Thursday, December 12, 2019

#2281: Erick Stakelbeck

Yet another rightwing commentator whose only recognizable qualifications are anger and paranoia, Erick Stakelbeck is a former sports reporter who has become recognized by some wingnuts (e.g. Pat Robertson) as a “terror expert because he says stupid things they happen to agree with. Stakelbeck has no credentials or expertise in anything resembling such fields, but you won’t find anyone who does who are also willing to say the stuff Stakelbeck says, so there you are. So, according to Stakelbeck, Obama was a “revolutionary Marxist” trying to destroy “Judeo-Christian western civilization.” He seems to have no clear idea what any of those words mean. 

Probably the main threat to the US at present, as Stakelbeck sees things, is anyways the Left. And Islam. Which are more or less the same – according to Stakelbeck the “Left sees Islam as an ally and Western Civilization and the Judeo-Christian tradition is the enemy” because they “have a shared hatred for this country.” Apparently gays are in cahoots with radical Islam/the Left as well, and they hate not only America but Jesus himself, too. Stakelbeck is pretty adamant that facts don’t matter here.

In his capacity as a terrorism expert, Stakelbeck has also offered “expert analysis” of the Syrian civil war, complete with biblical prophecy. On Marcus and Joni Lamb’s show Celebration in 2012 he revealed that the war will end with the destruction of Damascus because “the Bible says it’s going to happen, and it’s going to happen.” He also claimed that Islamic terrorists have infiltrated cities all over the United States (though the media doesn’t cover it because of political correctness), including Dearborn, Michigan, which is a “radical Islamic enclave” – he called it “Dearbornistan” – presumably to the surprise of the people of Dearborn, only a minority of whom are Muslim. Apparently Brooklyn and Chicago are other examples of radical Islamist enclaves. At least he answered any concerns with respect to his claims to expertise that might have arisen from realizing his complete lack of credentials: while he was in Israel God spoke to him and told him to defend Israel; therefore, Stakelbeck, said, “I know why I’m here on this earth.” After all, how could expertise gained from reading, carefully analyzing and understanding compete with the word of God?

But the Muslims are everywhere. Stakelbeck has pointed out for instance that Grover Norquist, Huma Abedin and André Carson are all part of the Muslim Brotherhood’s “fox in the henhouse strategy” to perpetrate “stealth jihad” hidden behind “suits and ties,” “fluent English,” and “eloquent tones, at least in public.” And with fellow conspiracy theorist Rick Wiles, Stakelbeck wondered why John McCain and Lindsey Graham have “sided” with the Muslim Brotherhood. Worst of all, perhaps, is Obama (of course), or “Imam Obama”, as Stakelbeck calls him, who is “empowering and emboldening the Muslim Brotherhood;” and don’t you forget Benghazi.

Stakelbeck is of course vehemently opposed to the First Amendment, at least when it is used to allow people he doesn’t like to say or do things he disagrees with.

Diagnosis: Moron. He has no credentials, no expertise, no understanding of anything. But he does say what other morons want to hear, and has therefore achieved a position of authority in certain groups. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

#2280: Mike Stahl

Pastor Mike Stahl of the Living Water internet church is one of many raging fundies polluting the Internet. Stahl has apparently “been seriously considering forming a ( Christian ) grassroots type of organization to be named ‘The Christian National Registry of Atheists’ or something similar.” After all, there are “already National Registrys for convicted sex offenders, ex-convicts, terrorist cells, hate groups like the KKK, skinheads, radical Islamists, etc. [there actually isn’t],” so why not a similar registry for atheists? The registry, he rushes to affirm, “would merely be for information purposes. To inform the public of KNOWN (i.e., self-admitted) atheists” and not contain personal information or the person’s physical address (“though, perhaps a photo could be”). Now, why would we need such a registry? Well, “[d]uhhh, Mr. Atheist, for the same purpose many States put the names and photos of convicted sex offenders and other ex-felons on the I-Net – to INFORM the public!” Who wouldn’t see the obviousness of that comparison? And a list like that would give Stahl and likeminded people the opportunity to “begin to witness to them and warn them of the dangers of atheism. Or perhaps they are radical atheists, whose hearts are as hard as Pharaoh’s, in that case, if they are business owners, we would encourage all our Christian friends, as well as the various churches and their congregations NOT to patronize them as we would only be ‘feeding’ Satan”. In his wisdom, Stahl cannot even see “why anyone would oppose this idea – including the atheists themselves (unless of course, they’re actually ashamed of their atheist religion, and would prefer to stay in the ‘closet’”). Presumably being lectured to and told about the dangers of atheism is something any atheist would desire. 

After receiving some attention for his suggestion, Stahl promptly made his blog private. It was surely not because he didn’t enjoy the public exposure, was it? (A year later he apparently still thought the registry was a good idea).

Diagnosis: Genuinely stupid. (Unless he is evil. The options are not mutually exclusive.)

Monday, December 9, 2019

#2279: Carol Spooner

As a result of intense lobbying, naturopaths have become licensed in several American states. Now, naturopathy is bullshit through and through, and being a licensed naturopath doesn’t come with any duties toward truth, efficacy or accountability. That, of course, has never been the point. Naturopaths’ goal of pushing for licensing is rather a matter of protecting their turf from other, competing woo peddlers, those who for instance haven’t attended the same pseudo-educational institutions as themselves. 

In Arizona, licensed naturopathic doctors must have a degree from a naturopathic college – which is fancier and costlier than getting your diploma from a link in a spam email but about as deserving of trust when it comes to the safety and efficacy of the advice provided – but that gives them green light to administer intravenous nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and even to prescribe and administer some drugs. Accordingly, people like Carol Spooner, who is a licensed Arizona naturopath, can offer IV “nutrient bags” of vitamins and minerals for flu prevention – and because the nutrients go straight to the bloodstream the benefits are almost immediate, according Spooner. Of course, there are no benefits, but to the inattentive the procedure looks professional and, not the least, comes with the state of Arizona’s sign of approval. According to Spooner, however, “for anybody, regardless of whether they’ve had flu shots or not, these IV nutrients work very well.” The bags will cost you an impressive $100 to $200 apiece and will take up to an hour to administer – Spooner says that one bag carries a healthy person through the flu season while “others may need a few more” (note the escape hatch) – which is a pretty hefty price for something that does nothing at all for you.

Diagnosis: Just one example among many to remind you what kind of practitioners it is that wish to be licensed in all 50 states. It’s truly scary.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

#2278: Chuck & Lency Spezzano

Psychology of Vision (POV) is, allegedly, a “transpersonal model of healing that employs cutting edge psychological tools and methodology with the miracle power of grace.” Yes, it’s New Age bullshit, and there is some entropy principle at work here to the effect that for any word in a sentence on a New Age website beyond the tenth, the probably increases exponentially that it will devolve into a word salad. And as New Age bullshit POV is, of course, as nonsensical and hollow as you get it, and the movement seems mostly to be some kind of New Age personality cult revolving around Charles L. “Chuck” and Lency Spezzano. 

At some point Chuck Spezzano marketed himself as “one of the world’s leading psychologists” and “experts on relationships and personal growth therapy”, though there is apparently a 2004 court decision in Hawaii that promises him more than a slap on the wrist if he or his minions falsely market him as a professional “psychologist” (Spezzano is not a psychologist and has never been licensed as a psychologist) – his minions (such as POV trainer Avril Woodward) still seem to forget themselves so frequently that it is hard to explain it as honest mistakes. Lency Spezzano, on the other hand, is “pioneering POV’s mystical path through her joining method, which utilizes the feminine, direct access to divine love, resulting in the release of emotional pain from the body/mind and the experience of miracles of forgiveness and grace.” That seems, frankly, to be a rather more illustrative description of what they are actually doing. It would be interesting (or not) to hear Lency Spezzano try to define “method”. What they jointly promote seems to be something closely resembling the Law of attraction, which seems to have become the fundamental common tenet on the New Age self-help circuit. There are also vibrations, of course (“29 of February, 2016 is an extremely high vibrational day, so it is essential to focus on remaining grounded, centered and balanced to absorb and fully integrate the energies”), and numerology: “In numerology (2+9=11) and (2+2+1+6=11) equates to 11:11According to numerology the number 11 has the energy and the qualities of patience, honesty, spirituality, sensitivity, intuition and is idealistic and compassionate” – more or less like all the other numbers according to numerology, in other words. You’d probably encounter some difficulties trying to explain the use–mention distinction or what a category mistake is to these people.

Chuck Spezzano has apparently “authored over 40 books and card decks [!]” and his “greatest inspirations come from A Course in Miracles.” You have, in other words, to be pretty lost to confuse him with a psychologist. His New Age rantings have, however, garnered what seems to be something of a following in the US and Europe, to whom he apparently comes across as something of a guru – indeed, the last few years Spezzano seems to have owned that role completely, even adopting the title “Master Chuck”.

There is a lot of information about POV, the Spezzanos and the international cult they have somewhat successfully built up here.

Diagnosis: To be honest, it is hard to shake the feeling that the Spezzanos know exactly what they are doing, but if they don’t they must count as being among the most nonsense-dense specimens in the New Age circus currently enjoying even a modicum of success in their cult-building efforts. You wouldn’t think they’d be particularly dangerous, but cults are strange beasts. Caution is recommended. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

#2277: Dorothy Spaulding

Though she may not be among the most famous televangelists working in the US, Dorothy Spaulding, President and Founder of Watchmen Broadcasting, is certainly one of the truly whacky ones – a sort of low-budget, poor man’s version of Cindy Jacobs, if you wish – and her network show Club 36 has been dubbed “perhaps the most hilarious Christian train-wreck TV this great country has produced in … decades.” 

Indeed, Spaulding’s show is probably the go-to place if you feel the need to talk about how you were attacked by 80-foot demons or rant about Satanic baby farms and want to be taken seriously. Here, for instance, you can watch Spaulding and her guest, one Henry Lewis, discuss the dangers of Pokémon; Pokémon are “oriental demons”, and the names of the Pokémon characters are apparently the real names of these oriental demons. Here is a list of names of Pokémon characters for those unfamiliar with the universe (one imagines that the practice of fundamentalist Christianity would look very different had Revelations mentioned Jigglypuff and Wigglytuff by name). There is also, in addition to wild-eyed rantings about witches and Harry Potter, some kind of attack on the theory of evolution in there, for good measure – you wouldn’t really suspect Spaulding of being anything but a young-earth creationist, would you?

She has also written a book Walk by Faith, and is apparently especially “passionate about telling the truth of what is happening in Israel” – her reaction to the 80-foot demon story doesn’t really convey much trust in her ability to distinguish truth from other things, though.

Diagnosis: Possibly worth checking out for some cheap entertainment; otherwise, a potential reminder that what goes on at the grassroots level is often even crazier than the stuff that goes on in the top echelons of American evangelism.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

#2276: Ryan Sorba

Ryan Sorba is the Chairman of the Young Conservatives of California and a tireless anti-gay activist. Indeed, at a 2011 conference at the cargo cult version of an educational institution Liberty University, Sorba claimed that “‘gay’ is a left-wing socio-political construct designed to create grounds for fundamental rights [based on] whimsical capricious desires,” and that “gay identity does not exist.” (There is an illuminating conversation between Sorba and Alex Knepper, an openly gay conservative, recounted here). Accordingly, he urged people to stop using the word ‘gay’; instead, he suggested using “same-sex attraction”, “same-sex intercourse”, “sodomy”, “unnatural vice” and, for good measure, “anti-Christian”. He also blamed Republicans for losing what he apparently thinks of as a “war” promulgated by the homosexual lobby: “Our movement decided to abandon the real issue of homosexual behavior … with our major focus around protecting the word marriage,” said Sorba. He is also on record displaying a complete and utter lack of understanding of what a right is (or “truth”): “A civil right that conflicts with natural right is no right at all;” said Sorba: “The behavior is immoral. It divides you from truth and what’s the meaning of life. If you don’t have truth, you have nothing but fake.” As Sorba sees it, homosexuality is more like a hobby akin to playing basketball and surfing. Bryan Fischer and the AFA defended him. That should have given ordinary reasonable people pause.

Sorba is also the author of The Born Gay Hoax, which must count as poorly researched even by the standards of Sorba’s particular genre – the motivation for his “research methodology” is interesting, however. He has, moreover, been a regular at the religious right’s Awakening conference and an instructor at Peter LaBarbera’s “3 days of truth” conference.

Diagnosis: Though he received some 15 minutes of fame for his CPAC rant in 2011, Sorba seems to be, ultimately, a rather minor figure on the losing side of tahe culture war. He is rather aggressive and angry about his cause, however, so it is probably recommended to maintain a safe distance.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

#2275: Edward Sopcak

CanCell, also known as Entelev or Cantron, is one of many utterly useless purported cancer cures. Ostensibly CanCell is “an assembly of synthetic chemicals” – they are secret, though the assembly has apparently also changed over the years – that react with the body “electrically” rather than “chemically”, and the fact that it doesn’t work doesn’t prevent people with poor moral compasses and/or poor critical thinking skills from promoting it. Indeed, in addition to cancer, CanCell is promoted for a variety of diseases, including AIDS, cystic fibrosis, MS, emphysema, Parkinson's disease, hemophilia, and mental illness (except schizophrenia). Its inventor, James Sheridan, claimed that the formula was revealed to him by God in a dream in 1936, and that he therefore cannot charge people for using it, but instead established the Eden Foundation, a nonprofit corporation, through which people could pay him instead. Edward Sopcak, another promoter, was less worried about personal gain, and continued to promote the “remedy” at least until 1992, when the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan found him to be in contempt of a January 1990 decree to stop manufacturing and distributing the product. (Two associates, Diane Petrosky and Bonnie Sue Miller, were also warned to cease their violative activities.) Sopcak had then been promoting CanCell as a cure for a range of diseases, claiming for instance that all symptoms of AIDS disappear will in 28 days with CanCell. They would, needless to say, not.

According to Sopcak (here he departs from Sheridan’s teachings) there is only one type of cancer, which is caused by a mutated anaerobic cell: an improper diet will cause electrical and chemical damage and open the way for the microbe Progenitor cryptocides (an  imaginary cancer-causing germ invented by the late Virginia Livingston-Wheeler), and CanCell ostensibly acts by changing the vibrational frequency and energy of cancer cells, thereby “reducing their voltage,” until they reach the “primitive” state described by Sheridan. Sopcak also claims to “tune” the liquid to correct vibrational frequency in some secret fashion. He seems, in other words, to have tried to be careful to avoid phrases that are actually medically meaningful, which would be required for saying anything demonstrably false and therefore legally actionable. Evidence? Well, according to promoters, human and animal studies have in fact been done proving CanCell’s efficacy – the FDA did a “secret and illegal” study resulting in 80–85% cure rates, for instance – but you won’t find any trace of those studies since they have been suppressed by “the establishment. In other words: none. So it goes. 

Sopcak has also claimed that he believes all medicine in the future will ultimately be practiced by adjusting vibrational frequencies, and has even made forays into homeopathy, with a homeopathic version of CanCell called … “CanCell”, no less. Which could potentially be a source of confusion. Fortunately, the homeopathic version is probably no less efficacious than the standard version, and probably less prone to cause harm. 

The product has certainly not gone away – woo rarely does, given that it was never a matter of evidence anyways – but is sold in bottles claiming that “Cantron® is an amazing bio-electrical wellness formulation [a meaningless phrase, and thus potentially not legally actionable]. It provides astonishing health benefits like no other substance on Earth. It is the world’s most potent antioxidant [it isn’t, and it wouldn’t necessarily be a good thing if it were, but “antioxidant” sounds like “health” to the intended target audience] and scavenger of abnormal proteins [nonsense] which accumulate in the blood, tissues, organs and jointsCantron is known to dramatically aid the body’s own natural defenses [yes: it “boosts the immune system”]. Since 1984, it has received rave reviews from those who have taken itOne customer summed it up perfectly on an Internet chat site when she emphatically stated: ‘How blessed we are to know about Cantron.’” There is an informative article on the product here.

Diagnosis: Admittedly, we haven’t heard from Sopcak for a while, and aren’t completely sure he’s still around. But the product certainly is, and deserves to be covered, and since we do entries by name, Sopcak’s seemed as good as any. A real threat to health and well-being.