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Who says I can't make a difference? (9/2/2008)
Every now and then something happens which tells me that what I do here is worthwhile. A couple of weeks back I reported that the 9/11 Truthers had booked a room at Sydney's premier science museum, the Powerhouse Museum, to present a seminar about their delusions. The choice of venue was obviously a way of obtaining some perception of credibility.
A member of the museum staff wrote thanking me for alerting her to what was planned. She expressed her outrage at this abuse of her employer's facilities and reputation and her dismay that in this case the people who take room bookings seemed to have missed the whole point of the institution. Most of the staff were unaware of the travesty and when told they were just as annoyed as she was.
I now have the pleasure to report that the Truthers are looking for somewhere else to peddle their idiocy. I should point out that I don't object to them having or publicly expressing stupid ideas. I just don't like them trying to assume a patina of respectability by spouting their nonsense in places usually associated with telling the truth.
See something I wrote about Truthers here.
The ears on the loon go 'round and 'round, 'round and 'round ... (9/2/2008)
The promised pickets by Fred Phelps and his gang of rodeo clowns at the funeral and various memorial services for actor Heath Ledger didn't eventuate, but that didn't mean that we were denied the opportunity to laugh at the lunacy of people with less brainpower than nematodes. One of the 'net's great jokes, Betty Martini, announced the real cause of Ledger's death. (Should that be Dr Martini as she prefers to be called since she received an honorary doctorate in theology from some cottage university?) For many years now Betty has been warning us of the terrible dangers of aspartame, and she has now revealed that Heath's death was caused by an interaction between the sweetener in the diet drinks he preferred and the illegal drugs he was taking. Betty must be able to see the future, because she made this announcement before the results of Ledger's post mortem toxicology screen had been released. (The pathologist must have been part of the conspiracy because he found no illegal drugs and didn't test for aspartame.)
One of my favourite Betty stories is the one she spread around about the Atlanta Olympics. Coca Cola was a big sponsor of the event and Betty claimed that there was a secret agreement between the Coke people and the Games organisers not to sell Diet Coke during the marathon. The marathon is one of only a couple of events where closeup views of spectators are seen on television, and Betty claimed that the ban on Diet Coke was to avoid millions of television viewers seeing the inevitable collapse (and perhaps even death) of spectators after sucking down the deadly artificially sweetened concoction. Is this woman mad? Do bears growl in the woods? The amazing thing is that she has followers and believers who defend her rantings as if they have some connection with reality.
Dr Martini featured in a song I wrote, and you can read the words here.
You can imagine my trepidation when I looked at my email inbox and saw a message with the subject line "Cease and Desist" from someone at Mannatech. With trembling fingers I moved the mouse until the pointer was pointing at the message and, clenching my teeth, gave a tentative click with one hand while the other hand rummaged in a drawer looking for my lawyer's business card and my prescription for Valium. The message opened and what did I see? I saw something totally unexpected.
Date: Thu, 07 Feb 2008 17:02:29 -0500
Subject: Cease and Desist
TO: Peter Bowditch
RE:Impermissible Use of Health Claims Attributed to Mannatech Products 1.5.47
Dear Peter Bowditch:
We need your immediate assistance with a critical issue related to your website. It has come to our attention that you currently have statements on your website which are or could be construed to be unauthorized health claims which go beyond stating that Mannatech nutritional products promote the maintenance of health and general well-being. The statements made on your website are contrary to Mannatech policy.
Demand is hereby made that you immediately remove from your website any statement or reference which (i) states, suggests or implies that Mannatech nutritional products prevent, treat or cure disease, (ii) states, suggests or implies that Mannatech nutritional products are a substitute for a doctor's standard of care, and/or (iii) is in any manner in contradiction with Mannatech's existing policies and procedures. Demand is further made that you refrain from engaging in this activity in the future.
Please contact the undersigned in writing within five (5) business days from the receipt of this letter advising that you have made the requested modification to your website and confirming that you will refrain from such activity in the future.
Failure to comply with this demand may result in legal and compliance action up to and including litigation in which Mannatech will seek injunctive relief, damages and attorney's fees and costs as allowable under Texas law. Mannatech will undertake all actions necessary to secure your compliance.
Having brought this to your attention, we are confident that you will understand our concerns and act immediately. We will be monitoring your website, and await your response in writing. Please contact the undersigned at email@example.com if you have any questions regarding Mannatech's position in this matter. Nothing herein shall be construed as a waiver of any rights Mannatech has at law or in equity, all of which are expressly reserved.
Your prompt attention and cooperation in this matter are greatly appreciated.
Mannatech Legal, Ethics & Compliance Department
What could I say? Here is my reply:
I am rather puzzled by your Cease and Desist demand as I can guarantee that I have never made any claim for the effectiveness of Mannatech products in the treatment or management of any disease or ailment, human, veterinary or agricultural. I would not make such a claim as I would not believe it to be true, and truth is important to me. If you read the web page you objected to you will see that the only claims of effectiveness for anything from Mannatech are made by people extolling (and presumably selling) the products. In fact you might even see where I took someone to task for claiming that sugar pills were an effective treatment for Parkinson's Disease.
I must thank you, however, for your clearly implied admission that Mannatech products are useless in the treatment or management of any disease. I will quote you in future when Mannatech distributors abuse me for not recognising the amazing curative properties of the products.
I will, of course, be removing nothing from my site and will be making no changes to the way I comment about Mannatech in the future. As is my usual policy, your email and this reply will be featured prominently on my site.
Happy Birthday, Charles (9/2/2008)
February 12 will be Charles Darwin's 199th birthday. You will celebrate in an appropriate manner. That is an order.
Suck on this, anti-vaccination liars (9/2/2008)
This story crossed my desk this week. I don't think I need to comment any further:
MMR shot does not cause autism, large study says
Largest study yet shows no evidence that childhood shot causes disorder
Reuters Feb. 4, 2008
LONDON - A vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella does not cause autism, according to the largest study yet showing there is no evidence linking the childhood shot to the development disorder.
The study, published on Tuesday in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, found no evidence of any abnormal biological response from the shot that could point to a link between the vaccine and autism.
"This study really supports the view these are safe vaccines," said David Brown, a researcher at Britain's Health Protection Agency who worked on the study. "The evidence is now so solid there really isn't a need for further studies here."
An apology (9/2/2008)
No, not from me, except indirectly. On Wednesday, the opening day of the next Australian Federal Parliament, the new Prime Minister will be offering an apology to the Aboriginal people of Australia for wrongs committed against them in the past. This is seen as an essential step in the reconciliation process between the descendants of both the original inhabitants of the country and those who have arrived here in the last two hundred and a few years. The official wording of the apology hasn't been released, but I hope it is as good as the following statement, written by John Clarke and Ross Stevenson for the satirical television show The Games in 2000. (I have edited out a few words explicitly referring to the Olympics).
Australia, like many countries in the new world, is intensely proud of what it has achieved in the past 200 years.
We are a vibrant and resourceful people. We share a freedom born in the abundance of nature, the richness of the earth, the bounty of the sea. We are the world's biggest island. We have the world's longest coastline. We have more animal species than any other country. Two thirds of the world's birds are native to Australia. We are one of the few countries on earth with our own sky. We are a fabric woven of many colours and it is this that gives us our strength.
However, these achievements have come at great cost. We have been here for 200 years but before that, there was a people living here. For 40,000 years they lived in a perfect balance with the land. There were many Aboriginal nations, just as there were many Indian nations in North America and across Canada, as there were many Maori tribes in New Zealand and Incan and Mayan peoples in South America. These indigenous Australians lived in areas as different from one another as Scotland is from Ethiopia. They lived in an area the size of Western Europe. They did not even have a common language. Yet they had their own laws, their own beliefs, their own ways of understanding.
We destroyed this world. We often did not mean to do it. Our forebears, fighting to establish themselves in what they saw as a harsh environment, were creating a national economy. But the Aboriginal world was decimated. A pattern of disease and dispossession was established. Alcohol was introduced. Social and racial differences were allowed to become fault-lines. Aboriginal families were broken up. Sadly, Aboriginal health and education are responsibilities we have still yet to address successfully.
I speak for all Australians in expressing a profound sorrow to the Aboriginal people. I am sorry. We are sorry. Let the world know and understand, that it is with this sorrow, that we as a nation will grow and seek a better, a fairer and a wiser future.
Still travelling (23/2/2008)
I'm still dividing my time between Sydney and the bush, but in a week or two I will have developed a regular travel pattern (and also smoothed out the procedures for keeping two computers synchronised when they are 300 kilometres apart). Then everything will be back to as normal as normal can ever be.
They say that travel broadens the mind, and one aspect of my travelling experience has been observing and thinking about the strange behaviour of my global positioning system. There I was driving along a road which has been there for many years when the little arrow on the screen indicating the position of my car showed that I had left the road and was now driving across an extensive field covered with wheat stubble. Perhaps the GPS box thought I was going to make some crop circles, although the ground under the car at the time seemed to be a strip of black with a white dotted line along the middle of it. On another occasion the polite voice informed me that I had arrived at my destination (a town with a pub, a wheat silo and a railway siding) but the tallest thing in all directions seemed to be a bright yellow car with me in it. There were some sheep over near the horizon.
The strangest thing, however, has now happened twice at the same place. The device suddenly loses all knowledge of where I am and how fast I am driving but it still reports that it is in communication with the requisite number of satellites. The area is undistinguished from other agricultural countryside around there except for one thing - there is a wind farm nearby. Could it be that these huge white eagle mincers don't actually make electricity from wind but instead suck it from passing satellite navigation devices or from the satellites themselves? Could they really be transmitters used as part of some UN plot to control people's minds and make them think that climate change is real, with the accidental consequence of disturbing my GPS? I need to know because a portion of the electricity used at Ratbag Ranch is supposed to be coming from these very fans. It's bad enough having dead eagles on my conscience without being responsible for drivers getting lost (with all that that means for the potential for marital friction).
Whole lotta shakin' goin' on (23/2/2008)
Worldwide, there are four major "quackbuster" centers: the US, Denmark, Canada, and Australia. In the US we are familiar with Barrett, Baratz, etc. In Australia we have "ratbags," Peter Bowditch. In Canada we have Terry Polevoy. In Denmark we have Paul Lee PT (quackfiles).
The up-and-comer in all this is Paul Lee PT from Denmark, for it is he who manages both the Wikipedia information manipulation system, and the search engine top ranking system I'll describe below. Although, the TWO systems, in place, give the quackbuster operation "info wars" advantage they also, because of how, and where, they did it, bring Lee, Polevoy and Bowditch, and all of the foreign operations under the jurisdiction of the US Court system. In other words - they made a big mistake, in their eagerness to corrupt.
Why? Because Wikipedia is based in Florida. The search engine placement system they use, called "webring" is based in Ashland, Oregon. Since they do business with these US companies, they are subject to be sued for their activities in this country.
Bolen goes on to suggest that he can help people sue Wikipedia, the Webring operators and even Google. Is this man even on this planet? I just love the way that he is confused about the way that Webring works and thinks that it is somehow a back door to high Google rankings. He also seems to think that web owners have to pay a fee to be listed there. I'm not surprised at his ravings, but calling having a free listing in a rather insignificant index "doing business" is a stretch even for him. Google supplied 17,454 visitors to this site last month, and the leading search phrase was "network 21". The total number of visitors to any part of the Anti-Quackery Webring was 4,978. Twelve of those visitors went on to The Millenium Project. I'm going to pay for this? This is "doing business"? Yeah, right!
And, of course:
And here's a bit of news for Tim - Paul is no longer running the Anti-Quackery Webring. The baton has been passed to a major Australian quackbusting centre. Don't like that fact, Tim? Tough! The picture over on the right can be considered to be my condolences.
And Tim, get yourself someone who knows how to make web pages. Your latest idiocy (added to my Tributes page, of course) has the rather amusing HTML title "<span style="font-weight: 700"> <font face="Arial" size="4" color="#008080"><B><FONT color=#800000 size=4> <span style="font-family: Arial; color: #CC6600; font-weight: 700"> <font size="4">The Six Components of the 2008 Quackbuster Operation...</font></s". Perhaps this is why you aren't getting a high listing in Google. Why don't you contact the manager of the Anti-Quackery Webring - maybe he will let you share in the "business".
Speaking of cretins and the bush ... (23/2/2008)
Guess what popped its head out of the ordure this week. That's right - here is Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group (wearing his Gutless Anonymous Liar shroud, of course) telling the breathlessly-waiting Usenet community about my latest adventures.
PeterPhile Bowditch, known convict, liar, fraud, and molester has announced that he is abandoning his rental tenement in "lovely Parramatta" and moving to another rental in Grenfell, NSW. (Why rental?)
Do the lovely and unsuspecting people of Grenfell know about the monster moving into their community? They do now.....
Grenfell has a number of clubs and directories with accessible sites that allow posters to update, comment and inform. Update, comment, and inform we have. Notable response from a local tennis club president..."They won't be playing here!"....
I have asked Mr O'Neill some questions about this, but as yet I have received no answer:
Guest columnist (23/2/2008)
To add to my meagre efforts here this week I have invited a guest columnist to say a few words. The guest was John Locke and his contribution is A Letter Concerning Toleration.
A nice little earner (23/2/2008)
The web site for the Australian Vaccination Network invites other web site owners to participate in an affiliate scheme where they can be paid a commission for selling AVN memberships, magazine subscriptions and other goodies. I thought about applying, because I can always use some additional cash, but something stopped me filling in the form. A conscience, I believe it is called. (I know that the Google advertisements on this site sometimes promote things that I don't like but I have little control over what Google decides to show here.) The book cover at right is for yet another scam that claims to have the cause and cure for all forms of cancer. The fact that AVN is selling rubbish like this gives the lie to the claim that they aren't opposed to medicine and just want the tiny bit of it associated with vaccination to be safer. As one of their claims is that vaccines cause cancer it would be a very short book if it told what they claim to be the truth: "Cancer: The Cause is vaccination and the Cure is not vaccinating". I expect that there is more in the book than this but I am not about to waste any of my money on finding out. If AVN would like to send me a free review copy I would be grateful as I could put it through my office shredder and recycle it into the cat's litter tray (which would probably encourage the cat to spend more time outdoors).
In March last year I mentioned that the poor dears at AVN were all in a fluster about a government policy that health workers should show a commitment to health by having all their vaccinations up to date. They had tried to get the Australian Medical Association to run an anti-vaccination advertisement in its magazine and were offended at a refusal. (I am still waiting for an answer to my enquiry about advertising in the AVN's rag.) The campaign has warmed up and you can now get postcards to spread around the message of the dreadful attack on personal freedom arising from employers insisting on responsible behaviour from employees. I would be a lot more convinced of the intentions behind the campaign if the AVN was distributing the postcards for free but unfortunately you have to pay for the privilege of spreading AVN's lies. Again, I am prepared to accept a couple of free packets of the postcards if AVN want to send me some for evaluation. I have a table with a short leg and they might be useful as shims. Face down, of course, so I wouldn't have to see the lies.
Error message (23/2/2008)
I was doing my regular check for broken links and the program informed me that one of the pages at Amnesty International couldn't be reached any more. Here is the error message I received when I tried to look at the page: