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.

Offending the offensive since 1999

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June 27, 2015

It's not a pyramid. No, it really isn't. (27/6/2015)

You don't often see advertisements for pyramid schemes, sorry, network marketing opportunities on television, but my TV has been polluted with this dross for the last few weeks.

Oh, look, it's an opportunity. But you can only find out the details by telling them lots of things about yourself.

Oh, look. There is a product, although you have to register to find out the details. It is almost redundant to say that the television advertisement shows people sailing on a luxury yacht, driving an (implied) expensive car on a perpetual vacation, and playing on the beaches of the world. (I have heard the expression "walking the beaches of the world" in presentations for at least three different pyramid scams.)

So let's play Pyramid Scheme Bingo:

  • The word "opportunity" comes before any details
  • Lots of personal details required to find out more
  • Unspecified product
  • Appeal to people wanting "a better life"
  • Testimonials from anonymous winners
  • Praise - "You're smart. You're successful"
  • "Life you deserve"
  • "Executive income from home"
  • You get that income FAST, "Not two or three years down the track. Tomorrow!"
  • "More money than you ever thought possible"
  • Promotional material suggests eternal vacation, not working.
  • But why go on?

There's a dreadful sameness to all these pyramid schemes. I would almost bet money that this crowd have get-togethers named "Super Saturday" and have levels of participation named after jewellry.

Now we'll get on to the fine print.

I'll analyse that for those who might be unfamiliar with the language of pyramid scheming. My comments are in italics.

Income Disclaimer

All information is provided free.

For certain values of "free". Something will have to be paid before the full story is revealed.

Income represented is not guaranteed in any amount for any participant and will vary with each individual.

Get-out clause Number 1 - you might not succeed like the winners in the testimonials.

No person earns income by solely enrolling others into the program.

Obligatory statement included at the insistence of lawyers to bypass the black-letter legal definition of a pyramid scheme. What's that old saying about duck-shaped things that waddle and quack?

Results of participants and experiences shared may be unique to the individuals sharing and should not be taken as assurances of success.

Get-out clause Number 3 - you might not succeed like the winners in the testimonials.

Results of participants may vary.

Get-out clause Number 3 - you might not succeed like the winners in the testimonials. It can't be said often enough - just ask the company's lawyers.

Pyramid schemes are a form of barely legal theft. Not only do the operators steal money from participants but they steal self respect, family life and dreams. It's just a pity that legislators can't seem to write effective legislation to drive these parasite out of society.

See more Dilbert here

I get mail (27/6/2015)

I'm not sure how to answer this:

Date: Sun, 28 Jun 2015 00:22:37 -0700

Hi Peter,
In your opinion, why is this one on your shit list?

I don't think that just saying "It's a 9/11 Truther site so it is garbage" would be satisfactory, even though it summarises the problems succinctly.

What do we want? Your money. When do we want it? Forever. (27/6/2015)

On Sunday, June 21, tens of protesters gathered in public spaces around Australia to lie about the new taxation and social security rules that prevent parents who choose to endanger their children by refusing vaccination from receiving benefits exclusively available to parents of vaccinated children. Or, put another way, people were whining that they couldn't get what they were not entitled to. It was claimed that the protests were not about vaccination per se but about the infringement of human rights, but the speakers were all drawn from the anti-vaccination liar community and screeched about hideous dangers to their precious little petals. To make things clear, nobody is being forced to vaccinate anyone. Parents have a choice. They just have to accept the consequences of that choice. But liars tell lies, so this fundamental principle was lost in the noise.

Reports from the organisers claimed thousands of protestors, but reports from sane people who attended put the crowds at a few dozen. The photo below shows the Sydney crowd outside the Town Hall.

Photo from an anti-vaccination Facebook page, proudly reporting the success.

The lady at front centre is a friend of mine who has no sympathy whatsoever with anti-vaccination liars, and neither does the other friend under the blue umbrella. Subtract at least two from the massive crowd.

To put the crowd into perspective, here is a real protest crowd at the same location. We were trying to stop a war, and the speakers on that occasion were far less extreme and certainly much less unhinged.

Vietnam War demonstration outside Sydney Town Hall, 1971
Photograph by Roger Scott

See more Jesus and Mo here

Book review (27/6/2015)

I found this book titled The Six Ways Of Atheism at my local library so I thought I would compare it to  by A C Grayling, The Six Ways Of Atheismwhich is possibly the best set of arguments for atheism I've seen. The title is an obvious nod to "The Five Ways" name often given to St Thomas Aquinas's arguments for the existence of God.

The introduction was not encouraging. The author has a whine about not being a professional philosopher and asks that his arguments be treated on their merits without considering the writer's academic qualifications. (An academic philosopher friend of mine translated this to "It took me ages to find a publisher for this and the professional philosophers I keep emailing don't reply so I can only assume everyone's biased against me for reasons of professional jealousy." The book is self-published.) While this is perfectly reasonable (we have a name for not doing it - "ad hominem") it usually doesn't need mentioning. He then goes on to describe his "six ways". Two of them are totally original, two are massive reworkings of the works of such dunderheads as St Anselm, St Thomas Aquinas, David Hume, Emmanuel Kant, Rene Descartes and others who completely missed the point, and two seem to be logical clarifications of the mistakes most people make when talking about religion.

The first chapter is titled "The Aggregate Of Qualities Argument" and is one the two which contain original and never before thought about arguments developed by the author. In summary, it goes like this:

  • It is highly improbable that there is a being who is omnipotent.
  • It is highly unlikely that there is a being who is omniscient
  • It is highly improbable that there is a being who is omnipresent
  • Therefore it is much more unlikely that any being would possess all three attributes
  • Therefore there is no god.

Wow! Nobody has ever thought of that before. I didn't bother to read any further as I think the whole lot could be distilled down to "The Argument From Hubris".

Back to the library it goes.

June 13, 2015

I am challenged (13/6/2015)

I had a prescription filled at the local chemist's today. When I got home I found a flier in the bag. I think I'm going to have to explain the nature of me to the pharmacist. At least there was no homeoquackery on the shelves. The good news is that there seems to be only one each of chiropractor, naturopath and homeopath in my town of Oberon and they are all quarantined in the Wellness Centre so  people don't accidentally come across them.

Unfortunately I won't be able to have my spinal health checked because I will be at the Winter Magic Festival in Katoomba that day.

I've tried searching for the artist without success.

I write about fallacies. (13/6/2015)

The next edition of Australasian Science magazine will be winging its way mailboxwards in the next few days. You could wait until your subscription copy arrives (you do subscribe, don't you?) or seek it out in the newsagent's shop to get the full collection of excellent science written for the literate layperson, but while you are waiting you can get a sneak preview of my column about those logical fallacies that plague the life of anyone brave enough to enter into conversation with those who deny or misrepresent reality.

Argumentum ad whateverum

Its not really surprising that many of the arguments used by people opposing science and supporting pseudoscience fall into the category of logical fallacies. Some fallacies, however, are used so often that they are almost impossible to avoid in any discussion with true believers. Here are just four of them.

You can read the rest here.

See more from Cathy Wilcox here

Haw! Haw! Haw! Keep laughing (13/6/2015)

It's Homeopathy Awareness Week again, and as I do every year I encourage everyone to become aware of what a ridiculous fraud homeopathy is. If only more people were aware of the uselessness of this pretend medicine the world would be a better place and honest people might have more money in their pockets. Homeopaths would have less, of course, but this would be a good thing.

May 23, 2015

Chiropractic "ethics" (23/5/2015)

On a single day last week the following two things appeared in my Facebook news feed.

I don't know about you, but my doctor doesn't seem to be taking time out to attend courses on how to bring in lots more patients and keep them for life. The vet where I take my dog doesn't have a plan that requires Cody to come in weekly for "maintenance". I've moved house recently so I don't know if my new doctor will remind me every six months that I'm due for my regular diabetes checkup and pathology tests, but I do know that if he orders too many tests or wants them too often he will have the regulators paying him some attention.

People keep confusing chiropractors with health professionals. They are certainly professionals, but the billing and the visits and the customer acquisition and retention seminars and training are all about money and nothing to do with health. Casinos like you to come in regularly too and almost certainly have marketing plans to attract new customers, but at least you can sometimes leave a betting shop with a benefit in your wallet. It might be rare, but it's a lot more likely than it will happen at a chiropractor's office.

See more Chainsaw Suit here

It's that time again (23/5/2015)

I've been getting my hands dirt with clay tablets again and another issue of Australasian Science magazine should be on its way to newsagents and post boxes very soon. As usual it has my Naked Skeptic column in it. As the frost we had a couple of days ago killed all my potplants and it isn't even winter yet I might have to consider the level of nakedness I adopt when getting into character for the next few columns. I can't really take my laptop to the pub and sit in front of the log fire with no clothes on so it will just have to be lots of room heaters and my merino sheep slippers.

Also as usual I encourage you to subscribe the the magazine. There will be something of interest to everyone in every issue and it's written for a lay but literate audience.

Get together and do it again.

Two classic songs from my youth had the title "Do it again". One, by the Beach Boys, has become a staple on oldies' adult rock radio stations, and the other, by Steely Dan, can be regularly heard on smooth jazz outlets. I don't think that Brian Wilson, Walter Becker or Donald Fagen were thinking about science when they wrote these songs, but they always remind me of the importance of replication and reproducibility in the process of scientific research.

Anomalous or unexpected results will always be with us while ever scientific research is being done. It may seem strange to say that unexpected results are expected but that's just a quirk of the English language.

Read the rest here.

Foot shoot ricochets into own-goal (23/5/2015)

There was mass excitement in the pro-vaccine world (otherwise known as "sane people") over the last couple of weeks when it was discovered that a prominent anti-vaccination liar site had produced a list of pro-vaccine trolls, people who should be blocked and banned from mailing lists, Facebook pages and anywhere else where their words might be heard. Apparently this list had been developed by looking at the membership of pro-vaccine pages on Facebook, and the wonderful thing was that there were 30,000 names listed. That doesn't mean that there were 30,000 people because many of the names were sock puppets that people use to post in places where they are already banned and many names were duplicated for no apparent reason so it was generally a source of great amusement. What was not so amusing was that the list included parents whose children had died from vaccine-preventable diseases. That's right you are a troll and should be attacked if your children die because irresponsible people don't vaccinate their children. Not that that's surprising of course, because it is a basic tenet of anti-vaccination philosophy that nobody's children matter except your own.

I was very pleased to find that I was on the list (if I hadn't been there I would have been concerned that I've not been doing my job properly). There was of course the inevitable t-shirt produced, with all profits going to Medicines Sans Frontieres. My shirt hasn't arrived yet (I was hoping to wear it at SkeptiCamp next weekend) but I have an email telling me that is on the way. I will wear it with pride.

See more Wumo here

AVN! Stopped! (23/5/2015)

The impetus for starting this site in 1999 was that I found a group of child killers called the Vaccination Awareness Network had changed its name to the much more inoffensive and deceptive Australian Vaccination Network. For the next decade I battled along by myself fighting this organisation, and then Facebook happened. In 2009, appalled by vicious attacks by the AVN and its supporters on the parents of a child who had died of whooping cough, my friend Daniel Raffaele created a Facebook group called "Stop the AVN". This brought together a large number of people with diverse skills and backgrounds who committed themselves to driving this vile organisation into the ground.

It now looks like we have succeeded, and all that is left is for a priest to perform the Last Rites and for dirt to be shovelled into the grave on top of the coffin.

We've had some success over recent years in forcing a change to a less deceptive name and having the AVN's deceitful charity status revoked. Prominent figures in the organisation seem to have disappeared (generally by having their real names hidden behind sock puppets). Now, however, it looks like the implosion is almost complete. This is the current situation:

  • The AVN's website is but a shadow of its former self and is rarely updated.
  • Ownership of the domain name has been transferred to someone that nobody has ever heard of before.
  • The AVN's Facebook page has been renamed to "Friends of the AVN" and there appears to be much confusion over who manages and administers it, although denials that are still belongs to the AVN are regularly issued.
  • The registered address of the AVN is no longer at the home of erstwhile president Meryl Dorey but is now at a virtual office which is really only a telephone answering service.
  • The Facebook page that become more of an echo chamber than it was before, and most of the posts seem to be regurgitations of standard conspiracy theories with the responses generally being along the line of "Wow! That's awful". It had a brief resurgence recently to repeat the sickening comparison of vaccination to rape.
  • People who have been members of the committee over many years have vanished and the current President is rarely seen. Official records show that Meryl Dorey is still the Public Officer (the public face of the organisation to the bureaucracy) but maybe this is just an oversight in filling in the forms.

The following piece of drivel appears prominently on the AVN's web site:

No, the debate is polarising because one side uses science and the other just makes up lies. There might be doubt, but there is no reasonable doubt.

It makes me feel so good that I think I have to say it again. In big letters.

AVN! Stopped!

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

Book of the Week

The War Against Boys : How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men The War Against Boys : How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men by Christina Hoff Sommers. It is always a good thing to correct an injustice. It is not such a good thing when the correction veers too far and the injustice is reversed. Unfortunately, for some fanatics total destruction of the other side is the minimum acceptable outcome. Some feminists are just this sort of fanatic.

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