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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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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Richard Dawkins Foundation charity victim of alleged embezzlement

October 23, 2010
Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science
Image via Wikipedia

In 2006, Richard Dawkins hired Josh Timonen to run the website for his organization, the Richard Dawkins Foundation and produce videos for him. And since 2007, Timonen has been doing that.

However, over three years, Timonen reported the website’s online store, the proceeds of which were to go to the foundation, only made $30,000 and “was just squeaking by.” But upon further inspection, Dawkins reported that in actuality, the online store made $375,000 while Timonen made off with 92% of the proceeds.

How does Timonen explain this discrepancy?

According to Timonen’s own records, Dawkins and the Foundation paid Timonen a total of $278,750 in 3½ years – an amount Dawkins calls “exceedingly generous and well above-market for someone of Timonen’s age and experience, particularly for someone providing the bulk of his efforts to a charitable organization.”
Dawkins says Timonen was “24 or 25 years old” when he hired him.

Dawkins says he found out about the scam this year, when the Foundation decided to wrest control of the store from Timonen.
Timonen handed over financial books that detailed his embezzlement, Dawkins says, including $500 meals, trips to Timberline Lodge in Oregon and the Malibu Beach Inn, and $314,000 in “salaries” paid to Timonen and his girlfriend -though Timonen and the Foundation agreed that the $278,000 it was aware of paying him would be his combined salary for running the store and performing his other duties.
Timonen’s “significantly older” girlfriend, defendant Maureen Norton, allegedly used at least $100,000 of the charity’s money to upgrade her Sherman Oaks home before she put it on the market.
A recent real estate listing describes improvements such as a “custom backyard pool and spa area with a wonderful waterfall and glass block fire pit plus custom seating for the ultimate outdoor living and entertaining experience,” according to the complaint.

When Dawkins discovered the embezzlement, he says, Timonen suddenly claimed he owned the intellectual rights to the store’s website, the Foundation logo and the DVDs that he sold through the store.
But Dawkins says anything Timonen created for the Foundation was “a work for hire, commissioned and paid for by plaintiffs.” Dawkins says he and the Foundation own the rights to everything Timonen created for them.

Wow. This kid’s got some balls.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 12.23.09

December 24, 2009

1. Mississippi named most religious state – The latest Pew Forum study showing the religious demographics of each state found Mississippi to be the most religous with 82% of the population. Apparently, it placed number one in worship attendence, frequency of prayer, and belief in god. My own home state of New Jersey was fortunately way down the list at #30, though I wish it were dead last at #46 (because of several ties), an honor that was reserved for both Vermont and New Hampshire. So congratulations to Vermont and New Hampshire for being the most godless states in the union! You guys rock!

Yes, I know these aren't chimps

2. Chimps have near-human understanding of fire

The use and control of fire are behavioral characteristics that distinguish humans from other animals. Now, a new study by Iowa State University anthropologist Jill Pruetz reports that savanna chimpanzees in Senegal have a near human understanding of wildfires and change their behavior in anticipation of the fire’s movement.

3. Top 10 scams of 2009 – All I can say is that this should be required viewing for everyone. Click the link.

4. Illinois comptroller candidate vandalizes atheist sign – Now granted, I don’t much care for the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s (FFRF) sign either. I believe it’s the same message verbatim that they used in Olympia, Washington last year that I thought was way too divisive for its public venue. But conservative candidate William J. Kelly has now violated the law and arguably has committed a hate crime by diliberately trying to turn the atheist sign in the Illinois Capitol building in Springfield upside down in protest. He was quite public about his desire to have it taken down prior to this, which makes it a premeditated action. Upon seeing him in the process of trying to pull off his stunt, police escorted him away.

Dan Parker of the FFRF knocked it out of the park with his response:

“We atheists believe that the nativity scene is mocking humanity,” by suggesting that those who do not believe in Jesus will go to hell, Barker said. “But notice that we are not defacing or stealing nativity scenes because we disagree with their speech.”

News From Around The Blogosphere 12.7.09

December 8, 2009

1. Studies suggest men really do have big egos…but also that women have small egos – This was the finding after an analysis of 30 different studies.

2. An elderly couple was conned out of $78,000 with a bogus lottery scam – As tragic as this is, it can at least serve as a teaching moment:

Sweepstakes, lottery and “person in need” scams are pervasive and on the rise, said Maria Audas, a spokeswoman for the S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs.

During the past fiscal year, the agency has seen a 50 percent increase in the number of complaint calls about swindles, Audas said.

“We’ve had a huge rise in many of these scams, especially the fake-check scams.”

The Tackeses received fraudulent checks with the names of well-known companies like GEICO, Marriott and Delta Air Lines.

“Nine times out of 10, they’re scammers that aren’t playing by any rules or regulations, and the feds often can’t even trace them,” Audas said. “There’s not much we can do at the back end, but if you catch credit card misuse, we can stop it.”

Money orders or wire transfers, however, are virtually untraceable.

“That’s why the scammers ask for your money that way,” she said. “In a case like that, getting the money back is not an option.”

There are more tips in the link.

3. Seattle Atheists pushing to get sign in Washington State Capitol Building – Last year, the rule change that allowed any group to put up a display in the Washington Capitol Building led to the Freedom From Religion Foundation putting up a sign that pissed a lot of people off. And it kinda pissed me off too because it was deliberately mean-spirited and seemed poorly conceived  when I thought they should have used the opportunity to promote a more inclusive message. But it was possibly effective in that the decision has been made this year to not allow any holiday displays inside the Capitol Building. But they are still allowing displays just outside the building. So far, only a Jewish group and the Seattle Atheists have applied.

And I’m very happy that the Seattle Atheists chose a far more inclusive message this time out:

“In this holiday season let us remember that kindness, charity and goodwill transcend belief, creed or religion. Happy Holidays, Seattle Atheists”

Now this is a display that I can get behind. Great job, guys.

4. An atheist goes undercover to gay conversion therapy sessions

An atheist, Ted Cox, spent the past two years going undercover as a gay man undergoing gay-to-straight therapy programs run by Christian groups (as if there were any other kind).

What he found was precisely what you would think: These programs do nothing to “convert” you from gay to straight. They just try to make you suppress your (gay) sexual urges. They make up their own “facts” — you’re not born with it, it’s the result of a traumatic childhood, Jesus can save you from The Gay, etc.

It clearly worked for Ted Haggard. Oh, wait.

Magic to duplicate your money

September 24, 2009

Three Victorian businesses were conned out of $160,000 in cash by two men who sold them a chemical they claimed could duplicate their money. The chemical formula turned out to be bleach, baby powder and hair spray. Suffice it to say, it didn’t duplicate their money. How were they duped?

Police said the men “demonstrated” their claim by placing a $100 note between sheets of black paper, which they described as “special material”, and pouring a liquid substance over the top.

When the sheets of paper were separated, a second $100 note was inside, which the businessmen verified as genuine at the bank.

All it took was a rather pedestrian magic trick. Man, I hate to see these guys’ reaction to seeing a magician tearing up a $20 bill and then making it whole again. They’d probably worship that magician like a god.

You’d think that it would cross their mind that if these people legitimately had a chemical that could not only duplicate money but violate the Law of Conservation of Matter, they wouldn’t need to sell it for $160,000. You’d also think businessmen couldn’t possibly be this gullible.

Then again, I do distinctly remember an episode of Duck Tales involving a ray gun that could duplicate objects, which was then stolen by the Beagle Boys for the purpose of duplicating money. And as everyone knows, if it happened in Duck Tales, it must be true.

I see soap-dropping in this psychic’s future

August 12, 2009

Psychic lies cost moneySenora Monica is ordinary self-proclaimed psychic. She reads your palm. She reads tarot cards. She interpret your dreams. She talks to the dead. She performs spells, counter spells, and love spells. She improves your sex life. She runs off with your money. She gives you fortune-cookie-quality advice.

Wait. What was that?

She gives you fortune-cookie-quality advice?

No before that.

She improves your sex life?

No, after that.

OHHH! She runs off with your money. Yeah, about that:

But some people who went to Senora Monica for tarot readings were also dupes into giving her their money so that she might “cleanse” it in exchange for a small fee. What they didn’t realize that the small fee was actually all of their money. And she didn’t so much “cleanse” it as “run off with it”. Now police are on the hunt for her. If you have any information about Senora Monica’s whereabouts, please call Lakewood police at 253-830-5000.

Man, if you can’t trust a self-proclaimed psychic, who can you trust?