Saturday, November 18, 2017

#1924: Carolyn Maloney

Carolyn Maloney is the U.S. Representative for New York’s 12th congressional district and, together with Bill Posey, the greatest friend of anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists in Congress (anti-vaccine conspiracies are a bipartisan thing).

For instance, Maloney introduced the “Comprehensive Comparative Study of Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Populations Act of 2007” (H.R. 2832) legislation that would require the National Institutes of Health, ostensibly to conduct a comprehensive comparative study of vaccinated and unvaccinated populations in support of spurious claims asserting a link between vaccines and autism, and partially guided by the standard anti-vaccine myth that there are no large-scale studies comparing the health outcomes of vaccinated and unvaccinated children (there are, of course, but they don’t show what antivaccine advocates want them to show, so they want new ones to be conducted until they get different results). The bill did not pass, so Maloney (unsuccessfully) re-introduced it in 2008.

She introduced similar legislation (with Bill Posey) in 2013 to direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to conduct or support a study comparing total health outcomes, including risk of autism, between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations. The details are discussed here; note how the bill assumes that scientists are in a conspiracy to hide the truth and effectively says that research done by qualified researchers shouldn’t count in the study (qualified researchers tend to be biased by truth and accuracy.)

And make no mistake: Maloney is antivaccine, and has been caught parroting anti-vaccine nonsense on several occasions, such as Dan Olmsted’s false claim that the Amish don’t vaccinate and don’t get autism. And during a hearing held by by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee she grilled CDC representatives demanding to know why autism prevalence has gone from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 88. Of course, there is no autism epidemic (there really isn’t) and the perceived increase in autism is due primarily to developments of screening programs, broadening of diagnostic criteria, diagnostic substitution, better detection and increased awareness. So to prevent the CDC representative from responding with facts Maloney emphasized that she “doesn’t want to hear that we have better detection” – yup: “explain this to me, but do so without referring the actual facts, since I reject those.” Maloney, who has no background in medical research, claimed that detection cannot account for a jump from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 88, even though there are plenty of examples from medical science of screening programs, broadening of diagnostic criteria, diagnostic substitution, and better detection accounting for even larger increases in the prevalence of a condition. So yes, Maloney has already decided that the vaccine program or some other environmental factor (that is, vaccines) is causing an “autism epidemic,” which doesn’t exist, and to support her position, she adopts the nonsensical “too many too soon” trope so beloved by antivaccinationists.

It’s also worth noting that Maloney marched with Jenny McCarthy in her infamous antivaccine Green Our Vaccines rally in 2008.

In addition to her antivaccine views, it is worth pointing out that Maloney co-sponsored the 2009 reintroduction of the Fair Copyright in Research Works Act to limit public access to scientific research (some details here and here. (Maloney was bought and paid by Elsevier to do so.)

Diagnosis: Maloney is scientifically utterly ignorant, and as such staunchly anti-science. And to support that position, Maloney subscribes to conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, she also has the power and influence to use her anti-science views and commitment to conspiracy theories to really do substantial harm. We count her as one of the more dangerous loons in the US at present.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

#1923: George Malkmus

The blog Republican Faith Chat (formerly Baptists for Brownback), notable for its extreme religious fervor and bloodlust (recommending that the poor and homeless be poisoned, for instance) and whose welcoming message is “Conservative Christians ONLY. Liberals, Atheists Not Welcomed!”, is probably satire – though it is hard to tell – which means that its resident pastor, Tobin Maker, is … well, it’s not entirely clear, but if he’s real, he might just be the most extreme wingnut and bloodthirsty religious fanatic on the Internet.

George Malkmus is also a religiously motivated crackpot, but at least he takes his delusions in a slightly different direction. Reverend Malkmus promotes the Hallelujah Diet and claims to have eliminated his own colon cancer and other serious health problems decades ago by “following biblical principles for a natural diet and healthy lifestyle.” These claims are, needless to say, hard to verify, though in 1998 Malkmus admitted that he never consulted a cancer specialist for diagnosis but relied on nutritionists and chiropractors. He also ostensibly had a stroke in 2001, which he claims to have treated with woo and no scientifically recognized medical intervention. Perhaps the most striking thing about his medical history is how abysmally poor his health has (ostensibly) been while (putatively) following his diet.

Together with his wife Rhonda Jean, he operates Hallelujah Acres, where they arrange seminars (some held by his “health ministers” Olin Idol and Graeme Coad – names to take note of) and sell various “health” products. They and their followers claim that their methods have helped people with obesity, cancer, arthritis, and a wide range of other health issues. Needless to say, they haven’t. Malkmus also maintains relationships with Charlotte Gerson, Joel Robbins (a chiropractor, which is not the same as an MD), Mary Ruth Swope (who claims that Barley Green can cure cancer, which it cannot), and the Contreras family, who runs the Oasis of Hope Hospital, a “cancer clinic” that you should avoid unless you want your cancer to kill you just as quickly but far more expensively than if you left it untreated.

The Malkmuses estimate that more than a million people worldwide have tried their diet, more than 3,000 have taken their training, hundreds have become “Health Ministers”, and more than 220,000 receive his newsletter. In 1995, Malkmus also received an honorary doctorate degree in literature from Louisiana Baptist Seminary, which is hardly anything to be proud of (especially after they awarded one to George Malkmus). In 1997, Malkmus announced that he had formed a “strategic alliance” under which the aforementioned Oasis of Hope Hospital would offer the Hallelujah Diet and report on their results: “for the first time, the cause and effect relationship between diet and disease will be put under scientific scrutiny at a Christian cancer hospital.” The resulting “study” (really nothing more than a customer satisfaction survey conducted by one Michael Donaldson, a chemical engineer) is described here. We can safely call it “underwhelming”.

Malkmus is staunchly opposed to science-based medical care, and claims (of course) that his methods are better and safer. He is, for instance, anti-vaccine, claiming that dietary measures are more effective than immunizations, and has been caught marketing videotapes by Lorraine Day, a Holocaust denier who warns people that medical care is “against God’s will”. Mainstream medicine, according to Malkmus, is just a conspiracy by Big Pharma to fill us with toxins: “All drugs are toxic to the system and create new problems! The solution to our physical problems is not more pollution!” and “[t]he taking of drugs places a person on a vicious downhill spiral that will create ever more physical problems and ultimately end in an early demise.” According to Malkmus, the “whole approach of the medical community” – those who, as opposed to Malkmus, actually know what they are talking about – “is wrong when it comes to using drugs and other harmful treatments (radiation, chemotherapy, etc.) to deal with disease. They are always talking about cures and treatments for specific symptoms but they will never find a way to cure disease through the use of drugs!” Ah, the standard gambit of pseudoscientists who wouldn’t be able to distinguish a symptom from an underlying cause if their lives depended on it.

By contrast, the Hallelujah diet does nothing at all. Malkmus, of course, promotes it as the miracle cure for everything. The diet at least seems to consist primarily of uncooked fruits and vegetables, supplemented by Barley Green, Herbal Fiberblend, Udo’s Choice Perfected Oil, vitamin B12, and at least two 8-ounce glasses of carrot juice daily. Barley Green and Herbal Fiberblend were made by The AIM Companies™, a multilevel marketing company in which Malkmus happens to be a distributor, but that’s just coincidence.

As evidence for the diet’s efficacy, Malkmus can offer you testimonials. He also points out that people used to live on a “diet composed of raw fruits and vegetables, gathered by hand, as found fresh and untainted in nature” before the Flood, when “man lived an average of 912 years, without any recorded sickness for the first almost two thousand years of recorded history.” But after the Flood, when “God allowed animal flesh to be added to His original diet and the cooking of food began, … physical problems began. Looking at Genesis 50:26, we see that the life-span of man dropped from an average of 912 years on God’s original diet to 110 years, in ten generations.”

Diagnosis: Abject bullshit, of course, backed up by rambling pseudoscience and hardline religious ravings. Malkmus seems to be good at marketing, however. We’ll give him that.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

#1922: Dennis Mahon

Dennis Mahon is a white supremacist, former Klansman, and terrorist, active until 2005 when he showed an album of old pictures of himself in his Ku Klux Klan robe and proudly listed the number of places he claimed to have bombed since the early 1980s to a woman he had picked up who turned out to be an informant. The places allegedly bombed included an abortion clinic, a Jewish community center and offices of the IRS and immigration authorities. Mahon was convicted of sending a mail bomb in 2004 to a government diversity office in Scottsdale, Arizone, injuring three people.

Prior to being caught Mahon was notable as a neo-nazi and champion of – of all things – the Ba’ath party, organizing a pro-Saddam rally in Tulsa in 1991. In the KKK he attained the rank of “Imperial Dragon”, and founded the Oklahoma White Knights of the KKK in 1988, leading groups in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. He was also involved in negotiations between the Klan and the Aryan Nations. In the 1990s he joined Tom Metzger’s White Aryan Resistance. Apparently he also led a Christian identity enclave in Elohim City.

Diagnosis: Perhaps this entry ought to have been more substantial, given Mahon’s substantial role in this garbage, but we really cannot be bothered. Hopefully neutralized.