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.


Sunday, January 6, 2019

#2127: Michele Presnell

Michele Presnell represents the 118thdistrict in the North Carolina General Assembly (yes, them again). Presnell is against Muslim prayers because “I do not condone terrorism.” Some background: Presnell co-sponsored of North Carolina’s proposed (since dropped), unconstitutional 2013 resolution to establish Christianity a state religion, and made the claim about Muslim prayers in response to a constituent asking her, in an attempt to probe her capacity for empathy with those who do not share her religious views, whether she would “be comfortable with a public prayer to Allah before a legislative meeting in Raleigh.” In an attempt to explain her answer (and defend the resolution), Presnell said – sadly but entirely predictably – that “we just need to start taking a stand on our religious freedom or it will be whisked away from us.” “Religious freedom” means religious freedom for herand freedom for anyone else to share her religious views whether they want to or not.

Diagnosis: Fundie nincompoop. Delusional and dangerous.

Friday, January 4, 2019

#2126: Burt Prelutsky

“Columnist for the WND” is not a badge of honor, but Burt Prelutsky is one and has none. As a fundie wingnut with a persecution complex, Prelutsky is very concerned about the marginalization and persecution of Christians in the US. As evidence for such (widespread) persecution and marginalization, Prelutsky cites for instance the, well, claim that when conservative politicans are criticized for their political views it is really intended an attack on their religion. Which, for course, is merely a restatement of the hypothesis. A tendency to take a restatement of one’s (ridiculous) hypothesis to be evidence for the hypothesis can help explain quite a bit of Prelutsky’s thinking on these issues. Prelutsky is for instance very concerned with the War on Christmas, which he blames on “my fellow Jews” who are trying to “pull off their own version of the Spanish Inquisition, forcing Christians to either deny their faith and convert to agnosticism or suffer the consequences.” When it comes to “pushing the multicultural, anti-Christian agenda, you find Jewish judges, Jewish journalists and the largely Jewish funded ACLU at the forefront,” writes Prelutsky: “anti-Semitism is no longer a problem in society; it’s been replaced by a rampant anti-Christianity,” a claim splendidly undermined by his own column. (He went on to attack Jewish Americans for not showing enough support for the Republican Party and not being grateful that America is “a Christian nation.)

Part of the problem, as Prelutsky sees it, may also be that Christians in the US are too nice and timid. That’s why Prelutsky had to remind them that it is wrong for Christians to care for undocumented immigrants, pointing out that such actions as treasonous, and leading to the sad state of affair that Christians are currently helping Latinos “overrun America by destroying our schools, undermining our economy and over-taxing our social services” and “encouraging one specific group, Hispanics, to invade this nation” in order to “fill their respective pews.” Most blame, however, should be placed on “homicidal” progressives like then-President Obama and congressional Democrats, of course, who are actively seeking to “destroy America”.

No fan of Obama (a “friend and close associate” of Satan because he threatened to close the Guantanamo camp), Prelutsky has also complained that Obama shared “the instincts of Stalin, Hitler, Franco, Mao, Castro and Mussolini, but, fortunately, he lacks their power to kill dissidents or even have them exiled to Siberian gulags.” Because anyone who disagrees with Prelutsky on politics is Hitler. And if you disagree with him you want to murder him – an idea that tells you nothing about those who disagree with him but may suggest something rather disconcerting about how Prelutsky would have wanted to treat his political opponents if he had the opportunity. A further illustration: Prelutsky wants us to “bomb Mecca off the face of the earth, not concerning ourselves in the least with collateral damage, letting the Muslims [or “swamp creatures”, as he calls them] know once and for all that our God is far more powerful and, yes, vengeful than their own puny deity.” We should apparently do so because Muslims are “savages”.

In the internal WND competition to come up with the silliest attempt to compare Obama to an evil person, Prelutsky went with John Hinckley, arguing that the president “is every bit as delusional” as the guy who attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan in a stream-of-consciousness rant that would be incoherent even by WND’s (lack of) standards. Here is his take on whether Obama is the Antichrist.

Prelutsky has also weighed in on issues connected to race with his usual combination of insightfulness and sharp wit. Here he compares Mandela and MLK in a way that is impossible to sum up; it is, however, at least telling that his criticism of MLK is based on the premise that “the relations between blacks and whites in America not only haven’t improved since the late ’60s, they have become far worse,” which, given segregation laws and lynchings, might tell you something about what Prelutsky thinks is the proper way of treating black people. He certainly has a thing for stereotypes. (Apparently he thinks they are humorous.)

Vehemently anti-science, Prelutsky is both (apparently) a creationist and (definitely) a global warming denialist. Science, as Prelutsky sees it, is a liberal conspiracy: “Liberals are always given to landing on the side of what they insist is science, whether the topic is Darwin’s theory of evolution versus intelligent design or man’s ability to control the weather. That’s because they believe that scientists are, like themselves, much smarter than other people,” says Prelutsky. As examples of the folly of science, Prelutsky then goes on to highlight the Piltdown Man, which scientists revealed was a hoax, and Pluto, “which for a long time, was regarded as one of the planets in our solar system. Then, without warning, Pluto woke up one morning to find it had been demoted to the status of a plutoid.” And, not least, the Brontosaurus, where “anthropologists mistakenly mixed up a few bones. What it was actually was something called an Apatosaurus.” It is not entirely clear what Prelutsky thinks his examples are supposed to illustrate, apart from the fact that science is a self-correcting enterprise, given that it is scientists, and not delusional wingnut bloggers, who discovers that corrections are needed and then go on to make them; it seems, though, that a guiding idea is the delusion that because scientists adjust their theories in the face of new evidence and better models, Prelutsky is correct when he rejects science for religious and political purposes. Apparently, this illustrates something about Obama, gay people (Prelutsky has problems with gay people) and leftwing professors.

Diagnosis: Ok, so he is ultimately a relatively minor figure, but he is awfully silly so we couldn’t help but describe him at some length here. Though ostensibly a “humorist” the way in which he is funny – he sort of is, if you can disregard the hate, rage, evil and stupid – is not the way he intends.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

#2125: Bobby Powell

The Truth Is Viral is a Michigan-based, far-right, ultraparanoid conspiracy theory group whose Publisher and Editor-in-Chief is one Bobby Powell, a frighteningly paranoid wingnut tinfoil hatter if there ever was one. Powell is primarily afraid of the powers-that-be, such as the UN, whose vehicles Powell reports having seen (third-hand) driving to army bases in Michigan as part of some undisclosed, nefarious ploy to take over Michigan and enslave its citizens on behalf of the UN: the vehicles in question, which were delivered to Camp Grayling – “long suspected of being a major FEMA camp” – were “clearly marked with United Nations insignia,” reported Powell, which sounds like a surprising strategic choice if UN troops (which don’t exist) were really plotting to secretly overtake Michigan.

Apparently the expressed purpose of TTiV (which seems to be mostly a blog and youtube channel) is to “Save Lives and Win Souls for Jesus Christ  in these very last days.” And the website has more or less everything except truth (and virality), at least by way of deranged wingnut conspiracy theories: FBI and the deep state working to overthrow Trump, how (not content with wingnut stock Benghazi nonsense) “Hillary Clinton ordered the murder of Libyan Ambassador Christopher Stevens in order to cover up her own treasonous weapons deals with Syrian al-Qaeda/ISIS forces”, and how Andrew McCabe planned a “subversive coup” with “FBI agent Peter Strzok and his girlfriend, FBI lawyer Lisa Page” – the evidence of the existence of such a plot being Strzok’s and Page’s dislike of Trump and the general law that anyone who dislikes someone plans to assassinate them. That kind.

Diagnosis: Minor figure and probably harmless, but this level of paranoia is surely not good for one’s character, reasoning abilities and the general atmosphere and tone of seasonal family gatherings.