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September 3, 2005

What did they know and when did they know it? (3/9/2005)
I started my presentation at the Australian Skeptics 2005 National Convention by apologising on behalf of SkeptoBear, who couldn't be there because he was at Lady Cilento's health farm undergoing detoxification in an American Indian sweat lodge. When I got back home I did a search for Lady Cilento's address so that I could send a get well card to The Bear, and I serendipitously found something very interesting about the alternative medicine industry in Australia.

Henbane – click for larger viewIt seems that one of the major prizes in the Australian alternative business is the Lady Cilento Award, and it is so prestigious that it is not awarded every year. In September 2002, the Lady Cilento Award was given to Jim Selim, the boss and owner of Pan Pharmaceuticals, a company which was shut down by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in April 2003 because its standards of hygiene, manufacture and quality control were of a level which would not be acceptable in a primary school cooking class. (You can read some of my comments on Pan here.) At the time that the nominations were being discussed by the relevant committee of the Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia, representatives of the next three biggest manufacturers and packagers of alternative medicine products objected to Selim getting the award. These objections were not based on a competitor getting a prize, but because they were aware of what was going on in the Pan factory. (You can read a press report about the award and its aftermath here.)

So, what do we now know? We know that people at the top of the alternative industry were aware of the problems at Pan at least seven months before the TGA took action. We know that when Pan was shut down, the unanimous response of the industry was that there was a witch hunt going on and that the real problems were confined to a single packet of Travacalm tablets (and even then there might have been no real problem). We know that when a very serious problem arises it is not addressed but is instead covered up or dismissed as trivial. We know that we can trust them to weed out fraud and bad practices as much as we can trust the claims for the beneficial and healing properties of the snake oil that they sell. And vice versa.

(Disclaimer: For some time I was a member of the Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia. After all, CHCA's stated aims are the same as mine – to ensure that alternative medicines are safe and effective and that no unsubstantiated claims are made about their use.)

Animals worth more than humans? (3/9/2005)
About two weeks ago, a farm in Britain which has been breeding guinea pigs for medical research announced that it would cease production at the end of the year. The owners have become sick of the constant harassment from animal rights terrorists, including things like spreading rumours about the farmer being a paedophile and digging up and stealing a body from the family cemetery. The people doing this value animals above humans.

On a television news broadcast this week in Sydney, the first item was about New Orleans and showed people gathered around dead bodies, and other corpses floating in the floodwater. The second item was about the stampede at a religious festival in Baghdad, and included pictures of people getting bodies out of the Tigris river and others burying their relatives. The third item was about a man who had been found guilty of cruelty to animals. There had been no warning issued before the first two items, but before this one I was warned that there might be scenes which could upset me. As I had received no warning that the sight of bloated corpses and grieving relatives might upset me, I readied myself for images of immense cruelty and torture. As it happened, the man's cruelty had consisted of hitting a dog on the head with a wheel brace and throwing the animal into a river. The terrible footage consisted of pictures of a wet dog with some blood on its head. The dog is now fine and has had some pups, which are very cute. Again, the warning about something almost innocuous (the pictures I mean, not the bashing) when no warning was considered necessary for much more harrowing footage of humans suggests that some people think more of animals than they do of people.

Of course, in some cases this sentiment may be correct. This week we have heard about gangs in New Orleans who are murdering and raping at will and shooting at vehicles and helicopters bringing aid to the city. We have heard religious leaders say that Hurricane Katrina was a good thing because it killed homosexuals and other disgusting lowlifes and was the work of God. We have heard fat, drug-addicted radio announcers say that nobody needed to be caught in New Orleans because all they had to do was get jobs so they could buy cars. It is hard to imagine animals behaving like this, isn't it?

IDiocy on display (3/9/2005)
I have obtained a copy of the DVD Unlocking the Mystery of Life which is being pushed into schools as a Trojan horse to try to establish the teaching of creationism in science classes under the alias of Intelligent Design. (No, of course I didn't pay for it! Don't be silly.) The first glaringly deceptive statement appears at about five minutes into the show, at twelve minutes someone is talking about "Darwinism" as if such a thing exists, and at thirteen minutes Michael Behe says that he used to believe in evolution but reading a creationist book made him change his mind. He doesn't actually say "creationist book" of course, because Intelligent Design is not about creationism (wink, wink), but that's what the book is.

I had more important things to do at that time like put out the newspapers for recycling, so I will watch it later and express a considered opinion when I have recovered my composure.

Am I not speaking clearly enough? (3/9/2005)
I received the following emails this week. In both cases it appears that the writers have seriously misunderstood what this site is about and what I say in it.

I am interested in getting in contact with Dr. Boyd Haley. I would like my son to be part of his potential study in gold salts.

I'm sorry, but my conscience will not allow me to assist anyone to be exploited and deceived by Dr Haley. If your son has a problem then no likely resolution can come from someone who makes a living out of distorting the facts about the causes of autism.

I happen to be a chemist with a sister who was diagnosed stage 4 cervical cancer. She is very interested in Burzynski and I am very interested in finding out how effective Burzynski's stuff is against say Sloan Ketterings cure rates. Would you happen to know how to get that information?

Rather than have Sloan treat her, she has opted for a hospital in a small town with 4 or 5 tier doctors treating her. And the oncologist she is using I am told gives up on patients if she thinks they are not going to make it. So far the treatment she has received doesn't disabuse me of that. A faith healer told her Sloan is a meat market.

My brother is an expert on the early detection of cervical cancer. When Burzynski had the protocols for his "clinical trials" available on his web site we examined the one related to cervical cancer. It was rubbish, and at one stage even managed to confuse the cervix with an ovary. Burzynski has been carrying out these "trials" for many years and has yet to produce any results other than testimonials. This is the case even though the trial process is corrupted in a blatant attempt to produce positive results.

You say that you are a chemist, which implies that you have some academic qualifications. Burzynski claims to have a PhD, but he didn't have it when he migrated to the USA and there is no official record of him receiving the degree since. If he lies about his academic record, why should you believe him when he says that he can cure cancer in exchange for your life savings. People with advanced cancer, like your sister, are the bread and butter for charlatans like Burzynski. There is nothing people like him like to see more than someone with little hope and lots of money.

Comparing Sloan Kettering to Burzynski is quite simple. If Sloan have never managed to produce any cures at all, then Burzynski is twice as successful as Sloan. Twice nothing is still nothing. If, however, Sloan can point to just one successful case they are well ahead of the quack. As for the comments of the faith healer, what would you expect someone like that to say? They can only continue to exist (and to make money) if they put down the competition. There is no such thing as "faith healing", and anybody who tells you that they can do it is a liar.

Your sister has a serious, advanced illness and there is probably very little that anyone can do for her other than to make her remaining time on earth and with her family as comfortable and as pleasant as possible. You will not help her by dragging her to Texas so that she can suffer indignities while being robbed. I realise that desperation can make any possibility seen attractive, but sometimes there just is no answer.

My thoughts are with you and your sister. I know that in the same situation I would be tempted to waste time and money on chasing a hopeless dream, but I hope I could resist the temptation and provide the love and support which is really the best care available.

Political correctness gone mad (3/9/2005)
There are some things which have become iconic tourist photograph targets. The Golden Gate bridge, the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, Mount Fuji, the White House, the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Canyon, ... One of the reasons that these things are all so easily recognised is that there is a limited set of places where tourists go to take the photographs, so everyone ends up getting much the same picture. Another such place is Uluru, or Ayers Rock, which sits at just about the centre of gravity of the Australian continent. Everyone who goes there takes sunset photographs from the same vantage point.

Not any more they don't, because a decree has been issued that nobody is allowed to display or publish any pictures of The Rock without asking permission first. Professional photographers must obtain permission to take photographs, although apparently amateurs can snap away without asking although they probably can't show the pictures to anyone when they get home (other than immediate family, I assume) and they certainly can't put them up on the family web site. The decree is retrospective and applies to photographs taken at any time in the past. The restriction is because there are apparently secret things there which people do not want seen by anybody outside the magic circle, and even worse, there are classes of people (like women, perhaps) who are not allowed to see them even if they meet all other secret society criteria.

I must therefore urge you not to click on the image below, which came from the highly insensitive Google Earth. Please do not click on it. If you do you might be exposed to something that you are not allowed to see. I have shredded all my holiday photographs from when I went to Uluru, and even I can't click on the picture without risking my reputation of sensitivity towards the peculiar beliefs of others. I don't know what is on the page you get to by clicking, because I had my eyes tightly shut while I created it. Just don't do it! Just say "No".

Oh, did I mention that the local Aboriginal people moved into the area less than 100 years ago and have no long-standing attachment to or legends about The Rock?

I have no problem with Aboriginal spirituality or religious and cultural beliefs, but such practices deserve no more respect than the politeness shown to other groups in society. If someone doesn't want me to take pictures of a sacred site then I am happy not to take pictures, but when I am told that the sites cannot even be identified so I can't take pictures in case I accidentally include some forbidden content then I start to get a little impatient. When I am told that there is an ancient Aboriginal traditional belief that video cameras can steal souls (and, yes, I have been told this) I am entitled to offer as much respect for the opinion as I do for the opinion that the earth was created 35,000 years after the first inhabitants appeared in the place where I now live.

True homeopathy (3/9/2005)
I The Australianwas contacted by a journalist on Friday, August 26, for comments about homeopathy. The journalist was writing a piece about the study published in The Lancet which demonstrated, yet again, the uselessness of magic water treatment. I pointed her towards things I had written about homeopathy, explained the scientific vacuity of it and the fraudulent nature of claims that 200C preparations are actually made in practice, and commented on the irony that in the centenary year of Einstein's publication of his paper on Brownian motion we should even be talking about anything based on the idea of infinite dilution.

The reporter took the time to ensure that she had my correct affiliations (with Australian Skeptics and the Australian Council Against Health Fraud) to go with any quotes of what I had said. You can see the final article here.

I assume that I was not the only person interviewed who expressed scepticism about this quackery, but the only person quoted at all in the article was the president of the Australian Homeopathic Association, who dismissed the idea that clinical trials could say anything about homeopathy. And he got the last word. Sigh!

As an aside, because Peter Torokfalvy from the AHA said that homeopathic preparations have to be individually prepared I sent the following email to him asking for his support in a campaign to remove homeopathic "medicines" from pharmacies. He has not yet replied.

Subject: True homeopathy
Date: Sun, 28 Aug 2005 00:00:29 +1000

Dear Mr Torokfalvy,

I see from an article about homeopathy in today's Australian that you say that homeopathy must be based on individual treatments.

I assume from that statement that you are just as opposed as I am to the sale of prepackaged "homeopathic" products in pharmacies. I look forward to working with you and the Australian Homoeopathic Association to rid pharmacies of these false "homeopathic" products, which by both your definition and mine can only be considered to be examples of quackery and medical fraud.

Thank you.

Extreme optimism (3/9/2005)
The Citizens Commission on Human Rights, winners of the 2003 Anus Maximus Award, wrote to the Australian Council Against Health Fraud. It was a waste of an envelope and a stamp. Click on the picture to read the whole thing.


September 5, 2005

And again … (5/9/2005)
Remember the MLM company which was trying to shut this site down back in April? Well, they have made another threat against this web site. This is the fifth threat. Previous threats have been based on claims that there is copyright material on this site, exploiting changes in Australian copyright laws made in 2004 which made it easy for people (even acting anonymously) to abuse and harass web site owners. It is interesting to note that some of the copyright claims covered material which was not obtained from any company publication or web site. The Federal Attorney-General's department informed me that such apparently false copyright claims might be offences against the Commonwealth Criminal Code, but I graciously declined the opportunity of having the authorities investigate further to establish whether any criminal activity had actually taken place.

September 10, 2005

And to keep us all laughing ... (10/9/2005)
What should pop out of its padded cell with a meaningless comment but our old friend, the Gutless Anonymous Liar, with a very strange comment indeed. It put on its finger-painting smock, grabbed a handful of Madder Lake and said:

Subject: Good News! Thnaks for Sharing!
Date: Fri, 09 Sep 2005 04:05:29 +0200

Stupid fucking moron publishes his own demise?
Stupid Fucker!

Oh, the erudition. The Wyldean wit. The wonderful word "thnaks". All this at a gibbous moon, so imagine the Shakespearean quality of its output the next time a full moon shines down on the GAL Museum of Anencephaly. Mentioning GAL has for some reason reminded me that I received an email this week from someone who did some work around the office of Mr Willam P O'Neill's Canadian Cancer Research Group. Somehow my name came up, so this person had a look at this site to see what the problem was. Reading Mr O'Neill's opinions about me and my family caused this person to decide that Mr O'Neill was not the sort of person that people with consciences could do work for. And that email reminded me of one I received some time ago from someone who had been looking for a way to convince a relative with cancer that Mr O'Neill might not be the person to approach for treatment. He finally settled the matter by accompanying the relative to an interview at CCRG, where he casually asked Mr O'Neill if he had ever heard of me. The subsequent explosion of mouth foam and profanity did all the convincing that was necessary. Sometimes I think that I really can make a difference with this site.

Psychological testing (10/9/2005)
Every so often the matter of psychological testing comes up in discussion among skeptics, with opinions varying on where such tests fit on the spectrum of scientific activity. Usually the majority think that psychological testing is about as scientific as the study of alien abductions or the memory of water, but there are usually a couple of people prepared to defend the tests. I topped my class at university in the course about the design and interpretation of psychological tests, and my take on them is that they may be very useful if used appropriately, but they are also a very good way of illustrating the meaning of the terms "reliability" and "validity". "Validity" is the relationship of the findings to the real world, and "reliability" is the reproducibility of the results. It is possible for something to be reliable but not valid, but it is impossible for the opposite to be true. You can print out this page and use the ruler below to measure things. It won't matter if you use it to measure feet, firkins or furlongs, it should produce very close to the same measurement each time and is therefore a reliable measuring instrument. Its validity would be useless (unless you were a crook selling something by length to someone who had never seen a ruler).

I remember being asked once by an employment agent if I had any objection to being asked to do a psych test for a potential employer. I told them that I had no objection at all, because unless they could tell me what the test was and how it predicted any aspect of job performance the requirement for a test disqualified the potential employer and saved me the wasted time of interviews. I didn't get the job. In one case where I did a test, it was simply a process of following some logical paths to reach conclusions based on information provided as part of the test. I was told that it would take about three hours to do the test. I finished in about 45 minutes, so I thought that I must have done something wrong. The only way to test the answers was to do the test again, which this time took three-quarters of an hour.

I was told that I was the first ever applicant to get all the answers correct, but even this wasn't enough to get me the job. I didn't care, really, because I didn't want to work with people who were so dumb that they could get any of the test answers wrong. This appeared to be one of those tests which was highly reliable, but had no validity in the situation in which it was used. (I later found out that the person who would have been my boss was a misogynist creep who groped women at parties and all the programmers employed there really were brainless nincompoops. Lucky escape!)

In one of those discussions between skeptics recently, the matter of the Myers-Briggs test came up. This is a multiple-choice test which purports to place test subjects along several spectra or axes of personality traits. I went off and did a Myers-Briggs test and I am ENFJ:

moderately expressed extrovert (44%)
moderately expressed intuitive personality (50%)
moderately expressed feeling personality (38%)
moderately expressed judging personality (56%)

That sounds like me, especially all those "moderately" measurements (!). To get these results I answered the questions more-or-less honestly (and I do know something about self-serving bias in personality tests). The dangers in using the results of a test like this, however, are at least twofold. First, it is only a single test and can be done in a short time. For it to have validity requires other tests to be taken at the same time which can be used to corroborate the results. I do know of people using just a single test for employment selection, and this makes the choices suspect. Secondly, it has an inherent reliability problem. Two actually – results can vary from time to time just because people feel different on different occasions, and anyone who knows how the test works (and which questions have special significance in scoring) can adjust the results. This is another reason for using batteries of tests – if each has a different reliability, the overall reliability of the collection can be improved. I know that if I were to be interviewing next Tuesday for the position of Promotions Manager for the Anthony Robbins outfit, my Myers-Briggs results would look nothing like the table above. And on Thursday, when I was going for Nursing Manager at a palliative care hospice there would be a different picture again.

Something often associated in the public's eye with psychological testing is IQ. I had my IQ measured recently and I came in a couple of points below where I was when I was twelve years old. Does that mean I am less smart now? No, it doesn't. In fact, as IQ is a quotient where age is the divisor, I must be a hell of a lot smarter now than I was back then. The difference is that now I don't think I am anywhere near as smart as I thought I was when I was a teenager.

Are they really mad? (10/9/2005)
SomeoneScene in Bedlam took me to task for accusing anti-vaccination liars of being mentally ill, and suggested that my use of this description showed a lack of sympathy for and a demeaning of true mental illness. I replied that I have observed mental illness and mental disorders at close range and I have enormous sympathy for the victims of these complaints. Some of the anti-vaccination liars I have had occasion to deal with, however, really do appear to be mad. Pointing this out is not disparaging the sick, but just stating a fact. A recent example came from a conversation I had with someone who didn't like what I had had to say about Mary Tocco, a person who makes a living lying about vaccines. I finally had to give up the conversation when the person to whom I was speaking used the expression "LOL" in a comment about a dead child. Those familiar with Internet chat will be aware that this is the abbreviation for "laughing out loud". That's right – this person thought that "laughing out loud" was a suitable way to dismiss the tragic death of a five-year-old boy. Tell me that this isn't a sign of insanity.

A chemist branches out (10/9/2005)
Remember Dr Boyd Haley the (now former) head of the chemistry school at the University of Kentucky? Dr Haley is a famous anti-mercury campaigner, beloved of both anti-vaccination liars and anti-amalgam loons, and he won the Millenium Quote of the Year for 2004 for his description of autism as "mad child disease". Dr Haley also has some unorthodox opinions about chemistry, and you can read some earlier comments about him here.

For some weeks, I have been blocked from access to Dr Haley's commercial web site (I can do a trace and get to one machine away from his server), and it comes up on my regular link check as not existing. Although it is quite easy to block access to web sites by the IP address of the visitor, I suspect that in this case the problem is technical rather than intentional. As someone once said, given a choice between malice and incompetence as the explanation for an apparent conspiracy, choose incompetence every time. (Mr William P O'Neill apparently tried to stop me accessing the CCRG site at one time. He failed. Of course.)

I happen to know how to use anonymous proxies, and now that I have been able to get access to Dr Haley's commercial web site I see that he is charging $500 for an unapproved test for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease). All the published research about the test and its underlying theory was done by, wait for it, don't get impatient, Dr Boyd Haley. If he follows the pattern of fraud used in the Roy Smith case, then he will find the marker for ALS and then tell whoever has been tested that they need to have some very expensive chelation to fix the problem.

Testing young people for ALS and then treating them is a much better scam than curing cancer or diabetes. You do the test, produce the "positive" results and give the treatment. ALS is quite rare and doesn't show up until the victim is getting on in years, so if the person never gets it (like most of the population) they will thank Haley and not begrudge him the money he took. If they do happen to get ALS, Haley will be long gone with the money, and, even if he is still around, he can claim that the treatment is not perfect. In fact, it's a perfect scam.

I am offering a test for prostate cancer. It costs $450 and requires a urine sample. It is such a sensitive test that it is only useful on men less than twenty years old, because after that the testing equipment gets overloaded. The treatment costs $10,000 and comes with a five-year guarantee. If you don't require surgery by the time you are twenty-five years old then it is obvious that the treatment worked. I am also working on a test for presbyopia, to be given to 12-year-olds. The test will cost about $300 and the treatment for indolent asymptomatic presbyopia will cost $1,000. If you don't need reading glasses by the age of 25 the treatment worked.

Well, I would be doing those things if I didn't have a conscience.

September 15, 2005

And now this …  (15/9/2005)
An order to appear in court next week has just turned up, together with a 9mm pile of paper accusing me of all sorts of things, such as influencing Australia's largest property investor and one of the world's largest real estate agencies so that they didn't want to renew the lease on the company's office space and encouraging Australia's two largest telecommunications companies to say bad things about the company. I seriously doubt that AMP Capital or Jones Lang Lasalle or Telstra or Optus have ever heard of me. Strangely, it is also a problem for the company that my web site comes up before theirs when you search Google. This matter is apparently of such urgency that action started in the court yesterday without me, but it seems that the judge thought that I should be notified of the action and also be there to respond. The urgency is a surprise as I asked the company to identify its complaints several months ago and have heard nothing cogent since.

The Millenium Project might suffer some disruption over the next week or so because of this bullshit, so please bear with me.

September 17, 2005

Apologies all round (17/9/2005)
I was planning to have an apology in advance this week for not being here next week, but I also have to apologise for not really being here this week as well. Next weekend I will be travelling to Canowindra, a delightful town about four hours drive west of where I live, as part of an Australian Skeptics delegation to present a donation to the Age of Fishes Museum so that the museum can continue its fine work of research and education. This amazing place features displays about the 360 million-year-old fossil fishes from the Devonian period which abound in the area. It's a long way from home, but it is worth the drive just to look at those ancient fossilised creatures and try to imagine what it must have been like when the Australian continent was young.

The reason for the lack of new stuff this week is that I have to prepare to appear in court, as an MLM company is asking the court to find that I have been breaching the Trade Practices Act. They have presented the court with all the allegations which have been both recorded and answered here, although they forgot to tell the court that I have responded or to tell the court what those responses were. Remarkably, new allegations have been added which suggest that this web site influences the business decisions of some extremely large corporations, and even those of infinitely wealthy Middle Eastern oil potentates. All claims made will be strenuously defended, of course.

Because of the very short notice (I received the order to appear in court on Thursday and I have to appear next Wednesday), my legal advisors and I have to spend some time this weekend getting our material together so I don't have the time I usually have to spend on this site. Still, I suppose I should be grateful that I got any notice at all. Someone I know who dared to criticise another multi-level marketing organisation was served with an order on a Saturday afternoon to appear in court at 9:30 the following Monday.

A media release was sent to more than 800 telecommunications, IT, legal, finance, news and business editors and journalists across Australia on Thursday, September 15, 2005.

I will be opening a bank account during the next week to hold donations made to cover any legal costs I might incur. Any donations made through any of the PayPal buttons on RatbagsDotCom web sites between September 14 and the resolution of the court action will be apportioned 80% to the defence fund and 20% to children's health charities (as has been the practice for all donations in the past). If I prevail in the court action, and I would have run away by now if I didn't think I could win, all of the money in the account will be donated to the Children's Medical Research Institute and the Children's Hospital at Westmead.

Who killed this child? (17/9/2005)
A story has been running in the press here for the last week about a 13-year-old boy who died of anaphylactic shock after eating peanut butter as a dare during a school excursion. Much has been made of the school's alleged negligence in letting the boy near the peanut butter, although apparently it was supplied by some other boy, not the school. Here is a press report from the Sydney Morning Herald of what the coroner found.

Read the rest of the article here, and after you have read it, move your mouse cursor over it. Then ask yourself why the parents are talking about suing schools and schoolteachers. Ask yourself who they really should be suing. And ask yourself who the coroner should be recommending for trial on manslaughter or criminal negligence charges.

September 23, 2005

A court-ordered notice was displayed on the front page of the site from Friday, September 23, onwards. You can see the order and the notice text on the Federal Court of Australia's web site.

What is going on (23/9/2005)
There are things which I can't talk about on this web site for a few days, but everything which was on the web site last week is still here. I am not going away. More soon.

Because of events which cost me too much time this week I have had to change my plans about going out of town this weekend, so there will be an update over the weekend after all but it will probably be brief. I would like to thank everyone who has sent me encouraging emails during the week. As Francis Bacon said, "If a man be courteous and gracious to strangers, it shows he is a citizen of the world". And as someone anonymous (but not Tennessee Williams*) said, "Strangers are just friends you haven't met yet".

(The line was used in a song called "Always depend on the kindness of strangers" in a musical version of A Streetcar Named Desire within an episode of The Simpsons. Only Matt Groening could get away with taking one of the most depressing and disturbing lines ever written in a play and turning it into an upbeat, happy song.)

September 24, 2005

Sad news (24/9/2005)
I was saddened this week to hear of the death of Simon Wiesenthal, although the death of someone who is 96 years old can hardly come as a surprise. Wiesenthal, who was always referred to in the media as a "Nazi hunter", was a true hero. He was someone who saw a need for something to be done and then devoted his life to doing it. He will be mourned by all humane, compassionate people, although I am sure that his death will be celebrated by holocaust deniers and other filth. (In a fit of insanity, someone once tried to attack me while pretending to be associated with the Simon Wiesenthal Center. The attack failed of course, as they all do, but the hijacking of Wiesenthal's reputation showed how desperate some people can become.)

One of the proudest moments of my life was when I saw that the Washington Post had mentioned my web site in the same sentence as the Simon Wiesenthal Center in an article about a racist web site. Simon Wiesenthal will be missed, but there will be many people left behind to carry on his work and to remind the world that the slogan "Never again" means just what it says.

But at least I have something to laugh at (24/9/2005)
It could have something to do with the change of season in Ottawa, but this week brought the Gutless Anonymous Liar out of its padded cell in the GAL Home for the Terminally Flatucephalic and down the corridor to the computer activities room. It had trouble using the computer at first, but an attendant sorted out the problem (GAL's chin-drool bib was covering the keyboard) and it was soon business as usual. Its obsessive compulsive disorder took over for a while and it sent me the same message thirteen times through different anonymous remailers. The first one made me laugh, the second one had tears running down my face, and the third had me sucking on a Ventolin inhaler because the laughing had triggered an asthma attack. I couldn't read any more of them because my family were worried that I might end up in hospital on a ventilator if I laughed any more. I haven't laughed so much since I heard that Nutrition For Life (a multi-level marketing company which threatened me with legal action) had gone broke.

Not content with just amusing me, GAL then started posting comments on the blog on the Australian Skeptics site. It was probably unaware of the identity of the person who looks after the AS web site, but that person knows GAL well and its comments were treated with all the respect they deserve.

While doing some research during the week which required me to examine the works of some of the minor philosophers, I came across a quotation from that icon of the non-existentialist school, Bugs Bunny, which seemed relevant. While certainly not in the class of Kant's categorical imperative or Descartes' cogito, it summed up the GAL phenomenon well (and also that of any alter ego of GAL).

Speaking of seasons and other cycles … (24/9/2005)
There was a full moon last Saturday. This may or may not have been a factor in the decision by Mr Duncan Roads, editor of Nexus Magazine, to write to me with some opinions about me, my work, and other things of great consequence. I regularly buy Nexus so I am aware of Mr Roads' writing ability, but this missive seemed to lack the usual coherence of his regular work, This could have been due to the lunar influence, of course, but another possibility comes to mind. Nexus is published in the state of Queensland and another famous product of that state is Bundaberg Rum. Perhaps there was some sort of harmonic convergence or synchronicity. A mystery.

I had other concerns this week which meant that my quota for reading complex and strangely-worded material was exceeded so I will have to leave a full response to Mr Road's email until later, but there are two points I would like to address immediately. The first is that Mr Roads accused me of making things up. I can only take this as a compliment, coming as it does from someone who publishes a magazine like Nexus. The second was that Mr Roads said that I am not smart enough to be a member of the Illuminati. I have certain obligations (which bind me even more strongly than court orders or sub judice rules) which prevent me from either confirming or denying any relationship with the Illuminati, so Mr Roads will just have to accept the fact that I am not at liberty to discuss this matter any further.

Unfortunately I am busy this weekend so I can't get to the Nexus conference to hear the talks on such subjects as the link between sound waves and crop circles, how gifted children interact with extraterrestrial beings, how the earth is expanding, the drug running activities of the CIA and other secret societies, or to hear Viera Scheibner tell lies about vaccination. It would have also given me an opportunity to redress another of Mr Roads' complaints, which is that when I spoke to him at a Mind Body Spirit festival six years ago I didn't introduce myself properly.


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