Wednesday, December 31, 2014

#1248: Allen West

Allen West is a retired Lieutenant Colonel and the former Representative from Florida’s 22nd district. West is a Teabagger, and is often mentioned by other Teabaggers to deflect accusations of racism in the movement (West himself claims that racism in the Tea Party movement is a conspiracy invented by liberal media). He was elected in the Teabagger wave of 2010 but was defeated in his 2012 reelection bid, perhaps partially because people realized he was more or less clinically insane (though that should have been pretty damn obvious the first time around as well).

His 2010 campaign went over well with certain segments of wingnuts, however, and he did get the Sarah Palin stamp of approval early on. Also, Glenn Beck praised West for his service in Iraq, which ended (Beck didn’t mention) when West and his gang beat an Iraqi detainee senseless and used the information the detainee provided to arrest another, entirely innocent person, whereupon West was found in violation of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, relieved of his post, and fined $5,000.

Perhaps the most famous incident of his 2010 campaign occurred when a reporter asked West about the IRS lien placed on him. West responded by saying that the IRS document was “faked”, and that he could document this. After he promptly failed to produce said documentation, he invented the interesting logical fallacy of “appeal to security clearance” to try to escape the “gotcha” questions, which consisted of claiming that he had an even higher security clearing than the president, therefore shut up. Christine O’Donnell also tried to invoke that one at one point, by the way.

Otherwise, West’s campaigns seem primarily based on relatively familiar stuff. For instance, House Democrats are communists. Indeed, there are “between 78 and 81” Democrats in Congress who are members of the communist party, according to West, who failed to provide any references or indication of how he arrived at the numbers (well, in one sense he indicated it pretty clearly). He also diligently uncovered a “Soviet Union, Marxist-Socialist” meaning in the Obama campaign’s “forward” slogan. So there is plenty of conspiracy going on. Indeed, since West refuses to believe that Obama could achieve anything, when e.g. statistics showed a drop in unemployment rates, West was quick to dismiss it as a conspiracy: “This is Orwellian to say the least and representative of Saul Alinsky tactics from the book ‘Rules for Radicals’ – a must read for all who want to know how the left strategize.” (No, he didn’t address the numbers themselves.) He has also compared Food Stamps to slavery, and, with dizzying lack of self-awareness, accused Obama of demagoguery – and for being a “disgusting racist” who “despises” white people. An equally impressive degree of self-awareness can be found in his assertion that “the Left tries to win the women's vote by talking from the waist down” – Democrats want the government to be the “sugar daddy” and replace men – while Republicans seek to reach the hearts and minds of female voters. Meanwhile Chuck Hagel is a “traitor” who dutifully serves “Barack Obama’s game plan to weaken the United States of America” – Obama wants to weaken the US ostensibly because he only cares about people on welfare (yeah, that’s the “reasoning”; such is the mind of Allen West).

Then there is Benghazi. According to West, the media’s focus on the Boko Haram group in Nigeria in Spring 2014 was part of the Obama administration’s efforts to draw focus away from Benghazi. “Are we witnessing an Obama ‘Wag the Dog’ moment with Boko Haram in Nigeria? I say yes,” said West. When Ahmed Abu Khattala, the accused perpetrator of the Benghazi attack, was captured just a few weeks later, West promptly tweeted that the capture was just a way for the Obama administration to distract from non-Benghazi scandals. In the meantime, he had also claimed to have gotten the horrible “truth” about Benghazi from a random, unnamed stranger seated next to him on a plane (Kent Hovind’s main source of scientific “information”), but he didn’t tell us what it might be, only that it was really shocking.

He also claimed that African American Democrats are trying to keep African Americans “on the plantation,” while casting himself as the “modern-day Harriet Tubman” ferrying them to rescue. In a critical summation of West’s style, Mother Jones aptly concluded that for West “every sentence is a proxy war in the larger struggle between patriots and the ‘people in this world that just have to have their butts kicked.’” You can probably guess his reaction to a 2013 admission by the IRS that it had particularly scrutinized tea party groups (a conspiracy spearheaded by Obama in person). It is, to put it mildly, not the only time West has endorsed conspiracy theories.

When he lost his seat in the 2012 general election (which included at least one incident of threats and harassment), the reason was that he was cheated out of it (he seems, indeed, to genuinely believe this), and when he finally conceded defeat (“[w]hile many questions remain unanswered”), he promptly struck a (delusional) martyr pose. Some other lunatics of the House, including Paul Broun and Louie Gohmert, nevertheless endorsed him for Speaker, despite the fact that he no longer helda seat (which is rather illuminating). In his political career West’s main achievement seems to have been being a keynote speaker at CPAC 2011, where he ranted more or less incoherently about the Civil War, Nazism and Obama – said political career seems to have been somewhat inhibited by the fact that West clearly has no idea how our system of government works (e.g. when he rejected Obamacare as “not the law of the land” but an “edict” that shows that President Obama is establishing a monarchy). He was, for instance, shocked to learn that Muslims, for instance, were allowed to vote in the US. He has threatened to run again in 2016, though.

In 2012 he joined the Thomas More Law Center’s Citizens Advisory Board, because the group doesn’t know or care about how government works either “knows the true threat to our nation posed by radical Islam and it has initiated and funded more cases challenging the Stealth Jihad being waged against our Nation than any other public interest law firm in America.”

Special mention should also be given West’s selection of chief of staff in 2010, local wingnut talk radio host Joyce “if ballots don’t work, bullets will” Kaufman, who for instance advocated hanging illegal immigrants charged with crimes and who apparently seems to think that automated phone recordings telling her to press 2 for Spanish is the end of the world and America and Jesus. Shortly after West was elected Kaufman resigned, allegedly due to the “liberal media’s ‘attacks’” on her and the “electronic lynching” she was receiving on the internet. West accused the media of racism and sexism in their “attack” on Kaufman, defending her as a “brilliant political mind.”

West’s memoirs, Guardian of the Republic, are most notable for its range of fake Founding Father quotes.

Diagnosis: A moronic clown. But when such clowns are given power and influence, like West, they stop being particularly funny. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

#1247: Clint Werner

Marijuana is a tremendous source of ridiculous woo. But although claims to the effect that marijuana allows you to use more than the normal 10% of the brain are hardly worth discussing, the work of Clint Werner seems to have found an audience among people who really should know better. Werner is a San Francisco-based “researcher” and the author e.g. of Marijuana Gateway to Health: How Cannabis Protects Us from Cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease. Apparently the publishers didn’t give him sufficient space for a complete list of all the ailments from which marijuana, Werner asserts, can deliver you, which include in addition to Alzheimer’s (and most other forms of dementia) and cancer: epilepsy, tobacco addiction, Crohn’s disease, psoriasis, type 1 and 2 diabetes, stroke-related disabilities, gastrointestinal irritation, schizophrenia, degenerative arthritis, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and retinitis pigmentosa. The book was apparently endorsed by Andrew Weil, and Werner earned himself some airtime on Coast to Coast AM with his … thing.

Werner has, of course, not the faintest trace of any relevant medical background, and has apparently no idea how scientific investigations work. Though he does, indeed, “cite” medical studies, the correlation between what these studies say and what Werner attributes to them appears to be somewhat worse than random, with a smattering of quote mining, cherry-picking, as well as liberal use of his own  imagination to fill in perceived gaps in the research. In short, there is no connection between marijuana and the effects Werner describes in his book but – big surprise – that has not prevented the book from achieving popularity among certain groups of readers.

And just for completeness sake, there is no evidence at present that cannabis cures cancer, whereas the evidence for cannabis as a therapeutic tool for dementia is “either inconclusive or still missing". Cannabis does not help with diabetes (this little detail apart), nor is there enough evidence to draw conclusions about the safety or efficacy of cannabinoids in the treatment of epilepsy. It is overall pretty worthless for glaucoma and has no measurable beneficial effect on anorexia or neurological disorders. A few areas of application do indeed seem promising –cannabinoids can serve as appetite stimulants, antiemetics, antispasmodics, and have some analgesic effects – but given the present state of research (due in part, of course, to legal problems any research runs into) any grand claims about the health benefits of cannabis are utter pseudoscientific rubbish.

Diagnosis: Pseudoscientific rubbish.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

#1246: Frances Cress Welsing

Frances Cress Welsing is a D.C. psychiatrist and completely batshit insane. She is particularly noted for her afrocentric “Cress Theory of Color Confrontation,” and The Isis Papers; The Keys to the Colors (1991). Welsing claims that there is a system practiced (consciously and unconsciously) by the global white minority to ensure their genetic survival by any means necessary, a system that attacks people of color (particularly of African descent) in all areas of activity, and that it is, accordingly, imperative that people of color (particularly of African descent) understand how the system of white supremacy works in order to dismantle it. So far, so good, perhaps – some over-the-top formulations, but that can probably be excused when dealing with a real issue.

But no. In The Isis Papers she formulates her pseudoscientific melanin theory, the gist of which is that white people are the genetically defective descendants of albino mutants, a mutation that may have caused them (justifiably, it seems) to have been forcibly expelled from Africa. And it is because “pure whitness” is so easily genetically lost during interracial breeding that light-skinned peoples have developed an aggressive colonial urge. She also ascribes plenty inherent and behavioral differences between black and white people to this “melanin deficiency,” since melanin is apparently a superconductor that absorbs all frequencies of the electromagnetic spectrum, can convert sound energy to light energy, and work as a minicomputer to process information; a deficiency would accordingly be bad). Her evidence is apparently restricted to “her experiences as a psychiatrist”.

White people’s (accurate) sense of their own inferiority is exhibited in various cultural practices: “On both St. Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day, the white male gives gifts of chocolate candy with nut … If his sweetheart ingests ‘chocolate with nuts’, the white male can fantasize that he is genetically equal to the Black male … Is it not also curious that when white males are young and vigorous, they attempt to master the large brown balls, but as they become older and wiser, they psychologically resign themselves to their inability to master the large brown balls? Their focus then shifts masochistically to hitting the tiny white golf balls in disgust and resignation – in full final realization of white genetic recessiveness.” I suppose such gibberish is standard fare in some branches of post-modern Freudianism – big claims are justified by vague associations between words in any manner the practitioner may fancy – but it is no less loony for that.

According to Welsing psychiatry (that is, her brand of psychiatry) seems to be some sort of primary science. Her “Unified Field Theory Psychiatry” encompasses and grounds biology, psychology, and physics, and is a prerequisite to understanding the etiology of a unified field of energy phenomena, in particular the “behavior-energy” underlying racial conflict (yes, it is quantum woo), as well as homosexuality and sexism. And no, she doesn’t like gays. According to Welsing black male homosexuality was imposed on blacks by the white man in order to reduce the black population; it is a sign of weakness, and homosexual patterns of behavior are simply expressions of black male self-submission to other males in the area of sex, as well as in economics, education, entertainment, labor, law, politics, religion, and war.

But this, readers, is just the beginning of Welsing’s “scientifically based” theories of race. According to Welsing there is a correlation between high blood pressure and blackness of skin due to the fact that melanin picks up energy vibrations from other people under stress – the darker the skin, the more melanin, and thus the more vibrations would supposedly be picked up. This apparently explains why George Washington Carver was so successful in discovering useful products from plants – he owed his success not to his MA in chemistry, but to the fact that he was dark-skinned: The plants “talked to his melanin and told him what they were good for” during his early morning strolls. It is hard to see how such ideas, if incorporated in a school curriculum (which is what Welsing and her group try to achieve – just like creationists, the point is to get the rubbish into schools, not to gather evidence), would have any long-term positive effects for the target groups.

But melanin can do more than talking to plants. According to Welsing (and repeated in particular by Hunter Adams) the Dogon of Mali discovered a dwarf companion of Sirius, Sirius B, which is invisible to the naked eye. They did so, according to Welsing, because the Dogon’s melanin, in addition to giving you ESP, functions in a manner similar to an infrared telescope, enabling them to detect Sirius B through the melanin in their pineal glands (yes, the pineal gland). Evidence, or plausible mechanism? Forget it – her justification is a matter of Freudian associations. She further claims that everything that happens on Earth is converted to energy and beamed up to Sirius B, and that the high melanin content of black people enables them to tap into that information. Thus, for instance, Greek oracles (who were apparently black, according to Welsing) were able to foresee the future, just as present-day blacks are able to do (but of course not melanin-deficient whites).

Diagnosis: Appalling pseudoscientific bullshit. And as with other pseudoscientce, it is all about outreach, not finding out what’s actually the case.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

#1245: Dave Welch

Dave Welch is an extremist pastor, committed theocrat, and founder and executive director of the U.S. Pastor’s Council (it is unclear to what extent it qualifies as a “group”). For some reason (in fact not very surprisingly) he has also been given the opportunity to write occasional columns for the WND, an opportunity he has used for instance to provide massive “evidence” that Obama is really an atheist, meaning that Welch disagrees with him on political issues (interestingly on the same day as that column appeared another columnist, Pat Boone, claimed to have irrefutable evidence that Obama was a Muslim. That’s WND for you.) The incident also sums up Welch’s approach to politics – any policy he disagrees with violates the Constitution and is despotism and an attack on him freedom, and shows that the people who agrees with it (and thus disagree with him) are evil.

Welch has accordingly accused President Obama of being an “enemy” of Christianity and the United States, arguing that pastors who acknowledge President Obama’s Christian faith are “much like the clergy of Hitlerian Germany and the ‘Positive Christianity’ that represented complete acquiescence to and control by the Nazi state.” In 2010 he called Obama, Pelosi and Reid “the Fourth Reich.” And seems to think that the assertion counted as an argument.

When Rick Perry announced his 2011 prayer rally, Welch was quick to insist that the event be limited to Christians only (in the name of religious freedom, of course), characterizing the alternative as a “polytheistic approach and […] interfaith event that requires Christians to squelch the mention of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Nor does he fancy gay rights. Gay people, according to Welch, constitute a “morally depraved special interest group,” and he was one of the wingnuts who warned of a “gay takeover” of Houston’s City Hall if the openly gay Annise Parker were elected mayor in 2009. That she was, in fact, elected (a sign of America’s “Cancer of the Soul”) he later used as evidence for the claim that Houston is a “sin-sick city.” Allowing gays to serve openly in the military is, furthermore, treason, and in 2010 Welch called a federal judge a “domestic enemy” for ruling that DADT was unconstitutional, concluding that “[w]e give Muslim radicals free reign, prosecute Marines and SEALs for doing their job, suppress religious expression – if it happens to be Christian – and now give destructive sexual behavior a promotion.” Welch seems rather unaware that Muslim radicals actually agree with him regarding gay equality, but his mind apparently has a hard time processing the fact that “I don’t like liberals” and “I don’t like Muslims” do not entail “liberals = Muslims”. To see how bad it would be to repeal DADT we should apparently look at what radical gay activists have done to our school children. And the polls suggesting that military members do not feel threatened by the homosexuals they know about, are duly dismissed with “I have yet to talk to a member of the military who agrees with that assessment,” for which there may be explanations that are consistent with the accuracy of said polls.

He has, on the other hand, praised Tim LaHaye as “one of the greatest pastors of all time.” Indeed, Welch seems to stand by the claims of fraudulent “ex-terrorist” Kamal Saleem, despite the fact that the ex-terrorist status of the latter is obviously spurious, even inviting him to Texas to give his testimony of how Jesus saved him from being a terrorist.

Welch is also a staunch creationist, claiming that clergy who accept the science of evolution are “no more a Christian than the chimpanzees from which he or she claims to have evolved.” And for Dave Welch, everything fits nicely into a single picture: “The direct linkage between Marx and Darwin is indisputable,” and “[a]s that jihad progressed through the 1900s, the assaults on free markets, private property and traditional morality were completed by Alfred Kinsey as he helped launch the sexual revolution of the ’60s …,” leading inevitably to “[t]he militant commitment of the Marxist/Democratic Party of 2011 America to radical sexual diversity,” which “is at its core driven by a hate for God’s created order,” at which time Obama claimed to be “‘evolving’ in his views on the definition of marriage.” In other words, “here is the trail of tears: Darwin to Marx to Kinsey to Obama.” Yes, Welch’s powers of reasoning are … unusual. Here he chimes in on the work on the Texas Board of Education, advocating theocracy in the process. “The reality,” says Welch (using terms he apparently doesn’t understand) “is that our struggle against spiritual, moral, cultural and political decline,” exemplified by the anti-Christian First Amendment, and the teaching of evolution and ban on mandatory prayers in public schools, “is simply the latest chapter in the war begun when Lucifer rebelled against God.”

Diagnosis: Completely insance Taliban theocrat, engaged in a zealous and Orwellian fight against all the things he professes to support, such as liberty, freedom of religion and common decency.