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Updates made to The Millenium Project in April 2004

April 3, 2004

Sort of an apology (3/4/2004)
This week's update is early and a bit short because I have to go out of town on urgent family business over the weekend and I didn't get much notice of the trip. Most of the new material is catching up on things which have been discussed in the recent past.


Marilyn Manson (3/4/2004)
I received some correspondence, most of it thoughtful and polite, about my comments last week about Marilyn Manson. I would like to emphasise two points that might have not been made clearly enough. Firstly, I am not advocating censorship and I don't want any restrictions placed on Manson's work beyond the warnings which already appear on the CD covers. I do, however, have the right to say that I personally find his nonsense offensive and I don't want my kids to listen to it. The people who think that Of Mice and Men is offensive are perfectly entitled to that opinion as well. I disagree with them, but for all I know they may think that Marilyn Manson is the best songwriter since Immanuel Kant stopped writing lyrics for Frederic Chopin. The difference between them and me is that I'm not trying to impose my opinions on other people and get schools to change what they teach.

The second point is that I am not proposing that nihilist, destructive song lyrics, by themselves, will lead adolescents to depression and suicide. My argument with Manson is that he cynically exploits vulnerable people, in the same way that cancer quacks or Scientologists do. As I said in the original piece, there is a contradiction between the ideals of completely free speech and the idea that words can have an influence. As skeptics, we are rightly concerned about how cults obtain power over their victims, and this concern recognises the power of suggestion and reinforcement. What Manson does, to people who are already that way inclined, is to reinforce the ideas of low self-esteem and worthlessness. Earlier this week, I had to pass through three sets of locked doors to enter a cage so that I could speak to a young lady whose lack of self-esteem is life threatening. This experience reinforced for me my opinion that what this person does not need is some moron whispering in her ear and telling her that she is where she should be, it is her fault, and that nobody cares. She is not a "disposable teen". Neither is anyone else.


Dr [Trademark] (3/4/2004)
[Some words here have been changed because of a trademark violation claim. You can see details of the claim here.]

It seems that Dr [Trademark] (not MD) has taken heed of what I have been saying about her (I know that someone contacted her about it) and has changed all her various web sites to show the university which actually awarded her medical qualifications. They all also now show her real name, although they continue with the fiction that she needed a stage name in order to write books. She is listed in the telephone book under the false name and when you go to the address you find what appears to be a medical clinic, so her claim that she practises under her real name and just uses "[Trademark]" on stage and television is a lie which still needs addressing, as does her specious nonsense about how putting "MD" after her name does not imply that she actually holds a degree with that abbreviation. I haven't even started on the rubbish in her books, but at least some small progress is welcome.


Nuclear Power (3/4/2004)
I was taken to task during the week for my apparent support of nuclear power, despite the obvious pitfalls of the technology. This was a bit surprising, as I had just pointed readers towards a place where the horrors of nuclear power gone wrong could be seen. I do think that nuclear power is a viable way of creating the energy which we need, but I don't think it is the only, or even the best, answer. Unfortunately, many of the arguments against it are either hysterical, uninformed or outright fabrications. What will always beat it is economics, at least while coal, oil and natural gas are available in useable quantities. I am planning a magazine article on this where I can have enough space to discuss the issues properly. That article will appear here after it has been in the press, but in the meantime you can be assured that while I am not the greenest person in the world I have no desire to spend my time living in a faintly glowing desert.


Speaking of magazine articles ... (3/4/2004)
Australasian ScienceAn article I wrote about Dr Andrew Wakefield and his MMR "research" is now on the newsstands in the magazine Australasian Science. For some reason the column is titled "The Naked Skeptic", but I usually wear clothes while I am doing the writing. You can see what I had to say by clicking here.


Contact Reflex Analysis (3/4/2004)
A chiropractor was a little annoyed about some comments I had made about a scam which he uses in his business. This is what he had to say, followed by my reply. Notice how my "kinder and gentler" policy has tempered what I had to say.

From: "Thomas Walaszczyk"
Subject: Your CRA article
Date: Tue, 30 Mar 2004 13:03:13 -0500

After reading your comments on CRA I must say you are the "know it all" type who knows nothing. Without CRA most of my patients would not have recovered from their illnesses which they came to me with as a last resort. When I read comments by ignorant wannabees like your self who has contributed NOTHING to humanity and then go out of your way to slander the genius of Dr. Versendaal is certainly the sign of a psychopath parasite trying to "be someone" of authority by making statements which they have no clue what they are talking about. I notice you don't identify yourself anywhere after writing this garbage. Dr. Thomas Walaszczyk, Yonkers, NY

Dear Dr Walaszczyk,

I assume you are referring to the article at http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/comment/cra.htm where I said "Sometimes a form of quackery is promoted with such a breathtaking arrogance, duplicity, and disregard both for the truth and for the lives and welfare of potential victims that it almost defies belief". Thank you for providing another data point.

I have in front of me a book called "Contact Reflex Analysis and Designed Clinical Nutrition", subtitled "A Physician's Desk Reference for Alternative Health Care", written by Dr D. A. Versendaal and Dawn Versendaal-Hoezee. I actually do have a clue about CRA because I have read the training manual. It is difficult to imagine how anyone could have written this while maintaining a straight face, unless they were either depraved or seriously deluded. If I didn't know better, I would assume that this document was intended as a parody of the weird and unscientific thinking which abounds in "alternative" medicine.

I notice that one of the people to whom the book is dedicated is B.J Palmer. It is informative that the dedication is not to the inventor or discoverer of chiropractic, D. D. Palmer, but to the person who worked out how to market it to the unsuspecting masses. Another surprising omission from the dedication list was Phineas Barnum, but perhaps that would have been too blatant.

The reason that I didn't identify myself after writing the article was that I had identified myself before that. I have never made a secret of who I am, and my name can be found on the site with very little effort. You are not the first person to accuse me of not researching something while simultaneously showing that they lacked either the skills or motivation to do even the most basic research themselves. I assume you will not be the last.


Child Abuse Prevention Month 2004 (3/4/2004)
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month in the USA. This news was greeted by one of the filthiest child abusers in the country in a message to an anti-vaccination liar mailing list with the subject line "April Fool's Day begins Child Abuse Prevention Month". She then went on to refer to "the myths of MSP, SBS". This evil woman is Barbara Bryan who runs an organisation which exists solely to support any and all people charged by the police with shaking babies to death. This is someone who calls Shaken Baby Syndrome a "myth". This is someone who has never met a child killer that she didn't like. She got quite excited back in January when she discovered that she had been mentioned here. I sent her a kind and gentle email at the time asking her how she held back the vomiting reflex when she saw herself in the mirror, but she didn't answer. Perhaps I should write again and ask if she gets a stirring in the loins when she reads about children with blood in their brains, detached retinas and healing broken bones.

April 10, 2004

Another apology (10/4/2004)
This is getting to be a habit, but I have to apologise again this week. This update is late because I suffered an adverse reaction to a medication. So much for orthodox medicine!! It is disgraceful how they test their chemicals on human patients. When an iridologist looks at your eyes and then prescribes some homeopathy you don't get sick! Apart from a bit of peritonitis nobody gets stopped from doing web updates by colonic irrigation. If a chiropractor adjusts your neck and rips your carotid artery you can be back at work five minutes after the stroke is fixed. But take some medicine that some pharmaceutical company has spent a billion dollars on to get through the approval process and the stuff makes you worse. There oughtta be a law against it!


Speaking of laws and doctors making things worse ... (10/4/2004)
Ron Law comes from New Zealand and is the scourge of medicine in that country. He was not pleased with what I had to say about the lies being told about deaths in hospitals, so he wrote to me to say that a mistake in a scientific paper when citing another paper made the mistake correct and that the author of a paper had retracted his findings. Coincidentally, that same author wrote to me during the week and said "I'm sick to death of being misrepresented!". Mr Law is arguing with me about statistics, but his own meagre grasp of the subject can be deduced from the fact that he pushes that old, discredited line that measles vaccination is useless because deaths from measles had been declining before the vaccine was introduced. Any sentient being can see that it is the decline in cases of the disease which prove effectiveness, not just a falling off of one of the many possible outcomes. Mr Law also claims to be some sort of advisor to the real medicine authorities in New Zealand. I don't think that he will be pleased with the news that the Medical Council of New Zealand is about to mandate that doctors must warn patients about the dangers of snake oil and quackery and the possible interactions with real medicine.


Benny Hinn (10/4/2004)
Defenders A healing, Benny style.of the sleazy faith "healer" Benny Hinn keep writing to me to let me know how I am heading for damnation because I will not accept that Hinn is the conduit through which Jesus talks to the world today. One frightening email consisted of a single paragraph containing 4,786 words! Things got more frightening when a second email from the same correspondent arrived ten minutes later and the subject said: "Reality of the Holy Spirit-Continued". Continued! Could there be more? Luckily, it just contained a web site address where I could read the remaining 6,293 words. Not all Christians are fooled by Hinn's blasphemy, though, and I receive the occasional email of support from believers who see him for the charlatan that he is. Some of them even accept my right to my own religious beliefs, which is nice. You can read what I said about Benny Hinn here, and the collected correspondence here.


Weird email of the week (10/4/2004)
I guess this company found me through the Full Canvas Jacket site, but I really appreciated getting this email because I am always on the lookout for new products to offer to the clients of my computer consulting business out there in real life. Staff could be encouraged to put on a jacket whenever they feel the urge to open an attachment in an email from someone they don't know on a computer with no anti-virus software.A useful piece of equipment.

Dear Sir/Madam,

We would like to introduce ourselves as an manufacturers and exporters and World wide suppliers of Canvas Strait Jackets at our end.

We have come to know through your web site that you are dealing in Restraint products including Canvas Strait Jackets. We can produce different types of strait jackets ,hand cuffs and many other restraint products on user demand and offer you on bulk basis these products. Please let me know about your demand we will offer you best quality Strait jacket on very very competitive rates. For your convenience I am attaching you our one of the new Strait jacket's photo. I look forward your early and most co-operative news soonest possible.

Thanking you,we remain,
Miss Ayesha Malik
(Export Executive)


Censorship (10/4/2004)
I Snatched ISBN 1-74051-088-7have just finished reading a book called Snatched: Sex and censorship in Australia, written by journalist Helen Vnuk. (Helen is a friend of mine and used to be a member of the committee of Australian Skeptics.) The book is about the inconsistencies and absurdities which attach themselves to the bureaucratic and regulatory process whereby the reading and viewing habits of Australians are controlled. Helen has not written this from the point of view of a disinterested observer, but from her experience as the editor of a soft porn magazine, Australian Women's Forum, where she was faced almost daily with the problems of what was permissible under the rules, or even what the rules were on any particular day. I have come under some criticism lately for apparently being too much in favour of censorship so it is interesting to note that my own rules for appropriate censorship are identical with Helen's, a person who has had direct experience in publishing literature that has been classed as pornography by the official censors. These principles are:

I should point out that I am only talking about censorship of sex and language here. Censorship for purposes of national or police security or some aspects of personal and business privacy is a totally different issue, with a completely different set of justifications and arguments for and against.

The book is only available in Australia and is not listed by Amazon.com. While it specifically records the Australian experience, it is relevant to anyone anywhere who values free speech and is concerned about the way that the limits to freedom are set and managed. I highly recommend it and it should be available through any Australian bookshop, although you might have to order a copy. If anyone outside Australia wants a copy or if your local bookshop doesn't want to get one in, please email me and I will try to get one for you.


Missing the point (10/4/2004)
I have got somewhat used to AOL subscribers who don't quite get the message in my page about penis enlargement spam, but I got an email this week from someone who probably hasn't thought things through completely.

Hello!

We are interested in link exchange with you.

Your link will be placed at: http://www.penisseminar.com/links.html Please place this code on your page and send me information on your link information.

Penis Enlargement Seminar 39 Year Old Doctor Holds First Penis Enlargement Seminar in The World and Finally EXPOSES His Closely Guarded Method To The Public AND How You Can Master It Too!

Sincerely,
Dr.Arthur Vavere


A bubble breaks the surface in the cess pit (10/4/2004)
No truth! No courage! No value!Could it be from the decaying carcass of the Gutless Anonymous Liar, after 67 days of decomposition? This message was sent through a link on my business web site using an anonymiser. It was good, because I needed a bit of cheering up and there's nothing funny on television tonight. It reminded me that I was a little surprised not to hear from Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group last month on the anniversary of the death of someone whom he helped into an early grave.

I didnt know you were into such matters (i.e. your ratbags crap. It explains so much and makes my decision so much easier.


Google advertising (10/4/2004)
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the weirdness of displaying Google advertisements promoting products and services which are in direct contradiction to the sentiments expressed on the web pages around them. To amuse myself I have now signed up with Google and I will be interested to see what appears in the ads below. Remember that the content of these advertisements is derived from the content of the surrounding page and I have no control over what they say. I suspect that they will not be pointing to the sorts of places that I would recommend. As consolation, payment for any clicks on the ads will go to the Australian Council Against Health Fraud to help in the fight against quackery.

Update (29/5/2004)
Google were not happy with what I said in the article above and have cancelled my advertising account. Negotiations about this pettiness are proceeding, and I hope that the ads will return shortly.

Speaking of Google ... (10/4/2004)
GoogleWhen you do a search using Google, the results are not presented in a random order. Google tries to provide the most relevant sites first, and to do this it uses a system called page ranking. Quite rightly, Google will not say how page rank is calculated but it is known that it is based on the number of links to a page and the page rankings of the linking sites. Many of the pages in The Millenium Project have rankings of 5/10 or 6/10 and it worried me for a long time that I was contributing to higher page rankings for the sites I have listed here. I made some changes to minimise this, but I received several emails in the last few days mentioning the problem so I checked what I was doing. I thought I had solved this problem, but I had missed a few pages when I applied the solution. All of the pages which contain lists of external links (the alphabetical listings and the category listings) now have a "robots=nofollow" metatag. Google trawls this site at least once each month, and the next time it does the links will be removed from the page rank calculations for the linked sites.

April 17, 2004

Art imitates life - and death (17/4/2004)
I Top quality TV dramadon't watch a lot of television, but I try to never miss an episode of Law & Order (in any of its incarnations). A week or two back I found that someone had included a link to this site in a forum discussion about an episode of the show which dealt with a child who died while undergoing "rebirthing". By coincidence, my local television station showed a repeat of the same episode this week. (It was the episode called "Born Again" from Series 12, two years ago. You can read a synopsis on the Law & Order web site.) The forum link was to a transcript of a rebirthing session where a child named Candace Newmaker had died, and the correspondent described it as "pure outrage fuel". I could not have put it better myself. When I was reminded of this outrage, I thought that it was an appropriate time to remind everyone else not only of the dangers that some forms of "alternative medicine" can present, but of the callous attitude of quackery supporters towards the victims. Here is what I wrote at the time about Candace's death.

Candace NewmakerCandace died, suffocated in her own vomit and excrement, because some lunatics decided, without benefit of any science or even coherent theory, that she should undergo a pretend reenactment of her birth. Oblivious to the fact that in a real birth the baby receives an oxygen supply through the umbilical cord, the "therapists" wrapped Candace tightly in a blanket and asked her to free herself from this "womb". When she complained that she could not breathe, she was told to "stay in there with the poop and vomit". Twenty minutes after Candace died one of the "therapists" called her a "twerp". At their trial, the killers were still trying to blame Candace for being a loser and not trying hard enough.

When I commented on this travesty, I was told that this was not "alternative medicine". I was reminded that people die when under the care of real doctors (as if this somehow had anything to do with Candace's death). I was told that a place calling itself the Colorado Rebirthing Center was not doing "rebirthing". I was told everything except that this was a failure of "alternative medicine". Not a failure because someone made a mistake - a failure because a fraudulent, unproven and unprovable treatment killed the patient. Someone will now remind me that a doctor once cut off the wrong leg.

You can read a transcript of the last two hours of Candace Newmaker's life here. Jurors cried when they had to listen to the audio tapes of this tragedy. I can understand why. It truly is "pure outrage fuel".


Breast cancer (17/4/2004)
BreastFight breast cancer. cancer is a major killer but there is a good chance of a cure if it is detected early enough. This is why women are encouraged to examine themselves and to have regular checkups. It would amaze anyone not familiar with quack medicine to find that there is organised opposition to women having mammograms, but I see this sort of nonsense on a regular basis. As for the other great cancer killer of women, cervical cancer, there is a possibility of creating a vaccine against this as it is caused by a virus. On the day that a breakthrough was announced in the development of such a vaccine the anti-vaccination lobby geared up to fight it. I cannot understand why people want women to die of cancer when the means of early detection and treatment are available.

Two of the stars of Australia's television awards celebrations this year provide hope that the real message might be getting to the people who need to hear it - young women. One was the American singer Anastacia, who had a highly publicised brush with breast cancer in 2003. She is now actively campaigning to raise awareness of breast cancer. The other was Australia's current favourite female singer and girl next door, Delta Goodrem. (Delta is almost literally a girl next door for me, because her family lives in the suburb next to mine.) Delta is only 19 and was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease last year. She is currently responding well to treatment and everyone is very optimistic. I congratulate both of these women for their openness in talking about their cancers, and I hope that their example gets the message to their young fans that cancer can be beaten but you need to detect it early.


And here's an alternative (17/4/2004)
Just in case you think I am harsh in suggesting that quackery supporters want women to die, remember that the following message was posted to the Dr Clark mailing list:What a real doctor sees.

Hey all,
I haven't posted much here, just lurking and reading and trying to keep up with Dr. Clark's methods. Here's my problem. I was diagnosed with dysplasia of the cervix (pre-cancer cells). For the past 6 months, I've been doing the Dr. Clark thing. I even went and had my dental work done.

I went back two weeks ago and had a repap assuming everything was going to be good. Well, I got the results this morning. It's STILL High grade dysplasia. I'm at a loss as to what to do now besides surgery to have the dysplasia removed.

Any suggestions? Her book "A Cure For All Diseases" really doesn't say much about the cervix.

Lisa

Suggestions so far have mainly been to use colloidal silver (both orally and topically), plus one person who offered a purge recipe to "warm the cervix". My favourite, however, has to be : "Something that's about 100% effective is ozone insufflation". In the real world, something which is "about 100% effective" is a simple surgical procedure carried out under local anaesthetic.We are talking about a deadly disease here, one which kills countless women worldwide each year.When Lisa dies, nobody will attribute the death to quackery.


Cynical? Me? (17/4/2004)
When the topic of "dangerous mammograms" came up in an Internet forum this week the old psychologist in me started thinking about the motivation of people who dispense such nonsense. The best I could come up with is that the thinking goes like this:

  1. Tell women that mammograms are dangerous so that they stop having regular checks which can detect breast cancer early enough to allow relatively successful treatment.
  2. When the cancer has grown enough to be palpable, tell the woman horror stories about "cut, burn and poison" and get her to use zappers, essiac tea, laetrile, antineoplastons, coloured lights, vitamins and anything else you can think of until the money runs out or the cancer has obviously progressed to the stage where she finally, in desperation, goes to see a real doctor.
  3. When the doctor says that the only way to save her life is to perform a complete mastectomy, tell her that she must not even think about breast reconstruction using an implant. She can always stuff one side of her bra with Kleenex tissues.
  4. If the cancer has metastasised, get her to cash in her life insurance to pay for more quackery and go back to Step 2.
  5. Laugh. Go back to Step 1.

Thanks for the thoughts (17/4/2004)
There have been enough hints around the various RatbagsDotCom sites lately to let readers know that various members of my family have been suffering from certain health problems. I would like to publicly thank all the people who have written to me with good wishes for my family and me. It's gratifying enough that thousands of people take the time to read what I write each week (March had the highest number of visitors of any month since the site started), but it doubles the pleasure to know that there are strangers who act like friends. Thank you.


Serendipity (17/4/2004)
WhenA Streetcar Named Desire I was thinking about what to write in the message above I got sidetracked and went looking in Google for the final line spoken by Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire - "Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers". One thing that struck me was the number of places where it was used without attribution or in a form which suggested that the words were someone else's original creation. The other was a story written by Elaine Dundy about the one and only time that Tennessee Williams and Ernest Hemingway met. The fact that they met only once was surprising, because they lived in the same towns, travelled to the same cities, probably stayed in the same hotels, and Williams knew Hemingway's wife when they all lived in Key West. I'm not normally impressed by celebrities but I am a writer, so I can assure you that if I had been at a lunch table with Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams and Kenneth Tynan I would have been giving a pretty good imitation of a slack-jawed yokel. I'm also a bit envious of how well Elaine Dundy can write, and you can see why here.


Housekeeping - broken links (17/4/2004)
Comments and new stuff are a bit light on this week. A few weeks ago the network infrastructure at Ratbag Castle was updated with a new firewall and router and this new box interfered mightily with the software used to check for broken links on this site. I was getting A box cursed by Satanhundreds of false positives and it all became a bit hard to manage. I've now fiddled with the settings of various virtual knobs and switches and everything is working as it should, but I had a lot to catch up with and the time spent on that wasn't available for doing anything else. The origin of the problem could probably be explained by people with propellers on their hats, but I'm now working on the basis of if it's fixed, don't break it.


Link check by XenuThe software I use for link checking is called Xenu. It does an excellent job, it's free and, best of all, it is called Xenu to annoy Scientologists. I highly recommend it, and you can get a copy here.

April 24, 2004

Life imitates art (24/4/2004)
Four rapists were sentenced to long prison sentences in my home town this week for a series of particularly savage and brutal attacks on two young girls. They are totally unrepentant and are claiming that they were only accused because they are Muslims and that the girls were sluts anyway. Apparently the evidence for their sluttishness is that they allowed men who were not their husbands to rape them. There were originally five rapists but one hanged himself in prison the week before he was due to be sentenced. He didn't do this because he was ashamed of his behaviour, but because he hadn't told his parents in Pakistan that he was locked up. It seems that having a son in prison was going to be more distressing for them than having a son who was a rapist. I have suggested issuing the other four with lengths of rope to save them the hassle of trying to tie reliable knots in prison bedsheets.

Two of the rapists have appealed their sentences because they were not allowed to represent themselves. When the trial started they announced that they had dismissed their lawyers and were going to do it themselves. This would have meant that they would have been able to cross examine the victims directly, and they even bragged about how they were going to dress in clothes similar to those which the victims had said were worn by their attackers. The state government moved quickly to change the law to prevent accused rapists from using the courts to further assault their victims, and the trial proceeded without any cross examination of the victims' testimony. It is this lack of opportunity to challenge witnesses which is the basis of the appeal.

Law & Order: SVUAnd where did these legal geniuses get the brilliant idea from? They aren't bright enough to have come up with it themselves so it can only have been suggested by their lawyers, who pretended to have nothing to do with the case or these clients after they were "dismissed". This was probably suborning perjury and possibly a contempt of the court, but even the legal profession recognises that the term "criminal lawyer" is sometimes a tautology. But where did the lawyers get the idea from? They got it from television. The "dismissal" of the lawyers was announced on a Monday morning, and the story line of the previous Thursday night's episode of Law & Order: SVU had been about an accused rapist who sacked his lawyer so that he could personally cross examine the victim. Sometimes coincidences are just coincidences, but I don't think that this was one of those times.

The real issue here isn't the abuse of the legal process, because the rapists are probably not going to get away with it. It is the hiding behind religion and claiming that their religious culture allows them to treat other people with absolute disregard for their rights as human beings. When those who say that their religion allows them to rape at will start complaining that others do things which offend their religious sensibilities it becomes the job of all decent thinking people to increase the volume of offence and ridicule. If a superstitious belief system defines outsiders as worthless it is simply reflexively describing itself.


Guns and games (24/4/2004)
Politics is a strange business. Nobody is too disappointed that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power in Iraq, although things there are a lot messier than we were led to believe a year or so ago. At the time that the "Coalition of the Willing" went into the country to clear out the weapons of mass destruction, sorry, I meant "enforce a regime change", sorry again, I really meant to say "introduce democracy", I commented that there were other regimes around the world which appeared to be just as disgusting but were receiving little attention. I have been reminded of this again because while the politicians here are arguing about when the Australian soldiers in Iraq might get to come home, we are about to send an expeditionary force to that other great example of corruption, discrimination and abuse of human rights, Zimbabwe. This contingent will not be carrying guns, but cricket bats. Yes, while some Australians are fighting tyranny in the desert, others are going to play games in a country run by a tyrant. To his credit, one senior player, Stuart MacGill, has refused to go (although his reason is that the Zimbabwe team has been selected on racial lines, not on the basis of talent), but it would be nice if the rest of them decided to stay home as well.


Rosemary - for rememberance.Lest we forget (24/4/2004)
This weekend includes Anzac Day, when Australians reflect on and remember the sacrifices made in the wars that the country has participated in. It is these sacrifices which allow us to protest against wars, elect our politicians, and enjoy the rights which should be available to all people. It would be wonderful to wake up on an Anzac Day knowing that there was no war going on anywhere in the world, but I don't think I will see that in my lifetime. Unfortunately, whilever people believe that the colour of others' skins or the superstitions in their heads are reasons for killing them, war will always be with us.


Sad news (24/4/2004)
John Maynard SmithOne of the greats of 20th century science, John Maynard Smith, died during the week at the age of 84. I have made one of his most famous The Theory of Evolutionworks, , the book of the week. We should all hope to leave a monument like this when we go. As I said in the blurb I wrote about the book, evolution is one of those fundamental theories in science, like relativity, heliocentricity, gravity, blood circulation, atomic structure and quantum mechanics of which it can realistically be said that the idea introduced a paradigm shift in scientific thinking. Modern science would be primitive and crippled without it. This book provides excellent ammunition for the fight against those who would replace evolution with superstition. It's a tough read, but if you can only afford one book about evolution, this should be the one. First published in 1958, it was updated over the years as knowledge increased, particularly in the areas of genetics and molecular biology (the structure of DNA was only discovered in 1953 and the ramifications for evolutionary theory took several years to be identified and absorbed), but this is the nature of science. It is always a work in progress. You can read a good biography of Maynard Smith here.


Salt Shakers (24/4/2004)
The Salt ShakersSalt Shakers are a small group of Christian bigots from Melbourne, Australia, who like to look out for the morals of everyone else. They have a wide range of targets including, but not limited to, abortion, rap music lyrics, embryonic stem cell research, Muslims, Harry Potter books, pornography, drugs and New Age spiritualism. I would come as no surprise that they are not too keen on homosexuals, although they seem to be rather selective in what sort of homosexuals they don't like at any particular time. They are perfectly entitled to their opinions, of course, but they have started interfering with the rights of other people.

Their latest action has been to harass advertisers appearing during the television show The L-Word. I haven't seen the show, although I have seen station promotions for it, and it seems to be about a group of lesbians who sit around in a coffee shop talking about their sex lives. This sounds about as interesting as a half-hour lotto draw when you don't have a ticket, so I don't think I'll be tuning in any time soon. The show seems to be causing much angst for the Salt Shakers, but, as I said, they seem to be being selective. Homosexuals are all over the television these days (every "reality" program seems to require a gay couple) and one of the top rated shows is Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, but these shows seem to have gone unnoticed by the complainers. (Queer Eye annoys me, not because it has gays in it but because they all seem to be caricatures and stereotypes.) So far, five advertisers have withdrawn from the show, Allianz Finance, DaimlerChrysler, the large retail chain Just Jeans and the vitamin manufacturers Roche and Centrum. I think they are all gutless, but perhaps they really know their markets. If that is so, then the next time I see a healthy looking woman wearing well-fitting jeans driving a leased Mercedes Benz I will know that she isn't a lesbian.

I just thought - the salt shaker on my kitchen table has holes in the top. Perhaps the members of the Salt Shakers organisation have holes in their heads.

(Grumble - I was going to head this item "Yikes! They're dykes", but I found out that a newspaper commentator had already used it. Don't you just hate it when someone has your good idea first?)


A pervert writes (24/4/2004)
I received the following email during the week. Why this person thinks that I provide this sort of introduction service is a great mystery. I have been trying to come up with a suitably offensive reply, and I think my response will mention red hot soldering irons and body cavities.

Date: Sat, 17 Apr 2004 07:11:38 -0700 (PDT)
From: G Clayton
Subject: Need contact person

I need a contact person in Los Angeles. I am extremely interested in young boy lovers and I will conpensate for information. Your time and assistance are greatly appreciated.


A pioneer retires (24/4/2004)
Gary NorthOne of the sites included in The Millenium Project from the very first day was Gary North's mad site about the coming apocalypse of Y2K. North was (and maybe still is) some sort of weird fundamentalist Christian who looked forward to the disasters which were going to befall the world when all the computers failed at the start of 2000. He thought that this was going to be the fulfilment of the prophecies in Revelation, and he was a significant contributor to the mass hysteria that overtook usually sensible people in 1999. I gave him a Highly Commended award at the end of 1999 and left him in the Millenium Project collection as the last surviving example of Y2K madness. Sadly, North's Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowdssite now just consists of advice about Internet marketing. It's no fun any more, so I have finally removed the link.

To commemorate this final death rattle of Y2K hysteria, I have resurrected a conference presentation I gave in 1999 about the imminent Armageddon and a speech I gave in early 2000 explaining why we were all still here. You can read them here. In case you think that the silliness of Y2K was a once-off phenomenon, I recommend Charles Mackay's wonderful book from 1841, .



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