The symbol of a blow-up doll on your December 31 Year in Review issue was particularly appropriate, since Westword is so often full of hot air.
It has been refreshing to move to a new city and discover original literary instincts in Westword. Just wanted to let you know that you have a bent that is so easy to embrace and a wit that has led to more than a little laughter. Kudos to the staff of Westword.
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To Tell the Truth
I read Tony Perez-Giese's December 24 "An Honest Living," about the use of polygraphs, with great interest. I am left with the impression that the article advocates the use of polygraphs to detect lies. This disturbs me greatly. The article appears to argue that the computerization of polygraph results increases their reliability and that if the operators were better trained, it would become a very useful investigative tool. This, I believe, is a very flawed conclusion. One of the oldest aphorisms in computer science is "Garbage In--Garbage Out." If the input to a computer is junk, one can be assured that the output will be.
I refer the interested reader to an article I wrote for the May/June 1992 Rocky Mountain Skeptic titled "Truth or Consequences." It details the history of the polygraph, its pseudoscientific basis and pertinent references. I do not see how any of the information in my article is rendered useless by the introduction of a computer for judging polygraph results. Perez-Giese's article mentions work at the University of Utah that was done to increase the reliability of polygraph interpretation; I would be interested in obtaining any citations Perez-Giese might have on the mathematical basis for such work. This research appears to have been completed about the time that the Office of Technology Assessment stated, "A good examiner scares the crap out of you. It's theater." A polygraph has generally been used to convince the person under scrutiny that the machine is infallible, thereby eliciting a confession. The latest innovation is nothing but a bluff with a computer attached.
In recent years, there are some cases where women reporting rape are required to take a polygraph test prior to completing paperwork at their local police station. Perez-Giese's statement that "most Colorado police departments and DA's offices have staff polygraphers" only increases my concern. Any use of a polygraph--in my view--is no better than using medieval methods to locate a witch. I do not think that your article serves the best interest of Westword's readership.
You ought to check out the book A Tremor in the Blood: Uses and Abuses of the Lie Detector, by David Thoreson Lykken, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Minnesota Medical School. The book was published by McGraw-Hill in 1981. It is probably out of print now, but perhaps the library or Tattered Cover could get it for you.
Similarly, remember that Aldrich "Rick" Ames, who was selling information to the KGB and its successor in Russia, the MBRF, passed CIA "lie detector" tests in both 1986 and 1991 when he was routinely "fluttered" by the agency. He held "top secret" clearance for 31 years and operated for nine years in charge of counterintelligence on Soviet/Russian intelligence in Russia!
Never agree to take a "lie detector" test: You can only be hurt, whatever your innocence!
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The Plains Truth
As an Arapahoe County planning commissioner for the past eight years representing the eastern plains, I took more than a passing interest in Stuart Steers's December 24 "A Dunn Deal." I am grateful for your publication's enlightening exposure of what is surely the strangest proposal I have ever had to vote on in my many years of service.
John Dunn's work toward accountability of the counties involved is to be commended, although the Kiowa County resolution, extending their moratorium on application of sludge/biosolids containing radioactive materials or hazardous waste, is certainly far more prudent. Having sent numerous communications to my other planning commissioners, the Arapahoe County commissioners and my congressman, Bob Schaffer, that have been entirely ignored, I remain extremely frustrated at the lack of response to this issue by my county.
Professor Adrienne Anderson's persistence in this matter has been a constant source of inspiration and encouragement that might yet bring some sanity to a discussion that has heretofore been baffling, to say the least. Efforts to keep the populace in the dark about lacing the food chain with radio-nuclides and potentially contaminating adjacent live springs that connect to the Laramie Foxhill aquifer have been the key to the Metro Wastewater Reclamation District's success thus far. No doubt George Orwell would have been proud of Metro's Steve Pearlman and the Environmental Protection Agency's Marc Herman, who have taken torturing language to new heights in their claims that their plan is "safe" and "effective."