Friday, July 19, 2024

#2792: Kirk Durston

According to the Discovery Institute, who tends to publish his rants, Kirk Durston is a “scientist, philosopher, and clergyman”. Most importantly, Durston is a proponent of intelligent design creationism, and like most proponents of intelligent design, he focuses his efforts on criticizing the theory of evolution or theories of the origin of life or the universe that don’t invoke supernatural forces because he makes the fundamental mistake of confusing (hypothetical) evidence against the theory of evolution with evidence for intelligent design. Not that his criticisms have much merit either. A favorite trick is, predictably, to misleadingly portray real scientific claims and debates.

Much of his writing concerns the alleged “corruption of science”, for instance the fact that scientists sometimes entertain theories that are hard to test (like the multiverse): modern science is, according to Durston, plagued by “ ‘fantasy science,’ where science fiction is often confused with science”; instead, scientists should, as Durston sees it, accept the role of God. He does not try to apply the testability criterion to that one. On other occasions he does claim that intelligent design is “testable and verifiable” because it predicts “functional information” but is predictably stingy about details (like what the hypothesis actually is, what the predicted observation – “functional information – actually is, and how and why the unspecified hypothesis predicts the particular and specific functional information it supposedly predicts).


Diagnosis: Yes, they are still chugging along, even though the intelligent design movement stopped having much impact on anything a while ago, with people like Durston appealing to the same PRATTs intelligent creationists were appealing to twenty years ago. Boring.

Wednesday, July 17, 2024

#2791: Patrocel Duque


Local village idiots self-publishing insane screeds promising to revolutionize everything is hardly news, and we cannot claim to have actually read Patrocel N. Duque’s vanity press-issued book Mathematical Proofs that God Exists, but we feel confident about including him here on the basis of his own description of its contents. Apparently, Duque’s book employsthe infinity equation”, which  is ostensibly “used today in physics and mathematics”, and Duque helpfully “deciphered and correlated it in terms of divinity”. People with any mathematics background might wonder what on Earth he’s talking about, but it’s reasonable to suspect that we’re entering the venerable field of numerology here.


And what precisely does he claim to achieve? “Significantly, my book refutes the Big Bang theory of Stephen Hawking, that the world came from nothing and there’s no relevance of God in the world’s creation, even if there is an organizer and designer as espoused by intelligent design proponents”. That is not an entirely precise rendition of ‘the Big Bang theory of Stephen Hawking’, but Duque’s is a branch of mathematics that eschews accuracy and precision. But oh, the book “also refutes Charles Darwin’s evolution of man theory – that man came from the apes”, a theory that Duque speculates mightcontribute to the rising incidence of violence in schools and our society” insofar as it’s taught in schools. Indeed, some “verses in the Bible could be proven mathematically,” as well (whatever that means given that they’re not supposed to mathematical theorems), and “the miracle of Jesus feeding 5,000 followers from five loaves of bread and two fish was also proven to be mathematically feasible” (in which case it would, presumably, not be a miracle). So there.


Duque himself is apparently based in the US territory of Guam and his publisher is Infinity Publishing, a company that promises to provide you “with the easiest and most comprehensive self-publishing experience”.


Diagnosis: Pretty obscure and unlikely to make any significant impact on anything; he might still be counted as a symptom of some slightly disturbing undercurrent of civilization, though, so worth a mention. 


Hat-tip: Sensuous Curmudgeon

Monday, July 15, 2024

#2790: Margaret Dunkle

Margaret Dunkle is a Lead Research Scientist at the George Washington School of Public Health’s Department of Health Policy, author and a Maryland Women’s Hall of Fame laureate for her work as “an author, activist, and unsung heroine of Title IX”.


More importantly, Dunkle is a completely unhinged conspiracy theorist and anti-vaccine activist, who, according to herself, has “a family member who is vaccine-injured”. Given her public status, however, she gets to publish her conspiracy theories in outlets that have the potential to reach a rather large number of people, and her 2011 piece in the Baltimore Sun, “We don’t know enough about childhood vaccines [we really do]: Are 36 doses of vaccine by age 2 too much [it isn’t], too little, or just right?”, is telling enough. In the piece, Dunkle regurgitates a range of anti-vaccine talking points you could instead locate on the websites of familiar anti-vaccine conspiracy cults such as NVIC or SafeMinds. After complaining that “debates” over vaccines are often “fact-free” because most people fail to know even “[h]ow many immunizations does the federal government recommend for every child during the first two years of life,” Dunkle says that the number is “36”, which is false unless you engage in some deliberately deceptive anti-vaccine counting exercise. Then she cites GayleDeLong’s execrable pseudoscientific data-mining to claim that there is a correlation between vaccine uptake and the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders. There really, really isn’t.


Apart from references to garbage pseudo-studies, Dunkle employs a range of standard anti-vaccine tropes, including “too many, too soon” nonsense and complaints about vaccine ingredients, in particular aluminum, which, contrary to anti-vaccine mythology, is safe. Indeed, Dunkle is not afraid of using toxins gambits, especially with regard to thimerosal and formaldehyde, a normal byproduct of human metabolism. Dunkle points out that thimerosalis 49.6 percent mercury”, but being chemically illiterate (and/or dishonest), she fails to note some rather crucial distinctions.


Diagnosis: Unhinged conspiracy theorist and denialist, and regardless of her social standing and position: her nonsense and lunacy on vaccines demonstrates that she is unlikely to be trustworthy or worth listening to about anything whatsoever.


Hat-tip: David Gorski @ SciencebasedMedicine

Friday, July 12, 2024

#2789: Robert Charles Dumont

[yes, we’ve mentioned him before, but he deserves a separate entry]


In 2014, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation finally took action against DAN! doctor and general quack Anju Usman, director of True Health Medical Center in Naperville and owner of Pure Compounding Pharmacy, for (a long history of) subjecting autistic children to “unwarranted, dangerous therapies”. Usman was fined, ordered to take additional medical education classes, placed on probation and forced to have her work reviewed. Unfortunately, Usman also got to influence the decision on which doctor was to review her work, and the task was assigned to Robert C. Dumont, with the likely consequence that Illinois children will continue to suffer from dangerous quackery for years to come.


Dumont is indeed a pediatrician, but pediatrics in the US has long been plagued by quackery, and Dumont is also member of the Raby Institute for Integrative Medicine at Northwestern and an acupuncturist. In fact, Dumont offers an array of “integrative” approaches, including homeopathy, no less. One would conclude that Dumont would not be an ideal candidate for the position of supervising someone with a tendency to offer quackery, but Dumont has, nefariously, also been involved in multiple efforts to whitewash quackery; in 2015, for instance, he testified at an FDA hearing in Bethesda on the regulation of homeopathic remedies, and he has been caught shilling for Boiron, a leading manufacturer of homeopathic remedies and quackery, as an expert witness. At the FDA hearing, Dumont testified, falsely, that homeopathic remedies are “exceptionally versatile and efficacious for many medical problems” and that he has “prescribed homeopathic medicines in the hospital for premature infants”, as well as used it for “nausea, vomiting and losing weight” for a patient undergoing chemotherapy. A poster he wrote with Youngran Chung (apparently his wife), ‘Homeopathy, an Effective, Practical, and Safe Therapeutic Approach: Principles, Evidence and Examples of Practical Application’, similarly gives you an idea of his aptitude for research (and honesty): the poster does emphasize, a number of times, that “homeopathy is an extremely safe modality” (which, even though it’s water, is only partially correct) but doesn’t, despite the promise in the title, even try to indicate that it is effective for anything, since it so obviously isn’t.


Dumont is, in particular, using homeopathy for autism quackery – precisely what Usman above was sanctioned for – as demonstrated for instance by his presentation on Use of Clinical Homeopathy in Autism Spectrum Disorder at the International Conference of Clinical Homeopathy in Los Angeles.


Diagnosis: Utterly delusional and at least a potential danger to people around him. That he is allowed to offer advice to people with medical conditions, including children, is a travesty.

Monday, July 8, 2024

#2788: Gary Dull

Gary Dull is a fundie wingnut affiliated with the Faith and Freedom Institute and co-host of American Pastors Network founder Sam Rohrer’s Stand in the Gap podcast, a fundamentalist collection of rants featuring an assortment of dingbat conspiracy theorists. Dull, who has promised to rid America of its satanic wickedness, is predictably the kind of boring fundie SPAGer who thinks that God will withhold blessing and bring forth judgment if political decisions don’t go the way he (Dull) would like them to go, be it about abortion, marijuana legalization, people electing Muslims (or women) to state congress or what have you. Nor does God (that is, Dull) approve of Christian leaders who criticize Trump.


So, Dull is opposed to restrictions on religious indoctrination in public school, and to LGBT rights (the philosophy of the ‘LBGT’ group comes right out of the pit of hell). And as for marijuana legislation, Dull thinks that the Word of God makes a clear connection between drugs and the occult: recreational drugs can lead to opening your mind to wickedness and demonic activity.


In particular, however, Dull is opposed to women having political power (or any power, really); during the 2016 election campaigns, Dull pointed out that we shouldn’t elect the woman: “In God’s line of authority, it seems very clear in the scripture that a woman should not be in authority over men, which would limit a woman from being the president of the United States of America or even a queen of some other particular nation.” Women serving in positions of political leadership is a sign that a society is “spiritually rotten” and – of course – under the judgment of God.


Otherwise, Dull is heavily invested in the myth of Christian persecution in the US, a myth he subscribes to because he interprets any decision he disagrees with or event he dislikes as being really a matter of God’s truth and God’s law that is under attack.” He has also been a major proponent of Trump-finds-God fan fiction.


In 2020, Dull (and co-host Dave Kistler) asserted that God allowed Rep. Louie Gohmert to get COVID-19 in order to demonstrate the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment. Given the unambiguous evidence that hydroxychloroquine is not effective, one is excused for wondering what kind of god Dull is really trying to worship.


Diagnosis: Mostly boring, though Dull arguably belong to the more insane fringe of the crazy wing of the already lunatic and dangerous religious right – he’s got nothing novel, but he’s got plenty of anger, hate and delusions.

Monday, July 1, 2024

#2787: Lee Duigon


Lee Duigon is the author of the Bell Mountain Series of novels, contributing editor for Our Faith for All of Life magazine, sometimes contributor to the BarbWire website, fanatic wingnut, affiliate of R.J. Rushdoony’s Chalcedon foundation, theocrat and conspiracy theorist.


An unconditional fan of Trump, Duigon was very happy that it was Trump and not Obama (“Barack Hussein Ebola, who looks black”, as Duigon calls him) who got to fill the vacant SCOTUS seat left by the death of Anthony Scalia: “one more Obama judge on the Supreme Court, and it would’ve been ‘All children under 16 are now over 16,’ ‘Our national language is now Arabic’,” because Duigon perceived Obama as someone he disagreed with on political issues and if you disagree with Duigon on some political issue you automatically support whatever else Duigon doesn’t like and you’re a Muslim and a pedophile. Of course, Duigon is also convinced that leftists “really are the servants of Satan. What you say and do can be explained in no other way” because to Duigon, explanations that appeal to facts and evidence are attempts to appeal to something Duigon won’t recognize as relevant. “Are Liberals Retarded?asks Duigon and apparently answers in the negative: no, they’re just serving Satan. The TV show The Mick also left him without “doubt that the whole project of the Left, the secular humanist whoopee crowd, is satanic to the core.”


And to counter the influence of demons and Satan and general dangers posed by the left – “leftist schemes for Utopia inevitably involve lots of barbed wire, machine gun towers, re-education –they like to call it ‘sensitivity training’ – and piles of dead bodies” – we need to engage in spiritual warfare: “the time has come to take our country back. And, because there can be nothing worthwhile accomplished without it, to re-Christianize America.” Indeed, as Duigon sees it,America needs an exorcism.” And the pushback is (possibly) working: Today’s liberals are unhappy because “Satan is unhappy”: “When the devil is angry and unhappy, his servants are angry and unhappy.” So there.


No fan of LGBT rights, Duigon has lamented thatI was born in a country inhabited by men and women. Now I live in one dominated by freaks.” America is currently under threat ofwicked officials in thrall to Big Sodomywho willforce churches to perform same-sex ‘marriage’ exercises” and make sure “pastors and priests will be punished if they speak against it” (religious freedom and free speech will also be banned due to “insatiable and unappeasable” gay rights advocates). Indeed, people supporting LGBT rightsput our country in danger of God’s judgement – as when a few lawyers on the Supreme Court ‘legalize’ the same-sex parody of marriage, without benefit of any law being passed by the legislature, and the, er, president orders the White House lit up with ‘rainbow’ lights to celebrate this evil.” Here is Duigon’s response to the 2015 SCOTUS ruling legalizing same-sex marriage: the “antichrists” celebrating the court’s decision, which will destroy freedom, will go to Hell. And remember thatthe militant ‘gays’” pushing their gaydeology (Duigon compares them to super-plants from outer space that eat people) are “only the street muscle for a ‘progressive’ project to beat down church, family, and anything else that competes with the secular, God-denying state;The real enemy consists oft]he teachers’ unions”, “the atheist militants, the abortion fans who chant ‘Hail, Satan,’ “ and “the statist schmucks who staff ‘human rights’.”


Duigon is also a hardcore young-earth creationist and has published creationist screeds e.g. for the Chalcedon foundation. As for the theory of evolution (a false religion), Duigon claims that “the more I study the matter, the less sense it makes”. We do not doubt that evolution doesn’t make sense to Duigon, but we do suspect him of lying when he suggests that he has tried to study it. He does claim that the theory of evolution “is the source of all the rot-runaway statism, institutionalized atheism, eugenics, 'gay pride' parades, 'transgender' restrooms, the destruction of 'inferior races, and all the rest. If it stinks, Darwinism is at the root of it."


And, oh: What do you think Lee Duigon thinks about vaccines? Lee Duigon thinks vaccines, at least Covid vaccines, are “experimental drugs that can easily wind up “making you sterile, or killing you”. Because of course he does.


Diagnosis: At least he’s trustworthy in the sense that if Lee Duigon claims p, you have good reason to think not-p. Otherwise, he is dingbat insane, angry and hateful. Some people do read what he writes, though, without immediately recognizing it as laughable drivel.

Monday, June 24, 2024

#2786: Ralph Drollinger

Ralph Kim Drollinger is a wild-eyed fundie extremist, Christian nationalist, former professional basketball player, president of the organization Capitol Ministries (which aims to “evangelize elected officials and lead them toward maturity in Christ”) and leader of the White House Bible Study Group during Trump’s presidency. The WHBSG was an insane Taliban offshoot group that was sponsored by people like Mike Pence, Ben Carson and Betsy DeVos and which held weekly meetings with the Trump administration. Though Drollinger nominally accepts what he calls an “institutionalseparation of Church and State, he believes that the Church should still “influence” the State, or in other words: Drollinger rejects the separation of church and state. It is, however, crucial that the church exerting influence on the state is the right type of church; Drollinger has denounced Catholicism as “one of the primary false religions of the world”; stated that the Social Gospel, a major strain of 20th century American Christianity, is a “perversion” or “corruption” of the Bible and “not Christianity whatsoever”; claimed that Islam is “enemy territory, spiritually speaking”; and emphasized that God only hears the prayers of “righteous” Christians (indeed, he has explicitly said that prayers from Jewish people are “worthless and go unheard”). And it is, according to Drollinger, crucial for righteous Christians to work to ensure that people in power – be it government, Congress or the judiciary – are “righteous”; i.e. shares his (Drollinger’s) faith (elections are a “spiritual battle), and that those in power have an obligation to hire only “righteous” employees, so as not to “compromise biblical absolutes in his policies or interactions with others.” Here is a commentary on one of his ‘guides’ to lawmakers.


He is also, like so many fundies, on record as anti-LGBTQ, anti-women's rights and anti-immigration. As for women, Drollinger is an advocate for the Separate Spheres ideology and is in particular opposed to women preachers: “There is a prohibition of female leadership in marriage, and female leadership in the church. And those are clear in Scripture… it doesn't mean, in an egalitarian sense, that a woman is of lesser importance”.


Gay people, on the other hand, are “illegitimate; “Homosexuality and same-sex ceremonies are illegitimate in God’s eyes”; and “not only is homosexuality and same sex marriage voided by God in His Word, but biology as well castigates homosexuality and same sex marriage: The ultimate outcome is the discontinuation of the species since homosexuals cannot procreate. For sure one cannot be a homosexual and an evolutionist at the same time.” Drollinger, of course, is a creationist, and as such pathologically unable to distinguish a descriptive scientific theory of how things are from a normative moral theory of how we should act. In general, though, there really isn’t, as Drollinger sees it, any debate to be had over marriage equality, and no arguments are necessary: scripture “crushes the same-sex marriage debate” and pro-LGBTQ Christian leaders are “Satan’s pawns.” Elected officials should accordingly not debate marriage based on “personal happiness” [or reason or ethics, we presume, but reason and ethics don’t really ever figure anywhere in Drollinger’s mind] but on “theology.”


As for scientific issues other than biological ones, Drollinger is a staunch climate change denier, as anything else would be somewhat trickier to integrate with his political views – according to Drollinger, “God is a capitalist” and as such opposed to environmental regulations that have had the consequence that “the economic benefits God intends from private property ownership have been greatly diminished” (God is opposed to economic relief provisions, too). More importantly, it is unbiblical to “think that man can alter the Earth’s ecosystem – when God remains omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent in the current affairs of mankind” (yep, God both can and will protect us from the environmental consequences of our actions, just like He has consistently done in the past): Because the Bible promises that God would not again destroy the Earth in a great flood, says Drollinger (more local droughts, hurricanes, floods or forest fires are … well, it’s unclear), “we can all rest assured and wholly rely on God’s aforementioned promises pertaining to His ability and willingness to sustain our world’s ecosystem”. Moreover, “to allow fish to govern the construction of dams, endangered species to govern power plants, flies to govern hospitals, or kangaroo rats, homes, is to miss the clear proclamation of God in Genesis.” Drollinger was also influential in warning Scott Pruitt of the danger of the shift from Christianity to the false religion of Radical Environmentalism.”


Indeed, according to Drollinger, “environmentalists” and other people with “depraved minds” are igniting "God’s wrath." So in March 2020, for instance, Drollinger linked the COVID-19 pandemic with God’s wrath over such groups, including, of course, those who have “a proclivity toward lesbianism and homosexuality” (so much for man’s inability to cause damage, we suppose). When that didn’t go over particularly well with the public, he backtracked; i.e. claimed that he was misinterpreted: when it comes to God, Drollinger imagined, there is a “panoply of wraths”, so although homosexuality causes one type of Godly wrath (wrath of abandonment), it’s a different type than that which gave rise to the coronavirus (sowing and reaping wrath). Drollinger’s theological stances seem eminently malleable (not surprising given that they are nothing more than depraved nonsense used to channel his own hate and anger), insofar as in the original post, he stated thatthose individuals who are rebuked by God’s forsaking wrath are largely responsible for God’s consequential wrath on our nation” and those susceptible to “forsaking wrath” are explicitly gays and lesbians, who are “given over” by God to “degrading passions”, as well as environmentalists, since “clearly indicative of God’s forsaking wrath is when the abandoned serve the creature rather than the creator”.


And it’s not like it was the first time Drollinger linked gay people to God’s wrath; he has earlier proclaimed thatOUR NATION’S OBEDIENCE OR DISOBEDIENCE TO GOD’S LAWS IN TERMS OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGE REPRESENTS A TIPPING POINT WITH ENORMOUS, ENORMOUS CONSEQUENCES”, although he was careful to add that he didn’t advocate executing gay men by stoning (if you feel that you need to point that out, you should probably take the hint).


But for being such a drooling madman, Drollinger’s influence is immense. Not only did the vice president and a number of member’s of Trump’s cabinet attend his weekly meetings to listen to his deranged theocratic rants, those cabinet members would also actively provide support for his organizations: for instance, in February 2018, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and several members of Congress appeared as featured speakers at a fundraising dinner for Capitol Ministries, and a slew of representatives and senators have endorsed or sponsored the organization or even actively helped it expand. His groups also have international branches and projects (often targeting LGBT rights) in e.g. (but not limited to) Romania, Ukraine, Nicaragua and Honduras.


Diagnosis: Raging, hateful fundie. Extremely influential, and extremely dangerous.

Friday, June 21, 2024

#2785: Rick Driver

Rick Driver is a wingnut conspiracy theorist and talk show host for the Anderson, South Carolina, talk station WAIM-AM’s Rick Driver Show. Yeah, Driver’s reach is probably rather limited, and there isn’t really much to distinguish him from a very large group of similar deranged wingnut conspiracy theorists, but here you go. So when several explosive devices sent to Democratic Party figures and people who had criticized then-President Donald Trump in 2018, Driver was quick to conclude thatthese bombs” are “nothing more than false flag” and that “folks on the left are extremely desperate -- anything to disrupt the ship. Anything to get rid of the president. Anything” because that’s the conclusion that sat best with how he likes to view the world; it had nothing to do with facts or evidence or such parameters, of course, but Driver isn’t big on facts and evidence. He was similarly quick to dismiss Covid-19 when it first hit South Carolina in 2020: “It’s a hoax," said Driver, before trying to modify himself a little (“The hoax isn’t the virus itself – it’s real – but those people trying to build this thing up as something it isn’t is, I believe, the hoax”)


Diagnosis: Yeah, you know the kind. Relatively minor, but there is a lot of these conspiracy drones on American airwaves.

Wednesday, June 19, 2024

#2784: Sylvia Driskell

Sylvia Driskell is a Nebraska-based self-declared ambassador of “God, And His, Son Jesus Christ [sic]” who received some attention back in 2015 when she sued every gay person on Earth, asking a federal judge to rule on whether homosexuality is a sin. In Driskell v. Homosexuals (yes, that’s the name), Driskell served as her own lawyer, and although her seven-page petition (written entirely in cursive) – officially against “Homosexuals, Their Given Name Homosexuals Their Alis Gay [sic]” – failed to reference any relevant or irrelevant case laws, it liberally quoted the Bible and Webster’s Dictionary. The goal was to make the District Court in Omaha decide, once and for all, whether being gay is a sin: “Why are judges passing laws, so sinners can break religious, and moral laws,” stated the complaint, and “[w]ill all the judges of this Nation, judge God to be a lier [sic]”? Given her role as ambassador, Driskell saw it as her responsibility to take on the case,  and to “start standing up for the moral principles on which our great nation, our great states, and our great cities were founded on.” The District court promptly refused to take a stance on Driskell’s theological hypotheses and tossed the case.


I never thought that I would see a day in which our great nation or our own great state of Nebraska would become so compliant to the complicity of some people[’s] lewd behavior,” explained Driskell in the complaint, before emphasizing “that homosexuality is a sin and that they the homosexuals know it is a sin to live a life of homosexuality. Why else would they have been hiding in the closet.” Why indeed. And although “homosexuals say that it’s not a sin to be homosexual, and they have the right to marry, to be parents,” children raised by these “liars, deceivers, and thieves” will necessarily “grow up to be one of the three, or all three.”


Diagnosis: A local clown, and the immediate response to her antics is of course hilarity. But it is also somewhat important not to forget how much hate, anger and fear are driving people like Driskell. And although Driskell is dumb and powerless, others with similar views might not be.

Monday, June 17, 2024

#2783: Roger Dowdell

Before MAGA, there was the Tea Party (there’s plenty of overlap), and like so many MAGA loons, many Tea Party-affiliated bozos had bizarre and scary ideas about how states and governments work, partially due to militia or sovereign citizen influence. One such recurring, bizarre idea is the deranged notion that a group of citizens can decide to join up for a grand jury and indict people – anyone they disagree with, but the focus is usually on government officials – for whatever they, through typical conspiracy thinking, are convinced that these people have done wrong (both the alleged facts of the case and the standards by which the actions are wrong are usually imagination-based), and then convict them and hand down punishment outside of the judicial system. A particularly deranged feature of that kind of thinking is the delusion these people tend to entertain that someone other than themselves would take any conclusion they arrive at more seriously than the clown show it is.


In 2015, for instance, a group of sovereign citizen loons on the Sarasota county’s Charter Review Board suggested putting a “people’s common law grand jury” (typical nomenclature among sovereign citizen loons) to vote by the electorate, in direct conflict with local, state and federal law, which they don’t tend recognize. The purpose of the common law grand jury was to allow everyday citizens (i.e. themselves) to, on their own, indict government officials for corruption, without official assistance, oversight, or nuisances like due process concerns. The suggestion is, of course, completely outside of the general mandate of the Charter Review Board, but the board had at this point been usurped by morons who tried to spend as much time as possible promoting sovereign citizen stuff instead of doing their job. The idea was primarily pushed by two local village idiot members, Pat Wayman and Steven R. Fields, and the explicit goal was to arrest and possibly execute then-president Obama. “Take a look at the French Revolution and what took place there,” said Mike Bolam, a local clown who attended charter review board meetings to support the creation common law grand juries. Wayman, the charter board member, also had a history of posting Facebook posts calling for the arrest of then-president Obama on murder and treason charges and promoting the III Percent group, as well as videos claiming that the Sandy Hook shootings were staged false flag operations and warnings against UN takeover of the US through its non-binding Agenda 21 agreement.


The architect behind the grand jury idea, the guy whose proposal the Sarasota crazies were intending to implement, were developed by Tea Party activist Rodger Dowdell, who denied being a sovereign citizen but did claim thatGrand jury powers come from God,” not the state or the Constitution, and – importantly – that the rulings of such a grand jury would be kept out of reach of presidential and even U.S. Supreme Court authority. Dowdell is, in other words, a sovereign citizen activist who don’t like the ‘sovereign citizen’ label, presumably because it is tricky to market that label beyond groups of local village idiots. “A people's common law grand jury can, without any probable cause, go into any nook or cranny of government – local, state or federal – research anything that's going on and root out corruption,” continued Dowdell. He also claimed a common law grand jury was already operating in Manatee County, Florida (which seems to be where Dowdell himself lives), but offered no evidence of that: “I can’t talk about it. Everything is secret. In order to keep innocents who may be investigated from being damaged, whatever a grand jury does is secret;” or in other words: a grand jury’s work are rulings are not bound by any Constitution or law, nor by principles of accountability or transparency, nor does it in any way involve the people beyond a couple of conspiracy theorists and their followers. The freedom for which a system like this is a recipe (Dowdell is also affiliated with something called The Liberty Restoration Society) is a strange kind of freedom.


Dowdell is otherwise state coordinator of the wingnut National Liberty Alliance. It is unclear what size or influence that group has, but Dowdell is also active in a range of other groups with similar goals, such as We the People of Colorado, which was formed in part upon the realization that the U.S. government is illegitimate: “When they figured this out, they said ‘how will we get the government to the way it was founded. They did the deep research  … and put an ad in the paper and asked people to come to a meeting,” said Dowdell in 2017 after a group of We the People of Colorado-affiliates got arrested for threatening, intimidating and filing fraudulent liens against dozens of public officials in relation to another Citizens Grand Jury they set up (we’ll just name those defendants for potential future reference: Brian Baylog, Steven Byfield, Stephen Nalty, Harlan Smith, Bruce Doucette [whom we have encountered before], Laurence Goodman, David Coffelt, Janis Blease). Dowdell also runs a website – which is hard to load partially due to its chaotic combinations of fonts and colors – where he issues pseudolegal documents, accusation,s and threats, interleaved with conspiracy theoris and seemingly random Bible verses.


The Sarasota proposal failed, by the way, due to a tie vote (4–4)!


Diagnosis: It’s easy to dismiss people like Rodger Dowdell as loner clowns with internet access and cognitive shortcomings, but his ideas actually have some traction among similarly cognitively challenged wingnuts (of which there are many, even in local governments), and they have caused real, tangible harm to communities across the US. Dangerous.

Friday, June 14, 2024

#2782: Gary Douglas

Access Conciousness is a pseudoscience and quasi-religious organization – potentially a cult and often described as a “Scientology knockoff” – founded in 1995 by Gary M. Douglas. The group offers a plethora of books, videos and physical classes, with memberships and accessories that will help you achieve non-specific benefits, including wakefulness and weight loss, in particular through a set of special head massages that will ostensibly achieve electromagnetic activation of chakra-like “bar points”. A central part of the underlying pseudo-theology is the assumption that there are 16 (or possibly 32) bars in your head that correspond to different parts of your life, and which Access Consciousness’s products will help you target. But it’s not enough to be a mere human to achieve the promised enlightenment; you have to be so conscious that you’ve become a humanoid, which is apparently a more conscious, free, non-sheeple-like version of human. The general ideas behing Access Consciousness are obviously influenced by concepts and ideas related to acupressure and chakra nonsense, as well as by Scientology. There is a detailed evaluation of the group here.


Apparently, you, too, can dismantle the implants that restrict you to being a mere human, for instance by repeating a set of nonsense mantras or “clearing statements” likeWhat stupidity are you using to create the old thinking you are choosing? Everything that is, times a godzillion – will you destroy and uncreate it all? Right and wrong, good and bad, pod and poc, all nine, shorts, boys and beyonds.” Currently, the Access True Knowledge Foundation is working to establish a series of Access Schools, “after-school programs or schools that educate kids in a more expansive and dynamic way.” Some such after-school programs already exist.


Fortunately, their webpage has a section labeled "how does it work?" related to the aforementioned access bars. Unfortunately, the section contains absolutely no indication of how it works and absolutely nothing resembling scientific ideas behind the procedures, though if you ask for the scientific basis of their claims, you are obviously not in the target group here. They do, like woo and quackery advocates often do, suggest that you must be receptive for the procedures to work; criticism from skeptics can accordingly be conveniently and summarily dismissed. Besides, “humans” who ask too many questions are just “evil little fucks” or “demon bitches from hell” anyways and not worth the time of True humanoid followers.


And you can of course choose your level of receptivity. In fact, according to Access Consciousness, everything is apparently a choice, and as “infinite beings” we always have a choice. As Access-acolyte Sarah Blumenfeld explains it: “For instance, my [late] husband had cancer. Well, I could judge that as wrong, but that’s what he chose and so ... the concept of everything-in-our-life-is-a-choice upsets a lot of people.” If you’re still unsure, she has an analogy: “If I had said that someone ate peas when they didn’t want to, to prevent someone else from having to eat peas who didn’t want to even more, then you would be okay with that, probably. It’s the same kind of a concept, but to such a greater degree that it makes you uncomfortable, and maybe you can't grasp that, and that's okay.” So, there. Commentators have been worried that, given its increase in popularity and followers, Access Consciousness is on the verge of turning into a sex cult.


The founder of Access Consciousness, Gary Douglas, used to be in the real estate business until legal conflicts with (mere “humans” in) collection agencies, the IRS, and the Department of Justice drove him to bankruptcy in 1993. After his bankruptcy, he conveniently discovered his channeling powers, and for a while, he apparently channeled a number of historical persons and entities, including Rasputin and extraterrestrials, to people willing to pay for such dross. The information he gained from these channelling sessions provided the foundations for Access Consciousness (i.e. Douglas discovered what level of shit some people were willing to believe), and the organization was developed with the help of connections provided him by his first first wife, a Scientology recruiter, and his second wife, a former Scientologist. The group remained obscure until its teachings were endorsed ex-NFL player Ricky Williams, possibly because Williams was too stupid even for Scientology – or perhaps because Williams perceived it as easier to milk a smaller organization for influence and money. There is a brief comment on Douglas’s participation at the MindBodyWallet Festival in Perth in 2006 here.


Like Scientology, Access Consciousness is largely a commercial enterprise, and they have a substantial online shop pushing books, classes, memberships, and certifications for opening new branches. And everything is expensive: it’ll cost you 130 dollars a month (2012 figures), for instance, to obtain a “creative edge” membership that allows you to see a telecast, “unpredictable surprises from anywhere at any time” and “a one-hour call every month” with Douglas or one of his associates Dain Heer, a former chiropractor and Douglas’s number two man; Simone Milasas, an “Advanced Facilitator and Business Development Coordinator” for the foundation; or Brendon Watt.


Diagnosis: You’d think that, at some level, Douglas is aware that what he is doing is trying to run a cult based on exploitative nonsense. But we admit that he really does seem to struggle to distinguish reality from his everchanging imagination – having an army of droning acolytes affirming anything you say may tend to obscure that distinction for you. It is rather unbelievable that this sort of bullshit should be able to sustain any kind of popularity, but then again, even Scientology seems to have been a successful venture for a while.


Hat-tip: rationalwiki

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

#2781: Diane Douglas

Diane Douglas served as Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2015 to 2019, a position she used to try to do as much damage to public education as possible. She was generally recognized as being completely incompetent and unqualified even at the time she was elected in 2014, and immediately faced a recall effort by voters who accurately judged her to be not qualified for the position.


Of course, one of the issues Douglas had with public schools was that they teach evolution. Douglas is a creationist. So in 2018, she tapped local young-earth creationist Joseph Kezele, who is convinced that the Earth is just 6000 years old and that dinosaurs were present on Noah’s Ark (“plenty of space on the Ark for dinosaurs – no problem”), to review the proposed new standards on how to teach evolution. Douglas’s chief of staff, Michael Bradley (surely not this Michael Bradley, though that Michael Bradley has views on evolution, too), defended the appointment by falsely claiming that[w]e wanted to include a wide variety of views so that we’d get the best product possible,” adding, as if relevant, that Christian religious beliefs are widely held by a broad segment of Americans.


Also pior to appointing Kezele, Douglas had worked hard for some time to get public education more in line with her brand of religious fundamentalism; she had already for instance taken a red pen to the proposed science standards to strike or qualify the word ‘evolution’ wherever it occurred, and in a candidate forum in 2017, she explitly called for creationism to be taught along with evolution. One of her justifications was that school children should be aware that evolution is – wait for it – just a theory; it is very “theoretical” and not “proven, according to Douglas. In particular, she challenged scientists toshow me where any scientist has proven or replicated that life came from non-living matter [which has nothing to do with evolution] or that, in the example we see in the museums, that man evolved from an ape. There’s no proof to that.


Oh, and Douglas did not restrict herself to deleting mentions of evolution; references to climate change in the high school earth and space science standards were deleted as well. But of course.


Indeed, Douglas ultimately suggested that Arizona adopt heavily Bible-centered charter school standards crafted by Hillsdale College, a private Christian school, for all public schools in the state, calling them the “gold standard for K-12 academics.”


Her efforts were, fortunately – and despite support from the Discovery Instituteunsuccessful.


Diagnosis: How someone with such a fundamental lack of understanding of science could end up in a position to have power over the science standards in public education should have been a serious mystery but isn’t. A complete moron who, as so many people do, fill the gaping holes in her knowledge and understanding with fervent religious fundamentalism and denialism.