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June 5, 2004

A speech (5/6/2004)
I was invited to give the keynote Susan Kronheim Memorial Lecture at the 2004 Undersea & Hyperbaric Medical Society Annual Scientific Meeting on May 28, 2004. You can read the text of the talk here.

Anniversaries (5/6/2004)
There are two significant anniversaries happening this weekend. Sunday, June 6, marks sixty years since the D-Day landing in Normandy. The deaths and injuries suffered on that day were part of the price that had to be paid to give us the freedoms that we take for granted today. If you had told the soldiers about to run through the surf into the face of machine gun fire that, sixty years on, there would be people who denied the atrocities of Nazism and who claimed that Hitler just made a few small mistakes, you would have been ridiculed or even shot as an agent provocateur. It is sometimes unfortunate, but another price we pay for freedom is to give freedoms to people with whom we disagree. To do anything else would make us no better than the people that we went to war against. (The photograph is one of the most famous of the 20th century. It was taken on June 6, 1944, by Robert Capa, and is one of only ten (out of 106 which Capa shot) which survived an accident during processing. You can see the full set here.)

The other anniversary is Friday, June 4, fifteen years since the massacre of protestors in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China. Again, there is a picture which has become a classic image, although nobody seems to be the acknowledged photographer. The events on that June 4 told us that there are still places where dissent and protest are not allowed and will attract a violent response. Fifteen years later and nothing has changed in China. Tiananmen Square is blocked off in case anyone might think about staging a memorial gathering, and mothers of people killed fifteen years ago are prevented from leaving their homes. But why should China change? It was a coincidence that the Olympic torch arrived in Sydney on June 4 on its way to Athens for the games in August, but it reminded me that four years from now the torch will be on its way to Beijing and everyone will forget about Tiananmen Square. As one Chinese official remarked at the time that Beijing was awarded the 2008 games, there was no need for China to do anything about its human rights policies as the world had just given them a seal of approval.

Canadian Cancer Research Group (5/6/2004)
It has been more than six month's since Mr William P O'Neill's CCRG web site announced that it was closing down temporarily for reconstruction. Loath as I am to rub Mr O'Neill's nose in his business problems, I have to confess to a warm feeling of schadenfreude at the prospect of this despicable man and his despicable organisation sinking into well-deserved extinction. After all, he has spent a lot of time lying about how I am bankrupt and how this web site is closing down. He could be having domestic problems as well as business ones, as he has developed an obsession with my wife despite having one of his own. There are indications that his home difficulties may be made worse by a diminution in certain abilities, because in a recent email to me he mentioned his need to use a prosthetic device to do what most men do with a part of their bodies. Perhaps I should send him the packet of Viagra I bought as a souvenir in Tijuana. I don't need it.

How good is that Aussie sheila? (5/6/2004)
I realise that it is primitive, sexist, demeaning to women and appallingly politically incorrect, but I have to admit to a measure of national pride when I heard that an Australian had been chosen as Miss Universe. I soon got over it and regained my usual dismissive attitude to beauty contests, but unfortunately my wife insisted on watching the repeat telecast of the awards show in Ecuador (true story – she really did!) and I was forced to watch the whole thing. Not only was it uncomfortable getting wool on my tongue when it dragged on the carpet, but I was so outraged that I had to drive around the block four times in my mid-life-crisis sports car to calm down. Seriously though, despite what feminists and Nigerian Muslims think, these contests are relatively harmless. Jennifer Hawkins seems to be a nice girl with no pretentious ideas about herself. This will be a great opportunity for her, and the only downside is the possibility of being sleazed on by Donald Trump. (A question - why does someone with Trump's money wear a bird's nest on his head? Surely he can afford a decent rug.)

A song for Hulda (5/6/2004)
A supporter of cancer quack Hulda Clark failed to recognise a quotation from a popular song when it was mentioned in an alternative medicine Internet forum, and someone suggested that the fan was probably out of touch with any music postdating Stephen Foster. I couldn't get Swannee to work so I turned to Rogers and Hammerstein for a song which was definitely of the Foster oeuvre. I give you "Ol' Hag Hulda".

Clark's Tijuana clinic

Her clinic is pink, down in Tijuana,
She sits there at work, while the victims pay,
Bankin' that cash, from dawn 'til sunset,
Laughin' like hell, 'til judgement day.

Over the fence from where the FDA is,
Suckers can die, She don't give a toss.
Stayin' down south of the Rio Grande,
There's an old stream, that she dare not cross,

Yeah …

Ol' hag Hulda, that ol' hag Hulda,
She might know sumpin', but don't cure nothin',
She jus' keeps zappin', She keeps on zappin' along.

She don't cure cancer, though cash she's gotten,
And them that's "cured" is soon forgotten,
But ol' hag Hulda, She jus' keeps zappin' along.

You an' me, we sweat and strain,
Cuttin' out cancers and treatin' pain.
Prostate (male), breast (female),
While she's in Tijuana to stay out of jail.

Folks gits weary an' sick of tryin'
With AIDS and cancer, An' skeered of dyin',
But ol' hag Hulda, She jus', keeps zappin' along.

But someone went one better (5/6/2004)
I have to thank Rich Shewmaker for this wonderful adaptation of the poem The Cremation of Sam McGee by Robert Service. I wish I could write like this.

There are strange things done in the noonday sun,
In a Mexico border town,
Behind pink walls, the Devil calls,
But today he wears a frown.
He kind of groans, for the soul he owns,
Is the hoard of an ancient hag,
Who smiles today, for she's on her way,
To the bank with a money bag.

In this clinic stark, here is Hulda Clark,
She has fled from the law to hide,
With a heart that's black, this altie quack,
Is an evil personified.
She has found a way to make people pay,
This filthy entrepreneur.
She plays her trick on the desperate sick.
Sells a non-existent cure.

There's nothing you've heard, that's more absurd,
Than her claims for her "syncrometer."
But it's just the bait to catch those with a date,
To visit old St. Peter.
Her voice gets most shrill when she says doctors kill,
You with knives and with poisons and nukes.
What causes of cancer? This witch has an answer.
It's South Asian liver flukes.

She'll sell you a Zapper in a plain brown wrapper,
Guaranteed to cure what offends.
And when that's done its work, this altie quack jerk,
Will sell you a liver cleanse.
She'll make sure you're clean from your arse to your spleen,
And if your wallet's not cleaned out as well,
It's then time to send you to see her best friend,
The "holistic" dentist from hell.

Yes, there are strange things done in the noonday sun,
By this doctor who's not a physician.
By the clinic gates, a car there waits,
That's owned by the local mortician.
It waits for those who are in the last throes,
Of death, and it's not the least funny,
Though they didn't thrive, Hulda kept them alive,
'Til they finally ran out of money.

Speaking of "holistic dentist from hell" ... (5/6/2004)
Who says that there is never any good news in the paper? Who says that the FDA doesn't do anything to protect consumers? Click here to see what the FDA had to say to loon Len Horowitz, the crazed dentist who thinks that the CIA invented AIDS.

June 12, 2004

Email Problems (12/6/2004)
At about 11pm on Tuesday, June 8, (Sydney time) the server hosting the RatbagsDotCom site developed a problem which caused all email to the domain to bounce. Fixing the problem required moving the site to a new server which (of course) is configured differently to the one used before. This broke some of the background programming which runs the site, so I have had to temporarily remove the discussion forum, the site search facility, and the Alan Yurko kidney auction page. They will all be back next week. I apologise for the inconvenience.

Multi-level Murkiness (12/6/2004)
I received a couple of emails about multi-level marketing during the week. One of them said:

I would just like to know why this company has made it on your list. I have a family member interested in joining them and I'm trying to find out more about them both for myself and them. Do you have any articles or comments directly relating to Omegatrend or is it there simply because it is a multi-level marketing company?
I look forward to your response.

The short answer is "yes", it is listed here because it is a multi-level marketing business, and these operations are ipso facto scams and frauds. The long answer is that Omegatrend was created to cynically exploit some well-known facts about the MLM business and the psychology supporting confidence tricks.

The first of these facts is that the real money is made not by being in the pyramid, even at the highest levels, but by owning the pyramid. It is reported that Dexter Yager, the owner of International Dreambuilders, rakes in about $40 million each year from his Amway pyramid, and that's without ever selling a single bar of soap or showing a single plan. (Yager's sister apparently lives in poverty in a trailer park. He won't give her any money because she is a loser. Evidence of her loserness is the fact that she doesn't get $40 million each year.) Omegatrend was started by a group of Amway big pins who set out on their own to gouge the really big bucks. Despite years of telling people about the unmatched quality of Amway products, they were able, remarkably, to find products of equivalent or better quality from other sources. Of course, they had spent the same years telling people that the only way to riches was through being a worker in the Amway hive. These people did not get rich, so perhaps the big pins were "mistaken" about that too.

The Omegatrend distribution centre for the Sydney area is close to one of my client's offices, so I get to drive past it quite often. It certainly never looks as busy as it should be if the promises of multi-level marketing as the new paradigm of product distribution were coming true. I was told several years ago that it was only a matter of a year or two before this new channel was going to be moving 50% of all retail merchandise. It amused me to find out that Australia's smallest national grocery chain had total annual sales in Australia alone which were greater than the business that Amway was supposed to be doing worldwide, even allowing for the dodgy way that MLM companies report sales. (They report what the total sales would be at retail if all product ended up in the hands of consumers and none of it was bought for distributors' private use. Put another way, when you hear about an MLM company doing a billion dollars worth of sales, what they really mean is that $700 million of product was put into the channel and it may all still be sitting in garages.)

The psychology exploited by Omegatrend is the denial which people suffer when they have made a bad decision. This is allied with what is called "cognitive dissonance", where people's actions are at variance with their principles and they seek to resolve this dilemma by developing justifications for the actions. It seems to take most people about two years to realise that they are never going to make any money, much less the fortunes that they were promised were available to anyone who put in the work, and that they have been deceiving (even though unwittingly) anyone whom they have brought into the system. The constant boosting by the "motivational organisations" (the pyramid operators) places people who want to leave in the embarrassing position of appearing to have failed where others have prospered.

Omegatrend targeted dissatisfied Amway distributors by offering them what appeared to be a gracious way out. Their lack of success was not because they were losers or not fully committed, but because the system and product mix were wrong. The problems with bringing others into the system only to fail could be reversed by telling those others that there was a new organisation which was going to do things properly so that they could really fulfil their dreams. This was also the strategy used by Nu Skin when they opened in Australia, and almost everyone I met who offered me the Nu Skin introductory tapes had been an Amway distributor before but had made no money. Those tapes contained the same tricks to avoid the legal definition of pyramid selling as those I had heard from Amway and others. Like generic drugs which all have the same molecular structure but different brand names, multi-level marketing organisations are only differentiated by the name on the building and the stationery. They are all in the same business. That business is based on lies and the disappointment of the people they cheat.

It is interesting to speculate on why the name "Omegatrend" was chosen. One possibility is that it was named for Omega Centauri, the largest globular cluster in our galaxy which, at 17,000 light years away, is just as attainable as success and wealth through membership of the lower levels of a pyramid scheme. Another reason could be that omega (Ω) is the last letter in the Greek alphabet, and the use of it in the name is a tacit admission that multi-level marketing is the last place you would look to find a successful business model. In certain forms of Christian iconography, the Greek letter omega is superimposed on the Cross. As there is a certain air of fundamental religion and cult about membership of a sales pyramid it could be that the founders of Omegatrend want to hijack the icon, with the hope that when people see it they will think about soap powder instead of salvation. Another possibility may have to do with pronunciation. The normal pronunciation of the word "omega" puts the emphasis on the first syllable, and the second syllable is an unaccented grunt (which linguists call "schwa", usually represented by an upside-down "e" character – "ə"). Everyone who I have heard say the name "Omegatrend" has put the emphasis on the second syllable – the word "me". This is consistent with the "me, me, me" principles of MLM promoters and other confidence tricksters.

The second email was an enquiry about Network 21:

Hi there,
I stumbled across your website while researching Network 21 in Australia. I notice well assume because it is linked on your website there is some objection to it. I am not personally involved with them but looking into them after a mate told me he is getting into it. If you could please e-mail me back with a brief description of why you do not like them it would be greatly appreciated.
thank you

Network 21 is one of the "motivational organisation" for Amway. My experience with their distributors is that they turn up for the plan showing with a professional salesman from Network 21 who runs the presentation. Any questions about Amway are answered with lies. I was told several times in the last session I endured that they had a casual relationship with Amway (the words used were "Amway is one of our suppliers") but the real link was continually denied. This is symmetrical with the way that Amway employees lie about their knowledge of the motivational organisations like Network 21 and International Dreambuilders. On one memorable occasion I was being fed the usual crap and I was asked if I understood the term "paradigm shift". I actually spent some time at university studying the philosophy of science, so I asked the spruiker if he was referring to what Thomas Kuhn had written in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and then launched into a fifteen minute lecture on the subject. The salesman simply put his brain on "pause" and when I finished he just started up again mid-sentence. Robotic.

Here's something I wrote back in 1995 for the local newspaper. The editor received a complaint from the local Network 21 office as well as many complaints from personal business owners, but none of them said anything to me about it. They probably did not want to be around a loser, in case the negative thinking was contagious.

Conical marketing – the next wave

This article appeared in The Sydney Business Review on 15 August, 1995

A new marketing paradigm is here, from the oldest science of all – mathematics. It is "Conical Marketing" and it is based on conic sections. These are the shapes formed when a cone is cut in different directions. The shapes are the circle, ellipse, parabola, hyperbola and the triangle. I want to share this vision of the future with you, so we can all achieve our dreams.

There have been other attempts to base marketing and distribution on geometric shapes. One was "pyramid selling", where people were led to believe that unlimited wealth could be achieved if enough people could be brought into a network. You didn't have to be a salesperson, because the scheme would work if everyone in the network just bought for their own consumption. Pyramid selling is illegal in Australia so nobody does it any more. Some people appear to be doing it, but they must be doing something else.

The Circle

When you look at something from above, the shape you see is called "the plan". The plan section of a cone is a circle. A major part of conical marketing is the process of "showing the plan". Also, the circle is used to draw diagrams on a whiteboard or butcher's paper showing how the plan has made many people rich (some will even be cruising The Bahamas right now).

The Parabola

This shape, with its single focus point, tells us how we must concentrate on the most important goal in life – getting rich so we can achieve our dreams. It is the shape of a headlight reflector, to remind us that the future belongs only to those who can see what's ahead. If you roll a parabola along a line, its focus follows a curve called a "catenary". This comes from the Greek for "chain", a reminder of another geometric sales pitch – rectangular marketing, sometimes called a chain letter. The catenary is the curve across a yacht sail, another reminder of how those up the chain are cruising The Bahamas even as we speak.

The Hyperbola

A feature of a hyperbola is that the curve approaches but never quite touches a pair of lines. This is to remind us that when presenting the plan there are matters which must never be revealed, no matter how closely we are questioned. The name also reminds us of the word "hyperbole", which is a gentle and harmless stretching of the truth whenever necessary.

The Ellipse

The two focus points of the ellipse represent the dream and the vehicle for achieving that dream. Only if both are placed correctly and our lives structured correctly can the path between them be optimised. To speak elliptically is to talk around the point, a technique essential for showing the plan. Those three dots (...) called an "ellipsis" remind us that something can, and often should, be left out of even the best story. The other name for an ellipse is an oval, from the Latin for egg. This reminds us of the nest egg which will give us the lifestyle we deserve.

The Triangle

The arrowhead shape reminds us that goals and riches are only achieved by those with direction. The triangle illustrates how wealth flows up to those few who work hard to build a broad foundation. Also we are reminded of the Bermuda Triangle, a place where things disappear (like friends, family, self-respect, dreams), and Bermuda is near The Bahamas, scene of much sailing by successful personal business owners.

So what are you doing Thursday night? Nothing? Great, I've got a business idea you just have to look at. It's something else. 8 o'clock, OK? I can't promise you anything, but it's a way to make a lot of money. You need to see the whole thing, and your wife needs to be there too. It's too important for her to miss. See you Thursday. Gotta go.

The final paragraph in the article is a verbatim quote from a script provided to new recruits into the International Dreambuilders pyramid. It is what you are supposed to say when you ring your friends and relatives to try and recruit them. Not to sell them things, which is what you would do if it was a real sales and product distribution business, but to sign them up as competitors for your own business. Does that make any sense? Of course it doesn't. Here is my suggested plan of action for anyone considering joining a multi-level marketing scheme:

  1. Make a list of all your friends. (This is the same thing you are told to do when you join a pyramid.)
  2. Estimate how much money you will spend over two years on entry fees to distributor meetings.
  3. Estimate your costs for travel and accommodation for those two years' worth of meetings. Include the cost of fancy clothes, accessories, jewellery, hair styling and dry cleaning so that you can look successful.
  4. Estimate the cost of tapes, videos and other tools which you would be expected to purchase in a two-year period.
  5. Estimate how much it will cost over the next two years to hire babysitters for when you are at meetings or out several nights a week showing the plan.
  6. Add up the amounts in Steps 2 to 5.
  7. Add $5,000 for incidental expenses – petrol for the car when out showing the plan, magic markers, butcher's paper for drawing circles on, breath freshener, tooth whitening paste, ...
  8. If you don't have a mobile phone, add another $1,500. (Being always accessible is important. Friends of mine asked their upline to be the godfather of their daughter. He kept his mobile phone in his hand throughout the baptism ceremony.)
  9. It is important to look successful, so if your car is more than four years old talk to your local BMW or Mercedes Benz dealer about a lease. Do not even consider a Lexus. For the time being, don't add the lease payments to the total.
  10. Inquire at either the local country club or yacht club about membership. Again, leave out these costs for the moment. (There is no need to budget for a boat or golf clubs – membership is what matters, not playing games. You won't have any spare time, anyway.)
  11. Look at the total estimated expenditure after Step 8.
  12. Subtract $100 for projected income from product sales.
  13. Subtract $200 for projected real savings from buying overpriced products at a discount.
  14. Write out a cheque for three quarters of the remaining amount, made out to your local children's hospital or some other suitable charity. (This will be a legitimate tax deduction. Despite what the pyramid salesmen tell you, most taxation authorities will not allow you to deduct the costs of participation in a multi-level marketing scheme. The costs are so much greater than the income that these activities are not considered to be serious or viable businesses.)
  15. Spend the remaining quarter of the money on a big party and invite all those friends that you listed in Step 1.
  16. At a suitable time during the party, stand on a chair and tell everyone that the night was paid for with money that you didn't waste by chasing an impossible dream. Also promise them that you will never ring them up and offer them a business opportunity.
  17. Enjoy an honest, productive, friend-filled life.
June 19, 2004

Paucity of productivity (19/6/2004)
There's not as much new stuff here this week as I would like, but tidying up after the move to the new web server took longer than expected. As I have been working with computers for many years you might expect me to be aware of the fact that everything always takes longer than expected, but it is an industry full of eternal optimists. I have heard that the next version of Windows will be delivered on schedule and will be almost bug-free.
I'm sorry, I was laughing so much I had an asthma attack and had to puff on my Ventolin. Now, where was I? That's right, apologising for not getting everything done on time. There will be more new material next week, but in the meantime you can peruse the back issues.

Reconnective Stealing® (19/6/2004)
I don't usually watch much daytime television, but I received a telephone call during the week telling me to rush to the television because some sort of faith healer was about to be interviewed. It turned out not to be a faith healer (he specifically denied that the power came from any god) but instead an ex-chiropractor who had found a new way to separate people from money. His name is Dr Eric Pearl and his new Dr� Eric� Pearl� – healer�discovery is Reconnective Healing®. Note the ®. The show's host called it "reconnective therapy", but was soon corrected – this is healing, not just therapy. It consists of waving hands about and asking people if they feel better. It cures cancer, of course. People have abandoned wheelchairs. Others have regained sight.

Dr Pearl had brought a stooge with him to demonstrate how he could "heal" rheumatoid arthritis, but the television station had provided their own person, a nice lady from accounts who had trouble closing her fists completely. I have to give Dr Pearl credit for being able to recover from a setback, because he very neatly created a hiatus in the program which was conveniently filled by the stooge telling of her miracle cure while Dr Pearl worked on the accounts lady. Sure enough, she could close her hands a little more after the "healing", but any decent doctor (or psychologist) could come up with six possible reasons for this before breakfast.

During an advertisement break I went to my computer and used the trusty Google to find out what I could about Dr Pearl. It is a pity that the television station didn't do this before they let this charlatan onto their set to promote his book and his quackery. It took some fractions of a second to lead me to Dr Pearl's web site where he sells his book and other services. I was really impressed that his book is recommended by the ageless fraud Deepak Chopra, fake psychic John Edward (Dr Pearl will be touring Australia later this year for the organisation that promotes Edward here), and someone who wrote the book about Indigo Children. (Indigo Children are the spawn of aliens. It is suspected that all gifted and highly intelligent children are Indigos. No, I am not making this up.) With friends like these, who needs any more friends?

The host of the show tried to be a bit skeptical, but the problem with morning talk shows is that they rely on free talent promoting books and tours to fill the gaps between advertorials and advertisements. It can be very hard to fill twenty minutes of air time if you start out an interview with an obvious scammer and they walk out after you open with the question "This is a load of crap. Why are you lying to people?", no matter how much you might want to say it.

Getting the priorities right (19/6/2004)
It was never any secret that former President Ronald Reagan had Alzheimer's Disease. Whatever your opinion of Reagan as a politician, there had to be universal sympathy for him and his family over this personal tragedy. During the week while Reagan's body was lying in state in Washington between his death and his funeral, Florida Governor Jeb Bush was looking for a suitable way to commemorate this man who had previously held the Governor's brother's job. As a fitting memorial, Governor Bush vetoed a grant of $12 million for research into Alzheimer's Disease. What he didn't veto, even when slashing university budgets, was the $9 million per year allocated to putting a school of chiropractic into Florida State University. Put another way, there's plenty of money to teach quackery but zero to research a disease which destroyed the retirement years of a popular ex-president of the country. It's just as well that people in Florida don't get to vote.

A new book (19/6/2004)
A friend of mine, Lynne Kelly, has just published a book called The Skeptic's Guide to the Paranormal. I haven't read the whole book yet, but what I have seen looks very good. Lynne examines a number of strange beliefs and stories and then gives explanations of what is going on in each case. (I have to admit to a sense of disappointment when I found out that Uri Geller uses the same trick to bend spoons as I do. I always thought he was using mind power.) My only reservation about Lynne's book is that it might soak up all the demand for skeptical books before mine comes out at the end of the year. It is only available in Australia at present, but overseas releases are being talked about. If you can't find it in your local bookshop you can buy a copy from Australian Skeptics, and I am sure they can post it to anywhere in the world.

R.I.P. Discussion Forum (19/6/2004)
The Millenium Project Discussion Forum is no more. When I looked at the work I had to do to reconfigure it for the new server and the amount of traffic that it had, I decided that I would leave that sort of thing to the people at the James Randi Education Foundation. One consideration with running anything like a forum is the legal implications should anyone post something illegal or defamatory. I can get into enough trouble by myself without any outside help, and it is just too time consuming to have to check every message posted to a forum to forestall problems. I would like to thank the many hundreds of people who participated at some time, and we can all now go over to JREF and sign up there.

June 26, 2004

Amway robot rebuts (26/6/2004)
There are three groups of people associated with multi-level marketing schemes – those who run the pyramids and are fully aware of how the scam works, the deluded pyramid members who have not yet recognised the emptiness of the promises that were made to them, and those with shattered dreams who stay because of embarrassment or social pressure. I received the following comment on what I said two weeks ago about MLM schemes. I am not sure which of the three classes the correspondent falls into, although I doubt that it is number three.

Nice website, but you really do invalidate the people that have sussed it out for themselves, have all the facts, have no problem with the fact that Amway is the distibutor/supplier/wholesaler of goods and think its a pretty good idea. Fine to have your opinion but why don't you encourage people to do their own research and not just rely on your opionion? Your critique of Network 21 is not accurate and I encourage you to speak to some one in the company that is not an Amway IBO for the full picture. Perhaps you would not be so scathing about it if you do so.

I am very impressed by people who "have sussed it out for themselves, have all the facts, ... and think its a pretty good idea". Every Amway "IBO" (or Network 21 salesperson denying the Amway connection) who has ever shown me the plan has told me that it is a simple matter to sign up five people in a month. If you joined up on January 1, 2004, you should now have 19,530 people in your downline. That is the lowest estimate and depends on "IBOs" only ever signing up five people each, not five each month. (It would be 38,880 if everyone was pulling their weight each month.) If you do not have at least this number in your downline then you are a pathetic loser and are obviously suffering from some really stinkin' thinkin'. You should go back to your day J.O.B. If you have achieved this easy target that any committed and motivated "IBO" can reach, your only concern will come in November. By then you will have more than 12 million in your downline and there are simply not enough people living in Australia to find the almost 50 million needed for the October recruits to meet their five-each targets for the next month.

I am intrigued by your idea that it is somehow improper to warn people about possible problems with a potential activity, but that instead people should learn only from their own experience. Do you extend this philosophy to such things as health warnings about the dangers of tobacco, asbestos and unsafe sexual practices, warning labels on packages with poisonous contents, seat belt and motorcycle helmet laws, advice about drinking and driving, and teaching young children about hot stoves, stranger danger and how to cross roads safely? Should people only learn from personal experience, or is it occasionally acceptable to learn from the experience and advice of others? I must say that while I have long observed immorality among big pins and pyramid operators, it is rare to see someone come out and openly suggest amorality.

You suggest that I talk to "some one in the company that is not an Amway IBO". I have done this on several occasions, and almost invariably I have been told lies about the association with Amway, the potential for success, and the penetration of MLM into the distribution of product in the marketplace. I can only assume that any further conversations with these people would produce the same results.

There is also the obvious question of why someone would work for an organisation like Network 21 and not be an "IBO". The pretence is that these networks are there to support the workers in the hive, but anyone working in the office would soon realise where the money is being made and the futility of coming in at the bottom of the pyramid. If it is so easy to make money as an "IBO" and the paradigm of distribution is changing so fast then it would be madness for anybody on the inside not to be a full participant. The fact that there is anybody with inside knowledge who doesn't take up the opportunity is credible evidence that the system is a scam.

You may wonder why I always put the abbreviation "IBO" inside quotation marks. It is because the vast majority of participants in multi-level market schemes are not independent, do not run businesses and have ownership of nothing.

I am a certified consultant and an authorised reseller for several software and hardware products. I can open a retail shop to sell these things, I can sell them on eBay, I can walk door-to-door around the neighbourhood, I can ask retailers to stock them and computer builders to include them as packages with their machines. Within limits, I am independent of the manufacturing and distribution companies. Could I do any of these things with Amway products? The taxation authorities recognise my business as a business and allow me to claim business expenses as deductions, but they have explicitly stated that MLM activities are not businesses. Also, I am not expected to find and recruit competitors for my business. As for ownership, I can sell my client list at any time I like and there is nothing that anyone (except the clients) can do about it. At what level in the hierarchy can you sell your downline to someone else? If you can't sell it, you do not own it. The term "IBO" is just another lie put about by the confidence tricksters who exploit the dreams and trust of honest people.

Alternative death sentences (26/6/2004)
I was contacted during the week by a television program which is doing an investigation into quackery, specifically fraudulent cancer cures. One of the problems they are having is finding anyone who is prepared to go on camera and say that they were deceived by quacks. They have one lady who used some sort of salve on her breast cancer (it sounds like the old Hoxsey escharotic paste) but she is diffident about going too public. I can understand this, because it is difficult and embarrassing to publicly admit that you were deceived, especially if your family might be about to start the "we told you so" routine. Another problem with finding victims of quackery is that many of them are dead.

There was a report in the press this week about a study which indicates that the rising death rate from breast cancer in Australia might not be due to an increase in disease incidence but instead to a trend to later presentation at real doctors by people who have tried alternatives first. Alt supporters love to cite fictitious figures about how many people are killed by real medicine while simultaneously claiming that nobody ever dies from the alternatives, so, while it is tragic that people are dying because they believe charlatans, there may soon be some real ammunition to use in the fight back to reason. I will be talking to one of the authors of the study in the coming week, so I might have more details in the next week or two.

Speaking of cancer quacks who divert women from treatment ... (26/6/2004)
Mr William P O'Neill of the Canadian Cancer Research Group has revived one of his old practices and created another tribute site about me. (As the CCRG site has been under reconstruction since last December, perhaps he should have been fixing that site up rather than making sites about me. But I digress ...) As is usual, the tribute site disappeared very quickly, but not before I managed to capture its wonderful sentiments. As it has been a couple of years since Mr O'Neill paid me the compliment of making a web page about me, I took the opportunity to tidy up the copies I had made of his earlier efforts and quarantine them from the search engines. (I don't mind anyone reading them, but I would like readers to pass through this site on the way.) You can see the full set here, and the latest one is Version 23. Here is what Mr O'Neill had to say this time:

Peter Bowditch is an unemployed criminal and the subject of a current criminal investigation that includes the assistance of The New South Wales Police and Australian Federal Police Services. Bowditch is no longer considered just a pain in the ass to local authorities. It appears his crimes of identity theft, fraud, misrepresentation, theft, and copious numbers of internet security breachs have attracted considerable international attention.

Sequestered logs from his ISP,, and Enet21's ISP, tell a tail of many identitities and security breaches over a period of years. Coincidentally, logs also showed Bowditch's penchant for hosting kiddie porn sites.

Speaking of Mr O'Neill ... (26/6/2004)
Today, June 26, is International Kooks' Day, which commemorates the death of Earl Gordon Curley. Earl used to bill himself as the World's Greatest Psychic but his paranormal powers seemed to fail in 1998, when he predicted the death of Pope John Paul II but failed to predict the death of Earl Gordon Curley. His reaction to criticism was to issue badly-spelled and ungrammatical insults full of lies and foul words; he was Canadian. If I believed in reincarnation I would hazard a guess as to the current location of the spirit of Earl, but I don't so I will have to assume that it is just a coincidence that another Canadian has taken up Earl's baton. As I set out to celebrate Kooks' Day I remembered that the details of Mr O'Neill's activities had once been submitted to the Kook Appraisal Test. A score of greater than 50 suggests serious unhingedness, but what was Mr O'Neill's score? Click here to find out.

I'm ashamed (26/6/2004)
What I am ashamed of is the action of some of my neighbours. I have mentioned before how there was opposition to the construction of a Muslim prayer hall in a suburb just up the road from my place. The locals carried on as if the world was coming to an end, but a court finally ruled that there was no legal barrier to the construction and that it was not an inappropriate use of a building in that area. There are churches there. Last Wednesday night, hiding in the darkness like the cowards that bigots usually are, persons unknown (as the police say) attacked the building. Blood was smeared on the walls and pigs' heads were impaled on stakes in the grounds outside. I wonder if the perpetrators of this consider themselves to be Christians. I suppose we will get an answer to that question when the burning crosses start appearing.

More anti-Muslim nonsense (26/6/2004)
InA vaccine factory. Not! support of their perverted agenda against the rights of children to live safe and healthy lives, anti-vaccination liars in Britain have been spreading the story that MMR vaccines contain pork. The exact subject heading on a message sent to the AVN's anti-vaccination liar mailing list was "Muslim Babies -- MMR Jabs have traces of Pork".

As it is usually prudent to expect that anything said by these despicable child haters is a lie, it is worth looking at reality. It seems that gelatine is used in the manufacture of the vaccines, and gelatine can be extracted from pigs. Of course, it can be extracted from any animal which has collagen in it, which is pretty much any animal at all. All gelatines are made up of the same 20 amino acids, but the proportions and arrangement can vary from one animal to another. The gelatine is not used whole, but is broken down into peptides (which are molecules consisting of two or more amino acid molecules joined together). Presumably the pig gelatine is used because it is the best way to get the desired mix of peptides. Once the peptides have been created, it is beyond absurd to suggest that they still bear any relationship to pork. In fact, it makes as much sense as suggesting that breathing downwind from a pig is against Muslim law because there might be molecules of carbon dioxide which had been exhaled by the pig in the air.

We consider it ridiculous when religious fanatics like Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to allow their children to have blood transfusions, but how much worse is it when the more idiotic parts of a religion are exploited by people outside the faith who see this as a way to achieve their insane objectives.

Disappointment (26/6/2004)
It is just before nine o'clock on a Monday morning and the grey army is on the move in Sydney. Roads everywhere are clogged with Mazda MX5s, Porsche Boxsters, metallic-painted Harley Davidsons, and other mid-life crisis conveyances. In 18.4% of the cars the passenger seats are occupied by women who were born some years after the band had its biggest hit. Most are blonde. Charitable people pretend that the women are the daughters of the silver-haired gentlemen driving the cars. Some of the men driving convertibles with the roofs down and coupes with open sunroofs wear baseball caps to protect their bald spots from the morning sun. At nine o'clock the silver-haired gentlemen are lined up at the ticket sales office; others, putting their faith in technology and fast broadband Internet connections, sit with fingers poised over mouse buttons. As the town hall clock strikes nine, ticket window shutters go up and mouse fingers go down. At Ratbag Castle, a screen appears saying that too many people are logged on and that I should try again later. Finally, I get access to the ticket seller's web site and ask for the best remaining seats. I am told that these will cost me more than $550 each (plus booking fee), so I refine my search to ask for the best seats that I can afford. I am offered two seats behind the stage for only $139 each (plus booking fee). While I consider this offer, the screen changes and I am told that I have not been quick enough and these seats have been allocated to someone else. I groan. Some hours later I check my email and find that the ticketing company is saying "There is a second concert. Click here". I click, and the screen says that the number of seats remaining at any price is zero. I tell my disappointed daughter, a great fan despite the fact that the band's biggest hit preceded her birth by twelve years (and, yes, she really is my daughter), and I try to console her by reminding her that the drummer is three months older than her father. I am reminded of that great song of ultimate disappointment, The Ballad of Lucy Jordan, sung so convincingly by Marianne Faithfull, as I realise that I will never drive through Homebush in my sports car with Eagles tickets in my hand.


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