Friday, September 4, 2015

#1453: David Caton


No, nothing new or original, but still more rabid than most. David Caton is founder, president and sole employee of the Tampa-based Florida Family Association (FFA), as well as the author of Overcoming the Addiction to Pornography (1990), a book based partly on his own experiences (he claims to be an ex-pornography addict as well as an ex-drug addict). The FFA, which he founded in 1997, is apparently not affiliated with the American Family Association, though it shares many values and goals, and is also classified as a “general hate group” by the SPLC. Instead, the FFA is, in practice, a one-man fundie outrage machine that, as Michael Keegan points out, “presents itself as an army ready to strike at companies that won’t cater to its extremist views. In reality, the ‘group’ is just one very angry man – David Caton – and his computer.” There’s a nice profile of him here.

Caton’s ardent campaigns against same-sex relations don’t seem to have had much by way of the effect he is aiming for, though. In the late 90s, for instance, his rabid protests against a Gay Straight Alliance high school support group really drew the attention to the harassment of homosexual students, and though he claimed to have caused MTV to cancel “A Shot at Love” in 2008 for being a bisexual dating competition, his claim to victory is somewhat compromised by the fact that the network didn’t cancel the show. He has also been behind an impressive number of unsuccessful campaigns to repeal measures to prevent discriminations, harassment, bullying and violence against gays in Miami, Orlando, Sarasota  and elsewhere (including bills that would ban bullying based on a student’s sexual orientation – outrageous, apparently). When Florida’s ban on gay adoption was ruled unconstitutional in September 2008, Caton blamed “a rogue judge.”

FFA also drew some attention when they flew airplane banners over Disney World that read “WARNING GAY DAY AT DISNEY” during the annual “Gay Day”. He employed airplane banners also to protest Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” tour in the United States, reading “NOT BORN THIS WAY” (warning that Lady Gaga is “tricking kids into being gay”). I am sure the effect was astounding.

And he has targeted the show Degrassi because of the show’s “irresponsible affirmation of a transgender lifestyle”, negative portrayal of “ex-gay” reparative therapy and promotion of “immoral behavior”, and not the least Marvel Comics’s X-Men #51, which centered on a wedding between the super-hero Northstar and his boyfriend, which “crossed the line by attempting to legitimize same-sex marriage and asking kids to fantasize about their own homosexual wedding.”

The FFA is somewhat versatile, however, and Caton’s campaigns against Muslims exhibit the same virtues as his anti-gay campaigns (while being, if possible, even more ignorant). In 2011, he protested the TLC show All-American Muslim, claiming that it was propaganda and a front for an Islamic takeover of America because it misleadingly failed to disclose that “99.9 percent of Muslims agree with the principles of Sharia law” (his evidence seems to be that Muslims are evil terrorists and extremists). In the complaint he compared “Muslims to snakes”, thus earning the support of Pam Geller. Caton followed up by e-mailing companies advertising during the show pressuring them to drop their advertising. (Lowe’s pulled their advertising, but apologized after some subsequent public backlash: critics pointed out that the point of the show was precisely to portray the kind of problems Muslims in America face because of attitudes like the ones exhibited by Caton and Lowe’s). Caton said his campaigns also caused Home Depot and Campbell’s Soup to pull ads from the show, though Home Depot was never a sponsor for the show and Campbell’s Soup sort of continued to run their ads rather unaffected by his campaigns.

He has also called on schools to stop visits from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a group that sends speakers to discuss stereotypes, human rights and women in Islam. Their Joel Huter told the Orlando Sentinel in 2013 that he received hundreds of angry emails and letters from the FFA, one of which said “I hope your family dies in a fire,” which is an effective way to emphasize the evils of Islam.

In the 1980s Caton’s campaigns were targeted primary against convenience stores in Florida that sold pornography, but his interest in porn has remained even though they are currently overshadowed by his anti-gay and anti-Islam ravings.

Diagnosis: Village idiot who currently seems to be trying to fill the hole left by the demise of Fred Phelps. A raging ball of insanity, bigotry and misinformation, Caton is certainly not helping the causes he advocates, so one may perhaps be excused for suspecting a very, very elaborate poe.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

#1452: Alan Caruba


Alan Caruba is a wingnut crank associated with Tea PartyNation and head of the “Caruba Organization,” a PR firm, and the “National Anxiety Center”, a, well, think tank publishing materials Caruba has obtained from places and figures like the Heartland Institute, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and James Delingpole (actual science he avoids like the plague, even though the questions he is writing about often concerns science). The National Anxiety Center’s mission is “to debunk the many claims made by environmental and consumer organizations that were engaged in deliberately false, media-driven scare campaigns. Since purposefully raising fear and anxiety over various issues is the main weapon used by various special interest groups, the Center was named for this practice and exists to refute it.” In other words, it is a hub for total environmental denialism: The DDT scare is a hoax, and we need more (Rachel Carson was an environmental Hitler); acid rain and holes in the ozone layer are environmentalist conspiracies, and endangered species? Caruba points out that species went extinct before humans even existed, so that’s all that needs to be said about that. And of course, global warming is a hoax. Of perhaps particular note is Caruba’s attack on open access publishing, which he claims is bad because it gives people easier access to the science. The argument is … contrived. Essentially, his problem seems to be that easier access to scientific publications makes it easier to double check the false claims Caruba and global warming denialists make, but he doesn’t quite put it like that.

As for peak oil, Caruba claims it’s a myth because abiotic oil.

While denying environmentalism as fear-mongering and paranoia, Caruba is a heavy promoter of batshit paranoia, fear-mongering and conspiracies about more or less every other issue. Global warming itself is for instance a hoax perpetuated by the UN in their wicked plot to institute communism everywhere. Public education is apparently part of the same plot. Good examples of the UN plot at work are Mexicans and Muslims: According to Caruba, the US needs to secure the border before illegally immigrated Mexicans destroy and UN-enabled Islamofascism is imposed on America. And he has said that the US might have to invade the entire continent of Africa, because of its high Muslim population.

And in addition, there is the homosexual agenda (which will “doom America”): “I like to think of myself as a tolerant person,” says Caruba; “I have, however, one prejudice that is based on biology and history … being gay is not normal,” hence “anyone with a handful of functioning brain cells” opposes legalizing same-sex marriage. Also, the military and shools are being “used by gay and lesbian advocacy groups as a petri dish to force social change” to help people who have an orientation that is a “sexual aberration”. Needless to say, that you “like to think” of yourself as “a tolerant person” doesn’t make you one.

Not quite content with that, Caruba is also a follower of the pseudoscientific catastrophism of Robert W. Felix, and many of his rants are cross-posted to Felix’s Ice Age Now site (yes, while denouncing global warming as an alarmist hoax, he is himself predicting an imminent, apocalyptic ice age).

He also dabbles in pseudolaw, claiming for instance that Barack Obama is ineligible to be president because his father was not a natural-born citizen. At least “Obama has made it nearly impossible for a black American to be elected President for a generation or two,” concluded Caruba before the 2012 elections, which he didn’t think Obama had any chance of winning (think for a moment about what the observation says about Caruba's views race). Here is a fine example of the level at which his Obama criticisms are pitched.

Diagnosis: As a delusional conspiracy nutter, Caruba does enjoy some influence on the fringe (his views have been promoted for instance by the Moonie times), even though grammar only distinguishes it from the stuff pushed over at whale.to

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

#1451: Ben Carson


Benjamin Solomon Carson, Sr. is a pediatric neurosurgeon best known for being the first to separate conjoined twins joined at the head. He attracted the attention of wingnuts after making a variety of comments at the 2013 National Prayer Breakfast hosted by President Obama (such as advocating for a flat tax system because it is more in line with the Biblical principle of the tithe – Carson says God told him to talk about flat tax). At the time he claimed no political affiliation, commenting that “[i]f I were part of [a political party], it would be called the Logic party, and it would be dedicated to commonsense approaches we all should be able to see.” Which is not, of course, how logic works. Said Carson: “I believe it is a very good idea for physicians, scientists, engineers, and others trained to make decisions based on facts and empirical data to get involved in the political arena and help guide our country.” Instead, he decided to run for president himself.

Carson’s views on science
Though his credentials as a neurosurgeon are impressive, Carson is not a scientist and has no aptitude for the values associated with science such as truth, accountability and sensitivity to the evidence. Carson is, for instance, a creationist, though he doesn’t even have the most rudimentary idea what the theory of evolution (“just propaganda”) is: “I don’t believe in evolution ... I simply don’t have enough faith to believe that something as complex as our ability to rationalize, think, and plan, and have a moral sense of what’s right and wrong, just appeared,” which is precisely not what the theory of evolution says. To Adventist Review he continued: “By believing we are the product of random acts, we eliminate morality and the basis of ethical behavior.” 

More recently, he reaffirmed his rejection of evolution by arguing that the science of evolution is a sign of humankind’s arrogance and belief “that they are so smart that if they can’t explain how God did something, then it didn’t happen, which of course means that they’re God. You don’t need a God if you consider yourself capable of explaining everything,” which seems as irrelevant to the issue as it is possible to be. And to take it even further, “no one has the knowledge” of the age of the earth “based on the Bible,” adding that “carbon dating and all of these things really don’t mean anything to a God who has the ability to create anything at any point in time.” Right. Is that a particularly stupid version of the omphalos hypothesis we’re seeing? In fact, Carson wasn’t done: The “complexity of the human brain” is proof that evolution is a myth: “Somebody says that came from a slime pit full of promiscuous biochemicals? I don’t think so.” And evolution is unable to explain the development of an eyeball: “Give me a break. According to their scheme, it had to occur over night, it had to be there,” which seems to be exactly the opposite of, you know, what “evolution” means. In 2014 his Carson Scholars Fund promptly awarded a prize for “excellence” to Kirk Cameron.

Carson on history
Not surprisingly, Carson buys wholesale into the The United States as a Christian Nation myths, though, saying that divine intervention created America. “There are many well-documented stories about God’s intervention on behalf of our country during the War of Independence,” wrote Carson in a 2014 column, but cited just one: A familiar story about Benjamin Franklin leading the delegates in prayer during a particularly difficult moment of the Constitutional Convention, which was particularly loved by Jesse Helms and is just as false now as it was in Helms’s heyday.

According to Carson, the Affordable Care Act (which he likes to blatantly lie about) is “the worst thing to happen to the country since slavery.” He justifies the claim by pointing out that Lenin said that “Socialized medicine is the keystone to the arch of the Socialized State,” which Lenin did not say but is nevertheless enough to prove to Carson that Obamacare is of the devil. He later denied that he was “equating Obamacare with slavery,” though he kind of obviously was (he evidently doesn’t recognize the existence of youtube). He also admitted that there was controversy over whether Lenin used the “exact words,” but there really isn’t. Lenin didn’t say that.

Meanwhile, Carson blames feminism, no less, for Ferguson. Feminism is to blame for the egoism of the generations that create trouble in inner cities, and I simply cannot stoop to a level that allows me to finish that line of “thought”, but I know of groups who love that particular line of reasoning. No wonder Carson is popular with them (remember that he thinks Obama is deliberately trying to “destroy” society with “race wars”). Later he chastised people who protested against police brutality since such protests will just help ISIS and Al-Qaeda, no less. Here is Carson weighing in on Benghazi, and here on the Baltimore protests.

Gay marriage (of course), persecution and the Constitution
As for gay marriage Carson’s views are predictable enough: “Marriage is between a man and a woman. No group, be they gays, be they NAMBLA, be they people who believe in bestiality, it doesn’t matter what they are. They don’t get to change the definition.” (Though he did, it should be mentioned, apologize for that one. He also said, however, that the comments were taken “out of context,” which they were not.) Commenting on the backlash, Carson claimed that white liberals “are the most racist people there are. Because they put you in a little category, a little box. You have to think this way. How could you dare come off the plantation?” because they criticized his comments on gay marriage and failed to realize that criticism is the same as persecution when it suits Carson (it’s a violation of his freedom of speech). He also pointed out that by accepting gay marriage we change the Biblical definition of marriage, and if you do that – by the venerable argument-type slippery slope – “you can get rid of everything else in the Bible too.” Of course, Carson is oblivious to the fact that he, too, rejects the Biblical definition of marriage, unless he thinks marriage is a business transaction by which a man acquires property, but the issue is really about rejecting those parts of the Bible that Carson doesn’t want you to reject. 

To emphasize that he is not a bigot he did point out that “gay people should have the same rights as everyone else. But they don’t get extra rights,” such as the right to marry who they want, which straight people don’t have. If he were elected president, he would certainly get involved” in undoing the marriage decision” by creative lawmaking because although he claims to “respect everybody and let everybody do what they want to do,” if “everybody gets the right to change things for their group” that will lead to “chaos.” Also, gay-rights opponents are the real victims of “injustice” because they just want to be “left alone,” says Carson, which is a common enough trope but which we still think cannot be said by anyone less than a 12th-level master of self-delusion succeeding a pretty tough saving throw against the intrusion of minimal self-awareness.

It’s not the only time Carson has invoked persecution. When Dinesh D’Souza was charged with making illegal “straw donations” to the campaign of a Republican Senate candidate (which he obviously had in complete awareness of its illegality), Carson ran to D’Souza’s defense claiming that Obama administration officials are “acting like the Gestapo”. He also pointed out that “I believe we are dealing with an extremely corrupt administration,” because that’s obviously what’s going on when one of Carson’s allies are guilty of corruption and caught in the act. Citing no evidence whatsoever, he continued by claiming that “I don’t think [Obama] would be happy unless Fox News were shut down and there was no more criticism of his actions” for “[w]ithout Fox News,” Obama would have successfully introduced communism and “we would already be Cuba,” because such are the ravings of a delusional madman.

And he’s had more to say about gay people. In a March 2015 interview Carson stated that homosexuality was “absolutely” a choice, “[b]ecause a lot of people who go into prison go into prison straight and when they come out, they’re gay. So, did something happen while they were in there? Ask yourself that question.” And once again, Carson had to backtrack profusely afterwards – thereby losing the support of deranged bigots like Matt Barber, who said that Carson was now “dead to him” (their relationship ain’t gotten better). Carson, on his side, has tried to emphasize that he “loves all gay people” even though they’re like pedophiles and part of a plot to usher in a “new world order” that seeks to destroy America and turn it into a communist tyranny (we’realready close, in fact). He knows about this plot from reading right-wing conspiracy theorist W. Cleon Skousen’s book The Naked Communist.

Out of pity for poor, persecuted anti-gay people like himself Carson has also called for judges who disagree with his position to be removed from office. To justify the strategy, he cites the Constitution, which according to Carson “tells us that civil matters should be handled at the state level, not the national,” so when states have voted against gay marriage, and judges attempt to overturn that, they are doing something unconstitutional. So, when Carson claims to venerate the Constitution, which he has probably not looked at and definitely not understood a word of, what he is really saying is that he venerates is his own political views. He deplores the Constitution, according to which his argument is complete nonsense on an impressive number of levels.

Political programs
Something must certainly be done. Currently, we are facing a“war on God” where Hitlerian progressives are turning America into a society “very much like Nazi Germany” (like Cuba or Western Europe). We already “live in a Gestapo age” where Obama takes his cues from Mein Kampf and is effectively committing treason, and the administration is ruled by an anti-American spirit. What are some of Carson’s own suggestions?

Well, for one he is vigorously opposed to government programs for the poor, since dependence on government programs for the poor creates dependence ... An example would be food stamps, which Carson admits his childhood family couldn’t have done without, but which nevertheless is bad for everyone else since it makes them dependent on the government instead of … you know, things. It is also a deliberate, Satanic, hidden agenda Obama has to make voters dependent on the government (no, the objection isn’t completely coherent). To support his position he blatantly lies about Martin Luther King. And he is not afraid of Godwin’s law when calling out Obama as a Nazi. And a communist. In the same sentence. (And before you say anything, remember that whereas criticism of Obama is never motivated by racism, criticism of Ben Carson certainly is.)

Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, was established for the sole purpose of eliminating black people, a lie that has been debunked numerous times but remains popular among certain people because those people are crazy, zealous and stupid (or, fair enough, because it serves their purpose). Legal abortion, according to Carson, is “human sacrifice” (though there is some lack of clarity surrounding his stance on abortion; perhaps “human sacrifice” is not meant in a negative way?)

Being educated himself, it is natural for Carson to have strong views on education. So according to Carson, teaching kids about America’s past mistakes, such as Japanese American internment or treatment of the native population, should be avoided since it will make students “sign up for ISIS.”

He is against the legalization of recreational cannabis, which is his prerogative. But his reason is that it is a gateway drug that leads to “hedonistic activity”, which is a very strange reason.

As for immigration policy, Carson has said that he is open to drone strikes on American soil to fight immigrants, which doesn’t sound like a particularly good idea if you wish to go down in history as anything better than something to scare children with. Carson, however, thinks that the southern border of the US has been exposed to infiltration from “radical extremist Islamic terrorists” whom President Obama doesn’t intend to fight. According, people need more guns, since “we need to be able to fight them, particularly if we have an administration that won’t fight them, we need to be able to fight them ourselves.” As a policy suggestion this doesn’t sound like a particularly good idea either.

And as for voter fraud, Carson has bravely suggested that non-citizens who commit voter fraud should have their citizenship revoked. The suggestion was apparently met with applause. Good f***ing grief.

Carson and medical quackery (and cheating on exams)
Between 2004 and 2013, Carson promoted and appeared in testimonials for Mannatech, a company claiming that its line of “glyconutrients” would cure anything, including autism, non-Hodgkins lymphoma, life-threatening heart conditions, ADD, arthritis, and so on. Of course, it couldn’t, and the company was eventually sued by the Texas State Attorney General for false advertising (eventually settled for a rather substantial sum). Carson, however, appeared in promotional videos claiming that “We aren’t necessarily getting the nutritional value that we need. So as I analyzed all those things, I began to realize that that was a significant portion of my problem. And I started to try to figure out, how do you get that supplementation? Well, I became particularly interested in glycoscience, glyconutrients. These things are in your apples, your bananas and beets and everything, you know, that’s growing, but by the time we get them, they frequently are gone. And I discovered you can actually concentrate those in powders and pills and things like that.” So you should buy those products. Yes, Ben Carson was hawking scam supplements. Now he wants to be president.

At a National Day of Prayer event Carson spoke about how God once telepathically sent him the answers to an exam in a chemistry class he was failing. Which sounds like cheating, if it were true. Which, of course, it isn’t.

Diagnosis: Yes, he is dishonest to the core and there’s certainly a lot of pandering going on here, but it is hard to get around the conclusion that, despite his achievments as a neurosurgeon, Carson is pretty stupid. He lacks the most fundamental critical thinking skills, and is pathologically unable to distinguish evidence from whatever-he-wants-to-believe. Given his current influence among wingnuts he is also frighteningly dangerous.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

#1450: Jennifer Carroll


Jennifer Sandra Carroll was the 18th Lieutenant Governor of Florida, and the first black American and first woman elected to the position. She was elected in 2011, after having served in the Florida House of Representatives from 2003 to 2010. She is also batshit crazy (but was probably not the first batshit crazy person elected to that position).

As The New York Times put it, Carroll’s tenure as lieutenant governor was “marred by scandal and poor judgment” and she was “increasingly viewed as an embarrassment to the man who chose her for the job.” Although Carroll emphasized that we need “good, solid Christians to step up and lead this country on a proper moral path” she herself had to resign her post as lieutenant governor in 2013, following allegations that she was involved in an effort to steer money into Internet caf├ęs that are fronts for gambling, the subject of federal and state criminal investigations. They should have had an idea, though. Carroll had earlier resigned her position on the National Commission of Presidential Scholars after a CBS investigation revealed that her “Master of Business Administration” was obtained from the now defunct diploma-mill Kensington University.

But that’s background. Her qualifications for an entry here is that she is insane. Her stance on certain issues may be illustrated by her contribution to Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition’s pre-debate gathering in Florida in 2011, where she went on the attack against the media, scientists, blasphemers, secular Americans and all those who don’t fit into her idea of a “righteous government.” It really is worth a view. According to Carroll:

[T]oday unfortunately many in the media would like nothing better to ridicule Christians: they promote ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ they place doubt in the public’s mind that Christ was not risen and they condemn the ‘Passion of Christ,’ yet they sensationalize stories that call for the end of prayer in school and removing the name of God from our country’s pledge. Ladies and gentlemen, these are very sad times when we allow the minority to poison the minds of the majority. This is exactly what dictators and socialist rulers did.

Yes, she said that: It is sad that “the minority is allowed to” say things the majority does not want to hear. And apparently, this is “exactly what dictators and socialist rulers did.” The mind boggles. But freedom of religion wasn’t her only target: “Man does not have all the answers, some of our political leaders bow down to scientists and let them have the stage to push their evolution, but there’s nothing, nothing a scientist can make, that is exactly like what God creates.” Yeah, take that evolutionists, and your liberal agenda “to take God out of our country” and engage in “blasphemy of His name.”

At some point Carroll was also accused of having a lesbian affair. She responded by saying that women who look like her can’t be lesbians.

Diagnosis: As stupid, insane and dishonest as people come. Hopefully neutralized by now.