Sunday, January 20, 2019

#2134: Kevin Purfield

Kevin Purfield is an insane conspiracy nut whose main claim to fame is being arrested, apparently for harassing the families of the victims of the Aurora shootings to tell them that their loved ones didn’t really die and that it was all part of a grand conspiracy. The reason he concludes it was a conspiracy is that it is all conspiracies. Purfield also has a youtube channel where he delves into them: 9/11 was a hoax, there are military bases on the moon and what have you. He has earlier been apprehended for trespassing at a shopping center while talking about teleportation and “security bases on the moon.”

Apparently Purfield has also been harassing the families of the Newtown shootings, calling them up to tell them that there was no shooting. This is, of course, a theme that has become so pervasive among fringe lunatics that it has even drawn the attention of mainstream media.

Diagnosis: Ok, so we are talking about diagnosed mental illness here, and we tend to avoid calling those out. But mental illness doesn’t quite absolve you from agency and responsibility. Probably ultimately harmless, but he was certainly not perceived that way (justifiedly so) by the families he harassed.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

#2133: Fred Pulver

Tachyons are theoretical particles or waves that travel faster than the speed of light, a recurring theme in popular science, and thus far without empirical support for their existence. New Age religions are religions, however, and have never cared for empirical support. So, according to Fred Pulver, not only is it the case that the “Tachyon Field supplies the energy needs of all living organisms until balance is achieved, then it eases until called upon again. As it is needed, and a depletion occurs, it rushes in until balance is achieved once again;” Pulver has also harnessed its energy. It’s like ormus. Just in case you run out of tachyon balance, you can buy one of his many takionic products (beads, belts, water). The products are of course called “takionic” since “tachyon”, being a common word, cannot be trademarked; “takionic” can.

He claims to have empirical evidence, though: “Motors have been built which draw upon the Tachyon Field for energy. They exhibit strange behavior, such as increasing in speed the longer they run, even though they are connected to no visible power source.” Well, it’s not empiricalempirical: no one has actually seenthe aforementioned motors. But how can you doubt someone who offers to restore your takionic balance for something as mundane as money? Moreover, “[t]akionic products, with their aligned atomic polarities, enhance the body’s natural ability to draw from the Tachyon Field for its energy needs. Athletes have discovered that Takionic products allow them to perform faster and longer, and shorten recovery time. As conduits for input from the Tachyon Field, Takionic products are proving themselves in the sports performance arena.” He probably just forgot to name said athletes due to sheer excitement over the results.

Oh, but there is more: Did you know that “[t]achyon theory is holistic”? Bet you didn’t. It is holistic “because it accepts the notion of two interdependent universes which are actually indivisible: the visible, sub-light speed universe and an invisible, faster-than-light one. Tachyon theory also substantiates omnipresence, a purely metaphysical concept. God is omnipresent (simultaneously existing everywhere). Omnipresent existence can only occur at faster-than-light speeds, since slower-than-light travel takes time to cross space. Therefore, omnipresence can only be an attribute of a Tachyon Universe where time and space are uniform.” This is not quite what “holistic” means, but we have at this point left the realm of coherence and sense behind a long time ago anyways, so why not? He can even explain the powers of healers: “Healers have learned to access the Tachyon Field’s resources for its healing powers more successfully than the average person has.” (Ok, so “explain” may be a bit too strong.) At least he’s got testimonials (some rather confused examples here), including an enthusiastic endorsement from Gary Null, no less.

He’s not the only one to tap the marketing potential of tachyons, though. There is at least also e.g. the, Advanced Tachyon Technologies (ATT) of Santa Rosa. They’ve got chakra balancing kits.

Apparently Pulver is also an expert on sanpaku, the idea that it is a symptom (or proof, or whatever) of physical and spiritual imbalance if the white of the eye can be seen between the pupil and the lower lid when the subject looks forward. The condition can ostensibly be cured by a macrobiotic diet. Apparently both JFK and Robert Kennedy were sanpaku, as was Marilyn Monroe. I suppose we’ll have to confirm with Barry Martin.

Do we all have to conform to the scientific method before we promote anything? Such rigidity seems counterproductive and illogical to me,” says Pulver when the scientific basis of his claims are questioned. Meanwhile, just to have it both ways, his website states that “[h]undreds of tests conducted on students and adults revealed that this unique headband improved their mathematical test scores by as much as 20-30%. The headband delays mental fatigue and heightens focus and concentration.” The tests are, of course, as unavailable for double-checking as the motors and athletes he claims to have observed.

Diagnosis: Seems to be a true believer, which is pretty incredible.

Hat-tip: skepdic

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

#2132: Ana Puig

Ana Puig is a Tea Party Operative who was appointed legislative liaison for the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue as part of Governor Tom Corbett’s attempt to turn “Pennsylvania’s state government into a favor mill for campaign supporters.” Puig, previously co-chair of and registered lobbyist for a local group called the Kitchen Table Patriots, had earlier argued that Obama was a Communist in the mold of Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, citing her own experience (as a native of Brazil) to argue for a “direct correlation between what’s happening in the United States and what has happened in Brazil and Latin America –  the implementation of 21st Century Marxism. In other words, a camouflaged statement for Communism.” She went on to claim that “21st Century Marxism” – which seems to mean whatever she disagrees with for whatever reason – would be implemented after “a liberal or progressive candidate [like Obama] is introduced to the masses as the messiah that is going to fix all problems imposed to them by evil capitalists.”

Apart from her red scare delusions Puig has been caught defending a Nazi memorabilia enthusiast in her organization as “a historian” and “an extremely smart person,” featured a blog promoting birther conspiracy theories and identified then-president Obama as a member of the Muslim Brotherhood on her group’s website. Not the least, she has spent a lot of warning of the creeping threat of Sharia law in the United States, which, of course, would be inconsistent with a communist takeover, but consistency is, as we all know, a liberal conspiracy. And of course, Puig and her group are climate change deniers, dismissing climate change as “fraud science backed by the mercenary alarmists in the scientific community and the U.N.

Diagnosis: So predictable, yet so stupid. Ana Puig is, of course, your standard green-ink conspiracy theorist, but for Gov. Corbett what mattered was apparently her ideological commitments and campaign contributions. The really scary thought is that, as long as ideological stance is what matters, it would actually have been difficult for him to find anyone more competent at this point. (Puig herself is, for the record, gone now).

Hat-tip: ThinkProgress

Sunday, January 13, 2019

#2131: Cindy Pugh

More state legislators. Cindy Pugh is former a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives representing District 33B in the western Twin Cities metropolitan area. Pugh is not a fan of marriage equality. Indeed, Pugh thinks that what LGBT activists are after is not really marriage equality – that’s a smokescreen – but “OUR First Amendment RIGHTS”, our religious freedom and freedom of speech (random capitalization in the original; Pugh is a fan of random capitalization). Because if she disagrees with someone, then those persons must be dishonest, therefore conspiracy.

Apparently, Pugh has previously associated with Bradlee Dean, and Pugh's group, the Southwest Metro Tea Party (co-founded with Michele Bachmann), has sponsored Bradlee Dean & Jake “McMillian” MacAulay movie nights, anti-Agenda 21 presentations (more here and here) and John Birch Society nights. She was, however, not the only Minnesota legislator who sought information and guidance from WallBuilders and their ProFamily Legislators’ Conference; we note Abigail Whelan for future reference.

In 2018, Pugh received some attention after she, together with two other wingnuts, claimed to have learned of a “plot to ‘mobilize Muslims to infiltrate our Republican caucuses’.”

Diagnosis: Deranged, lunatic conspiracy theorist. At least temporarily neutralized after losing her 2018 reelection bid, but there’s always a danger that she’ll pop up again, so its worth keeping track of her antics.

Friday, January 11, 2019

#2130: Scott Pruitt

A.k.a. King of the swamp

Ok, we’ll be (relatively) brief. Scott Pruitt, an Oklahoma lawyer, was Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from February 2017 to July 2018, at which point he was under at least 14 separate federal investigations by the Government Accountability Office, the EPA inspector general, the White House Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, and two House committees over his spending habits, conflicts of interests, extreme secrecy, and management practices. Almost a model representative of the Swamp, Pruitt’s main contributions while in office was to successfully partially dismantle his own agency and managing to take baldfaced corruption and misuse of government funds to cover personal expenses to almost unprecedented levels; randomly selected examples here, here and here (ok, that last one was only semi-randomly selected)). His main qualifications for his position, apart from being a Trump sycophant and zealous but deranged wingnut denialist, was his history of filing numerous lawsuits against the EPA over the better part of a decade, all of which had failed.

For our purposes, Pruitt’s main qualification for an entry here is his climate change denialism. In March 2017, Pruitt, who has no scientific background whatsoever, stated that he “would not agree that” carbon dioxide is “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see” since “measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact.” This is false, and also contradicts the EPA’s public stance, as stated on the website – though right after Pruitt’s announcement, the EPA also announced that the website “would be undergoing changes to better represent the new direction the agency is taking,” including “the removal of several agency websites containing detailed climate data and scientific information,” in particular those that contradicted Pruitt’s statement (some details of the changes are described here). A few days later, Pruitt fired a number of scientists from the agency’s 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors to replace them with industry representatives, and later in 2017, he purged the EPA advisory panels and forbade any scientist who receives a grant from the EPA from then serving on them. By December 2017 over 200 scientists had left the EPA, to be replaced with industry representatives more attuned to Pruitt’s own views. In March 2018, Pruitt proposed to restrict the EPA from considering research that relies on confidential information, such as medical data, apparently because of “scientific transparency”. It is safe to say that the motivation was not transparency. Pruitt and other agency heads also delayed the public release of the Climate Change Report within the National Climate Assessment, for obvious reasons.

His understanding of science, evidence assessment and critical thinking is brilliantly illustrated by his June 2017 suggestion, at a board meeting of the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity (a climate change denialist organization), that he would arrange public debates on the human role in climate change modelled after a “red team blue team” exercise, since scientific questions are best settled by rhetorical skills and charisma in brief political discussions. The reason for the format is of course a deliberate balance fallacy: to make it look like a debate between two equally respectable sides, as if there is no scientific consensus on the issue and that pseudoscientific denialism is on equal footing with regard to the evidence. 

During his tenure, Pruitt was also part of Ralph Drollinger’s weekly Bible study meetings for members of Congress and Trump’s Cabinet, which warned (among other things) that America is in the process of shifting from Christianity to the “false religion of Radical Environmentalism.” According to Drollinger, it is unbiblical to believe that mankind’s actions could destroy the Earth (also, “[t]o allow fish to govern the construction of dams, endangered species to govern power plants, flies to govern hospitals, or kangaroo rats, homes, is to miss the clear proclamation of God in Genesis”).

Of course, Pruitt’s poor grasp of science – and associated dismissal of it – is not restricted to climate science. Pruitt is also a creationist, saying that evolution “is a philosophical and not scientific matter” and claiming that “[t]here aren’t sufficient scientific facts to establish the theory of evolution.” Of course, Pruitt wouldn’t be able to distinguish a scientific fact from a deranged delusion if his life (or at least money) depended on it. He has also lamented that “minority religionsare pushing Christianity aside in the US (he had the backing of the religious right to the end, true to the religious right’s complete, systematic and proud lack of concern for ethical issues), advocated for Constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage and abortion, and claimed that when courts make decisions he disagrees with we are talking about a tyranny executed a “judicial monarchy.”

He resigned in July 2018, but his resignation hardly improved things.

Diagnosis: One of the most spineless, morally corrupt, deranged and dangerous people to walk the face of the Earth.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

#2129: Matt Pruitt

That there is a “Bigfoot Field Researchers’ Organization” isn’t really that surprising (director: one Matt Moneymaker, no less). That they don’t find anything isn’t particularly surprising either. In fact, it is even unclear whether “loon” is a fitting epithet for all of their members. Matt Pruitt, for instance, is a name we encountered through reports from his 2012 venture to find the Boggy Creek Monster, a Bigfoot relative, in Arkansas. Pruitt’s adventure involved a 31-squatcher strong expedition that was thwarted by a park ranger when it turned out that Pruitt had forgotten to apply for a park pass. Pruitt was given a $524 ticket. But then, the squatchers had paid him between $300 and $500 apiece for the privilege of having Pruitt lead them, so you should probably not feel sorry for him. 

Apparently he also runs a blog, and is a frequent interviewee for various cryptozoology outlets. He is also a “member of the North American Wood Ape Conservancy (NAWAC).”

Diagnosis: Very possibly not a loon at all. He still deserves a mention, though.

Hat-tip: Skeptophilia

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

#2128: Alan Pressman

We initially encountered Alan Pressman as a member of the board of directors of Purity Products (Jahn Levin’s group), a manufacturer and online pusher of homeopathic remedies and, in particular, dietary supplements and vitamin supplements (pseudovitamins, mostly) with a mission “to help you experience dynamic, vibrant health,” which sounds like an interesting health goal (would you really like your health to be “dynamic”?). We don’t know if he’s still affiliated with that group, but the association should give you an idea about where he is coming from. Pressman (a “DC, CNS, DAC, BN” – ah, alphabet soup) is a chiropractor and author of numerous books on nutrition, who currently runs the radio show Healthline, which is – to put it diplomatically – not a place to get your health information (unless your goal is to make your health “dynamic”, that is), as well as InVite Health (a telling name), a “unique health and wellness brand that combines innovative products, nutritional education, and a luxury retail store experience”. At least that last bit suggests that he isn’t even trying to hide what kind of venture we’re talking about. (Yes, InVite is a standard online supplement pusher.) Pressman himself has also served as Chairman of the Department of Clinical Nutrition and Professor of Nutrition Research at New York Chiropractic College, as well as Associate Professor of Bio-Nutrition at the University of Bridgeport, a naturopathic college.

According to the website, InVite’s products are developed by “healthcare experts who understand both the science behind vitamins and supplements,” but looking at their list of nutritionists and consultants, you’ll find precisely what you’d expect: a number of naturopaths, people affiliated with the Bridgeport institution. and holistic health coaches. The “science behind vitamins and supplements” is, of course, pretty clear; the InVite people don’t mean thatscience, though. 

But let’s just list some of those consultants for future reference, shall we? (Many of the names are followed by mysterious acronyms and information about certifications/association with organizations that receive sometimes less than 10 results on Google). They include:

-      Amanda Williams, who holds a doctorate in medicine from Xavier University in Aruba. That institution is described here. But rest assured: Williams “has successfully completed training as an instructor in Diabetes Self-Management through Stanford University” and “continues to obtain medical education credits through the American Academy of Anti-Aging”. It’s actually interesting that they offer this information on their website for everyone to see.
-      Claudia Guy, an ND.
-      Wilfredo Hernandez, who has a degree from the University of Bridgeport, and a FirstLine Therapy® Certification from Metagenics  detox nonsense. 
-      Kayanne McDermott, another ND and Bridgeport graduate.
-      Claire Arcidiacono, yet another ND, Bridgeport graduate, and an InVite Director of Nutrition. Dangerous.
-      Allie Might, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach who is “passionate about cleansing and detoxification”, which is, needless to say, not a particularly laudatory or attractive character trait.
-      Archana Gogna, a part-time instructor (focusing on “inflammation and which foods and supplements have the ability to naturally combat it,” which should be a one-word, two-letter class) at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts, an almost legendarily insane black hole of quackery. 
-      Kristina Smyth, who has “a Health Coach Certification from The Institute of Integrative Nutrition,” which is not something to be proud of. Neither is “member of National Association of Nutrition Practitioners” (any crackpot can be), whereas “member of American Association of Drugless Practitioners” (no drugs, plenty of supplements – the difference being that the latter are not FDA regulated) is downright frightening.
-      Nur Abulhasan, who “holds certifications in Integrative Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy and has been actively serving as a Holistic Health Coach,”
-      Asha Mattai, “an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach” who “graduated from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition”.

Diagnosis: They should be ashamed of themselves. They really should. They aren’t. Dangerous.