Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#242: Eddie L. Long

Bishop Eddie Long is the senior clergyman at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church, Georgia (approximately 25 000 members) and a successful proponent of the Prosperity Gospel. Unsurprisingly he has joined a very long list of ministers and televangelists by (September 2010) facing accusations of coercing young men into sexual activity. Long has responded by vowing to fight his accusers, describing his problem as “spiritual warfare” and comparing himself to David in David vs. Goliath (“I'm not a perfect man but this thing I'm going to fight. I feel like David against Goliath but I've got five rocks and I haven't thrown one of them yet”). “Gospel Today” has taken up the fight (Long is on the board of directors, but the publisher denies that Long has influenced their presentation).

Diagnosis: Bigotry, charlatanery and pure evil alone do not grant you an entry in the encyclopedia, but being a proponent of the prosperity gospel does, at least insofar as you actually believe what you preach (I have no evidence that Long does not). And Long’s responses to the allegations made against him are utterly bizarre. Hopefully this episode will undermine his status among his relatively significant number of fans.

Monday, August 29, 2011

#241: John Lofton

Lofton is a paleoconservative political commentator, columnist and editor of The American View radio program (run by Michael Peroutka), after a long career associated with the GOP (and as an advisor to Pat Buchanan).

He has made numerous appearances on various political talk shows (for instance) and written columns for a wide variety of outlets but is perhaps most famous for his 1986 appearance on Crossfire in which he debated musician Frank Zappa about the Parents Music Resource Center's campaign to identify music albums unsuitable for children (it went viral again in 2006, apparently – I think this is it). Lofton’s arguments are so detached from anything resembling reality it’s rather hilarious (it's okay to censor music because "words mean something"; America has suddenly acquired an "incest problem" in the last 20 years (before 1986) because it was mentioned in songs (Lofton is unable to identify any); pop music encourages children to have sex with animals). His outrage over something in this exchange is also worth seeing.

Lofton is a genuine theocrat who literally believes that Biblical law should be the civil and criminal law of the US. That includes stoning for premarital sex (women, not men) and adultery. He is thus among the conservatives who “wish Ann Coulter would shut up”. He wishes that Ann Coulter would shut up because of the way she dresses (like a harlot); she is “[u]tterly lacking in discretion and thus standing out as a jewel of gold in a swine’s snout – and always wearing the attire of a harlot – this disgusting female, who says she is a Christian …” Yup, that’s John Lofton for you. He dislikes Sarah Palin as well; her claim that “the issue of whether moms with small children should or should not work outside the home is a "petty, little, superficial, meaningless thing" and “reveals, with a vengeance, that she is a hard-core feminist, with no Christian/Biblical view whatsoever of what a wife/mom ought to be.” Palin is, in other words, too liberal and not sufficiently Christian.

He is also an ardent fan of Ken Ham. The website Christian Worldview, run – it seems – by one Randy Pope, calls Lofton a “modern philosopher”, and as an illustration gives us this quote: “ALL of us have a "bias." The question is: "Is your bias TRUE?" If your "bias" is in accord with Scripture, the Bible, the Christ, it is true. If it is not, it is false.” The website is apparently not a poe.

Diagnosis: Lofton is pretty explicit that the Taliban is his ideal for how a society should be run. He is, in other words, clinically insane. His influence is probably somewhat limited, but he seems to be idolized by a not completely unsubstantial subset of the religious right’s religious right’s most fanatic wingnuts.

#240: Scott Lively

We’ve dealt with mad anti-gay bigots before, but even the most insane among them rarely venture to the rabid insanity of Scott Lively (well, Bryan Fischer does, not unexpectedly). Lively is a whacko Taliban fundamentalist who blames gays for virtually everything (terrorism, Islam, natural disaster, communism, Obama, oil prices, you name it). He is most famous for writing, with Kevin Abrams, the book “The Pink Swastika”, in which they “argue” that gays were behind the Nazi Party. Yes. The German Nazis were really gays, or at least swayed by the gay agenda. The evidence is, well, unclear (but Lively emphasizes that these were not the feminine “swish” gays, but the brutal, ultra-macho “butch” gays). The Nazi party was appealing to the gays because:

“[the gays] are all fundamentally social outcasts and consequently have a community of interests which tends to make them think and feel more or less alike. […] homosexuals, too, frequently regard themselves as a special form of creation or as chosen ones whose destiny it is to initiate a new order […] The fact that underneath they feel themselves to be different and ostracized from normal social contacts usually makes them easy converts to a new social philosophy which does not discriminate against them [like … the Nazi party?].”

In fact, the atrocities committed by the Nazis were driven by the immoral urges of the gay Nazi elite. The well-known anti-gay laws and mass murders of homosexuals in Nazi Germany were just a distraction to conceal the fact that Nazis were gay.

According to Lively “There is a war that is going on in the world. There is a war that is waging across the entire face of the globe. It's been waging in the United States for decades, and it's been waging in Europe for decades. It's a war between Christians and homosexuals.”

Lively, who is the former head of the California branch of the American Family Association has also written “7 Steps to Recruit-Proof Your Child” and “Redeeming the Rainbow”. He also runs the organization Watchman on the Walls, and has been involved in the infamous Ugandan anti-gay laws. In 2009 Lively, Don Schmierer (to be covered later) and Caleb Lee Brundidge gave a series of talks in Kampala on the gay agenda – “that whole hidden and dark agenda” – and the threat homosexuals posed to Bible-based values and the traditional African family. The talks (more on Lively’s actual talk can be found here) famously inspired the development of a private member's Anti-Homosexuality Bill in the Ugandan parliament. The bill called for the death penalty in some cases, and received international opprobrium. After Uganda was criticized for killing some homosexuals, Lively, in batshit insane angry mode, expressed his condemnation – of the criticism! Uganda is the victim here, of the international gay agenda.

Lively is also the president of the Abiding Truth Ministries, designated – unsurprisingly – by Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group. You can read Lively’s open letter to the gay community explaining his motives and history here.

Diagnosis: Completely corrupted, raging crackpot bigot whose main goal seems to be genocide, Lively is an utterly repugnant human being (and a complete madman) who is already morally if not legally partially responsible for several deaths and should be indicted for crimes against humanity. And a really frightening number of wingnuts actually listen to him. Extremely dangerous.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

#239: Jason Lisle

Jason Lisle actually has a PhD in astrophysics (not just a diploma mill degree), and he has actually published scientific papers in astrophysics. You’d never have guessed from the drivel that flows from his pen and mouth. He currently works full time for Answers in Genesis (AiG). He is a master of the Ham Hightail, is one of the most central defenders of Young Earth Creationism alive, has deployed every creationist canard in the book, and boosts his points by appeal to epistemic relativism – in his writings you’ll find nuggets like this (long quote, but has to be given in full):

“Our worldview is a bit like mental glasses. It affects the way we view things. In the same way that a person wearing red glasses sees red everywhere, a person wearing “evolution” glasses sees evolution everywhere. The world is not really red everywhere, nor is there evolution everywhere, but glasses do affect our perception of the world and the conclusions we draw. We will find in [his book “The Ultimate Proof of Creation"] that the Bible is a bit like corrective lenses. Without "biblical glasses," the world appears fuzzy and unclear. But when our thinking is based on the Bible, the world snaps into focus: it makes sense […] evolutionists "see" the world differently than creationists. We have the same facts. But what we make of those facts is colored by our worldview. Thus, creationists and evolutionists interpret the same facts differently.”

So how do you explain the starlight problem when you believe in a 6-day creation 6000 years ago? Lisle’s solution is simple: “creation was supernatural, therefore cannot be understood scientifically.” So the inerrancy of the Bible is actually an axiom. He even published a paper in AiG’s “Answers Research Journal” claiming to have a more sophisticated solution and emphasizing that critics should have an open mind. The argument in the paper is: “The Bible must be true. Genesis says the stars were created simultaneously, on Day Four, 6000 years ago. This conflicts with relativity. Therefore relativity is wrong. Therefore The Bible must be true.” Even the dimmest student would spot the problem here, but Lisle proudly points out that “So far, no one has published in a peer-reviewed journal any criticism of this model.” [hat tip Rationalwiki]. It’s all like the weirdest sort of Alex Jones conspiracy, really – anything is taken to confirm the preheld view, even when it’s evidence against it.

Now Lisle is probably an intelligent guy in some respects (though his abilities are severely compartmentalized), and he is a good speaker who sometimes manage to hide the fact that all his claims are based on assuming (not providing evidence for) the inerrancy of the Bible, and then shoehorning (by twisting to the unrecognizable) other observations to fit that premise (he has to deny some substantial ones, such as relativity). But logic just isn’t his strong side. This hilariously ignorant rant has several times been given as a spot-the-fallacies exercise to critical thinking intro students (it is also discussed here). He has, oblivious to the fact that he wouldn’t recognize a sound argument if it hit him in the head, claimed that the existence of logic proves creation.

Fortunately he also expends energy attacking Old Earth Creationists. His book “Old Earth Creationism on Trial” (with Tim Chaffey) deals with the fallacies of OEC. As usual, Lisle is at pains to recommend keeping an open mind: “All ideas and theories should be subjected to rigorous self-examination, yet a similar self-critique is long overdue from the old-Earth creationists”. And follows it (many pages later) with: “Since the Bible undisputedly teaches a young earth, when someone claims that scientific evidence proves otherwise, we can be certain they are mistaken.” He doesn’t even begin to see the tension between these two claims. A discussion pointing out the most hilarious bits can be found here.

As a fitting conclusion, let’s bring on this quote (from an online debate): “I said I believe that to end the terrorist attacks, you need to kill ALL MUSLIMS. Which part of that was “cryptic” to you? Which one of those two words did you misunderstand?”

Diagnosis: Confirmation bias run wild – über-crank Lisle is apparently blissfully unaware of the fact that he has made an art of arguing in circles. He is pretty vocal but important mostly as the scientific alibi of Ken Ham’s gang (and what an alibi).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

#238: Rush Limbaugh

A short entry like this can obviously not do full justice to the epicenter of lunatic wingnuttery that is Rush “not a martyr” Limbaugh, so we’ll confine ourselves to a short list of randomly selected highlights.

One of the claims that best characterizes Rush “big, fat idiot” Limbaugh, is the reason he gives for not accepting man-made global warming – this is in response to a caller asking “Your belief in God, how does that tell you that global warming is a hoax?”: “I just intellectually cannot accept the fact that a loving God which has created all this beauty and has blessed this country – I cannot believe that a God like that – would punish the human being he created for progress, for improving the quality of his life.” This is an interesting take on the problem of evil. God punishing Haitians with an earthquake killing half a million people – not a counterexample to God’s love; punishing Western countries’ progress with no concern for the environment – inconsistent with God’s goodness. I think, however, that this belief excellently illustrates Limbaugh’s general pathologically narcissistic way of thinking. (Concerning climate change, he also said that the “alleged” scientific consensus “is just a bunch of scientists organized around a political proposition. You can't have consensus in science”. Anyone who fails to recognize the idiocy of that statement should at least read this). He has blamed Al Gore and environmentalists for the BP oil spill as well. The logic is unidentifiable.
Since he rejects manmade global warming, he also attempted to cover his back by claiming that the July 2011 heatwave itself was a government conspiracy to justify global warming.
By spring 2009, Limbaugh seemed to have become de facto leader of the GOP. Following Limbaugh’s claim that he was “wanting Obama to fail”, Limbaugh demanded apologies from Eric Cantor and Michael Steele for saying Limbaugh's comments were unacceptable. Both apologized.
Limbaugh is generally more well-known for his rank dishonesty and ignorance than for his lunacy, though there are good examples of the latter. Examples of the former are his commitment to family values while being caught returning from the Dominican Republic with a mislabeled bottle of Viagra, his calling – as a chickenhawk – soldiers who spoke out against the Iraq War "phony soldiers” while himself avoiding the draft in 1969 due to an “anal cyst” (lasting for years and years, apparently), and his promise to to leave the country if the Obama-driven health care bill passed: “I'll go to Costa Rica for healthcare.” (Costa Rica has universal health care). More on Rush and health care here, and this one is to the point as well. His claim that Obama created the recession as a payback for racism is a clear example of lunacy however, as is his denial of global warming mentioned above. And of course there is his claim that the Obama administration, always busy trying to undermine the country, was emphasizing the Aug. 2 date for raising the debt limit because Ramadan begins on Aug. 1.
Limbaugh is critical of feminism, maintaining that “[F]eminism was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society”. He also popularized the term "feminazi", referring to feminists "to whom the most important thing in life is ensuring that as many abortions as possible occur”; more here. And according to Limbaugh “the only thing cruel about the death penalty is last-minute stays.” On the Abu Ghraib scandal, he said that “This is no different than what happens at the Skull and Bones initiation ... And we're going to ruin people's lives over it and we're going to hamper our military effort, and then we are going to really hammer them because they had a good time. You know, these people are being fired at every day. I'm talking about people having a good time, these people, you ever heard of emotional release?”. And he has asserted that African-Americans are “left behind” socially because they have been systematically trained from childhood to hate America by figures such as Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, and the Obamas. To top it off, he recently argued against paying repairs to American natives by claiming that the natives were the real killers and real beneficiaries of the settlement of North America. His brand of Barton-style revisionism is insane in its combination of ignorance and bigotry.
More here. Some of the falsehoods peddled in his book “The Way Things Ought to Be” are listed here (and a good, but too polite discussion, can be found here). Pat Boone has compared Rush Limbaugh to Thomas Paine, but Boone is not generally recognized for his mental abilities. His take on the Holocaust is also worth a read. Limbaugh is also sympathetic to creationism, by the way.
For an extraordinary display of delusional projection, see him accuse Shephard Smith of cowardice and everyone for tribalism and attempting to divide the country. This degree of serious lack of self-awareness verges on (ok, crosses the border to) clinical mental illness.
Rush’s slightly dumber younger brother David is a columnist for WorldNetDaily, and shares his brother’s views, though lacks Rush’s affability and diplomatic skills. He is also more oriented towards standard religious fundamentalist themes.
Diagnosis: His martyr and persecution complex is intense, and Limbaugh lives it out through an unsophisticated combination of bigotry and ignorance. The very epitome of a delusional wingnut, this crank has, of course, far, far too much influence. He is a really contemptible being.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

#237: Dan Lietha

Dan Lietha is Answer in Genesis’s resident cartoonist (he has also illustrated various religious books, including Buddy Davis’s “When Dragons’ Hearts Were Good” – yes, dragons really existed and were meek during the time of Eden; after all the Bible suggests so). AiG publishes his strips CreationWise, After Eden, and Let There Be Truth. Some examples of his work can be found here, and here, illustrating pretty well where Lietha comes from. He seems to have learned a trick or two from Jack Chick (and perhaps from Family Circus) – and although Lietha prefers the strip format the difference seems primarily to be the form rather than content (though Lietha is less obsessed with eternal torture and the end of the world).

You can find some parodies of his work here. Lietha and the AiG didn’t take the parodies very well, by the way, and responded in the most predictable manner. The whole story is here (there is some nice discussion here as well).

Diagnosis: "Almost funnier than Jack Chick" is not a compliment to one’s mental capacities. I think we can let Lietha’s work speak for itself.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

#236: Jonathan Levy

Jonathan Levy has on occasion been the pathologically incompetent attorney for the incomparably insane Orly Taitz. Admittedly, no one would expect anyone serious to help Taitz – the queen of birthers – with her schizophrenic and incoherent attempts to obtain legal recognition of the fact that Obama was born in Kenya and is hence not rightful president of the US, and the bizarre situations arising in her wake. This time around, she appealed to the United Nations for protection (it is unclear what she wants to be protected from) – but Levy, who finally took her case, seems to be a new low. Levy couldn’t even manage to spell the president’s name correctly.

Levy has also appeared on the Alex Jones show babbling less than coherently about the Vatican bank and the Illuminati. His About Me page on Avvo is … interesting.

Diagnosis: Exasperatingly dense crackpot; seems to have a hard time aligning his worldview with anything resembling reality, but is otherwise probably harmless

Monday, August 8, 2011

#235: Yehuda Levin

And still they come. Yehuda Levin is the Rabbi and founder of Congregation Mevakshei Hashem Synagogue in Brooklyn, New York. He is absolutely batshit insane and something of a kindred spirit of Fred Phelps.

Levin is Taliban-inspired terrorist material and a very loud religious fundamentalist who has a story of allying himself with evangelicals on social issues. He has been a vocal opponent of gay rights, and was involved in stopping a gay pride event in Jerusalem (the gays were there, apparently, to “attack The Holy Land”). He advocated the use of violence against the participants, saying “I promise that there's going to be bloodshed”. Last year he worked with Carl Paladino, and even prepared a rabid anti-gay statement for Paladino to read (which received national attention)​. Paladino later apologized for the statement, causing Levin to withdraw his support. His views on DADT are barely worth reporting. Levin also runs the website Jews for Morality, which says things like this.

Levin is also radically anti-abortion (he ran for mayor of New York City in 1985 on the Right to Life ticket). You can probably guess what rhetorical tactic he is using: the legality of abortion is a genocide, and bears as such many similarities to the Holocaust. You saw that coming, didn’t you?

In 2007 he was sent as an emissary by a groupo of Orthodox rabbis to Atlanta to perform an ancient prayer ritual to make it rain and end the drought in the South. Levin had invoked divine help by the same ritual in 1986, after which there was four days of rain: “[W]e wish to announce a program which we believe could curtail much of the disaster our country has been experiencing,” said Levin.

Diagnosis: A thoroughly despicable man, Levin is the kind of rabidly insane, hateful suicide-bomber material who needs some love and monitoring by responsible adults. He may have some influence, but he probably receives media attention because the media loves babbling maniacs like him rather than because of his number of followers.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

#234: Terri Leo

A.k.a. “Sultana of the Texas Taliban, Scourge of Scholars, Despoiler of Textbooks”

In a way the
Texas Board of Education is the very symbol of American lunacy. We have already covered people such as Barbara Cargill and – the epitome of deranged bigoted bias – Cynthia Dunbar, and it doesn’t exactly help education in Texas that they’ve had the pathologically truth-challenged Terri Leo there either. This is the kind of work they do (and have done for a long time) – like her colleagues, Leo is adamant that the Bible and Barton-style historical revisionism, purged of “liberal bias” should be the foundation for education in Texas.

Leo is perhaps particularly famous for getting the children’s book “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” by Bill Martin expunged from the elementary school curriculum (the motion was filed by the equally moronic Pat Hardy) because a Google search revealed that Bill Martin had also written a book on Marxism – never mind that this was a completely different Bill Martin. It is rather illustrative of how the wingnuts on the Texas Board of Education do their background search (and of how lunatically deranged they are). Leo lacks the self-awareness to realize that making this claim afterwards don’t reflect well on her mental abilities. More here.

Diagnosis: This “ghastly dim harridan” (Myers) is a zealous enemy of fact, truth, reason and knowledge. Leo would be a hilarious clown if she weren’t so dangerous.