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I'm back! (7/1/2006)
I hope that everyone had a successful and pleasant holiday season. For the first time in living memory I weigh less after Christmas than I did before, but given the choice I would prefer some other motivation to exercise regularly and eat moderately than the one I have. By an amazing stroke of good luck it is summer in Australia right now and the animals shown in the photograph are readily available and almost totally carbohydrate-free. And no, they are not "shrimps" and we do not put them on the barbie (or even on the barbeque).
I have done a bit of background work on this site, and the old black and white images have been replaced (where possible) with pretty coloured ones. For pictures of people I have tried to get painted portraits where possible, so the art collection has had some additions.
The 2005 Millenium Awards will be announced next week. There are two very strong contenders for the Anus Maximus Award and the judging committee have requested more time. I apologise to those who had Armani or Versace run up the evening wear and had rented limousines for the night. I know how you feel because I have lost my deposit on the hire of the red carpet and Brad and Angelina are busy next week. Paris will be there, but I am not sure why.
Fred's back! (7/1/2006)
Just when you think that things can't get any worse, the Reverend Fred Phelps from the Westboro Baptist Church makes a reappearance. His latest stunt is to threaten to protest at the memorial service for the twelve miners killed in the recent mine collapse in West Virginia. Please remember that this man claims to be a Christian and to live strictly according to God's rules as set out in the Bible. You can click here to see the whole thing in all its vileness. I was pleased that he didn't picket my Christmas lunch because I was violating the instructions in Leviticus, where it says "Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you".
Al(l)an's back! (7/1/2006)
Back inside, that is. Well, actually he seems to be out on bail now, but baby slaughterer Alan Yurko was recently detained on charges of burglary, drug possession and aggravated theft. The report from the Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court web site has his first name as "Allan" but the birthday is the same, he lives in Ohio and you can only stretch coincidence so far. Here is an extract from the court records. The picture on the right showing the vascular structures in the brain is there to remind us how much damage can be done to a ten-week-old child's brain from a beating administered by an adult.
Caption: THE STATE OF OHIO VS ALLAN YURKO
Status: CASE OPEN
Judge Name: LILLIAN J GREENE
PO Name: N/A
Next Event: PRE TRIAL CONFERENCE SET FOR 01/11/2006 AT 09:00 AM IN ROOM 16C JUSTICE CENTER
Arrested: CLEVELAND PD
Name: ALLAN R YURKO
Status: DEFN JAIL
Date of Birth: 12/11/1969
Bond Number 482731
Date Set 12/16/2005
Event Date Event
11/17/2005 INDICTED ORIGINAL
2925.11 DRUG POSSESSION
Defendant Nbr Defendant Name
175333 SCOTT A MEYER
111602 DAVID A PIETRASZ
70155 TINA R SKEENS
141656 TRACY J HOLPUCH
10749231 MARK WARNER
10749238 DAVID CASTELL
Proceeding Date Filing Date Side Type Description Image
12/19/2005 12/22/2005 N/A JE FIRST PRETRIAL SET FOR 01/11/2006 AT 09:00 AM.
Looking back (7/1/2006)
I got back from my break only to find that the global warming caused by hunting whales and driving non-Lexus cars had triggered an algal bloom in the moat at Ratbag Castle. This was annoying the piranhas and fresh-water crocodiles so I had to do something about it. (As an aside, I have been planning to replace the piranhas because the last time a lawyer fell in they refused to skeletonise him. Something to do with professional courtesy I'm told.) This made me a bit short of time, so I called on my old friend Henry Mencken to write something. He came up with a piece he had written at about the time of the Scopes trial in 1925. I don't necessarily agree with his obvious snobbery (a lot of smart and rich people get deceived by nonsense) but I really liked the quote below. You can read the whole of Homo Neantherthalis here.
No man who has not had a long and arduous education can understand even the most elementary concepts of modern pathology. But even a hind at the plow can grasp the theory of chiropractic in two lessons. Hence the vast popularity of chiropractic among the submerged -- and of osteopathy, Christian Science and other such quackeries with it. They are idiotic, but they are simple -- and every man prefers what he can understand to what puzzles and dismays him.
Something to watch on television (21/1/2006)
Our old friend, Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group will be appearing on Canadian television next Saturday night. Here is what the CTV web site says in its program guide.
Saturday, January 28
7 - 8 p.m. - W-FIVE - "Cancer Cures"
He's not a scientist or a physician, but from his clinic in an Ottawa shopping mall, former computer analyst William O'Neill runs the Canadian Cancer Research Group. Over the years, O'Neill has made some stunning claims about his success in battling cancer and other diseases, but his detractors accuse him of selling false hope to the desperately ill. This week, a W-FIVE investigation into the man and methods.
Not to be missed. Check your local guides.
And something you might have missed on television (21/1/2006)
John Stossel on the ABC show 20/20 had a look at the teflon-coated crook Kevin Trudeau, erstwhile convict, purveyor of quackery and now best-selling author with his book which basically says "Now I have taken some of your money for this book full of nonsense, please go to my web site and give me some more". You can see the television show here. [The show was removed from the ABC archives during 2016. Sorry. PB]
Dawkins on deities, drivel and doubt (28/1/2006)
I spent a couple of enjoyable hours over the weekend watching a copy of the Channel 4 (UK) program about religion, The Root of All Evil?, presented by biologist Richard Dawkins. (No, it is not a pirated copy. A friend of mine obtained it from Professor Dawkins and we are trying to find someone brave enough to show it on Australian television.).
I sometimes disagree with my friends about Dawkins' approach to debating religious people. I have seen him be extremely (and unnecessarily) rude to people who have been expressing their faith, and this can come across as arrogance and bullying. This sort of conduct can often be counterproductive and provide ammunition for those who claim that atheists are either boorish buffoons or people who are just pushing a religion of their own. (In some cases these impressions are correct, of course.) Before the DVD arrived at my place I had read two reviews of the program, one written by a scientist and one by a believer, and what I had read had prepared me to have my prejudices about Dawkins reinforced. All I can say is that the reviewers either watched another version of the show or playing the thing upside-down relative to England changes things. (Perhaps it's the Coriolis force that makes the water go down the other way in the bath acting on the DVD player. This could explain why DVDs from one region won't play in another, but I digress ...).
Yes, Professor Dawkins was firm with the people he talked to, even on the occasions when his politeness and patience were obviously being stretched, but the people he talked to deserved firmness. It is rare that anyone challenges religious nutcases about their faith (and there were several nutcases exhibited here), but it is interesting and informative to see the rationalisation that can go on to justify belief not only without evidence (because that is what faith is) but belief in the face of contrary evidence. It was scary, but not surprising, to see that the principle of the end justifying the means is still in good health, as well as the hypocritical notion that religious texts are absolutely inerrant in those places where the reader or preacher likes what is written but are just allegorical guides elsewhere.
Dawkins likens religion to a virus, and in some ways I agree with him. It seems to be something that people catch, particularly children who catch it from their parents. He makes the point that children are labelled by the religion of their parents but you would be thought mad (or at least a little strange) if you insisted on classifying children by the political parties their parents vote for, the types of cars the parents drive, or the music styles that the parents prefer. All of these are choices, and religion should be a choice also. Nobody is born with beliefs and faiths, but children are born with the innate need to obey authority figures. This is so that parents can pass on knowledge about dangers and other lifestyle matters of importance, and we would not be here unless our ancestors managed to avoid falling off cliffs and being eaten by wild animals. It is sad to see this evidence and product of our evolution being misused to propagate unscientific and often ridiculous ideas. It is of course much worse when children are not only taught nonsense but are quarantined from any other children (and even adults) who might have been taught different things.
This an excellent program. If you get a chance to see it on your local station, don't miss it. I do have one small quibble with the consistency of Professor Dawkins' opinions, though. He seems to believe that nothing good or even useful has ever come or could ever come from religion. I wonder if when he is walking around the grounds of his employer, Oxford University, he ever gives a thought to who might have started the teaching there in 1096. But that was a long time ago.
Kill Bill Volume 3 - The Dénouement (28/1/2006)
Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group appeared on the W-FIVE program on Canadian television on Saturday, January 28, in a story looking closely at cancer quacks. I haven't had a chance to look at the show yet, but I intend to buy the DVD from CTV. (A certain person in my home, who used to be mentioned in my will, used 70% of a month's download allocation to play some songs from the 'net, and my cable broadband speed has been cut from 10Mbps to 64K until February 1. To say that this is inconvenient is somewhat of an understatement. I have replaced everything in her iTunes library with bootleg recordings of Barry Manilow performing works by Henry Mancini (and vice versa), and I just can't wait until the next time she updates her iPod and goes looking for Nirvana.)
From reports I have received, the show was not very complimentary to Mr O'Neill. To make the show even more memorable, it includes some archival footage of Hulda Clark being given some grief by the Mexican authorities. I have already sent a message of congratulation to CTV. You can see the four parts of the show here. I know it's redundant to say it, but "Enjoy".
A lie that won't die (28/1/2006)
A week doesn't go past without some quackery believer spouting that old story about how 106,000 people die each year in the USA from adverse reactions to prescription drugs. It is always 106,000 (except when it's 108,000) and the number doesn't change from year to year. One of the reasons it doesn't change is, like a bug trapped in amber, it is isolated from reality and the rest of the universe. It is always mentioned that the figure comes from research, but how good was that research, and when was it done? Well, here's part of what the US Government Accounting Office had to say in 2000. Yes, 2000. Six years ago. And the research was talking about a guess of the figures in 1994. Using data from twenty years before that.
Recently, Lazarou, Pomeranz, and Corey attempted to synthesize available data on fatalities from adverse drug events (excluding cases of medication error). To derive their estimate of 106,000 fatal adverse drug reactions in the United States in 1994, they drew on data from 16 studies of adverse drug reactions published between 1964 and 1995. The studies cumulatively looked at 78 deaths, but only two of the studies had more than 10 deaths. Moreover, the 4 studies published after 1976 included a total of 5 deaths, compared with 73 in the 12 earlier studies. Consequently, the projection of fatal adverse drug reactions in 1994 is based predominately on data from 20 years earlier, when the use of pharmaceuticals was quite different. In addition, deaths were too few to arrive at a stable mortality estimate -- as even a small change in the number of deaths reported in the studies would lead to substantial changes in the number of deaths extrapolated to the national population.
He has a friend? (28/1/2006)
When I mentioned that child-killer and anti-vaccination hero Alan Yurko was again having trouble with the law the following came in:
From: "Caroline Stuard"
Subject: alan yurko
Date: Tue, 24 Jan 2006 08:51:18 -0700
Mr. Bowditch: I am an old friend of Alan Yurko . you stated that Alan was detained for drug possession, and burglary. Do you have any proof to show me? I need to know. If it is not true you will be sued for slander. You caused that family enough pain. If you have the proof or numbers I can call, let me know�
I see that you read about this on the Millenium Project Blog, which is often an abbreviated copy of what appears on the main site. Had you read the main site you would have seen that the Case Number in the Cuyahoga Common Pleas Court for the drug possession charge is CR-05-473467-G. The arrest took place on September 21, 2005.
By the way, it is usually considered unwise to threaten legal action in the first communication, especially if the wrong offence is mentioned (slander is spoken, the written form is libel), but as you did it the threat has been added to the collection of vacuous legal threats which I have received over the years.