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June 5, 2010

Hear (and see) him speak (5/6/2010)
I will be giving a presentation titled something like "Innumeracy: Why people are bad at risk assessment, gambling and probabilities" to Western Sydney Freethinkers on Sunday, June 20. Expect mentions of vaccines and pyramid schemes. Location is Penrith School of Arts, Castlereagh Road, Penrith and the show starts at 4:00pm. We usually kick on afterwards at the Penrith RSL for some excellent food, beverages, discussion and friendly company.

NRA moronicity (5/6/2010)
Doing the monthly check for broken and changed links I found that the National Rifle Association had changed its domain name. I always look at the sites when this happens just to make sure that what gets seen is what is expected and I found this wonderful editorial on the front page of the NRA site, written by the one of the head peanut brains in the organisation:

Pirates of Lake Falcon

The Mexican drug cartels that have made life hell for so many decent people south of our border are now becoming more brazen. In fact, on one lake that straddles the Texas-Mexico line, pirates believed to be associated with the Zetas cartel are targeting American fishermen who may stray across the invisible border between the two countries.

These modern-day pirates are using fully automatic machine guns, according to press reports. Where they obtained these guns is unknown, but suffice it to say it's exceedingly unlikely they got them from anywhere in the United States. More likely, these cartel members either obtained these military-grade rifles from the illegal black market or through corrupt members of the Mexican military.

So far none of the attacks on fishermen have occurred in U.S. waters. Perhaps that's because under Texas law, it's legal for anglers to have their firearms with them. Members of the drug cartels seem unwilling, at least for now, to take the chance of facing an armed mariner who refuses to be a victim.

I very much doubt that these heavily armed Mexican pirates with their "fully automatic machine guns" are leaving fishermen alone on the US side of the border because they are worried about a few shotguns and pistols. It is far more likely (if anything about this paranoid fantasy is likely at all) that they know that killing US citizens in US territory will provoke a response from the authorities. Of course if the Vice President of the NRA wants to test the theory that a machine gun with a firing rate of 600 rounds per minute and a range of 300 metres is outmatched by a pistol with a 9 round magazine and a range of 50 metres he is welcome to go down to Lake Falcon and chase the pirates away. Idiot.

Another name change (5/6/2010)
Another changed domain name acknowledged the fact that snake oil salesmen sometimes have to change the name of some discredited product, hoping that the new name will deceive some people who think that the new name means a new and different product. In this case the crooks changed the domain name from "laetrile" to "B17".

Does this cake cure cancer?

The quack cancer cure laetrile has been marketed under several names but the word "laetrile" is now avoided by many pushers, probably because even the quackiest of quacks can't hide the fact that the stuff was tested and found to be useless. It is a cyanide compound extracted from the seeds of some plants, notably almonds and stone fruits, and for a while was marketed under the name "amygdalin" (from the Greek word for "almond"). As anyone who has read a spy or crime novel or who has watched one of the many forensic science shows on television knows, cyanide poisoning is suggested by the smell of almonds around a corpse, so that brand name had to go as well. (I always like to suggest that the person died from an overdose of marzipan icing on a wedding cake, but that sometimes confuses people. I also like to ask if wedding cake can cure cancer, but apparently it doesn't because cakes are sold by bakers, not alternative medicine practitioners.)

The current name used for marketing this useless poison is Vitamin B17. It is not a vitamin, but when have facts ever stopped a quack from making a claim? Vitamins are things which are essential for life and which we can't make ourselves from our food, but laetrile isn't one of them. Another marketing ploy is to use such ridiculous slogans as "apricots from God", suggesting that some god or other put this magic chemical inside

Now THAT'S a B17!
apricots for our use. It is strange that this god didn't also give us the teeth and jaw muscles necessary to crush apricot seeds in order to get to the kernels within, but this is probably just an example of moving in mysterious ways.

One principle of quackery is that nothing should be discarded no matter how useless it can be demonstrated to be, and this is illustrated by the way that even when moving from one cyanide brand to another some quacks use evolution instead of revolution. I regularly see "Laetrile B17" and "Amygdalin B17" (sometimes even "Amigdalin", for those who have abandoned Greek completely). It's as if they can't quite leave something behind even when they want to.

Advertising, let's lie about it (5/6/2010)
The following pearl of wisdom was published this week on the Australia Vaccination Network's Twitter account (which I am banned from following):

Did you know: That pharmaceutical & chemical companies are the largest buyers of advertising? Think about that next time you read a mag.

As I have found it good practice to take anything said by this organisation with not just a grain but a bulk ore carrier full of salt, I thought I would check with an authority, in this case the US publication Advertising Age. Here are the most recent statistics on world-wide expenditure on company advertising.

1 Procter & Gamble Co.$9.73 billion
2 Unilever$5.72 billion
3 L'Oreal$4.04 billion
4 General Motors Co.$3.67 billion
5 Toyota Motor Corp.$3.20 billion
6 Coca-Cola Co.$2.67 billion
7 Johnson & Johnson$2.60 billion
8 Ford Motor Co.$2.45 billion
9 Reckitt Benckiser$2.37 billion
10 Nestlé$2.31 billion
11 Volkswagen$2.31 billion
12 Honda Motor Co.$2.22 billion
13 Mars Inc.$2.00 billion
14 McDonald's Corp.$1.97 billion
15 Sony Corp.$1.85 billion
16 GlaxoSmithKline$1.83 billion
17 Deutsche Telekom$1.81 billion
18 Kraft Foods$1.79 billion
19 Nissan Motor Co.$1.72 billion
20 Walt Disney Co.$1.59 billion
21 Danone Groupe$1.58 billion
22 General Electric Co.$1.55 billion
23 Time Warner$1.53 billion
24 PSA Peugeot Citroen$1.51 billion
25 Pfizer$1.51 billion

You will notice that the first company in the list which has any real pharmaceutical business is Johnson & Johnson, but their major business is in health care products. I drive a Toyota (5th place) and while their cars can be boring enough to act as a soporific when you are driving, I don't think this counts as pharmaceutical manufacture. The first real Big Pharma comes in at number 16 and spends less than 20% of the top spender. The most evil of all Big Pharma companies, Pfizer, only makes it into 25th place. Yes, I know the original lie said "pharmaceutical & chemical companies", but there can be no doubt that the writer didn't mean people who sold soap, food, soft drink and perfume. It is interesting to note that none of the top twenty-five can be considered to be a chemical manufacturer unless you accept the reality of everything being made of chemicals.

This sort of absurd claims about financial numbers is a common tactic of the anti-medicine campaigners. For instance, I was told recently in a breathless tone that vaccines are immensely profitable because world-wide sales are expected to reach $16 billion by 2016. Leaving aside the facts that this is about half the current annual sales of snake oil in the US, that it is not much more than 150% of what a single company spends now to promote soap, and that the projection is for six years from now, it is projected sales, not profit. The quackery industry might be able to get away with sales being almost all profit but in the real world there are research, manufacturing, distribution and other costs which have to come out of sales.

Another example comes from 2006, when I had this to say:

In this case it was a claim by a supporter of medical quackery that the combined profits of ten pharmaceutical companies in the Fortune 500 exceeded the total profit of the other 490 companies combined. (Apparently it is somehow a problem that very large organisations make profits, and we all know that all suppliers of alternative medicine provide their services for free.) An immediate response to this claim from someone sensible was to show that the publicly available financial positions of the Fortune 500 indicated that the highest placed company with a pharmaceutical interest was Johnson & Johnson, which was in 11th place. (Remember that the Fortune 500 includes only publicly-listed companies which are required by law to publish financial reports.) An analysis of the 500 brought out the information that the combined profit of the ten pharmaceutical companies was in fact only about 120% of the profit declared by the largest corporation on the list (Exxon) and only about 25% of the combined profits of the top ten. And what was the response of the quackery supporters to this demolition of an absurd attack on medicine? It came in the form of two demands: "Define profits" and "Define Fortune 500". You get used to goalpost-moving when you try to debate these people, but usually the goalposts at least stay in the same suburb. It would be amusing if it wasn't so pathetic.

You might wonder why they tell lies which can so easily be demonstrated to be lies, and the only thing I can think of is that they don't care. Lying is what they do, and the end justifies the means.

More persisting persistence (5/6/2010)
Another piece of nonsense that never goes away is the refutation of all chemistry theory implicit in the idea that a molecule of a chemical compound contains a molecule of a second compound and therefore its chemical activity can be assumed to be the same as the subset. I was told again this week about how thimerosal is "49% ethyl mercury" as if this idiocy would make me see the error of my ways and come to believe that vaccines are somehow dangerous. When faced with idiocy like this (sometimes coming from people who are supposed to be professional academic chemists) I can't do much better than something I told one of these fools in the past.

Don't let your sugar bowl get near a naked flame. Sugar is 31.25% natural gas (methane) by weight. Wait, it's 68.75% carbon dioxide by weight, so that will probably put out the fire. If the CO2 doesn't work, sugar is also 62.5% water by weight so that might help. It's a pity about the 54.2% ethanol by weight, though, because that could make it flare up again.

Can you see how idiotic it is to talk about one chemical compound being x% of another yet? If not, don't go near sugar because you might burst into flame, drown, suffocate and get drunk.

Did I mention that sugar is also 87.5% carbon monoxide by weight and will poison you? And the 37.5% carbon by weight will make a mess of your clothes (unless you squeeze it real hard and turn it into diamonds).

Of course it makes no difference to say this. When faced with terminal ignorance there are times when nothing can be done to relieve the condition.

Speaking of stupidity ... (5/6/2010)
The cartoons below come from an anti-vaccination liar web site of such monumental ignorance, venality and stupidity that it would have surprised me if I hadn't been immersed in the swamp for a decade. This is the sort of thing that anti-vaccination liars think is funny.

Did I need to say that this particular liar is also an AIDS denier?

And I am worried about violating someone's copyright? Just as much as the owner of that site is worried about violating the right that children have to healthy lives.

Creationists coming! Think of the children! (5/6/2010)
There has been an outbreak of panic among some local atheists and freethinkers over the following headline in the papers:

Intelligent design to be taught in Queensland schools under national curriculum

It would indeed be a cause for alarm if it were true, but like so many headlines these days it doesn't reflect reality, or even the content of the article below it. The fact is that there is currently a process underway to develop a nation-wide curriculum for the teaching of certain subjects in schools to replace the separate schemes used in the various states. This is considered a good idea by some, who recognise that different academic standards in different places cause problems. Of course it is being opposed by people who see any form of centralism as a precursor to communism, and I don't doubt that it is being opposed by homeschoolers simply because anything from the gubmnt is a form of interference.

The process of developing the national curriculum is still a work-in-progress, and I regularly see advertisements on the television asking for submissions. The "teaching creationism" alluded to in the headline is a suggestion that the supposed debate about origins be used in history classes as an example of a controversy, one which can be settled by rational discussion of the facts. Nobody objects to national socialism being discussed as a historical concept, and I don't think that even the most rabid science supporters would object to the theory of an Earth-centred universe being mentioned in the history of science. Talking about them won't make kids into Nazis or Galileo persecutors, and might even encourage them to think more critically about what they hear and read. You can see the newspaper article here.

For those who think that there might be a toehold for creationism in schools already just because the danger hasn't been recognised, here is an official notice from the NSW Board of Studies to science teachers, issued in June 2009:

Official Notice - Advice to Teachers of Science

BOS 17/09

In developing the NSW Science curriculum, the Board of Studies undertook extensive consultation with experts in the field to ensure that content, including that relating to evolution, would be consistent with accepted scientific knowledge and understanding.

The Board wishes to remind teachers that Creationism and Intelligent Design are not part of the Board’s Science syllabuses. If taught as part of any school-based program, it must be clear to students that Creationism and Intelligent Design:

  1. are not scientific, nor evidence-based
  2. will not be included in any task that forms part of the assessment of student achievement for the award of the School Certificate or Higher School Certificate
  3. will not be tested in any School Certificate or Higher School Certificate examination and will not be relevant to any response to School Certificate or Higher School Certificate questions.

In the 2009 Biology paper for the NSW Higher School Certificate the question on evolution wasn't compulsory, but it was worth 25% of the marks if attempted and there doesn't appear to be any section of it where the answer "God did it" would be marked correct. I am not too worried about creationism getting into science classes within the near (or even far) future, but as Thomas Jefferson didn't say (it was John Curran): "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance".

Will I be abducted? (5/6/2010)
I live in the beautiful Blue Mountains west of Sydney. To give you an idea, here is what Charles Darwin wrote in his diary on January 17, 1836, after walking to the waterfall that gives my town its name:

The country here is elevated 2800 feet above the sea. About a mile & a half from this place there is a view exceedingly well worth visiting; following down a little valley & its tiny rill of water, an immense gulf is suddenly & without any preparation seen through the trees which border the pathway at the depth of perhaps 1500 ft. Walking a few yards farther, one stands on the brink of a vast precipice, & below is the grand bay or gulf, for I know not what other name to give it, thickly covered with forest. The point of view is situated as it were at the head of the bay, for the line of cliff diverges away on each side, showing headland behind headland, as on a bold Sea coast. These cliffs are composed of horizontal strata of whitish Sandstone; & so absolutely vertical are they, that in many places a person standing on the edge & throwing a stone can see it strike the trees in the abyss below: so unbroken is the line, that it is said to be necessary to go round a distance of sixteen miles in order to reach the foot of the waterfall made by this little stream. — In front & about five miles distant another line of cliff extends, thus having the appearance of completely encircling the valley; hence the name of Bay is justified as applied to this grand amphitheatrical depression. — If we imagine that a winding harbor with its deep water surrounded by bold cliff shores was laid dry, & that a forest sprung up on the sandy bottom, we should then have the appearance & structure which is here exhibited. The class of view was to me quite novel & extremely magnificent.

It is still extremely magnificent and largely untouched by signs of man, but I have been advised that underneath things are not so original. Apparently there are secret underground military and technology bases used to exploit alien technology, and not only that, people have been abducted by aliens from around here. I learnt all this from a magnificent web site put together by ace UFO researcher Rex Gilroy (famous also for his work chasing the strange and almost mythical beasts which populate the eucalypt forests but cleverly hide themselves from scientists and the many bushwalkers who use the area for recreation).

Here is what Rex has to say about his presentation on the subject:

Rex & Heather Gilroy operate the "Blue Mountains UFO Research Club" and the recently formed "Centre for Blue Mountains UFO Studies. They are the foremost investigators of the Top Secret Underground Advanced Space Technology Base, being operated jointly by the Australian and American governments.

The subject of this section is "Blue Mountains Triangle", and contains material from the Gilroys' forthcoming book celebrating my 50 years of UFO research achievement titled: "Blue Mountains Triangle — UFO Close Encounters, Alien Abductions and the Underground UFO Base Mystery".

Besides the vast number of UFO sightings, the Blue Mountains continues to be one of the world's major UFO 'hotspots'. Our "Blue Mountains UFO Research Club" has recorded hundreds of sightings reports in some years. A great many of these reports appear to emanate from the Burragorang Valley south of Katoomba, and the equally vast Wollemi wilderness to the north.

Yet there is a more sinister aspect to the Blue Mountains UFO mystery which has persisted for generations; for it is a region where aircraft and people have mysteriously disappeared, where ET abductions occur. And, while many abductees have been released, others have not.

There is also another mystery pervading this wilderness, and one upon which I have, together with Heather, investigated for 35 years — the top secret American-Australian joint underground, advanced space travel technology base.

It is an incredible operation in which NASA is involved alongside US military, together with Australian scientists and military. It is an operation also involving thousands of other personnel and their families, living in an incredibly vast, underground world with its own self-sufficient colonies, or rather towns and other, more city-like habitation centres with their own economy, ruled over by a leader whose very name is not mentioned above ground.

All this is watched over from above by the FBI, CIA and our own ASIO; undercover representatives of which live in the Sydney district as well as on the Blue Mountains. The subject is just far too complex to reveal in full, so I intend to concentrate upon a selection of the more mysterious aspects of the mystery.

The 'Triangle' roughly covers an area beginning north of the Blue Mountains, extending from the Gulgong district in the north-west, eastwards through the Denman and Singleton districts to the Branxton-Maitland area. From Gulgong the western side of the 'Triangle' extends southward to the Goulburn area, and from here the eastern side of the 'Triangle' extends northwards through the western side of the Southern Highlands and on through the Mulgoa-Penrith area to Maitland.

It is within this 'Triangle' that the mysterious incidents covered in this talk have taken place. The relevant authorities remain tight-lipped on all the UFO-related events hereabouts.

If I drive to the end of my road I can see into the Burragorang Valley, so I am starting to worry. What if the aliens come for me? What if they take me into one of these underground facilities and "our own ASIO" looks up their files and finds out that I was a protestor against the Vietnam War? (I was also a conscripted soldier, so don't bother calling me names.) What if they find out that I didn't fill out the departure documents properly when I returned to Australia from the USA in 1987? What if NASA finds out that I haven't updated my Windows wallpaper with the latest Astronomy Picture of the Day? Now I know why Cody The Religion Hating Dog starts barking for no apparent reason in the middle of the night - he is detecting the hypersonic sound of flying saucer exhausts.

And here is something from Rex's book Blue Mountains Triangle:

There is the story that back in 1973 a young government employee in Canberra, discovered reams of paper that had been dumped in an office waste paper basket.

A casual glance revealed row upon row of sets of mathematical numbers and symbols. He rescued the pages and later showed them to a mathematician friend who remarked that they appeared to form some kind of "scientific language".

Eventually an astronomer to whom he showed the pages looked at them, literally turned pale and told him to get rid of them. "They are top secret messages and if you're caught with them you will be in big trouble", he told him.

However, the young man passed them on to another associate, we'll call him 'Mr West', whose mathematical skills enabled them to obtain information from the rows of figures. 'Mr West' informed this author in 1974 that, the translation obtained from the figures revealed directions on how to construct a flying craft somewhat like a giantsize F111 fighter plane, only that this craft was meant for space flights.

"We constructed a scale model and tested it in a wind tunnel. According to the information, the craft was able to travel at the speed of light. The craft was to be nuclear powered. The spacecraft was supposed to have a laser-type ray that could destroy any attacking airship. It could produce a protective forcefield around it and was designed to take off and land like an ordinary aircraft.

The 'mathematical language' spoke of experimental three-stage giant spacecraft, and also a 'saucer' type craft for space travel, which like the other two, was to be deployed from underground launching sites in the Blue Mountains and the Hinterland mountain range on the Queensland side of the New south Wales border.

The documents also spoke of the camouflaging of the launching sites, which consisted of huge sliding doors covered by a thick layer of soil topped with rocks, trees and shrubbery. We realised that this information was 'dynamite'. I let my friend take the documents and hide them somewhere safe, but he later disappeared without trace", said 'Mr West'.

These 'top secret' documents containing the 'mathematical language', so carelessly and no doubt accidentally discarded in a wastepaper bin, were obviously the communications of advanced scientific minds, passing on highly-advanced spaceship technology information otherwise unavailable to Earth space scientists back in the early 1970s and officially still is for that matter there.

Well, I'm convinced, although I wonder why the Australian government pays so much for imported military aircraft when we have the plans for a giant fighter that can travel at the speed of light. We have lots of uranium for the nuclear power and lots of cliffs to hold camouflaged hangars, so what are we waiting for?

What convinces me even more is that I believe I have discovered one of the secret adits to the underground bases. I took a different route home from work the other day and I saw a disruption in the geology that suggests that one of the secret "huge sliding doors covered by a thick layer of soil topped with rocks, trees and shrubbery" had been moved, disturbing the surrounding bush. I stopped to take a photograph and I don't think it was a coincidence that two cars came very close to me as I was walking back to my car with my camera in my hand. They were obviously warning me, although whether they were trying to kill me or just frighten me into dropping the camera and running is not known. I know I won't be driving down that road again for a long time.

I can't tell you where I took the picture because then I would have to kill you (if the disappearers don't get to me first), but I will say that a line drawn parallel to the face of the "cliff" passes through Wollemi and a line vertical to the "cliff" passes through the southernmost part of the Burragorang Valley. That is probably all I can say without placing all of us at risk.

June 12, 2010

Brevity alert! (12/6/2010)
It's a short update this week because it's a holiday weekend where I live and I am having a holiday. Her Majesty and I are taking The World's Finest Grandson to the Ratbags Rural Retreat in the small and wonderful country town of Grenfell, population 2000. During this weekend the population more than doubles as people descend on the town to celebrate the birthday of one of Australia's most respected poets, Henry Lawson. One event we hope not to miss is the guinea pig racing. Really. Guinea pig races. Nothing weird about us.

An oldie but a goodie (12/6/2010)
In most places of the world politicians are seen as useless and a necessary evil, but sometimes one will do something that surprises us. Here is a media release from a previous Australian Federal Minister for Health. It was a few years and ministers ago, but it is one of the finest documents I have ever seen come out of the morass of Parliament and giving it another airing won't do any harm.

MW 212/98
15 October 1998

Anti-immunisation lobby misleading the media

I am disappointed that several media organisations have chosen to publish incorrect information from the Australian Vaccination Network without attempting to verify the facts first with either my office or the Department of Health and Family Services.

It has been widely reported today that I am being sued by the AVN through either or both the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and the Federal Court.

As of 10am this morning, no Federal Court or Administrative Appeals Tribunal action had been lodged by the Australian Vaccination Network or individuals complaining about the Government's $30 million Measles Control Campaign.

Immunisation is proven to be the safest way to protect children against preventable disease. The National Health and Medical Research Council, the nation's peak medical academic body, says so. The World Health Organisation says so. The Australian Medical Association says so. In a recent survey 98% of Australia's parents support immunisation.

I am very proud of our recent efforts with immunisation. Thousands of teachers, parents, nurses and others have all worked very hard to protect children against preventable disease. I commend the resolve of parents to protect their children through immunisation in the face of the vicious scaremongering tactics of opponents of immunisation.

There will always be some people who choose to ignore science and I respect their right to hold anti-immunisation beliefs, even if that does leave their own children exposed to deadly but preventable illnesses.

However, I am deeply concerned that media organisations risk giving credibility to the crackpot views of the AVN by publishing, without question, their untrue and deceitful claims. Ultimately, young children who are particularly vulnerable to measles could suffer if their parents were influenced by the anti-science, irrational views of the AVN.

To date, almost a million children have received vaccinations against measles, one of the biggest killers in the world. Even in Australia, on average, 14 people died from measles each year between 1978 and 1992. By immunising our children, this toll can be reduced.

I will continue to work hard to promote immunisation because it is right for Australian children. The Measles Control Campaign still has several weeks to run, so let's work together to beat measles.

Wow! The Australian vaccination Network lied about suing the Minister for Health. Who would ever have thought it?

Parthenogenesis (12/6/2010)
The Yahoo! 7piece I wrote last week about the possibility of creationism being taught in Australian schools mysteriously reproduced itself as my latest article for Yahoo!7 News. You can read it here, and there is a link there to see the comments on Yahoo!7's web site. It seems to have upset some creationists who didn't seem to understand what I had written and therefore went all defensive. I am always surprised at how sensitive people can be when their blind faith is challenged even a tiny bit.

See more Tree Lobsters here

YouTube idiocy (12/6/2010)
After 51.867 views, 2023 comments and at least three invitations by YouTube to run advertisements on the page, YouTube have summarily deleted the video below.

I found out when I noticed that the rate of commenting had dropped to zero, and when I went to check my account I was told that the video had been removed at the request of Warner Music. I was also told that as this was my second copyright infringement my account would be closed if it happened again. The notice also told me that I had been notified by email, but no such email ever made it to my inbox. I suppose I could appeal, but the last time I did this I was placed in an endless loop of being referred back to the same web page to lodge my objection.

The previous video removed for copyright complaints was one of me performing a faith healing in the style of sleazy charlatan Benny Hinn. My objection in that case was that if Benny Hinn said that I was violating his copyright he was lying as the video in question did not contain one pixel taken from anything Hinn had made, did not mention his name and did not show his image. Just for reference, here is the sort of thing that can be removed from YouTube because some liar says that it his copyrighted material.

June 19, 2010

More briefness (19/6/2010)
Another attenuated update this week as the real-life busyness continues. Distractions from work on the site for this weekend include:

Wishful thinking (19/6/2010)
Sometimes I wonder if I am not making myself quite clear when I write things. I have had a bit to say about a heavily-promoted fraud called Power Balance Bracelets, and I didn't think that there could be any doubt about my opinion. Someone didn't quite get the point and sent me this email.

Hi was wondering how do I purchase the power wristband? Can I have an order form sent to my email please, thank you.

I decided not to write back in case I confused matters even further.

I don't think so (19/6/2010)
I'm opposed to censorship and I am implacably opposed to the Australian Government's plan to filter the nasties out of the Internet. I can, however, see why employers need to limit some forms of net activity during work times and there are obvious needs for some forms of filtering in educational institutions (although I do wish TAFE would just block students and allow teachers access to Twitter and Facebook), but I have no need to assist the process myself. I don't think I will be taking up this offer that arrived at my business email address this week, although it has got me wondering why any company that wanted to block all of the things that this filter blocks would not save themselves the cost and time of installing it and simply not connect their office network to the Internet.

Are You Fully Satisfying Your Clients’ Employee Internet Management Needs?

Dear Reseller:

We are seeking Value Added Resellers to resell our #1 ranked Employee Internet Monitoring and Filtering Software. As a software and network security provider, many of your clients may need a very easy way to manage, monitor, filter and block their employees access to the most popular segments of the Internet including web traffic, e-mail, webmail (incoming and outgoing), Instant Messaging, Chat, News Groups and File Transfers. [XYZ] addresses your clients’ concerns about Lost Productivity, Security Risks, Legal Liability and Network overload.

Learn more about the advantages of partnering with [XYZ]to deliver what Top10Reviews acknowledges as the "ultimate Internet Management Software." [XYZ]’s flagship product, [XYZ], can co-exist in any networked or non-networked environment and was designed to monitor and control the Internet activity of multiple PCs and thin clients from a central location with no reliance on legacy proxies or firewalls. [XYZ]will even allow your clients to manage their employees as they roam outside of their internal network.

And it's not even a full moon (19/6/2010)
Every now and then I receive an email of such monumental craziness that I have to wonder at the mental processes of the writer. When they come from anti-vaccination loons or other people who disagree with what I have to say I can sort of understand the motivation, but it's the ones that seem to be spontaneously and randomly generated that cause the most surprise. This is the first part of an appeal to me to campaign to have Australian experts in ground sonar stop what they are doing and go to Europe to pursue someone's psychotic fantasy.

We talk day in and day out about Jews and what they are doing. But it's just not working. What do the Jews do? They cry about the holohoax. Why don't you people gather all the photos you can of how badly Germany was bombed and all the destruction? Why don't you show these pilots what their bombs did? Why not show the people what we did to that country? One of the most important ideas I have told to many dissidents is there are buried in Eastern Europe and Russia around every single town and city tens of millions of people killed by the Jews. This isn't hearsay. This is something that can be proven.

They have invented ground sonar that can see what's in the ground without digging. Please tell me why you people don't get this piece of equipment and go to Europe and in these cities and towns are old people that know where the KGB operated and use this sonar to find where they buried these people? What if you or your ancestors were lying in the ground you would want someone to find them. We keep writing books about Jews and what they have done, but all they have to do is make a movie and you make no headway.

I say this...we can talk about the holohoax. We can talk about the war and what the Jews did. We can talk and talk, but the only thing we can show as tangible evidence are the mass graves. They are there waiting to be found. It's almost too hard to believe that we haven't starting searching for them.

It goes on for several more passages of increasing incoherence, attacking organisations like the Ku Klux Klan for not taking enough action. I am rather intrigued by the suggestion that the KGB were taking turns with the Jews doing the mass burying, but I don't think that the writer was too concerned with facts. Still, I don't expect a conspiracy theory which has the KGB (which started life in 1954) joining forces with Jews to commit mass murder in the 1940s is the maddest idea out there. Whenever a peak of craziness is reached it seems to challenge the lunatics to try harder.

Speaking of lunacy ... (19/6/2010)
I might just have stumbled on the world's maddest web site, The Watcher Files. At first I thought it might have been the one called "The Watcher" that I had first featured in Quintessence of the Loon in March 1999, but although it shares certain similarities in style with that one (if you can call throwing colours at a wall "style") it seems to be the work of some other watcher. What attracted me to it was the statement "The H1N1 Vaccine is causing Zombie outbreaks", which certainly adds a new twist to the opposition to swine flu vaccine. Here are both Watcher sites. Enjoy! Enormously!

Recycling nakedness (19/6/2010)
Australasian ScienceThe next edition of Australasian Science is about to hit the newsstands, with my Naked Skeptic column right there inside it. In the spirit of recycling, the article is something that I wrote several years ago for The Skeptic, but it still seems completely relevant today. While you are waiting for the newsagent to get the magazines on the rack or waiting for your subscription copy to arrive you can see the article here. As what I write is only one page out of many, you still need to buy the complete publication. Subscriptions are available though the magazine's web site.

See more of XKCD here.

June 26, 2010

Possible disruption (26/6/2010)
For the last three weeks I have had problems updating this site because of disk capacity problems at the hosting organisation. The site will be moving to new servers at a new host during the next week (probably on Tuesday) and there might be some short interruptions to service when The Millenium Project will not be available to some visitors. If everything goes to plan there will be no interruption for anybody, but I have been working with this technology stuff for long enough to know that it can fight back. So, if you are reading this and can't see it, try again in a few minutes.

Oh, wait - you know what I mean ...

It's Kooks Day!! (26/6/2010)
June 26 each year is International Kooks Day, celebrated across the Internet to recognise the madness, ineducability, and just plain weirdness of the kooks, loons and fools who make life on the net so amusing and entertaining for those of us who can think. The day was chosen as it is the anniversary of the death of Earl Gordon Curley, a man who billed himself as "the world's greatest psychic". Earl ran an outfit called "International Remote Intelligence Service" which provided annual predictions of world events.

Earl not only produced predictions of monumental missingness, but he continually abused people in the most foul manner and threatened law suits against anyone who disagreed with him. The reason that the death of Earl is memorialised is that in a famous set of predictions for 1998, Earl predicted the death of Pope John Paul II in the following words:

Europe, will experience substantial down-pours throughout 1998. Flooding will ravage many areas in Europe especially Germany, the lower portions of France, throughout England and Scotland and into the mid-regions of Spain. Italy will be problematic as far as earth movements are concerned. The Basilica will shake, rattle and roll as never before. The Pope in particular may decide his own fate this year and the world will lose a Primate who will be remembered for centuries as the "Polish Pope of Hope".

Nobody was quite sure whether the Pope would commit suicide ("decide his own fate") or be crushed by the Vatican collapsing in the great earthquake, but what is certain is that none of Earl's predictions for 1998 came true. You can see those predictions still, as Earl's work has lived beyond him and survives in the form of his web site. "And why 1998?", you ask. Because that is the year in which the world's greatest psychic predicted the death of Pope John Paul II (which didn't happen) and did not predict the death of Earl Gordon Curley (which did).

The Atheist Cartoons site disappeared in 2014

The ghost of Earl? (26/6/2010)
We Not reincarnation, just a tin of Carnationskeptics and rationalists aren't supposed to believe in reincarnation (although we do believe in carnation, because our mothers used to feed it to us when we were children), but shortly after Earl died someone arrived to take his place. This person was also Canadian, spoke idiotic nonsense, threatened improbable legal action and generally behaved like a reborn Earl. I am speaking, of course, of Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group. Mr O'Neill, whether speaking as himself or as his sock-puppet (another sign of Earl) theNo truth! No courage! No value! Gutless Anonymous Liar, maintained the tradition of spouting idiocy in the most offensive manner possible. Mr O'Neill reinforced his position as the ghost of Earl when his data was submitted to the (now sadly departed) Brad Jesness Memorial Kook Appraisal Test and scored an unimaginable and unbeatable 100 points out of 100. You don't come any kookier than that.

In 2001, Mr O'Neill entered into the spirit of Kooks Day by publishing the following in various places on the 'net on the very day itself. While it lacks the profanity, the family attacks, the mouth foam and the green ink common to many, if not most, of Mr O'Neill's communications, it is a useful example of the work of a Master Kook, containing as it does empty threats and baseless allegations. I take back what I said about it not having any green ink - it is full of it. All it lacks is a smattering of ALL CAPS and a touch of sCaTTerEd cAPs to stop it being a masterpiece of kookery. Enjoy!

Mr. Peter Bowditch of the Millenium Project,, and Gebesse Computer Consulting,, and as a member of the Australian Computer Society has, for the better part of a year, been posting fraudulent, libelous, and defamatory information concerning the Canadian Cancer Research Group, Mr. William P. O'Neill, and the O'Neill family. Mr. Bowditch has been advised that his continued publication of information and absence of retraction and apology will percipitate legal action.

Legal action commenced on June 26, 2001, where Statements of Claim have been filed in relevant jursidictions naming Mr. Bowditch as defendant and claiming that Mr. Bowditch has knowingly published and re-published information that is libelous and defamatory. Server logs demonstrating that Mr. Bowditch, or someone accessing his server/computer, has repeatedly spoofed IP addresses and hijacked email accounts, belonging to the Canadian Cancer Research Group, have been turned over to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, where, in turn, logs have been given to Interpol, where a criminal investigation have been initiated.

All information published by Mr. Bowditch concerning the Canadian Cancer Research Group, Mr. William P. O'Neill, and the O'Neill family has no basis in fact, is absolutely false, intentionally misleading, libelous, defamatory and as such, is subject to civil litigation in both Canada and Australia and litigation has been intitiated. Matters concerning computer fraud, as allegedly committed by Mr. Bowditch, are now the subject of criminal investigations.

The Canadian Cancer Research Group has repeatedly attempted to gain cooperation from Mr. Bowditch and the Australian Computer Society. Both have intentionally ignored and intensified their respective campaigns of abuse and fraud. As it concerns the Australian Computer Society, the Canadian Cancer Research Group has made respresentation to the Canadian Computer Society in seeking sanctions against the Australian Computer Society in its' support and encouragement of member and society activity that is in conflict with society ethics.

In the event you are exposed to materials concerning the foregoing matters, please email the Canadian Cancer Research Group at

Speaking of predictions ... (26/6/2010)
The year is almost half over, so it is a good time to review the predictions I made publicly on the Yahoo!7 News web site in January to see how well I am doing at getting the future right. Here is a progress score.

  1. There will be talk of romance in the Royal Family, with at least one engagement being hotly rumoured. Princess Anne will not remarry during 2010.

"Will Prince William pop the question? Friday could be the day". June 2, Washington Post.

Princess Anne is still single.

Half right
  1. On four Tuesdays during the year the Australian stock market will rise by more than 10 points. In each case a correction will follow and the index will drop.
Still counting. 
  1. The Obama administration will be accused of trying to introduce socialism into the United States by proposing legislation similar to that found in communist countries like Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

I would cite Stormfront, but we all know they're crazy.

"The just-passed health care bill is nothing short of communism in the works". March 30, Letter in the Lodi News-Sentinel

Prediction confirmed
  1. Airline security measures will be adjusted in response to perceived terrorist threats.

"New airline security measures announced". April 2, Reuters

Prediction confirmed
  1. The price of petrol will be higher on Fridays than it is on Wednesdays for most of the year, and will also show a fortnightly cycle related to Commonwealth pension pay days. Oil companies will claim that this is all coincidence.
It's not "most of the year" yet, but the cycle is cycling along nicely. 
  1. A celebrity Hollywood couple will announce that they are separating. The official reason will be that their work schedules mean that they are rarely together. At least one of them will be photographed with another companion at a gala event within two weeks of the announcement of the separation. The new companion will just be a good friend and will have nothing to do with the marriage breakdown.

Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes

Part 2 coming soon.

Half right
  1. A high-profile football player will attract the attention of the police following an incident involving the consumption of alcohol. Media reports will mention the player’s youth and income and will refer to him as a role model.

Brisbane Broncos skills coach Allan Langer was photographed dancing on a table in his underwear in a public bar and was subsequently charged with drink driving, after being three times the legal blood alcohol limit. A court banned him from driving a motor vehicle for eight months.

Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles player Tony Williams was charged with drink driving after blowing .106, twice the legal limit.

Penrith Panthers players Maurice Blair and Brad Tighe were given police infringement notices for failing to leave licensed premises and offensive language towards police.

And that's just one football code.

Prediction confirmed
  1. An attempt will be made on the life of a prominent member of an outlaw motorcycle gang. Leaders of other gangs will deny responsibility and blame the attack on rogue elements that are difficult to control.

"Outlaws motorcycle gang member killed in shootout with ATF". June 15, Christian Science Monitor

"Indicted: American Outlaw Motorcycle Gang". June 15, Ultimate Motorcycling

Still waiting for part 2.

Half right
  1. The Reserve Bank will raise official interest rates. Media reports will convert the rate rise into the number of dollars it adds to monthly repayments on the average Sydney mortgage.

The official interest rate was raised on March 2. See RBA release here.

The second followed as night follows day.

Prediction confirmed
  1. Elections will be called in three Australian states, and there will be speculation about a Federal election.

South Australia, March 20
New Prime Minister says Federal election will be in 2010

Two to go

Half right
  1. Three solutions to the Israel/Palestine problem will be put forward. One will require total submission by the Palestinians, one will require the extinction of Israel and one will require both sides to give up more than they are prepared (or politically able) to concede. Proponents of all three solutions will be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mossad's incredibly inept assassination of a Hamas arms buyer has thrown this into confusion. Everybody now seems to be saying all three. There is still a lot of the year to go. 
  1. Greenland will be covered by ice for most of 2010. This will be used as evidence against global warming. Snowfall in Greenland will maintain the glaciers and will be used as evidence for global warming.
It's not "most of 2010" yet. 

So, four out of twelve already completed and another four part way there. No bad for an amateur. How are the professionals doing?

Homeopathy (26/6/2010)
I would like to thank RationalWiki for consolidating all the research and clinical trials showing the effectiveness of homeopathy, the conditions it can treat and its application to the management of health. Here is the list:

Chiropractic (26/6/2010)
I have been working up an article about chiropractic for a magazine, and I thought I would give it an airing here, just in case it never makes it into print.


Australia has an excellent health system. Yes, many improvements could be made, but generally the mixture of public and private provision of health delivery and insurance together with regulatory oversight works to provide one of the best, if not the best, health care system in the world.

Alongside this system is a parallel system of "medicine", where science might receive lip service but superstition, tradition and faith provide the supposed evidence of efficacy and safety. This sector used to be called "Alternative Medicine" but now prefers to be referred to as "Complementary" in the hope that it can be seen as an adjunct to real, scientifically-based medicine.

In the grey area between these two forms of medicine sits Chiropractic.

There is a popular misconception that chiropractors are some sort of back pain specialists. If a chiropractor confines himself to treating lower back pain by massage and manipulation then he is not really doing chiropractic, he is doing physical therapy. The fundamental principle of chiropractic is that all dis-ease (note the hyphen) is the result of subluxations of the spine causing pressure on nerves and therefore inhibiting the transmission of the signals which allow the innate intelligence of the body to heal itself. Everything is caused by subluxations (which chiropractors have trouble reliably identifying on x-rays) and everything can be fixed by removing these annoying misalignments. Chiropractic rejects the "germ theory" of disease, preferring to see microorganism as just inconvenient nuisances or perhaps even opportunistic scavengers that come along after disease is established.

Chiropractic was "discovered" by Daniel Palmer in 1895 when he cured someone’s deafness by pressing on a bulge on the person’s back. (Anatomists will say that the nerves between the ear and the brain don’t go through the spine.) Palmer’s son saw the commercial potential of chiropractic as well as training schools and colleges, and there is a thriving industry today teaching chiropractors how to attract and keep patients. Attempts to reform the profession and place it on a scientific basis have been strongly resisted, and chiropractors in the USA who have broken ranks have been subject to much vilification and abuse.

Examples of the promotion of inappropriate uses of chiropractic are easy to find. Almost any magazine aimed at new parents will contain advertisements for chiropractors who claim to treat autism, bed wetting, asthma, ADHD and colic. One highly promoted chiropractic treatment for children is for the ear inflammation otitis media. Not only are there no nerves passing from the spine to the ear, but the procedure exposes children to risk from sudden stress on the spine, particularly the neck.

One aspect of chiropractic which is often overlooked its declared opposition to vaccination. If everything is caused by vertebral subluxations then vaccination is unnecessary, but the opposition goes beyond that to claims that vaccination is harmful. At a recent trade fair in Sydney aimed at parents of young children a professional association of chiropractors was distributing brochures which contained serious misinformation about vaccines. In an extreme case, at the 2000 national conference of the Pediatrics Council of the US International Chiropractors’ Association an award of Hero of Chiropractic was made to a man who was in prison for the murder of a ten-week old child. The award recognised that the killer was just as much a victim as the dead child, because a vaccine had really caused the intracranial bleeding and the broken ribs, not Shaken Baby Syndrome.

Outside of journals run by and for chiropractors there is little reliable and valid evidence that chiropractic is useful to treat any medical condition other than some forms of back pain. There is no scientific plausibility to the hypothesis that subluxations of the spine impair nerve function (except in the grossest cases, where the spinal damage far exceeds any definition of subluxation) or that this impairment affects the operation of the body’s immune system. There are direct dangers from chiropractic treatments, particularly neck manipulation where there is a risk of stroke from sudden movement, and there is the indirect danger that people with serious illnesses will use chiropractors as primary care physicians (a term that chiropractors regularly attempt to appropriate) and consequently avoid medical treatment.

I would like the relevant authorities to take the follow actions.

See more of SMBC here

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