Read your Straight Dope regarding drive-up facilities for the "visually impaired" [May 20]. Your column starts off OK but then switches from "visually impaired" to just plain "blind," with comments that show typical gross insensitivity for the handicapped. Some who are legally blind and thus can't drive can see anywhere from marginally to quite well when close up to the subject. Your stereotype blind guy with opaque glasses and cane in your cartoon goes beyond insensitivity, in my opinion. As I'm one of the civil service bureaucrats who administer these rules, I'd suggest you tread lightly, if at all, on the handicapped, as they are organized and have representation that can bite pretty hard when they have been deliberately slighted or shorted. --Ron Tilley, Madison, Wisconsin
At the risk of sounding like Rush Limbaugh, amigo, put a sock in it. My main target in the column was the smart-ass letter writer, who thought it was funny that a drive-up machine had braille on it. I explained in language clear enough for anybody but a civil service bureaucrat to understand the perfectly good reason the braille was there. If you think that bespeaks "typical gross insensitivity" not only are you not qualified to administer rules, you probably shouldn't be left alone around sharp objects. As for the cartoon, while Slug Signorino may not be Mr. Sensitivity, how else are you supposed to identify a blind person in what is, after all, a caricature?
One more thing. Better watch those references to the "deliberately shorted." You might start getting letters like the one you just wrote from the vertically impaired.
Please be advised that this office represents Uri Geller, to whom you refer on pages 62-65 of Return of the Straight Dope. I will not bother to debate the majority of your statements regarding Mr. Geller's abilities.... What must be addressed is your incorrect assertions regarding Professor Will Franklin. [I said Franklin examined a ring Geller had allegedly bent psychically and found "evidence that a paranormal influence function was probably operative." I said he later confessed he'd misinterpreted what he saw, and subsequently committed suicide.] Professor Franklin never disavowed his findings regarding Uri Geller. He, in fact, remained convinced of Mr. Geller's abilities until the time of his death.... The enclosed letter, written by Professor Franklin only a few weeks before his death, will attest to that fact.... Moreover, Professor Franklin did not commit suicide. Rather, he died from complications due to diabetes.... Last year [Geller debunker James] Randi repeated his allegations regarding Professor Franklin's death in Japan. Mr. Geller sued Mr. Randi and won a judgment against him. It is not our desire to litigate this matter further or to drag you and Ballantine Books into court, despite the fact that clearly we would prevail on the merits. [However] the untrue allegations contained in your book ... must be retracted.... --Ruth Liebesman, attorney, New York
I can see this is going to be one of those days. I was misinformed regarding Professor Franklin's death, but never suggested in any way that Geller was responsible for it. On whether Franklin "disavowed his findings" about Geller, what I wrote was correct. I said, "Five years later Franklin publicly confessed he'd misinterpreted the test results; in fact, the fracture surfaces were easily explained." I quote from the Franklin letter you sent me: "I did not retract all that I said regarding the unusual nature of the metal fractures I examined! The fracture surfaces of the spoons are more ductile, have larger holes, and more "opening" than the control. However, I did make an error or misinterpretation of the Pt [platinum] ring.... [U]nfortunately, the ring (on a recent thorough reexamination) appears to have been broken at an incomplete braze. I'm extremely sorry for both your and my sakes that I goofed on this. But it does not change the facts that the spoons & needle had unusual fracture surfaces" (my emphasis). The context of my comment on Franklin's disavowal was that "a hasty electron microscope test proves little"; I said nothing about the spoons and needle, but referred only to the ring, regarding which Franklin admitted he was wrong. I'll be happy to ask Ballantine to add this correspondence to future printings of my book.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Slug Signorino.