When will people learn?

So I’m watching one of those Lifetime movies with my wife and a commercial comes on for this woman, Lisa Williams, doing the whole Talking-to-the-Dead scam (no, no link–I just can’t bring myself to bring a scam artist’s site up in the Google ranks). After the Sci-Fi Channel finally stopped showing that hack con man John Edward, and it seemed like the whole cold reading phenomenon was at least going out of vogue, now up pops another head in this game of psychic Whack-A-Mole.

Billed as a "reality" series, it looks more like watching one of David Blaine’s lame specials as the cameras follow her around from one mark to the next. At one point in the commercial, she asks one man who David is, and his jaw drops. Of course, you know he’s going to end up saying, "Oh, she knew my father/uncle/whoever’s name was David!" No, she didn’t–she asked you who David was! (Does anyone really think they’re going to show the times where she gave out names that were wrong? Can anyone say "confirmation bias"?)

Unfortunately, Lifetime’s audience seems to be much less intelligent and sophisticated than that of the Sci-Fi Channel, and John Edward ran for years. Time to call in Penn & Teller, James Randi, Michael Shermer, the Center for Inquiry, etc. One more target on the range.

Ah, well. The skeptic’s work is never done…

Traffic lights make roads LESS safe

First, there was the data that showed that getting rid of speed limits made drivers safer and reduced fatalities. Then there was the finding that road signs make us less safe by lulling us into a false sense of security. Now, it appears that traffic lights unnecessarily slow down traffic and make us less safe as well, according to an article in The Telegraph:

Most traffic lights should be torn up as they make roads less safe, one of Europe’s leading road engineers said yesterday.

Hans Monderman, a traffic planner involved in a Brussels-backed project known as Shared Space, said that taking lights away helped motorists, cyclists and pedestrians to co-exist more happily and safely.

In this experiment, almost all of the traffic lights were eliminated from a Dutch town. There used to be a traffic fatality every three years; now, there are none.

There have been a few small collisions, but these are almost to be encouraged, Mr Monderman explained. “We want small accidents, in order to prevent serious ones in which people get hurt,” he said yesterday.

“It works well because it is dangerous, which is exactly what we want. But it shifts the emphasis away from the Government taking the risk, to the driver being responsible for his or her own risk.

“We only want traffic lights where they are useful and I haven’t found anywhere where they are useful yet.”

And it’s an advantage for both drivers and pedestrians:

Thus far, Drachten’s drivers and pedestrians have voted the experiment a success.

“I am used to it now,” said Helena Spaanstra, 24. “You drive more slowly and carefully, but somehow you seem to get around town quicker.”

Tony Ooostward, 70, was equally enthusiastic. “Everybody is learning. I am a walker and now you are the boss at the crossroads, everyone waits for you. But at the same time pedestrians wait until there are a number wanting to cross at the same time.”

Kanaan Jamal, 39, like many people in Drachten, uses a bike to get around. “It is very smooth — a lot better than other towns,” he said. The consensus is that the creation of uncertainty by taking away the lights and even in some places the road markings has worked.

You can read the entire article here.

81% vote against new tax!

I’m feeling a bit more faith in my home county. Yesterday, 81% of Lincoln County voters rejected the Special Tax Referendum, which would have imposed an additional 5 cents per $100 on property taxes, ostensibly for recreation facilities. Ordinarily, referenda pass almost blindly, usually by a landslide. Not this year. So, now will our commissioners and other Lincoln County officials finally get the idea that we don’t like being taxed as much as we are?

Also, Lincoln County voters defeated the Districting referendum by almost 60%. I’m so glad my fellow residents saw through the fraud that districting comprises. I can understand the appeal of districting, and how it seems to be a more fair way of doing things, but considering that we hadn’t even voted on it and the proposed districts were already gerrymandered, it seems that this referendum is best left dead.

You can see the election results for Lincoln County here.