Saturday, April 6, 2013

OK, A Question From Me

NOT that I don't like the e-mails, those are fine.  But I'm puzzled as to why I get more e-mails from readers than I do comments,  not even counting the hate mail my filters junk unread.  Is the commenting system unusually difficult to use?

You can write to me at:

Or try the commenting system.  I've removed all of the moderation on it figuring it was easier to remove the troll crap by hand, though that could change in the future. 


Answer To an E-mail

I'll translate since I don't usually use that language on my blog:

Why are you being so mean to the poor, little, old Amazing Randi, hero of truth, sciencyness and everything good and atheistic?

I'd have thought I answered that question, because he's a total fraud, a liar and a malignant influence on popular culture through deception and violations against what is real, and evidence-based.   You see, I don't share your child like faith in your bearded little oracle as seen on TV.  I will confess that even before I knew him as the complete fraud he is, before I knew that "Skepticism" is a pseudo-scientific fraud, designed as a Trojan horse by a line of rather malignant theophobic atheists going back to the pretty repulsive Joseph McCabe, through the trustifarian Stalinist Corliss Lamont, his proxy and hireling Paul Kurtz, that one of their goals was to intimidate the media to bend them to adopt their ideology, ..... before I knew that The Amazing Randi was the G. Gordon Liddy of that effort, I didn't much like him.   I've never found stage magic very interesting or entertaining, I knew it was a trick so I didn't much care about how they did it.   And once I heard him say a few things, he was a mean little jerk so I pretty much ignored him.

Then, about eight years ago, I began to look into organized "Skepticism", CSICOP, Secular "Humanism" etc. and it became obvious that it was a dishonest fraudulent industry, a front for an ideological attempt to make anything but an outmoded, 18-19th century materialism that was unsupported by science and reason forbidden,  financed by a true believer in that outmoded materialism,  Corliss Lamont, and now a series of socially inept computer jillionaires who love the idea that they are a lot more clever than they really are outside of their tiny, little area of business acumen.

And, as I said,  James Randi, his phony "Challenge" is rather obviously a fraud (if you bother to look at his "Application" and to think about it for two minutes)  and his following is a cult more like the Larouchies or the Phelps Klux Klan than anything else.  I strongly suspect that the employees at his "Educational" Foundation and the 50 or so volunteers claimed on its website spend a lot of their time covering up for their lunch ticket and Perfect Master. suppressing criticism of him, getting it removed from websites and, otherwise, spreading his falsified legend.

The truth being true is the only necessary reason for telling it.

Does that answer your question?

Friday, April 5, 2013

Conclusive Evidence That Wikipedia Is The Focus of Organized Ideological Editing By "Skeptic"/Atheists

While researching today, I came across the Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia  Blog.   Their mast head contains this statement:

The mission of the Guerrilla Skepticism editing team is to improve skeptical content on Wikipedia. We do this by providing noteworthy citations, and removing unsourced claims from paranormal pages. It is also our mission to improve the pages of our skeptic spokespeople. Why? Because evidence is cool. We train - We mentor - Join us.

ooking for evidence to test my suspicion that Wikipedia articles relevant to studying "Skepticism" and parapsychological science were being ideologically "edited", I found that those are exactly the kind of things that the "Guerrilla Skeptics" target

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Martin Gardner &  Paul Kurtz  
Nix Dorf from the Portuguese team rewrote the Paul Kurtz page.  Here is the before... and now the after.   And then got on to the Martin Gardner page

Phil Plait
Filipe Russo created a brand new page for our very own Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait. 

Ken Feder
The English Ken Feder page got a Did You Know (front page of Wikipedia for 8 hours) unfortunately it was up from 11pm to 8am so we didn't get the hits we would have normally expected.  Only 1,190 for that night.  Other links on Feder's page also experienced a surge on that night. Keep in mind that these are mostly people outside our skeptical choir.  So total win for skepticism.  


Wikipedia is supposed to be a reference source that is protected from exactly this kind of organized ideological corruption by its "open editing". Clearly, since the "Skeptics" are openly organizing to turn it into a resource for their ideology, there is a big problem. And this is only one possible effort. Who knows what's being done covertly? If Wikipedia doesn't do something to protect itself from ideologues then, as I said, it is unusable because it is unreliable.

If anyone wants to deny that's what the "Skeptics" are doing, they're not only doing it, they're bragging about doing it, stating their intentions to make Wikipedia into their ideological tool.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia - World
The English guerrilla skepticism project has been amazingly successful in the last year.  With only a handful of active editors, we have created many new pages, re-written many more, and acted as police just about everywhere.  TAM 2012 has become a turning point for this project.  As I've been saying since March, we need to be global.  Wikipedia is the most important tool for skepticism that exists today, we can not keep ignoring that the vast majority of the world does not speak English.  Let's get over that, with current Internet tools we can easily communicate, organize and get this done.

If Wikipedia is OK with being "the most important tool for "Skepticism" that exists today instead of an impartial reference resource, then it had better change its stated intentions or get used to being, increasingly, seen as unreliable.   I can only imagine what other ideological campaigns it is open to servicing.  As of today, it is known to be unreliable on these topics.

UPDATE:  Looking over more of their archive, It's not only Wikipedia that the "Skeptics" have targeted to make it their tool.   When I was using FireFox I installed the WOT extension, a program that evaluates the safety and reliability of websites.   I soon began to notice a lot of entirely innocuous websites got the red warning.   Well, that would be because "Skeptics" were turning it into their ideological tool as well.   From another "Skeptical" website.  

Web of Trust is a useful tool for skeptics


... What we need is a tireless skeptical robot, that would catch people right as they were about to buy one of these products and give them a good solid “dope slap” to the back of the head. That would be awesome.

Of course, the robot idea has the same flaw as our outreach efforts: how do you get a robot to everyone who needs it? The marketers of these products are everywhere and have lots of money to spend. We don’t have a budget, and robots are kind of expensive.

But suppose these imaginary skeptical robots had other purposes too? Then folks might seek them out on their own, and we wouldn’t have to pay for their development.
Well, at least for when people buy products via a web site, the appropriate robot already exists. It is called Web of Trust, and (like The Mad Skeptic, who scooped me on this) I think skeptics should be promoting it and helping create its crowdsourced ratings.

In this post I’ll show you how we can use it and I’ll give you a look at what WOT’s ratings of skeptic and believer web sites look like already...

How can skeptics use WOT?

We should be promoting WOT as a useful tool to avoid bad things on the internet, whenever we can. The more people using WOT, the more effect it will have.
But skeptics should also become users of the service ourselves, so we can help give appropriately negative scores to the sites that are selling products based on lies and misinformation. Be sure to create a login on the site to facilitate this.

Then, you can simply rate sites that you encounter that are skeptic relevant. Click the WOT toolbar icon to get the scoreboard for the site, and then choose Edit my rating. You can then click inside the red/yellow/green scales to assign your score on one or more of the four criteria.
Another feature of WOT is the ability to leave comments with the ratings. These comments should explain (clearly, simply, and without snark) why the product or website is fraudulent. Here’s an example on WOT’s rating page for the Power Balance website. It simply says the site is making untrue claims and links to a supporting BBC News story.

As you can see from the PowerBalance scorecard, WOT users have been all over this high-profile product. As another example, in the WOT Forums you can see one user sought out many of the different sites selling Jim Humble’s MMS and gave them negative ratings.

Farley focuses on products deemed to be of dodgy reliability but if anyone doesn't suspect that comes with a nod and a wink to target non-commercial sites for a red flag of warnings, you're clearly not being skeptical enough of the "Skeptics".   Which is why you might find websities dealing with parapsychological and other topics on the "Skeptics" Index of Prohibited Ideas red flagged by the "robot" they've hijacked.

He also has articles on how to "edit" Wikipedia.

The Randi Scorecard Up Till Now

Before going on with James Randi, the hero and demi-god of "Skepticism"/atheism, I'll point out that we've got a building record of lies and deceptions

- In the 1970s and early 80s, there is his two-faced, double dealing and proven incompetence in sTARBABY

- In the 1980s we have his involvement with a criminal identity theft and, as I'll point out, misrepresenting what happened in his "Carlos Hoax" and the continuing identity theft up to 2011.

- This year we have him lying about what he said about Social Darwinism, accusing Will Storr of dishonesty and walking it back when he found out Storr had the interview recorded.  I will point out that what Randi said was more of an example of extreme eugenics, the great enemy of things he represents as pseudo-science, obviously promoting what is clearly a pseudo-science.

-  During that entire time there is his biggest lie and hoax of all, his "Challenge".

I will come out and say right now that I will not go into the infamous phone sex tapes, even though Randi has now admitted those are real.   I have no way to access the records of the law suit into which those were introduced as evidence against Randi or his reaction to them at the time.

Note: I will not listen to recordings of Randi having phone sex, some things are too much to ask of a blogger.

Randi reportedly claimed they were forgeries but, as is frequently the case with Randi, the waters have been too muddied to see through them to his real record.  Randi frequently being the one throwing the mud in the water.   If, as he is claiming,  those were made at the instruction of the police in order to catch some nasty boys who were making dirty calls, there should be documentary evidence of that.

That is assuming that the records weren't lost in a remarkably convenient flood as Randi claimed his "experimental data" were when Rupert Sheldrake  asked to see it.  His lies about having reproduced Sheldrake's published experiments and seeing his full filmed evidence are published.

The January 2000 issue of Dog World magazine included an article on a possible sixth sense in dogs, which discussed some of my research. In this article Randi was quoted as saying that in relation to canine ESP, "We at the JREF [James Randi Educational Foundation] have tested these claims. They fail." No details were given of these tests. 

I emailed James Randi to ask for details of this JREF research. He did not reply. He ignored a second request for information too. 

I then asked members of the JREF Scientific Advisory Board to help me find out more about this claim. They did indeed help by advising Randi to reply. In an email sent on Februaury 6, 2000 he told me that the tests he referred to were not done at the JREF, but took place "years ago" and were "informal". They involved two dogs belonging to a friend of his that he observed over a two-week period. All records had been lost. He wrote: "I overstated my case for doubting the reality of dog ESP based on the small amount of data I obtained. It was rash and improper of me to do so." 

Randi also claimed to have debunked one of my experiments with the dog Jaytee, a part of which was shown on television. Jaytee went to the window to wait for his owner when she set off to come home, but did not do so before she set off. In Dog World, Randi stated: "Viewing the entire tape, we see that the dog responded to every car that drove by, and to every person who walked by." This is simply not true, and Randi now admits that he has never seen the tape.

You can compare Ruper Sheldrake's scientific experiments which are published in peer-reviewed journals and which he has made available, online.

Note:  If Will Storr values his reputation, he should release the entire recorded record of his interview with James Randi and make it readily available because, in looking around at the places where Randi's fan club troll, blogs , YouTube comment boards, etc.  within the past hour they are pushing the line that Storr lied about what Randi said.   I'm very familiar with how that works and they can create a simulation of evidence by that tactic.  Online campaigns of that kind can overtake and swamp the truth, no matter what that is and how well it is supported. 

Randi's Involvement With Identity Theft And His Lies About His "Carlos" Scam Part 1

If GLBT folks had equal rights in the United States it is quite possible that James Randi's long time, live-in companion might not have committed the crime of identity theft.   Randi would have been able to marry him and been able to regularize his living in the United States as many straight couples have been able to do.  But that's not what happened.

Randi's companion, Jose Alvarez, was arrested for identity fraud at Randi's home on September 8, 2011.  His real name was David or Deyvi Pena who had come to the United States on a student visa which he overstayed.  He is documented in a story that appeared in the Toronto Star in August 1986 and people who knew him at the time to have been associated with James Randi, under the name of David Pena.

A reporter profiling Randi for the Toronto Star caught up with the magician at LaGuardia Airport in New York in August 1986:

"A few feet behind him, David Pena, a young man of about 20, struggles with three large suitcases," the reporter wrote.

One of Pena's landlords in Broward County was Jim Sitton, a motel owner who let him stay in a room in exchange for some artwork. Sitton identified a photograph of the young Alvarez in his "Carlos" role as the man he knew as Pena.

"He was a young artist. He was going to the Art Institute in Fort Lauderdale. I think he went by different names, though," Sitton said. "At some point, I became aware that he used two names. The name he used is David Pena."

Sitton said Pena later told him he was working with Randi.

"He seemed like a really good person. I have very good memories of him. He was very serious about his artwork," Sitton said. "I wish him the best. I can't imagine how he got into this kind of serious trouble."

All of the available evidence shows, beyond any reasonable doubt, that James Randi knew his companion's real name was David, or Deyvi, Pena in 1986.

The next year, after he won a MacArthur "Genius" Grant, James Randi staged one of his well known PR operations in Australia with the purported purpose of exposing how credulous the media is when presenting people with claimed supernatural abilities,  his "Carlos Hoax".   He presented a young man called Jose Luis Alvarez as a medium named "Carlos", shopped him around to various TV and radio programs and presented him on stage while all the time running him like Peter Popoff was run by his wife in one of the rare instances when the Randi legend comes close to matching his PR use of it.

Only, as you might have guessed, Jose Luis Alvarez was really David Pena.

I will deal with the misrepresentation of the "Carlos Hoax" later.  For now, in order to travel to Australia David Pena needed a passport.   Since he was in the United States illegally he couldn't obtain one under his own name.   In order to get a passport Pena stole the identity of Jose Luis Alvarez, who was living in New York, working as a teachers aid.

As Steve Volk and other's who reported the facts point out,  the real Jose Luis Alvarez suffered considerable trouble because someone had stolen his identity.  He had problems with the IRS over income he hadn't earned in Florida.  He had his bank account frozen and, when he wanted to go outside of the country to attend his sister's wedding, his passport was refused.

As the Sun-Sentinel reports: “Alvarez, a teacher's aide from the Bronx, said he has suspected for several years that someone had stolen his identity — … that he's been dunned by the IRS for taxes he didn't owe on income in Florida, that his bank account has periodically been frozen and that he had difficulty renewing his driver's license. He's had to repeatedly prove he is who he says he is, brandishing his New York driver's license and a birth certificate, as well as his employment record.”

Recently, when the real Alvarez tried to obtain a passport to travel to his sister’s wedding in Jamaica, his application was pegged as potentially fraudulent—because, after all, someone else had already been traveling the world with a passport bearing all the same information. Sadly, the real Jose Luis Alvarez was not able to work the matter out in time to attend his sister’s wedding at all.

So far we know that James Randi knew that the man he was marketing as "Carlos" was traveling under the name of Jose Luis Alvarez on a fraudulent passport in 1987.  We also know that year before that he was traveling in the United States with the same man under his real name, David Pena.  It is a reasonable conclusion that since Pena was closely associated with Randi and an employee of his, that Randi knew the reason for the identity theft,  that Pena was in the United States illegally.  Steve Volk points out that some of the remarks Randi made about a man he was living with and traveling with, who he knew was using two different names and who he was presenting under a third, made some rather sly and deceptive comments about "Carlos" that were relevant to the real owner of the identity he was traveling under:

And intriguingly, the Sun Sentinel found, when Alvarez first performed as “Carlos” Randi billed him as 19 years old—the same age as the New York man whose identity was allegedly stolen by Randi’s partner. Further, in this video, recorded in 2009, Randi says, around the 2:40 second mark, that one worry they had before they put Pena/Alvarez on stage as “Carlos” is that his “Bronx” accent might creep through.

Randi was no novice when it comes to assuming identities and deceiving people.  There is every reason to believe Randi was an accomplice to the identity theft, which, in itself, is a serious crime that could carry a prison term.  Peter Franceschina's piece in the  October 18, 2012 Sun-Sentinel said:

Now, time may be running out for Alvarez to reveal his identity – prosecutors and Alvarez's attorney recently told a federal judge that he would plead guilty in the identity theft case. Alvarez is scheduled to have a bond hearing Friday, but two previous such hearings were postponed. His trial is scheduled for early November, and his attorneys, Ben Kuehne and Susan Dmitrovsky, declined to comment.

The lawyers have told Randi, 83, not to comment on the case. "I've been advised silence is the way to go," he said.

When asked about the Sun Sentinel's determination that Alvarez was previously , known as Pena, Randi would only say, "Well, if that's who you think he is."

Randi won a $272,000 MacArthur Foundation "genius" grant in 1986, and one of the first things he did with the money was hire an assistant – Pena.

In the end, Pena got off fairly easy.  He was sentenced by a magistrate to six months of house arrest, followed by three years of probation.   I don't have any problem with that, though,  as Greg Taylor pointed out, Randi's plea to the court was less than honest:

As per usual, I think Randi's being a bit loose with the truth here in saying "no one was hurt" - for instance, the victim of the identity theft reportedly missed his sister's wedding due to passport problems arising directly from Pena's actions. However, from all reports Pena is quite a lovely person, and two years in prison may have been a bit of a harsh punishment in my eyes.

I don't know what the real Jose Luis Alvarez has done or will do but if it were me, I'd sue for high damages going after his employer who was clearly in on the identity theft.  If he has or if he will, I hope he doesn't agree to sign a gag order as part of a settlement.  James Randi and the "Skepticism" industry would pay big money to keep this as quiet as possible.

As I noted yesterday, an even more interesting thing to see is the reaction of James Randi's fan base and his allies in "Skepticism"/atheism, people whose stock and trade is in loudly made claims of their rigorous honesty and above board integrity.   If any of them had information on a scientific researcher into parapsychology, that they had done any of the things Randi did in this caper, they would trumpet it as absolutely destroying, not only that researcher's credibility but the entire field of parapsychological research. They have used falsified, undocumented and clearly false accusations against people such as as Irving Langmuir's clearly false smears against J. B. Rhine to that end.  But when James Randi, the trademark of the "Skeptical" movement, has repeatedly, over a number of decades, proven to be a liar and fraud, they cover up and lie on his behalf.  They've even made a recent movie trumpeting his status as a serial liar as if it were some virtue when that is done in the name of "Skepticism".   It's been well past time, for decades, that someone says this emperor really doesn't have any clothes and that James Randi's courtiers deserve to be discredited for their part in maintaining his fraud on the world.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

James Randi Social Darwinist Deceiver And Liar & The "Skeptics" Who Eternally Cover Up For Him

When dealing with the long record of lies and deceptions of James Randi, it's hard to know where to begin.  I'll begin with the end, or at least the most recent because it deals with a serious and dangerous and characteristic position on his ideological side which I have written a great deal about in an entirely unrelated context.

The author Will Storr recently had a book published, "The Heretics: Adventures with the Enemies of Science", which contains a chapter on James Randi.*   I only know it, so far, from what I've read in reviews and blogs.  I will only deal with what an ideological skeptic, "Haley" said about it, her encounter with Storr and Randi.

On her "skeptical" blog, Haley stated that she was shocked at quotes from Randi in the book in which he advocates a rather extreme form of Social Darwinism, endorsing it by name:

I’m a believer in Social Darwinism. Not in every case. I would do anything to stop a twelve-year-old kid from doing it. Sincerely. But in general, I think that Darwinism, survival of the fittest, should be allowed to act itself out. As long as it doesn’t interfere with me and other sensible, rational people who could be affected by it. Innocent people, in other words. 
James Randi, The Heretics

Haley gives a link through The Daily Grail which eventually leads to a Social Darwinist screed Randi posted at his "Educational" Foundation website.

Steve expresses my feelings on the matter quite well. I believe that if the sale and use of drugs were to be suddenly legalized, first, the entire criminal community would be almost instantly crippled due to lack of income, on an international scale. Second, those individuals who were stupid enough to rush into the arms of the mythical houris and/or Adonis's they would expect to greet them, would simply do so and die - by whatever chemical or biological fate would overcome them. Third, the principle of Survival of the Fittest would draconically prove itself for a couple of years, after which Natural Selection would weed out those for whom there is no hope except through our forbearance, and I'm very, very, weary of supporting these losers with my tax dollars. As reader Wellcome points out, our species - the American sector - made the very expensive and very failed Prohibition experiment, yet we have survived cancelling that error, rather well.

Any weeping and wailing over the Poor Little Kids who would perish by immediately gobbling down pills and injecting poison, is summoning up crocodile tears, in my opinion. They would - and presently do - mature into grown-up idiots, and Darwin would be appalled that his lessons were ignored.

However, last month,  after Storr's book began to expose him, James Randi said this:

The statement “I’m a believer in social Darwinism,” did not come from me. In fact, I had to look up the expression to learn what was being referred to. This attack appears to be calling me a Nazi, nothing less. I demand that Mr. Storr refer me to the original sources to which we assume he has referred. Until then, I’ll only say that he has carefully selected phrases and statements out of context, not the sort of referencing that I would have expected from him. James Randi

This is typical Randi procedure, to say or do something disgusting and then deny he's done it.  There are accounts of him doing this kind of thing going back to the 1970s and earlier as Dennis Rawlins and many others have testified.   As has happened, in some of those, Randi brazenly lied even though the evidence was recorded.  You can also note that he accuses Storr of apperaing "to call me a Nazi", something which Storr didn't do. As Haley began her blog post by noting Storr played the interview recording for her, there was no doubt that Randi had said exactly what he was quoted as having said.

After it became widely known that Storr could produce the tape of the interview, the escape artist abruptly changed his story.  From Haley's follow up.

The unfair suggestion that Mr. Storr tried to provoke me, or that he’s a “bad guy,” is something I must dismiss, since I believe I would have remembered that sort of behavior. In any case, I now know much more about the described encounter, and I maintain that I would never have said I was a Social Darwinist, since I only recently learned in detail what that term really means, and in fact I was quite ignorant of the history of the movement organized around that false idea. I’ve been surprised that this was not obvious to people discussing the matter, but I accept that the conversation with Mr. Storr went just as described. No problem with that.

There is more of the Randi walk back which turns to another well known tactic of the walk back,  rather disgusting and self-serving displays of morose confession and false modesty:

I’m well aware that I sometimes “shoot from the hip” and speak on things about which I know very little. In this present situation, I published my personal opinions about drug addiction without knowing very much about the neuroscience behind addiction, or the addiction recovery field. Not only did I say some deeply regrettable and insensitive things, but as I’ve learned more about the questions and issues at hand, I accept that I have been wrongheaded on a number of topics related to these issues. Even at 84, I’m still learning. Please bear with me, folks.

People have been bearing that kind of stuff  from Randi for decades, as Rawlins and many others have shown.  A small encyclopedia of The Lies, Deceptions and Hypocrisies of James Randi could be compiled.

Far more valuable than that, though, is the reaction to the "Skeptics" to these instances of Randian violations of the truth.  In almost every case, as soon as he is exposed,  Randi's fan base either covers up or, failing that, they make ridiculous excuses, diminishing the crime, denying that it is serious.   For a movement that feeds on lies of the kind Randi tells about scientists and others, the wall of impunity it maintains around even the sleaziest of their demi-gods should cause massive defections by real skeptics and the complete discrediting of those who maintain the Randi cult.

* I haven't read the book, though it sounds like one worth reading.  The review in The Guardian talks about Storr's report of a "tour" given by the Hitler apologist and Holocaust denier, David Irving sounds deeply disturbing and entirely more important than the interview with James Randi which is the subject of this post.

But it is towards the end of the book, when he meets the right-wing ideologue Lord Monckton and the Holocaust denier David Irving, that he begins to excavate darker and more dangerous territory – the places where humanity's wilful self-delusion can lead. Going undercover with some neo-Nazis he finds himself standing in a gas chamber, listening to Irving point out how the chamber is a fake, a "typical Polish botch job". Shuddering with horror, Storr turns away from the group and begins to cross himself.

Relevant to this series is this, from the review:

At a "sceptics" conference he questions some self-righteous individuals with a passionate hatred of homoeopathy, only to discover that none of them has read the research that they refer to.

As I previously said that I don't believe that Jerry Coyne and PZ Myers were familiar with what Rupert Sheldrake wrote and said before they issued a sort of joint Fatwa against him, that might be the first question to consider when encountering "Skeptics".

NOTE:  I am deeply skeptical of homeopathy and doubt it's valid.  But I am not competent to debunk it exactly because I haven't read enough about it.   Knowing how the "Skeptical"/atheist lie machine works, I'm expecting to read someday that I'm a rip roaring enthusiast for homeopatic medicine.  Which I doubt this paragraph will prevent.  I've had more lies told about me by online atheists than I have gay bashers and religious fundamentalists.  In my experience, not believing that it really is a sin to tell a lie makes an actual difference in the amount of lying.  Perhaps that is relevant to understanding the Randi cult.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

On Randi's Totally Phony Completely Bogus "Million Dollar Challenge" 1.0

See Updates Below

James "The Amazing"  Randi's original claim to fame was that he was a magician and an escape artist.  His entire professional competence is in deceiving people into thinking they know what is happening while he is doing something else.  His history has shown that his habits of deception aren't limited to his stage tricks and escape events.  He also has a long and documented history of lying.  His fans, allies and associates have a long and documented history of their own, they  habitually overlook, excuse and even cover up his lying on behalf of their shared ideological campaign.

As pointed out yesterday, even one of his allies in "Skepticism"/atheism,  Dennis Rawlins, has quoted him as bragging that his famous "Challenge" is rigged to always allow him an out.  Rawlins is one of the rarest of "Skeptics", one who has told the truth about some of "Skepticism".  I will state at the start that Randi's "Application" form is full of such outs.   At each and every stage James Randi and his "Educational" Foundation are in full control of every phase of the "Test" and they can end it at any time from refusing to consider an application right up to the danger of having to finally prove they've got the money.  Anyone who looks at it is completely justified in suspecting deception and should be on the lookout for avenues of escape for "The Amazing" one.

Any honest analysis of James Randi's "Million Dollar" Challenge has to begin with considering its value to James Randi and the present use of the "Challenge"  by the "Skepticism" industry.   The entire value of  the famous "Randi Million Dollar Challenge", for them, is in being able to claim that no one has succeeded in winning it.  Which is how it is used by Randi and his ideological allies.   Just being able to say no one has won the money is the entire point of the thing for "Skepticism".  Despite that obvious fact, the application claims otherwise.  "The goal of this Challenge is a successful demonstration according to the agreed protocol."  And if you believe that I've got a bridge I can make disappear or, failing that, to sell you.   There is no honest possibility of anyone doubting a "successful demonstration" would obliterate two of the "Skepticism" industries' most valued assets, Randi's constructed persona and his phony challenge.   A successful "Challenge" and a requirement to pay out would, in fact destroy the popular credibility of  organized "Skepticism".  A win would be a far bigger disaster for "Skepticism" than the sTARBABY scandal.  That is a fact Randi's application form would seem to anticipate if through some catastrophe that someone won, Randi's got it covered,  "If the Prize is awarded, this would not mean that the JREF acknowledges the existence of the supernatural."

The unstated implication of that statement that "nobody has won Randi's million dollar Challenge" , is that people tried to win and failed, but that is far from clear.   Keep in mind that the "Skeptical" goal doesn't require an attempt, it can be fulfilled by keeping people from being given a real "test".   In fact the "APPLICATION FOR STATUS OF CLAIMANT**" from the James Randi "Educational" Foundation states that no one has made it past the "Preliminary Test" stage and so no actual "Formal Test" has been begun.

4. In all cases, the Applicant will be required to perform a Preliminary Test in a location where a properly authorized representative of the JREF can attend. This Preliminary Test is intended to determine if the Applicant is likely to perform as promised during the Formal Test, using the agreed-upon protocol. To date, no applicant has passed the Preliminary Test, and therefore no Formal Test has yet been conducted. At any time prior to the Formal Test, the JREF reserves the right to re-negotiate the protocol if issues are discovered that would prevent a fair and unbiased test. After an agreement is reached on the protocol, no part of the testing procedure may be changed in any way without an amended agreement, signed by all parties concerned

Any challenge that might risk being demonstrable can be kept out of consideration by having the application rejected.   That, as all aspects of the "Challenge" rest firmly in the entirely interested hands of James Randi and his "Educational" Foundation.

Another definitive "out" of the kind Randi boasted of having is the possibility that Randi's people can re-negotiate the agreed to protocol "At any time prior to the Formal Test"  That would effectively prevent any claims that put Randi in danger from being "Formally" tested.  Any "Preliminary Test" that looked like it could destroy Randi's brand could be short-circuited by these kinds of outs.

In order for Randi's and "Skeptics" claims of the Challenge to be honest a comprehensive list of people who have made it to the "Preliminary Test" stage would have to be issued and Randi and his "Educational" Foundation must allow anyone involved to be able to give a full and free account of what happened in both the "Test" and in the negotiations over them.  The rules under #8 would also need to be changed for the "Challenge" to be honest and transparent.

8. By accepting this Challenge, the Applicant waives any and all claims against James Randi, the JREF, the JREF’s employees, officers, directors, and any other person. This waiver includes, but is not limited to,injury, accident, and damage of any kind, including damage and/or loss of a physical, emotional,financial, and/or professional nature.
Notwithstanding anything else in this paragraph, should the Claimant pass the Formal Test, the Claimant does not waive any claims against the JREF that might be necessary to enforce payment of the prize.

There is absolutely nothing transparent about Randi's requirements, they are designed to prevent people from seeing an honest, transparent test of claims. Rule 8 gives Randi and his "Educational" Foundation the right to lie, misrepresent, distort and slander while without risking being sued, apparently, any challenger or even an impartial observer is not exempted from legal action. The only right they don't surrender is one that will never happen, Randi having to pay up when they've won.   I can't imagine any reasonably intelligent person, never mind a serious scientist, agreeing to that.  It is a complete violation of ethics to allow someone that contractual right.  It entirely destroys any claims to credibility that Randi's Challenge has claimed for it.

For a challenge that is parroted by "Skeptics" and sold as the gold standard of reliable assessment  the requirements of the participation of impartial observers and judges seems to be strangely missing.  At each and every phase all of that is done by Randi's people, none of whom can possibly be considered as impartial, all of whom have an interest in maintaining the real value of Randi's "Challenge" for his brand name and the "Skepticism" industry.

In these post I'm not interested in anything except the effect of Randi's PR campaign on rigorously conducted, controlled and analyzed science, which has quite different goals, methods and requirements than his publicity stunt.  The rules are written to violate the requirements of science in many ways and to prevent real, serious experiments that have produced positive results from being considered.

The real science that the peer-reviewed literature dealing with parapsychology has produced would seem to be as excluded from  entering into Randi's "Challenge" as the publicity stunt cannot be rationally considered to be scientific.  This makes the use of Randi's phony challenge to debunk peer-reviewed science entirely dishonest. 

Any skeptical review of Randi's "Challenge" would have to conclude that it is set up to prevent anyone being "tested" or any serious evidence entering into consideration.  The Challenge, as presented by Randi is a fraud.  As I said before, it was a challenge which was never intended to be met because any successful demonstration requiring Randi to pay up would destroy his reputation and the reputation of the "Skepticism" industry that has attached itself to his PR operation.  The "Challenge" itself is a distraction from any serious, scientific research into parapsychological phenomena.   It depends on people looking at Randi's gawdy geek show, which, to say the most, is easy to watch.  You can't say the same thing about reading a scientific paper, dealing with the methodological and mathematical substance of it.  That's hard, far too hard for the rank and file, the "Skeptics",  Randi's fan base.  I may deal with some of the scientists who are in on the Randi con later.  The reason that their ideology requires lying is obvious to anyone who has looked at the actual science.   As soon as someone honestly looks at the real, published science done demonstrating telepathy or other taboo phenomena, as soon as you understand the data,  ideological "Skepticism" falls apart.

UPDATE:  Just about every time I look at Randi's "APPLICATION FOR STATUS OF CLAIMANT" new outs and avenues of deception become obvious.  There is this:

The JREF may consult with experts, including statisticians, magicians,and others with specialized knowledge relevant to the claim. James Randi may or may not be present at these tests, but he will not interact with the materials used nor interfere with the protocol once a test is underway.

Notice that it is only Randi who "will not interact with the materials used nor interfere with the protocol once a test is underway".  Since some of Randi's most infamous scams and deceptions relied on hired fronts to act for him, some of whom were also professional magicians, anyone who knew about that should consider this a contract to get scammed by them.   Professional magicians with a financial or other interest are no more reliably honest than anyone else.  I've always been puzzled as to why a magician with a known bias would be considered reliable when they're known to have the skills to sabotage experiments.  Considering how even test subjects with no known skills of that kind are routinely accused of that style of deception, it's ridiculous to not suspect professional magicians with a known bias of doing what they have made a profession of doing.

The "Application" is a contract so full of avenues for cheating by Randi and his "Educational" Foundation that I can't imagine anyone familiar with him would even apply.

UPDATE 2.0  An e-mail (why don't you people ever use my comment system?) informs me that there is what is supposed to be a previous version of the "Application for Status of Claimant"  archived on Wayback.  It begins " This became effective on Sunday, April 1st, 2007, replacing the previous version of the Application; the nature of the One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge in regard to those to who may now apply, has now changed substantially."  Which would indicate that the numbering of the current challenge is suspicious as noted in the first footnote below. I don't see any version number on this "Application" but it's clearly not the first one.  This is important because previous critics of the phony "challenge" would have been addressing previous requirements either on the "Application" or insisted on by Randi and his company.   In a quick read of it the 2007 rules are, indeed, deceptive and open to some of the same avenues of fraudulence I noted, possibly others I haven't noticed yet.   I would say that, if anything, the "Application" up at the JR"E"F this week looks less transparent and above board than this previous version.  This is funny because of the damage control campaign launched by D.J. Grothe, Randi's heir apparent at the JR"E"F claiming that they wanted to make the "Million Dollar Challenge" more transparent.

Related to that is the database of "applicants" up at the JR"E"F.   As I noted above,  the value of the "Challenge" to Randi, his employees, acolytes and "Skepticism" in general is to be able to claim that no one has won the challenge and that purpose is served by preventing any "Formal Test" from happening.  That purpose is served by 1. preventing serious scientists from subjecting their research to an unscientific "test", 2. rejecting applications that could seriously challenge the value of the "Challenge" for all of the above, 3. scotching the agreed to procedures during the "Preliminary Test" phase by insisting on "re-negotiation" as in the "Application" rule #4 above ..... It is necessary for the JR"E"F to list those who have made it to the "Preliminary Test" phase and to allow a full and open account of all of those on both sides.

Grothe doesn't seem to be  interested in a transparent test any more than the old fraud he works for does.   The "Challenge" is a fraud and a con set up to never really produce a test.  Its habitual use by the "Skeptics" against scientific research is one of the more serious instances of common intellectual dishonesty among the self-appointed "rational class".   The Randi Challenge couldn't test real science of the kind that the scientific study of parapsychology has produced, it is a geek show and as much of a lie and a con job as the sTARBABY cover-up was.  "Skepticism" is a profit making industry based on lies and fraud.

UPDATE 3.0  I suspect that the 2007 version of the "Application for Status of Claimant" , might have been made in reaction to a series about the fraudulence of the "Million Dollar Challenge" by Michael Prescott in 2006.   I don't have the version of it that he addressed but, as I said, the present day "Application" is even more dodgy than the 2007 one.  Prescott's series is worth reading for its continuing relevance to the fraud that the Randi operation is.  Greg Taylor at The Daily Grail has also written extensively and well about the "Challenge",  addressing it during that period,  and Steve Volk has in the most recent period.  

I don't know what to make of it, but Riley G. Matthews jr posted an exchange he says he had with Randi over a challenge that Randi invited before he scotched it, making and failing to make good on an offer of $3,000 for Matthews to drop it.   I have no way of knowing its authenticity but, then, I have no way of checking what the James Randi "Educational" Foundation claims about its role in the "Challenge" either.  I can say that as of the present, I don't have any reason to suspect Matthews isn't more honest than I do know Randi to not be.

* The first paragraph of the document says,  "This Application is Version 2.0, dated March 9, 2011, supersedes and replaces any previous version of the Application, and is the only version currently accepted."  I have, so far, been unable to find out how many previous versions of the "application" there may have been or how those have been worded.  2.0 might be taken to indicate this is the second of any such "application" but, as with the numbering of versions of computer software, the decimal makes that assumption unwarranted.  I'd like to know how any previous versions of the challenge were numbered and would like to have the exact wording of those.  I've seen two different figures for previously offered "prizes" so I'm assuming there were at least two previous versions of the rules.  In order to know why any theoretical applicant might have not applied or to have not fulfilled the test, it is necessary to know what Randi and his posse were demanding of them.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

With the "Skeptics" Irony is Never More Than A Sentence Away

Here is a segment of  the podcast of  The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. On Jan. 19 

Steven Novella: So Evan, more people are attacking our beloved Million Dollar James Randi paranormal challenge.

Evan Bernstein: Yeah, the latest is by a fella named Steve Volk. Anyone ever heard of Steve Volk?

Novella: No.

Rebecca Watson: Nope.

Bernstein: No. Of course you haven’t. Because he writes about the paranormal.

Who, outside of his patients and colleagues would have ever heard of Dr. Steven Novella if he hadn't written about the paranormal and other items on the CSI(COP) Index of Prohibited Ideas?   Who would have heard of Rebecca Watson or Evan Bernstein if they hadn't joined up with the "Skepticism" industry to do the same?  Not to mention the rest of the The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe crew, Jay Novella and Robert Novella?   None of them according to their site bios, save Dr. Novella  pere would have seem to have done anything else but live off of attacks against the "paranormal".

This is a good example of one of the "Skeptics" bags of tricks, try to avoid dealing with what someone says by ridiculing and diminishing them by asserting they're nobodies.  I've read pseudo-skeptics doing that this since before Gardner in the 1950s.  While I don't know the guy and am not that familiar with him, unlike Watson,  Bernstein and the young Novellas, Steve Volk has a job as a real newspaper reporter on the city beat covering real news.  As compared to the frat style snark of Novella, Watson and Bernstein, his answer is a model of journalistic ethics.

UPDATE:  I just realized that I neglected to include that Steve Novella has a (financial?) interest in Randi's "Educational" Foundation, being one of its "Research Fellows".    Anything he says about Randi and his "Educational" Foundation must be considered in that light.

NOTE:  Rebecca Watson may be better known as "Skepchick" and almost certainly best known for the attack Richard Dawkins and others in the "Skepticism"/atheism industry made on her when she addressed an industry meeting in Dublin, informing them that it's a really bad idea for a man to get into an elevator at four in the morning to make a pass at a woman who doesn't know him.    Apparently among the "rational" "Brights" it's a novel idea that a man doing that might be less than welcome.  On that occasion I agreed with her.  Here's what I said at Shakesville:

I hadn't read the transcript before now,  THAT is what upset the boys?  Geesh, to have it pointed out that a stranger making a proposition alone in an elevator at 4 AM is intimidating?   I'd be intimidated if a man I didn't know made a pass at me, alone, in an elevator at 4 AM.    From what the boys on the blogs are saying I'd figured it had to be some half hour public flaming or something.   Imagine if she'd gone into details of why it's a bad idea for some socially inept boy to do something that could make a reasonable person suspect he might be about to attack you.  

I was going to make a different comment about [ignorant] boys getting mixed messages from the "chick" designation and why women in the late 60s and early 70s tried so hard to dump those kinds of objectifying words.   But any boy who got upset with what Watson said is far, far too stupid for it have just been a matter of mixed messages.   Next time let them really have it,  they're too stupid to get anything else.

And in a second comment:

Perhaps asking the straight boys how they'd like to be propositioned in an elevator at 4 AM, by a bigger man would leave an impression.  Though I doubt it. 

That said, "skepticism" has been a frat house since it organized, which accounts for its tone and tactics.  I seem to recall reading articles by "skeptics" talking about that.   Anyone who has followed its history shouldn't be surprised by this.  

Having read a bit of the real history of the "Skepticism" industry I was aware of it having a long history as a being a boys club in which frat boy rules and behavior were the norm.  She could have profitably read what George Hansen wrote about that in his fair detailed and well documented study of CSICOP .

Such perceptions are not limited to outsiders. This has been an issue within CSICOP as well. In the March 1985 newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics, Mary Coulman (1985) wrote a piece titled “Where Are the Women?” She reported that sometimes she was the only woman who attended meetings of the Bay Area Skeptics and that often there were only 2 or 3 women present with 60 to 70 men. Coulman wrote another column in the June issue asking the same question, noting that no women had yet replied. Finally, months later, Elissa Pratt-Lowe (1985) responded:

I think another aspect of organized skepticism that may deter women is the aggressive, “macho” attitudes held by some of the (male) participants. It seems to me that some “skeptics” are more interested in ridicule than in exploring and challenging pseudoscientific beliefs. [This was followed by “Very true, I think-MC”]. (p. 7)

Pseudo-skepticism is still largely a boys club, apparently, as Watson is still getting flack from her fellow "Skeptics" over her offense of telling the boys that she wasn't there for their use and amusement.  It would seem not much has changed in the past few decades, "Skeptics"-"wise".   I, though, avoid getting into that continuing mess of an ongoing flame war among "Skeptics" that surrounds Watson and her "Skepchick" empire.  

I will say, reading some more of her material, she was right about the creep in the elevator and the men and women of "Skepticism" who attacked her over a rather moderate protest, but she's just another cookie-cutter "Skeptic" on the make, not caring about misrepresenting other people and their work.

How Do The "Skeptics" Get Away With Lying and Fraud?

With a challenge to the scientists in James Randi's retinue. 

As I noted, one of the first things I encountered while looking into organized "Skepticism" was that it had a long record of well documented dishonesty and fraud that has been successfully masked with a facade of truth seeking and scientific integrity.   I came across that record behind the cover story by the most casual of research practices, looking for it and checking the evidence used to support the charges.   That's something we were taught to do in Jr. high when they started teaching us how to write research papers.  It is something that is regularly not done when looking at the claims of the "Skeptics".   Looking at the reaction of the "Skeptics", the self-promoted uphoders of evidence based truth and science, to the responsible external critics might provide a clue into why most journalists go with the PR hand outs given them by the "Skepticism" industry.   To criticize them will get you a massive and concerted attack.   That was seen in the sTARBABY scandal, when it was one of their own who exposed the Nixonian cover-up and the founding incompetence of the scandal with hard facts and science.  It is, if anything, more so to any fact-based external critics.   And in no other area of reporting is that more true than when looking into the real record of James Randi.

In looking at the petroleum and gun industries, creationism, climate change denial, Sarah Palin, and other phenomena the character of their PR operations is most accurately seen as industries.   Those industries around some core of interest generate jobs and careers and a hierarchy.  There are people who make their living from advocating and promoting the interests of their industry, some of them make a career of it, some of them make a small fortune find fame through becoming synonymous with the alleged principles they claim to represent.  Wayne LaPierre is a shill for the gun industry who has a large following and the power to pervert national, state and local governments based on his PR.  Sarah Palin is an industry and brand name in herself.   When someone gets that big, others in their industry have a lot to lose by challenging them and might gain by going along with their promotion.  It's rare for a gifted, Machiavellian type to find both the opportunity and the back bone to challenge the biggest names who economics might misidentify as their competitors.

Needless to say, or at least one wishes it were needless to say it, science is supposed to filter out such interests in order to protect its results from at least the crude and obvious forms of self-interest.  The failure to exclude that should be seen as making statements claimed to be scientific suspect and impose a burden on the one making the claims to show that their interest hasn't biased their results.  But that is not the case when it is a matter of "Skeptical" interest.  By propping up ideological materialism, the "Skepticism" industry is frequently given carte blanche to promote its ideology as "science", often by professional scientists who work in "Skepticism" as a side job or a retirement career.   In those cases the use of a legitimate scientific identity for purposes of self interest does nothing for the integrity of science while allowing even open frauds to escape exposure.  That is exactly what the sTARBABY scandal consisted of.   The collective body of science has had decades to notice and do something to correct this and, with a small number of exceptions, it has chosen to maintain the facade of its colleagues.  In the face of that the media out of both ignorance and cowardice, helps maintain that facade. 

James Randi is, as I noted yesterday, the most famous figure in the "Skepticism" industry.  His wrinkled little bearded old face has been to it what the  gecko is to Geico or Flo is to Progressive.   Randi and his friends have created a situation in which his credibility is intrinsically bound up to the ideological effort of "Skepticism".  Any major exposure of James Randi's numerous crimes against the truth would seriously damage the "Skeptics" brand, any serious research into parapsychology which produces significant positive results will expose their industry to serious doubt.

There is no more widely known aspect of the Randi con than his "million dollar challenge".  Many people have noted that even in the face of overwhelming experimental data supporting something such as telepathy, the immediate response by those who will not or cannot understand that data will be "Why haven't you won the Randi challenge?"   I will deal with the fraud that the "million dollar challenge" has always been in detail later.  For now, Randi gets to control every aspect of it and the ever morphing rules of it.  The fraud that the Randi challenge is has been documented for decades.  In fact, as part of his expose of the sTARBABY scandal, Dennis Rawlins quoted Randi, his ideological ally in "Skepticism" and his personal friend as saying to him that he would never have to pay as he always had an out, a "$10,000 challenge back then.   It should never be forgotten that Randi is a deceiver and escape artist by profession, his entire stock and trade depends on getting away with deception and covering up reality.

Scientists who man parts of the James Randi "Educational" Foundation certainly know that there is nothing scientific about his phony challenge.  Yet they participate willingly, enthusiastically in the fraud.  Those in the "Skepticism" industry who also work in science obviously know the rules are rigged to never have to pay out even if the "million to one" "challenge" is met.

Any scientist who is associated with James Randi, any of those who promote his "challenge" as if it had any kind of scientific value or any intellectual integrity must be asked,  would they be willing to have their work judged by the same standards they promote?

Would any of the scientists who participate in the James Randi "Educational" Foundation or his "Amazing" events submit their work or the work they have cited to the standards of the Randi Challenge?   Would they accept those as disqualifying the controlled research into their professional field?

That is an entirely rhetorical question because the answer is clearly no.  Little to no science could meet the ever shifting, clearly fraudulent standards of the Randi Challenge.   Yet these scientists promote it as having some kind of value in discovering the truth.  The question for those who go along on the basis of those scientists' reputation is why they aren't discredited for their part in the con.   Why hasn't science done anything about it?   

Monday, April 1, 2013

How Many Lies Does It Take For A "Skeptic" To Be Discredited?

I would say that, beyond any doubt, the most famous "Skeptic"/atheist in the world is probably James "The Amazing" Randi.   His "Educational" Forum is one of the larger and most often visited "Skeptical" websites, his YouTube propaganda operation is probably the largest of any single individual and he is still honored as a reliable authority by other large "rational" "scientific" entities such as "Big Think".    If you have never delved even a centimeter behind the surface of  the James Randi persona, you could be forgiven for mistaking him as a serious voice of science and reason.  That is how he is promoted by himself, his associates, the "Skepticism" industry and the media who seldom have looked at him with the tools of genuine skepticism.  If you did look past the promotion and PR, you would see he has a documented and large record of lying, incompetence, dishonesty and even criminal fraud.

The arrest of his long time lover on a serious charge of identity theft, which was far from a victimless crime, should have exposed the fraud that James Randi has been, but it hasn't.  James Randi cannot escape the documented fact that he knew of that fraud and that he participated in it.  It would seem that among the self-congratulating "rational class" the "fact based" and "science based, PR can entirely overtake the truth and ideological promotion is entirely more important than honesty.   I have found few former admirers of James Randi  and almost none who will apply skepticism to their icon of "Skepticism", few scientists who will break with him.

I will be taking some time to expose some of the known instances of dishonesty and lying by the icon, presented as a personification of truth and evidence based inquiry.  I do that not in any expectation that it will change anything about the "Skepticism" industry or cause any defections in the Randi cult, but to expose those for the obvious fraud they are.   The numerous exposures of Randi's lies, dishonesty and sleaze, over the thirty-two years since Dennis Rawlins exposed him in his sTARBABY article haven't done that.  I don't think it's going to be done, not anytime in the near future.  But something being true is an entirely sufficient reason for anyone saying it.  I'm not going to be saying anything that isn't documented by others in the past.   The number of lies James Randi has gotten away with while being the figure head of organized "Skepticism" might be a good start at answering the question in the title.  Eventually it might be able to enumerate a unit for measuring this phenomenon,  The Randi",  the number of lies one can still tell and be presented as a credible voice of science, truth and reason.   I can think of many practical applications in many fields.  Especially in measuring media credulousness.   Working on a measurement of irony might follow, close on.

UPDATE:  What fun.  An anonymous message tells me that they'll come after me if I go after the great and powerful amazing one. I think it's supposed to be a threat  instead of a warning but as it's written with the typical coherence of a commentator at a "Skeptical"/atheist website, it's hard to tell.  I'll go change my passwords just in case.  I always use ones that are very hard to break.   I'd be interested in knowing of anyone who has had problems like that after being critical of his amazingness.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

I Love Eva Sollberger's Stuck in Vermont

All Day Sacred Harp Sing  at the Irasburg. Vermont Town Hall

1st Google Doodles on Cesar Chavez Instead of Easter

2nd  The Right Wing Freaks Out That They Didn't Put Up the Easter Bunny Instead
3rd   The Jesus Bashers Use That To Bash Jesus on Easter, As They Did All Weekend

Here's what the blessed Cesar Chavez Said:


Source: El Grito, Summer 1968
The following article was prepared by Mr. Chavez during his 25-day "spiritual fast" and was presented to a meeting on Mexican-Americans and the Churchä at the Second Annual Mexican Conference in Sacramento, California on March 8-10, 1968. 

The place to begin is with our own experience with the Church in the strike which has gone on for thirty-one months in Delano. For in Delano the church has been involved with the poor in a unique way which should stand as a symbol to other communities.

Of course, when we refer to the Church we should define the word a little. We mean the whole Church, the Church as an ecumenical body spread around the world, and not just its particular form in a parish in a local community. The Church we are talking about is a tremendously powerful institution in our society, and in the world.

That Church is one form of the Presence of God on Earth, and so naturally it is powerful.
It is powerful by definition.
It is a powerful moral and spiritual force which cannot be ignored by any movement.
Furthermore, it is an organization with tremendous wealth.

Since the Church is to be servant to the poor, it is our fault if that wealth is not channeled to help the poor in our world. In a small way we have been able, in the Delano strike, to work together with the Church in such a way as to bring some of its moral and economic power to bear on those who want to maintain the status quo, keeping farm workers in virtual enslavement.

In brief, here is what happened in Delano.

Some years ago, when some of us were working with the Community Service Organization, we began to realize the powerful effect which the Church can have on the conscience of the opposition. In scattered instances, in San Jose, Sacramento, Oakland, Los Angeles and other places, priests would speak out loudly and clearly against specific instances of oppression, and in some cases, stand with the people who were being hurt.

Furthermore, a small group of priests, Frs. McDonald, McCollough, Duggan and others, began to pinpoint attention on the terrible situation of the farm workers in our state.

At about that same time, we began to run into the California Migrant Ministry in the camps and field. They were about the only ones there, and a lot of us were very suspicious, since we were Catholics and they were Protestants. However, they had developed a very clear conception of the Church.

It was called to serve, to be at the mercy of the poor, and not to try to use them. After a while this made a lot of sense to us, and we began to find ourselves working side by side with them. In fact, it forced us to raise the question why OUR Church was not doing the same.

We would ask, "Why do the Protestants come out here and help the people, demand nothing, and give all their time to serving farm workers, while our own parish priests stay in their churches, where only a few people come, and usually feel uncomfortable?"

It was not until some of us moved to Delano and began working to build the National Farm Workers Association that we really saw how far removed from the people the parish Church was. In fact, we could not get any help at all from the priests of Delano. When the strike began, they told us we could not even use the Churches auditorium for the meetings. The farm workers money helped build that auditorium! But the Protestants were there again, in the form of the California Migrant Ministry, and they began to help in little ways, here and there.

When the strike started in 1965, most of our friends forsook us for a while. They ran- or were just too busy to help. But the California Migrant Ministry held a meeting with its staff and decided that the strike was a matter of life or death for farm workers everywhere, and that even if it meant the end of the Migrant Ministry they would turn over their resources to the strikers.

The political pressure on the Protestant Churches was tremendous and the Migrant Ministry lost a lot of money. But they stuck it out, and they began to point the way to the rest of the Church. In fact, when 30 of the strikers were arrested for shouting Huelga, 11 ministers went to jail with them.

They were in Delano that day at the request of Chris Hartmire, director of the California Migrant Ministry. Then the workers began to raise the question: "Why ministers? Why not priests? What does the Bishop say?"

But the Bishop said nothing.

But slowly the pressure of the people grew and grew, until finally we have in Delano a priest sent by the new Bishop, Timothy Manning, who is there to help minister to the needs of farm workers. His name is Father Mark Day and he is the Unions chaplain.

Finally, our own Catholic Church has decided to recognize that we have our one peculiar needs, just as the growers have theirs.
But outside of the local diocese, the pressure built up on growers to negotiate was tremendous. Though we were not allowed to have our own priest, the power of the ecumenical body of the Church was tremendous. The work of the Church, for example, in the Schenley, Di Giorgio, Perelly-Minetti strikes was fantastic. They applied pressure- and they mediated. When poor people get involved in a long conflict, such as a strike, or a civil rights drive, and the pressure increases each day, there is a deep need for spiritual advice.  Without it we see families crumble, leadership weaken, and hard workers grow tired. And in such a situation the spiritual advice must be given by a friend, not by the opposition.

What sense does it make to go to Mass on Sunday and reach out for spiritual help, and instead get sermons about the wickedness of your cause? That only drives one to question and to despair. The growers in Delano have their spiritual problems... we do not deny that. They have every right to have priests and ministers who serve their needs.


And this is true in every community in this state where the poor face tremendous problems. But the opposition raises a tremendous howl about this. They don't want us to have our spiritual advisors, friendly to our needs. Why is this? Why indeed except that THERE IS TREMENDOUS SPIRITUAL AND ECONOMIC POWER IN THE CHURCH. The rich know it, and for that reason they choose to keep it from the people.

The leadership of the Mexican-American Community must admit that we have fallen far short in our task of helping provide spiritual guidance for our people.

We may say, "I Don't feel any such need. I can get along." But that is a poor excuse for not helping provide such help for others. For we can also say, "I don't need any welfare help. I can take care of my own problems."

But we are all willing to fight like hell for welfare aid for those who truly need it, who would starve without it. Likewise, we may have gotten an education and not care about scholarship money for ourselves, or our children.  But we would, we should, fight like hell to see to it that our state provides aid for any child needing it so that he can get the education he desires. LIKEWISE WE CAN SAY WE DON'T NEED THE CHURCH. THAT IS OUR BUSINESS. BUT THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF OUR PEOPLE WHO DESPERATELY NEED SOME HELP FROM THAT POWERFUL INSTITUTION, THE CHURCH, AND WE ARE FOOLISH NOT TO HELP THEM GET IT.

For example, the Catholic Charities agencies of the Catholic Church has millions of dollars earmarked for the poor. But often the money is spent for food baskets for the needy instead of for effective action to eradicate the causes of poverty.

The men and women who administer this money sincerely want to help their brothers. It should be our duty to help direct the attention to the basic needs of the Mexican-Americans in our society... needs which cannot be satisfied with baskets of food, but rather with effective organizing at the grass roots level. Therefore, I am calling for Mexican-American groups to stop ignoring this source of power. It is not just our right to appeal to the Church to use its power effectively for the poor, it is our duty to do so. It should be as natural as appealing to government... and we do that often enough.

Furthermore, we should be prepared to come to the defense of that priest, rabbi, minister, or layman of the Church, who out of commitment to truth and justice gets into a tight place with his pastor or bishop. It behooves us to stand with that man and help him see his trial through. It is our duty to see to it that his rights of conscience are respected and that no bishop, pastor or other higher body takes that God-given, human right away.

Finally, in a nutshell, what do we want the Church to do? We don't ask for more cathedrals. We don't ask for bigger churches of fine gifts. We ask for its presence with us, beside us, as Christ among us. We ask the Church to sacrifice with the people for social change, for justice, and for love of brother. We don't ask for words. We ask for deeds. We don't ask for paternalism. We ask for servanthood.

Jean Lhéritier Surrexit Pastor Bonus