Friday, May 31, 2019

#2198: Kevin Ryerson

Channeling is a process where a fraud or loon (the “channeler”) claims to be invaded by a spirit entity which speaks through said channeler. Kevin Ryerson is one of the more familiar of these, after being featured in an ABC miniseries in 1987 hosted by Shirley MacLaine in which MacLaine has conversations with spirits through Ryerson. Of particular note is the spirit “John”, an alleged contemporary of Jesus, who spoke through Ryerson – interestingly not in Aramaic but in some sort of faux Elizabethan English – and told MacLaine that she (MacLaine) is a co-creator of the world with God, thus confirming MacLaine’s brand of subjectivist egotheism. MacLaine, who has never been accused of being among the brightest bulb on the New Age circuit, was understandably excited.

Ryerson, who bills himself as an  “author, lecturer, award winning consultant , expert intuitive, futurist and trance channel in the tradition of Edgar Cayce”, has been in the game for a while now. Currently, he seems to be mostly channeling one Atun-Re, an ancestor of Nubian descent and an Egyptian Priest who lived during the time of Akhnathen, and he offers Tele-Readings for a fee well above your usual last-page horoscope readers. He has previously served as board member of the Intuition Network and vice-president of the Berkeley California Society for Psychical Studies, as well as faculty at the “Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.), Omega Institute, Findhorn Foundation, Interface, Lily Dale Assembly, Philosophical Research Society, Learning Annex, and the Whole Life Expos” (we mention these for future reference). According to himself, he also “works extensively with medical doctors, scientists, parapsychologists and other professionals to add perspective and insight to various topics including physics,health, nutrition, biochemistry, geology and business,” though he is somewhat short on the details of that work. Ryerson is also the author of Spirit Communication: The Soul’s Path, coauthor of Future Healer (with Ron Henry, ND) and author of the foreword to C. Norman Shealy’sThe Future Healer. James Redfield is a fan, and covered Ryerson in The Tenth Insight.

Diagnosis: Probably a serious loon, though there are alternative interpretations of his business model. Ought to be reasonably harmless, but a shocking number of people is apparently impressed by his nonsense.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

#2197: Joe Russa

A.k.a. SunEye 

Ok, so this seems to be mostly just another New Age crank with a website, but said website is impressively crazy, so we think it is worth a mention. Joe Russa, a.k.a. SunEye, appears to attempt to synthesize every last bit of pink fluff and New Age ravings about chakras, energy (as New Age proponents conceive of energy, which has nothing to do with energy), astral projection and occultism on the Internet into an interestingly nonsensical mix. His website is here. Apparently Russa is a witch, and his main trade seems to be spells of various kinds, as well as information about the third eye, which according to Russa is associated with “a lot of misconception and misunderstandings.” Indeed. The third eye ostensibly has to do with chakras, the pineal gland and the color indigo and may give you psychic abilities. You unlock its powers by following the SunEye method, which apparently will enable you to have lucid dreams and out-of-body experiences through various sleep deprivation techniques, which seems to us to be a somewhat disappointing goal for someone with magic powers. There are tarot cards, crystals and reiki, too. The best article featured on Russa’s website is probably Barbara Rhodan’s advice for how to use your psychic abilities to win the lottery (here).

Diagnosis: Completely harmless, which makes Russa infinitely less bad than most of the people covered here recently.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

#2196: Gary Ruskin & the USRTK

Gary Ruskin is the executive director of the US Right to Know (USRTK), an anti-GMO activist organization ostensibly devoted to “uncovering the food industry’s efforts to manipulate scientists into advancing pro-genetically-modified propaganda,” but primarily trying to advance denialist causes by issuing FOIA requests designed to harass or silence those he disagrees with, i.e. experts and scientists who actually know anything about the topic. After all, as the American Association for the Advancement of Science puts it, “[e]very … respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion,” namely that “[c]onsuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.” Anti-GMO movements accordingly cannot win on facts or evidence, but other strategies are available: after all, public debates, as opposed to the scientific ones, are often not won by facts and evidence.

As such, Ruskin and his group have become notable for having perfected one of the most effective denialist campaigning strategies in existence, the advanced shill gambit: if an expert who knows more than you on a topic a says something that don’t gel with your preferred narrative, don’t bother to discuss the facts; go for poisoning the well instead. In particular: investigate the person and harass her/him with FOIA requests; eventually, you will find some association you can possibly spin in a manner that makes it possible to question the integrity of the expert in question. What you find need of course not be anything that is even remotely fishy; as long as your target needs to explain the association, then questions are raised, and the FUD strategy has succeeded. Thus, any integrity issues you raise might involve multiple degrees of separation, if need be: If your target’s uncle works at the same institution as the mother-in-law of the founder of a non-profit organization you think (but has no evidence for thinking) has received support from Big Pharma, for instance (this was actually the one used by antivaccine conspiracy theorist Jake Crosby to try to discredit a science-based book Seth Mnookin that Crosby didn’t like or have the capacity to engage with on fact- and evidence-based grounds), you are in a position to reject anything your target has said about anything. It really is the most effective strategy when you can’t argue the facts or the evidence: question instead your opponent’s motives – yes, the strategy, which Ruskin has perfected, is the ultimate ad hominem.

Ruskin has summed up some of his “findings” in his report “Seedy Business: What Big Food Is Hiding With Its Slick PR Campaign on GMOs”, which proceeds by accusing scientists who disagree with him of being “untrustworthy” and “shills” in lieu of having to deal with the actual science. Perhaps the most illustrative example of the strategy is Ruskin’s and USRTK’s campaigns targeting Kevin Folta, which are detailed here. Ruskin’s strategy and its outcomes are further discussed here. Ruskin has also appeared on Dr. Oz to promote his harassment strategies and, without a hint of irony, to help discredit Oz’s critics with the help of shill gambits; yes, that’s right: dr. Oz was trying to discredit people pointing out how corrupt he is by accusing them of being paid.

It should be emphasized that the URSTK itself is funded by the organic food industry, a fact that they are, shall we say, not always sanguine about and sometimes inadvertently forget to mention when defending their own tactics. 

Apart from harassing scientists, the URSTK website also serves as a repository for various denialist talking points and conspiracy theories. It should also be mentioned that one of the most experienced FUD tacticians in the denialist movement, Carey Gillam, is an central figure in URSTK.

Diagnosis: Yes, their business model is built around a familiar fallacy. So what? It’s effective, and this was never about facts, evidence or science. An icon of the post-truth political discourse, URSTK is an insidious threat to civilization and, yes, democracy. 

And keep in mind: If you believe that scientists, who have devoted their lives and careers - and often sacrificed far more lucrative employment opportunities - to research their fields of interest, will without further ado opt for lying and deceiving on behalf of industry in return for small research grants, then that tells us quite a bit about you and your integrity; not so much about those scientists.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

#2195: Mark Rushdoony

R.J. Rushdoony is famous for being one of the most deranged fundies of the latter half of the twentieth century. His son, Mark Rushdoony, has hardly managed to achieve the same kind of fame or renown, but he is at least not much less crazy and has dutifully followed in his father’s footsteps. Like his father, Mark Rushdoony is a dominionist and theocrat, and has campaigned tirelessly with the Chalcedon Foundation, of which he is president, to convert conservative fundamentalist churches to Christian reconstructionism. “We must base our laws on faith, not reason,” says Rushdoony. And the fight against the secular, Constitution-based and reason-loving America will be violent; as Rushdoony puts it: “We are authorized by God to challenge all that is not godly! God is angry with the wicked every day, and the sins of the wicked deserve the infliction of God's wrath in this life as well as the life hereafter!

The goal, in other words, is to ensure that society is “reconstructed” so that everyone in it lives under strict Old Testament moral codes imposed by local theocracies – there is no room for tolerance or dissent: “To oppose us is to attack God's law, and to attack God's law is to attack God himself!”, a transgression that, understandably, requires nothing less than death. Similarly, of course, homosexuals and adulteresses will be put to death. In the 2005 presentation before his Chalcedon Foundation from which the above quote is taken, the foundation’s vice president, Martin Selbrede, followed up by calling for the assemblage to arm themselves with “the powerful bazookas of God, not the peashooters of the flesh.” Joe Morecraft is another member of the foundation.

Rushdoony has also written about e.g. evolution, though his claims about evolution are merely regurgitating fundamental misunderstandings about what science is and does from Answers in Genesis and Kent Hovind.*

Diagnosis: There really isn’t anything relevant that distinguishes Rushdoony and his foundation from ISIS or the Taliban, except the ability to actually implement their goals. Completely insane, and utterly evil.

*Footnote: The regurgitated claims include the assertion that evolution is non-scientific because it is about phenomena that can’t be observed directly, rather than about things that can be weighed and measured. This, of course, is a standard creationist and pretty fundamental misunderstanding: Science is precisely a set of means for using observations to test hypotheses about the unobservable (laws, causal relationships, and that which is too big or small, or too far away in time or space, to be observed directly) – weighing and measuring is book-keeping and logistics, not science. Science proceeds by taking hypothesis about something unobservable, determining what observableconsequences the hypothesis has – i.e. what we should, in fact, observe if that hypothesis is true – and then checking whether this is what we, in fact, observe. Rushdoony is also fundamentally confused about the repeatability condition for scientific investigations and experiments: it is the observations that must be repeatable, not the unobservable states of affairs described by the hypothesis. Of course, Rushdoony goes on to use his fundamental misunderstanding to claim that evolution is just as faith-based as religion. 

Thursday, May 23, 2019

#2194: Austin Ruse

The Center for Family and Human Rights (formerly the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute), also known as C-FAM, is a fundie wingnut organization devoted to all things wingnut, and (of course) particularly associated with anti-gay-rights campaigning. The organization likes to portray itself as a tiny David at war against a Goliath of “abortion lovers,” “radical homosexuals,” and “sexual revolutionaries” (to hell with the facts, as long as it gets paranoid fundies to send them their life savings). The president, Austin Ruse, is also a key member of Groundswell, a coalition of wingnut activists and journalists, and former contributor to Breitbart, and the kind of guy who readily declares that the “sexual revolution”, which has a higher “body count” than “Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, all tyrants combined,” is pushed by “enemies” who want to “undermine the morals of you, your family, your children, your grandchildren.”

In 2014, Ruse gained some notoriety for stating that “the hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities” should “all be taken out and shot” (calling for the murder of his opponents is not an isolated incident for Ruse). The “toxic stew of the modern university” includes women’s studies programs and sex education, which Ruse apparently thinks are there only to teach students to be promiscuous and engage in pornography. When the comments were reported by RightWingWatch, Ruse countered by calling RightWingWatch “dumb” “pajama boys” with “their panties all in a twist,” which is as slamdunk a refutation of their accurate reporting of what he actually said as it is possible to give.

Anti-gay efforts
Fanatically anti-gay, Ruse has warned that “radical homosexuals” are “coming for your daughter and your son and your grandchildren. They don’t have any children of their own. They are deliberately barren. So, they have set their sights on yours, your innocent girls and boys.” Ruse is convinced (i.e. deluded) that “[m]ost people recognize that the homosexual lifestyle is harmful to public health and morals,” and, despite ample evidence to the contrary, that gay people/activism is a major cause of gay teen suicide, alcoholism, and early death.

Ruse has also described same-sex marriage as an “ideology” imposed on the US, and as an act of “revenge” on society by gay people: “Gay marriage was about imposing an ideology on the rest of the country. It was about changing the institution of marriage for everyone else. And it was also about getting even with a larger society gays felt had treated them badly,” said Ruse. And under the influence of Satan (“radical homosexuals” are among the devil’s “minions” who “want to win our children over for their nefarious causes that come from the very pits of hell”), activists for LGBT rights are “busy undermining all that is good and true and beautiful and it has been given to us to stop them.” Comprehensive sex ed, by the way, is also an idea “created in the pits of hell by wicked individuals who wanted to undermine family and ultimately to destroy any institution that stands between the family and the state.” Meanwhile, those who read his critics are “controlled by Satan, and you should therefore send him money to help shut down those who are critical of him.

In 2016 C-Fam hosted a gathering at the UN for the “Group of Friends of the Family,” a group that includes many of the world’s most repressive regimes, and Ruse praised Islamist countries like Saudi Arabia and Sudan for helping to “save” U.N. documents from unwanted language. C-Fam also worked feverishly with Russia (Ruse has repeatedly praised Russia’s and various African countries’ draconian anti-gay legislations, lamenting how the Constitution prevents implementing similar measures in the US, and for good measure adding that “most Americans would agree with Russia’s anti-gay law”) and anti-LGBTQ African and Islamist countries to try to overturn the decision to investigate discrimination and violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity – a “wicked” plot “from the very pits of hell” designed to “impose the gay ideology on the whole world”. According to Ruse, who has been fighting the UN on these questions for a while, all countries should have laws discouraging homosexuality in order to “help society to teach what is good.” Such laws would also “prevent such truly harmful practices as homosexual marriage and adoption.” The signatories to the joint effort cited the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on the statement that the family is the fundamental unit of society and “is entitled to protection by society and State” from exposure to homosexuals. “Human rights”, like “victim” and “oppressed” and “Marxist”, means whatever you want it to mean when it serves your purpose. Another hero of Ruse’s is Viktor Orbán, who crushes dissent while defending “Christian Civilization”; Ruse has an interesting track record of pointing out various regimes as models for the US.

The UN is usually an enemy, however. In an actual 2013 email, Ruse claimed that the UN is “coming for your daughters and sons… WHO WANTS OUR DAUGHTERS? WHY DO THEY WANT OUR DAUGHTERS?” (capitalization in the original); “[t]he sexual radicals have your children, MY CHILDREN, in their crosshairs.” The trigger was apparently a United Nations Population Fund report on ways to address adolescent pregnancy, which to Ruse is proof that the UN wants to train kids on how to masturbate and get abortions. And in 2014, when the UN released a report that was heavily critical of the Roman Catholic Church’s handling of sex abuse cases, Ruse blamed Satan for the investigation that produced it: “Only the Devil could tell children they have a right to sex and abortion,” Ruse said in a message to C-FAM members, referring to the report’s worries about ideological stances toward sex in the Catholic church. “This Committee actually told the Church that its teaching on homosexuality has caused violence against the same-sex attracted,” continued a Ruse that was deeply shocked by the truth, concluding that “[w]hat these radicals need a good shaking.” One sometimes wonders whether he’s a parody.

In 2018 President Trump responded to the discussion by naming C-Fam’s executive vice president Lisa Correnti part of an official U.S. delegation to the annual U.N. Commission on the Status of Women to combat, as C-Fam put it, “the fiends of darkness”. C-Fam had at that point just called the session an “assault on life and family” in a fund-raising email where they portrayed themselves as a “small and relatively weak” organization pitted against the “rich and powerful” forces such as the U.N. human rights office.

In 2018 Ruse also critized ( Catholics who aren’t as fervently opposed to homosexuality as he is, that helping people accept homosexuality puts Catholics at risk for “stepping into a life that will only lead to heartache, sometimes disease, sometimes death, even damnation.” Then he claimed to be the victim. Here is another example of the abuse he is exposed to: at one point he and his daughter was forced to see a lesbian woman on the Food Network: Ruse had noted from the start that one of the chefs appearing on the show Chopped “looked like a butch lesbian” and had put his finger on the remote just in case he got exposed to gayness, but he was unfortunately too slow and was abusively forced to live with the consequences.

Ruse is also the author of a couple of books, including “Fake Science: Exposing the Left’s Skewed Statistics, Fuzzy Facts, and Dodgy Data,” which is notable for its skewed statistics, fuzzy facts and dodgy data (example here), in particular in service of Ruse’s climate change denialism. Ruse has a general and well documented problem distinguishing scientific studies from opinion pieces that agree with what he already believes. 

There is a fine Austin Ruse resource here.

Diagnosis: An embodiment of Orwellian, wingnut, fundie tactics: rich, rightwing fundamentalists are really the victims of powerful, poor gay people, because said wingnut fundies support human rights as practiced by paragons of religious liberty and freedom like Sudan and Saudia Arabia. Angry, zealous and completely delusional.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

#2193: Luke Rudkowski

Chuck Rudd is very silly, but too minor even for us to be bothered with. Luke Rudkowski, on the other hand, has at least made a bit of a splash among paranoid wingnut groups. Rudkowski is a wingnut “investigative journalist” and activist, conspiracy theorist and founder of “We Are Change”, a media organization consisting of various individuals and groups working to “expose worldwide corruption and hold authoritative figures to account for their actions and crimes in which their involvement has been covered up or hidden from public knowledge;” a worthy goal, and some of Rudkowski’s work is actually not without merit, were it not overwhelmed by the inane conspiracy theories that characterize most of his stuff. What Rudkowski really has done is, as the SPLC describes it, to harness “the energy of 9/11 ‘truthers’ to form an army of activists seeking to expose ‘the lies of the government and corporate elite who remain suspect in this crime’.” The group has, admittedly, achieved a certain level of notoriety.

Rudkowski’s message is usually conveyed through interviews with random people where he tests their knowledge of the New World Order, Federal Reserve, and 9/11 conspiracies, to ridicule them when they are unaware of his misrepresentations and imaginary connections. He has also confronted a number of more powerful figures, including Henry Kissinger and David Rockefeller, about their alleged plans to bring about a “one world socialist government” and depopulation. When his targets avoid him, Rudkowksi promptly and predictably takes it as evidence that his conspiracy theories are correct and that his targets are involved. So it goes.

We Are Change primarily promotes right-libertarian values along with their New World Order and 9/11 conspiracy theories, and ridiculing of the sheeple, but the organization also seeks “to uncover the truth behind the private banking cartel of the military industrial complex” that wants to “eliminate national sovereignty,” such as the Trilateral Commission. Rudkowski himself interrupted a lecture by former Trilateral Commission director Zbigniew Brzezinski in 2007 to accuse the organization of co-orchestrating the 9/11 attacks to initiate a new world order. Rudkowski and We Are Change also travel every year to protest at the annual “Illuminati meetings” of the Bohemian Grove and Bilderberg Group, and it was We Are Change member Matthew Mills who interrupted the MVP interview held at the 2014 NFL SuperBowl to urge the crowd to “investigate 9/11”, claiming that the attacks were perpetrated by the US government. The group was influential in promoting Ron Paul in his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns.

Rudkowski himself is of course also a climate change denier, believing that the idea of anthropogenic global warming is a ploy used to promote a one-world government ( and eugenics. 

Rudkowski was also one of the conspiracy theorists prominently featured in the documentary New World Order.

Diagnosis: Zealous and paranoid, and unlike most of the people sharing his delusions, Rudkowski actually wields some influence, tapping as he does into a rich vein of American paranoia, anger and critical-thinking-skill shortcomings.

Monday, May 20, 2019

#2192: Bob Rucho

Deranged crackpot William D. Rubinstein must, despite being born in the US, be counted as British, which is unfortunate since he is absolutely hilarious. Robert Anthony Rucho, on the other hand, is as American as Chinese fortune cookies. Rucho is a member of the North Carolina General Assembly representing the state’s thirty-ninth Senate district (part of Mecklenburg County), and former co-chairman of the (NC) Senate Finance Committee.

He is probably most famous for claiming that “Justice Robert’s pen & Obamacare has done more damage to the USA then [sic] the swords of the Nazis, Soviets & terrorists combined” in 2013, a comment that drew some criticism even from fellow wingnuts. He completely failed to defend the statement, just like he failed to defend equally inane nonsense offered in defense of fellow wingnut Dan Bishop’s HB 2 bill.

Rucho is also known for jumping on the voting fraud hysteria bandwagon based on silly conspiracy theories and misunderstanding basic facts. He is also what is probably best characterized as a poverty denialist.

Diagnosis: Standard state senate wingnut village idiot and denialist. Too many voters love these idiots, ostensibly partially because they find their reasoning and premises compelling, which does not reflect well on said voters. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

#2191: Lyssa Royal & Ron Holt

Lyssa Royal
Tom Rowles is, of course, British. Now, we are not entirely sure about Lyssa Royal and her husband Ron Holt, but they seem to be American. Holt and Royal (or Royal Holt) are the directors of the Seed of Life Institute LLC and the SOLi School, an organization “whose primary purpose is to assist individuals to understand the nature of consciousness.” That, of course, is not really what they offer. Instead, they claim to provide a “road map to the process of realizing the true Awareness beyond the human identity.” Royal is a channeler (a “trance channel”) and UFO abductee (pleiadians seem to be involved), who views channeling as “a tool for spiritual evolution,” and is apparently best known for “her in depth explorations of the nature of extraterrestrial consciousness and how it impacts human evolution.” Yes, it isa collection of words, none of which Royal would be able to define correctly if her life depended on it. According to Royal, “[c]hanneling is the process of accessing information or energy that isn’t normally available to the conscious mind.” It really isn’t.

She has written a number of books, including The Prism of LyraVisitors from WithinPreparing for Contact, and Millennium, as well as released the Galactic Heritage Cards, “a one-of-a-kind set of 108 inspirational cards based on the cosmology she introduces in her classic book The Prism of Lyra.” We are sure they are unique. Her husband Ronald Holt has his “expertise in the fields of sacred geometry, meditation, yoga and martial arts, and much more”, and when they combine their skills they constitute a true power house. Royal is “also a certified teacher of Taoist yoga.” We don’t know who certified her or why it would matter. 

The couple seems to have some kind of connection to legendary crank Drunvalo Melchizedek.

Diagnosis: Probably harmless fluff and imaginary cotton-candy, but good grief how silly it is. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

#2190:Robert J. Rowen

Robert J. Rowen is apparently an MD, but probably one you should stay clear. Rowen is also an “integrative physician”, and his probably most famous for his promotion of ozone therapy. Indeed, Rowen claims that ozone therapy even cures Ebola. He does seem to be a true believer rather than an outright fraud, however, since in 2014 he even went to Sierra Leone at the height of the Ebola outbreak, together with fellow crank Howard Robins, to offer ozone therapy and ultraviolet blood irradiation therapy to Ebola patients. (He was not the only lunatic to go there; infected areas were also invaded by homeopaths trying to push worthless nonsense to people in desperate need of real healthcare – the most ridiculous suggestion being perhaps this.

Ultraviolet blood irradiation therapy is one of the most ridiculous forms of quackery out there, though ozone therapy comes close; in Rowan’s very much alternate reality, both are “oxidative therapies” that supposedly increase the oxygen content of the blood. There is no evidence that UV radiation does that; ozone therapy will, but not in any way that will make any beneficial difference insofar as it doesn’t increase the hemoglobin content, and the hemoglobin is usually maximally saturated anyways. Rowan not only thinks it works, but even issued a press release where he suggested he had actually managed to cure a patient with Ebola. Of course, there is no reason to think that the patient in question ever had Ebola, since he refused to be tested – the evidence being solely that the patient had possibly been exposed and was stressed out about having been exposed. It is striking that Rowan did not do his obvious professional duty and reported the case to the authorities to prevent others from being infected, however, though we suppose that duty would only apply if Rowan actually suspected that the patient might have contracted the disease. We leave readers to assess Rowan’s ethical standards here. If you do, you should also consider the fact that the press release was issued only eight days after the supposed exposure incident, that Ebola has an incubation period of up to 21 days, and that the patient was, as mentioned, never actually tested for the disease. Evidence, documentation and accountability: these people really do not know how any of that works, and people are all the more at risk for it.

I sure hope the people of the world will begin to stand up to the forces of disease-maintenance evil that has taken over the world to pharm us,” said Rowan, since the fact that Big Pharma is evil somehow vindicates his own type of quackery.  

Rowen is apparently recognized as one of the great experts on ozone therapy and related quackery in various pseudoscience circles (Edward Kondrot is a fan, for instance), and he gives talks and presentations at various cargo-cult conferences, such as World Oxygen and Ozone Congress, on the supposed benefits. But Rowen’s promotion of quackery doesn’t end with ozone therapy. Rowen is also an advisor of the American Board of Chelation Therapy which is a system created by chelation therapists (dangerous quackery) in order to be “board certified” in clinical metal toxicology without really knowing anything about the field. It is basically just a board set up by quacks to give themselves credentials and write capital letters behind their names. Rowen also recommends laetrile, no less, through something called the Cancer Control Society, a group whose website states that they do “not believe in the Traditional methods of Surgery, Radiation and Chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer by doctors in California hospitals.

It is, by the way, actually remarkable to look at the legal troubles various people affiliated with the American Board of Chelation Therapy have landed themselves in. Rowen himself, for instance, got in trouble while practicing in Alaska (before he moved to California): to avoid federal income tax, Rowen set up “asset protection” trusts and did not file returns for 1992 through 1997. In 1997, he pled guilty to a federal felony charge of “corrupt endeavor to impede” an agent of the IRS and was sentenced to 10 months of probation and ordered to pay $10,003.91 in restitution and a $2,000 fine; Rowen subsequently filed for bankruptcy but in 2003, the court ruled that this did not discharge his tax debt, and in April 2007, after appeals had been denied, the court issued an abstract of judgment for $1,124,800.90. Though not directly related to his medicine, of course, it’s just the kind of thing that might give one a bit of insight into Rowen’s attitudes toward honesty and accountability.

Rowen is predictably also one of the woo promoters who rushed to the defense of anti-vaccine apologist Bob Sears when the latter got in trouble with the California medical board. That itself doesn’t necessarily entail that Rowen himself harbors antivaccine sympathies, but might rather just mean that he doesn’t like the fact that authorities hold MDs accountable for their actions toward patients – Rowen is, after all, affiliated with the American Association of Health Freedom, an organization mostly lobbying for the removal of oversight and accountability for doctors who wish to sell quackery and unproven treatments; apparently, Rowen is, according at least to himself, known as “The Father of Medical Freedom” for “pioneering the nation’s first statutory protection for alternative medicine in 1990.”

Then again, Rowen also appeared on at least one list of vaccine-skeptical doctors circulated among antivaccine groups (somewhat parallel to the Discovery Institute’s laughable petition A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism – petition signing is a gambit apparently loved by everyone who doesn’t know how science works). And Rowen has at least basically stated that death is better than autism, which is stupid and strictly speaking also irrelevant to vaccine discussions since vaccines don’t cause autism in the first place (Rowen, of course, being a dangerous moron, seems to think otherwise; he also thinks that vaccine-preventable diseases are nothing to worry about.)

The very much familiar
development of most GMO
debates (Hat-tip: ?)
And just to demonstrate the powers of crank magnetism, Rowan has also contributed to anti-GMO conspiracy theories. In his article “Is GMO worse than nuclear radiation?” (remember Betteridge’s law of headlines; it appears that Rowen’s answer is that GMOs are worse since radioactive substances have a half-life whereas GMOs are forever, which doesn’t exactly suggest a deep understanding of radioactivity, or GMOs), Rowen argues – notice the complete lack of facts and evidence – by FUD that the US is in a conspiracy to empower Monsanto (the whyis left open, but apparently the claim sounds truthy to his intended audiences) and persecute free-thinking scientists, but is mostly a promotion of unhinged conspiracy screeds and books by Jeffery Smith, a former yogic flying instructor, who certainly has no scientific credentials or relevant scientific background whatsoever.

Diagnosis: The embodiment of post-truth activism, really. Little or nothing of what Rowen says is true, and none of the quackery he promotes will do anyone any good. But we’re less sure it is accurate to call him a “liar”; Rowen simply doesn’t seem to care. It’s been common to distinguish those who act against better knowledge when promoting the kinds of therapies Rowen promotes, on the one hand, and deluded true believers, on the other, but people like Rowen really force one to question how meaningful this distinction actually is.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

#2189: Amy Rothenberg

I love being able to look at new approaches that may come along and to ask myself, ‘Is this within the bounds of the philosophy I so embrace?’ And if not, to let it go,” 
(We hope we don’t have to explain to readers why whether something fits my personal philosophy or religious creedis not how you determine which treatments or health measures are safe and effective or not.)

Amy Rothenberg is the former President of the Massachusetts Society of Naturopathic Doctors, board member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians, occasional blogger for Huffington post and sometime editor of the journal New England Journal of Homeopathy, which is almost like a science journal except for the science part. She is, in other words, kind of a big name on the quackery scene, and despite being in complete denial about the difference between accountability and free use of fantasy, and utterly unable to recognize facts and evidence, she has been at the forefront of the naturopathic push for recognizing naturopaths as being qualified to help address the shortage of primary care physicians. They aren’t, by any stretch of the imagination – deeply committed as they are to medieval and prescientific medical principles such as vitalism, balancing of humors (or “energy) – including homeopathy – dressed up in sciency-sounding pseudojustifications and truthiness. Naturopaths love truthiness. Rothenberg herself advocates homeopathy, even as a treatment for autism. Facts and evidence and basic understanding of medicine, biology and physics be damned.

Hat-tip: I f**ing hate pseudoscience

Due to her status in the world of pseudoscience, Rothenberg was a natural choice to include among those representing the side of lunacy at the FDA public hearings on homeopathy in 2015. Rothenberg said she believed that “FDA’s current regulatory approach to homeopathic products is working well,” which is hardly surprising, and provided – like most other homeopathy defenders at the show – an infomercial for naturopaths and homeopaths, emphasizing their “extensive” classroom and clinical training, exams, and the like (with less focus on what the students learned or what the exams tested them on). In addition to some personal anecdotes – and unlike the other participants – Rothenberg actually did attempt to explain homeopathy’s purported mechanism of action. According to Rothenberg, the mechanism is hormesis, a classic homeopathic piece of pseudoscience.

Rothenberg has been a pretty persistent lobbyist for naturopathy and the supplement industry in Massachusets for years, using arguments that are disingenuous at best, and she was instrumental in the quack movement’s successful campaign to gain licensure in Massachusets in 2017. Licensure, of course, gives naturopaths both a sheen of legitimacy, and enables them to protect their turfs against other quacks – indeed, Rothenberg herself emphasized that the bill would protect patients from inadequately trained naturopaths, which, given the “training” naturopaths actually get, means nothing. Rothenberg also emphasized “the unique role that naturopathic doctors can play in the state,” and claimed that naturopaths bring “expertise in both preventive medicine and natural integrative care” – the former (“expertise” in “preventive medicine”) is, of course, false; the second (“expertise” in “natural integrative care”) is not healthcare. It was not her first attempt, though; Rothenberg had been part of the effort at least since 2001; her claims were as divorced from evidence then as they are today.

Rothenberg’s own background story is fairly typical. At one point, Rothenberg had cancer, which was cured through conventional care: surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. But while undergoing real and effective treatment, she also subjected herself to a wide range of quackery that added nothing to her care, including intravenous vitamin infusions, hyperbaric oxygen chambers, and enzyme therapy. Since she did get well, however, she chose to attribute much of the success to the woo.  

Hat-tip: i f***ing hate pseudoscience

The American Council for Continuing Medical Education has on at least one occasion been duped into accepting that Rothenberg and people like her have something to offer modern healthcare.

Diagnosis: A central figure on the quackery & pseudoscience scene – confident, zealous, professional-sounding and lacking even the most cursory understanding of evidence, reality and accountability and why any of that matters when offering advice or treatments for people in need. Disgusting. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019

#2188: Joseph Rossell

Joseph Rossell is Assistant to the Chief Financial Officer at and occasional blogger for Concerned Women for America. Rossell is particularly notable for his anti-environmentalism, claiming that environmental protection efforts represent “an incredibly evil set of values,” if not “the most dangerous agenda on earth.” Indeed, environmentalists back a “vile” and “highly dangerous ideology” that “may very well be the most anti-human, anti-life agenda on the planet.” As Rossell sees it, environmentalism is really a depopulation conspiracy. After all, many people have voiced concerns about overpopulation, and it therefore follows in Rossell’s deranged mind that these people believe it “necessary to dramatically reduce the number of people globally through brutal methods (including sterilization and abortion).” And the conspiracy goes deep: it is even “gaining ground in American school systems, thanks in part to initiatives like Common Core.” Ultimately, the foundation for environmentalism is hatred of Christianity. “Christ warns His followers, ‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves’ (Matthew 7:15),” says Rossell, and points out that “[e]nvironmentalism is similarly deceptive, requiring us to employ spiritual discernment.” “Spiritual discernment” is apparently fundamentalist conspiracy theorists’ substitute for critical thinkingand evidence

As for the “false prophets” part, Rossell is of course a climate change denialist, claiming that “global warming remains a hotly debated topic among scientists. There is still no consensus about what might be causing it, much less how to fix it. Some question the extent to which temperatures are even increasing.” This is, of course, blatantly false. Rossell, however, is thinking of sources like fundamentalist theologian, dominionist and creationist E. Calvin Beisner and the Cornwall Alliance.

Diagnosis: Denialist, fundamentalist, conspiracy theorist. Pretty predictable stuff. Rossell is still a relatively minor figure, but we predict a bright future for him on the dominionist, denialist evil circus clown circuit.

Friday, May 10, 2019

#2187: Marvin Rosenthal

The Holy Land Experience is a theme park (or, as some visitor shave acutely observed, a series of gift shops) run by the Trinity Broadcasting Network with the purpose of showing people the historical Middle East as conceived of by US evangelical fundamentalists. The HLE was founded by Jewish-born Baptist minister Marvin (“Marv”) Rosenthal, and opened its gates in 2001; it was bought by TBN in 2007 after a period of financial difficulties. Rosenthal is also chief executive of Zion’s Hope, a ministry devoted (like previous entry’s Joel Rosenberg) to “reaching the Jewish people for the Messiah”. 

Among the HLE’s many attractions are several “ISRAELI HOLY SITES – Authentically Reproduced” (where “authentically” should course to be interpreted with the fundie’s usual eye for accuracy, accountability and factual basis), including the Garden of Eden, the Bethlehem Bus Loop, the Shepherd’s Field, the “Eyes of the Lord” & “Pieta”, The Jesus Boat, the Tiny Town of Bethlehem, the Birth Place of Jesus and the Bethlehem Bell Tower, all with a strikingly Monty Pythonesque atmosphere (review here) Insofar as a central goal of HLE is to convert Jewish people to Christianity, the park has received some criticism from Jewish organizations. Rosenthal’s response was that they weren’t exclusively targeting Jewish people.

The park is currently run by Paul and Jan Crouch. But what is Rosenthal up to these days? Well, beyond the HLE Rosenthal is known for his book The Prewrath Rapture of the Church from 1990, a notable exercise in deranged nonsense. And his ministry, Zion’s Fire, seems to be chugging along merrily and zealously working to convert Jewish people to Christianity before the End Times, which are imminent, as always. With regard to said End Times, Rosenthal has been pretty explicit about Islam’s role; as such, one of the aims of the HLE was apparently to encourage American opposition to any sort of peace in the Middle East, given the importance of war, death, tyranny and suffering in the Middle East in bringing about the end of the world that Rosenthal is looking for.

Diagnosis: Yes, he’s evil. He is also laughably ridiculous, but we recommend keeping a safe distance.

Hat-tip: Rationalwiki

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

#2186: Joel Rosenberg

Joel C. Rosenberg is a fundie communications strategist, founder of The Joshua Fund, and author of the rather popular Last Jihad series. The latter details, in the form of novels, how Rosenberg, a Messianic Jew (or something similar), interprets terrorism in light of Bible prophecy. He also has written two ostensibly non-fiction books, Epicenter and Inside the Revolution, which also try to interpret current events in light of biblical prophecies. They are distinguished from his novels in terms of prose style and narrative structure, not by any grounding in facts or reality – here, for instance, is Rosenberg explaining how the war in Syria is obviously foretold in the Bible. It’s … a stretch, but Neil Cavuto on Fox apparently took it seriously. Here are (a commentary on) some other examples. Rosenberg is a former Rush Limbaugh research assistant, and used to share his thoughts with Glenn Beck.

Rosenberg currently lives in Israel, where he works to proselytize to Jews and convert them to Christianity; on his website, he states that “Jews are turning to Jesus in record numbers, and they are getting excited about His Second Coming.” This is important, as Rosenberg sees it, since we are currently living in the End Times (Rosenberg takes a dispensionalist view on these matters, for those interested) and headed into the rapture and the return of Jesus Christ brought about by an emerging Islamic caliphate. His novel The Twelfth Imam accordingly describes a near-futre where Iran has a nuclear weapon and “[m]illions of Muslims around the world are convinced their messiah – known as ‘the Twelfth Imam’ – has just arrived on earth.” He has also suggested that the only way Arabs and Israelis can reach a lasting peace is for “Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace – to change men's hearts and reign in our hearts,” but we’ll leave it to readers to figure out whether this is something he would want to see happen, given that the conflict is an integral part of the mechanisms ushering in the return of Jesus.

In general, Rosenberg is fond of linking stuff together, which is rather easy to do if you don’t focus on details or whether the relata are connected by anything other than your own vecordious imagination. During GodTV’s 9/11 Wake Up Call, Rosenberg claimed that God let the attacks on September 11, 2011 happen “to shake America, to get our attention, to wake us up,” later pointing to America’s abortion rate, financial debt and pornography industry as national sins that should be blamed and which are leading to the destruction of America (legal abortion is worse than the Holocaust, claimed Rosenberg, and will be punished accordingly). Apparently conflicts in the Middle East are a result of abortion being legal in the US. Also, “God is trying to shake us” through earthquakes and hurricanes, including hurricane Sandy, because “He is trying to get us to let go of anything else, any form of ideology, philosophy, political belief, religious belief, material position, anything or anyone that we are holding onto other than Jesus Christ.” Later, he emphasized that people like Jon Stewart of The Daily Show must share the blame for the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting (and in general for the, uh, fact that “demons of violence and lawlessness are on the loose all across America”) because they have waged a “cultural war against Jesus and Christmas.” and tried to “drive [God] out of our society.” If you think the causal connection is a bit unclear, Rosenberg explains: God did not stop the Newton massacre because God is a “gentleman”: “If a nation tells Him to leave, He will leave.” Or, more pithily: if you disagree with Rosenberg on religious issues, you are to blame for school shootings. He is a little bit back and forth on whether God has removed his hand of protection or will do so if we don’t repent. Not even Rosenberg himself can really tell the difference, can he?

The Joshua Fund, where Rosenberg is the founder and president, is a not-for-profit charity that seeks to “Bless Israel and her neighbors in the name of Jesus, according to Genesis 12:1-3.”

Diagnosis: Fanatic, zealous, angry and hateful rubbish, all of it. Yet Rosenberg seems to have the ear of plenty of people in power, and can definitely not be dismissed as rapidly and decisively as the contents of his claims. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

#2185: Lawrence Rosen

Lawrence Rosen is an “integrative” pediatrician and chair-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Clinical Assistant Professor in Pediatrics at UMDNJ/New Jersey Medical School, and Chief of Pediatric Integrative Medicine at the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center, medical advisor to the antivaccine organization the Deirdre Imus Environmental Center, and blogger for  The Whole Child blog. He is, in other words, not a nobody, but he is a crank and pseudoscientist through and through. Rosen is at least an antivaccine sympathizer, who opposes vaccine mandates (in particular mandates for the flu vaccine and Gardasil), and seems to think that thimerosal causes autism (though chooses to remain carefully vague about it) despite the fact that the hypothesis that it does is falsified beyond any vestige of doubt – which is, of course, a hallmark of pseudoscientific practice. He is also a speaker at anti-vaccine conferences, and was one of the “experts” who “vetted” the conspiracy theory flick “The Greater Good”, something that ought to prevent anyone even minimally reasonable from ever listening to his advice on anything ever again. He is also on the advisory board for the zealously delusional Holistic Moms Network.

Rosen has managed to establish himself as one of the leading promoters and advocates of woo in the US, and he promotes woo and pseudoscience in familiar ways: “Conventional Western medicine is about fixing disease, mainly acute illnesses. It’s oriented around disease labeling and treatment,” says Rosen, which is blatantly false, but rhetorically useful in promoting himself as a Brave Maverick Doctor who has seen the light and gone his own ways. And Rosen promotes the whole gamut of ineffectual nonsense regimes and treatments, backed up with fluff and appeals to nature, including homeopathyaromatherapy, herbal medicine, and guided imagery, “operated according to the principles of ecologically sustainable medicine” (which he is free define any way he likes, of course). Indeed, Rosen promotes oscillococcinum, no less, stating – with an apparently straight face – that: “Oscillococcinum has been found to be a good homeopathic treatment for children and adults with flu-like symptoms.” It is hard to imagine that he made the claim in good faith.

Now, Rosen targets his quackery at children in particular. His Whole Child Center practices “integrative medicine,” based “on a practitioner-client partnerships in which both conventional and alternative modalities are used to stimulate the body’s natural healing potential.” Their website does feature a quack Miranda warning, at least. They also feature Bob Sears’s vaccine book, a large tome of scare tactics and anecdotes of children experiencing problems after receiving vaccines, apparently straight from the VAERS database. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics published an article criticizing Sears’ callous and unprofessional conspiracy mongering, crackpottery, lies and general dimwittedness.

And critics? Rosen is nothing if not fond of the pharma shill gambit. It is very effective with certain audiences.

Diagnosis: Pseudoscientist, crackpot and quack, but of the charismatic and trust-inspiring kind; what he promotes, however, isn’t better grounded in reality or evidence than the stuff promoted by incoherent, raging lunatics in weird color schemes and random capitalization over at Maintain a safe distance.