Archive for the ‘conspiracy’ Category

One thing, possibly the only thing, I like about the Oklahoman’s editorial board is that it has a long-term vision for the state. I can’t say I like that vision, but I have to respect that they appreciate their position as the oldest continuous newspaper in the state and the biggest soapbox for policy debate.

The Oklahoman sucks in so many ways. It has a reactionary, regressive political stance that holds this state back. It publishes editorials without requiring the authors to sign them (I recognize the pot calling the kettle black of complaining about this on here, but Odd Oklahoma isn’t the largest newspaper in the state). It let Mary Fallin push it around and forced a blog to sue her over emails she is legally obligated to make public.

That’s why I was so surprised to see the Oklahoma publish a three genuinely good, if still anonymous, editorials so far in the month of April.

The first two both came out on April 1. One was about the need for the Oklahoma legislature to tackle the state’s crumbling infrastructure. Mind you, this is the same editorial page that is pushing for the state to cut the income tax rate. Don’t expect them to be consistent or logical. I’m planning on writing something soon looking at the argument that cutting the state’s income tax rate would actually increase revenue. It’s bogus, but why is pretty interesting.

The second April 1 editorial was going after the anti-Common Core Curriculum crowd. The editors rightly referenced “black helicopters” when talking about these people. I’ve written about them on here before. Those get crazy about Common Core are the same type of people that throw around the term RINO and try to blackmail state senators.

From the editorial:

Instead, Common Core standards have been embraced because the idea makes sense. The standards will allow an apples-to-apples comparison of Oklahoma students’ performance with that of other states. That’s a goal policymakers should embrace, particularly if high standards are maintained.

Common Core is not an attempt by the federal government to take over education. It is organized and opted into or out of by the participating states. It allows them to fairly compare the effectiveness of their systems. The biggest opponents of Common Core are the same crowd that home school their children because they can’t have the government indoctrinating them with ideas like evolution and climate change while failing to teach the nation’s true Christian history as articulated by David Barton.

The third editorial that shows the Oklahoman hasn’t entirely lost its mind is from April 14. It is a piece arguing that the Republican super majority in the legislature is actually a problem for the state. I said as much on election night, though my diagnosis was that it would come by way of corruption. The Oklahoman pointed out that when there is no real fear of an elected official losing office, then there is no incentive to do much of anything at all.

Ironically, that legislative inertia may be the result of the GOP’s one-party dominance. Today Republicans don’t fear losing control and Democrats don’t honestly think they can regain it. In a competitive system, both parties strive to generate policy results that boost their electoral appeal. But in a system where wins are automatic based on party affiliation, two things occur: complacency, and the dominant party becomes dominated by people simply seeking power instead of pursuing policy goals.

That’s detrimental to Oklahoma’s future. It also explains why legislative Republicans are now often the impediment to enacting conservative reforms their party once embraced.

The editorial also points out that the House has become radicalized, something else I’ve pointed out here.

Compare the current state of affairs with the achievements of the Republican House majority of 2005-2006. That group approved the largest tax cuts in state history. Funding reforms put in place in 2005 have since pumped an additional $1 billion into transportation infrastructure. High school graduation standards were adopted. Lawmakers even took a serious stab at workers’ comp reform (later thwarted by court rulings, leading to today’s overhaul effort).

Since then, Republicans have enacted important policy changes such as lawsuit reform and education improvements, but given the GOP’s current dominance, shouldn’t Oklahomans expect more? And some Republicans are even backing away from those achievements, bowing to pressure from status-quo forces. Under House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, the House has become a fount of bad legislation, ranging from the unconstitutional to the simply ridiculous, even as they’ve gummed up workers’ comp.

The Oklahoman is optimistic that this will change when Obama gets out of office, which is still a number of years away. I’m not so certain things will be any better. If things keep going like they are in state politics, and the Republicans don’t fix their demographics problem on the national level, President Hillary Clinton will be swearing in to the Oval Office and a whole new wave of Tea Party whackaloons will be swearing in to the Oklahoma House.

Every once in a while, I’ll wander around Youtube looking for blogging material. Every once in a while, I’ll come across a gem like Indigostarseed Shelley, who is still up to her crazy antics.

They can’t all be people who aim their OCD and paranoia at a black sky every night. Most videos on the paranormal are genuinely terrible, which brings us to our subjects for today.

First up, we have Sweet Sassy Glassy, with the most anti-climatic Bigfoot hunt video in the history of the internet. It is just seven minutes of her walking around in the woods and seeing absolutely nothing. This is just an excuse for her to show off her jewelry.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lf5cD_Q4L7M

For some reason, possibly because it is the highest point in the state, Mt. Scott is a hotbed of bad UFO videos. For those who haven’t been there, Mt. Scott overlooks a lake to the southeast and an air force base to the south. This makes it a ripe place for lake birds and military aircraft to be mistaken for alien spaceships by people with bad camera equipment and cinematography skills. The second part of this video is just the latest example of many.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRX_nmkVfVU

My guess is that it is an out of focus seagull, but it might be any number of out of focus objects.

Finally, I did come across someone almost as obsessive as Indigostarseed Shelley, if somewhat less mystically insane. Oklahoma resident Gary Charlton’s Youtube Channel is a treasure trove of paranoid UFO culture. Charlton is convinced that the aliens are writing messages to us in the clouds, that the government is intentionally filtering search engines to hide his videos, and that the government is dumping chemicals into the skies over Oklahoma as part of some conspiracy. His videos are downright awful, but his comments and posts are pretty entertaining.

Back in early December, I had a post called My visit to a hate group, where I recounted visiting Artisan Publishers, a place in Muskogee registered on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map.

It took nearly four months, but someone claiming to work at Artisan Publishers commented on the article.

Firstly, the lightning bolt on my ’99 F150 is most assuredly not Native. It’s the logo for a Christian rock band whose name was underneath. Secondly, directed at the comment below, there is no ‘obelisk’ in the Artisan logo. It’s the words ‘Artisan Publishers’ over the top of the planet earth. I’m not sure how the nutjobs at Southern got wind of us or what book was cited as hate material, but I do know that the book in question was offered to them for review and they rejected it like the ignorant blowhards they are and they refused to remove us from their site, even though they have no reason for us to be there.

In a later post, he pointed out that the band is The Wedding. As you can see from their symbol, what I thought from a distance was a lightning bolt was not. I’ll admit I screwed up on that one.

As for there being an obelisk on the Artisan logo, that is in response to a comment by @zeroanaphora.

You be brave!
If anyone’s wondering what the stone obelisk is on Artisan’s logo, it’s the Taylor or Sennacherib prism, an Assyrian text that describes the siege of Jerusalem (thus proving that all the Bible is historically accurate, I guess!) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taylor_prism

Nutters.

You can see the obelisk she is talking about in the Artisan banner here. It is clearly the Sennacherib prism.

Finally, I explained in my post that I suspect they are listed due to their promotion of British-Israelism, which is a major theme in the Christian Identity movement.

I contacted the SPLC on email and Twitter asking about why Artisan Publishers is listed, and if they have a procedure for getting a group removed from the Hate Map. As for press time, I hadn’t heard back from them. I’ll let you know if I find anything out.

The guy from Artisan also said this:

Also, one thing that needs to be pointed out is that we do not publish all the books that we sell. We resell about half the books on the website. So whether or not the book is accurate isn’t our doing, we are just meeting a demand for the books.

That’s a pretty flimsy defense. I don’t care if they publish a book or just feature it on their site. It would be one thing if they were Amazon, where they sell everything. That’s not what they are doing.

I’ve written on here about the University of Central Oklahoma professor Caleb Lack, who blogs over at Great Plains Skeptic. Caleb is a psychology professor who teaches a course on critical thinking, where his students make videos examining the veracity of various Oklahoma legends.

Here is a great one on the John Wilkes Booth legend I wrote about recently:

I can’t speak highly enough of this kind of work. A class on critical thinking and evaluating the merits of claims should be required coursework for any undergraduate program, but especially for any media and journalism major. I’ve complained before about the lazy false balance epidemic in modern media, and programs that teach future journalists how to evaluate evidence would be one step in the right direction (among many) toward addressing that problem.

UCO seems to be getting it right. For example, the “Logic and Critical Thinking Course” is one of several available courses on “Critical Inquiry” that are part of the core classes required for all majors. That is why it was so depressing when I came across this…

The UCO student media group has a show called Conspiracy Weekly. While not actually a weekly show, the conspiracy part is entirely accurate. Basically, it is a chance for three completely uninformed people to get together and debate about a topic. It reminds me of the debate between Hobbes and Roseau about the state of nature. It isn’t a matter of which one is right, because neither was in a position to actually have an informed opinion. Unlike Hobbes and Roseau, though, these students don’t really have an excuse. They live in the age of Google, Wikipedia and Snopes.

For example, one of the girls in the video linked above takes a position against hydraulic fracturing (fracking) because of the earthquakes that are associated with it. She is worried about Oklahoma being wracked by massive tremors. While there are reasonable concerns about fracking, large devastating earthquakes probably isn’t one of them. It frustrates me to no end when people with whom I nominally agree make bad arguments.

This was just the first video I came across, but they go back to fall of last year. They are rife with bad (or lazy) research. For example, the first episode is just the hosts reading from a top 10 list and commenting on it, and the Halloween 2012 episode gets the origin of one of the two main topics completely wrong.

I understand that this is just a bunch of undergrads learning how to make a slick show and speak on a microphone, but can’t we also have some basic journalistic standards when making the work publicly available? I don’t expect student-led entertainment to be particularly informative, but let’s try not to misinform.

Since at least the Middle Ages, there has been people claiming to have discovered ways to access unlimited supplies of free or essentially free energy. Inevitably, these people fail to make good on their claims, because perpetual motion and free energy machines violate the laws of physics…and those are laws that nobody gets to break. Almost universally, modern free energy proponents end up accusing the government or corporations of nefariously suppressing the ‘truth’.

You can find it in physics classrooms.

Today’s example of conspiracy theory wrapped up in either scam artistry or self-delusion is Paul Pantone of Stephens County.

Pantone is the creator of Global Environment Energy Technology (GEET), a device that he claims will convert any liquid to fuel. What it actually does use is probably gasoline vapors, but don’t tell the investors.

Pantone only recently moved to Oklahoma, after several years of incarceration. Pantone was arrested in Utah for securities fraud involving bilking investors out of more than $200,000. He tried to pull a One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and get off on an insanity plea. Only, it worked a little too well and he ended up in the psych ward for longer than he would have been in prison. When he got out, he moved here to start over.

Pantone is already back to his old tricks. For example, he was featured on an entirely too credulous story by KFOR back in November of 2012. They should have done an exposé on the dangerous scam artist who moved into the state. Instead, the opted for false balance. Boo bad journalism.

It really frustrates me when journalists play the false balance card instead of being consumer advocates. It is lazy, and it doesn’t do what journalism is supposed to do, which is give the public the best available information as accurately as possible. False balance as a policy leads to tragic outcomes, and it means a journalist never has to actually put their reputation on the line for a story they report on.

On the other hand, the Oklahoma Gazette covered Pantone in the Chicken Fried News section in their first issue of 2013, basically getting the story right by sourcing this article from the SPLC.

Pantone is just one of many crackpots claiming to have overturned modern physics. They are so common, there is a checklist for them to tick off before they should approach actual scientists with their ideas. Pantone will die in obscurity like the rest of them.

DoOM: Bung…

Posted: January 24, 2020 in conspiracy, DoOM

I’ve written before about the frequency in which Oklahoma has been making it onto public radio recently, and now we have another example. The January 11 episode of This American Life, titled Doppelgangers, featured a segment on the possibly apocryphal story of an Oklahoma pork plant that ships hog rectum, known in the industry as bung, to Asia to be used as imitation calamari.

Gross?

Bung is used in the United States as sausage casing. If you’ve eaten a high-quality large sausage, you’ve probably had bung. My favorite way to partake of bung is with summer sausage made from venison.

Inevitably, there was a taste test, but I won’t spoil the results for you. As always, this episode of TAL is worth listening to, so check it out.

It is amazing how easy it is to find out information about a person online. There is no real privacy left.

The Enid News and Tulsa World articles on the Agenda 21 bill put forward by State Senator Patrick Anderson both mention a Mark Irwin as being the impetus behind it. That got me curious as to who this Mark Irwin person is, and what ties he has to conservative groups around Oklahoma.

A rather short Google search showed that Irwin is a farmer just outside of Enid, Oklahoma. I won’t post his address or phone number (yes, I have them), but Google Maps shows that he and his wife, Ann, live in a very nice two-story house, complete with a barn out back. He is registered to operate a CDL vehicle on his property, and he has a plane registered to him.

Apparently, Irwin started really getting active in politics in 2010. His political contributions (which are public information) give some insight into his mindset.

In 2010:

$500 to the Senate campaign of Florida Republican Marco Rubio, one of the favorites of the Tea Party movement.
$1000 to the doomed Senate campaign of Nevada crazy Sharron Angle
$1000 to Pat Toomey, hailing from Pennsylvania and the only other Tea Party-affiliated member of the Senate
$500 to Dino Rossi for Senate race in Washington State
$500 to Wisconsinite Ron Johnson for Senate
$1000 to Alaskan Tea Party favorite and eventual loser Joe Miller
$500 to Ken Buck’s doomed senate race in Colorado
$500 to Rand Paul
$500 to Mike Lee of Utah
$3000 total to the Senate Conservatives Fund
And last, but by no means least…
$1000 to Christine O’Donnell, who is still not a witch

By 2012, Mark Irwin seems to have lost either his loose pocketbook or his taste for funding candidates, because he only gave a $201 to Ron Paul’s campaign for president. Talk about throwing your money away. Then again, because of the PACs, we may never have any idea how much he really gave in 2012.

Digging a little deeper, I found out that Mark Irwin is the cofounder of Enid group Sons and Daughters of Liberty. Apparently, Patrick Anderson, the Oklahoma State Senator who introduced the Agenda 21 bill, was a featured guest at their first meeting in February of 2011 and again in November of that year. This is likely where Irwin put him up to it.

Here are just a few of the people who have featured at the Sons and Daughters of Liberty:

State Rep. Mike Jackson
State Rep. John Enns
Stuart Jolly of Americans for Prosperity, a group that has lobbied against climate change and healthcare legislation, and flushed over $100 million opposing Obama’s re-election
Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello (who hates the people he is tasked with representing)
Rick Green, a pseudo-historian who works with the discredited David Barton
Charles Key, the conspiracy theorist and former Oklahoma House Rep. who has been discussed on here before
Janet Barresi, whom I discussed on here last week
State Rep. Dan Fisher

I can’t say for sure if Mark Irwin should be added to my list of known members of the John Birch Society, but for all intents and purposes, he is already on it. If he is donating thousands of dollars to candidates, and has the ear of this many politicians, we should be worried that he thinks that something like Agenda 21 is important enough to lobby them about. Poor judgement combined with money and a platform means bad news for Oklahoma down the line.