers. As seen through the examples provided above, AVN does not provide reliable information to enable its readers to make proper and informed decisions about vaccination.

Given the issues identified with the information disseminated by AVN, the Commission urges caution is exercised when using AVN's website or Facebook page to research vaccination.

The Commission has recommended that AVN amend its published information with regard to the above issues and the Commission will monitor the implementation of these recommendations.


New!And some bad news about vaccination (5/4/2014)

I suppose you have to take the bad with the good. The National Health Performance Authority has just released a report titled "Healthy Communities: Immunisation rates for children in 2012-13". To nobody's surprise the locality in the country with the lowest rate of vaccination for 1, 2, and 5 year olds is the Northern Rivers in NSW and the immediately surrounding areas. This just happens to be an area infested with natural food eating, quack medicine taking, home birthing, breast feeding people who have gone there to seek out the alternative lifestyle. If that isn't bad enough the area is home to the Australian Vaccination Network who have been proselytising their child-endangering nonsense there for decades. The AVN shouldn't get all the blame, because the area I live in, the Upper Blue Mountains, is almost as bad. It is no coincidence that the area has a similar demographic - a glut of chiropractors,  naturopaths, and restaurants offering vegetarian and gluten-free options for most of the things on the menu. Click on the images below for the NHPA report and a story in my local paper.


NHPA Report

Blue Mountains
Gazette

New!Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? (5/4/2014)

I usually find political correctness to be a sometimes amusing and generally harmless activity. Then I saw this.

I'm currently reading my way through Ian Fleming's James Bond novels in the sequence in which they were published (which is not the sequence in which they were filmed) and these books show the casual racism of the 1950s in a way that makes much of the text very uncomfortable to read. Looking at this from 2014 and remembering that Fleming lived in Jamaica among the people he seems to deride and belittle probably adds to the nastiness.

I would not, however, want these books rewritten to today's standards. I was horrified to read that some of Enid Blyton's children's books are being reissued in bowdlerised form, just as I was to see that "Tom Sawyer" and "Huckleberry Finn" have been either banned in schools or rewritten to today's standards.

The first Bond book came out in 1953. Another book published in that year was "The Go-Between" by L. P. Hartley. Most people have not read that book, but everyone knows the opening line: "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there."

Then there's George Santayana ...



See more by Ed Himelblau here


New!Change is always upon us (5/4/2014)

I did my usual monthly link check and I'm sad to report that a site I've had listed in The Millenium Project since July 1999 has been a victim of a hosting service that succumbed in March to economic reality. (They offered lifetime hosting for a one-off fee of $200. In 2004.)

And why will I miss this one so much? Because of its wonderful title: 'Hothead Paisan (Homicidal Lesbian Terrorist)".

Here's another one that made me sad, but for different reasons.


New!We've all suffered this. (5/4/2014)

I loved it when someone got up at the Blackheath Philosophy Forum and gave a lecture to the speaker, who just happened to be an expert on the topic (and had been one of my professors at university). His question consisted of "What is your response to that?" at the end. The reply: "You're wrong. Next question, please."

March 15, 2014

He talks (15/3/2014)

I've been busy with the microphone lately. I gave a talk about the Bitcoin farce to Sydney Skeptics In the Pub and I might even convert the PowerPoint slides into something written one day. A sad part of the night was that my trusty Acer laptop, which has survived five years of rough handling and at least three changes of operating system (Vista, Windows 7 and 8) took a drink of South Australia's fine Coopers beer due to an act of clumsiness. It survived long enough to give the presentation, but once the beer dried out in its insides it decided to stop working. Taking it apart to clean the works can't make things any worse, so it now sits forlornly awaiting the arrival of screwdrivers and the time to use them.

Escaping for a while from the task of preaching to converted skeptics, I gave a talk about philosophy and skepticism to the Sydney philosophy forum Philo Agora.

Philosophical skepticism and what skeptics really do

The word "skepticism" means different things to different people. To philosophers it means a search for the possibility of knowledge, to people in the modern skeptical movement it means a search for the truth, to people who should rightly be called "deniers" it is a disguise they use to pretend to be something they are not.

The talk will look at these three uses of the word with examples of the way it is applied to the activities of the various groups and users. I'm a skeptic but not a philosopher (although I studied it for some years at university), and I hope I'm not a denier, so I will be concentrating on what I know best, which is the practical application of skeptical or critical thought to everyday life.

You can read the rest here.


The new name. At last. (15/3/2014)

It's official. The Australian Vaccination Network now has a new, officially approved and registered business name. After a year-and-a-half of whining about being forced to change from the deceptive name they have announced that henceforth they will be known as the Australian Vaccination-Skeptics Network. They have also announced that this is no big deal, which raises the question of why they didn't just do it when first asked to instead of wasting the time and money of the courts, court officials, lawyers and AVN members to fight it. But then, common sense and rational action have never been too evident where the AVN is concerned, so behaving idiotically is just standard operating procedure. It has also been announced that the AVN has relinquished its charity licence (the current one was due to expire in April anyway).

The new name isn't as worrying to real skeptics as you might think. Because the word has been hijacked by fringe groups like climate change deniers, the public is already sensitised to treating the word with suspicion. I know that Australian Skeptics often get asked if the name means that we deny climate change and any anthropomorphic effect on climate (maybe we have to change our name!) but at least we can respond by pointing to science. Anti-vaccination liars can't, so the name might backfire on them. And I can assure you that this will be highly publicised by those of us who are committed to the total destruction of this vile and dangerous organisation. "Stop the AVN" just needs another letter in its name and the fight against unreason will continue.


Bitstrip has something to say about the news.

Benjamin Rush - click for a larger viewIn another change, the AVN's Facebook page will no longer be run by Meryl Dorey or anyone officially connected to the organisation but will be administered (and presumably censored as is traditional) by an anonymous person who does not live in Australia. In a case of the supreme ignorance of irony shown by clowns like anti-vaccination liars, this anonymous moderator has taken the name Benjamin Rush, someone who not only signed the US Declaration of Independence but was one of those hated doctors who supported vaccination and even had a hand in establishing the specialty of psychiatry, a field of medicine despised by quacks everywhere. (The AVN has sold Scientology anti-psychiatry materials from its web site for a long time.)

To add to the woes of the AVN and the joy of sane people, the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission has ordered the AVN to remove all erroneous misinformation from its web site. As this will leave nothing much except a single page with a logo on it, the order is being strongly resisted. I'll write about the hilarious response from the AVN next week because there's a lot to go through, but to give you an idea of the flavour AVN President pro-tem Greg Beattie ordered the HCCC to reply to him in a manner satisfactory to him within seven days. Observers have commented that this is not the way to get bureaucracies to treat you kindly. It's a laugh a minute.



I know that Rich Tennant drew it, but I don't know where this was published.


I go trolling (15/3/2014)

Over a period of a week I found myself in several discussions on Facebook, many of them in forums with "Skeptic" in the title, where people expressed strong opinions about the sort of foods humans must eat, the stupidity of religion and its adherents, the dangers of genetically modified foods, the compulsion of people making bizarre claims to tell their critics to "do the research",  the plausibility of invented currencies, the worthlessness of philosophy, and the use of the term "ad hominem". I decided to put on my trolling hat and nailed these theses to the door of the group with the most offenders. Then I sat back and waited.

I'm going to be a bit busy today, so to give you all something to talk about I'll just make these statements:

  1. There is absolutely no reason not to eat meat or drink milk other than personal preference or diagnosed medical condition.
  2. Not all people with religious beliefs are fools and there is no need to be rude to all of them.
  3. Philosophy is the foundation of science and the scientific method and is as relevant today as it was in Greece in the long distant past.
  4. Anyone with a basic grasp of arithmetic can see why scams like MLM and Bitcoin are scams.
  5. You cannot prove the non-existence of something by assertion. "There is no god" is not a refutation of theological arguments. (Thomas Aquinas might have been wrong, but he was smarter than any of us.)
  6. We have been eating foods with foreign genes in them for a long time without harm. Triticale wheat contains the genes of two different grass species, durum has four, and spelt has six.
  7. "I don't know" is a perfectly acceptable response to a question.
  8. Making a claim and then demanding that others do their own research to prove that you are right is a form of running away, towing the goalposts behind you.
  9. If someone tells obvious lies or makes illogical statements, calling them a liar or pointing out the logic failures is not ad hominem.
  10. Not all atheists are skeptics and not all skeptics are atheists. Many from both groups have no interest at all in the other one.

As could reasonably be predicted, numbers 1, 4, 5, 6, and 9 generated the most comments.

The vegans, soy drinkers, gluten and dairy "intolerant", and animal rights activists were out in force, totally ignoring the words "personal preference" in my statement. I responded that I live in the gluten intolerance capital of the world and I don't believe that all the people demanding special treatment actually have coeliac disease. This picture shows a vegetarian meal at one of my local restaurants which is offered with a gluten-free option. I couldn't help myself so I ordered extra gluten, which is probably why I got two slices of toast.

The arguments then went on to describe the horrors of battery farming, live cattle exports, and the relative protein productivities of various forms of land use, none of which have anything to do with diet choices.

The reference to arithmetic in Point 4 was totally ignored, and I was told that senior banking officials can't comment on Bitcoin because as bankers they don't understand finance, you can buy things with Bitcoins so what does it matter that the promoters tell you that it will replace all currencies, that the reason that almost everyone fails to get rich in pyramid schemes is because they don't work hard enough or do what they are told, and the fact that if I joined Amway in January and did what I was told I would have more than the population of the USA in my downline by Christmas isn't a case of someone promising the unachievable. And what has arithmetic got to do with multiplication, division and geometric progression anyway?

What everyone can achieve in Amway if they
work hard and duplicate properly
MonthAdded to downlinePeople in downline
January55
February2530
March125155
April625780
May3,1253,905
June15,62519,530
July78,12597,655
August390,625488,280
September1,953,1252,441,405
October9,765,62512,207,030
November48,828,12561,035,155
December244,140,625305,175,780

The comments about Point 5 were wonderful. Everybody missed the point of what I said and concentrated on the examples instead. I was told that no atheist ever attempted to prove that God doesn't exist and was then given arguments for why God doesn't exist. When I provided a reference to a book by a physicist with the words "God does not exist" in the title I was told that I didn't understand and that wasn't what the book said. The best, however, were the comments saying that it is obvious that Aquinas was not smarter than today's Facebook commentators because he was wrong about something 750 years ago, and the thing he was wrong about and which is known today is that there is no god.

I thought the GMO statement would generate more heat, but discussion was rather mild. Perhaps I should have mentioned Monsanto, because that word usually triggers a flood of venom and nonsense.

Point 9 descended into a discussion of semantics (which I would have mentioned anyway if I had gone beyond ten statements). There was argument over what constituted a lie and at what point in a discussion ad hominem applied or became an insult. Opinions ranged from ad hominem being almost anything said about the opposing party or the value of their arguments at any stage of the discussion (which makes it meaningless) to trying to specify a limited set of words and phrases (which is too restrictive). I think someone said that facts were relative anyway, but my eyes had glazed over and that might have been in another thread. I did think of asking if, when someone had been corrected on facts but continued to spout untruths, it would be ad hominem to say "You keep lying because you are an idiot", but that could have caused a meltdown as the two ends of the spectrum were folded in on themselves. It was generally agreed, however, that there are people who are so stupid that they can't absorb facts, but there was some dispute of what to call it if this was pointed out to anyone.

All in all a successful day's trolling. Nobody got hurt (except in the feelings), and I only had to follow one thread for a couple of days instead of having to jump all over the place to see illogical, emotive arguments used in place of rational discussion.


You can click here to see everything that has previously appeared on the front page.


Book of the Week

Voodoo Science : The Road from Foolishness to Fraud Voodoo Science : The Road from Foolishness to Fraud by Robert Park. The scientific method is the best thing we have come up with to find out about how the universe works. This book is about the misuse of science and how it differs from science done badly. Both are bad, but at least bad science can be corrected. Mad science is more difficult to overcome.


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