Classic scam rejected on ‘Shark Tank’

March 2, 2012

Having worked in reality television, I can’t watch reality television. But fortunately, Skepchick drew my attention to this clip from the show Shark Tank, where Mark Cuban called out a deliberate scammer.

The scammer, Ryan Naylor, attempted to get investors for his Power-Balance-like “applied kinesiology” wrist bands.How do we know he’s a deliberate scam artist and not just a naive fool? Well because he demonstrates the product on one of the sharks using an infamous applied kinesiology trick that requires deliberate deception.

The Australian Skeptics demonstrated and exposed these tactics years ago by showing exactly how its done:

I’m glad all the sharks rejected this fraudulent product but I’m especially proud of Mark Cuban for calling it out as a scam on network television immediately. Well done. This is a great example of applied skepticism in the media.

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Psychic Sally exposed as a fraud

October 12, 2011


Back in the 80’s, James Randi exposed “faith healer” Peter Popoff as a charlatan on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. It seemed that Popoff was being fed information about his audience by his wife through an earpiece. When Randi and company found the right frequency, they managed to record Popoff’s wife feeding her husband everything he needed to know to appear as though “God” was directing him to the specific person he was to “heal.”

The earpiece has been a common tactic for those pseudo-psychic mentalists who are just too lazy to cold read and just want to have everything they need to know spoon-fed to them. Now  one such lazy “psychic” is Psychic Sally Morgan, who is clearly spotted in HER OWN VIDEO removing a hidden earpiece at the end of her act.

Of course, coward that she is, she’s actually threatening her accusers with legal action. I for one hope she does. It will be very entertaining listening to her try to prove her magic powers in court…which of course she would have to do in a defamation suit because, among other requirements, defamation cases demand that the defendants’ accusations are actually false. She’d also have to prove the defendants knowingly lied. Good luck with that, Sally. It doesn’t take a psychic to figure out that her threats of legal action are empty and that, if carried out, would only end in embarrassing defeat for her.

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Insane Troll Logic 6.13.11

June 13, 2011

Uh oh! It seems I’ve pissed off the Shakespeare Deniers, the least ridiculous form of denialism of them all. I considered putting out an all Shakespeare Denialism edition of my Insane Troll Logic series two weeks ago but so many trolls showed up all of a sudden on my one and only piece referencing that particular form of woo that it’s better I just link to that entry so those who are interested can read through the full comments section themselves and enjoy them in all their glory.

But this entry in the series will just focus on my most recent comment from commenter Smith on my ever-unpopular troll-attracting piece on Quantum Jumping:

It is mind boggling how pathetic you haters sound out there. The guy is NOT (i repeat for you morons out there, NOT) trying to rip anyone off, he states himself that this method is not a scientific breakthrough, and that he looks upon it himself as a placebo effect in itself.

This is a form of meditation that COULD work but only if you allow your brain to really focus. Admittedly, it is unfair to label this as tapping into alternate realities, because while those may exist, we will need more than placebo effects to tap into them. However, this does nothing to rip the people off. It is not the guy’s fault if some people are stupid enough to buy the cd and not believe in the stuff they are doing. It is the person behind the meditation that has the power to focus.

Now, i am not going to attempt to pretend that alternate realities is the foundation of this meditation (every product has a silver lining of bullshit), but in a way, it could be useful if you let it relax your mind. What most people need is relaxation and the motivation these days. If you go look at most successful people, you will find their childhoods filled with the fighting of evil forces that try to pin down their hopes and eradicate their self motivation, but they push it back.

This is not meant for laughter, those of you who stupidly criticize this product truly have no significant value of self worth, you are people who demand spoon feeding, people who wait for something to do the work for them. It will not kill you if you tried to meditate and used your brain to achieve success rather than come online and bitch about placebo effects when you don’t know what the hell you are talking about.

But for the morons out there, the placebo effect is a powerful one indeed, and if scientists told you that a device had been invented and it would tap into alternate realities, and they strapped it onto your head, you would never realize it was made of plastic. If you truly believe in something, there is a way to make it happen.

Anyone who labels this a scam or a piece of undignified crap, needs a reality check. Your poor judgement’s often reflect your own flaws, and weaknesses. You make excuses like (some people bought this crap). But it is not money that is the issue, as we all know, we can get this stuff for free if we need it. You just refuse to believe flat out in self meditation. The joke is on the poor bastards who come here and try to sound smart in any significant way.

This is nothing new, every product you buy (including the laptop you used to write down your bullshit), has some lie to it. But in the world of quantum physics, you have no lie or truth, because as of today, nothing has been proven completely. Either use it for benefits, or stop humiliating yourselves.

It’s mind-blowing how many people will so passionately defend an unambiguous scam, especially one that you claim the scam artist freely admits is a scam. That’s what attributing results to the placebo effect means. It’s a subtle way of avoiding responsibility to actually deliver promised results using a term that most laypeople don’t understand. And nowhere on at least the main page of his website does he mention the placebo effect. What he DOES do on the first page is reference at least a dozen of the greatest scientific minds in history and try to suggest their findings somehow validate his pseudo-scientific claims when they most certainly do not by any stretch of anyone’s imagination.

“This is a form of meditation that COULD work but only if you allow your brain to really focus.”
Again, no it can’t. He’s not saying this is all in your head as you imagine a fictional conversation with a fictional alternate version of yourself. He’s literally claiming “thought transference” with a literal version of yourself from a literal alternate dimension.

Bert’s website goes on to say:
“Quantum Theory suggests that our physical reality is nothing but a very elaborate mirage. A super-hologram of information and energy. A Matrix.”
Quantum Theory says no such thing and The Matrix is a FICTIONAL movie. I’ve seen Keanu Reeves in person. He can’t really dodge bullets. That was just a movie.

“It is not the guy’s fault if some people are stupid enough to buy the cd and not believe in the stuff they are doing. ”
Actually, it is his fault for charging people for a service he knows he can’t possibly provide and deliberately deceiving people by exploiting scientific ignorance. This is a criminal offense known as fraud. I have no problem with people meditating to lower their blood pressure or just to relax; meditation is free. What Burt is selling is not simple meditation but a pseudo-scientific scam.

“you are people who demand spoon feeding, people who wait for something to do the work for them.”
No, we’re people who demand companies comply with fair business practices and don’t cheat their customers. I fail to see how any thinking person could interpret that as unreasonable.

“It will not kill you if you tried to meditate and used your brain to achieve success rather than come online and bitch about placebo effects when you don’t know what the hell you are talking about. ”
Fortunately, our criminal system doesn’t demand that victims actually die before justice and appropriate remedies can be served. Not so fortunate, however, for guys like Bernard Madoff and Burt.

“If you truly believe in something, there is a way to make it happen.”
This is called delusion. It’s not a good thing.

“Anyone who labels this a scam or a piece of undignified crap, needs a reality check. ”
Oh, do tell.

“But it is not money that is the issue, as we all know, we can get this stuff for free if we need it. ”
Oh, well as long as Burt’s only stealing a little money for his bullshit services, that’s okay. You must have attended one hell of a good law school.

“You just refuse to believe flat out in self meditation. ”
Um, no. I’m actually a fan of meditation. What I’m much less of a fan of is assholes who exploit scientific ignorance to scam the public and those who shamelessly defend them.

“This is nothing new, every product you buy (including the laptop you used to write down your bullshit), has some lie to it.”
This is called the tu quoque fallacy. Just because everyone else is doing it, it doesn’t make it okay. I also categorically reject your false equivalence between what might be tiny lies and big honking nonsense piled on top of a foundation of total bullshit that contributes to the overall scientific ignorance of the public.

“But in the world of quantum physics, you have no lie or truth, because as of today, nothing has been proven completely.”
Quantum physics–you keep using those words; I do not think they mean what you think they mean.

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‘Faith Healer’ Peter Popoff caught on camera…again

June 10, 2011

Many years ago, James Randi exposed the disturbing truth about Peter Popoff on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, that Popoff was the worst kind of fraud, one who preys on desperate people’s most sacred beliefs while giving them false hope of miracle cures to their often uncurable diseases:

After being exposed, Popoff disappeared for a while, only to return years later peddling the same old sham faith healing.

But now agents from the Center For Inquiry have infiltrated Popoff’s show with recording equipment that captured Popoff shamelessly up to his old disgusting tricks as well as them giving out tracts exposing Popoff’s trickery to audience members on their way out:


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News From Around The Blogosphere 5.23.11

May 23, 2011 - HBO Post-Emmys Party, Pa...

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1. Actor Paul Giamatti identifies himself as an atheist – Yup, in keeping with centuries of Jewish tradition, Mr. Giamatti doesn’t believe in any gods. He even goes further than many other celebrity atheists in that he’s not afraid to even use the label “atheist.”

2. Australian distributor of Power Balance bracelets goes out of business

The Australian distributor of the controversial Power Balance wristbands will be placed into receivership today, with the owner of the business saying that sales have “evaporated” since the business provided undertakings to the ACCC to stop claiming the wristbands could improve balance, strength and flexibility.

Power Balance Australia owner Tom O’Dowd has exclusively told SmartCompany that while he had been “naive” in thinking that the business would not by [sic] subject to laws surrounding the regulation of health products, the ACCC’s aggressive stance against the products effectively killed off any survival hopes.

3. 60 Minutes reports on Lance Armstrong scandal – Last week, I defended a piece by 60 Minutes about the cult group calling themselves Sovereign Citizens, but this week, I’m taking issue with one of their stories. Now I haven’t been following the investigation into possible use of performance-enhancing drugs among professional bicyclists, nor the particular accusations against Lance Armstrong. But it seems to me, at least as it was presented on 60 Minutes, that the real story here is an abuse of government power. From what I could tell, the entire investigation has turned into a witch hunt based not on any empirical evidence, but on nothing more than hearsay.

Now maybe Armstrong cheated and maybe he didn’t. I have no clue, nor any commitment to either conclusion. Certainly, as with any professional athlete, there is a clear motivation to cheat…at least as long as one  can keep it a secret, as exposure would almost certainly destroy one’s career. But if federal officials couldn’t even nab Al Capone for anything other than tax evasion, why is it that they can potentially bring down Lance Armstrong without anything other than the testimonies and conspiracy theories of people who may have a grudge against him?

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Power Balance bracelets debunked on CBS

May 16, 2011

Steven Novella and Project Alpha alumni/mentalist Banachek expose these bracelets for the shameless scams that they are.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Power Balance bracelets debunked on CBS, posted with vodpod
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Derren Brown exposes the faith healers by inventing his own

April 28, 2011

News From Around The Blogosphere 4.26.11

April 27, 2011

1. God is dead – Okay, not really because there is not such entity. But Sri Satya Sai Baba, a man who millions worship like a god because he fools them into believing he can perform miracles with simple parlor tricks is dead. I must say that if not for Sam Harris, I might not have even been familiar with this shamless con artist. Good fuckin’ riddance. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving individual.

2. Scientists anoint new fly queen – If your as sick of hearing about that bloody royal wedding in limey-land as I am, you’ll probably enjoy this news item:

Masaki Kamakura, a biotechnology researcher in Japan, has identified the protein in royal jelly that turns female worker bees into queen bees, which are larger in size, more fertile, and live longer. So, like anyone else would do upon making this discovery, he tried to turn a regular fly into a queen fly. And it totally worked. It’s a huge discovery in the study of insects:

I guess that makes it the lord of the flies. Now if only we can figure out how to turn Anne Hathoway into the Queen of England. Don’t just sit there. Get on it, scientists!

3.  Measles outbreak linked to one unvaccinated person

Nine cases in the state have been linked to exposure to one unvaccinated person who contracted the disease in Poland, according to the Salt Lake Valley health department. Epidemiologists have determined that the person exposed as many as 1,000 people this month.

Measles are so contagious that if one person has it, 90 percent of those near that individual will become infected if they are not immune.

There’s also  a major measles outbreak in Europe:

The World Health Organization said Thursday that France had 4,937 reported cases of measles between January and March – compared with 5,090 cases during all of 2010. In all, more than 6,500 cases have been reported in 33 European nations.

Another wonderful vision of a what the world will look like if ruled by anti-vaccine nuts.

4. “New” Atheist open letter strikes a nerve – The other day, Dr. Jerry Coyne wrote an open letter to the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) and British Centre for Science Education (BCSE), criticizing them for going out of their way to criticize more confrontational atheists. This led a number of such prominent atheists to responding in favor of Coyne’s position such as PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins. And now Roger Stanyard of the BCSE is firing back with a complete straw man position that just demonstrate how irrational the critics of confrontational atheists are when it comes to this one issue. His claim is that we want these organizations to embrace atheism when I don’t know anyone making that claim. I, like Myers and Dawkins, just want to see these organizations to leave religion out of the discussion entirely and remain entirely neutral on the subject. That’s all.

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Conversations with dead people

March 28, 2011
William Shatner and Patricia Breslin in "...

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I just got a distressing comment on an old piece I did about bogus psychics claiming to be able to communicate with the ghost of Michael Jackson beyond the grave. The comment distressed me so much I decided to re-post it along with my reply in a separate piece here.

First the comment:

Hi..i am 15 and i am sort of sensitive. I have predicted things before they happen in my dreams before. I had a dream when i was younger that my mom had to go to the hospital becausse something happened with her leg. I told my dad about it the next morning and sure enough i got a call from her. My loved ones have also came to me in my dreams. I was just wondering if you could contact my oma (grandma) for me. She died when i was very young and i miss her so much. I dont understand why she had to die when i was that young. I just need to know if shes stilla round me. Also can you ask her if i will ever see spirits like you???

-shannon : )

This perhaps summarizes better than I could ever articulate the harm caused by these alleged psychics, these grief-rapists, who prey on people at their most vulnerable. I was reminded of that great Twilight Zone episode, Nick of Time, where William Shatner plays a man who becomes almost hopelessly obsessed with a penny fortune-telling machine that appears to really foretell the future. The obsession almost takes over his life:

Here was my responnse to Shannon:

Shannon, it is not my intent to sound harsh or mean but unfortunately everyone has had that dream. On a long enough time line, everyone eventually has an occasional dream that seems to correspond to an event that happens soon after. There’s nothing paranormal about.

Unfortunately, as difficult as it must be to accept, your grandmother is gone. No one…NO ONE can communicate with her and if someone tells you they can, they are either lying to you or are lying to themselves.

You don’t need some charlatan to tell you what you want to hear, that your grandmother is up in heaven somewhere looking down on you and loves you very much. Without any magical powers, I can say with strong confidence that your grandmother loved you. And much as we might want to believe that our loved ones are not really gone and are out there somewhere because we’re scared about the finality of death, there is a beauty in death. If existence lasted forever it would lack any real value. So while I cannot say for certain that death is the end, I think the best way to live is under the assumption that this is all we get and to live this life to the fullest and with a view towards helping to leave the world better than when we found it.

You don’t need your grandmother to live a happy, healthy, productive, and wonderful life. And you certainly don’t need some crook to charge you for the service of lying to you no matter how pleasant those lies are. My advice is that you move on and live the best life you can while taking the time to appreciate your loved ones in the here and now.


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News From Around The Blogosphere 1.30.11

January 30, 2011

1. Homeopaths and chiropractors invade Tanzania – One thing that medical science has firmly determined is that homeopathy and chiropractic are not legitimate treatments for pretty much anything. And among the long list of conditions these two pseudo-sciences cannot in fact treat is AIDS. And yet practitioners of both voodoo medicines are traveling to Tanzania to bring false hope to AIDS patients.

2. Anthony Hopkins slips skepticism into ‘The Rite’ – It seems Jody Foster wasn’t the only atheist starring in The Silence of the Lambs. In a recent interview promoting the latest alleged “inspired by true events” knock-off of The Exorcist titled The Rite, Hopkins revealed that as an atheist, he didn’t feel completely comfortable playing a character he couldn’t personally identify with and so managed to write some dialogue for his character that encourages skeptical thinking. Here’s how Hopkins explains his additions:

There’s a scene in the courtyard after the first exorcism, and I’m talking to the young priest [played by] Colin O’Donoghue, who in his character has grave doubts about [exorcisms]. He thinks it’s all a bag of tricks, he thinks it’s all mumbo jumbo and maybe there’s no such thing, which is the debate: Is there such a thing as anthropomorphic presence of the devil or is it mental disturbance? That’s the debate, I guess, in the film and probably in the world.

And after that I say to him the problem with skeptics and atheists, is that we never know the truth. We’re always trying to find the truth. What would we do if we found it? And I asked [director Mikael Håfström] if I could write that line. To describe myself as an atheist, as a skeptic which makes the young priest turn [and say], “You?”, and I go, “Oh yeah, every day I struggle. Most days. Some days I don’t know if I believe in God or Santa Clause or Tinkerbell.”

3. NBA players sued over Power Balance endorsements – Power Balance bracelets have been debunked as a fraud and recently even the company making them was forced to admit the scientific claims they make are unproven. But what’s interesting is that now two NBA players, Boston’s Shaquille O’Neal and Los Angeles’ Lamar Odom, who endorsed the bracelets have been brought into a class action suit against Power Balance. I for one think this sets a wonderful legal precedent as for too long, athletes have been allowed to use their influence to profit off of any endorsement deal they sign without any accountability or fear of negative consequences. Of course, if they endorsed a brand of cigarette or any product that was known to directly cause serious health problems , they probably would get a lot of heat for it, but not for something like Power Balance that doesn’t cause any direct physical harm but simply doesn’t really perform the service it promises. Now maybe athletes will think twice before accepting just any endorsement that comes their way.

4. Help me Kinect. You’re my only hope. – Scientists are working on holographic technology similar to what we’ve seen in Star Wars and have even put together a short demonstration of the technology featuring a reenactment of the famous Princess Leia holographic message to Obi Wan Kenobi. You can see that demonstration in the link above.

5. Artificial retinas see well enough to balance a pencil – This will no doubt play a critical role in the evil plots of Skynet/the Cylons/the Replicants/Agent Smith’s.

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