It's finally happened! A lawyer has written (7/9/2002)
We are a close-knit bunch here at the RatbagsDotCom Empire, and we operate with a small, overworked staff. To conserve resources, all threats of legal action against any of the sites are processed through the Millenium Project office (Cubicle, actually. OK, desk.). After almost four years of operation, the first ever real life letter from a lawyer has arrived, demanding that some material be removed from the Quintessence of the Loon site. Someone who writes incoherently about nonsense and who believes that I should be impressed by the fact that another site listed in Quintessence of the Loon likes his site is claiming some protection under the Australian Constitution against the disparagement of fruitcakes. He called my site "Quintessence of a Loon" but there are many more loons there than just him of course. Now that I've stopped laughing, you can read the initial correspondence here. I will have to respond to the lawyer's letter, but I think I might attach some of the 800+ Usenet messages in which his client amply exhibits his grasp of reality. I might also ask the lawyer to point out to his client that a court case which he resoundingly lost in February is unlikely to have a favourable outcome for him within the near future.
Do you need to hide? (7/9/2002)
Regular visitors here will know of my absolute contempt for people who write anonymous complaints. There are legitimate reasons for keeping identities secret at times, but the cases that interest me are where people claim anonymity because what they have to say is worthless and they are too cowardly to take responsibility for what they say. Someone has accused the most senior Catholic Archbishop in Australia, Dr George Pell, of molesting him at a camp in, wait for it, 1961. Dr Pell stood aside from his position as soon as the allegations surfaced, and the Church has commissioned an independent enquiry. The accuser is now whining that the Church won't pay for his legal representation at the enquiry (it isn't paying for Dr Pell's lawyers either), and says that it should pay to make it fair for him. The problem is that he wants to remain anonymous. If this is a legitimate complaint, it is hard to see how it could be in any way embarrassing to the accuser after more than 40 years. I don't know whether Dr Pell did what is alleged or not, but if he did he probably should spend a long time in Hell. As his accuser wants the freedom to accuse without the responsibility of identification, I am prepared to give Dr Pell the benefit of the doubt and to assume that this is just another chapter in the smear campaign that has been going on against him since he moved to Sydney.
In another case where people wanted anonymity, the names of some rapists (who chose their victims by ethnicity) were suppressed by the court. The family of one of the ringleaders appeared on television last week and said that nobody was raped because the girls asked for it. After all, they must have asked for it because they got it. Apparently, girls everywhere are lining up to be dragged into parks and railway station toilets to have sex with strangers who then ring all their friends up and invite them around to share. Lawyers appeared in court this week for the animals and tried to keep them anonymous, but the judge had had enough. So, here's a note for the inmates of New South Wales prisons – when you are passing around Mohammed Senussi, Mahmoud Senussi, Tayab Sheikh and Bilal Skaff, don't forget to ask them if they "like it Leb style".
Anti-white loon at Harvard (7/9/2002)
Have you noticed that universities don't have departments of "Physics Studies" or "Mathematics Studies" or "Psychology Studies" or "History Studies" or "English Studies" or "Dentistry Studies" or "Jurisprudence Studies"? These are all disciplines where a lot of studying goes on, so it is rather ironic that any university school with the word "studies" in its title is almost guaranteed to be an intellectual vacuum. (A local paper once printed a letter to the editor from the Senior Lecturer in Communication Studies at the university where I got my degrees. The letters editor rather nastily published the illiterate drivel verbatim, complete with spelling, punctuation and grammar errors. Beautiful!) It seems that the loading of the word "studies" has been recognised, and other names are being tried to hide the reality of these academic deserts. For example, Harvard has a place which, while described as a "black studies department", goes by the impressive title of the W.E.B. DuBois Institute for African-American Research. The sort of "research" going on there can be seen from this quote from one of its professors, Dr Noel Ignatiev: "The key to solving the social problems of our age is to abolish the white race. ... Make no mistake about it, we intend to keep bashing the dead white males, and the live ones, and the females too, until the social construct known as 'the white race' is destroyed--not 'deconstructed' but destroyed". Dr Ignatiev runs a magazine called Race Traitor. Strangely, it seems that Dr Ignatiev is, well, (how can I put this without sounding racist?) white. What a moron. And Harvard not only lets him teach in the place, they let him spout his nonsense in Harvard Magazine. Tragic.
When governments go mad (7/9/2002)
A few months ago, Greece was exposed to ridicule when some people whose hobby was looking at aircraft were arrested for taking photographs at an air show. One of the "spies" was a granny who was reading in her car while waiting for the rest of her family to return from what must have been the greatest espionage threat to civilisation since Philby, Burgess and Mclean went over the fence. You would have thought that the subsequent mocking would have made the Greek authorities think twice before embarrassing themselves again, but you would have been wrong. At the end of July, the Greek government banned computer games. I'll say that again, in case you think I typed it incorrectly. At the end of July, the Greek government banned computer games. Also banned are hand-held things like the GameBoy, consoles like Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo, and even games in mobile phones. People have been fined thousands of euros for these dastardly crimes. Now, I admit that anyone who has ever had to endure a Sydney to Los Angeles flight while sitting between a businessman playing Snake on a Nokia and some kid nineteen levels deep into Mario's latest adventure might think that the death penalty could sometimes be appropriate, but this feeling generally goes away by the time you get to the hotel and have a couple of scotches from the mini-bar. Just don't drink any ouzo or retsina. And if you are planning to go to the Olympic Games in 2004, don't take a camera or a telephone.
|Update: A Greek court has subsequently ruled that the law banning computer games is unconstitutional. Perhaps the judge was sending the following message to the Greek government.|
The word of the week (14/9/2002)
The word of the week is "coagulopathy". This is the new buzzword being used by the anti-vaccination liars to increase the fear of vaccines. So far I have been told that it is caused by the polio vaccine and also that it was the real reason that the child murdered by Alan Yurko was hospitalised, except in that case it was caused by the DTaP vaccine. It seems that coagulopathy is the real killer in all those Shaken Baby Syndrome tragedies. It's just that all those medical examiners doing the autopsies don't know what to look for. Or perhaps the MEs are told what to find ... (dons tinfoil hat and looks for black helicopters). You would think that it was enough to oppose vaccines, therefore sentencing children to death and disability, without actively supporting people who actually kill children outright, but some people are never satisfied.
The predictability of idiocy (14/9/2002)
On September 3 I gave a talk to the Australian Computer Society entitled "A Different Internet Security Problem – harassment, stalking and identity theft" (you can read the paper here). The talk was partly based on my experiences running this site, and I made special mention of my disgust for anonymous posters. I also mentioned stalking and, true to form, the Gutless Anonymous Liar appeared the next day with the message below. I couldn't have made up a better example myself. Pathetic.
Date: 4 Sep 2002 22:14:11 -0000
Subject: what a fucking laugh?
I attended your riduclous talk last night and discovered in person what a complete and utter fucking dimwit you are. I also tape recorded your bullshit and couriered off to those who really care.
You crossed the line last night into criminal law: criminal libel and criminal harassment, while boasting fraud and forgery.
The best of luck is not going to help you out of this one.
I wondered what that thing was in the corner of the room – gibbering away, with all that froth dribbling out from under the cardboard box on its head.
Good work, Buzz! (14/9/2002)
Almost everybody who has ever owned a car has had that sinking feeling of hitting the starter and having the thing fail to start. Just yesterday I was on my way to buy petrol because the tank was low when I was stopped on a steep hill by a red light. I immediately found out how low the tank was because the engine cut out and wouldn't start again – the steep slope had taken the remaining fuel to the back of the tank and the pickup was breathing air. This was a minor inconvenience as I was only a couple of hundred metres from a service station where I could get a can of petrol to get the thing started again. Imagine, however, how it would feel to know that if your engine stopped and you couldn't start it again you would certainly die, even though millions of people knew exactly where you were, you were in constant radio contact with friends, and there was no immediate threat to your life. The only resources to sustain your life were what you were carrying yourself, there was no possibility of getting any more food or water, nobody could get to you to help, and all this was happening on television. This was the situation facing the men who walked on the moon, and the bravery of these men is almost beyond the imagination of the rest of us, particularly the courage of the first, who could look to no precedent of anyone having done it and survived.
Contrasted to these heroes is a group of idiots who claim that nobody has ever gone to the moon. On September 9, 2002, one of these clowns, Bart Sibrel, accosted Buzz Aldrin and demanded that Aldrin swear on a Bible that he had really been to the moon. Buzz decided that an appropriate response to some lunatic coming up to him in the street and calling him a liar was to settle things quickly because there was nothing to discuss, so he punched Sibrel's lights out and then went on his way. Sibrel (who is 37) is now whining to anyone who might care that a 72 year old man beat him up. Fortunately, nobody is caring. I usually don't condone violence as a means of settling arguments, but in this case I will make an exception. I didn't think I could have a higher opinion of Buzz Aldrin but now I have. He should be congratulated.
You can't please all of the people all of the time, but you can try (14/9/2002)
Most of the email I receive about my sites is complimentary, and people often suggest links for inclusion or make other suggestions about how the sites could be improved. As an example of this, I have at different times made changes to the style sheets which control the appearance of the sites to make some of the colours more visible on some monitors and to work around bugs in some versions of Netscape which could make the occasional page unreadable. I recently found two reviews of the RatbagsDotCom site at the Alexa Web Search site. I don't know who wrote these and I have no way of contacting them, so I thought I would publicly respond here. One review was rather critical, and I have no problem with anyone who is not as enthusiastic about what I do as I am. It would be a boring world if we all liked the same things. I would like to take issue, however, with the claim that the content here is "derivative". I make no apology for the fact that my concerns and interests are shared by other people and that there are many other sites addressing these matters, but I would like to think that I do things differently to these other people. Still, I appreciate that someone took the time to post the review (and give me two stars out of five, so it can't be that bad). The other review was much more enthusiastic, but mentioned that some of the content seems to hang around for a long time. This is a matter of perception, because it is rare for anything to be on the front page here for more than two weeks, but I will now show the date that each item first appeared. I would like to thank both reviewers for their interest and for taking the time to post the reviews.
Free speech (21/9/2002)
One of the problems that faces anyone committed to freedom of speech is defining the boundaries of what is acceptable. As someone is supposed to have said about pornography, some things are hard to describe but you know what they are when you see them. My opinion on speech is that there should be no restrictions unless real harm can be proved.
(See the rest of this article here.)
Down Syndrome (21/9/2002)
Just when you think that the anti-vaccination liars have reached a nadir they surprise you with something new. Down Syndrome is a genetic condition which is triggered by something that happens at conception. It is not possible to catch it in any way, and there is no way it can be passed from one person to another except by breeding. It cannot be caused by vaccination. Illiteracy is caused by poor education and is a tragedy. It cannot be caused by vaccination. These facts are widely known, but facts and truth have no purpose when the objective is to frighten parents into avoiding vaccinating their children. The following set of lies broke through the scum at the top of an anti-vaccination mailing list this week, posted by someone who usually spends their time lying about autism. And they still keep asking why I call them liars.
Subject: Downs Syndrome-First Congenital Syndrome caused by vaccines!
"In 1866, an English physician described a very strange illness. Children looked like Mongols. His name was Down. That's why we call it Down's Syndrome today... I should add that this syndrome is a result of the vaccinations carried throughout England by Jenner in 1796... It (Down's Syndrome) is probably the first congenital disease caused by vaccinations. In Germany, the first child with evidence of Down's Syndrome was reported in 1922. Today, one in every 700 newborns has it... But the most terrifying fact is still to come... We already know today of 4,000 illnesses caused by genes. Ten years ago, Germany had 3 million illiterate people. Today, it's 4 million. America has three times the population, about 240 million, meaning they should have about 12 million illiterate people..."--Dr Buchwald MD
Vile begging email (21/9/2002)
Most spam email is just annoying. Then there's this. The headers were forged to make it look like it had been sent from a Hotmail account, and the email address associated with the suggested PayPal account was at an anonymous mail service.
Subject: By the name of JESUS CHRIST, don't ignore this, save our daughter, dying from leukemia!!! We beg YOU!!!
We are immigrants in United States and our daughter is dying from leukemia. We need immediately 25.000 dollars for the operation. By the name of Christ, if You have mercy, we are begging You to save our daughter. We will not be able to thank YOU, but GOD sees everything and He will reward You for Your deed, for saving somebody's life. We pray that You would never learn how it feels when your child is dying and there is nothing you can do.
Please, donate as much as You can to this account: 627520134589 if You are the member of PAYPAL or would like to register there, You can donate with Your credit card here:
Religious madness (28/9/2002)
Outside of those countries which have to suffer under religious rule it is rare these days to hear much talk about heresy, so it is an exceptional week when not only are two people publicly accused of heresy in Britain, but those two people are spiritual leaders of large faiths. The Chief Rabbi, Jonathon Sacks, and the Archbishop of Canterbury designate, Rowan Williams, are both being pursued by groups of fundamentalists. Rabbi Sacks' sin was to suggest that it is possible to learn something by talking to people from other religious groups. To thinking people, this is called "tolerance" and is taken for granted. It is ironic that Jews, of all people, should be unaware of the dangers of certainty and intolerance. (You can click here to read something I wrote about this in September 2001.)
Archbishop Williams' crimes were to attend pagan festivals (including the Welsh Eisteddfod!) and to question the literal truth of some stories in the Bible. I don't know about the eisteddfod but it was probably a bit silly of the Archbishop to go to a Druid party, although I suspect that the Druids are just people who like to dress up and have fun and are no more a threat to real religions than the people who go to Star Wars parties and call themselves Jedi Knights. Thinking that some of the stories in the Bible might just be allegories created to illustrate moral or educational points is just common sense. Many of the folk tales collected by the Grimm brothers served the same purpose, but we don't have to believe that there actually was a girl whose grandmother was eaten by a talking wolf in order to use a story to teach children about danger. The teachings and parables attributed to Jesus have an independent validity even if it could be proved that He never existed (although I would be worried by someone who denied the historical reality of Jesus and still claimed to be a Christian), just as the Ten Commandments provide a useful set of model rules for a civil society even if there never was a Moses to carry them down from Mount Sinai. Questioning the absolutes of a faith is a way to progress towards greater understanding, but to fundamentalists questioning creates the possibility that their faith is a house of cards and cannot resist even the slightest shaking. It might make things worse for Rabbi Sacks, but perhaps the fundamentalists should be referred to Matthew 7 where Jesus talks about the difference between building on rock and sand. Fundamentalists seem convinced that their faith is built on a foundation of sand.
My television is possessed (28/9/2002)
At the end of 2001 I gave psychic John Edward a Highly Commended award for his proposal to host a television special to contact the spirits of the people who died in the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. I had not had the pleasure until recently of seeing Edward in action as his show was only on pay TV where I live and there are some things I will not pay for. The rubbish is now shown on free-to-air television, so I had to have a look at his first show. It was even worse than I expected, and I could only last about ten minutes before I noticed that there were other things I would rather be doing, like cleaning the oven or getting the dead bugs out of the light fittings. What I saw was someone exploiting the misery of others and giving them false hopes.
Edward is not getting a good press in Australia (you can see some comments here and here), but I have to disagree with the people who say that he is good at cold reading. In the time I watched, the transparency and the fishing were pathetic. A good cold reader subtly extracts the information he needs from the subjects, but Edward starts with an audience who are primed to expect miracles, who desperately want him to succeed and are prepared to help, and who are totally uncritical of what he says to the point of accepting misses as hits. Under these circumstances, anyone would look good. In my original piece about Edward I described him as a liar, a parasite and a fraud. I have now seen him in action, but I have been given no reason to change that opinion.
I've been deamalgamated! (28/9/2002)
One section of The Millenium Project deals with dental quackery, much of which is related to nonsense and lies told about amalgam fillings. Well, I have to admit that I have had an amalgam filling removed during the week. In case you think I have gone over to the dark side, the filling was removed so that the dentist could get in to remove infection within the tooth and in my jaw below the tooth. I am taking antibiotics and pain killers, I haven't been able to eat or sleep properly, and I feel like something on the bottom of a zookeeper's boot, which is why I haven't been able to do as much on this site this week as I would have liked. When it all gets better, I go back for more drilling and filling to finish the root canal work. (The bank has been notified about the need for an extension of my mortgage.) I would like to thank organised dentistry, the pharmaceutical manufacturer cartel, the gonadophobes who make X-ray machines, the blacksmiths who make all those little metal things that dentists use and the Tasmanian opium farmers for the benefits I have received from their work over the last few days. The upside of this has been to inspire me to finish an article I have been developing about how the anti-amalgamists exemplify fundamentalist thinking in the anti-medicine, alternative medicine world, much like the religious zealots mentioned above.