Thursday, April 28, 2022

#2533: Julie Beischel

Julie Beischel is a spiritualist, parapsychology practitioner and New Age babble producer, most famous for her appearance in The Goop Lab series on Netflix. She is pretty indicative of the general intellectual level of the content of that series. And yes, she is affiliated with Goop, as well as co-founder of the Windbridge Institute.


The Windbridge Institute – full title the Windbridge Institute for Applied Research in Human Potential   is an organization devoted to all sorts of psychic bullshit, and claims – just like that – that levitation, psychokinesis and mediumship are scientifically genuine, because blanket assertions are cheap and those who find such claims intriguing are unlikely to care too much.


Beischel herself has apparently got a PhD in Pharmacology and Toxicology which she uses to adorn her lies, falsehoods and misrepresentations. Among her publications is the book Among Mediums: A Scientist’s Quest for Answers (2013), where she claims that mediums such as Leonora Piper actually communicated with the dead. Piper, of course, was a well-known fraud, but like with the other mediums covered, Beischel just skipped over the evidence of fraud parts. Beischel has also voiced her support for the conclusions drawn by Gary Schwartz from his experiments – indeed, she has frequently collaborated with Schwartz.


Otherwise, Beischel has an extensive publication record of pseudoscientific papers claiming that mediums can talk to the dead, published in various parapsychology journals, such as this one, coauthored with people like Dean Radin and Arnaud Delorme, as well as Leena Michel and Mark Boccuzzi of the Institute of Noetic Sciences. Basically, the paper concluded with the trivial observation that mediums who attempted to communicate with the dead experienced changes in electrocortical activity (duh!), that “the impression of communicating with the deceased may be a distinct mental state distinct from ordinary thinking or imagination” – yeah, science! – while still managing to be methodologically bonkers. (Even otherwise sympathetic readers are sometimes forced to dismiss her studies). Boccuzzi, by the way, is apparently Beischel’s husband, and they are currently coauthoring a book, Psychic Intimacy: A Handbook for Couples, that will “highlight practical applications of telepathy for couples.”


Beischel has also written Meaningful Messages: Making the Most of Your Mediumship Reading (2013). Her ridiculous nonsense paper “Anomalous Information Reception by Research Mediums Demonstrated Using a Novel Triple-Blind Protocol”, with Gary Schwartz, is discussed here; the set-up and execution of the study is pretty … illuminating.


Diagnosis: A fabulous illustration of pseudoscience, and a really interesting case study of a strikingly common feature of pseudoscience studies in these kinds of fields, what one might perhaps term pathological self-undermining: though Beischel evidently believes the results of her studies, the designs are so obviously inept and the methodological flaws so obviously terrible that it’s hard to believe it’s not deliberately set up to fail to yield worthwhile results. It’s really rather fascinating.


Sunday, April 24, 2022

#2532.5: Paul Begley

Paul Begley is a fuming wingnut, pastor, conspiracy theorist and host of the “Coming Apocalypse” program – yes, that kind of pastor. Precisely when the apocalypse is supposed to come is less unambiguous – it often seems to be happening constantly, as Begley presents things – but Begley has at least given us the date April 13, 2029, when, on the basis of some astronomical observations as filtered through sensationalist media, there was a question whether an asteroid could, in principle, hit Earth. That isn’t Begley’s first celestial-object-based end-times predictions, however; in 2011, he apparently got hold of some conspiracy nonsense about Comet Elenin, which NASA patiently tried to tell people would not threaten Earth – people like Begley, however, when faced with a choice between facts and incoherent conspiracy babbling, won’t hesitate: “It’s coming!” thundered Begley to his Congregation. It was admittedly unclear precisely what it’s effects would be – “Will there be some type of magnetic pull? Will the poles shift? Will there be some type of pull of gravity that creates earthquakes and tsunamis and volcanoes and hurricanes and tornadoes and cyclones and mudslides, forest fires?” asked Begley – but it was pretty clear to him that there would be some effect, and that it would be cataclysmic: you see, the comet’s nearest point to Earth would fall during the Feast of Tabernacles, according the Jewish calendar, and what are the odds for that? “I’m here to tell you right now, we’re getting closer and closer and closer and closer to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ,” said Begley.


In 2017, Begley even jumped on the Nibiru revival bandwagon, which was apparently too silly even for most of the loonier parts of the conspiracyverse. Nibiru would, according to Begley, appear in 2017, and he declared that a solar eclipse was a sign both of the apocalypse and of the (non-existent) rogue planet. In 2019, however, it was blood moons (a very natural and common phenomenon) that conclusively showed that we are living in the “last days”. At least he doesn’t let persistent, total out-of-the-field failures stop him, or even cool down his prophetic activities. In 2018, for instance, he predicted that Romney would run for president in 2020 in order to siphon votes away from President Trump and help Clinton become president.


He has also expressed deep concerns that scientists working at CERN are trying to open a portal to hell.


Demons in the White House

Begley managed to get some mainstream media attention for his 2017 claim that First Lady Melania Trump ordered the White House to be “completely exorcised” before she moved in. “The first lady, in that five hours when the Obamas and the Trumps went down to the Capitol and Trump was being sworn in as the 45th president of the United States,” Begley elaborated, based entirely on his imagination, “Melania Trump said to her husband, ‘I’m not going to go into that White House unless it has been completely exorcised.’” Such an operation was required, according to Begley, because when the Obamas lived there, the White House was filled with “all kinds of idol gods and images and all kinds of artifacts in there that were demonic,” so “during that five hours when they were ripping out carpets and changing drapes, there were people in there packing up every idol.” When asked for sources, Begley said that his source for the story was close to “those working in the White House” but had requested that he (or she) not be named.


One interesting point here is that Begley seems to simultaneously believe his story wholeheartedly and be completely aware that he made it up out of thin air. The most interesting point about the story, however, may be the fall-out. Though completely idiotic and obviously false, the far-right press decided to run with the tale: CNS News was quickly there, and it made its way straight to American Family Radio and Infowars – Infowars presenter Owen Shroyer apparently thought Begley’s story in some not-entirely-clear way discredited the presumably apocryphical “pee tape” and that the whole thing symbolizes “that Donald Trump and Melania Trump understand that this is more than a political battle, more than an earthly battle, but a spiritual battle.” Bryan Fischer, meanwhile, declared that the first lady was very right to remove all those “demons” left in the White House by the Obamas. The story got so big that the first lady’s office actually chose to publicly affirm that the story was “not true in any way.” As Miranda Blue points out, the whole thing was an illustrative example of the genre of Trump-finds-God fan fiction, which has been going really, really strong in fundie rightwing circles.


Begley himself, by the way, did not back down: Though the first lady’s office might have denied that there was an exorcism in the White House, “they didn’t say that they didn’t remove all of the idols, all the relics, all the witchcraft, all the voodoo, all of the things that were in there.”


Miscellaneous politics

Begley’s political commentaries are in general characterized by his view that anyone who disagrees with him is possessed by demons and controlled by the Illuminati (they’re everywhere). For a while, Begley was the main proponent of the claim that Barack Obama was leading an Illuminati plot to assassinate then-President Trump – they’ve apparently been assassinating people left and right, including White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow, who was shot with a “heart attack gun – and that if Hillary Clinton had been elected president, she would have handed control of the US over to the Illuminati/the United Nations in preparation for the rise of the Antichrist. That, for instance, is why Obama ordered the government to spy on Trump: “Obama tapped his phones, he tapped his home, he sent around drones, trying to figure out a way to derail the Trump campaign.”  According to Begley, “the deep state [which is apparently usually focused on trying to put Christians in internment camps – Begley knows this on the basis of a miraculous vision he had in 1994], the New World Order, the Illuminati, the Bilderberg group, the Bohemian Grove [in 2018, Begley suggested that the recent suicides of designer Kate Spade and travel writer Anthony Bourdain were really “high profile sacrifices of the Illuminati” that took place during the annual Bilderberg conference], everybody at Skull & Bones, everybody in every secret society that there is, Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, all of the swamp creatures, all of ’em; the plan was to put Hillary Clinton in the White House and then to move this nation and the world under a one-world government, a New World Order.” And Clinton would have subverted the democratic process: “There would be laws changed; Obama put all these different judges in the federal courts and in different positions, they were going to rewrite this Constitution, folks. They were going to railroad this democracy … The United States was going to be handed over to the New World Order or to the Illuminati at the United Nations and then there would be ten kings selected as an Antichrist would emerge on the scene.” Fortunately, Trump God derailed that plan because “Israel needed to celebrate its 70th anniversary with the U.S. embassy and the city of Jerusalem as the capital of the nation.” Lucky us.


Once Trump got to power, however, he teamed up with that other beacon of Meassianic light, Putin, to successfully combat the Illuminati and One World government (“they are. They really, really are,” declared Begley because unless you assert it several times it doesn’t count as proof). And that’s why all these people are so critical of Trump: “We have an Antichrist lurking among us, folks, and these old senators and congressmen that won’t go away, it’s because they thought they were going to see the glory of the Luciferians. They thought their time had come.” Trump’s critics “are just the mouthpiece of the beast.


FBI agent Peter Strzok, by the way, was obviously one of the Illuminati agents – at least Begley quickly declared that Strzok was part of a demonic Illuminati cabal trying to implement a one-world government: “You were that close from losing this freedom, what we call a democracy or a republic. We came within an eyelash of losing this nation.” Explained Begley: “I think [not a concept he masters] Peter Strzok is part of a vast secret society complexity, an Illuminati demonically-charged biblical beast called the deep state that was involved in hijacking this great nation of America and ultimately hijacking the world into a one-world government, a new world order. Because what Peter Strzok was doing is right out of the pages of the Illuminati.” It’s not entirely clear which pages Begley has been reading.


However, even Clinton’s candidacy was apparently dwarfed by the 2018 sexual assault and misconduct allegations against Supreme Court (then-)nominee Brett Kavanaugh, which wasn’t merely sign of the Beast but represented “the darkest hour in the last 150 years” and led Begley to wonder how we could possibly survive.


Begley’s 2018 discussion of the Parkland shootings with incoherent maniac Russ Dizdar of Shatter The Darkness is also illuminating (or whatever you call it). Begley and Dizdar floated a range of ideas about who could “really” have been behind the massacre – “demons” being an obvious suggestion, … but could it also be “the video games, virtual reality video games?”; or “was this planted, what this done, did they use this weaponized microwave technology to mess with the brain of this kid to get him to do this to try to take away our Second Amendment rights and your right to bear arms?” That the approach would have been a notoriously silly means to employ if the goal was to curb everyone’s Second Amendment rights is clearly not anything worth pointing out to someone with a mind like Begley’s.


Diagnosis: Demonstrably unable to distinguish reality from incoherent, angry fever dreams, or facts from nonsense stories he just made up himself, Begley must count as one of the less coherent, rabid and paranoid fundies on the fundie clown circus – at least among those that enjoy a modicum of real influence. … cause he does, in fact, enjoy some influence, thus demonstrating that there is, indeed, room left on the far side of the JFK return Qanon conspiracy cult-level crazy.


Editorial note: After completing this entry, we discovered that we’ve actually covered Begley before, long before he rose to the limelight. In case anyone keeps a tally, we decided not to give this entry a whole number.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

#2532: Chip Beeker

Alabama legislatures are, unfortunately, not generally known as centers for of reason, sanity and decency. But even by Alabama’s standards, Chris “Chip” Beeker is utterly deranged. Beeker is currently Alabama’s Public Service Commissioner, and a paranoid fundie conspiracy theorist and bigot. The purpose of the Alabama Public Service Commission is to regulate utility services like electricity and water, but Beeker seems a bit confused about his role.


Beeker has spent a significant amount of the Commission’s time – often together with his equally deranged co-commissioner and current (2021) president of the APSC, Twinkle Cavanaugh – ranting about gay marriage. At a 2015 meeting, for instance, he went on a lengthy and incoherent stream-of-consciousness tirade in response to the U.S. District Judge’s ruling against Alabama’s same-sex marriage ban, a ruling that ostensibly reminded him of  the difference of our federal government when we were children,” i.e. Alabama of the 1950s, when everything was the way it should be there, and led him to praise Roy Moore’s vow to block same-sex marriages and “this usurpation of the rights of Alabamians” (i.e. Alabamians™, which encompass people who shares his political views on religion and certainly not gay people). Then he lamented “the moral decline in our nation”, as evidenced by teen pregnancies (the relationship to gay marriage went unexplained), that schools were no longer required to post copies of the Ten Commandments (“the results of the removal of God from the schools is as plain as the results of the attempted removal of God from all of the United States”), and the fact that there are daycares inside public schools.


Beeker has described the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality as “five unelected and unaccountable justices imposed their will on the people of Alabama and the United States,” following it up – to make sure that no one would interpret him as reasonable – by claiming that the ruling “was not an interpretation of the Constitution. It was an assault on God, on Christian heritage and on our culture,” because for Beeker, the Constititution and a literal reading of the Bible is more or less the same thing. And according to Beeker, “the runaway judiciary is a bigger threat to the United States than Isis. Liberal judges have done harm to our country and our constitution than Al Qaeda,” because homosexual relationships are pretty much exactly like mass murder.


Beeker has views about environmental regulations, too. In particular, as Beeker sees it, EPA rules regulating pollution from coal plants violate God’s will because He gave coal to Alabama, and “who has the right to take what God’s given a state?” Which is a very strange question to ask on so many levels. Twinkle Cavanaugh followed up the rant by imploring people to “be in prayer” for securing coal plants’ rights to pollute the state and the world as they fancy. As for the science part, Beeker thinks that the “so-called ‘climate change crisis’ is about as real as unicorns and little green men from Mars”. Climate change is promoted by “the same environmental extremists who screamed a few years ago that our planet was experiencing ‘global warming,’ but when studies showed weather patterns have actually gotten cooler, not warmer, over the past several decades,, they subtly changed the phrase to ‘climate change’ [no, they didn’t]” No studies have of course remotely suggested what Beeker claims in his imaginary narrative, (and no: no one believed that the Earth was cooling in the seventies either, contrary to a zombie myth popular in denialist circles) but he’s not going to let reality get in the way for some good, conspiratorial wishful thinking.


Diagnosis: Wild-eyed, ragingly insane, incoherent conspiracy theorist and religious fanatic. That kind of stuff flies well in Alabama, obviously, and he seems to remain popular.

Monday, April 18, 2022

#2531: Belinda Bee

Belinda Bee is a rightwing activist and organizer of various demonstrations to remove then-president Obama (whatever it is in office over there) from office as part of her putatively God-ordained mission to save America. She apparently founded and co-coordinated (together with e.g. the relatively colorful “Pope” Dan Johnson) the 2 Million Bikers to DC demonstration in 2014 (i.e. the sequel, which fell some 99.9% short of its goal), for instance. As a speaker at one of dingbat Larry Klayman’s rallies, she laid out her political views rather nicely: “We at 2 Million Bikers to DC do believe in God, Country, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights – as written. That means there should not be change. We don’t care about all of those Bill of Rights that came after the original. We want to go back to our Founding Fathers’ views and beliefs.” (She is, in other words, pro-slavery but anti-voting.) She also passionately defended her interpretation of freedom of religion: “We are one nation under God, and without God, we are not America […]”, and freedom of religion means to “have the freedom to be a Christian, and to have the God that we have,” not any other religious views. She also targeted the imagined threat of Sharia law and churches that accept “perversion” – presumably homosexuality.


Diagnosis: Her activities didn’t exactly launch her into stardom, and she remains pretty obscure – we have no idea what she’s up to these days (google searching is hampered by her sharing the name with a presumably different adult movie actress) but it’s probably nothing good.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

#2530: John Beckett & The Intercessors for America

The Intercessors for America (IFA) is an absolutely maniacally insane rightwing Taliban fundie “ministry organization” devoted to “prayer and fasting for the nation” in order to “intercede for our nation and leaders for the purpose of getting “God to intervene in U.S. governmental and cultural issues”. Fortunately, their activities are focused around performing various symbolic rituals that will ostensibly force God to do what they want Him to do, and they are as such pretty toothless, even though the level of insanity displayed is beyond the pale. They are led by the deranged Dave Kubal (to be covered later), but we list them under John Beckett, one of the original founders, who is also the author of “Loving Monday: Succeeding in Business Without Selling Your Soul”, which is as good a guide to the general theological outlook of the group as any.


So, for instance, in connection with Donald Trump’s inauguration, the group arranged a seven-day Jericho march around the White House and Capitol, culminating with a mighty ‘shout’ by believers around the nation” (those who know the story of Jericho may have questions about the motive her), followed by teams of intercessors “prayer walking (marching)” in the area while “declaring the coming presence of our Lord and destruction of the walls of protection around those [who] oppose Him” (it is unclear whether “Him” here refers to Trump or God, or whether the group recognizes the difference). Here is a discussion of the similarities between groups like this and New Age thinking.


The group publishes a number of prayer guides, which sort of illustrate some of their views (if they weren’t blatantly obvious already); they include:


-       15 Steps to Freedom from Witchcraft

-       Religious Exemption to the Vaccine Mandate” (but of course; what did you expect?)

-       Reasons to Prayerfully Reconsider the Push for Vaccine Passports” – yeah, they have to stretch things far into hilarity to make it sound like it belongs to the prayer guide category.

-       Praying about the Infrastructure Bill Spending”; note that it’s not praying for the bill itself.

-       The Amicus Brief Prayer Guide

-       6 Battle-Ready Positions for Victory in Spiritual Warfare

-       Warring against Witchcraft”; yes, witches are a significant social problem in the US, apparently.

-       Praying against National Demonic Influence

-       Prophetic Declarations to Make Over America

-       Top Three Threats to OUR American Freedom with the Biden Actions” (they didn’t bother with the “prayer guide” label with this one)

-       GUN OWNERSHIP: Building a Biblical Worldview”; there are also “Building a Biblical Worldview” guides for education, the environment, marriage & sexuality, and health care.


Yes, of course this is a political organization, and little else, but it is easier to justify your dogmatism and self-righteousness if you can freely engage in SPAGging. Besides, there is also the issue of maintaining tax-exempt status.


They also issue reports, including “The Climate Debate: an IFA Special Report” (we haven’t read it, but nevertheless feel confident about declaring it looney), “Pushing Back on Power-Hungry School Boards” and “Can We Trust Our Election Process: an IFA Special Report”, to mention the most recent three (by November 2021). Their newsletter is called The Connecter, which notably seems to consistently (by 2021) refer to Trump as “President of the US”; regular contributors include Camille Solberg (IFA Legislative Director), Gloria Robles (mostly fundamentalist fluff and prophetic dreams about William Barr), Suni Piper, Judy McDonough (IFA Communications Director and virulent opponent of marriage equality) and Nancy Huff (who is deeply paranoid about socialism and critical race theory).


Diagnosis: A hate organization if there ever was one, and one whose vision of society lies far closer to IS than the Enlightenment views that informed e.g. the American Constitution. It is instructive to note the overlap between wingnut fundie organization and fluffy New Age movements, and not only because they are roughly dimilarly detached from reality. IFA also enjoys significant influence over American politics, so be warned.

Monday, April 11, 2022

#2529: Amy Becker

Health Choice is an antivaccine group lead by a range of second-tier antivaccine activists, including Mark Blaxill, Wayne Rohde, Teresa Conrick, Mary Holland, Kim Rossi, John Stone, Jennifer Larson, and Anne Dachel. Amy Becker is another one.


Now, we haven’t been able to determine much concerning Becker’s background, but she was at least a co-author with Mark Blaxill on a Health Choice-produced ‘Lessons from the Lockdown’ report, in which they tried to imply that vaccines lead to SIDS (it demonstrably doesn’t; quite the reverse, though it is a favorite antivaxx delusion) based on the reduction in cases of SIDS during the COVID-19 pandemic. A rather obvious weakness with the claim, is that they they didn’t actually look at data on SIDS deaths; instead, they looked at (incomplete statistics on) total deaths among children and teens and just assumed that a reduction in cases of SIDS was a cause of the provisional reduction and didn’t take into account the role of social distancing or reductions in accidental deaths during the lockdown. “Feeble” doesn’t even begin to describe the effort. But yes, they conclude that the reduction in total deaths among children and teens are due to lower immunization rates. There’s a detailed response to their nonsense here.


Diagnosis: Idiot.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

#2528: Amy Beard

Amy Beard is an MD specializing in family medicine, as well as a delusional functional medicine quack who spews antivaccine misinformation on social media. According to Beard, conventional medicine focuses on treating symptoms rather than the “root cause” of disease – one wonders seriously how and where she got through medical school, since apparently she learnt nothing about conventional medicine – and those root causes are, it seems, poor dietary choices and “high toxin burdens. According to Beard, diet and toxins are “major contributors to chronic disease”, which is false.


Apparently she turned to the quackery that is functional medicine as a result of her own health problems; she is now “cured, after recognizing that the “root cause of my problems was a very unhappy microbiome – major dysbiosis and ‘leaky gut’” – leaky gut being an infamous fake diagnosis, and precisely the kind of thing medical crackpots can magically make disappear with expensive nonsense and quackery, since it wasn’t there in the first place.


Given how hard it is to get the medical licenses of quacks and frauds revoked, Beard remains licensed in Arkansas (despite some serious complaints to the Medical Board), where she has presently become one of the most aggressive and outspoken anti-COVID-19 vaccine conspiray theorists and promoters of ivermectin (but of course). “HCQ [hydroxychloroquine] and Ivermectin have helped many [according to evidence, they haven’t, but this is not about evidence], but your LIFESTYLE choices can have the greatest beneficial impact on your immune response to encounters with viruses,” says Beard, because pointing to lifestyle choices means that you can blame the people who get ill for getting so ill instead of blaming her own worthless advice. According to Beard, COVID vaccines are “mutant factories” (yes, she blames them for the emergence of new variants – that would be Geert Van den Bossche’s bullshit rants) and arguing for just getting ill and dying natural” immunity. “Before Covid, natural immunity was the BEST immunity. And it still is.” It isn’t. But even if it were, the fact that the whole point is to achieve protection without fucking dying from disease first is a detail that people like Beard tends to miss.


Diagnosis: Confused and self-centered conspiracy theorist. Formally, she’s qualified to give medical advice, but she demonstrates again and again that she didn’t understand anything of medschool. Utter garbage, all of it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

#2527: Glen Bayly

Rev. Glen Bayly runs something called the Rev. Glen Bayly Religious Center of Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania. We suspect it’s pretty obscure, and we can’t find any website, but based on a number of letters to the editor of local newspapers, the good reverend is silly enough to warrant an entry. Bayly is very concerned about the status of public education, in particular the alleged fact that it is “illegal to even mention [either God or the Constitution – it’s ambiguous] in the science classes of Pennsylvania” and – but of course – that students are taught the theory of evolution. As Bayly sees it, “most founders of modern science believed in God. Many notable modern day scientists do;” so they cannot have accepted evolution. In particular, Bayly is concerned with the “tragic” implications of the theory of evolution as a value system – which it of course isn’t, but Bayly isn’t very good at drawing basic distinction. “[I]f we are merely the result of random natural processes of time and chance,” which the theory of evolution emphatically does not imply, it means “a constant struggle of the weak versus the strong” and a rejection of the Constitution’s establishment of the equality of man – just like the theory of gravity ostensibly confers upon you a moral obligation to lie down on the ground. Here is Bayly trying his hand at an argument for creationism from complexity.


Diagnosis: Yeah, just a local creationist loon. Nothing really to see here, and perhaps it’s more quaint than anything else in this age of Qanon and stuff, but there’s still plenty of them around.