Monday, November 24, 2014

Between The Scylla Of Creation Science And The Charybdis Of Militant Rationalism I Steer A Perilous Course

All my Kent Hovind posts  up till now have been on, but I decided that this one needs to be here.  Kent Hovind is one of the leading lights in the arguably oxymoronic field of "creation science".  His wikipedia entry  is quite extensive and well sourced.  There is something a little painful about it, but we will get to that.  I began covering him in October 2012 in the wake of a Tax Court decision concerning his wife.

Creation Science Is Funny

In that initial post I adopted a stance that has continued.  Essentially, I find Young Earth Creationism amusing or more like hilarious.  I am not alone in this

In - Idiot America: How Stupidity Became a Virtue in the Land of the Free Charles Pierce relates his visit to The Creation Museum which he sees as a "richly appointed monument to complete barking idiocy".  In Charles Pierce's view "admitting that you don't believe in evolution is pretty much tantamount to admitting that you plan to eradicate the national debt by spinning straw into gold".  Among the museum displays he noted a smaller dinosaur "which was wearing a saddle. It was an English saddle, hornless and battered." He goes on to observe:

"Any dinosaur accustomed to the rigors of ranch work and herding other dinosaurs along the dusty trail almost certainly would have worn a sturdy western saddle. This, obviously, was very much a show dinosaur."

I included in my post a Fred Flinstone and Dino video clip to demonstrate we all knew that dinosaurs and humans coexisted and a rendition of the Dubliners "Unicorn" speculating that perhaps the dinosaurs were also off playing silly games at ark boarding time.

I think the humor may be part of what has gotten me in trouble in certain circles, but that is probably not the worst of it.

Kent's Followers Think I Am Hard On Him

It is understandable that people who are committed to Kent Hovind's cause are somewhat upset at my coverage.  I have recently received a challenge from the podcasters at God's Property Radio to have a recorded discussion with Kent
 God’s Property Radio is also issuing a counter-challenge to Peter J. Reilly of Forbes to talk to Hovind himself and give Kent a chance to talk to him man to man. GPR will either come record the conversation or have someone else come meet Mr. Reilly with recording gear to record the discussion and then upload it on the spot un-edited to be fair. In fact we will even put money in an account so Peter J. Reilly does not have to pay for the Call and will attache his phone number to the account so that he does not have any excuses not to talk to Hovind himself. Surely someone who has the guts to slam someone in Articles Daily has the guts to let Kent explain himself to him in a even more respectful manner
Preparations are in the work, I'll keep you informed.

Kent's Critics Think I Love Him

People who support Hovind are not the only ones that have a low opinion of me as it turns out.  It reminds me a bit of period when I was on the governing board of a small Unitarian Universalist Congregation.  Somehow or other the Congregation had become a hotbed of what I considered content free conflict.  People would always be talking about a "them" and it was never entirely clear who "they" were.  I inserted myself into a couple of these conflicts trying to bring peace.  I remember the music director who was something of a lightning rod.  She once told me that my problem was that I was an Aquarian and wanted everybody to get along.  I have this talent, it seems, for getting people of incredibly divergent views to agree on one thing.  Namely that I am a jerk.

So if you go to the talk section of the Kent Hovind Wikipedia entry you will find:
I see that a blog post from Peter Reilly has been added. I think it should be removed because it is not a WP:RS and hurts the quality of the wiki article.
1) Peter Reilly is a Forbes blog "contributor," not to be confused with staff. That is, he is part of the Forbes blogging network, which is not the same as being published in theForbes magazine. Thus, it is not a WP:RS.
2) The blog is an op-ed, sympathetic to Hovind. Reilly even manages to connect Wesley Snipes' case to Hovind. Reilly wants Hovind released and was "saddened" to hear that the government is "piling on" with new charges.
3) The blog's actual text is merely recycled block quotes from wikisource, facebook and court rulings that are openly available with a google search anyway. To put it another way, the facts aren't original and were reported elsewhere
4) His "tax" blog also promotes creationism. Rarely would a RS or newspaper article about criminal charges have a section titled "Some Thoughts On Young Earth Creationism," where tells us about "taking my sister home from Christmas Midnight Mass."
(Here is the post that was being referred to.)

There is more like that some of which I highlighted in this post.

Mainly It Comes From Being A Tax Geek

Here is the thing.  Kent Hovind has probably not ever met a whacky conspiracy theory that he has not fallen in love with.  His main focus is "creation science", but he also embraced whacky tax theories, which is pretty clearly why he is in prison, not because the government is persecuting him for his creation science views.  He has been in for nearly a decade, but has been recently indicted for mail fraud because of filings he made to frustrate the government's effort to sell property that was seized from him.

Many years ago I started trolling through original source material looking for items of interest to my firm's client base.  I would alert my partners and others and sometimes do summaries.  That was really the basis for my tax blog.  What happened though is I started reading more and more things that would never have any practical implications for anybody that could ever conceivably become one of my clients. I just found it interesting.

Ultimately I ended up saying that my criteria for writing about tax material are practical utility, humor and matter for reflection.  The third indicates that tax issues will often shed light on larger issues, such as the First Amendment.  The other thing I noted is that a very large amount of tax litigation has nothing to do with determining the correct tax.  It is about collecting it from people who don't want to pay, even though there is no longer any question as to the correct amount of tax.  A smaller body of material is people appealing their convictions and sentences for tax crimes.

One of the things that I noted is that the behavior of people in the collections cases is often very similar to the behavior of people in the criminal cases.  I became puzzled as to what makes some cases go criminal and others not.  I began following Jack Townsend's Federal Tax Crimes.  Finally I dug into his textbook and got an answer of sorts

Given the limited resources through the criminal tax enforcement system, CES must coordinate and prioritize. CES does that by prosecuting relatively few cases each year (in recent years from 1100 to 1800 per year), but focusing on the strongest cases where conviction is virtually assured and by picking targets with a sufficiently high profile (for whatever reason) that the conviction might be publicized and encourage compliance by persons who become aware of the convictions.
We don't want people getting away with murder.  Thus you can find an article like this one that discusses clearance rates for homicide which apparently run around 80%.  Tax crimes are different.  Only a tiny number of those that are known about are even considered for prosecution.  The point of the whole criminal tax enterprise is to encourage compliance, not punish every instance of willful noncompliance.  So my inference is that if you defy the tax law and brag about it you are more likely to be prosecuted than if you just engage in low grade non-compliance - like skimming cash receipts.  I may well be that the defiant attitude is what got Kent into the CID cross hairs.  Regardless that is water well under the bridge.

Kent Hovind's sentence is almost up, but he is being prosecuted again, this time for mail fraud.  It comes of his filing a lien to interfere with the sale of property that was seized from him.  Essentially, I think it is a mistake on the part of the government to prosecute him.  The reason is that I don't think the prosecution will encourage compliance.  Instead it gives Kent a persecution narrative to stir up people who would content themselves with crackpot scientific theories and move them into crackpot tax theories, which I think are more harmful.

The Militantly Rational

My expression of these views has upset a group of people that I would call the militantly rational.  The militantly rational are probably very disturbed that despite the views of what some would call the reality based community, over 40% of Americans believe that God created human beings pretty much as they are now less than 10,000 years ago.  My own view is that we should look for what is behind that rather common belief.  I've noted that believers in scriptual inerrancy are not the only ones who think "something went wrong" five to ten thousand years ago.  That's when radical feminists date patriarchy.  The people at Deep Green Resistance think that heading down the path of civilization was a big mistake as we are heading to killing ourselves as we kill the planet. By the way the point of the discussion with my sister was to drive home the point that Catholics don't have a problem with evolution.  The recent remarks by Pope Francis on the subject are nothing new.

I Didn't Learn My Lesson The First Time

At any rate I've had it worse.  Whenever I google myself, which is way way too often, high on the list is this gem which you can read or not.  Anyway it was the result of my getting involved in what is probably the most vitriolic dispute on the internet.  There is a fairly small group of radical feminists who are incensed about male to female transgendered persons going into woman only spaces.  Many of the latter are incensed about their exclusion.  It is close to impossible to write about the dispute in a neutral manner, which is what I am attempting to do at the moment.  I started following this dispute a few years ago and never thought I would have a reason to write about it.

Then I got the opportunity to interview Presidential candidate Jill Stein. Of course I mainly discussed tax issues, but I reviewed the Green Party platform and noticed a couple of other things I found interesting like a plank on displaying the Confederate Flag.  Poor Jill Stein, she kept saying that the campaign was only focused on a few issues, but she did her best anyway.

I noted that the Green Party showed some definite radical feminist influence.  It also took a strong stand on transgender rights.  There was no mention of any tension between the two issues. So I asked Dr. Stein about it.  She pretty well came down on the transgender side of the question, so I decided that I should try to get a comment from someone with a different viewpoint. So, frankly with some trepidation, I contacted Cathy Brennan who is kind of the lightning rod for transgender activist concern with what they refer to as TERFs (Trans exclusionary radical feminists).  I've gotten a few good comments from her since on tax cases which touched on issues that radical feminists tend to take stands on.

Well.  In some circles being willing to consider the possibility that Cathy Brennan is anything other than the spawn of Satan is a journalistic sin of the first magnitude.  About half a year later I interviewed her about the difficulties that radical feminists were having with a venue for their conference.  You can go look at the comments section of the post.  I find it still too painful.  Among the reactions was that annoying open letter that still haunts my search results.  It is from a "mens rights acvitist".  At least in reaction to the London conference MRAs seemed to have been lining up with transgender activists, possibly on the enemy of my enemy is my friend principle.  I actually think that the rest of us have something to learn from all three groups, but that's a piece for another day.

Sometime after that forbes contributors were instructed to "swim in our own lanes", so I have not had any call to get into that conflict since.  If I could only figure out how to get that damn MRA letter to page 2 of my search results, I could probably put it behind me.

So I am prepared to step into a crossfire again.  I'm looking forward to my talk with Kent Hovind and am ready for the brickbrats from both sides of the aisle.

Why Can't We All Get Along

Whenever I think about disputes that are really passionate, there is one thing that I never forget.  If something really awful were to happen in my community there would be an outpouring of support from people across the country.  Many of them would have views that I consider preposterous and dangerous.  Regardless, we are still in it together.

That title really should have an irony alert.  It is way too grandiose, but when it occurred to me I could not resist it.


  1. Looking forward to the conversation, Peter. Can you ask Kent on behalf of myself in Old Hampshire:

    (i) that if he really took a vow of poverty and passed control of the Trust over to Paul Hansen via Glen Stoll how it is he kept hold of the cheque book. A settlor keeping control of the financial assets of a trust is inconsistent with a claim that control had passed to an independent trustee (I bet his answer is that he doesn't understand the simple principles in the setting up of a Trust and that you will have to ask Glen Stoll).

    (ii) Kent and Jo deny that they knew of the bank reporting obligations. He admits that he was warned both by Richard Moonehan and Glen Stoll that it would cause trouble with the IRS if he withdrew more than $10,000 a day from the bank. Why did he not ask what sort of trouble that might be and why didn’t either of them tell Kent that taking out $10k+ would cause a report to be sent to the IRS?

    (iii) Kent has been complaining in the recent telephone conversations he has been having that he doesn’t understand the law. Rather than seek the advice of tax protesting Sovereigns Richard Mooneyhan, Glen Stoll, Paul Hansen and convicted felons Guy Curtis and Fred Ortiz why did he not seek conventional professional advice from local accountants and tax lawyers in Pensacola who would have put him on the right track in very short order? In the pre-sentencing prison tapes of 2006 Kent admitted spending a couple of hundred hours on the phone discussing tax issues with Glen Stoll. Had he sought proper advice from local professionals he could have saved himself 8 years and 198 hours of his time.

    (iv) Kent also said in a recent phone conversation that Jo took out of the bank $9,500 every 12 days. Why, when he paid his staff every fortnight, was money taken out every 12 days? Was it because $9,500 every 12 days = $10,500 every 14 days?

    (v) Is Jo still keeping the marital bed warm? Kent rarely mentions her and my guess is that Jo is sick to death of Kent’s ridiculous nonsense and the longer he remains inside the more peaceful is home life for her and her grandchildren.

    (vi) Kent is already making plans to go north on his release and, financed by the $25m he is currently suing your government for, intends to open a camp site. Does he expect Jo to go with him?

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. You have a better grasp of many of the details than I do, although those were the sort of questions I was proposing to ask. I have just heard from the podcasters. To put it in a somewhat grandiose manner "my people" were talking to them about logistics. Based on some advice they received, the podcaseters have decided not to withdraw the challenge, but to delay it indefinitely.

    3. I would think that Kent's Public Defender is utterly horrified at the admissions that his client has already made in his recent phone interviews and, hearing of the current challenge, urgently advised/instructed Kent to zip it.

  2. I'd appreciate getting more into this with your off-line if you would like to email me. It is

  3. I am somewhat curious as to what you mean by "militant rationalism". Despite the sub-heading, you don't really explain in the article. Is that the belief that it isn't OK to be, well, just a little bit fuzzy in your thinking?

    1. Some people seem to be much more disturbed by irrationality than I am.

  4. I have repeatedly tried to get Hovind apologists to openly and honestly engage me in a discussion of Hovind's legal problems, without much success.

    Such activities are archived on my dedicated FaceBook page at:

    One outstanding offer concerns the following proposition that reflects a fundamental point that Kent often addresses in his writings and interviews and upon which he and I and so many of his people differ, but will they come out, come clean and discuss it?

    Proposition for Discussion

    Withdrawing less than $10,000 in a single transaction
    with the intent to evade bank reporting requirements
    is a violation of the law and regulations and was at
    the time of the Hovind withdrawals in question and
    was the legal standard used to convict Kent Hovind
    of “structuring”.

    - Robert Baty: Affirm
    - Hovind Apologist: (To Affirm or Deny)

    Many other specific points of mutual interest might also be agreed upon, but, in my experience, Hovind and his people are not likely to want to openly and honestly discuss them.

    Someone also should be trying to get Hovind public defender on the record regarding the case and Hovind's recent interview blitz.

    Does Kent's public defender even know what Kent is up to, and are they on good terms as far as preparing for trial?

  5. It might also be worth noting that today is Tuesday, the day Gea Ambrosia advertises as the day she gets the call from Kent for broadcast.

    It will be interesting to see if Kent makes the call and what might be broadcast about that.

  6. "Does Kent's public defender even know what Kent is up to, and are they on good terms as far as preparing for trial?"

    Well, he was on good terms and complimented him on his abilities but he is already hedging his bets by alleging that the poor man is in hock to the court for his continuing employment.

    1. In my opinion, Samphire, when Kent did that I didn't find him particularly convincing!

    2. Call me naive, Maury, but, as you know, Kent has a direct line to God so I always believe exactly what he says.

      Subbing all the work out to Kent saves me all those wasted hours on my knees telling the author of the universe what to think and do.