Magic Wands Do Not Detect Bombs
Greetings to you, old friends, and welcome once more to the Snake Oil Bulletin! Our coverage this week takes us to international waters, to the mystical Bush-besmirched land of Iraq. After terrible tragedy striking the nation less than two weeks ago, it shouldn't surprise anyone that the Iraqi government has decided to make some major changes to their military to try and prevent an attack like the one in Baghdad from ever happening again.
What might surprise you, though, is that the Iraqi government's first program on the chopping block is apparently their Ministry of Magic. Let's take a gander at how magic wands somehow became a talking point in the aftermath of a terrorist bombing.
The Iraqi military FINALLY stops using magic wands to detect bombs. No, really.
Today's bulletin is something of a somber tale, because this week's woo maybe possibly actually has led to the deaths of over 4,000 people over the last nine years. A little over a week ago, Iraq suffered one of its most devastating bomb attacks in almost a decade when 157 people were killed in a suicide bombing. The attack is one of the most devastating in recent Iraqi history, which says a lot about how destabilized and vulnerable to ISIL the nation has become over the last decade (GEE, WE WONDER WHY).
In the wake of the attack, the Iraqi prime minister finally demanded the removal of the Iraqi military's primary means of bomb detection: dowsing rods.
You heard us. For close to nine years now, the Iraqi military has been using magical, psychic-powered sticks to "detect" bombs. Not only did their bomb detection rely entirely on magic, but they continued to use the rods even after the man who sold them to the military was convicted of fraud for selling those exact rods. That conviction was THREE YEARS AGO.
From 2007 to 2010, the Iraqi government purchased about 6,000 units of the so-called ADE 651 from a company headed by English businessman James McCormick. McCormick managed to sell these so-called bomb detectors to the militaries of several different countries before he was finally caught and convicted of fraud. McCormick sold the detectors to various high-value targets for between $40,000 and $60,000 a piece (though his advertised price was about $18,000, which is a pretty damn substantial mark-up for a dick rod). McCormick claimed that the "machines" could detect anything, and we mean anything:
McCormick had claimed the devices could bypass "all forms of concealment", detecting drugs and people along with explosives, the court heard. He claimed they would work under water and from the air, and would track an object up to 1km (3280ft) below the ground.
The bomb detectors came with cards which were "programmed" to detect a wide array of substances, from ivory to $100 banknotes. Other substances could be detected, it was claimed, if put in a jar with a sticker which would absorb its "vapours" and was then stuck on a card that would be read by the machine.
If your bullshit detectors have not wildly swung to the STEAMING PILE side of the dial yet, wait until you hear what the mechanism was that made the devices "work."
In reality, McCormick's device was based on $20 (£13) golf ball finders which he had purchased from the US and which had no working electronics.
NO WORKING ELECTRONICS.
You thought we were joking earlier when we called them magic sticks, right? Oh no. There was literally NOTHING to the device other than a stick.
By the time McCormick was done fleecing the Iraqi government for the ADEs (appropriate name), he had stolen between 70 and 85 million dollars from the cash-strapped fledgling nation (we've seen conflicting reports of the total, but it's still a FUCKTON of money). McCormick was such a raging dickhole that he even charged the Iraqi government more than triple the normal sale price for each of the sticks. In Trump World, that would be considered a terrific deal.
The UK government blocked all sales of the devices in 2010, and convicted McCormick of fraud in 2013. The Iraqi government continued to use the nonsense rods for three years before this most recent catastrophe finally hit home that THEY DON'T WORK. All in all, over the nine-year span that the rods were in use, about 4,000 people died from preventable bomb explosions in Iraq. You'd think one death would have been enough for the government to throw out the whole deal, but apparently the Iraqi government operates on your dad's policy on moldy food: He spent the damn money on it, and you are going to use it! So what if it removes one of your legs in the process? Rub some Pepto on it and quit whining.
Now you may be wondering what exactly we mean by dowsing rods. Did you ever see in old history books some silly little peasant or pilgrim using one of these?
That's a dowsing rod. If the knobbled bark didn't give it away, dowsing is garbage. It's a ridiculous superstition based on a complete lack of knowledge about the ideomotor effect, in which our bodies make slight, involuntary movements without our brains being consciously aware of it. It's the same reason the $15 piece of plastic that comes in your Hasbro Ouija board seems to move on its own: It isn't moving on its own; you just don't realize that you're moving it where you want. Let's allow Yr Volpe's personal hero, James Randi, to debunk dowsing with far more aplomb and grace than our foul mouths could muster:
All this comes to our main point: Woo kills people. Believing in poppycock, especially poppycock that has been proven to be fake, leads to people's deaths. We'll never know how many people could have been saved over the last nine years had the Iraqi government not been scammed, and then had dropped their dowsing project after it was proven to be a fraud. We would never gloat over dead bodies because that is simply crass, but we will sternly warn that allowing garbage like this to fester leads to real pain for real people.
And speaking of garbage...
Kevin Trudeau's check-writin' hand all tuckered out, whines about it to SCOTUS
Our second story involves the return of a true Snake Oil artisan, Kevin Trudeau -- auteur, visionary, reigning champion of Le Grand Art de Merde.
Trudeau's bullshit bona fides include such diverse titles as Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About, Debt Cures “They” Don't Want You to Know About, and the seminal classic The Weight Loss Cure “They” Don’t Want You To Know About. The latter book is an especially astounding feat in the field of nincompoopery. Few other weight loss books could offer both immediate results and the risk of almost immediate death due to its 500 calorie a day diet. The plan also involved several hours of exercise each day (despite claims that it required "no exercise") and the regular injection of hormones so rare they were only found in pregnant women. Trudeau's book claimed that this ridiculous diet plan was safe, easy, and inexpensive, all of which were provably false claims because duhhhh.
After numerous run-ins with the law, during which he was told repeatedly to stop lying in his books, on the teevee, and probably on his Plenty of Fish profile, Trudeau was finally sentenced to 10 years in prison on criminal contempt charges. In addition, the judge ordered that Kevin Trudeau was to personally refund his customers some $37.6 million he owed in a civil penalty by writing checks to all 800,000 of them, first for $11, and then for the remainder of the bill once they'd deposited the first check.
Apparently Trudeau's carpal tunnel has finally set in from writing all those checks, because he's made the in-his-mind not-dumb decision to take his appeal to the Supreme Court. Trudeau had previously appealed his conviction, claiming that he had been denied a speedy trial, a claim that the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals spiked into the ground like a volleyball last February. Now Trudeau's legal team (no doubt just as inexpensive as Trudeau's diet) has released a 184-page petition begging the SCOTUS to take up their case and hopefully overturn the appeals court decision. They claim that, once again, Trudeau was denied a speedy trial because Ehhh, c'mon. Look at this mug ova here. That's a mug that loves his mutha, ah?
The truth is we don't speak legalese, and the Wonkette lawyer is probably so neck-deep processing cute babby pics to be submitted as evidence in Wonkette's upcoming criminal cuteness lawsuit that we'll never fish her out in time to analyze this muck. We'll let the folks at Consumerist sum it up for us:
The petition argues that the nation’s various federal appeals courts have differing opinions on whether or not criminal contempt is a Class A felony, and that only SCOTUS can resolve this dispute among the circuits. Depending on how the highest court answers this question — if it agrees to hear the appeal — Trudeau’s team contends that prosecutors may not have abided by the relevant timeline for bringing the contempt case to trial.
Trudeau’s team also argues that different appeals courts have differing views on what constitutes willful contempt. They are hoping that SCOTUS resolves that disagreement in a way that would result in an acquittal for the unrepentant scam artist.
In summary: Ehhhh blah blah blah poop buy my book blah.
Trudeau has made a living on stoking fear of The Man. The nebulous "They" of his book titles no doubt includes the very legal system he is now petitioning to rescue him from white guy spa prison, so good luck getting their help when they're so committed to COVERING UP THE TRUTH BUY MY BOOK. We wish Kevin luck in this latest spurious waste of the court's time, because even on the one in a gadrillion chance that he does get off on this technicality, Trudeau is such a dyed-in-the-wool con artist that it's less a matter of days and more a matter of minutes before he's hauled back in front of a judge for violating the terms of his release AGAIN. This is the man who decided to follow his court order to not sell anything on teevee again by buying up enough infomercial space to make QVC blush. May he rot in his cell.
And give us back our refund, deadbeat.