Tuesday, January 17, 2017

#1777: Charlotte Iserbyt

Back in the days Charlotte Thomson Iserbyt was a senior policy advisor in the Office of Educational Research and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education (Reagan’s first term – she was relieved of her duties in 1982), staff employee of the U.S. Department of State, and co-founder of the educational activism group Guardians of Education for Maine. These days she is most famous for raging and ranting about how current problems in education and prevailing anti-intellectualism in the US are caused by former Soviet KGB agents.

Much of her, uh, research and worries about the American education system are summed up in her 1999 book The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America. According to the book, schools and universities are part of a conspiracy to suppress creative thinking and brainwash children into toeing the party line. There are several reasons why this should be obvious: For instance, since teaching a child to read, write and do basic math isn’t and shouldn’t be expensive or hard, the fact that education is currently costing a lot of money and takes a long time must be due to the efforts put into subsequent brainwashing.

More precisely, the public education system silently and nefariously work to eliminate the influences of a child’s parent, religion, morals and patriotism to “mold the child into a member of the proletariat in preparation for a socialist-collectivist world of the future.” These evil plans, and the psychological methods used to implement them, were formulated primarily by the Andrew Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Education (which ostensibly is at the heart of a great plot to start several large-scale wars and military conflicts to create world peace) and the Rockefeller General Education Board, but were adopted by the Ford foundation and even the president himself: during her stint in the Department of Education Iserbyt allegedly discovered, to her disbelief, how these socialist-collectivist policies originated all the way from President Reagan, Vice President George H. W. Bush, and their policy advisers, including the CIA. Yes: Reagan himself was really a communist agent – Iserbyt suspects he came under communist influence when he was a member of the National Advisory Council of the American Veterans Committee, apparently a communist front organization. And not only Reagan but his administration, the government, various large organizations and even multinational companies. If you don’t see some obvious problems with Iserbyt’s theory on your own, we’re not sure we can help you. One wonders, though, whether Iserbyt might be under some misconceptions concerning what counts as “communism” and “brainwashing”.

Further proof that she is right is the fact that some critics call her a “kook”.

Diagnosis: Well, “kook” sums it up pretty well, but “raving lunatic” seems even more appropriate. We doubt that her own influence is particularly momentous these days, but plenty of crazies have taken up similar causes.

Monday, January 16, 2017

#1776: Naomi Isaacson, Avraham Cohen & Rebekah Nett

Cohen, we think.
Naomi Isaacson is the president of Yehud-Monosson and CEO of SIST, which is apparently some kind of fundamentalist Zionist cult (full name Dr. R.C. Samanta Roy Institute of Science and Technology Inc. and officially an educational non-profit). Avraham Cohen, a.k.a. R.C. Samanta Roy, founded the cult in the seventies as a Christian end-times group – apparently the move to Judaism was somewhat gradual. And he managed to build quite a bit of fortune for himself – like many cult leaders Cohen claimed God-given abilities to read people’s minds, predict their futures, and heal their diseases – until the whole thing seems to have fallen apart in a flurry of bankruptcy claims and foreclosures around 2010 (more detailed story here and here).

It was Naomi Isaacson, however, who managed to draw some national attention when she and her attorney, cult member Rebekah Nett, filed a marvelously deranged brief with a bankruptcy court in 2011 (related to the SIST troubles, of course) in which they called U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Nancy Dreher, a “black-robed bigot”, another judge “a Jesuitess” with a “track record of lies, deceit, treachery and connivery” and both, together with some trustees, “dirty Catholics”. They also alleged that the courts were “composed of a bunch of ignoramus, bigoted Catholic beasts that carry the sword of the church.” Meanwhile, Isaacson said, the “things that this Debtor has gone through are worse than the Inquisition, the Holocaust, and blood libels,” and “[s]ince Debtor has been vocal in exposing their dirty deeds, these dirty Catholics have conspired together to hurt Debtor.” Suffice to say, those sort of antics don’t go over particularly well with courts, who ordered Isaacson and Nett to show cause why each shouldn’t be fined up to $10,000. You can follow the link above if you need some actual details of the case, but we don’t think that’s necessary to make a judgment about Isaacson and Nett.

Nett, who apparently grew up in the cult, later had her license revoked indefinitely for her behavior by the Minnesota Supreme Court for repeatedly making “frivolous and harassing personal attacks and discriminatory statements in 11 different pleadings in five distinct matters.

Isaacson and Nett emphasized, in their response, that they weren’t caling Dreher a member of the Roman Catholic Church when they called her a Catholic judge; rather, they were “referring to a mentality and an adherence to a universal creed of White Supremacy,” pointing out, for good measure, that Catholics and the Jesuit order were behind the slave trade, the sinking of the Titanic, World War II, the Holocaust and U.S. involvement in the war in Vietnam.

Diagnosis: I suppose some might feel sorry for them, but these people are deranged, evil and dangerous. Avoid, at least unless you have some expertise in how to help people escape from this kind of thing.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

#1775: Darek Isaacs

Darek Isaacs is a young-earth creationist author and filmmaker, and (apparently) close ally/student of the Hovinds. Isaacs is the kind of guy who thinks an important objection to evolution (the theory of death to the weakest on Isaacs’s interpretation) is that it (as opposed to a literal reading of the Bible?) legitimizes rape, since evolution is all about the man propagating his DNA and all that matters in reproduction is the frequency of intercourse, whether the woman is willing or not. Oh, yes: It’s the familiar Hovind-level “understanding” of evolution, in which i) a strawman parody not even remotely related to the scientific theory in question is erected; ii) an is-ought fallacy is committed; and iii) the strawmen is rejected, by the age-old principle of wishful thinking, on the grounds of its ostensibly morally reprehensible corollaries.

Isaacs is, of course, a Biblical literalist. As such he believes that dragons are real, or at least that they were real back in Biblical times, and that 2000 years ago people understood and were appropriately scared of them. “The Bible speaks about dragons,” says Isaacs, and “our authority – everything we do, we have to measure by the word of God. That is what I believe. So we have to go to the Bible, and the Bible speaks about dragons.” It’s the kind of claim that should disqualify Isaacs from any discussion with anyone above the age of five, but which is actually relatively mainstraim among frothingly fundamentalist young earth creationists.

Isaacs is also the kind of researcher who publishes in Answer in Genesis’s house journal Answers; for volume 6, for instance, Isaacs published “Is There a Dominion Mandate?”, arguing that humans do not in fact have dominion over the earth (just think about Hurricane Sandy and all the dangerous wildlife) since The Fall.

Diagnosis: A Ray Comfort in the making, perhaps. Darek Isaacs is astoundingly silly, and one should perhaps not exaggerate his influence, but some people do apparently listen to him for other things than easy laughs.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

#1774: Don Irvine

Accuracy in Media (AIM) is a wingnut conspiracy organization – ostensibly a “media watchdog” set up to combat “liberal media bias” – founded by Bircher Reed Irvine. It is currently run by Reed’s son Don Irvine, though Cliff Kincaid may be its most publicly recognized representative. In honor of Don’s father, AIM has created an annual “Reed Irvine Award”, given to people who promote conspiracy theories and in general lack of accountability in media; there is a list of some previous winners here. In addition to wingnut conspiracy theorists and global warming denialists, the list of winners also include anti-vaccine activist Sharyl Attkisson.

AIM was for a long time (still is, we think) a main proponent of the Vince Foster conspiracy theory and served in that regard as a mouthpiece for the ravings of Richard Mellon Scaife (a funder of AIM; sourcewatch entry on AIM here). More recently they (of course) turned primarily to pushing birtherism, of course. More generally, AIM has for a long time pushed various conspiracy theories concerning the imminent (or already existing in the shadows) socialist world government led by the UN and a North American Union (here is an example). Apparently the UN is also behind the “manufactured crisis” that is is AIDS in Africa. Oh, and George Soros is involved in various nebulously defined ways.

Here is a flowchart they designed to illustrate the radicalism and nefariousness of CASA de Maryland; it’s the kind of deranged monster that screams “poe” but apparently it is not. And here is a summary of their (James Simpson) report on voter fraud.

But no wingnut watchdog organization is complete without pseudoscience, and AIM has long promoted Intelligent Design creationism, even citing the Discovery Institute as, somehow, a scientific authority. And they have, of course, been pushing anti-environmentalist conspiracy theories and various other forms of wingnut denialism, including global warming denialism, DDT myths and anti-Rachel Carson campaigns. It is probably little surprise that AIM is virulently anti-gay, and equally unsurprising that their anti-gay bigotry comes laced with insane conspiracy theories, including homosexual recruitment conspiracies.

In 1985, Reed Irvine also founded Accuracy in Academia to fight the perceived bias of “liberal academia” and political correctness. Mostly they seem to work to “inform” students about such grave issues as creeping Sharia in classrooms, since apparently many college professors are secretly jihadists, and the War on Christmas.

There’s a good AIM resource here.

Diagnosis: Yeah, it’s like the John Birch society. But apparently quite a few people take this kind of deranged lunacy seriously. Dangerous.

Hat-tip: Rationalwiki.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

#1773: Joe Imbriano

Though he is the founder of the American Open University (AOU), which has trained most of the members of the North American Imams Federation, fundamentalist Muslim theocrat Jaafar Sheikh Idris doesn’t appear to count as American – he needs a brief mention, though, for his apparent influence among certain crazier Muslim groups in the US.

Joe Imbriano, on the other hand, claims to have identified the true cause of autism. His contribution is in fact a tiny bit original since the main culprit for Imbriano isn’t vaccines – the by far most popular perceived villain among deranged anti-scientist non-experts – but … [facepalm] … EMF. Which is emphatically no less stupid than blaming vaccines. Imbriano relates his ravings to the public on the website thecauseofautism, which is concerned with two topics: That “WiFi in the schools is dangerous to young children,” and “that Microwave Electro-Magnetic Frequency Emissions acting upon metals in the child’s brain in and out of the womb is the cause of autism.” Imbriano ostensibly got the idea when he tried to microwave a tinfoil-wrapped burger in the 80s, which showed him that microwaving metal is dangerous. On the other hand, according to Imbriano, carbonyl iron powder, which is often used as an iron supplement, does not create a spectacle when microwaved but instead absorbs the radiation. This shows that EMF microwave emissions are “creating electrical discharges and voltage spikes on certain metals,” allowing “metals and toxins to get in the brain by opening the BBB [blood-brain barrier] channels” and producing a “fireworks show at the cellular level”, which is “destroying the myelin sheathing” of neurons in the brain and thereby causing autism in vulnerable populations. It’s rather painfully clear when reading his rants that Imbriano doesn’t really have more than a cursory misunderstanding of the topics he is writing about, but that hasn’t stopped anyone before (and don’t even think about evidence – this is abject pseudoscience; it is confirmation by a priori speculation by someone who has not the faintest idea what he is speculating about).

In any case, certain iron supplements make developing fetus vulnerable to WiFi, and the idea is supported by the claim that anemia “shows up in almost all autistic children”. Then there is something about cord clamping, and … well, let’s just let Imbriano fit all the pieces together himself:

In summation, we believe that the WSJ article anectdotally confirms [whee] the implication of microwave emissions in having a causative effect on Autism. It is my belief that microwave EMF emissions acting on metals are the elusive missing link. We also believe that if all of the iron supplementation of the women was with carbonyl iron, instead of ferrous sulfate or ferrous gluconate, and, in term deliveries, cord clamping was delayed until pulsation ceases, or C sections were avoided when if at all possible, we could quite possibly, see virtually no autism if my assumptions are correct. If we removed EMF exposure entirely, we may just see the same results as well. The study didn’t specify which form of iron was taken. I would venture to say that carbonyl iron and ferrous sulfate are about 40%/50% ratio in terms of use by pregnant women and the other 10% being ferrous gluconate and other plant based forms which all differ in terms of their EMF absorption and permittivity.”

Calling this crazy speculation would be an insult to crazy speculation. Oh, and he cannot help himself: the “battery of immunizations are simply the straw that breaks the camel’s back of the already anemic, microwave EMF damaged, electrosensitive, immunocompromised infant.” So yes, it is vaccines. I’ll be darned.

Diagnosis: Tinfoil hat-style, frothing madman and Dunning-Kruger victim. His influence seems fortunately to be limited.