Saturday, April 18, 2015

#1344: Clarence Barinowski

Certain parts of the US are crammed with these kind of people, but we’ll endeavor to cover at least a few of them. So, Clarence Barinowski is the President and founder of the Good News Network, which is “comprised of 12 radio stations and 13 radio translators/repeaters that extend throughout the southeast, covering communities in Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, and now, Alabama and Mississippi.” Well, Barinowski is at least a hardcore creationist. According to Barinowski “I think it is safe to say Republicans don’t have a problem with science,” by which he means that many wingnuts reject evolution. “[T]he reality is that greater and greater ‘faith’ is required in evolution to believe in its ability to accomplish what it is credited with doing,” and in Barinowski’s imagination “[t]he whole evolutionary concept of junk DNA has been wiped away by the research called ‘the ENCODE Project’.” Indeed, Barinowski seems to think that evolution is largely based on the movie Jurassic Park  (whereas he himself evidently gets his information from creationist blogs), and hence that “the fact that more people are questioning evolution indicates that more people are actually reading and learning what’s happening in modern scientific research these days, instead of getting their science education from movies,” which is a … rather novel claim. And to back it up he refers to … the Discovery Institute’s pitiful petition A Scientific Dissent From Darwinism. Perfect.

Diagnosis: Minor fish, but still a stellar and brilliant, walking and talking illustration of the Dunning-Kruger effect

Friday, April 17, 2015

#1343: Matthew Baral

Matthew Baral is an ND (a “naturopathic pediatrician”, in fact) and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, as well as a “certified” Defeat Autism Now! practitioner. DAN! practitioners are a diverse group of people encompassing homeopaths and naturopaths and what have you, and their goal is to defeat autism using the DAN! protocol, a set of “autism biomed” quackery notable for frequent occurrences of “this is not medical advice” for legal purposes in the information material, even though what they suggest are definitely medical advice. DAN! practitioners accordingly apply apparently every non-working, dangerous and idiotic tool available, from ayurvedic medicine to chelation and polarity therapy (which works with “the Human Energy Field”).

Though Baral isn’t exactly the loudest or most aggressive proponent of woo out there, he is, as mentioned, chair of the Department of Pediatrics at the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine, and thus at least partially responsible for quite a bit of naturopathy being administered to children. His research concerns “the correlation between heavy metal toxicity, chelation, and autism” – which is none, of course, but Baral’s “research” suggests otherwise; apparently he has published three papers on the issue, but doesn’t say where. He is also the author of the textbooks Fundamentals of Naturopathic Pediatrics (with Jared Skowron), Integrative Medicine for Children (with May Loo) and Integrative Pediatrics (with Timothy Culbert). Even more insidiously he serves as the medical director of the Hamilton Elementary School Clinic, a free pediatric clinic that provides care to the students of one of the poorest school districts in Phoenix. Since everyone knows that what poor kids deserve is snake oil and woo.

Baral is also a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians. Here is a discussion of their 25th Anniversary Convention.

Diagnosis: No, Matt Baral is not a flaming internet kook with a poorly designed webpage, and hasn’t, as far as we know, made any grand, silly claims in public. But as a promoter of pseudoscientific bullshit he is definitely in a position where he would be able to exert notable, harmful influence on the world, much more so than most all-caps internet kooks.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

#1342: David Balsiger

Are you sufficiently up-to-date on JFK conspiracies? Well, then perhaps you may wish to look into how conspiracy theorists deal with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. David W. Balsiger and Charles E. Sellier, jr., had some success with their book, and later movie, The Lincoln Conspiracy) in 1977 (Sellier has since passed away), in which they imagined a grand conspiracy of bankers and speculators behind a plan to kidnap and take out Lincoln. The book was met with little praise from actual historians, primarily because it was full of bullshit.

Of course, Balsiger – who now runs Balsiger Media – didn’t end his contributions to civilization with Lincoln. His latest books carry enticing titles like The Evidence for Heaven, and Miraculous Messages (as well as Abraham Lincoln: Untold Secrets from the Grave, so yes, he is still trying to capitalize on his former success), and primarily mixes conspiracy theories, woo, pseudoscience and religious fundamentalism. He also produces TV shows and series, most notably Encounters with the Unexplained, Xtreme Mysteries, and Ancient Secrets of the Bible. His individual TV specials include “There is More to the Secret” (yeah, that Secret), “Breaking the Da Vinci Code”, “Secrets of the Bible Code Revealed”, “Bible Code: The Future and Beyond”, and “The Quest for Noah’s Ark”; you get the gist. Ancient Secrets of the Bible is a series that ostensibly “scientifically explores many of the mysterious biblical accounts thought to be myths,” which they don’t since Balsiger’s approach is not scientific in any recognizable sense.

With one Victoria A. Gardner he has also produced a bizarre “Wholistic Health-Wellness” bulletin aimed at churches, which consists primarily of crackpot advice from Joe Mercola tailored to Christians by lots of reference to the Bible, the power of prayer, and an unprofessional layout. It really is the strangest little thing.

Diagnosis: Seems to be into virtually anything as long as it has no foundation in reality. Bizarre, but probably harmless.

Monday, April 13, 2015

#1341: Timothy Ballard

We’ve recently had a slew of fundie wingnuts, and here’s another one. Tim Ballard is an author and pseudohistorian, in particular the author of the book The Covenant: America’s Sacred and Immutable Connection to Ancient Israel. Here Ballard argues that the British and Americans are descended from the lost tribes of Israel, using as evidence his interpretation of Genesis 49:22 as a prophecy of America (as “the greatest nation of history”). The interpretation is so untenable that one almost feels a bit of pity for the author. He also claims that Jeremiah 31 predicts the gathering of the Israelites in America, which it rather clearly does not.

Ballard’s ideas are not unprecedented; they remain popular among certain Mormons and adherents of Herbert Armstrong. Indeed, it is sufficiently infamous to have received a name, British Israelism. Ballard himself is, in fact, a Mormon, though that is not much of an excuse. However, since the country that is now America was destined to be settled by the descendants of Joseph and Ephraim, there is a covenant from which America originated that entails a duty to keep the Old Testament commandments. In other words, the Constitution is really not a valid foundation for America’s legal system; the Old Testament is.

Marginal silliness, you may think. But the thing is: Ballard’s book has been treated as a reliable source by the influential pseudohistorian David Barton, whose work has been explicitly endorsed for instance by several members of Congress.

Diagnosis: An insult to bullshit. That’s rather clearly not an obstacle to becoming endorsed by wingnut people of influence.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

#1340: Steve Baldwin

No, not the actor Stephen Baldwin. We’ve covered him already. This Steve Baldwin is the former executive director of the Council for National Policy, a secretive but influential conservative policy group founded by Tim LaHaye and sponsored with significant sums of money by the Moonies, which consists of “a few hundred of the most powerful conservatives in the country,” who meet three times yearly behind closed doors at undisclosed locations for a confidential conference.

Baldwin himself is probably best known, if at all, for his anti-gay stance stance, which has reached almost LaBarbera-level proportions. He was for instance opposed to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential candidacy, claiming that a President Romney would be disastrous for the country and the Republican Party because Romney was “obsessed” with gay rights as governor of Massachusetts. “His whole administration was characterized by an almost obsessive devotion to the homosexual agenda,” said Baldwin. Romney, he claimed, was involved in “gay proclamations, gay dances, gay proms, gay assemblies, gay this, gay that,” adding obliquely, “You gotta start wondering here.” Baldwin also lamented that conservative media gave Romney a free pass on the issue, and had previously asserted that Jeff Carneal, president of Human Events’ publisher, is an “avowed homosexual” who has supported pro-equality causes. Indeed, Romney’s free pass seems to be due to the fact that many of the big names of “conservative media” are closeted homosexuals secretely conspiring to implement the gay agenda. No, Baldwin really didn’t like Romney. Indeed, he also tried to accuse Romney of believing in global warming: “[Romney] holds this belief despite the growing body of evidence that global warming theory is based upon false assumptions and despite the last two winters being among the coldest in recent history,” said Baldwin.

Currently, Baldwin seems to write for Barbwire, Matt Barber’s darkly religious fundamentalist version of InfoWars, and he is the author of From Crayons to Condoms, The Ugly Truth about America’s Public Schools (with Karen Holgate), which complains about how “our classrooms have become havens for indoctrination, sexual license and failed educational fads,” in particular the homosexual agenda and anti-Christian bias.

Diagnosis: Standard wingnut conspiracy theorist and denialist. But Baldwin is actually – or has at least been – a somewhat influential figure. One to watch.