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October 7, 2006

How insane can a quack get? (7/10/2006)
Well, they can get very insane indeed, but the real question is how mad they can get before the true believers say "Enough" and refuse to believe any more of their nonsense. I came across two example this week which suggest that someone can say almost anything and, if it casts real medicine in a bad light, it will be not only believed but defended.

The first was someone defending a quack named "Dr" Wright, and by coincidence I had just received an advertising brochure from the "Dr" sent as junk snail mail. "Dr" Wright has, of course, the cure for all sorts of illnesses (including Alzheimer's and emphysema, a cure for either of which would ensure an uncontested Nobel Prize). The brochure contains a coloured box

which, for the search engines, says :

He even braved 24 gunmen to save his patients!
With guns drawn, two dozen heavily armed thugs kicked down the door of Dr. Wright's clinic. One of them stuck a revolver in his receptionist's face. And for 14 hours, they held Dr. Wright and his staff at gunpoint.
They ransacked the clinic, destroyed medical equipment and pawed through confidential patient records. It was like some terrorist nightmare out of Afghanistan or Kosovo. But the truth was even scarier...
The terrorists were wearing government badges
They were sent to harass Dr. Wright by the FDA. And what was his "offense?" Was he selling drugs illegally? Giving out phony prescriptions over the Internet? Oh no...He was using preservative-free B vitamins. (That's it. B VITAMINS. Of course, no charges were ever filed.)
Are you starting to see why Dr.Wright is such a hero to forward-thinking physicians? And how hard he's willing to fight to find better cures for you?
RSVP now to benefit from hundreds more of his discoveries...FREE!

Of course no charges were ever filed, because the incident never took place. Only someone with almost terminal paranoia or gullibility could believe for a nanosecond that what "Dr" Wright is claiming could be true. I do not include "Dr" Wright in either of those categories. He knows it never happened. He tells lies to attract patients. Then, when he has caught their attention, he lies to them about the possibility of curing chronic incurable diseases. Oh, and you see where it says that you can get something for free? Only after you pay for something else, of course. But why should I be surprised at finding yet another piece of deception amongst "Dr" Wright's lies?

The second example is even more bizarre, because it seems that the writer really does believe that the people responsible for the health of school children are deliberately killing the kids in order to ensure that their jobs are safe. And again, there were true believers who rushed to the defence of the writer as if he had something worthwhile to say.

The school medicine protagonists/practitioners need the paralysing, stupid-making and destructive fear of disease causing phantom viruses as a central basis for their existence:

Firstly, in order to harm many people with vaccinations, in order to build up for themselves a clientele of chronically ill and ailing objects who will put up with anything being done to them.

Secondly, in order not to have to admit that they are failing totally in their treatment of chronic illnesses and have killed and are killing more people than all wars so far have made possible. Every school medicine practitioner is conscious of this, but only very few dare to speak about it. Therefore it's no wonder either that among professional groups, it is that of the school medicine practitioners that has the highest suicide rate, far surpassing other professional groups.

Thirdly, the school medicine practitioners need the paralysing and stupid-making fear of diabolical viruses, in order to conceal their historical origin as an oppression and killing instrument of the Vatican's when it was struggling to rise in the world, having developed out of the usurping West Roman army.

School medicine has been and is the most important pillar of support of all dictatorships and governments which do not want to submit to written law, to constitutions, to human rights, that is, to the democratically legitimized social contract. This explains too why school medicine really can and is allowed to do anything that pleases it, and in this is subjected to no control whatsoever. If we do not overcome this, we will all perish by this school medicine.

It would be funny if it wasn't so scary.

Sorry about the swan joke (7/10/2006)
It seems that I caused a little confusion with the throw-away line last week that even though the word "atheistic" wouldn't normally be applied to considerations of one's partner's sexual activities, swans had been banned from the lakes at Ratbag Castle.

In Greek mythology, Leda was the wife of Tyndareus but loved by the god Zeus, who appeared to her in the form of a swan and seduced her. The result of their union was Helen, who ultimately caused the Trojan War. Leda's other children were Castor and Pollux and Agamemnon's wife, Clytemnestra. I suppose it is just as well that I used Cesare da Sesto's copy of Leonardo's painting Leda and the Swan to illustrate the story. If I had used the painting of the same name by Henri Matisse I might have confused even myself. And as for the version by Antonio da Correggio, well, this is a family web site and some images could disturb maiden aunts and prudes.

Apology in advance (7/10/2006)
A new version has just been released of the software that forms the basis for what I do for a living in real life. Over the next few weeks there will be training courses (both for me and my clients), an examination so that I can maintain my certification, lots of work with clients preparing them for the upgrade and then installing it, a major rebuild of my business web site, hopefully many trips to the bank to deposit payments, plus a whole lot of work which will subtract from the time available for a hobby like this site. I intend to still do a weekly update to the Millenium Project but the quantity of new writing might be less than usual. To make up the volume I will be revisiting some of the articles which have appeared here in the past. They are all in the archives or commentaries somewhere, but dusting them off again could be both useful and entertaining.

A night out with Benny Hinn (7/10/2006)
A few weeks ago sleazemeister Benny Hinn slithered through my home town collecting cash from people who thought that he might have a religious message worth hearing or that he might be able to heal their illnesses. I intended to go to see him but I couldn't make it on the night. Luckily, a friend of mine was able to get to the show and you can read the report here. Actually, I am disappointed that I couldn't go because I am becoming tired of having diabetes and Hinn cured at least one case on the night. Or so he said.

Explain this, skeptics! (7/10/2006)
I have had a little to say here in the past about my local Church of Mammon, Hillsong. Reader Tanya Levin (whose book about Hillsong will be published next year) was curious about any possible involvement I might have had with a recent horse race. Set out below are the results of Race 1 at the Eagle Farm track, Brisbane, on Monday, October 2, 2006. Please pay particular attention to the name of the jockey who rode the fourth-placed horse. If you think that coincidences can happen anywhere, have a look at who rode the horse which came last. Forrester is my wife's family name. This is all getting too spooky.

1-WINNING EDGE PRESENTATIONS MDN 1500m: 3.60 BALD EAGLE (G J Neilan, Mrs M T Neilan, Mrs R E Mackay & A J Mackay's ch g 3y Brave Hawk – Sahara Express. Trainer: B R Guy) 57 carr 54 (L Fyfe) 1, 4.60 MISS MADANG 56.5 carr 53.5 (D Peisley) 2, 2.70 fav SEQUENJAR 56 (M Cahill) 3. Then followed: 9.00 Hillsong 55 (J Bowditch) 31.00 Panthera Leo 54.5 (S Scriven) 14.00 La Bellashee 53.5 carr 50.5 (N Thomas) 6.00 Last Left 56 (M Rice) 31.00 Madraski 53 (K Forrester) last. All started. 1-1/4 len, len. Time: 1:31.00. (Last 600m 36.19).

MagnaBloc (7/10/2006)
In 1999 I gave the very first Millenium Encouragement Award to Amway for their MagnaBloc magnet products. The award was announced in the following words, but apart from that one time I don't believe that I have ever mentioned this particular scam.

The first Encouragement Award goes to Amway for their MagnaBloc site. This combines the financial and mathematical fraud of multi-level marketing with the medical fraud of magnetic therapy. Many useless medical treatments are distributed through multi-level marketing, but this site exemplifies the genre – useless product, useless marketing model, fancy web site, catchy name not associated with an existing brand name. I am surprised the lawyers let the name "Amway" stay on the site. Surely lawyers who can argue that a solid shape made up from one square side and four isosceles triangles is not a pyramid could have done better. If Amway want some better lawyers, I have a system of legal advice where you buy some advice for yourself, but you can reduce the costs by getting your friends to buy as well. If your friends can get their friends to join, you could even get an income for life. It's not a pyramid scheme. I asked my lawyer.

Someone has obviously misinterpreted what I had to say, and I have received the following communication:

From: "tony"
Subject: magnets by magnabloc
Date: Tue, 03 Oct 2006 08:55:54 +1000

I have recently purchased Magna BLOC theraputic magnets. How long do these magnets remain effective. Do you have to remove and reset.and any information to get the most effective use from them.

Yours faithfully
Heather Pocock

As the magnets do nothing to begin with they will remain at 100% effectiveness forever and therefore never need any maintenance.

Ask for your money back. I am sure that Amway have a full refund policy.

October 14, 2006

Why it's late (14/10/2006)
This week's update is late because I needed to do some following up for the article below, and I didn't see the advertisement until Saturday.

Truth in advertising. (14/10/2006)
One of the newspapers I regularly read is The Weekend Australian, a national newspaper distributed across all states and territories of Australia. On page 15 of the October 14, 2006, edition there was a quarter-page advertisement (laid out to look like a news item) with the headline "The Ringing In Your Ears Will It Ever Stop!!", which talked about a product named Tebonin® "formulated to relieve the symptoms of tinnitus". Note that it doesn't seem to cure or even, apparently, treat tinnitus, but is just formulated to relieve the symptoms. You can see the advertisement here, and as we all know that manufacturers of alternative medicines have little spare cash I will not be charging the makers of the product anything like the $12,000 which, according to The Australian's public rate card, it costs for an advertisement that size in the paper. In the advertisement, the following statements are made about the research behind the formulation:

The EGb 761® extract produced by "Schwabe Pharmaceuticals" is scientifically and clinically proven in numerous published studies and is available as an approved medicine in many countries around the world.

Not only are there many trials showing the effectiveness of the EGb 761 ® extract in relieving the symptoms of tinnitus, it is also used to relieve symptoms relating to vertigo, peripheral circulation and cognitive function.

The Cochrane Library is a collection of analyses of published medical research. The procedure is to examine a range of published papers on a topic to see how well the research reflects reality. One of the publications in the library is officially named Hilton M, Stuart E. Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD003852. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD003852.pub2, and contains the following paragraphs in the abstract:

Main results
Twelve trials were identified from the search as being relevant to the review. Ten trials were excluded on methodological grounds. No trials of tinnitus in cerebral insufficiency reached a satisfactory standard for inclusion in the review. There was no evidence that Ginkgo biloba was effective for the primary complaint of tinnitus. The incidence of side effects was small.

Authors' conclusions
The limited evidence did not demonstrate that Ginkgo biloba was effective for tinnitus which is a primary complaint. There was no reliable evidence to address the question of Ginkgo biloba for tinnitus associated with cerebral insufficiency.

Plain language summary
No evidence that Ginkgo biloba is effective for tinnitus

People with tinnitus hear sounds such as crackling or whistling in the absence of external noise. Noises appear to arise in the ears or inside the head and may be experienced all of the time, or only intermittently. The causes of tinnitus are not yet fully understood and a variety of treatments are offered including medication, psychotherapy, noise 'maskers' and Tinnitus Retraining Therapy. The review of trials assessed the effectiveness of extract of Ginkgo biloba. Few good quality trials were found and there was no evidence that Ginkgo biloba is effective for tinnitus. Further research is needed.

AusPharm Consumer Health Watch is an organisation set up to examine claims made about non-prescription drugs and medical products. The first review planned for the site examined the research and claims made about Ginkgo biloba and tinnitus and came to the same conclusions about ineffectiveness as was reported in the Cochrane findings.

[Update September 27, 2008 – The AusPharm web site has disappeared completely, so it looks like the bad guys finally won.]

And how do you think the alternative medicine people, with their products which have been "scientifically and clinically proven in numerous published studies" and their "many trials showing the effectiveness" of the products reacted to the news that someone was about to reinforce the Cochrane results and bring the news to a wider audience. Did they summon up some Nobel prize winners who had done research in the area? Did they offer to debate the issue and find faults with the Cochrane analysis? No, they went to court and obtained an injunction preventing the publication of the article. Apparently the public can't be trusted to understand when a group of scientists looks at some "research" and concludes that most of it was not carried out properly and the rest showed that the claims made could not be backed up. To make matters even more ridiculous, the judge has ordered that any investigation into the effectiveness of the Gingko weed should be carried out by the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the results should be kept secret and labelled "commercial in confidence".

What a farce. The quacks are always claiming that pharmaceutical companies only publish favourable research results, but here we have a herb maker wanting to suppress already-published research because the truth might hurt their business.

I suffer from tinnitus, so anything which can ease the problem would be welcome. When it comes to research into a treatment or cure, I am not interested in reading stuff by employees of some herb packager, no matter how big their business is in Germany. I want reliable research carried out in a competent fashion, not advertisements and testimonials. It is outrageous that someone should, for purely commercial reasons, try to limit my access to the truth.

Someone appreciates what I do (14/10/2006)
I received this very encouraging email during the week:

Date: Tue, 10 Oct 2006 04:26:09 -0700
From: Collins Desmond
Subject: God has been faithfull

Just want to say that God has really blessed me spiritually through your publications.I also pray that he{GOD}will continue to make all grace abound towords you so you having all sufficiency will be able to abound in every good work

How many times do I have to say things? (14/10/2006)
I shouldn't really be surprised that someone selling MLM can't understand English, but despite all that I have had to say about Mannatech trying to deceive people about Nobel prize winners endorsing their sugar pills, I still get emails like this:

I have been reading your comments on Mannatech. I started selling these last week after being told these things from my upline. However, i can now confirm one thing: Dr Gunter Blobel did NOT recieve the Nobel PEACE prize, but the Nobel PRIZE FOR MEDICINE. As seen on the following CNN News site:

I hope this helps.

Giving in too easily? (14/10/2006)
A few weeks ago I mentioned that a film about Scientology had been released. It was an amateur effort (but definitely not amateurish) and was made available for free at various places on the web. I provided a link to one of those sources, but I didn't have the film available for download here (it's more than 700 megabytes). The filmmaker has now contacted sites distributing the film and asked them to stop as he is being harassed by the Church of Scientology. I didn't have the film, but I have removed mention of its name and the link to where it was once available for download.

Everyone has to make their own decisions about what to do when they are attacked by someone they have criticised, and the filmmaker was perfectly entitled to give in immediately if he thought that the cost of a fight was too high. As I have a clear policy here about what gets removed and why, I thought that I needed to make a comment about why something had disappeared. I removed the material because I have no desire to increase the problems (real or perceived) of an 18-year-old just trying to live a peaceful life, but my reaction to the request might have been very different if I had been approached directly. I am reminded of the words of Sir Winston Churchill: "Never give in – never, never, never, never, in nothing great or small, large or petty, never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy".

To compensate for the removal of something about Scientology, I would like to mention that Trey Parker and Matt Stone have compiled a DVD of their ten choices as the best ever episodes of South Park, and one of those episodes is, naturally, Trapped in the Closet, starring Tom Cruise. Enjoy!

Radio stuff (14/10/2006)
Friday the 13th fell on a Friday this month, and radio stations were so desperate to get people to talk about it that one of them rang me for an opinion. You can listen to it below on the podcast page. The obscure reference to tunnels and radio announcers at the start of the interview refers to two local events of the day – a road tunnel under the city of Sydney had been found to be leaking groundwater and the regular presenter of the show (who uses the tunnel to get to work) was having an unplanned day off from work. We skeptics just love coincidences. What I forgot to mention was that there was a double whammy that day because if you add the digits in the date, 1+3+1+0+2+0+0+6, you get ...

Random thoughts (14/10/2006)

October 21, 2006

It's zeitgeist time! (21/10/2006)
Well, I suppose that in a manner of speaking it always is, but last weekend it hit with a bang. During the week I was getting ready to write an article about how some snake oil sellers had gone to court to prevent exposure of the uselessness of their product. On Saturday morning I opened the newspaper to find a quarter-page advertisement for the very snake oil in question. Then, on Sunday night, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Background Briefing program dealt with the same story. I didn't find out about the radio program until after I had published my article (I get it via podcast and I didn't update until Tuesday). You can read about and hear the radio program here.

One thing I needed to correct in my story from last week was that AusPharm (the people prevented from publishing truth) did not simply report the Cochrane Collaboration report on the uselessness of Ginkgo biloba for the treatment of tinnitus, but had done the research again themselves to confirm it.

A piece of good news is that the Complaint Resolution Panel, a government body set up to look at complaints about the advertising of therapeutic goods, has agreed to revisit the Ginkgo biloba and tinnitus nonsense so we may yet see the vendors forced to publish truthful advertisements. My guess is that they will simply not advertise at all if they are prevented from making dubious claims, but will instead rely on public relations exercises based on a supposed conspiracy to suppress the "truth" about what they sell. This strategy has been used in the past by cancer quacks and other lowlifes, so there is no reason not to use it again.

Anti-amalgamists might not be truthful! Imagine that! (21/10/2006)
I am continually being told that the American Dental Association keeps the formula for dental amalgam secret, that no research has ever been done into the safety of dental amalgam, and that even some dentists don't know that it contains mercury. I know, I know, these statements are ludicrous, but ludicrosity has never stopped an anti-amalgam campaigner from making a claim. I have also been told that alternatives to amalgam have only been available since the 1970s, presumably because the ADA strongly resisted their introduction and use before then.

To get access to medical texts and recent journals I use the library at Westmead Hospital. (As a bonus to the free use of journals, the walk from my house also counts towards my exercise quota.) Whenever I am there I check the shelf of used books for sale. These are usually very much out of date, but sometimes I pick up something which fits my interest in the history of medicine. The last time I was there I found a book published in 1966 by the ADA called Guide to Dental Materials. Remarkably for a book published before alternatives to amalgams were supposedly available and were still being suppressed by the ADA there are chapters about resins and cements – primitive stuff, but hardly suppressed or hidden.

Remember how the ADA hides the dangers of mercury and even tries to prevent dentists finding out about it? Well, here is a passage from page 21 of this 40-year-old book. The secret formula for making amalgam is on page 109, under the heading "American Dental Association specification number 1 for alloy for dental amalgam". And I was able to buy this book for $1!

Mercury-Vapor Hygiene.
At one time there was considerable discussion about the possibility of toxic effects of mercury vapor given off by amalgam fillings. Although there are a few reported incidents of sensitivity to amalgam, the toxic effects of mercury vapor in dental practice were shown by Souder and Sweeney to be not significant. This has been confirmed by others. A very comprehensive review was published by Frykholm in 1957. Mercury does give off small amounts of vapor under normal atmospheric conditions but this stops as soon as mercury becomes coated with saliva. However, it is considered good hygiene to use well ventilated offices and to collect excess mercury during amalgamation and placement of fillings. It is, of course, good practice not to spill the mercury promiscuously around the office. In addition to mercury vapor hygiene, care should be exercised in handling mercury so that it will not come in contact with articles made of precious metals, especially rings and other jewelry.

Anti-vaccination liar tries to deceive! Imagine that!! (21/10/2006)
In a newsgroup discussion about measles, a well-known homeopath and anti-vaccination liar made the following comment:

can't make any money off of VITAMIN A that would help most children and prevent any complications.
no, can't make any money
From The Cochrane Library, Issue 1, 2004. Chichester, UK: John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. All rights reserved.
Vitamin A for treating measles in children (Cochrane Review)

The link provided didn't work, but the writer probably assumed that nobody would check anyway and would just trust her word. She was wrong on both counts. The actual paper can be found here ( for people with access to the Cochrane Library), and says, inter alia:

Plain language summary
Two megadoses of vitamin A lowers the risk of death from measles in hospitalized children under the age of two years, but not in all children with measles

Measles is caused by a virus and results in a high fever and rash. Possible complications include pneumonia. Measles is a major cause of death in children in developing countries and is particularly dangerous for children with a vitamin A deficiency. This review found that there was no significant reduction in mortality in children receiving vitamin when all the studies were pooled together. However, vitamin A megadoses (200,000 international units on each of two days) lowered the number of deaths from measles in hospitalized children who were under the age of two years. A single dose did not lower death rates.

So megadoses of Vitamin A might be effective for children with a Vitamin A deficiency, and then only reduce the risk of death, not the other unpleasant sequelae of measles, and then only for children who were already sick enough to be hospitalised. Why am I not surprised that a quackery puffer should misrepresent scientific research? I gave up talking to the woman when she went on to say that:

You just don't get it and you never will. Diseases are NOT bad. They help you to build your immune system in childhood.

Seriously mad. And a few hours before she had called me "disturbed" for calling a liar a liar.

Outrage!!! (21/10/2006)
The USA has banned Vegemite! Is this the thanks Australians get for jumping feet-first into Iraq, allowing one of our citizens to be held at Guantanamo Bay in violation of Magna Carta, eating McDonalds, buying second-hand Abrams tanks and letting a Ford win our major motor race? It's just as well that Australians are a tolerant bunch or there would be smoking ruins of Yank consulates across the wide brown land. Perhaps we should boycott American products, such as those made by Kraft. Wait a minute ...
(Disclaimer: I hate Vegemite and always have done. However, it's the principle of the thing that matters.)

Emetic on the television (21/10/2006)
Could there have been a more revolting example of hypocritical egotism than this week's story about faded pop star Madonna and her extensive entourage flying in to Malawi to rescue just one young boy from poverty? Here's a couple of suggestions, Madge – sell the private jet, sell all except one of your houses, sack the team of flunkeys and sycophants and give all the money to Oxfam or World Vision or some other organisation doing real work for the poor and underprivileged kids in Africa. And while you're at it, instead of flaunting your trophy kid think about how many villages could get school books or clean water from the annual royalties of just one chart-topping song. I realise that the trouble with that last suggestion is that thinking about that would take time away from thinking about Madonna.

Something very useful (21/10/2006)
The works of Charles Darwin are now available online. Tens of thousands of pages of books. letters, scientific papers – an Aladdin's cave of goodness. See it here.

Conversing with the brain dead (21/10/2006)
Occasionally I am reminded that discussion with some people is pointless, not because they are prepared to lie but simply because they have mental processes which are not capable of maintaining a coherent conversation. I was recently involved in a Usenet discussion where the claim was made that no cancer could be or ever had been cured by surgery. Someone then added the non sequitur that the Sun could not cause cancer. I made this comment:

The Sun doesn't cause cancer? That's a relief. Now I can chuck away the 30+ sunblock and forget about any danger from going to the beach and staying in the sun all day. Now I know why my melanoma was apparently cured by surgery when, as we all know, surgery can't cure cancer. It must have been that it wasn't cancer at all, because it was caused by the Sun. I remember being told once that cancer can't form in the presence of oxygen, and I suppose this is why nobody ever sees cancer in the lungs or on the skin. Don't these idiots ever think their ludicrous claims through?

Here is the reply I received, and yes, this person was serious. Notice that God has now been brought into the discussion. At times like these the only thing a rational person can do is back away slowly while shaking his head.

The Sun does not cause cancer. GOD did not make a mistake in creating the Sun! Man made a mistake in creating sunscreens. Look at the statistical data corresponding to skin cancer and the introduction of sunscreens., look at the statistical data corresponding to what countries use extensive amounts of sunscreen in relation to those that do not use it. The data is clear. Those countries that use sunscreens have a much higher rate of skin cancer than those that do not use it and the epidemic of skin cancer rose when sunscreens became available on the market. Data speaks louder than words.

Speaking of God ... (21/10/2006)
Last April I mentioned that I had identified the artwork on my favourite t-shirt. I thought at the time that it was The Sea Monster and the Beast with the Lamb's Horns by Albrecht Dürer, part of the artist's Apocalypse series produced in the late 15th century. It turns out that I was right about the artist and series, but the illustration was actually The Seven-Headed Dragon, and I am always ready to correct my mistakes. If you look at the images below you can see why I might have been confused (the correct picture is the one on the right).


And on the matter of religious art ... (21/10/2006)
I am not the only person to note that much of the iconography and mythology surrounding the UFO phenomenon seems to have been carried over from previous times. Much of it is a reinvention of fairy tales and religious legends, where the fairies, demons and ogres have been replaced by aliens. I saw an excellent reminder of this in an exhibition of "grotesque" illustrations at the National Museum of Victoria recently. Among a fine collection of weirdness from artists like Blake and Dürer there was a very good print of The Temptation of Saint Anthony by Jacques Callot. If you look at the detail from the etching at the right you might be led to think that aliens were probing Earthlings as far back as 1635.

October 28, 2006

Brevity alert! (28/10/2006)
It's a short update this week because real life has got in the way. There's actual work work to be done, and the family's personal tax returns have to be submitted at the last minute, which is a couple of days from now. Tax return time always gets me thinking about praying to avoid damnation, so almost everything this week is about religion in one way or another.

Sheik your beauty (28/10/2006)
The spiritual leader of Australia's Muslims is Sheik Taj Din al-Hilaly. Below is a translation from Arabic of a sermon he gave a few weeks ago as part of the celebration of Ramadan. Many people (including a lot of Muslims) have been quite offended by this idiotic rant, and I am not the only person to point out that it not only offensive to women but also implies that men have no control over their actions. "And why is this a translation?" you might ask. The answer is that the mufti might have been living in Australia for more than twenty years but he hasn't bothered to learn English. This is not the first time he has come out with statements which can only be interpreted as showing that his thinking, and therefore by implication the thinking of influential Muslims, is firmly mired in the 7th century. While there has been a Muslim backlash to this nonsense, it seems quite valid to ask why it waited for three weeks and the release of an English version and didn't happen when the speech was first given to several hundred people.

"Those atheists, people of the book (Christians and Jews), where will they end up? In Surfers Paradise? On the Gold Coast? Where will they end up? In hell and not part-time, for eternity. They are the worst in God's creation.

"When it comes to adultery, it's 90 percent the woman's responsibility. Why? Because a woman owns the weapon of seduction. It's she who takes off her clothes, shortens them, flirts, puts on make-up and powder and takes to the streets, God protect us, dallying. It's she who shortens, raises and lowers. Then, it's a look, a smile, a conversation, a greeting, a talk, a date, a meeting, a crime, then Long Bay jail. Then you get a judge, who has no mercy, and he gives you 65 years.

"But when it comes to this disaster, who started it? In his literature, writer al-Rafee says, if I came across a rape crime, I would discipline the man and order that the woman be jailed for life. Why would you do this, Rafee? He said because if she had not left the meat uncovered, the cat wouldn't have snatched it.

"If you get a kilo of meat, and you don't put it in the fridge or in the pot or in the kitchen but you leave it on a plate in the backyard, and then you have a fight with the neighbour because his cats eat the meat, you're crazy. Isn't this true?

"If you take uncovered meat and put it on the street, on the pavement, in a garden, in a park, or in the backyard, without a cover and the cats eat it, then whose fault will it be, the cats, or the uncovered meat's? The uncovered meat is the disaster. If the meat was covered the cats wouldn't roam around it. If the meat is inside the fridge, they won't get it.

"If the woman is in her boudoir, in her house and if she's wearing the veil and if she shows modesty, disasters don't happen.

"Satan sees women as half his soldiers. You're my messenger in necessity, Satan tells women you're my weapon to bring down any stubborn man. There are men that I fail with. But you're the best of my weapons.

"…The woman was behind Satan playing a role when she disobeyed God and went out all dolled up and unveiled and made of herself palatable food that rakes and perverts would race for. She was the reason behind this sin taking place."

(I would like to thank the Special Broadcasting Service for the translation.)

Let's buy some religious votes (28/10/2006)
The Prime Minister of Australia has announced a plan whereby many millions of dollars will be made available in the form of $20,000 grants to schools, both public and private, to provide chaplaincy services. There will be no restriction on the religion or sect of the chaplain employed (although I can't see Sheik al-Hilaly getting a warm reception if he sticks his hand out). At least that is what is being said, but the reality would be that the majority of the money would be grabbed by the sort of schools which think that there is too little religion in children's lives. I would also assume that there can only be one grant, and therefore only one chaplain, per school. I hope that this is not so, because there are several schools within a short walking distance of my home and I am sure they would all welcome an atheist chaplain.

How many library books could a school buy for $20,000?

A Hillsinger sets me straight (28/10/2006)
I received yet another weirdly-formatted epistle from a supporter of my local temple of Mammon, Hillsong Church. My responses are in italics.

From: "Tristan Grassick"
Date: Sat, 28 Oct 2006 19:32:09 +1000

Dear authors of

i have just read your concepts of what you think the hillsong church is about. It is all well and good that they have huge sums of income from the church.

Who has "huge sums of income from the church"? The pastors? Surely the huge sums should be used for good works, not personal wealth-building.

But what you are missing is that this church is one of the biggest in NSW and Australia,

The results of the 2006 census are not yet available, but according to the 2001 census, these are the numbers of people claiming affiliation with the ten largest religions or sects. Hillsong has a long way to go before it even makes a blip on the radar. Don't believe everything you hear from the stage. (I almost said "pulpit" there, but we are talking about Hillsong.)

Uniting Church334,9361,248,674
Presbyterian and Reformed236,719637,530

also it is growing greatly.

I have no doubt that it is growing. That proves nothing except that fashion and publicity can make some thing popular. If it went from 100 members to 200 it would be the fastest-growing church in the country, but it is numbers which matter, not rate of growth.

I would also like to bring up that what is happen with hillsong has happened with all churchs since Jesus Christ, for example i would like to bring up the Catholic church during 11th century and onwards they have asked for money for the church.

So what? It has been a long time since the 11th century. I have no objection to churches asking for money. It is what they do with it that concerns me.

The difference here is that they never put any of there money into charity only themselves.

Let me see – Aid to the Church in Need (, Catholic Charities USA (, described as "the membership association of one of the nation's largest social service networks", St Vincent de Paul Society (,, ... You're right – they never put any money into charity. I suppose I could go on to mention Anglicare, the Uniting Church's Missionbeat, the Salvation Army, but they probably don't meet your definition of charities either. Did I mention that you shouldn't believe everything you are told from the stage at Norwest?

They also have been the worlds most profitable organisations in the world.

Some of them are very large organisations indeed. It would be very surprising if a religion with hundreds of millions of followers didn't have a useful amount of money coming in.

Another thing is that during the early catholic church they charged taxes to the population that followed them. And the talk of the Hillsong Church being in the governments ear is stupid, the catholic church ran governments for years.

In Australia? When was this?

This brings me to my last question, if the hillsong church is so bad what does that make the Catholic church?

A big, old church with millions of followers and billions of dollars which has done both good and bad things throughout its very long history. It is also irrelevant to Hillsong. You don't prove that something is good by pointing out that something else is bad. There is a lot I don't like about the Catholic Church, but even if I thought that it was the second-most evil organisation since the invention of fire this would make no difference to my opinion about Hillsong and the way it conducts its business.

Please give me an answer and humor me

Steve Johnson

Hmmm. Or should that be WTF? (28/10/2006)
I am puzzled, nonplussed and a little taken aback by this email. I am not sure that any explanation would or could be satisfactory.

Two Prophesies in the Garden of Eden.
(Absolute Foundation Prophesy)

God say's, if you eat or even touch the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that is in the midst of the garden you will Surely Die.

The Serpent/ Satan say's, if you eat or even touch the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil that is in the midst of the garden you will Surely Not Die.

Question: When Jesus comes and offers the gift of eternal life which/whose prophesy does he fulfil.

Food for thought, Satan in the 21st century
Yours Sincerely

Guest columnist (28/10/2006)
Because I have been a bit rushed I have once again brought in a guest columnist to fill the gaps. Some of his work has appeared here before, but it is hard to get too much of Bertrand Russell. Here are three more of his thoughts.

Russell was a philosopher as well as a mathematician, so he would be familiar with the concept of unintended consequences. One of these occurred while I was searching for another portrait of Russell, and I was led to the works of the late Luana Milligan Boutilier. I won't just say "Enjoy!". This requires a "Thoroughly enjoy!".

Vegemite! We are saved! (28/10/2006)
This is almost about religion, because many Australians seem to treat the ghastly, salty yeast spread Vegemite with the sort of veneration usually reserved for pieces of saints. My opinion is that using brewer's yeast to make it is a sacrilegious waste of yeast which should be totally committed to brewing, but even in a country famous for its consumption of brewed beverages I appear to be in a minority. The good news, however, is that the story that the USA had banned Vegemite imports was a beatup in one of Rupert Murdoch's newspapers. We had to rely on one of Rupert Murdoch's newspapers to give us the truth. That one of the Dirty Digger's rags should contradict another is just one of those Australian traditions, like the consumption of something which looks like tar and tastes like nothing on Earth, which so puzzles outsiders observing the inhabitants of the Great Southern Land.


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