Monday, July 31, 2023

#2668: Jack Christie

Jack Christie is an at-large member of the Houston City Council in Texas, first elected in 2011. During his tenure, he has managed to wreak some havoc, mainly because Christie is a hardcore antivaccine activist and conspiracy theorist – and yes, Christie buys into, and has used, most of the PRATTs in the antivaccine playbook. According to Christie and (unsupported) anecdotes he has read on antivaccine websites, HPV vaccines kill people (nope) and are unnecessary anyways if people just stopped being sluts (“sexual promiscuity is the main cause” of HPV, says Christie, which is false). And the HPV isn’t the only one: vaccines in general are killers, says Christie. Zika vaccines, for instance, are unnecessary, too, because “Zika’s been around for hundreds of years”. Just think about it.

And of course there’s a conspiracy: All these unnecessary vaccines are pushed by Big Pharma for profit, and they can, as Christie understands it (he doesn’t), not even be held liable. As such, Christie felt it incumbent upon him to “protect these children from having toxic chemicals put into them that’ll have serious side effects”. So Christie voted against a Houston proposal to accept $3.1 million in federal funding for childhood immunizations in 2013, claiming that “You don’t die from the flu.” Facts are not his strong suit.


But that should really not surprise you. Christie is a chiropractor, and anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and pseudoscience run rampant among chiropractors. Indeed, Christie has a “Doctor of Chiropractic” degree from Texas Chiropractic College, and he is running two chiropractic practices in Houston.


Diagnosis: Lunatic conspiracy theorist and serious threat to public health and well-being in the Houston area.

Tuesday, July 25, 2023

#2667: Keum Hwa Choi

Acupuncture is theatrical placebo, nothing else. Acupuncture may, like absolutely any other action, affect measures of subjective phenomena, however, like the experience of pain. Pet acupuncture is even sillier, then, since it will not affect the pet’s experience of subjective phenomena. There may still be a placebo effect, though: Pet acupuncture will still affect the pet owner’s (subjective) perception of the pet’s symptoms.


Dr. Keum Hwa Choi, a practitioner of veterinary CAM who started a Vet CAM service at the University of Minnesota, a number of years ago, handily misses that obvious point, however. According to Choi, pet acupuncture works because “dogs don’t experience any placebo effect like humans can. Their brains don’t tell them, ‘Gee, I got these needles stuck in me so I must be better.’ They either feel better or they don’t.” Right. That the humans who evaluate whether the dog feels better are affected by placebo, or the equally obvious point about how the treatment context affects animal behavior, is not on her radar. One suspects that Choi’s understanding of scientific methodology – especially the justifications for said methodology – is tenuous.


But Choi is nevertheless an Associate Professor, Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the University of Minnesota. She is trained in a number of pseudoscientific modalities, including acupuncture for humans, and she is the proud recipient of spam diplomas in Oriental Medicine from the American Academy of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (do follow that link!) and herbology from the National Certificate Commissioner for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.


Diagnosis: Don’t listen to her about anything whatsoever! Indeed, we cannot help to assume an initial attitude of suspicion toward anyone affiliated with the Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at the University of Minnesota, which is evidently not an institution that cares much about science, evidence or accountability.


*Update: Seems like she recently passed away.

Saturday, July 22, 2023

#2666: Randall Dale Chipkar

Cancer is bad and scary, and the world is accordingly full of hucksters, quacks and deluded maniacs who claim to have identified both causes and cures for cancer. Randall Dale Chipkar, for instance, thinks that he has invented a device, his RideSaver™, that will prevent your motorcycle from causing you cancer cancer (and that he is willing to sell you for a vast sum of money), and he has therefore also had to invent a problem that his purported solution could be a solution to. So Chipkar tries to argue that motorcycles do cause cancer. The idea is laid out in a self-published book, The Motorcycle Cancer Book, the main claim being that “motorcycles generate potentially carcinogenic ELF EMFs [extremely low frequency electromagnetic radiation] directly into the rider’s groin flooding the entire torso.” Of course, EMF from an engine’s electrical system is not ionizing radiation, so it couldn’t even theoretically cause damage to cells or DNA in your body. Which is good, of course, because his RideSaver™ couldn’t in theory (basic science) protect you from such radiation if it existed anyways.


If you were attracted to Chipkar’s book, we suspect you wouldn’t be overly attentive to such details. And no, he does of course have no evidence whatsoever for an association between motorcycles and cancer, which would normally be a starting point. What he has, is a product that couldn’t solve a problem that couldn’t exist.


Diagnosis: Git, gohmert or grifter. Your pick.


Hat-tip: Skepticblog

Tuesday, July 18, 2023

#2665: Lucy Chen

Integrative medicine is the integration of science-based claims with pseudoscientific rejections of those science-based claims, and is thus nonsense. But it’s popular, and there is lots of money (and no standards, evicence or accountability) in it. Even medical journals like The BMJ, which has been on a questionable professional trajectory the last few years, have picked up on the trend. In 2017, for instance, they published a number “state of the art reviews” on “integrative medicine” that bought into the pseudoscience with few questions, one of them being a review of management of chronic pain using complementary and integrative medicine by Lucy Chen and Andreas Michalsen, a German crackpot. The opening is somewhat telling: “Recent advances in basic science and clinical research on CIM [complementary and integrative medicine] have substantially increased patients’ awareness about the potential therapeutic use of CIM” – that sentence goes in a somewhat different manner than you’d expect from a medical research paper.


The paper in question (more elaborate criticism here and here) is anyways a case study in cherry-picking of small and poor studies that might be interpreted as providing support for the treatments they promote – largely acupuncture (including bee venom acupuncture), which is theatrical placebo – and overlooking all the large and good negative studies (there is also misrepresentation in the sense of citing studies to support a claim that the study cited does not at all support, a standard pseudoscience ploy). Acupuncture does not work for chronic pain. They also cover “mind-body” therapies, which is a favorite of quacks because the category lumps together science-based techniques (like exercise) with nonsense, and claims that the therapies overall has evidence supporting it (because the science-based ones do); it also lets them dabble in popular exoticism, given that they tend to promote exercise with non-Western-sounding names (tai chi rather than aerobics) because Eastern mysticism is better for marketing to the relevant audiences. There is also (questionable) dietary and supplement pushing, and even the absolute quackery that is anthroposophic medicine gets a heads-up.


Lucy Chen is a real MD affiliated with the Massachusetts General Hospital Center for Translational Pain Research, and a seasoned acupuncture researcher. We have not bothered to look into her research output in any detail, but if the BMJ review is an indication, caution is warranted.


Diagnosis: Yet another champion of integrating medical science with alternative facts in a true post-truth fashion, and she’s got willing, powerful audiences. It’s sad, but at this point hardly novel anymore.


Hat-tip: Respectful Insolence

Sunday, July 16, 2023

#2664: Mark Chelgren

Eric Mark Chelgren is a former Iowa Senator from 2011 to 2019, represented the Taliban. He is most famous for his proposed blatantly unconstitutional legislation calling for an ideological litmus test for hires at professor and instructor levels at state universitiescreating “partisan balance” through affirmative action – based on his view of research and educational institutions as threats to his own political agenda: Chelgren claimed to have witnessed himself “excessive liberal advocacy” among the professors of the college he once attended, a claim that was somewhat undermined when it turned out that his own university experience was, shall we say, “misrepresented and that his claimed “business degree” was an unaccredited manager training course run by a company that operated Sizzler restaurants in California. He also introduced a bill requiring that all faculty at institutions of higher education should play an annual game of Survivor to eliminate the five least popular employees. He really hates professors, or in general anyone who knows more than himself on issues. (He has also likened Iowa’s voluntary preschool classes for four-year old children to Nazi indoctrination because preschools tend to be too anti-Nazi)


In 2015, he also courted some controversy for stating that undocumented immigrants who commit certain misdemeanors should be subject to capital punishment. He also claimed that his political opponents were “race-baiting” by criticizing said proposal. Otherwise, his record consists to a large extent of relatively typical dingbat stuff, like his 2012 budget amendment bill that would force divorced mothers to undergo drug testing in order to continue to receive child support to prove they’re not just spending it on drugs.


Diagnosis: Yeah: silly, dumb and angry. He’s out, but his ideas are not, and they are stupid enough that they probably won’t go away anytime soon.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

#2663: Jaclyn Chasse

Naturopathy is worthless bullshit, and may of the medical claims naturopaths make are based, at best(?), on pseudoscience. But there are other ways of gaining a sheen of legitimacy than through science and evidence, and – given that they can’t gain validation through science and evidence – a favored naturopathic tactic to achieve such a sheen of legitimacy is legislative alchemy: try to persuade sympathetic (or non-knowledgeable) legislators to introduce bills to license naturopaths and give the woo a legislative stamp of approval; and if naturopathic organizations fail once, they can of course just try again and again. And they have allies: altmed pracititioners tend to rely heavy on worthless supplements, and producers of such supplements are accordingly very much interested in naturopaths being successful in their political efforts (and gain access Medicare refunds).

Accordingly, supplement producers are putting a lot of money and resources into such efforts, and the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) receives extensive funding from supplement makers to help them achieve their political goals: Emerson Ecologics, for instance, a New Hampshire-based company that produces medically mostly worthless nutritional supplements, have long opened their wallets wide for the AANP. Indeed, the ties between the AANP and Emerson run deep: the company would for instance employ Jaclyn Chasse as an executive overseeing scientific and regulatory affairs while she was also serving as the New Hampshire chapter of the AANP. Nominally, the AANP trains its board members about conflicts of interest, but given the weight they put on accountability when it comes to medical claims, you wouldn’t really expect them to care. And they don’t. It’s somewhat ironic: Given that they have no positive evidence for their claims, a common tactic among naturopaths is to accuse their critics of being shills for Big Pharma. Such ties are of course at least as strong for naturopaths, and as opposed to real medical doctors, the claims naturopaths make aren’t independently constrained by evidence or professional standards: naturopaths have no incentive not to make whatever medical claims would best serve their own interests, insofar as the health outcomes for their victims patients aren’t affected by such concerns anyways.


But yes, Jaclyn Chasse is former president of both the New Hampshire AANP and the (general) AANP, as well as the NH Association of Naturopathic Doctors, and she is corrupt to the core. She has long been a champion for licensure, and even for such efforts taking it one step further: she wants herself and fellow quacks and frauds to be recognized as physicians, and for having laws mandating that health insurance plans pay for their services. Chasse is, of course, a graduate of the pseudo-educational institution Bastyr University, and her practice, Perfect Fertility, is dedicated to fertility, sexual health and family wellness, as well as, of course, to supplements.


Diagnosis: A thoroughly corrupt grifter – rotten to the core – something she is probably completely oblivious of (she does seem nice). And she is winning.


Hat-tip: Respectful Insolence

Saturday, July 8, 2023

#2662: Joshua Charles

Joshua Charles is a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute at William Jessup University, co-author of Glenn Beck’s 2011 book The Original Argument: The Federalists’ Case for the Constitution, Adapted for the 21st Century (as well as a number of other titles), Catholic fundie, former speechwriter for Mike Pence, and occasional writer for the WND. Charles is most notable for his views on LGBT rights, claiming that gay couples having children is a “profound, disgusting, vile evil” from “the pit of Hell.


As an “advocate and defender of Christian civilization, he isn’t very sympathetic to divorce either, but, taking more than one page out of David Barton’s books, he has argued extensively (e.g. in videos for PragerU) that the United States was founded to be the opposite of a secular nation.


What about conspiracy theories? Well, but of course: One of his upcoming books (2023) is The War of the Antichrist with the Church and Christian Civilization, a republication of a 19th century rant that describes “the Freemasonic plot to de-Christianize the world” and which, according to Charles, “reads like prophecy”. Charles’s own contribution to the publication is apparently to describe in more detail the dangers of “Freemasonry, and the Church’s warnings about it.”


And of course he is anti-vaccine – nominally, he is opposed to COVID vaccines because they arebeing produced using old cell lines that were created from the cells of aborted babies” but he also wrongly refers to them as experimental vaccines and cannot help suggesting that the vaccine is dangerous (e.g. to pregnant people), thus shredding any doubt one might have had that he has drunk deeply of the kool-aid offered by antivaccine conspiracy websites.


Diagnosis: This is what counts as ‘an intellectual’ among fundie wingnuts, and it’s pretty telling.

Thursday, July 6, 2023

#2661: Michael Chanley

Though it is certainly the most famous, the Answer In Genesis Creation Museum Ark Encounter is not the only Noah’s Ark replica sideshow in the US. Another one, though at a smaller scale, is hosted by the Cornerstone Church in Texas, and is specifically targeted at kids: it’s a two-story ship with 16 life-sized passengers most with animatronic features, including a giraffe whose head bends from the floor to the second level.” The goal of the installation is to “spur wonderment” and “underscore the Bible’s authenticity”, says Matthew Hagee, executive pastor: “I want them to say it happened”. “The Ark was real. Salvation is real,” since nothing conveys authenticity like roadside plastic animals with animatronics features. No, really: “You’d be hard-pressed to find any church with animatronics,” says Michael Chanley, executive director of the International Network of Children’s Ministry (they’ve got 10,000-plus members worldwide): “It communicates so much value to the family. ‘We don’t just want your kids to come here and learn. We want them to experience God.’”


So yeah, we’ve mentioned this one before, but we reckoned it would be worth looking a bit more closely at Chanley, insofar as his International Network of Children’s Ministry is somewhat ominous-sounding. It turns out, however, that it’s mostly a product-placement blog with (presumably paid-for) business advice targeted at churches and ministries. Chanley also produces Bible study curricula, which are hard to review without paying for them, which we are not going to do. It mostly seems to consist of egregiously vapid self-help-inspired fluff. His assessment of the Cornerstone Ark more than suggests that you should turn elsewhere for advice on children’s education, however.


Diagnosis: Absolute, pure bullshit. But Chanley’s Cornerstone nonsense suggests where such vapid fluff might blow if the wind is right.

Monday, July 3, 2023

#2660: Rob Chambers

The American Family Association is among the more significant extremist hate groups in the US, and Rob Chambers is vice president of a division called AFA Action. His public rants and outcries are rather predictable, usually issuing urgent warnings about impending doom if political decisions are madethat don’t promote his and his group’s theocratic vision for America.


And when decisions he doesn’t like are made, Chambers’ go-to target of blame is, of course, Satan. Satan is behind LGBT rights, abortion rights, immigration reform and what have you. “This is spiritual warfare,” said Chambers, addressing criticism of a North Carolina anti-LGBT law: “I believe the media, Hollywood, they understand what this bill, or new law, actually does but they are distorting it because that’s the only way that Satan plays and Satan will try to attempt to win is through deceit and deception.” It can’t be mere disagreement; Chambers seems relatively unable to entertain the idea that someone can come to different conclusions than himself without being deceived by Satan.


Chambers has otherwise promoted 2020 election conspiracies, being for instance a signatory to a Council for National Policy letter urging state legislatures to discard democracy and ensure that Trump continue as presidents, referring to laughable conspiracy theories and unnamed sources (Cleta Mitchell – no wonder they didn’t mention names) to claim that Trump was the legitimate winner. He was also a signatory, together with a cast of usual suspects, of a letter urging Biden to fire Dr. Anthony Fauci, based on a combination of unproven conspiracy theories and deliberate misunderstanding of facts (some details here).


Diagnosis: Idiot. We’ll keep it brief.

Sunday, July 2, 2023

#2659: Mark Chambers

Mark Chambers is the former mayor of Carbon Hill, Alabama, and a stereotypical Southern wingnut with a stereotypical Southern wingnut’s view on social issues, including race issues – the latter being why he eventually had to resign from his post. He did survive an earlier controversy over some Facbook posts where he laid out his views on LGBT people and others perceived to represent the left (including “ungrateful” immigrants): “We live in a society where homosexuals lecture us on morals, transvestites lecture us on human biology, baby killers lecture us on human rights and socialists lecture us on economics. The only way to change it would be to kill the problem out. I know it’s bad to say but without killing them out there’s no way to fix it.” He initially denied writing the posts, though he rather obviously did. He then claimed that the comments were taken out of context, which they weren’t, and that he thought he was writing a private message rather than a public post, which doesn’t really make anything much better. He finally tried to clarify that he was talking about what measures were needed in an upcoming civil war or revolution, which really, really doesn’t help either. It might be worth pointing out that Chambers took over as mayor of the fine Southern small community of Carbon Hill after the previous mayor was arrested for multiple sex crimes.


Diagnosis: Probably neutralized, though you never know these days.