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PreviousNextUpdates made to The Millenium Project in April 2006

April 1, 2006

The sky is falling! Children are being drugged! (1/4/2006)
I was challenged during the week by someone who stated that a story in the newspaper would not be reported here because of the immensely damaging information it contained about the second-most evil and dangerous chemical ever made, Ritalin. (The most dangerous is, of course, mercury, Methylphenidate (Ritalin)- could there be a more dangerous chemical compound?with Prozac, aspartame and fluoride closing in along the straight.) The horror story that I would be too afraid to tell is that a politician, well known as an anti-Ritalin loon, has said that he is trying to round up participants for a class action against the makers and distributor of the drug. That's it. That's the story. Someone is trying to organise a court action, but no parties are yet involved, no court papers have been filed, and nothing has happened. I can only imagine that someone at the newspaper will be disciplined for not selling enough advertising and leaving a blank space which had to be filled with drivel.

Two major matters of concern are associated with this non story. The first is that last week 14 kids aged around 13 or 14 at a school in Queensland (as far as you can get from the politician in question and still be in Australia) managed to get their hands on some Ritalin which was not prescribed for them and administered it to themselves using a delivery method which is not how it is supposed to be taken. They all ended up in hospital and local politicians are making noises about attacking drug abuse. It is drug abuse to consume drugs not prescribed for you in order to get an effect which the drugs do not give if taken according to directions, but this means nothing to the anti-Ritalin loons. The drug was taken, there was harm, the drug is bad. Four legs good, two legs bad. I pointed out that it was almost inevitable that 14 kids of that age had abused acetaminophen somewhere in Australia during the week (many ending up in hospital) and an absolute certainty that that number of kids had abused both nicotine and alcohol (although the hospital visits for these may be deferred for some time), but there are no calls for the banning of these drugs. Just Ritalin, because, as everyone knows, there is no such thing as ADHD and the condition was only invented to allow the sales of this dangerous, unproven drug. (Methylphenidate was patented in 1954, so it is a matter of some interest both why anyone bothered to research and patent a treatment for a non-existent condition (CIBA-Geigy isn't a quackery potion manufacturer, who do this all the time), and who has been taking it for the last fifty years other than the millions of kids who have benefited.)

The second major concern was that prescriptions for Ritalin had increased "tenfold" since it was accepted into the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and therefore made affordable. I'm not quite sure where the "tenfold" comes from, because the latest figures available from the PBS for prescriptions written in Australia are for the year ending June 30, 2005, and Ritalin was not added to the scheme until August the same year. It is worth noting here that the hundredth most prescribed drug in Australia up until June 2005 accounted for 404,000 prescriptions during the year. Another relevant statistic is that according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there are about 276,000 people in the country who are aged 18 or less.

So how big is the Ritalin epidemic? Well, according to the opponents, there were 523 prescriptions written in August 2005 and "more than 5800" in January 2006. (I love the "more than". It suggests extreme accuracy in reporting.) The first thing I did was point out that this was an elevenfold increase, and, according to the rules set by the person telling the story any deviation from absolute fact is a lie and there are no such things as mistakes, therefore the person claiming a "tenfold" increase was lying. (You might think I am joking or exaggerating here. This person accused me of lying for saying that Hulda Clark sued me for damaging sales of her books. When I replied that a publishing company whose only products were books had sued me for damaging sales of its products and therefore books, I was told to point to where the word "books" appeared in the lawsuit. Bizarre, I know, but true.) An exception was immediately made in this case (as it would have to be, because the person making the claim opposed Ritalin).

But back to the epidemic. There are about 276,000 people aged 18 or less in the country and less than 6,000 people taking Ritalin in total. If all of those pill poppers were under 19 it would be 2%. Let's allow the number of monthly prescriptions to rise to 6,000, giving 72,000 per year. This is a very long way from the top 100 most prescribed drugs in the country (one of which is aspirin, which, as any alternaut knows, is never recommended for anything because it can't be patented and nobody can make money out of it).

So, we have a drug which used to be expensive but is now subsidised, inevitably leading to an increase in both prescribing and consumption. The huge increase in prescriptions is only huge when compared to a very low starting point, but in relative terms compared to other prescription drugs it isn't even a ripple on the pond. Kids who can benefit from the drug are more likely to get it because their parents can now afford to pay for it. Action is being taken to control abuse, but even before that action it is still far less abused than some quite dangerous over-the-counter medications. Everything seems to be good. Unless you think that sick children don't need medication. But why would anyone want to deprive kids of effective treatment? I don't know the answer to that. I don't think that there is an answer which would satisfy anyone who is concerned about children and their welfare.


Wired up weirdness (1/4/2006)
A long time ago when I had a brief career as a stage actor our small ensemble put together a production of Rhinoceros by Eugene Ionesco. This was quite a difficult play to learn and rehearse, as it lacked the lucidity and sense of direction of works by writers such as Shakespeare, Miller Rhinoceros by Albrecht Dürer - click for larger imageand Albee. In fact, as nobody had a clue (either in or out of character) about what was going on at any time, it was a bit like learning a series of random numbers. All it needed was a score by Arnold Schönberg and translation into Bantu to achieve perfect incomprehensibility. Still, we cast members had at least seen a real rhinoceros (even if we hadn't seen herds of them in the streets or anyone change into one), so we had an advantage over one of my favourite artists, Albrecht Dürer, who will be forever remembered for his famous etching of the animal done from second- or third-hand descriptions.

You might wonder what all this has to do with the matters of interest to The Millenium Project, but this week I fell into a conversation which would make Ionesco look like a jingle writer for McDonalds when it came to measurements on the weirdness scale.

The 1931 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine was awarded to Dr Otto Warburg for, as it says on the Nobel site, "his discovery of the nature and mode of action of the respiratory enzyme". It was thought at the time, by Dr Warburg and others, that his work might have some application to the treatment of cancer, but that was not to be and research in this area withered away and was finally abandoned. To believers in alternative medicine, however, this must mean that Warburg's ideas have been suppressed, and a mythology has been created Dr Otto Warburgaround him. One piece of mythology is that he was "voted" a second Nobel Prize in 1944. Pointing out to alternauts that nobody is "voted" a Nobel Prize who does not then go on to "win" the prize had me being accused of lying. I have told the objectors that they should write to the relevant Nobel committee and point out that there is a mistake on the Nobel web site because it says that the 1944 Medicine prize went to Joseph Erlanger and Herbert S. Gasser, but I am yet to receive a satisfactory answer. Or an answer at all, in fact.

You might think that saying that someone has won two Nobel Prizes when he has only won one would be so easily dismissed that further conversation would be pointless, but it gets even stranger. You see, it is claimed that there are many references to Dr Warburg and cancer on the Nobel site, so this must mean that he won for his cancer cure. (At least two of the references are to someone else named Warburg, but let's not let the facts interfere with the story.) I pointed out that in Dr Warburg's Nobel Lecture the word "cancer" appears exactly zero times, something which seems strange if curing cancer was what he was getting the prize for. I also mentioned that the word "cancer" did appear in the presentation speech made by someone else, but only as a comment on how a cure might happen in the future, but meanwhile Dr Warburg was getting an award for something else.

And this is where things started to get really weird. I had made the mistake of accidentally referring to Dr Warburg's Nobel Lecture as an "acceptance speech". My error was pointed out and I agreed that I had used the wrong form of words. I was then accused of lying for saying that it wasn't an acceptance speech. The person doing the accusing gave me five examples of laureates who had made "acceptance speeches" and nyah, nyah, I was wrong. As one of the examples was William Faulkner (Literature 1949) and he gave a "Banquet Speech", not an "acceptance speech", I thought that two could play at the literalist pedant game, but my response was not taken well.

In a complete about-face, the person who had been telling me that Medicine or Physiology laureate Dr Warburg must have made an "acceptance speech" because Martin Luther King (Peace 1963) and The 14th Dali Lama (Peace 1989) had done so, suddenly announced that Dr Warburg's speech had probably been given in support of his nomination (it was presented on December 10, after the award had been announced). I commented that nobody gets to address Peter Doherty accepting the 1996 Nobel Prize for Physiologybor Medicine. Photo - Skanpix/Australthe voting committee before the final announcement, and many people do not even know that they have been nominated until they are told that they have won. I gave the example of Peter Doherty (Medicine 1996) who commented in his book The Beginner's Guide to Winning the Nobel PrizeThe Beginner's Guide to Winning the Nobel Prize that he was informed of his win ten minutes before the press release went out from Stockholm so that he could get ready for the telephone calls from the media. Another player then accused me of lying, because there wouldn't be time to write a 15 page "acceptance speech" in ten minutes. My response was to say that writing the speech would have been the least of his problems as he only had ten minutes to get into his white tie and tails and get from Memphis, Tennessee to Stockholm, Sweden. I quoted from Professor Doherty's book, but, alas, I was dealing with the sort of people who cannot understand any form of the spoken or written word which does not involve concrete thinking. (As an example, one of the players challenged me to something and then included the single-word paragraph "Well?" When I replied "Yes, I am well. Thanks for asking" I was told that she hadn't been asking me anything.)

A street in Berkeley.In another bizarre non sequitur, when I mentioned that I had seen the Nobel medal that had been awarded to Ernest Lawrence (Physics 1939, and another who had delivered an "acceptance speech") I was informed about how many Nobel laureates had come out of Berkeley. I suppose I should have replied that there is a street in Berkeley township which has the same name as me. It would have been just as relevant.

I started out by mentioning a play, and I will end the same way. If everything goes well I will have a short play here next week telling the wonderful story of the Warburg controversy. There will be three main characters - Max (a nutritionist who believes that there are no good or bad forms of cholesterol, that the best way to prevent chickenpox in children is to expose them to the wild virus, and that one Nobel Prize plus no other Nobel Prize equals two Nobel Prizes), Jan (a lady who believes that the most evil chemicals in the world are mercury and Ritalin, that anti-vaccination liars do not tell lies, that people who pray to saints are servants of Satan (but she is not a religious bigot of course, and has never said anything about Catholics), and that anyone who even knows Stephen Barrett's email address is intrinsically evil), and Peter (who has a prescription for SSRI medication but refuses to take the pills in case the Scientologists turn up on his doorstep again and point at him and laugh, and whose serotonin can stay right where it is). I will call the play "Acceptance Speech", which should be suitably confusing for anyone who can't see that something can have multiple signifiers and that words and phrases can sometimes mean different things in different contexts.


Speaking of Albrecht Dürer ... (1/4/2006)
Some time ago my daughter dragged me into this shop selling clothes which could best be described as "incomprehensible to parents". I expect my parents felt the same way about mini-skirts, jeans and tie-died t-Albrecht Dürershirts, my grandparents had similar feelings about flapper skirts and zoot suits, and my great-grandparents were surprised by fashions of the late Victorian era, but I digress ... Idly looking through the t-shirts on one rack I found something that I just had to have. (I believe the accolade "Cool!", said as a two-syllable word with a rising then falling cadence, was uttered when I said I was going to buy it.) The shirt featured prints on the back and front which obviously illustrated scenes from Revelation or some other end-times source. Although I knew I had seen these pictures somewhere and a lot of stuff is available on the Internet, it is very hard to find the creator of a painting by describing the painting to Google.

While doing a search to find a good copy of Dürer's Rhinoceros (which you can find in Google because both the painting's name and artist are known), I suddenly saw something very familiar. While I had had my suspicions, the reproductions on the shirt had been truncated (at the scale of the reproduction the full pictures would have turned the shirt into a cocktail dress) so that Dürer's trademark was missing. Here are the pictures from my favourite piece of clothing. What makes the shirt even more special is that the images have been created by bleaching a negative image onto a black shirt (which is how the original artworks were created - cut away the white bits to leave the black parts behind). Love it!

The Seven-Headed Dragon by Albrecht Dürer - click for larger image  The Fall of Stars by Albrecht Dürer - click for larger image

I often get asked why I don't reject everything associated with religion. I always respond by referring to the art, music, literature and architecture inspired by religion. I don't have to be a believer in anything except aesthetics to appreciate the work of people like Dürer, Bach and whoever designed the quite impressive mosque about ten minutes drive from my home. I am quite proud of the fact that my brain has refused to retain either the name or the nature of the product which is currently being promoted on television here by inappropriately (and even slightly offensively) using Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring as background noise.


Art imitates life imitating art (1/4/2006)
This is from episode 9 of the 1968 series of the radio show I'm Sorry, I'll Read That Again, which featured Tim Brooke-Taylor, Graeme Garden, Bill Oddie and John Cleese. (How could such a show not be good?) Apparently the BBC has released some of the episodes on cassette tape (!), but making a CD is too modern. This situation will probably never get any better, because it also seems that in a fit of recycling the BBC has reused the tapes on which the original programs were recorded. For some reason this segment reminded me of chiropractors, naturopaths and other people who like to be called "Doctor".

April 8, 2006

Ritalin follow-up (8/4/2006)
I mentioned last week that hysteria had broken out in Australia because kids who might benefit from the drug Ritalin would have better access now that it is being subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. The original beat-up story in the paper told horror tales about adverse events arising following taking the drug, but the paper forgot to mention that the main source of information for the story was a branch of Scientology, the Citizen's Commission on Human Rights. (CCHR won the Anus Maximus Award in 2003. Read about it here.) They did mention CCHR, but the cloudy ancestry of the outfit was swept under the carpet. It is amazing to see how people who would normally reject Scientology outright as either a dangerous cult or, when considering Tom Cruise's antics, as a font of hilarity, suddenly start taking the cult seriously when it agrees with them.

When I first noticed this phenomenon I went looking for the origin of the saying "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". Remarkably, the first place I found it was on the web site of anti-psychiatrist Thomas Szasz, where he used it to justify going into business with Scientology to establish CCHR. (In one wonderful moment of bizarrity, some alternative medicine believer once called me a liar for saying that Szasz had ever used those words and defied me to produce evidence of my claim. I referred to where the words appeared on Szasz's own web site and was told that that was not good enough!) One of the most ferocious anti-Ritalin and anti-medication campaigners I have come across has told people that anything I say can be disregarded because I am an atheist (my pointing out that I am an ordained minister of a church did not earn me any credit) and, in fact, only Christians (and then only some subset of Christians) can be trusted to tell the truth about anything. Whenever this abuse of religion is brought into the argument I make a point of quoting L. Ron Hubbard, writing in the secret OT VIII documents.

For those of you whose Christian toes I may have stepped on, let me take the opportunity to disabuse you of some lovely myths. For instance, the historic Jesus was not nearly the sainted figure has been made out to be. In addition to being a lover of young boys and men, he was given to uncontrollable bursts of temper and hatred that belied the general message of love, understanding and other typical Marcab PR. You have only to look at the history his teachings inspired to see where it all inevitably leads. It is historic fact and yet man still clings to the ideal, so deep and insidious is the biologic implanting.


So where's the promised play? (8/4/2006)
My plans to write a play based on the weirdness of some Usenet participants were thrown into psychological disarray during the week, when I was presented with some additional information about the mental states of the subjects whom I was observing in order to create my piece of htémél vérité. One of the subjects told me that Speakiong of putting on a play - here's Pyramus and Thisbe!using Google to find things on the web was "the lazy man's way", and that he was better at finding things than Google. To add to this hubris, he then told me that it didn't make any sense for someone to say that Nobel Laureates presented things called Nobel Lectures and challenged me to name anybody who had done so.

Show us all here how giving a 15 page lecture to those giving a Nobel Prize is customary. I'm not just going to take your word for it, especially since it doesn't even make sense. The web site is right there. Find some other Nobel Laureates that gave lectures to the audience upon receiving an award. If it's customary, it should be easy to prove your point.

I responded by giving references to the lectures presented by every Laureate in 2005, and, as we had been talking about 1931, pointed out that the only people who didn't give lectures in that year were either unable to attend the awards ceremony or, the ultimate in "unable to attend", had died during the time between the announcement of the awards and the presentation. (Thus exploiting a loophole in the Nobel regulations, as the prizes can only be awarded to living people. This is why Rosalind Franklin did not share the 1962 Medicine prize with Watson, Crick and Wilkins.) I also offered the information that the Nobel people had been publishing an annual book containing the lectures since 1901. Better-than-Google replied that I obviously didn't know what I was talking about.

He then changed hats and announced that he had a dietary cure for all sorts of diseases which had been 100% successful both in effectiveness and compliance by dieters. When pressed for details he said that the diet was the one "used by native people all over the world for thousands of years". I asked him the following question, but I have yet to receive an answer. Sadly, it appears that Max has run away and no longer wants to talk to me. If someone else hadn't thought of the words first, I should probably say: "If he come not, then the play is marred: it goes not forward, doth it?"

Which native people exactly, Max? The Inuit natives of the far north west of the North American continent? Australian Aborigines from Cape York? Australian Aborigines from around the Sydney basin? Australian Aborigines from Tasmania? Australian Aborigines from the centre of the continent? Natives of the area in the US now known as Louisiana? Natives of the Andes region of South America? Natives from the Cape Town area of South Africa? Natives of New Guinea? Natives from the area where the Niger River enters the Atlantic Ocean? Natives of the area now called Israel? Natives of the Japanese islands? Natives of the islands which make up the eastern half of Indonesia? Natives of central Asia, north of the Himalayas? Natives of the Maldives? Natives of Tahiti? Did they all eat the same food?

This gives an indication of how difficult it can be to deal with some of these people. When anyone can spout nonsense which is so obviously nonsense it can seem that the task of fighting this idiocy is hopeless. Sometimes I have to take a break just to let my mind adjust to reality again. If I was being paid to do this I would ask for more money.


Our politicians are safe. For now. (8/4/2006)
One of the responsibilities of the Australian Federal Police is protecting politicians from harm. A senior officer in the AFP was suspended this week for seeking out the services of a clairvoyant. He had approached this lady to see if she could provide any information about a rumoured death threat against a very senior No, we don't use psychics. We really don't!member of the government. When the story got out, the officer's superiors immediately stopped him doing any policing for a while. The reason given for his suspension was not that he had demonstrated defective mental capacity for the job by inviting a psychic to help, but because he had revealed confidential and potentially harmful information to her in order for her to do her "work". One wonderful part of the unfolding story is that the psychic claimed client confidentiality and privilege (just like lawyers and doctors) but immediately breached these rules by confirming that the officer had spoken to her about the matter. She also stated that she didn't foresee any problems arising out of his action in talking to her, a strange and damning admission for someone whose job is seeing the future.

The story as told in the newspapers was probably beaten up to make it all sound more exciting than it really was. It seems that the copper and the clairvoyant knew each other socially, so it might just have been a throw-away line to her at a party using a careless choice of words. The good part, though, is that the AFP have officially stated that they do not use psychics in their investigations.

But they would say that, wouldn't they? Surely it is a policy of police forces across the world to keep their methods and tools of investigation secret. Everyone who has ever watched Law & Order knows how not to leave fingerprints and anyone who has watched CSI knows that all murdered bodies should be completely dissolved in acid to remove clues, so there must be some things that the cops don't want the crooks to know.


Creationist nonsense (a tautology, I know) (8/4/2006)
Every so often someone reminds me about John Rennie's 2002 article in the Scientific American named 15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense. To save myself having to remember where to find the article, I have added it to the Comments collection here. Click here to read it.

Reading Rennie's article again inspired me to do some work on the Creationism shelves of the Millenium Project book shop. I have added a few more books (and I have a lot more to add still), bringing the total to a surprising 46 titles (plus one non-recommended book). Here is the list, although some of them are not exclusively about the creation/evolution non-debate.


Do something useful with your computer (8/4/2006)
Foolish Earhtlings. When will they ever learn?Everyone must have either heard of or taken part in SETI@home, the project to use the spare capacity of personal computers to analyse radio signals from space looking for indications of the possibility that something intelligent might be the source. While this is good fun, there are several other ways to productively Could this particular arrangement of a protein molecule help cure cancer?use the time that your computer is sitting there concentrating on moving the screen saver around. The SETI project is part of Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC), and you can see several other projects at the BOINC site. The one I have chosen to run on my computers is the protein folding calculation from World Community Grid, because that seems to be the project which is closest to addressing my selfish needs. (This project seems to be closely related to the Rosetta@home project being conducted directly from BOINC.) I encourage everyone to get involved with one of these projects, and, you never know, you might even be the person who cracks the code which leads to an AIDS vaccine or a cure for diabetes or myeloma. Intel didn't make all those gigahertzes just to speed up the spell checker in MS Word, so get them working on something worthwhile.

My reason for promoting the protein folding calculations over SETI@home is that due to my personal and intimate knowledge of what happened at Roswell in 1947 I know that looking for aliens out there is a wasteful activity. As Stephen Sondheim said about clowns: "Don't bother, they're here". But I digress ...


Misdirected email of the week (8/4/2006)
I just had to let this one through Mailwasher. Money is always tight, so another job would be handy, but I don't think that multi-level scamming is for me. Doesn't it sound convincing? I can almost feel the dollars falling into my bank account now. Of course, it would have been much more convincing if it had been addressed to me by name, or even to a public email address of mine. (It came through the address which came with my cable Internet account, an address that I never use for anything.) I particularly like the part where I am asked to reply in English. Perhaps this person has heard about my cunning linguistic ability.

Hello,

EJF is one of the leading companies providing customers from 6 continents with online financial support and service of maximum quality and currently we plan to expand our marketing outlets and find new customers from new countries.

The New Year's celebration was followed with the news that we have opened new positions of financial managers and decided that most likely candidates should be enrolled straight from the Internet.

Try Your luck with EJF!

Work as a financial manager and note that you are not required to be skilled in this type of sales/marketing business. The only and critical requirement for you is being, energetic, honest and industrious.

Apply for the position of a financial manager with or without experience in financial support and processing.

Benefits:

  1. Become our initial representative and a middleman between us and our customers from your country.
  2. Gain authority with people from all parts of the world who really rely on Your service.
  3. Pay no fees or charges and invest nothing to begin (forget about fraudulent scam job offers with different fees and charges).
  4. Diminish the term of the funds delivery and gain the trust and respect both of our staff managers and of our devoted customers.
  5. Take part in the Company's anti-fraud campaign. Receive bank wire transfers only and be aware of every transaction's status checked by the Bank itself.
  6. Expedite the process of around-the-world pay methods and become a motivated independent representative of EJF in the near future.
  7. Combine Your routine work with Your service in the EJF Company.
  8. Spend around 12 hours per week and earn around 500-800$ per week.
  9. Receive payments from our customers, process them and send them either to our main office or to one of our regional affiliate departments.
  10. Possible career growth.

If you are interested, please ask us send more information about this vacancy.

E-mail: careers@EJF-careers.com
(!Please write your future messages only in English!)

Thanks for your attention.

Sincerely yours,
Andrew Kaprinski
EJF Staff Manager


An idiot speaks (8/4/2006)
You No truth! No courage! No value!would think that Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group would have more than me to worry about after his recent embarrassing display of mendacity on Canadian television. (See it here. Watch him lie. Enjoy!) He resurfaced from the swamp in Gutless Anonymous Liar mode this week to post the following inanity to the Usenet newsgroup misc.health.alternative. What a strange world he must live in, where things like this would make me do more than laugh. At him.

Convicted liar Peter Bowditch of Gebesse Consultants has been served again by [XYZ].

As part of therecent [XYZ] settlement with wacko-Bowditch, an Australian court ordered Bowditch to effectively cease and desist in his campaign of lies, libel, and defamation. Bowditch was ordered to remove all internet materials under his illiterate penmanship. Bowditch forgot his blogs!

[XYZ] and the court were recently made aware of this omission and the court has allowed [XYZ]'s claim to remain active. [XYZ] has given Bowditch 24 hours to comply.

April 15, 2006

So what's been going on? (15/4/2006)
This is a holiday weekend where I live, and I have decided to take a short holiday. I am taking a holiday from thinking and writing, not from doing anything at all, so I have taken the opportunity of a couple of days away from the office to do some reorganising of this site and its companions.


The Green Light (15/4/2006)
I set up The Green Light as a companion site to this one in early 2003. Its purpose was to list the good stuff which matched the bad stuff listed in The The Green LightMillenium Project. Over the last few years The Millenium Project has evolved a bit, and a lot of the material I write here is relevant to both places. Also, there was some information shared between the two sites, such as the book shop contents. It had become difficult to maintain both sites and my main efforts always had to be directed towards The Millenium Project, because that is where the vast majority of visitors to RatbagsDotCom go, so the Green Light tended to get out of date (and stay that way).

I have now combined the two in a way which will greatly reduce the work I have to do to keep them both up to date. All common material will now be updated whenever The Millenium Project gets changed, and all I have to do for maintenance of The Green Light is add items to its list database and the rest will look after itself. As an added bonus, The Green Light will now inherit the HONcode accreditation from The Millenium Project, which it always should have had anyway. From the outside both sites will retain their separate visual identities, internal search capability and search engine listings (although it will take a week or two for the search engines to index all the new page URLs). By doing this work I believe that I will make The Green Light into a more useful resource and also free myself from the nagging guilt of knowing that something isn't right and I should be doing something about it.


The incredible shrinking Blog (15/4/2006)
For some time now I have been reproducing the weekly updates to The Millenium Project in a Blog at milleniumproject.blogspot.com. The purpose of this was to provide a backup for the latest information here and to Bloggerattract the audience who subscribe to the various Blog indexing and reference services, with the intention of getting those people to actually come and look at the real site. It was never meant to be a permanent archive of this site, and, in fact, presented an even greater problem of maintenance and keeping in line with the Millenium Project contents than the Green Light site ever did. If anything changed here, because I noticed an error or facts had overtaken what I had written, I had to remember to go through the rather clumsy repair process at the Blog.

I was reminded of this by last week's piece of drivel from the Gutless Anonymous Liar, who suggested that a court somewhere might be interested in what was in the Blog. Of course, its idiotic claim that someone had "given Bowditch 24 hours to comply" with something related to the Blog was as true as anything else it has ever said, so there was nothing to worry about. I am aware, however, of a lawyer who had the Blog on a list of web sites to harass as far back as March last year, although nothing seems to have ever come of that. Well, now it's too late, because I have removed everything in the Blog before January this year and from now on it will contain material from the current month and the three prior months only. As I said to a lawyer who contacted me once asking for my address to serve legal papers, I feel no obligation to give any assistance to people who want to harass me.

[The blog was diverted to another purpose at the end of 2007.]


The Millenium Project (15/4/2006)
The changes I have been doing to this site are much less visible, except to those with exceptional eyesight and memory. All the pages in the Millenium Project site are being converted so that they are based on Microsoft FrontPage templates. This means that site maintenance and the creation of new content will both be greatly simplified and it will be much easier to make site-wide changes if they are necessary. The site has only had one major redesign in its seven years of life and I am not planning to do another any time soon, but this change will make it much simpler if I ever do decide to make everything look different one day. If you are wondering why I haven't always used templates, it's because in 1999 when I started FrontPage wasn't anywhere near as good as it is now (and I think that it is an excellent system for site management), and, in any case, I had no idea then that a simple listing of just the titles of 1000 web sites which I didn't like would turn into a weekly magazine with thousands of readers every day.

Each page takes about a minute to change over to the new format, but with a lot of pages this means a lot of minutes. It's a bit like shovelling gravel - you don't see much progress until you are well into the job, and it's not easy to maintain full speed for long. Because of this, the conversion will happen over several weeks. One thing that will be noticeable while the changes are going on is that I have disabled the various places on the site where visitors can request a list of recently-changed pages. With a couple of hundred changed pages each week, most without any alteration to actual content, it would be too confusing (and useless, actually) to use the facility.


And now down to business ... (15/4/2006)
It hasn't all been back-room stuff this week, so here are some short items to keep everyone entertained.


Not just misdirected - the bizarrest email of the week! (15/4/2006)
In real life I run a computer consulting company and I often get email requests for the supply of computers and other pieces of technology. Some of these are like Nigerian letters in reverse, such as the person who wrote to me from Africa and wanted to know how quickly I could supply him with a couple of container-loads of Hewlett Packard printers. My reply "Just after the money for full payment has been deposited into my bank account" triggered a loss of interest from the potential customer. Sometimes I get strange requests such as this real Nigerian letter (yes, it did come from an IP address in Nigeria):

PEACE UNTO YOU THERE,

I FORWARD THIS MAIL TO YOU IN ORDER TO PURCHASE ( BIBLES BONDED LEATHER 200 COPIES ) THE BIBLE IS FOR THE CHURCH TRAINING CLASES, KINDLY CALCULATE THE TOTAL PRICE WITH THE SHIPPING COST VIA " AIR MAIL PARCEL POST 7-10 DAYS SHIPMENT OR BY AIR FREIGHT TO AIRPORT TO NIGERIA. WE NEED THEM WITHOUT DELAY.

STAY BLESS
REV. AYOBOLA

MuThat letter was sent to a Millenium Project email address, so it could be that the writer was a little confused about some of my comments about religion. This week's letter, however, was much more of a mystery. Again, it was sent by someone clicking on one of the email links on this site, but I have no idea either what the person wants to buy or why he thinks he can buy one here. "Microlift"? Is it a software product to make Windows XP boot faster? Is it a building elevator for small people? Is it a forklift truck which carries teacups rather than pallets? Is it an underwire bra for ladies of, how shall I put this, attenuated mammafication? Surely he doesn't want to buy buttons for his jockstrap?

Dear Sirs/Madams,

Please advice me your best prices, delivery time and the wieght for:

BUTTON, PUSH, ROUND HEAD, FOR MICROLIFT MODEL MDL200 ELEVATOR, MANUFACTURER: MICROLIFT, PROJECT: WEST AZERI 4141, DA-660330, qty. 3

Regards,

Rena Huseynova
Procurement Department

Deniz Service LLC
Baku, Azerbaijan


And a really, really annoying email (15/4/2006)
This came in. I was not amused.

Your e-mail address xxxxx@ratbags.com is currently on the mailing list for www.Laetrile.info. In order to receive any future e-mail messages from www.Laetrile.info, you must confirm your subscription. To do so, please click the link below.

Laetrile bottleAs all the "info" I need to know about laetrile is that it is a failed quack cancer cure which is essentially just cyanide taken in (hopefully) non-fatal doses, I didn't think that I had ever asked to be subscribed to any mailing list about it. In fact, I was positive that I had never asked to be subscribed to anything like it. The next day, the scammer posted the following piece of ingenuousness to the Usenet newsgroup misc.health.alternative:

Hello All,

I have just created a new website, www.laetrile.info. I would love if you all would subscribe to my newsletter. We do NOT bombard your mailbox, only about 1 letter a month, unless there is an announcement, like the launching of our new MASSIVE information site in about 1 week, covering everything from the disgusting incestuous relationship between the FDA and the Pharmaceutical companies to military conspiracies on 9/11. Just go to www.laetrile.info, where you can purchase any laetrile product, and fill in your emial address and click submit. There is also a message board there, which I would love more people to join. There is a fantastic article on that board entitled "Good Vs. Evil", which encompasses everything I believe and the new information board will be based on. Hope to see you at the board!

Thanks and God Bless,

Johanna

I wrote an extremely rude reply, using words which I do not use in front of my children. (Can you imagine that? Me being impolite to someone? Sometimes a molten lead enema just isn't good enough.) I somehow think that Johanna is impervious to abuse, however. It goes by the email of eatyourseeds@aol.com (you're welcome to that email address, spam harvesters) and the last time it appeared selling poison I asked it if the seeds it ate had anything to do with Genesis 38:9, but, sadly, it didn't reply.


More tributes to me (15/4/2006)
I was informed about two more tribute sites to me during the week. The person doing the informing was immediately advised that they had been added to the list of tributes and awards which I proudly display on this site. Both mentioned the recent court case in which I was involved, and both totally misrepresented both the case and the result. I am bound by a confidentiality agreement concerning the precise terms of the settlement (a common restriction in such cases) and I can not and will not comment on the specifics of that settlement, but the final court order is a matter of public record and can be seen on the web site of the Federal Court of Australia.

The court order quite clearly states that I cannot make certain representations about certain parties in the future, and it also says "2. The application otherwise be dismissed" and "3. No order as to costs". What the first of these means is that all other complaints against me were dismissed, so allegations by the writers of these two web sites that I had completely "lost" (based on the fact that action had started but not ended!) are incorrect. What the second means is that I did not have to pay the applicant's legal costs. This implies (as does the absence of a specific order to that effect) that there was no order for damages. Statements by, for example, Mr William P O'Neill, that I have been bankrupted by damages and costs are therefore obviously incorrect. The cost to me was not insignificant, but it consisted only of the opportunity cost of not being able to work continuously at my job, the incidental costs such as travel and transcript fees, and what I had to pay my lawyers. As the facts can easily be ascertained from the Court, anyone declaring something else to be the truth is probably acting in contempt of the Federal Court of Australia.


Copyright (15/4/2006)
When the attacks on me and this site started last year by exploiting a recent change in the copyright law in Australia, I was informed by some people that this sort of abuse couldn't happen in the USA because it would violate the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. Well, like all such

Weight loss designed for YOUR life.
Click to see a larger view of an advertisement which causes distress to its owner when it gets publicity.

guarantees, there is always someone looking for a loophole, and now the "intellectual property instead of defamation" form of attack has occurred at least once in the USA. (It seems that I may have been the only victim of this abuse of the law in Australia so far, which is not quite as exciting as being the only person to win Lotto last week.)

Dr Terry Polevoy is a Canadian who is a tireless fighter against quackery (Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group calls him "poke-a-boy" in a stupid attempt to discredit him), and he runs several web sites devoted to exposing charlatans and the frauds and lies they perpetrate. These sites are hosted in the USA, and last week they were all taken off the air because someone complained that one of his sites contained copyright material. Not only were all his sites taken down, but his office and personal email accounts were blocked as well, making it difficult for him to continue in business. Note that the tactic used to silence him was exactly the same as the one used on me - a direct approach to the hosting organisation without any prior notice to the site owner. And what was this highly secret copyrighted information which Dr Polevoy displayed? Why, it was an advertisement which had appeared in a newspaper in November 2005, and the real objection wasn't to Dr Polevoy displaying the advertisement but in making comments and official complaints about it, such as pointing out the words "Specialists in pharmacy and naturopathic medicine" when no such pharmacy specialists actually existed. Sound familiar? Sanity has broken out and Dr Polevoy's sites are now available again.

[As I was doing a reorganisation of my site at the same time as I was writing about copyright, I thought that I would make my position on copyright of material on The Millenium Project quite clear, so that nobody can say that I claim rights which I don't allow to others. Everything on this site (except material produced by other people of course) is covered by a Creative Commons licence, and you can see the details here.]

April 22, 2006

Good news! Origin of autism established without doubt! (22/4/2006)
One of the steps to finding a treatment for any medical condition is locating the source of the problem. If you can find out what causes something you are well on the way to fixing it. It is with great pleasure, then, that I can supply a list of the definite and indisputable causes of autism. I know I said "causes" and this implies more than one cause, but in altworld there is no inconsistency in declaring that mutually exclusive statements can be simultaneously true. (See some cancer "curers" at work for examples.) So, settle back, and see these proven causes of autism. I limited the list to 13 entries, and you will see why when you get to number 13. I didn't want to press my luck.

  1. The first "M" in MMR.
  2. The "R" in MMR.
  3. The "mercury" in DTP.
  4. Something in polio vaccine (but only transmitted to those who don't die of cancer because of the SV40 virus).
  5. Pasteurised milk. (My favourite - you can see why I trust Joe Mercola.)
  6. Chicken pox vaccine (if given to a child within a century either side of any other live vaccine).
  7. The "mercury" in vaccines given to the father (!), passed on through sperm cells.
  8. Other people taking drugs and transmitting it by shared consciousness. (Autism is apparently just a specific incidence of the psychological problems caused by someone else in the family taking psychiatric medication. I wish I could make up this sort of stuff!)
  9. Aluminium in vaccine adjuvants.
  10. Fluoride in the water. (Joe Mercola again - I love his consistency.)
  11. Aspartame (of course).
  12. MSG (keep the kids away from pizza!).
  13. Dioxin. (It must be true because it's in the Bible and the Bible Code is never wrong.)

Autism and Dioxin. It must be true!


Kindergarten hilarity continues (22/4/2006)
I mentioned last week that someone had tried to shame me by publishing misrepresentations of my recent court adventures on various web sites. The fun continued

Children ahead!
Caution
Children Ahead

Bullshit ahead!
or is it
Bullshit Ahead?

throughout the week, with many people participating in several Usenet discussions about me (sometimes peripherally to the actual topic) and making ludicrous statements such as that I "had been found guilty of libel". Apart from the fact that easily-accessible court records show this not to be a fact, while someone can be found by a court to have committed libel it is a civil matter and therefore the words "guilty" and "conviction" cannot apply. (One of the claims made against me even before any court action had commenced was that I had accidentally used the word "conviction" to describe a Federal Court of Australia ruling that a corporation had broken the trade practices laws. Thus are hairs split and lawyers kept busy.)

The whole thing became even more amusing when someone employed all the wit and intelligence he could draw on and called me "Bowshit". Soon, everyone was doing it, although one clever person used "Bowdick" to show that his imagination was not as limited as that of others. (This particular person, who goes by the confusing nickname of "PeterB" but isn't me, is famed for making up expressions that nobody else has ever heard of, such as "subclinical measles". This is the measles that still occurs at pre-1963 rates but is denied because "vaccine bias" (another of his terms) won't allow doctors to admit that vaccination doesn't work. I am not making this up.)

I keep pointing out to these people that insulting me just amuses me and won't do me any damage at all. In fact, I pointed out that anyone who wanted to make fun of my name (something which most of us grew out of before we grew out of short pants) should look to the example of Mr William P O'Neill, who has managed to come up with versions.


Speaking of which ... (22/4/2006)
You would never guess what dragged itself out of the swamp with another load of idiocy? Oh, you did guess. Of course, it was the Gutless Anonymous Liar. Sometimes I miss the times when GAL would spend all week writing nonsense-filled emails to me and filling Usenet with its entrancing form of humour. I suppose it's a bit busy now, since its alter ego was caught lying by a Canadian television show, so that is why it can only manage an absurdity every two weeks or so. Or perhaps that just coincides with the cage-cleaning schedule at the GAL Home for Infinite Silliness and it gets to use the computer while the attendants are shovelling out the manure and replacing the straw.

Seems the great news of Idiot-Liar Peter Bowditch, known libelist and defamor, recent court-ordered retraction and apology, damages and fees in favour of complainant [XYZ], have caused a mud slide of new complaints and new law suits. Idiot-Liar Bowditch, known locally as Convicted-Idiot-Liar has been featured in local newpapers as the only Australian who didn't make money from [XYZ]. But Bowditch isn't it for the money! He's in it for the principle.

[XYZ] lawyers report that nailing Idiot-Liar Bowditch in court was easier than finding an Aussie who doesn't beat their sheila.


Stop Press
Just after I published the April 22 update, I found that Mr O'GAL had sent another message to misc.health.alternative. My response is in italics.

Loser convict, Peter Bowditch, of recent loss to [XYZ] in his bid to libel and defame has been put on notice by his ISP Destra.com. Destra, host to Bowditch's dog-fucking sites, has had it with all the threats from various sources concerning Idiot-Bowditch's lack of decorum and truth on the internet. The great Australian, convicted liar and buggerer of the truth, has been put on notice by his last chance ISP.

Has he? Someone had better tell his account representative. He is a reseller of destra hosting (only someone really ignorant of the company would spell destra with a capital "d") and just last Friday, April 21, he spoke to said account representative who was very helpful in getting some mailing lists set up for Mr Bowditch's clients.

Destra was copied with the recent court-ordered DimDitch retraction and note that Bowditch wasn't smart enough to comply. Not wanting to be named as defendant in the next action, Destra put Dog-Ditch on notice.

Have they? And you have some evidence of this of course. I can just imagine the executives of destra saying "Don't forget to copy that Canadian quack who was seen lying on television".

In a published statement on his underwear and website SkankDicth boasts nobody nowhere nohow made him do nothin'. By his own wherewithall he took down his blog 'cause he felt like it? The buttplugg also noted that his organ known as the Greenlight Project (fuckin' arrogant cunt) has been nuked.

It is so nuked that if you go to http://www.ratbags.com/greenlight/ you will be redirected to its new home at http://www.ratbags.com/rsoles/gl/ (The trick is called ".htaccess", in case Mr O'Neill ever wants to set up a web site on an Apache server.)

William, my ass who is neither deranged nor diabetic. Confused and sweet-toothed, perhaps ...

Really observant people will notice that the directory structure has changed, but the domain remains the same. Still, if an atom of truth found its way into any of Mr O'Neill's communications it would defeat the homeopathic nature of the veracity content. (Get someone to explain the big words, Mr O'Neill.)

If only his poor dreary wife and shovel-faced kids would nuke him and put us all out of the misery of having to tolerate his diabetic ass on the internet.

Is the diabetic donkey like the demented donkey that "Dr Robert Underhill" was going to sue, back when Mr O'Neill was using MSN?


And while we are on the subject of kooks ... (22/4/2006)
I was clicking on my browser bookmarks and I found that an essential resource seemed to have disappeared from the web. It was the famous What is a kook? by Michael Davis, which so accurately described the sort of people I have to deal with on a daily basis. I found a copy in the Wayback Machine, and have given it a permanent home. You can read it here.

Another resource which has disappeared is the Kook Appraisal Test. Perhaps the owner thought that once someone had scored 100 points there was no point in continuing to test people. I will have a word to one of the junior programmers at the Ratbag Software Foundry and see if I can get him (Or is it her? Who can tell? Is it even human?) to unplug the iPod, extinguish whatever it is that is smouldering in the ashtray, and build a replica.


Congratulations (22/4/2006)
The Queen by Rolf Harris - Click for larger view.Two events of great significance happened this week. It was the 80th birthday of Queen Elizabeth II and TomKat had its baby. Although I am a life-long If I have to explain this, you wouldn't understand anywayrepublican I would like to wish Her Majesty a very happy birthday. I hope that she will invite me in for afternoon tea one day when I'm near Buckingham Palace, and, of course, she is always welcome to drop into my place for a cup of tea if she ever visits Australia again. (Speaking of visiting royalty, the Rolling Stones have been touring Australia and Mick Jagger's cousin lives in my street. I extended my "drop in for a cuppa" invitation to Sir Mick, but unfortunately the tour schedule was too tight. Maybe next time. I saw the Stones in 1965 and they are still Poster children for Scientology! Shh! don't make too much noise or you will engram Katie's baby.working, so there is nothing to suggest that they can't keep on rocking until we are all in nursing homes.)

The big news, however, must be that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are proud parents. Observing Scientology rules, Katie maintained silence throughout the birth process so that the baby would not have engrams implanted which would cause difficulties throughout her life. Some might say that having the old couch-leaper Tom for a father and being part of a family surrounded by Scientologists could provide enough disadvantages without adding engrams. The girl has been named Suri, which apparently means "pickpocket" in Japanese (very appropriate, as Scientologists love taking money from other people's pockets), "rose" in Persian, "sun" in Sanskrit and "IVF by donor" in Nubian. This last pathetic attempt at a tasteless joke is refuted by a friend of the couple who claims to have absolute proof that the baby was conceived in the conventional way. I hope this eye witness is planning to release a DVD of the event, because it would help to dispel the rumours that the rule of silence was not observed at the conception and Katie was heard to say:

Oh, my Ron! Oh, my Ron! Oh, my Ron! Oh, my Ron!


Poverty alert! (22/4/2006)
You know how there's no money to be made in alternative medicine? That's one of the reasons always given for why research about magical potions is almost impossible. I was told this again during the week at about the same time that I saw someone asking for advice about using vinegar to treat or cure some ailment.

I had a client once who sold vinegar as a cure-all by mail order. I was at his home on one occasion to do some training, a very nice home on the water's edge in northern Sydney. The full-width and full-height window across the northern side of the house perfectly framed Lion Island at the other end of Pittwater. There was a gardener outside attending to the lawns and roses, and a maintenance man tinkering around making sure that all the paintwork on the house was sparkling. There were three almost-new Mercedes Benz cars in the garage, but only one person at home (the wife was off somewhere in her car). I asked him if he had a boat and he pointed to several yachts moored off the beach at the end of the garden and said that one of those was his, but he wasn't sure which one.

Pittwater & Lion Island - Click for larger view
Pittwater & Lion Island c1900
Click for a larger view

While we were talking the phone rang. When my client came back he announced that it had been worth taking the call because he had just sold a mailing list containing 55,000 names to be used once only by the list purchaser. At $7.00 per name it doesn't sound like a lot of money, but multiply it by 55,000 and you get $385,500. Not bad for five minute's work, and the person at the other end (who sold some other sort of alternative medicine) hadn't even bothered to haggle.

Like I said, there's no money to be made in selling alternative medicine.

By they way, did I mention that this person was my client "once"? You only get to stiff me on a bill once.


Compatibility issues (22/4/2006)
Regular visitor Detlef Pelz wrote to me during the week to point out a problem he was having viewing parts of this site using the Firefox browser. I can't reproduce the problem using Firefox on my computer, but then a lot of what goes on around the Internet is a mystery to me. (Please don't tell the tens of thousands of people who bought the book I wrote about the 'net that I said that.) Then there is that famous haiku poem about the use of computers:

Yesterday it worked
But today it does not work.
Windows is like that.

To try to avoid this sort of problem this site is checked regularly using several common browsers, although I can't test all of the pages with the all of browsers I have available so the testing is done on a sample. The list below shows the versions I'm using at the time of writing. All testing is done under Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 2.

  • Firefox - 1.5.0.2
  • Internet Explorer 6 - 6.0.2900.2180
  • Internet Explorer 7 - 7.0.5335.5
  • Netscape 7 - 7.1
  • Netscape 8 - 8.1 (based on Firefox)
  • Opera - 8.54

The graphs show the percentage of visitors to the site using particular browsers and operating systems during March. (And, yes, there were 92 visitors during March using versions of Windows earlier than Windows 95. We often forget that in many parts of the world what we take for granted is what Joe Darion called "the impossible dream".) A version of this table, updated monthly to show the statistics for the previous month, will be on the "About this site" page.

Browsers used by visitors
Internet Explorer 6
IE 69.16%
Firefox
Firefox 11.39%
Internet Explorer (Version 5 and earlier)
IE 2.96%
Safari
Safari 2.12%
Netscape (Version 7 and earlier)
Netscape 1.13%
Opera
Opera 0.72%
Konqueror
Konqueror 0.4%
Netscape 8
Netscape 0.17%
Internet Explorer 7 (This program was only released to beta test in March 2006)
IE7 0.16%
Operating systems used by visitors
Windows XP
Windows XP 70.31%
Windows (earlier versions)
Windows 13.88%
Mac OS
Mac OS 3.68%
Linux
Linux 1.12%
Unix
Unix 0.15%

CSS Level 2Style sheets used comply with CSS Level 2 specifications, with the exception that Internet Explorer users will also see differently-coloured scroll bars at the side and bottom of their screens. Also, some text may be a little larger on screen for users who do not have the "Courier New" font installed. As it has been a standard font for all Windows and Macintosh versions for the last few years and is also a part of most Linux distributions, I am not going to worry about this too much.

April 29, 2006

Things might be getting better (29/4/2006)
April 25 is Anzac Day, the day when Australians remember the people who died in wars in order to make this a pleasant place to live. The date was chosen because it is the anniversary of the day when Australians first saw military action as a nation, not as a collection of states. (The military unit that I belonged to hadRosemary - For remembrance taken part in foreign battles in the 19th century, but it went as a New South Wales force, not Australian.) That first action took place at Gallipoli in Turkey.

I attended the march in Sydney for the first time in many years, and two things struck me on the day which suggest that the world may be a better place today than it was in even recent times. The first thing was the age of the men and women marching. Many of the marchers were wearing medals on their right sides, indicating that they were the children and even grandchildren of the medal winners. The diminishing body of surviving World War veterans has been noted for years (Australia has no living survivors of Gallipoli and very few from the First World War as a whole), but it was the age of other veterans which was noticeable. My family and I were having lunch in a nice little pub when the room was filled by a group of ex-soldiers. None of them were young any more, all of them were wearing Vietnam service medals. Apart from the fact that it made me feel my own age for a moment, it reminded me that it is more than thirty years since Australia has felt the need to send a significant number of troops to a war anywhere. This can only be a good thing.

The second significant observation was that on my way to and from the march I passed the Gallipoli Mosque at Auburn. There are too few countries in the world where something like that would be acceptable. It is why we fight wars - to allow this sort of freedom to continue.

Each year on Anzac Day I like to imagine what it would be like to wake up in a world where there was no war going on anywhere. I can't see it happening in my lifetime, but there is no law against dreaming.


Memories (29/4/2006)
Occasions like Anzac Day are all about remembering, and each year the stories and memories get a little more embellished, the officers a little more stupid, and the heroes a little more heroic. There is nothing wrong with this, but there certainly is something wrong with treating memory as if it is a permanent and unchangeable thing with absolute reliability. I was surprised to find that the Recovered Memory movement still has life in its carcass and people's lives are still being ruined by so-called "therapists" who are not only insisting that lost memories can be recovered but are still actively creating these memories while denying the possibility that memory can be fallible.

The reason I am surprised is that this nonsense should have been put to death decades ago. It is more than twenty years since I studied psychology at a university, but one of the experiments I did at the time was to deliberately implant some false memories into my own brain. The process was relatively simple, and required a series of false memories to be created, each adding a little bit of detail to what had been done before. It was quite disturbing to know that events that I knew and could remember with great detail had never happened and, more importantly, I could never prove had never happened. I know I did not start smoking again while I was studying, I know that I really did go to the Union Bar after lectures but I know that I never "borrowed" a cigarette from anybody, I know that I never bought a packet of cigarettes (although my memory tells me what brand the smokes were). As I was also studying cognitive dissonance at the time (simplistically, this is the conflict between action and contradictory belief) I was a very useful experimental subject for myself.

One of the claims of the recovered memory believers is that the more vivid a memory is the more likely it is that the memory represents reality. My memories of starting smoking and then giving it up again while I was studying are more vivid to me today, twenty years later, than my memories of my wedding, the birth of my children, or my father's funeral. The difference is that I know these things took place. I just can't prove that the things that didn't happen didn't happen. When people's lives depend on memories it is too important to ignore the plasticity and unreliability of those memories. When the person looking for those memories knows what they want to find and deliberately sets out to find it then the results can only be bad.


God: The InterviewThat review is finally here! (29/4/2006)
Yes, at last I have written my review of God: The Interview by Terry Lane. The author was a radio announcer who retired last year from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in Melbourne. He trained as a minister of religion but has gradually moved towards atheism over a period of time. He is a very good interviewer, and, as the title suggests, this book is how he would like to see a radio interview with God proceed.


Slapping on the WritsNew shelf in the bookshop (29/4/2006)
Terry Lane is a member of the committee of Free Speech Victoria, and while looking at their web site I found a reference to an excellent book called Slapping on the Writs by Brian Walters. This book talks about how corporations use their financial power to abuse the law in order to suppress any criticism of their activities. For some reason this sounded familiar to me. I remember taking my copy of this book as light reading matter for a train trip I had to make last year on my way to visit the Federal Court, but I digress... What I am getting around to saying is that I have added another section to the bookshop to showcase books like this that don't fit anywhere else.


Nit picking!! (29/4/2006)
I would like to thank regular visitor Simon Hindley for pointing out my egregious error against ancient culture by publishing something last week and calling it a "haiku" when the format of syllables per line was 5-5-5 instead of the correct 5-7-5. The offending nameless thing has been removed and replaced by a true haiku. I don't mind anyone pointing out my errors as long as it is done politely. I like my facts to be correct.


Here's how not to point out an error (29/4/2006)
The person who sent me the email below was not happy that I Tapping the back to tap the wallethad said nasty things about a form of quackery known as Advanced Allergy Elimination. This particular form of theft takes those little spring-loaded mallets used by some chiropractors and uses them to hit points on acupuncture meridians, thus curing allergies. There is also a bit of the old arm-pulling trick (it took me five minutes to learn how to do this, but only because I had to learn three techniques) and some bottles of vibrations. Only one allergy can be treated at a time, so patients have to return many times to be cured. You can read what I had to say about this fraud here. The correspondent was obviously upset, and you can see my responses in italics.

From: "Craig Reimer"
Subject: allergy treatment that is apparently a concoction of quackeries!!!!
Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2006 18:29:46 +1000

I DONT KNOW WHO YOU ARE AND WHAT RIGHT YOU HAVE TO BE SO JUDGEMENTAL ON THIS ISSUE BUT I HAVE JUST ONE QUESTION FOR YOU. DO YOU SUFFER FROM ALLERGIES?

Yes. As it happens I am allergic to certain pollens, including some from grasses.

DO YOU KNOW WHAT IT FEELS LIKE OR SEEN A HELPLESS CHILD GO THROUGH THE UNBEARABLE ITCHING OR PAIN ASSOCIATED WITH AN ALLERGY? I THINK NOT!!!

You think wrong. I grew up with someone who could have life-threatening asthma attacks at any time.

I HAVE AND IT JUST SO HAPPENED TO BE MY SON. HE WAS TREATED IN FEBUARY THIS YEAR AT THE BRISBANE CLINIC HE WAS TREATED FOR 4 ALLERGEN FAMILIES ALL OF WHICH HAVE GIVEN HIM COMPLETE RELIEF. THIS IS A CHILD WHO COULDN'T PLAY ON THE GRASS BECAUSE HE WAS ALLERGIC TO SO MANY GRASS SEED POLLENS. HE WAS ALSO TREATED FOR DUSTMITES, PRIOR TO TREATMENT HIS ALLERGY LEFT HIM SNEEZING FOR 2 HOURS EVERY MORNING AND ALSO ITCHING CONSTANTLY ON THE FACE. SO TELL ME WHY IS IT THAT MY SON NOW WAKES UP AND DOESN'T SNEEZE HAS NO ITCHING AND CAN NOW BE A CHILD AND PLAY OUTSIDE ON THE GRASS LIKE EVERY OTHER CHILD CAN!!!

One obvious reason is that he was doing a lot of sneezing last spring when the grass was flowering and he isn't now because it is heading into winter. My allergies settle down at this time of year also, and it doesn't take quackery to make that happen.

HE CAN NOW LIVE HIS LIFE WITHOUT DANGEROUS MEDICATIONS LIKE PHERNAGAN WHICH WOULD ONLY GIVE HIM MINOR RELIEF.GET YOUR FACTS STRAIGHT BEFORE YOU PREACH TO PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY BELIEVE YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE TALKING ABOUT. I WILL BE SEEKING FURTHER TREATMENT WITH AAE AND YES WILL BE PAYING THEM FOR THEIR EXCELLENT SERVICES. AND MY HEALTHFUND WILL GIVE ME A REFUND TO BOOT!!!!!!!!

The only alternative treatments paid for by my health fund (Medibank Private) are chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathy and remedial massage. (I know, it's outrageous that I have to pay insurance for these, but they won't give me a discount just because I will never use them.) I realise that other health funds cover a wider range of quackery, but I didn't think any of them would be silly enough to pay for this obvious fraud. Did the crooks actually put "AAE" on the invoice or did they put something like "chiropractic"? If they did the latter they were probably committing insurance fraud as well as health fraud, just as you would have been doing when submitting the claim to the fund.


And another complaint rolls in (29/4/2006)
I just had to share this with everyone in the original typeface and size rather than converting to the house style. I must be doing something right to get mail like this.

From: "nick & vanessa costello-smith"
Subject: LOVE GOD!!
Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2006 09:59:58 +0930

HELLO THERE!!   I BELIEVE YOU ARE FOCUSSING ON THE WRONG ISSUE HERE (MONEY!!) WHO REALLY HONESTLY CARES ABOUT THE (MONEY!!) THESE MINISTERES FROM HILLSONG WORK VERY HARD. THEY BRING A LOT OF JOY TO US AND MILLIONS OF OTHER PEOPLE THROUGH THEIR WORSHIP AND SONGS. THEY HELP THE NEEDY AND THE SUFFERING AND ALSO THROUGH THEIR LOVE OF GOD MANY PEOPLE HAVE COME TO KNOW AND LOVE THE LORD. YES IM SURE THEY DO EARN A LOT OF (MONEY!!) ITS THEIR BUSINESS WHAT THEY EARN & AND HOW THEY SPEND IT NOT OURS!! THE RUBBISH YOU HAVE WRITTEN IS NOT ENCOURAGING PEOPLE TO FOLLOW GOD IT IS TURNING THEM AWAY. WE ARE ALL BROTHERS AND SISTERS WE DONT WANT TO STIR ONE AND ANOTHER UP. (SATAN LOVES THAT TYPE OF THING) LOVE GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART AND BE HIS BEST FRIEND BECAUSE HE LOVES YOU!!


A mystery solved (29/4/2006)
Last week I mentioned that regular visitor Detlef Pelz had reported a problem viewing this site with Firefox. I was unable to reproduce the problem but I have found out what it is. There is an option in Firefox to block images which come from third-party web sites, that is, sites which are not using the same domain name as the site being viewed. The images which were reported as not showing up were coming from PayPal, but I also had third-party images coming from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Collective Commons, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, the Health On The Net Foundation and a couple of other places who actually prefer that images come directly from their sites. To avoid this problem in the future I will download all images and store them on my server.


Speaking of images ... (29/4/2006)
The project to convert all the pages on this site over to FrontPage templates is going a little slower than planned. I have been rather slack over the years and there are many images on this site which don't have "alt" tags. Translated from computerspeak that means that the images don't have those little attached messages which show up when you position the mouse cursor over the picture. While this doesn't matter much for most people it certainly makes a difference to people with poor eyesight who use systems which read web pages aloud. It is considered good practice to make web sites as accessible as possible to as many people as possible (which is why I made the change to accommodate Firefox's quirk) so as part of the conversion I am also checking that every image has an associated popup description. This makes changing pages a slower process but I want to comply with as many standards as possible. In any case, it is bad manners to make things harder to use than they need to be.



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