Thursday, July 30, 2015

#1425: John Brown


Zion Oil and Gas is a hydrocarbon exploration company based in Dallas and the proud owners of three license blocks in northern Israel. The company is distinguished by being faith-based, and by working under the conviction that it is going to discover one of the largest oil fields in the Middle East based solely on its founder John Brown’s impressively strained readings of Bible verses (more details here), and presumably partially on indignation over the apparent injustice that those evil Muslims got all the oil in the area and the good state of Israel got none. The aim is to make Israel self-sufficient with oil for the next few decades until the Rapture solves the situation for good. In Brown’s words:

Following continued assessment of all geological and geophysical data, renowned petroleum engineers, geologists and geophysicists continue to ask ... ‘where is the most logical place to drill where we can be sure of ‘tapping’ those vast reservoirs of oil?’ Yet, there is an ‘ANSWER’, and it is found in the most ‘overlooked’ source of geological information available to mankind today ... the Bible! The archaeologists have found the Bible to be their unerring guide to hidden treasures [I cannot interpret this as anything but a reference to Ron Wyatt] ... Why cannot the geologists utilize the same ‘tool’ to find this oil?

So it seems to be that Brown noticed on a 1973 map of the 12 tribes of Israel that Asher’s Land of the Bible looked like a foot, which is surely a clue: “And of Asher he said, Be Asher blessed above sons; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him DIP HIS FOOT IN OIL. (Deuteronomy 33:24).” And heck: secular oil companies look for oil based on methods that assume an unbiblically old Earth, don’t they? No wonder they can’t find oil in Israel.

Although the plan is so beyond ridiculous that it beggars even hardened loon researchers’ beliefs, they’ve kept it going for some 14 years, largely due to heavy promotion by fundamentalist newsletters such as the WND and people like Hal Lindsey, who told his viewers in 2007 that “Zion Oil right now is on the verge of discovering oil... [a sign that] we are really on the very threshold of Lord Jesus' return,” and deliberately lied about their prospects (Lindsey had 725,000 shares in the company, the value of which rose significantly after the announcement).

Needless to say, they have yet to hit the jackpot. Lately, they appear to have abandoned the Biblical maps and gone for pure geology with bids for acreage around the Dead Sea where there are known asphalt seeps – currently several board members are actually qualified geologists or have worked in senior positions for major oil companies. It hasn’t helped much.

It is also worth mentioning that some investors have accused Brown of fraud. In particular, according to Yousef Yomtov, a.k.a. Yosalov, Brown believes that “the oil will only flow when a super spiritual person known as Joseph comes into his life,” and the complaint is based on Yomtov’s conviction that he is that “super spiritual person”, yet Brown has thus far refused to meet with him. Yomtov also points out that by January 2009 Zion announced that they had issued “approximately 666,000 warrants with a $7.00 exercise price,” which cannot be a coincidence but rather proof of “a deliberate poisoning of the company from within and an indication to investors who seek God’s will that there is something ugly about Zion Oil and Gas.”

Diagnosis: Nothing short of remarkable. I don’t really have the words for this.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

#1424: Floyd Brown(?)


Floyd Brown is a co-founder of Citizens United (yes, that Citizens United) and president of Excellentia Inc. (helping clients “achieve success in the conservative and Christian marketplace”) and a range of other wingnut organizations. Brown specializes in mudslinging and devising dishonest political ad campaigns and is widely renowned for his brazen rejection of facts, evidence, reason and similar liberal conspiracies – and he’s for hire. Indeed, has established himself as one of the nation’s dirtiest political strategists, for instance by devising the infamous Willie Horton ad during the Bush sr.-Dukakis election, and many of his campaigns are undeniably effective. He also pushes “insider” stock tips and advice, gold coins and municipal bonds (here is a report from the Western Conservative Conference, which he organized; it reads just like your average spam mail).

During recent presidential elections Brown and his company released ads asserting for instance that Obama was registered as a Muslim student in Indonesia, and that he attended an Indonesian school that taught Islam as a child. Moreover, according to Brown, “for the international socialist movement of which Barack Obama is a card-carrying member, the U.S. must be brought to its knees, and I guarantee you that Barack Hussein Obama is doing everything he can to bring the country to its knees. He wants to bring it to its knees.” In fact, “[d]oes he simply hate Christianity … Does he hate the United States … or both?” – those were the questions he asked in his 2009 campaign to impeach President Obama (which were, of course, amply covered by the WND). According to the campaign, Obama should be impeached for his “high crimes and misdemeanors,” including the crime that “Obama has consistently refused to approve the release of his actual birth certificate, college transcripts and his medical records ... It's almost as if Obama is intentionally trying to destroy the country ...”

He even teamed up with Jerome Corsi to promote the latter’s book Obama Nation via viral web campaigns and emailings. Few people who have been in the vicinity of Corsi can avoid being in the extension of the description “hysterically insane”. And for a recent example, have a look at this email from Brown declaring that Obamacare “just killed its millionth person.” He doesn’t not even try to back up the claim.

So why the question mark by Brown’s name at the beginning of this entry. The thing is, we don’t really think that Brown believes any of the shit he is promoting, any more than he believes the claims behind the gold coins he is pushing. But he is a wingnut, and he does realize that many of his fellow wingnuts are crazy enough to take any crazy conspiracy theory at face value.

Diagnosis: If you ever listen to anything Brown says about politics and find it reasonable, you are probably a loon yourself. We doubt that Floyd Brown does. He is immensely influential nonetheless.

Monday, July 27, 2015

#1423: Kevin Brooks (and more or less the entire Tennessee House of Representatives)


Yes, yes, the state legislatures. This time its Tennessee, which is saddled with Kevin Brooks (24th district). Brooks is a Tea Party candidate and a conspiracy theorist. For instance, Brooks sponsored a resolution condemning Agenda 21, a UN environmental plan and a common target for unhinged conspiracy theories, as a “destructive and insidious” effort to advance a communist agenda through the guise of community planning. The plan called on members of the UN to adopt sustainable development principles to alleviate poverty and combat global warming. According to Tennessee lawmakers, however, it is as a plan for the “socialist/communist redistribution of wealth” through energy conservation policies, zoning restrictions and forced abortions. “It reads well. It has nice words like sustainability and helping the poor,” said state Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, “[b]ut what these people want to do is they want to cap the number of people this planet can have. … So ladies and gentlemen, if that doesn’t bother you, if those words don’t scare you, we’ve got to talk.” Yes, I do think you need to talk to someone, Casada. What is particularly interesting about the bill is that it used a language almost identical to a John Birch Society model bill.

The resolution passed 72-23, so Brooks is hardly the only lunatic in the Tennessee House of Representatives. But we knew that. Brooks was also one of the representatives at the House General Subcommittee of Education meeting on March 16, 2011, who voted for Tennessee’s infamous “teach the controversy” bill. The others – they all deserve mentioning – were Harry Brooks (R-District 19), Joe Carr (R-District 48), John J. DeBerry Jr. (D-District 90), the bill’s sponsor Bill Dunn (R-District 16), Joey Hensley (R-District 70), Ron Lollar (R-District 99), Debra Young Maggar (R-District 45), and Richard Montgomery (R-District 12)

Diagnosis: Tennessee: wtf is wrong with you? Wingnuttery or no, this is lizard-people, whale.to-level lunacy at the House level. You have a House of Representatives filled with weapons-grade tinfoil hatters!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

#1422: Kelly Brogan


Dr. Kelly Brogan was educated at Cornell and MIT, so one would think she ought to know a thing or two about methods for aligning beliefs to reality. Well, clearly Cornell and MIT need to do something somewhat differently, for Brogan has managed to delude herself into a pretty impressive array of ridiculous denialist and pseudoscienfic beliefs and conspiracy theories, and she has shown a remarkable inability to read scientific literature or evaluate hypotheses. You can read her articles on Sayer Ji’s abysmally insane website GreenMedInfo, as well as on her own website, where she claims to be practicing “holistic women’s health psychiatry,” for some examples. Oh, yes, Brogan has embraced a whole range of woo, including homeopathy, acupuncture, antivaccine views, anti-GMO views, functional medicine and pretty much every kind of medical nonsense you’ll ever encounter.

Given that she has some (nominal) background in topics related to science, she is dimly aware of the value of using scientific studies to support her views. But managing to find a single scientific study that could be twisted into looking like it supports your view isn’t enough to make those views respectable, and Brogan’s writings constitute some spectacular examples of how a professional denialist can dishonestly twist and distort and cherrypick real (as well as less respectable) studies to seem to support her cherished, otherwise non-evidence based views. What she does to an extent know how to do, is to mask her own unscientific rants in the format of something resembling real, serious writing (to those who don’t know better). Take a look, for instance, at her writings about the HPV vaccine (or here).

What is clear, is that Brogan is a hardcore antivaccine conspiracy theorist, who has managed to become a rather influential figure in the antivaccine movement, and she has been caught touting even the most egregious examples of inane pseudoscience published in profoundly disgraced pseudojournals to “support” her own insane ideas, such as the idea that vaccines are a likely cause of SIDS. She even appeared in the whale.to-level conspiracy flick “Bought” (oh yes, Brogan is a frequently cited “authority” over at whale.to, which is something that should make anyone with an even minimal wish to appear respectable stop up and wonder what they’re doing with their lives). The premise of “Bought” is the pharma shill gambit, one of Brogan’s own favorite tricks. Of course, the fact that she herself is constantly trying to sell stuff – speeches and suchlike – while she bashes Big Pharma is an irony lost on both her and her followers. (Here, for instance, if you buy the Depression Summit, you get the Sexyback summit Free!)

Much of her writings seem to boil down to fallacious appeals to nature, which are often also based on false premises. For instance, Brogan characterizes vaccines as working by “bypass[ing] natural immunity and provoke inflammatory response.” Vaccines do not bypass natural immunity, however; they induce immunity completely naturally. But that’s how Brogan starts off when discussing the HPV vaccine. It is hardly surprising that the results of her line of reasoning are absolute nonsense as well. It does, however, seems to suggest that Brogan really doesn’t understand even basic stuff about the topics about which she more than willingly shares her unsupported opinions. She is not above rank dishonesty either, as long as it can look like it lends support to views she has already convinced herself are true based on no good evidence or reason whatsoever.

She’s even been toying HIV denialism (oh, yes). Of the idea that HIV causes AIDS she has pointed out that AIDS is “a syndrome of 25 illnesses that does not satisfy Koch’s postulates of infectious disease” (Koch’s postulates date from 1890 and have been obsolete since then), and in the process positioned herself dangerously close to germ theory denialism – she probably doesn’t notice, though, since she doesn’t seem to have the faintest idea what she’s talking about. At least she rejects the effect of antiretroviral drugs on the mortality associated with this disease: “That drug toxicity associated with AIDS treatment may very well be what accounts for the majority of deaths,” says Brogan. “may very well” means there is no evidence or plausibility behind this claim I pulled out of my ass concerning topics I do not understand but you dear reader – since you are reading my bullshit – probably don’t know that. A collaboration of 12 prospective studies that included more than 62,000 HIV infected individuals found, contrary to what Brogan believes, that mortality was halved in the treated groups. We also know that in South Africa there were an estimated 3.8 million person-years lost between 2000 and 2005 because of delays in implementing treatment programs in part because central figures in the government had been convinced by pseudoscientists that HIV was not the cause of AIDS and that the drugs were not useful. We leave it to the reader to evaluate how, in light of that, Brogan’s recommendation should be used to judge her as a member of humanity.

Diagnosis: Raging pseudoscientific conspiracy theorist, who has managed to make something of a name for herself among conspiracy-minded “natural” healing gohmerts. One of those who, on balance, has made the world a worse place to live, and she appears to be just getting started. Dangerous.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

#1421: Felicia Briones-Colman


Felicia Briones-Colman is another MD who has turned to the dark side, yet again reminding us that MDs are not scientists, and are not necessarily trained in anything remotely resembling evidence assessment or proper methodology. Briones-Colman is, in fact, so extreme in her rejection of evidence, facts, and science in recommending healthcare strategies that she has contributed to NaturalNews. Yes, that NaturalNews.

As she will point out, Briones-Colman is not only an MD; she is “board certified in both Internal Medicine and the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine,” the latter of which is nothing to be proud of. Nonetheless, she recommends that you should “[c]hoose a doctor certified by the American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine” when you need holistic medical help. We don’t want to share the market, do we (it’s not like the board in question bases the certification process on evidence and reality in any case)? According to her, “[t]he practice of Integrative Medicine i[…] requires knowledge about alternative therapies that are scientifically proven to be effective and which can cause harm,” which is inaccurate in that any treatment that is “scientifically proven to be effective” is by definition not an alternative therapy, and seeing a board certified alternative practitioner rather than a non-certified is advisable to make sure that you receive the most efficacious woo and avoid harmful practices; “… a doctor who is board certified provides assurance of excellence,” says Briones-Colman, a claim so stupid and crazy it easily justifies an entry in our Encyclopedia.

Diagnosis: A useful reminder that a proper appeal to expertise on the efficacy of medical treatments is not the same as an appeal to your local MD. That’s the best I can manage to say about her.