The Sciences

A double military victory!

Bad AstronomyBy Phil PlaitJan 22, 2010 10:33 PM


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I am very, very pleased to write about two wins for the military and skepticism today: Story the first: Remember the company that made millions by selling totally worthless bomb-sniffing magic wands to the military, detectors that were used at checkpoints in Iraq to search cars, and which failed to detect the terrorist bombs used to kill 155 people in October and 120 more in December last year? Yeah, well, Jim McCormick, the head of the company that sold those useless dowsing rods, just got arrested for -- oh, let me savor typing these words -- "suspicion of fraud". Wait, wait. That felt so good to write, let me do it again: Jim McCormick, who sold provably worthless dowsing rods to the military, has been arrested for suspicion of fraud. Ahhhhh. That was just as good to type the second time.

This has been reported in The Register as well as The Times Online, which mentions Randi for an added bonus! The BBC has an in-depth analysis of this as well. In the courts, you are presumed innocent until proven guilty. But in this case, we have scientific evidence that the kits sold by the company are 100% garbage, and I hope this guy gets everything he deserves. And is McCormick penitent? Of course not! With apparently no sense of Teh Stoopid, he said:

We have been dealing with doubters for ten years. One of the problems we have is that the machine does look a little primitive. We are working on a new model that has flashing lights.

Holy wow. Serously, dude? I mean, really? Here's a clue, Mr. McCormick: it's not that your dowsing rods lack doodads and flair and blinking lights. It's that they don't frakking work, and because the Iraqi military swallowed your story people have died. I hope that's clear now. Story the second: Our second news item is also quite satisfying, and also has a bit of the cluelessness from a company that sells things to the military. Trijicon, the company that inscribed references to Bible quotations on rifle scopes sold to the military, has announced that they will no longer inscribe them, and will provide kits to the military to remove the references in existing scopes. Very cool. The military has rules forbidding proselytizing in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the rifle scopes were in clear violation of this. Of course, the company did this because of their concern over our troops and for the appearance of the military overseas, right? About that, the President of Trijicon, Stephen Bindon, said this:

Trijicon has proudly served the U.S. military for more than two decades, and our decision to offer to voluntarily remove these references is both prudent and appropriate.

As I read that, it translated in my head as, "We did this because we were suddenly getting tons of bad press, and had to do something about this PR disaster, so we can can make it look like we're being all altruistic and everything." Here's another free hint to the head of a company selling stuff to the military: don't thump your own chest and say how cool you are when we all know better. Simply admit your mistake, and let people know you're honestly sorry. Telling everyone what a great move this was on your part is maybe just a wee bit oily. So I'm really thrilled that rational and critical thinking has had two victories today. The fight continues, because the forces of irrationality are always, always on the march. So, for those of us fighting for reality:

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