Wednesday, September 30, 2015

#1476: Monica Cole and the "One Million Moms"

The group One Million Moms was created to promote a boycott of JC Penney over their choice of Ellen DeGeneres, a “strong gay activist” because of her support of same-sex marriage, as a spokesperson. The group, which seems to have missed the million members mark by some distance, prides itself on the promotion of Family Values™ and similar hate ideologies and is, of course, particularly focused on homosexuality. JC Penney was not impressed by their campaigns, but the organization has continued its fight against decency and civilization by focusing on a variety of other targets, as an arm of the American Family Association.

Monica Cole, the director, has for instance made an effort to have Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye censored from Common Core because “[t]his book is no different than pornography,” particularly because of one character’s “use of the Lord's name to justify his [perverted] actions,” which is apparently an attempt to brainwash kids into violence and sex slavery or something. Other targets for the group include Wicked (a recipe for “how to get away with murder”), Macy’s (because of a “kinky boots” performance), Graham crackers (because of Honey Maid’s “disrespect of millions of American families by supporting the homosexual agenda”), The Gap, The Fosters, the show Lucifer (because it is “not only disrespecting Christianity and mocking the Bible, but it can mess with people's eternity”) and The New Normal, which according to Cole shows how Hollywood “continues to attack Christian values, conservative values, the traditional family,” while mourning that “the moral decay in public airwaves is continuing.” Among their more recent targets is Tylenol, after a gay couple showed up in one of their commercials. The ad claimed that “[f]amily isn’t defined by who you love, but how,” and Cole responded that this message illustrates that “Tylenol is just contributing to the collapse of the family.” Just think about it.

How successful have they been? In June 2015 Cole at least bragged about having had the television show “Black Jesus” cancelled, which must be news to Cartoon Network, who renewed it in December 2014.

Diagnosis: At least Bryan Fischer shows some originality; Cole is mostly just boring – the same old non-arguments and non-reasons to provide a feeble cover for very mundane hatred and craziness. At least her influence appears to be far more negligible than she seems to think.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

#1475: Suzy Cohen

A.k.a. America’s Pharmacist™ also A.k.a. America’s Most Trusted Pharmacist®

Oh, yes, after reading this far you already know everything you need to know. Suzy Cohen apparently has some training as a pharmacist, a background she uses for what it’s worth in her (probably unintentional) efforts to mislead people with real (or imagined, but probably often real) illnesses and conditions through her syndicated column Ask the Pharmacist – and no: If you have a health-related problem, you definitely shouldn’t.

Coffee enemas, anyone? Yes, some people actually believe that you could derive tremendous health benefits by simply shooting that coffee directly into your rectum. The idea is precisely as silly and unsupported by anything resembling evidence as you would expect, but Cohen is on board. According to Cohen (but emphatically not reality) “coffee enemas may help relieve constipation, insomnia and cognitive problems; they may eliminate (or control) parasites, candida and other pathogens (without disrupting intestinal flora).” And hey, “[c]offee enemas are frequently used in natural cancer protocols such as the Gerson Therapy.” Yes, that Gerson therapy. It is, of course, all about the toxins: “You are exposed to a barrage of toxic compounds in your life, you can easily become overloaded. Some of you cannot detoxify properly. Coffee enemas help you make glutathione, an antioxidant and that sends poisons packing,” says Cohen. She doesn’t specify which toxins, of course. Nor does she provide any citations or even gesture toward any remotely coherent mechanism.

And for Huffington Post, Cohen has given us the rather deplorable article Feel Bad? It Could Be Lyme Unless Proven Otherwise,” in which she claims – you guessed it – that any otherwise unexplained maladies or feeling less-than-perfect may very well be the result “chronic Lyme disease,” which is almost certainly not a well-definable diagnosis. The lack of a proper definition has, unsurprisingly, not prevented a whole industry from forming around non-evidence-based treatments of this nebulous condition. Cohen, however, seems to base most of her information on the work of Dr. Richard Horowitz, one of several self-styled Lyme-literate medical doctors and brave mavericks who have made a career of diagnosing and treating conditions not recognized by mainstream medical science.

Cohen is otherwise “passionate about natural medicine” and promotes a number of nonsensical treatments, from Bach flower remedies to acupuncture for tinnitus. She has also said that “Antibiotics are actually derived from mold/fungus so it’s recommended that you avoid antibiotics if you have any fungal infection or various immune system disorders.” Yeah, that’s the level at which her understanding of biology and medicine is pitched. It hasn’t prevented her from writing several books.

Diagnosis: Crazy crackpot and pseudoscientist. Stay far, far away.

Monday, September 28, 2015

#1474: Michael H. Cohen

Though he is the author of a particularly idiotic essay on Intelligent Design, Jonah Cohen seems to be too minor even for us.

Michael H. Cohen, on the other hand, is perhaps one of the more dangerous promoters of pseudoscience and woo out there. Cohen, apparently a former professor at Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health – he has for instance been deeply involved in the woo shenanigans that have plagued the Harvard Medical School the last couple of years – is the founder of the Michael H. Cohen Law Group, which specializes in healthcare-related legal issues surrounding altmed, FDA & FTC law, and how to get quacks and crackpots off various legal hooks. Apparently Cohen is also trained as a seminarian, yogi, Ericksonian hypnotherapist, and energy healer, having been the president of the Institute for Integrative and Energy Medicine in Newport Beach; the NCCAM has also made use of his writings). Of course, Cohen has no background in science, medicine or good critical thinking, but he knows his legal issues, and his numerous books on legal questions surrounding pseudoscience and woo have presumably been quite helpful for practitioners who wish to exploit people in difficult situations (as suggested e.g. by his contribution to the collection Integrative Oncology: Incorporating Complementary Medicine into Conventional Cancer Care (Current Clinical Oncology), edited by Maurie Markman and Lorenzo Cohen). He has even managed to get at least one of his screeds (discussed here) published in the influential (peer-reviewed) journal Pediatrics; in “Informed Consent: Advising Patients and Parents About Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies” he and his coauthors (Joan Gilmour, Christine Harrison, Leyla Asadi and Sunita Vohra, a Canadian physician affiliated with the “Complementary and Alternative Research Education (CARE) Program,”) advocate using laws about informed consent to force doctors to “inform” their patients about “complementary and alternative medicine” to pediatric patients, using touching anecdotes and trying to claim that the evidence indicates that certain alternative modalities such as acupuncture are efficacious (false).

Of course, Cohen doesn’t limit himself to promoting acupuncture. His blog, CAMLaw, is “unrelentingly hostile to science-based medicine” and pro-woo, and Cohen has been deeply involved in the American Association for Health Freedom, a group dedicated to convincing the government to legitimize various implausible medical claims through political campaigning rather than science.

To get an idea about where he comes from, you could have a look at his essay “What is the Matrix? A Radical Look at Medico-Legal Reform,” in which he likens health care law and health care to the Matrix, promoting instead what appears to be a complete lack of regulation. And instead of regulations, he suggests … well, perhaps we should let him speak for himself:

Health and healing can involve the highest of which a human being is capable. Near-death experiences, encounters with angels, and events that touch the individual’s interior castle and border on mysticism-hese experience manifest ‘light,’ in the sense of coming closer to that which is Supreme at the edges of our consciousness. How would an enlightened civilization, composed of enlightened citizens, govern its own evolutionary movement toward the highest possible level of healing? What role would law play? Would the absence of regulation, instead of its pervasiveness, bring peace-a kind of regulatory lacuna? Would legal structures be able to handle the notion that healing involves mind, body, emotions, and spirit, but also such other dimensions of the human experience as inter-species communication and greater sense of earth-consciousness (Gaia)?

Yeah, that kind of guy. But he still managed to get a (co-authored) article in Pediatrics.

Diagnosis: Not the faintest trace of understanding of or respect for science, reason or careful assessment of evidence. Indeed, Cohen’s writings are prime material. Yet he somehow still maintains a scary amount of influence. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

#1473: Mike Coffman

Mike Coffman is the U.S. Representative for Colorado’s 6th congressional district since 2009, having formerly served as the Secretary of State of Colorado. He is famous for his birther sympethies, and during a campaign fundraiser in 2012 he declared that “I don’t know whether Barack Obama was born in the United States of America. I don’t know that. But I do know this, that in his heart, he’s not an American. He’s just not an American.” He later claimed that he “misspoke”, which he rather clearly didn’t. He may not have anticipated that a recording from the meeting be made public, but apparently some of the contributors at the meeting (e.g. Brooks Imperial, who made the recording) agreed with the sentiment and thought it should be distributed more widely. He later also walked back on his apology, praising those who don’t believe Obama was born in the United States: “[Issues are] going to determine this election, not focusing on the birther question. God bless people that do that. I understand their passion.”

So that tells you a bit about Coffman’s cognitive abilities – or his honesty and integrity (or probably both). It’s not particularly surprising, then, that Coffman is a global warming denialist. He is aware of the scientific consensus surrounding the issue, but as he points out: “One thing that I certainly read in, from, viable sources is that a lot of the research that’s being done, if you don’t, when you put your application in to get a grant, if you don’t submit to the, you know, orthodoxy of climate change by the radical environmentalists you’re not going to get a grant.” Yes, that’s right. Scientists don’t disagree with the radical orthodoxy for fear of losing their research grants, and need someone like Coffman – who is so independent of any scientific group, background or body of evidence that it borders on the remarkable – to speak out for them. Of course, Coffman doesn’t quite understand how research grants work, but neither does his audience so it is really a win-win for him. (Nor does he have any evidence for his pretty easily testable claim, nor does he realize that even if the claim were correct, it would do little to undermine the existing evidence for AGW, and so on.)

Diagnosis: Inhofe-wannabe, it seems – at least Coffman is yet another delusional conspiracy theorist, Coast-to-Coast-AM-style, who has managed to get himself elected into a position of power. Scary stuff.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

#1472: Craig Paul Cobb

Craig Paul Cobb is the white supremacist that operates the video sharing website Podblanc. Cobb claims “racism is my religion”, advocates “racial holy war” in accordance with the tenets of The Creativity Movement, and is particularly notorious for his celebration of violence and murder committed against minorities. Hate crimes? No; words like “hate crime” – and “gay” – were “devised by Jews to oppress whites,” according to Cobb. So there.

He is way most famous, though, for his bizarre campaign to dominate the hamlet of Leith, North Dakota (16 inhabitants) with other white supremacists. Cobb moved to Leith in 2012 with little subtlety and promptly made the hamlet both a center for Neo-Nazi ridiculousness and the target of various anti-racist protests. Apparently Cobb owns at least 12 plots of land in the town, and several other prominent white supremacists also own land in Leith, partially because Cobb has transferred ownership of plots to fellow white supremacists, including Alex Linder and Tom Metzger.

Cobb’s plans failed, and he was eventually arrested in 2013 for terrorizing his neighborhood. While in prison he refused food because he was practicing mahasamadhi and believed he would leave his physical body for another “plane of existence” at Yuletide. He’s still around, though he seems to have quieted down a bit.

Diagnosis: I think you’ll manage this one yourself.