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Good News Week - Part 1 (5/2/2005)
There is an Australian government organisation called the Productivity Commission which issues an annual report card about how well we have been served by government agencies. Buried in the hundreds of pages of information about how many felons were imprisoned, how many children were taught Norwegian, and how many old people were placed in retirement warehouses, there is a mention of how well we are doing with public health. During 2004 there was only one case of measles reported in the entire country, and only 439 cases of pertussis. In 1994, 3088 cases of measles were reported in a smaller population of children. Naysayers and nutcases will try to twist these numbers to suit their perverted agendas, but the fact is incontrovertible that these low disease levels are due to one thing only - vaccination. There will, of course, be demands from the anti-vaccination liars to stop vaccinating against measles now that it has been eradicated in the country, but the eight to nine million people who come into the country on planes each year could easily bring it back. The report card might have had an A+ on it for last year, but it still carries the message "Could try harder".
|Measles Update (12/2/2005)
I don't know where the Productivity Commission gets its numbers from, but Australia was not quite as productive as reported. According to the federal Health Department, there were 18 cases of measles in the first six months of 2004. Still impressive, but more than one for the year. Now I have admitted to passing on doubtful statistics, I can foresee the press release from the Australian Vaccination Network: "Total slime ratbag admits to 1700% increase in measles in just one week".
Good News Week - Part 2 (5/2/2005)
Florida State University was planning to open a school of chiropractic. Many of the real academics working at the place were disturbed by this, and some of them produced the following map to show what they thought the University could look like in a few years. The good news is that sanity has broken out and the school will not be built.
We all know that there is limited money to pay for things such as these, so it is just as well that Governor Jeb Bush was able to find a budget cut in another area of health expenditure which would allow him to approve the $9 million per year needed for the chiroquactic school. While President Reagan's body was lying in state between his death and his funeral, Governor Bush found the money for the chiro school by vetoing $12 million in grants for research into Alzheimer's Disease. What was it that Reagan suffered from ...?
And one more thing ... (5/2/2005)
A multi-level marketing company has claimed that I was violating their copyright by reproducing the first nine steps that a new representative was supposed to perform in order to firmly establish his or her "Global Enterprise". I can understand why they would not want this information to be freely available, as representatives are expected to pay $500 before seeing it. I have paraphrased the nine steps below. (The paraphrase is an original artistic work by Peter Bowditch and he claims copyright in all countries which honour the Berne Convention. Anyone can freely reproduce the paraphrase provided that the original source is acknowledged.)
The nine steps to financial freedom:
Speaking of the MLM company ... (5/2/2005)
When I first started talking about the MLM company above I received some emails asking for clarification. It soon became obvious that some of these emails were coming from company representatives who were pretending to be innocent bystanders. One of the writers was Rodney, who started out by asking some general questions about MLM. When I replied, he revealed a little more about himself by spouting some of the company propaganda (people earning "6 figures" a month, etc) and told me that he had fully investigated it and had the forms ready to sign. Now it turns out that I am causing him great distress by publishing his name as such publication has "cost [him] employment opportunities, loss of clients, and loss of money" and is apparently even placing the lives of his family at risk. As for costing him money and clients, he should have thought of that before he wrote to me with lies about his involvement with the company. I don't know how I am putting his family at risk, unless his upline is threatening him for making the company look bad.
Every page on this site contains a link to a page which gives the email republication policy here, so anyone with the research skills to find out my home phone number should have been able to find out what might happen if they wrote to me. Yes, Rodney phoned me at home. In fact, he spent a day alternately ringing my home and office telephones in an effort to disrupt my personal life and work. He failed on both counts. (He also told me that he was going to get 20,000 of his closest friends to continually ring me in order to destroy my life and business. That came to nothing as well.) His one piece of luck was that a power failure caused by a huge storm showed that the rechargeable batteries in my home answering machine were not recharging at all, so I lost the message he left telling me how miserable he was planning to make my life. If that message had not been erased, you would be able to listen to it here today.
MLM revamped (5/2/2005)
As the battle against pyramid schemes looks like being extensive this year, I am in the process of rearranging the Multi-Level Mirage leg of this site. I'm not trying top compete with the big names in the anti-MLM business like Scott Larsen, but every little bit helps.
The last thing about MLM (for this week, at least) (5/2/2005)
I have often compared the process of multi-level marketing to the heroin trade, where people sell to pay for their own consumption and nobody makes any money except the crooks at the top. It seems that experts in organised crime see even stronger connections.
In 1998, Professor G. Robert Blakey was retained as an expert witness in a court case between Amway and Proctor & Gamble. Professor Blakey is not just any old professor of law, he is the person who helped construct the anti-racketeering laws in many US states, and was also influential in drafting federal legislation which has been used to put some very big Mafia pins behind bars. This is a man who knows criminality when he sees it, and this is his opinion of Amway:
It is my opinion that the Amway business is run in a manner that is parallel to that of major organised crime groups, in particular the Mafia. The structure and function of major organised crime groups, generally consisting of associated enterprises engaging in patterns of legal and illegal activity, was the prototype forming the basis for federal and state racketeering legislation that I have been involved in drafting. The same structure and function, with associated enterprises engaging in patterns of legal and illegal activity, is found in the Amway business.
Apparently, Amway don't like Professor Blakey's opinion being made public and have tried to have it removed from several web sites. Now they have another one from which to have it removed. Read Professor Blakey's report here.
Vampires Redux (5/2/2005)
When I visited the National Gallery of Victoria recently they were having an exhibition of paintings by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch. One of the paintings on display was "Vampire" (if you click on the picture at right you can see a larger version of it). This reminded me of something I wrote back in July 2002, and I thought it bore repeating.
Imagine how you would feel if you were selling a fake cancer cure and you came across a suitable prospect who met the main marketing criteria - terminal and desperate - but they didn't have enough money to buy your product or service. Unlike, say, a car dealer, you can't introduce them to a finance company for a loan because the financier might not think they will live long enough to pay the money back. You could get them to sell their house, but that takes time. Help is available, however, if they have a life insurance policy, because they can sell that to pay your quackery bills. This is very encouraging news for quacks because not only can they have the satisfaction of achieving the primary objective (stealing all of someone's money before they die), but there is the bonus of being able to get their hands on money that comes along after the death of the "patient". You can read some more about this disgusting theft here.
Kind and Gentle (5/2/2005)
Keeping up with my 2005 policy of being kinder and gentler to people with whom I might disagree, I sent the following email to someone who wanted some entertainment:
To: "abolishvaccines" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: High pitched screams
Date: Sat, 05 Feb 2005 11:14:55 +1100
I saw your message to the AVN mailing list where you asked:
Are there any audio's available of a baby's high pitched scream after vaccination?
I can't help you with that, but if you go to http://www.tdh.state.tx.us/immunize/html/pertussis_txt.htm you can hear some recordings of children suffering from pertussis. For something that might give you even more pleasure, you can go to http://www.vaccineinformation.org/video/pertuss/ to see some videos of coughing children.
I know that you will enjoy watching and hearing these recordings and I am sure that the pleasure you feel will encourage you to be even more opposed to vaccinations in the future.
I can understand your disappointment at the WHO's estimate that only somewhere between 200,000 and 400,000 children die each year from pertussis, but I am sure that if your anti-vaccination work is successful this could be brought up to match or even exceed the 750,000 who die from measles. Then you would really have something to celebrate.
(I apologise if my mention of large numbers of dead children caused you to have an involuntary orgasm, but I couldn't think of any way to include a suitable warning beforehand.)
Dan replied, but not with any words related to what I had said. He emailed me the entire contents of a web page headed "Hell is Real... Don't be fooled!". I suppose that this means that I am dealing with some kind of religious fanatic, but perhaps he has been reading Mark 10:14 (where Jesus said "suffer the little children") and thinks that the word "suffer" in that context has the same meaning as it does in common usage today. He therefore probably thinks that Jesus was ordering him to make children suffer, and what better way than to deny them life-saving vaccinations. No wonder he wants to hear recordings of screaming children. I will write to Dan for some clarification, but I suspect that any conversation with him would rapidly become even more surreal.
[The web page "Hell is Real... Don't be fooled!" disappeared occasionally in 2006, but luckily I kept a copy of the email from Dan and you can see this wondrous piece of prose here. Unfortunately my email program and my Acrobat writer weren't able to cooperate enough to convey the delightful colour scheme of the site, but I have managed to reproduce the style in this box where you can see the pale yellow writing and the bright blue links on the tasteful background. Unfortunately I was not able to capture the background music which apparently came with this web site, but I am sure that it would have been entertaining.]
|here is the pale yellow writing and here is a nice blue link.|
Darwin's birthday (12/2/2005)
Today is the 196th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin. This occasion will go completely unnoticed in the vast majority of media outlets. This is as it should be, because the papers around my place have had much more momentous things to talk about during the last week. There was Pancake Day, of course, when gluttony is celebrated. It is significant to note that the day is always called Pancake Day and never Shrove Tuesday, but perhaps this could be put down to the ignorance of journalists who do not understand the superstitious basis for having a day of excessive eating 47 days before the first Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox. This might sound too much like astrology, anyway, so perhaps it is best not mentioned lest people think that the journalists are deluded loons. Which brings us to the second great celebration of the week, Chinese New Year, an event of monumental inconsequence to people who neither know nor care that children born before the new moon are monkeys and those born after are roosters. It is almost unbelievable that newspapers could be wasting space on this nonsense in the week when Cassini-Huygens was sending us wonderful pictures from Saturn.
Speaking of astrology ... (12/2/2005)
One of life's awkward moments is when someone comes up to you at a social function and asks what your sign is. I resist the temptation to say "School Crossing. Watch For Children" or "Caution. Koalas Next 4K" and generally I tell them that I am highly sceptical of astrology and point out that this is not unexpected as scepticism is an almost inevitable trait in people born on the cusp of Libra and Virgo. Sometimes I like to combine cultural superstitions, and I tell them that I am a very troubled person because I have had to live my life with the internal conflict of being a Virgo born in The Year of the Randy Goat. If I am feeling grumpy I rebuff them on religious grounds. I tell them that I am a Priapist and I will not stand for their nonsense.
Dan's feelings are hurt (12/2/2005)
The anti-vaccinator whom I wrote to last week posted a message to a mailing list saying that I was unkind to him. Someone told him that I am "total slime" and that people who write to the list should always assume I or one of my spies are watching. This raises the question of why I am not allowed to be a participant on the list. The answer, of course, is that they want to freedom to tell lies about vaccines and to insult me but they are too frightened to allow any conflicting views to be expressed. They are cowards as well as liars.
Credit where credit's due (12/2/2005)
When I did a regular link check this week I found that one of the anti-vaccination liar sites had permanently disappeared. When I went there, I was immediately redirected to another domain name altogether. I did a Google search across the new site to see if I could find the anti-vaccine page which I had listed before and instead I came across pages talking about the value of vaccines. I haven't looked at every page, but the new site seems to have a lot of advice about alternative medicine and it is good advice. No outrageous claims are made and various treatments are marked as being of unknown value because they have not been subjected to scientific scrutiny. The whole thing seems to be a legitimate attempt to tell people what is known with any degree of confidence about alternative remedies and to couple this with good advice about when to see a real doctor. I can only assume that the previous site belonged to a quackery magazine which has been taken over and relaunched by someone with a conscience. Congratulations, Delicious Living Magazine. I will check back in a few months to see if the standards have been maintained, but in the meantime it is good to see that someone is doing the only things that I have ever asked of people in alt-world - tell us what has been shown to work, what it is actually useful for, how safe is it and how well can users know what it is that they are really consuming.
Autism research (19/2/2005)
The cause of autism may soon be known. A major research project is now under way, and you can see it here. It consists of an opinion poll which asks the following questions:
To nobody's surprise, the anti-vaccination liars are rallying the troops and getting the vote out, and when I voted the results looked like this:
Science is not a democracy where decisions are made by referendum. It is about reality, not about how people think reality should be. The link "Click here to learn more" leads to a good article telling why polls of this kind are essentially useless, but that won't stop the liars from lying. Nothing has in the past, so why should a disclaimer from the people conducting the poll. You can expect to see the results of this poll quoted all over the anti-vaccination liar web sites and mailing lists within a few weeks.
The Skeptics' Circle (19/2/2005)
The Skeptics' Circle is a biweekly carnival for bloggers who apply critical thought to questionable stories. Subjects include frequently repeated urban legends, quackery, pseudoscience, misinterpreted or denied history, analyses of misleading media, and any other articles or essays that fight misinformation with facts. You can see the latest edition here.
Darwin's birthday seemed like a good time to reflect on how the nonsense of creationism still infects our society. Like those moles in holes at the fun fair, every time you think you have whacked it on the head it pops up again somewhere else, sometimes with another name like "intelligent design".
There was a period of less than seventy years from the middle of the 16th century until the start of the 17th during which three literary anthologies were produced. These three works of art are so fundamental to the way that the English language is spoken today that it is impossible to imagine how we would talk to each other if these works had not existed. They provide an enormous number of the clichés and expressions which we use in everyday speech and which allow us to use shortcuts in language without having to explain everything we say in words of one syllable. The first of these books was an instruction manual, but it contained what is probably the best known poem ever written in the English language. The book was The Book of Common Prayer.
The other two anthologies are similar to each other. Both contain stories about historical figures, both have stories which illustrate how morality can work and how people can (and should) behave in various circumstances, and both contain wonderful literary passages with the force to generate spontaneous and powerful mental images in the reader's mind. Both address the idea that people have the power to choose between good and evil, and both talk about how conflict can be resolved and redemption achieved. One of these books is the Works of William Shakespeare, the other is the Bible. A passing knowledge of both is a requisite quality of anyone claiming to be a literate, educated English speaker.
The big difference between these two works is that nobody thinks that all the words and stories in Shakespeare are true, but millions believe that everything in the Bible is true. If a history student were to quote Shakespeare in an essay about Richard III or one of the Henries and the teacher marked him down for it there would be no outcry, no picket lines outside the school, and no demands for balance and equal time for opposing theories of history. Anyone who tried to complain would be looked at kindly and dismissed as a fool or an attention seeker. School boards would not even put the matter on the agenda. If, however, that same student were to submit an essay in biology saying that dogs are in no way related to cats because they are of different created kinds, or a geology assignment stating that the Himalayas and the Grand Canyon were both less that 10,000 years old, or an astronomy paper with the calculation that the universe is 12,000 light years in diameter and to base these claims on the contents of the Bible, we would be encouraged to accept these as being examples of the predictions of a scientific theory which demands fair consideration in the classroom.
I have been questioned several times by friends and acquaintances about why I would ever have bothered to read the Bible. My answer is what I said above about about the literary canon. Sometimes they will go on to ask why I would bother with the Bible if I don't believe the contents. My reply to that is that I can appreciate Missa solemnis in C by Mozart, Pieta by Michelangelo or Madonna dell Granduca by Raphael without having to believe in the literal existence of the subject matter. Two of my favourite films are Casablanca and Terminator II, but I don't have to believe in the literal existence of Rick Blaine or John Connor to detect the ways in which both stories address the issues of morality and the choices people can make about right and wrong.
The Bible with its stories and myths is part of the collective consciousness of our civilisation. So are the works of Shakespeare. It is a pity that so many people are seduced by the siren call to unshakeable belief in the unbelievable. If only there was a way to stop their ears with wax, but maybe I have strayed into another set of myths. There are so many of them around, and all equally true. But that's just a theory of mine.
A creationist's opinion (19/2/2005)
This mail just in:
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2005 01:42:13 +1100
I said WOW
I have just evolved a third eye - Oh and I was so fooled into believing that God/Jesus made me from dust ?
Ah ,but what shall I do if my friends see me - they might place me under the microscope or open up Baileys circus again.
Oh well ,I suppose all those Africans and Javanese really are well ahead of us poor, newer version caucasions seeing they evidently came 1st.
And I suppose I will have to leave Cheetah the Chimp in charge of the house while I am away - for photo shoots with National Geographic - he will manage won't he ?
Hold on - what's this stub on my hand ?
Must be another typing finger my evolutionary processes created while I was "Asleep"
Look out 60 words a minute here I come.
bye lesser man
Excuses, excuses ... (19/2/2005)
With more than 4% of the 21st century gone, you would imagine that it would not take almost two full working days of telephoning, faxing, emailing and talking to salespeople to buy a car, especially when the car is not brand new (so it is already registered) and the buyer has the full amount of the purchase approved in advance by the finance company. It does, though, so there goes almost half a working week. Another thing that shouldn't exist now is an electricity supply system which croaks every time there is a thunderstorm, leaving large numbers of houses without lights or computers. And then there's the cable broadband Internet system which gets blown up by the same storm and takes sixteen hours longer to fix than the lights do. What all this is leading to is that the book reviews promised for this week won't be here. Maybe next week. If it doesn't rain. If I have lights to read by and a computer to type on. If I don't have to spend too many days actually picking up the car after all the paperwork is done. If ...
Kind and Gentle - Indigenous Science (19/2/2005)
On Sunday evenings, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Radio National network carries a program named Encounter, which "explores the connections between religion and life". On February 6 this year the program concentrated on the Boxing Day tsunami. (You can see something I wrote about the tsunami and religion here.) One of the speakers was Dr Polly Walker, a research assistant at the University of Queensland. Among her qualifications is that she is somehow related to Cherokee Indians, although she is apparently unable to detect the racism inherent in the idea that who her ancestors were gives her some special insight into the world. On this occasion, Dr Walker talked about "indigenous science" and compared it to "Western science", as if there was a possibility that different ethnic backgrounds can affect the truth about the world. As I implied in my comments above about her racial ancestry, this sort of cultural relativism is racism in its purest form. I wrote to Dr Walker, but I have not yet received a reply.
Dear Dr Walker,
This is just a short note to congratulate you on your contribution to the ABC's Encounter program on February 6.
Your speech perfectly captured the essence of post-modernism, where the words have individual meanings and are arranged in a correct syntactical form resulting in something which sounds sensible but is really complete drivel. I don't know whether you wrote the speech beforehand and rehearsed it or if you improvised on the spot, but it was brilliant anyway. If it was an improvisation then my congratulations are doubled. It is hard enough to do standup comedy with short jokes, but to be able to produce more than a thousand words of apparently coherent nonsense shows a skill far beyond even the dreams of most performers at places like the Harold Park Hotel. I particularly liked the way that you threw in a reference to Rupert Sheldrake as a way of letting listeners know that you were telling a joke. Nicely done!
Have you thought of expanding the piece for publication. Just as Alan Sokal was able to get Social Text to publish "Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity", I am sure that you can find a serious journal where the editors would not detect that they were being hoaxed by such buffoonery.
Again, congratulations. It was good to see that someone could introduce a little light-heartedness into a discussion about the tsunami disaster and to do it in a way which allowed us all to laugh without feeling that our amusement was somehow distasteful or disrespectful.
Kind and Gentle - A nurse just doing her job (19/2/2005)
A nurse wrote to an anti-vaccination liar mailing list to say how she was advising mothers about the dangers of vaccination. I wrote to her:
Subject: Just doin' your job
Date: Sun, 20 Feb 2005 17:08:04 +1100
Someone has told me that you sent a message to the Australian Vaccination Network's mailing list in which you made the following statements:
I'm 25yo & a Registered Nurse working in Perth's only specialist Children's Hospital (Princess Margaret Hospital).
and, talking about advice you had give a patient:
I encouraged her to look up the AVN on the net & discussed a little bit of the info I've picked up so far. (hehe in the notes the docs had written "encourage vaccination" :))
I have some questions for you.
Does your employer know that you are actively undermining the vision, mission and values of the Women's and Children's Health Service (see http://wchs.health.wa.gov.au/general/about_us/documents/316.pdf) by directing parents to web sites containing lies about vaccination?
If you are concerned that the hospital may be making money out of vaccinations, do you think it reasonable that the institution should make even more money out of the misery which will inevitably result if liars like AVN get their way and vaccination rates fall?
Should I email the hospital and tell them that one of their nurses is laughing at doctors' recommendations about vaccinations and telling mothers not to protect their children?
She didn't reply so I wrote to her boss, and her boss said ...
Dear Mr Bowditch
We have received information from you with regards to a Registered Nurse who has posted an anti immunisation message to the AVN mailing list. Thank you for this information. We would like to contact this nurse. We appreciate your assistance in providing us with her name. I refer to the email you sent 2nd March, 2005.
thank you for your assistance and attention to this matter.
Politicians! You'd laugh if it wasn't serious.
One of Australia's more awful politicians is Phillip Ruddock, the current federal Attorney General. I remember having dealings with him many years ago when he told me that Australia needed to acquire nuclear weapons. We needed them to defend ourselves against the communist hordes who were about to invade the country and steal our vital bodily fluids. On another occasion, he told a friend of mine not to bother applying for membership of the youth wing of his political party as she would feel out of place among all those other young people of a superior social class to her. At one election he changed between electoral districts because he felt that the voters in his existing electorate were not good enough to be represented by him and he wanted to be elected by people with more money (and therefore class). He is (and was) a bigoted fool.
After many years of ineffectual parliamentary service, his dreams came true when he was appointed Minister for Immigration and was given the task of keeping out people who tried to enter the country seeking asylum and to lock up those who got here. He would have been in bigot heaven with this appointment, as not only were the boat people brown, poor and not Christian, but some of them might have met a communist once. It was a constant galling experience for the Australian people to see this man stand up in parliament wearing an Amnesty International badge and describe how good it was to lock people up without trial. One of his critics was his daughter, but even the best families have sheep with darker wool.
Another of his daughters has now been given a message about how far she can go. She wanted to invite a friend home for Christmas dinner. The friend worked for a foreign embassy, and suddenly there was some irregularity which required the withdrawal of his diplomatic privileges and his immediate expulsion from Australia. Normally this sort of action is only taken if the diplomat has been caught spying, but in this case he worked for the mission of a friendly country. No explanation for his departure has been given. The clear inference, however, is that if anyone wants to invite someone into Phillip Ruddock's home, the invitee had better not be Jewish.
A short delay (26/2/2005)
Due to a sudden convergence of other matters, this week's update will appear on Wednesday, March 2. One of the things was yet another power failure over the weekend. This one was very short, lasting just long enough to reboot all the computers and make the microwave clock start flashing 88:88. Part of the rebooting was the loss of what I was working on. Yes, I know I should have an uninterruptible power supply for my computer. I do have one, but its electronics went haywire and it is away being repaired. Murphy's Law says that thunderstorms happen only when the UPS is in the workshop. At least I have my car, after only ten days of ringing, emailing, faxing and hair-tearing. Permit me a moment of boasting.