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SWIFT April 18, 2008 PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by James Randi   

Our Defense Dollars, Another Woo-woo Group, Maybe Not Such a Joke, That Strange Glove, More Audiophile Crapiola, Sylvia in Vegas, License to Be Silly, Ol’ Bob Has a Way About Him, In Closing..., JREF YouTube Update, Galapagos, Tour Penn Jilette's Home, UFO's Are Real!

LieDetector

Reader Tim Fuller alerts us to this:

We hear now that U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be receiving a new tool that the Pentagon seems to think will help them root out potential terrorists. It’s a hand-held lie detector! See www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23926278.

Table of Contents
  1. Our Defense Dollars

  2. Another Woo-woo Group

  3. Maybe Not Such a Joke

  4. That Strange Glove

  5. More Audiophile Crapiola

  6. Sylvia in Vegas

  7. License to Be Silly

  8. Ol’ Bob Has a Way About Him

  9. In Closing...

  10. JREF YouTube Update - by Rich Montalvo

  11. Galapagos – Last Chance! by Jeff Wagg

  12. Tour Penn Jilette's Home. by Jeff Wagg

  13. UFO's Are Real! by Jeff Wagg



OUR DEFENSE DOLLARS

LieDetector

Reader Tim Fuller alerts us to this:

We hear now that U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be receiving a new tool that the Pentagon seems to think will help them root out potential terrorists. It’s a hand-held lie detector! See www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23926278. This is a bit more serious than the average charlatanism, in that it involves the life and death of our troops, as well as the demise of others who are supected of criminal activity by failing a polygraph examination. Polygraphs have never worked, that’s been clearly shown, but someone has dragged more of our tax money from the defense budget to squander on another expensive and embarrassing farce...




ANOTHER WOO-WOO GROUP

Reader “Mike” writes:

I have been a fan and avid reader of SWIFT for over 6 months now. I'm originally from Pittsburgh and I read the Post-Gazette everyday online. Today I came across an interesting article and the headline reads boldly: "Group finds evidence Homestead police station is haunted" So I guess they'll be calling you for that million dollars, eh? I know you have seen things like this many times before but it never ceases to amaze me how these news outlets can print this garbage. This isn't even news. It's gullible people hearing booms and creaks in the night that could have been caused by numerous other things. The article states that no one else was in the office, but it fails to mention that things like mice, rats, bats, and who knows what else could have just as easily made these noises. Isn't that more likely and plausible than supernatural beings that don't seem to want to come out and play when people are around?

Mike, it’s not at all strange that regular folks like you can see through such farces, but there are obviously so many others who can’t – or who choose not to. That’s why the JREF exists, to fight irrational, superstitious, and pseudoscientific claims that rob people of their security and common sense. Who was it that said, “Common sense is not at all common”?




MAYBE NOT SUCH A JOKE

Hilarious, but rather sad, too... See tinyurl.com/6jee74.




THAT STRANGE GLOVE

Re the glove puzzle from last week: Reader Ronán FitzGerald came up with two winners: “Palm Pilot” and “GPS” (Glove Positioning Service). I only had the first one in mind – which was the most common response, from some 40+ respondents – but I happily accept the second! Reader Ted Skala opted for “Manual Manual,” also very good. Thank you all!




MORE “AUDIOPHILE” CRAPIOLA

From an anonymous reader comes this item about a simple plastic cover for open – unused – 110-volt wall receptacles. This is a revisiting of the rather medieval notion that volts can leak out of an open wall fixture. Duh. “Machina Dynamica” has had our attention previously for other audiophile scams. Writes this reader:

I simply cannot believe that such products exist, but they do! See machinadynamica.com/machina44.htm. Here are a few gushing quotes – unattributed except by common first names! – from supposedly satisfied users:

New!! ... "I did have the opportunity to try two MD outlet covers. Snake oil they're not. They do change the sound of your system and I suspect it depends on what your system lacks or doesn't lack. In my system they brought out the midrange and highs more, while the bass was still detailed and articulate but with not as much boom." February 2008

New!! ... "I tried the Duplex Covers with good results for wall outlets located on the side walls, but "night and day" results were obtained when a Tru Tone Duplex Cover was placed on the unused outlet located on the wall behind and between the speakers." – Frank, January 2008

New!! ... "Unbelievable dynamics!" – Russ, April 2007

New!! ... "I can't believe these things actually improved the overall sound as much as they did. Is it resonance control that's lowering the noise floor? I hear greater detail in quiet passages and better front to back image definition. Very impressive!" – Glenn, Dec 2006

When are audiophiles going to be outed for their expensive brand of BS?

cables

Never, I suspect. When “Frank,” “Russ,” and “Glenn” are so effusive about these idiocies, how can we have any doubt? And remember those expensive-speaker-cable dumbos? They’re making new noises about being tested, but don’t hold your breath...




SYLVIA IN VEGAS

From reader Rick Meek:

Sylvia’s hitting Vegas before you do, at the Excalibur… $82.50 - $137.50, minimum audience age of 12! Any younger and their honesty could be a danger. She’s in the right place. This is where greed has no bounds. Elton plays down the street at Caesar’s. Watch out! The Witch is back! Note the listing at the bottom: Categories: Performance Art, The Strip, Psychic – I guess the audience she draws doesn’t see this as a performance. I wonder what the house’s cut is. Maybe she’s renting the room. Hey, at least it’s not topless. This could be even more scary.

Oh, much…




LICENSE TO BE SILLY

plate

It’s only presently “under consideration,” but a splendid way to antagonize anyone not of the Christian faith has emerged in Florida... Honk if you love Jesus. It might become more than just a bumper sticker in Florida. The Legislature may create a new license plate that features the words ''I Believe'' and the image of a cross in front of a church stained glass window, as shown. This measure is moving in both the House and Senate.

Representative Ed Bullard, a Miami Democrat and a sponsor of the license plate, conceded that ''some people'' may find something wrong with it, but he said it was a license plate for those people who may want something other than a plate that has a manatee or picture of the Challenger space shuttle. “That segment is a large segment of the population that can now get a tag that they like and express their beliefs,'' said Bullard. Senator Mike Fasano, a New Port Richey Republican who is sponsoring a measure that would create four different plates, including an ''In God We Trust'' plate, said he saw no problem with letting motorists decide if they want to pay the $25 extra for the ''I Believe'' plate. He said, and rightly so:

That's the option of every driver who owns a vehicle. They can decide if they want to have a license plate with a cross in front of a stained-glass window. It's not different from choosing a Choose Life license plate or a manatee license plate or a Florida State University or University of Florida license plate.

But do we see any Flodida license plates touting atheism or even rationality? The state has dozens of different license plates with images of sports teams, animals, and wildflowers. The Republican-led Legislature in 1999 authorized that ''Choose Life'' plate on it, one that drew lawsuits from groups that said the plate conveyed a religious message – an opinion with which I heartily agree.

The shocking fact is that the extra money earned from the sale of the proposed ''I Believe'' license plate would go to an Orlando-based non-profit called “Faith in Teaching Inc.” that says on its website that these funds would be used for grants to “continue faith-based education for the youth of Florida.” And, we don’t need any more strife between religions, thank you; such a message would antagonize and anger a lot of Floridians. I’m old enough to remember when separation-of-church-and-state was actually regarded as a basic of American legal practice.

That was just last week…




OL’ BOB HAS A WAY ABOUT HIM…

Our friend Bob Park has a way with words that I’ll just never master. See him at www.bobpark.org and get on his free mailing list at listserv.umd.edu. Since I’m currently in the UK negotiating contracts, and can’t quite get the time to properly work up enough items for SWIFT this week, I’m blatantly stealing these three excellent items from his last page...

NO SCIENCE DEBATE: CANDIDATES WILL DEBATE JESUS.

It seemed to be going well for efforts to arrange a debate on science issues. The National Academies, the Council for Competitiveness and the AAAS had agreed to serve as official cosponsors; the plan was endorsed by all major research universities and scientific societies. However, in a world faced with the threat of global warming, dwindling fossil fuel, continuous warfare, disease and starvation on the rise in Africa, spiraling food prices world wide, the candidates must focus on "solutions." They have therefore chosen to attend "The Compassion Forum" instead, a "wide ranging and probing discussion of policies related to moral issues." It will be held at Messiah College somewhere in central Pennsylvania. Founded by the Brethren in Christ Church in 1909; Messiah’s motto is "Christ Preeminent." It has not been decided whether the candidates will remain on their knees during the debate.

QI: "I DON’T KNOW HOW, BUT ACUPUNCTURE WORKS."

You will not be surprised to learn that WN got a lot of disagreement about the item on acupuncture last week. As one reader pointed out, "millions of people have been treated with acupuncture and say it works; scientists should be trying to find out how it works rather than ridiculing it." Look at it this way, an even larger number of people around the world say astrology works. If you think they’re right you’re beyond help. What we need to understand is why people think acupuncture works. If you ask an acupuncturist how it works, the answer is “qi.” What’s qi? I refer you to www.csicop.org/sb/2000-03/qi.html for a full discussion. Briefly, dissection was forbidden in ancient China, as it was in the West before about 1500 AD. Beheadings, on the other hand, were common. The carotid artery and jugular veins sticking out of the severed neck looked like empty tubes, and were assumed to be passageways to let air flow through the body. Blood was thought to fill the body cavity. As recently as the late Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644) the arteries were thought to carry air. Qi is the word for air.

WHY NOW? IT’S NOT JUST HAPPENING AT MARYLAND.

And it’s not just acupuncture. In the waning days of his administration Bill Clinton created a 20-member White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine, perhaps as a gift to Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), a true believer who had been a loyal supporter. The commission members advocated homeopathy, acupuncture, touch therapy, magnets, reflexology, crystals, chelation, craniosacral manipulation, echinacea, aromatherapy, yohimbe bark and more. Incredibly James Gordon, who had been a follower of the notorious Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, was chosen to head the commission. A Georgetown professor, Gordon predicted the Gordon Report would replace the 1910 Flexner report that established medicine as a scientific enterprise. It could happen. With the candidates talking up some form of National health coverage, the push is on for CAM therapies to maneuver to be included. How better to look scientific than to be on a university campus.




IN CLOSING...

Yes, a bit early this week, folks. The contract negotiations I’m currently involved in here are very important to the JREF, and I’m busily campaigning to get together a series that will feature the Million-Dollar Prize, will actually test – on air – UK applicants, and will establish standards of how legitimate examination of paranormal claims should be drawn up, organized, and conducted – something that so many parapsychologists seem not to recognize. I’m hoping that Jeff Wagg and/or Rich Montalvo can add an item or two to this SWIFT, this week.

Tomorrow – Friday – there’s to be a mass meeting of the woo-woo practitioners in Hyde Park to demonstrate against a new UK law that may actually require them to perform as advertised – a startling and innovative move that has understandably stirred them to defensive action. I’ll be there to photograph it, with delight. Then I’m lecturing here in London on Saturday evening along with Chris French, Simon Singh, Ben Goldacre, and Sue Blackmore – sorry, sold out! – and along the way I’m meeting with lots of SWIFT readers and JREF fans. It’s been very exciting indeed.

TAM 6 registrations are moving along nicely. For those of you who have been putting off registering for one reason or another I feel it's important to let you know that registration fees will increase on April 21st. If you are ready to register now, visit the TAM 6 registration page right away here

Back in Florida next week...


Signature




JREF YOUTUBE UPDATE - by Rich Montalvo

We've had an enormous amount of good response to the official James Randi Educational Foundation YouTube channel, which you can visit here. Our numbers speak for themselves. Total video views since we started promoting the channel are at 64,016. For those of you that have YouTube usernames we invite you to subscribe to the channel so you get daily updates of the latest videos we post.

Our DVD library at the JREF is currently at 362. I am dedicated to loading at least 1 of those DVD's to the YouTube channel each day. Some of these videos are far longer than the YouTube 10 minute limit so you will see these videos in more than one part. Once all the parts are loaded I arrange them into playlists and three of those playlists can be seen directly on the front of our YouTube page. Currently we have a total of 11 playlists ready for viewing and you can go directly to the playlist page. The most popular playlist so far is "The Power of Belief" with John Stossel and James Randi which is the video shown here. →

Lastly don't forget to leave your comments on the videos. I do read each and every single one of them. Sometimes to censor them but mostly to see what everyone thinks of the videos. Suggestions are also appreciated so let me know what you all are liking and or not liking.




GALAPAGOS UPDATE – LAST CHANCE! by Jeff Wagg

This is the last chance to join us on the Galapagos cruise August 8-18. We have two cabins left, and they must be booked by May 1st. We expect them to be filled very soon, so if you're thinking about coming, don't delay.

We have two new celebrity guests joining us. George Hrab, one of our TAM 6 guests, will be bringing his humor, wit, and guitar with us, and he's agreed to spontaneously break out into song at our request. Also joining us will be Anneke Rudegeair, better known to the podcasting universe as "Soccergirl." Anneke is a unabashed skeptic, freethinker and atheist. Her show "Soccergirl Incorporated" has a huge following, and can be found at soccergirl.podshow.com.

This is going to be a truly "Amaz!ng" adventure. Visit www.amazingmeeting.com for more information.




TOUR PENN JILETTE'S HOME by Jeff Wagg

Slammer Yes, we're doing it again. During this year's TAM, 12 lucky winners will be having lunch at Penn Jillette's infamous Slammer: a home like no other. To view the eBay auction, visit tinyurl.com/5ul6u4. Penn's home in Las Vegas has quite a few "unique" features such as a guard tower, a goldfish cracker shaped pond, and a mantis alien hovering over the staircase. There's also a working fire pole, and a secret room with some very shocking surprises. Rumor has it that the hot tub has a special patented feature as well.

This is a very rare chance to tour the Slammer without being incarcerated. Don't miss out! Bid today!




UFOS ARE REAL! by Jeff Wagg

Yes, that's right. I'm telling you this right now... UFOs do exist. I have seen one. I believe in UFOs.

I was on a night flight, looking out at the glow of the rising sun. This is a truly beautiful experience, even for a non-spiritual entity such as myself. I noticed a large white light in the sky. It was extremely bright... brighter than any star (save the sun) and I thought it curious. Then, while I was watching, it started moving. It dropped straight down in a nearly straight line. As I sat amazed, it stopped.. and then zoomed back up again! I know of no Earthly craft that could move that way. I was baffled.

And then I realized something. I was slouching in my seat, and I could not see the ground. I had no frame of reference. When the object zoomed back up, it was significantly to the right of its original position. The solution was simple... the plane had banked briefly to change course slightly , and the object I was observing, was the planet Venus.

Of course, most of you knew that I meant the literal definition of Unidentified Flying Objects, and of course they're real. "Unidentified" means simply that… the viewer doesn't know what it is. In this case, the object wasn't flying at all, but Venus remains one of the most common objects to be mistaken for something "other worldly." On second thought, I guess it is just that.


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