Friday, September 22, 2023

#2684: Ryan Cliche

Naturopathy is bullshit woo, but in order to sustain the grift, it is important for them to sustain an appearance of legitimacy, and one way to accomplish that is through legislative alchemy: Since their claims are not evidence-based, they get no support from science or facts, but they can nevertheless push for state licensure, which would provide them with an illusory sheen of authority convenient for marketing purposes.


Fighting for state licensure is a major goal for the American Association ofNaturopathic Physicians (AANP), and in their fight for licensure, they receive the backing of supplement companies. “There’s a lot of excitement with the increase in consumer demand for natural remedies,” said Ryan Cliche, (then-)executive director of the AANP in connection with a national campaign in 2016. Dietary supplements are, for the most part, bullshit wooas well, but by prescribing or recommending various supplements, naturopaths and supplement companies can support each others’ grifts. It’s a win–win for the grifters (especially if they could offer reimbursement from Medicare for their nonsense products), and a loss for the rest of us. And since defenders of woo will bring it up: Yes, there are troublesome connections between real medical doctors and pharmaceutical companies, too, and those are worth exposing, but there remains a crucial difference between that case and this: real drugs require evidence of safety and efficacy for approval, and there are legal constraints and potential legal consequences for marketing real drugs. Naturopaths and the supplement industry are under no such constraints. And no, we do not claim that naturopaths are all scrupulous frauds consciously taking advantage of their victims to maximize profit – many of them are certainly true believers: But when there are no other constraints (such as facts and evidence) on what you believe, people’s beliefs have a remarkable tendency to line up with whatever would serve their (e.g. economic) self-interests if they were correct. Here is Cliche giving advice on how to respond to opposition to naturopathic efforts to achieve recognition. It’s telling.


Cliche, by the way, who is currently Executive Director of The American Society of Breast Surgeons Foundation, is not a naturopath; indeed, Cliche appears to have no background in medicine or pseudo-medicine at all. But he does have a background in marketing, and he obviously has no intellectual honesty beyond, perhaps, a commitment to marketing on behalf of whoever employs him.


Diagnosis: As such, it is unclear whether Cliche can properly be deemed a loon – he probably just doesn’t care. But he has certainly been an important enabler of quackery and fraud, and for that, he clearly deserves as much exposure as possible.

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

#2683: Daniel Clevenger

Daniel Clevenger is the former mayor of Marionville, Missouri, a town of some 2300 inhabitants. Clevenger’s stint was brief, ending, in 2014, with him being pressured to resign after telling reporters he “kind of agreed” with Frazier Glenn Miller, the former Ku Klux Klan leader who shot three people to death at two Kansas Jewish centers. Clevenger described Miller – a Marionville local – as “a friend” and claimed that “there some things that are going on in this country that are destroying us. We’ve got a false economy and it’s, some of those corporations are run by Jews because the names are there.” Oh, yes: Anti-semitism is the glue that holds incoherent conspiracy rants together: “The fact that the Federal Reserve prints up phony money and freely hands it out, I think that’s completely wrong. The people that run the Federal Reserve, they’re Jewish”.

Clevenger turned out to have a rather substantial history of anti-semitism, of course, having previously accusedThe Jew-run medical industry” of “destroying the United State’s workforce” and the “Jew-run government backed banking industry” of turning “the United States into the world’s largest debtor nation.” He was quick to point out that his remarks were not as racially insensitive as people might think, however: “Just because some people like running those corporations that are destroying us, that doesn’t mean that the rest of the race or religion or whatever is bad. I don’t stereotype.” Well, then.

Some local residents were naturally disappointed with what they perceived as Clevenger smearing the “good reputation” of Marionville, which is probably most famous for being Frazier Glenn Miller’s hometown. One might, in that context, be tempted to ask how Clevenger got elected as mayor of a town in the first place.

Diagnosis: Garbage all the way down. Clevenger may be out, but his ideas remain, for all their lack of coherence, frighteningly popular.

Monday, September 18, 2023

#2682: Mickey Cleveland

Louisiana is not known as a bastion of reason and science, and they are, together with Tennessee, the only place where creationists have made real inroads into the public school curriculum. Louisiana has also generally allowed the public – mostly local dingbats – to scrutinize the science textbooks to be used in Louisiana school, though we are admittedly not entirely clear on the procedural significance of this sort of event. But yeah, it means that local fundie denialists, like Monroe resident Mickey Cleveland, can have their say. And Cleveland’s got opinions. Cleveland wants to make sure the way evolution is taught reflects the most current knowledge, which according to him means that “we want the fallacies in the theory taught as well”. And what would said fallacies be? As Cleveland sees itas technology improves, more scientists and mathematicians are questioning Darwin’s theories of evolution” – he doesn’t provide any reference or names, of course, but he does have an explanation of why he (falsely) thinks things are going this way: “Darwin didn’t have the microelectronic microscope. We are able to see inside of atoms. The DNA is so complex that mathematicians are saying that there is no way that macro evolution occurred. Science is proving creation.” Yeah, he doesn’t really have the faintest clue about any of this, does he?

But here’s the thing. Mickey Cleveland is an Ouachita Parish teacher. And Louisiana laws do allow him to teach his views on science in public schools.

Diagnosis: Ok, so our information here is a number of years old, and we have no idea what Cleveland is presently doing, but his ability to express his hilariously confused views with complete confidence is too good to pass on, and rather illustrative of a disconcertingly familiar tendency. And he might, of course, still be trying to pass his fundie-fuelled, denialist cognitive fog on to Louisiana students, which is a tragedy.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

#2681: J. Bart Classen

Anti-vaccination activists who have relevant credentials are vanishingly rare, especially if you discount one or two obviously dishonest frauds. John Bartholomew Classen, however, is an immunologist as well as an anti-vaccinationist. Whether he is deeply dishonest is a question we’ll not attempt to answer. That he is not completely well-hinged is pretty clear, however. 

Classen is best known for publishing research claiming that vaccines, in particular the Hib vaccine, cause insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus, based on experiments he conducted on mice in 1996. The claim is without scientific support, and his results have not been reproduced (yes, they have of course been tested). His claims have nevertheless been widely quoted by antivaccine organizations, like the National Vaccine Information Center. Said organizations do not mention the negative results (such as this one of over 100,000 children examined to test the hypothesized connection between Hib vaccines and diabetes, finding no association whatsoever) obtained by other researchers.


It’s not only diabetes, though. Classen has been claiming for years “that vaccines are causing an epidemic of inflammatory diseases including diabetes, obesity and autism”, none of which is remotely true or in accordance with any serious research on the topics (of which there is plenty). His fundamental idea is that vaccinations are overloading children’s immune systems (a claim duly picked up as axiomatic by antivaccine organizations), resulting in persistent inflammation and exacerbating disease, and the US is currently suffering under an apparent epidemic of chronic inflammation resulting in a comprehensive inhibitory response manifesting as obesity and metabolic syndrome. Yeah, not only do vaccines give you autism; they also make you fat. According to Classen, vaccines are worse than cigarettes for public health. His papers on the topic include a review article published in the Journal of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Obesity, a predatory journal, which looks at studies that, regardless of quality or publication venue, can be used to look like they support his claim (the articles are also mostly Classen’s own), and deliberately overlooks all the publications that can’t be made to fit, regardless of how sloppy you are. (He does, however, address the fact that research doesn’t find results similar to what he finds: “vaccine-induced immune overload may lead to different outcomes in different individuals” – i.e. any result is evidence for his claim, regardless of what it might possibly say; all studies are hence in reality superfluous). 

Of course, Classen doesn’t like to be called “anti-vaccine”; he is pro-safe vaccines … but vaccines cause more or less every disease and misfortune known to us and are vastly riskier than infectious disease and, as mentioned, a worse threat to public health than cigarettes. Classen even runs his own company, Classen Immunotherapies, which “has developed and patented methods which create financial incentives for finding and disclosing adverse event information”; in other words: the company is devoted to showing that vaccines are dangerous (regardless of the fact that they’re not). And the grift?  These methods pertain to patenting the disclosure of adverse events.” Ah, yes, there we go.

Classen is probably most famous, however, for being the originator of the false claim that the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 could cause prion diseases. The claim was, in particular, laid out in his paper “COVID-19 RNA based vaccines and the risk of prion disease” published in Microbiology & Infectious Diseases, a non-journal issued by SciVision Publisher, a noted publisher of predatory journals. The claim is completely false (that assessment is really not controversial), and Classen notably offered no description of his methodology and not a shred of evidence whatsoever for the core claims of his argument (that the sequence overlaps between the Pfizer vaccine are greater than what occurs with any randomly-selected stretch of RNA, or that the vaccine could cause zinc to be released or that doing so would affect its purported targets as Classen proposed); and the core claims are, indeed, in direct conflict with basic scientific knowledge. Instead of evidence, Classen basically encouraged the reader to take his word for the claims.

His false claims about vaccines are not Classen’s only notable claim about COVID-19. His website also states thatthe current outbreak of COVID-19 is actually a bioweapon attack and may be linked to the US anthrax attack of 2001, which originated from the US army base Fort Detrick.” And his prion disease nonsense is not the only ridiculous conspiracy nonsense that Classen has published with SciVision; his publications also include a paper that is mostly a copy-paste effort of a previous paper (something that, needless to say, no serious journal would accept), one paper that speculates, with no discernible support, that the spate of e-vaping lung injuries reported in late 2019 was actually caused in part by COVID-19, and one paper that argues that the MMR vaccine may have been used to selectively inoculate people in 2018 and 2019 in anticipation of a purported COVID-19 bioweapon, a conspiracy theory that, according to Classen, was inspired by the arrest of Jeffery Epstein (surely a hint of Qanon here). It is safe to conclude that SciVision is not a respectable publishing company.

Diagnosis: Another deranged pseudoscientist and conspiracy theorist, but Classen’s got genuine credentials to lend his wild-eyed rants a sheen of legitimacy, as well as sufficient amounts of technobabble and references to serve the purposes various denialist organizations want served. Laughable but genuinely dangerous.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

#2680: Scott Clarke

The End Times remain, as always, imminent, and those who study the signs find plenty that can be interpreted as pointing to the end of the world being just around the corner (as long as you don’t apply reason or sound principles of assessment – and if you study eschatology, you don’t). Scott Clarke of ERF Ministries sees plenty of signs. He even – somewhat unusually for these people – set a specific date: The Rapture will occur with an astronomical alignment on September 23, 2017, and Clarke produced plenty of Bible interpretation and attempts to shoehorn various astronomical (or, mostly, astrological) events to fit those interpretations. Apparently the alignment, which was termed “The Great Sign of Revelation 12”, involves various constellations – Virgo and Leo – along with a number of planets, and on September 23, 2017, Jupiter would exit the lower part of Virgo (the virgin) in a way that Clarke says fulfills the “man child” of Revelation 12 being birthed by the woman. (We might have missed some details.) He even achieved some degree of Internet virality with his nonsense, and more sympathizers and followers than those of us who try to retain some faith in humanity would have hoped for (Lex Cullen at the website What the Bible Says, for instance (google it yourself) – though then again, Cullen seems to giddily endorse absolutely any End Time prophecy he comes across; and one Don Koenig tied the prophecy to planet X and Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accords and the rejection of the “bogus” science behind global warming, which is a lie like “the science of evolution” and really “all about global governance and wealth redistribution”).


But yeah, it’s astrology. Not wishing to jeopardize their credentials as serious scholars, Clarke and his followers deny being engaged in astrology, but rather “biblical astronomy”. Apparently astrologyis the study that assumes and attempts to interpret the influence of the heavenly bodies on human affairs. Biblical astronomy recognizes that God created the heavens and they are for signs to us. They are also the origin of our marking of time.” So there you go.


Well, Clarke’s prediction ran into a bit of trouble on September 23, 2017. But Scott Clarke was unfazed, and enthusiastically returned to youtube two days later, excited by a “new interpretation” of, well, we are reluctant to call them “data”. He even – also unusually – explained his error, namely embracing the original Hewbrew language in his Bible studies: But Hebrew is, according to changed Scott Clarke, a “garbage” language. He should have gone with King James Only from the start and the technique of Right[ly] Dividing. Clarke and fellow deranged loon Pastor Rodney Beaulieu promptly set out to explore their new framework. (They were also promptly criticized by other lunatic dingbats with different interpretations, such as Carl Gallups, who seemed to miss the more obvious problems with Clarke’s framework and predictions). Apparently the astrological configuration of September 23 was only the heavenly sign announcing the beginning of the events in question, not providing any timeline for how quickly these events would develop.


Diagnosis: Oh yeah, they’re still around, putting great efforts into unintentionally giving fundamentalism all the bad light it deserves. What’s most fascinating, perhaps, is the incoherent justifications and levels of motivated reasoning exhibited by their (many) followers.

Wednesday, September 6, 2023

#2679: David Clarke

A.k.a. “The People’s Sheriff” (self-declared)


David Alexander Clarke Jr. is the former sheriff of Milwaukee County, and a personification of the concept wingnut. He has been a regular contributor to Fox News – including being a co-host on Sean Hannity’s show – and hosts a podcast on TheBlaze. As a sheriff, Clarke was best known for mistreatment of prisoners (and don’t confuse that with being “tough on crime”); for abusing his office to serve his own, personal interests (including detaining people he had personal disagreements with over sports); and for forcing employees to undergo fundamentalist, proselytizing “training” sessions. He also advised Milwaukee County residents that 9-1-1 was not their best option, instead encouraging them to pursue vigilante justice; in taxpayer-financed radio ads, Clarke urged citizens to arm themselves and shoot people by whom they felt threatened, calling 9-1-1 only after potentially shooting and killing someone.


Clarke is the recipient of e.g. the 2013 Sheriff of the Year Award from the brazenly fascist Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, and has appeared at CPAC and on the Alex Jones show. As a sheriff, he was easily recognizable by his tendency to wear lots of pins and badges on his uniform when in public, many with no official meaning or purpose, to bolster his fascist credentials.


Trite wingnuttery

 A staunch Second Amendment advocate and NRA spokesperson, Clarke has stated – in an appearance on Alex Jones’s show – that a federal assault weapons ban could spark “the second coming of an American Revolution, the likes of which would make the first revolution pale by comparison.”


Being adamantly anti-abortion, Clarke has also pushed the Black genocide conspiracy, asserting (lamely) that Planned Parenthood should be renamed “Planned Genocide”.


He has also been a vocal critic of Black Lives Matter, calling themBlack Lies Matter” (he’s got a penchant for inane wordplays) and constantly referring to BLM as a hate group and as “subhuman creeps”. He also, for good measure, claimed that BLM would eventually join forces with ISIS in order to destroy American society. Part of the blame for BLM lies at the feet of Obama, of course; no fan of Obama, Clarke has repeatedly asserted that Obama has “classic narcissistic personality disorderand criticized him for instance for having “pitted blacks against whites, he’s pitted Hispanics against Americans. It just turns to crap. But that’s part of his M.O., you know, he’s an Alinskyite.” Obama is, in fact, “a straight-up cop hater” and the Department of Justice hates cops and is leading an “ongoing witch-hunt” against police officers.


Here’s Clarke on why accepting Syrian refugees is “national suicide”.


LGBT rights 

Like wingnuts in general, Clarke is no fan of LGBT rights. After the Orlando massacre, Clarke claimed that the massacre was a problematic “distraction” as it provided fuel for gun-control acvocates.


Clarke reacted to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality with predictable idiocy: “Next is rage, then revolt,said Clarke, adding (because details and distinctions are irrelevant – Clarke really doesn’t care about details) “who would have thought that in the 21st century homosexuality would come out of the closet and churches would be forced to go into the closet?” Then he called for revolution: “If you call yourself an American, then you have to start a revolution in this country after what happened last week at the United States Supreme Court,” and for “pitchforks and torches.”


Conspiracy theories and denialism 

In 2015, Clarke called for the suspension of habeas corpus in the US to round up “internal enemies”, because there ostensibly were “hundreds of thousands” or “maybe a million” people who “have pledged allegiance or are supporting ISIS, giving aid and comfort”; he promptly called for the president to imprison them at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp “and hold them indefinitely under a suspension of habeas corpus” (yeah, “fascism” might be a term that is thrown around a lot, but come on). In 2018, he claimed that students calling for gun control after the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, were enmeshed in a Soros-backed conspiracy: “The well ORGANIZED effort by Florida school students demanding gun control has GEORGE SOROS’ FINGERPRINTS all over it”, just like BLM is, ultimately, the creation of Soros.


Not one to let the COVID nonsense denialist train leave the station without him and his clown horn, Clarke has of course dabbled in COVID disinformation. Calling the virus “just the damn flu, Clarke labeled measures to prevent the spread of the virus “an orchestrated attempt to destroy capitalism.” He also suggested that Soros was somehow involved in the pandemic because why not, given his audience. (“Not ONE media outlet has asked about George Soros’s involvement in this FLU panic. He is SOMEWHERE involved in this,” asserted Clarke).


More lately, he has (but of course) been pushing MAGA 2020 election conspiracy theories and calling for Congress to establish a commission to investigate the FBI (and fire FBI Director Wray fired and replace him with either Michael Flynn or Ken Cuccinelli), while seeking, according to his spokesperson Judy Wilkinson, “to become a thought leader in the conservative movement.”



Because he is a wingnut moron, Trump appointed Clarke, an ardent fan, to the position of Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Partnership and Engagement in the Trump Administration. After a bit of backlash, Clarke had to rescind his acceptance of the offer a month later. He was later a central part of Steve Bannon and Brian Kolfage’s We Build the Wall scam.


Diagnosis: An unapologetic fascist. Yes, that term is thrown around a lot, but it’s hard to overlook Clarke’s willingness to “strike first” and use violence against what he perceives to be internal enemies of the Sate, and his explicit push to suspend due process to suppress political opponents. And he has huge audiences who apparently share his views. Extremely dangerous.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

#2678: Nelson Clark

Nelson Clark, Pastor at the First Century Gospel Church in Idaho, is a completely unhinged fundamentalist (a Follower of Christ), medicine denialist and advocate of child sacrifice. In fairness, Clark would probably object to that last phrase, but it’s hard to see how he could avoid it. Clark urges his followers to avoid any contact with modern medicine and rather cure any ailment or condition with prayer – and that includes ailments and conditions suffered by his followers’ children. “Many profess faith in Christ, but do not act in faith on His Atonement Blood for healing, protection, provisions, and other life issues,” says Clark: “They say that doctors, medicine, and drugs are gifts from God – but the Bible does not say that, nor teach that. Bible Christians trusted God alone for healing.” In general, “the divine power of God … is able to heal our body without drugs or medicine; supply our needs without laid-up cash for the future; protect our family without firearms or anti-theft devices; bring about justice without legal action or attorneys; and to save our soul by a believing faith that endures to the end of our life,” said Clark in an e-mail (don’t ask), and the church also rejects seatbelts or correcting bad eyesight with glasses: “anyplace we are told to do something in case something happens is a breach of faith or denying of faith in God to protect you,” and for vision: “If God made eyes, obviously He can heal vision problems to see normally. We don’t use mechanical devices to make it better – it’s a matter of trusting God for normal vision.”

His practices received some attention in 2014, when Clark followers Herbert and Catherine Schaible chose prayer instead of antibiotics to treat their son’s bacterial pneumonia. The child died. It wasn’t the first child the Schaibles had lost to substituting prayer for care on the advice of Nelson Clark. The Schaibles, fortunately, went to prison. Clark went free. Confronted with the situation, Clark said God did not want the Schaible children to die, but the children died nonetheless because of a “spiritual lack” in the Schaibles’ lives. Yes, Clark opted for the standard alternative medicine gambit of blaming the victim, in this case the child, when the treatment doesn’t work. And the thing is, Clark has killed children before – a number of times.

There are few indications that faith-based excuses for killing children will be more harshly dealt with in a place like Idaho in the future. Clark has, however, voiced his concerns about that: “The legal community is trying to force our church group to put them in the hands of this flawed medical system, when they have chosen to put them in the hands of a perfect God, who does not make mistakes.

 Diagnosis: An absolutely abysmally abhorrent excuse for a human being.