Monday, March 2, 2015

#1303: Tony Alamo

A.k.a. Bernie LaZar Hoffman (birth name), Mark Hoffman, Marcus Abad, etc.

Well, this one is pretty obvious, but we couldn’t very well leave him out, could we? Tony Alamo is an American cult leader and figure at the unhinged end Christian right, known to many by virtue of their tendency to leave their literature, mostly insane anti-Catholic and anti-American government rants (“Did you know that the Pope and Ronald Reagan are a couple of Anti-Christ Devils and that they are selling us all down the drain?”), on car windshields across America.

Alamo himself has an impressive criminal record, and a multitude of former cult members have leveled charges against him (particularly rape charges), including reports that he has had as many as seven “wives”, whom he married when they were still children. Indeed, Alamo claims that women are the property of men, and that once a girl reaches puberty she needs to marry and begin having children. God told him that. God may also be the source of his information that 9/11, the Kennedy assassination and Pearl Harbor were inside jobs (that is, caused by Satan, who is the guy really in charge). When his wife Susan died of cancer, Alamo tried to raise her from the dead by keeping her on display for six months with members of his “church” praying around it (the story actually gets a bit bizarre after that). Apparently God wasn’t really forthcoming on that occasion.

The congregation use to live in a compound in rural Arkansas, though it was raided by Federal agents in September 2008 after reports of child sexual abuse. Soon after Alamo himself was arrested and being charged with multiple crimes involving child sexual abuse and transporting minors across state lines for those purposes. Alamo's response has simply been to declare that everything he has done is OK, since it was done in the Bible. Which may be correct.

He is presently serving a Life sentence, and the cult has probably come to an end, though it is a bit difficult to determine for sure.

Diagnosis: Probably neutralized, though one suspects that there are plenty of similar monsters out there ready to take his place.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

#1302: Rhoda Zione Alale

Rhoda Zione Alale is an internet crank who pushes radiation woo and ways of protecting yourself from the imaginary dangers of electrosensitivity. She is probably rather unimportant, though she certainly claims otherwise herself – in addition to being an RN, holding both a Ph.D and a DHP (no idea), she claims to be a “Presidential Commissioner” (she is really probably primarily known through her entry here). And an African princess. According to one of her websites she sells you a gadget called a “flat battery” that supposedly offers protection from electromagnetic radiation from cell phones etc. if worn on your shoe. These flat batteries last for up to six months, and their lifespan can be prolonged by eating apples. Yes, that kind of crank. There are few other (intelligible) hints at how these batteries are supposed to work, or how EMF is supposed to cause damage, but apparently our bodies “spin” in the “right or forward direction” and electro-magnetic radiation spins in the “backwards” direction. Accordingly this radiation causes our body to spin backwards and somehow cause our cells to leak vital nutrients. Here is her version of how magnets work.

The batteries were invented by her to heal “black breast syndrome,” a disease she just knew was caused by electromagnetic hypersensitivity and radiation poisoning and which she claims is present in “epidemic proportions,” but which has no medical definition beyond her website. She also claims to have won a number of prestigious awards for her inventions, to have quite close relations with no less than five U.S. presidents, and “been nominated for a Nobel Prize in Physics for her work in neurogenic science and nano technology development to harmonize radiation in the body and electrical devices,” which is, first, not really a feat and, second, unverifiable since the names of the Nobel prize nominees and information about nominations cannotbe revealed until 50 years later.

Diagnosis: Really just a random example of the amazing range of cranks that the Interent has enabled to make fools of themselves in public. I cannot really make myself believe that Alale poses any serious danger to anything, but it's worth noting that she differs from people like Mercola or Mike Adams primarily in the packaging of the claims.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

#1301: Ché Ahn

Ché Ahn is the head pastor of Harvest Rock Church in Pasadena, California, United States, president of the board of directors for The Call, central member of the New Apostolic Reformation and author of plenty of books with “love” in the title to try to convince himself and others that he is anything but the hateful bigot he in fact is. Ahn is a a vocal proponent of Seven Mountains Dominionism, co-founded The Call with Lou Engle, and was an official endorser of Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s The Response prayer rally.

He is also – but of course – a staunch opponent of LGBT equality, saying that even if same-sex marriage became legal in the United States it will never be justifiable in the same way laws that didn’t consider African Americans citizens were illegitimate, which is one of the most bizarre comparisons made in the history of the Universe, but to Ahn means that America needs to confront gay marriage as it confronted slavery. According to Ahn, LGBT equality “is not a civil rights issue” because they never had “rights taken from them.” He also took some credit for Proposition 8: It passed partially as a result of his prayers, apparently.

Diagnosis: Hysterically monstrous madman; the kind of thing that makes Sauron seem almost reasonable.

Friday, February 27, 2015

#1300: Dave Agema

David Agema is a Michigan wingnut politician, former member of the Michigan House of Representatives, and current (2014) member of the Republican National Committee and the chairman of the Top Gun Republican political action committee.

Agema, who is a self-proclaimed pro-life Republican, is actively vocal in his opposition to homosexuality and gay marriage, as well as censorship (partially because he views it as a serious democratic problem that he cannot say offensive things without being criticized) – despite his alleged views on censorship he has endorsed Russia’s anti-gay laws, regardless of that law’s rather blatant attempt to censor free speech; but that would be censoring speech Agema disagrees with, and that’s very different. (I suppose he views himself as an opponent of censorship mostly because of this).

In 2013, he faced calls to resign from the Republican National Committee after he posted extracts from an article entitled “Everyone Should Know These Statistics On Homosexuals,” in which he claimed that homosexuals lived a “filthy lifestyle,” were responsible for 50 percent of U.S. murders and that many are paedophiles. RNC chairman Reince Priebus, for instance, was not very impressed, but he also played surprised by the statements – pretending not to have noticed that Agema is hardly the only RNC member with views like these; check out for instance:

-       Tamara Scott (Iowa), who alleged that the legalization of gay marriage hurt her state’s economy and that marriage equality will pave the way for man-Eiffel Tower marriage.
-       Steve Scheffler (Iowa), of the Faith and Family Coalition chapter, who falsely links homosexuality to pedophilia and claims that gay men typically don’t live past the age of 47.
-       Bill Armistead (Alabama), who claims same-sex marriage will lead to polygamy, that acceptance of gay people is a “sad testament to where we are as a nation,” and that tolerance of LGBT people puts “America on a slippery slope.”
-       Debbie Joslin (Alaska), who wishes to ban mention of homosexuals in schools and anti-bullying measures since increased tolerance would “foster confusion in the minds of our children.”
-       Ada Fisher (North Carolina), who was outraged when Obama and Clinton endorsed marriage equality, suggesting that it showed a lack of respect for straight people, and that her opposition was motivated partially by concern for black families (right …).  

Why don’t people know the statistics Agema cites? Well, Agema got them from the FRC, Frank Joseph  and Paul Cameron (an extremist and activist who poses as a researcher) and similar sources, so no – there isn’t the faintest trace of methodologically sound research behind them. Surprised?

Although he tried to distance himself a bit from the claims later on, he repeated them in an interview was with WPIQ in Manistique, an obscure radio show that he probably thought none of his critics would listen to. And he went in with full force when talking to rabid fundamentalist Tony Perkins, arguing that gay people should be treated no differently than alcoholics, repeated his early claims, and complained that wealthy and powerful gay activists were in a conspiracy against him to suppress “the facts” and making the truth-tellers “shut up” (Perkins agreed, and added that homosexuality is “personally destructive and harmful to the society as well”). Indeed, Agema has claimed that he is fighting gay rights to save America from destruction; just “[l]ook at the Greek empire, look at the Roman empire,” which suggests that he is not too concerned with historical accuracy. He also pointed out the major and destructive repercussions legalizing gay marriage has had in “Denmark, Netherlands and Switzerland,” but didn’t go into details (that Switzerland has not legalized gay marriage is only one of the problems). “I don’t hate gay people,” said Agema; “I just think they’re trying to destroy America like they destroyed every other civilization.” Right.

Agema has also been condemned by Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, after alleging homosexuals were in favor of health care reform because “they’re dying between 30 and 44 years old.” In particular, he claimed that while working at American Airlines, he saw American Airlines workers who would say a person with AIDS was their lover so that person could get medical benefits (no, he didn’t try to back it up, and it’s unclear what social problem the assertion would illustrate if it were true). Said Agema: “To me, it’s a moral issue. It’s a Biblical issue.” Indeed, Agema claimed that it was “immoral” to insure gay people because their “lifestyle” kills them. So he really doesn't know what “moral” means and thus, as so many others, he confuses it with “things others do and I don’t and therefore don’t like.”

Though Agema has received most attention for his anti-gay efforts, it is probably little surprise that he also harbors strong creationist sympathies. For instance, in 2008, while a state representative, he and State Senator Bill Hardiman were the sponsors of a bill that would let schools teach “alternative views” of evolution, global warming and cloning, referring directly to the Discovery Institute’s Academic Freedom campaign in the process (it is worth mentioning the co-sponsors Sen. Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, and Mark Jansen, R-Gaines Township).

Then there is this, which tells you a bit about how Agema evaluates his sources – partially in response to that one some of his fellow RNC members have tried to kick him out (some of his fans mounted some interesting defense attempts), but they seem to be a long away way from succeeding.

Diagnosis: The scary thing, of course, is that the ideas and idiocy of people like Agema has become pretty mainstream. Agema is a fumingly bigoted, hateful monster, who fuels his bigotry by adopting whatever notion he thinks could fuel his bigotry, completely regardless of whether it is accurate or not.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

#1299: E. Theo Agard

E. Theo Agard is a medical physicist with a PhD from the University of Toronto, and a former director of the Flower Hospital Oncology Center in Ohio. Agard is most notable for being a signatory to the Creation Ministries International’s list of scientists today who accept the Biblical account of Creation. According to Agard, his subscription to creationism can be “largely summarized” by ignorance about whether the chicken or the egg came first (only lightly paraphrased, and no; follow the link from the rationalwiki page; I won’t link to AiG). Agard also observes that there are gaps in the fossil record. Therefore, God must have created the Earth in six days and the Flood and Adam and Jesus, so there. 

Diagnosis: I am not sure Agard has accomplished much as a creationist proponent, but he does subscribe to the idiocy and does have a legitimate degree. Thus, Agard is among the very unimpressive group of “many” “real scientists” who support creationism that creationists like to claim exists, apparently in abundance.    

(And yes, there is a serious objection to creationism behind the last sentence: Problems with evolution - especially imagined problems, but real problems as well if there are any - are not evidence for creationism. Evidence for creationism can only come through testing the novel, correct predictions not made by the alternative theories that creationism makes; thus far, all novel predictions creationism makes have been falsified, and it is frankly hard to see how continuing to subscribe to the idea is compatible with intellectual honesty.)