6.24.2011

30 Reasons Why Bryan Fischer is Dangerous and Must Be Stopped

Bryan Fischer, major douchebag
Despite his growing role as a kingmaker in Republican politics, not many people know about Bryan Fischer. His name is benign-sounding, like a cross between a chess player and a washed up 80's pop singer. But don't be fooled. This guy is arguably more dangerous than Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and any other batshit GOP politician you could name.

The scariest thing about Bryan Fischer is that, despite the fact that he spews hateful bile on a daily basis (via his talk radio show and via his role as spokesperson for the American Family Association), GOP politicians continue to cozy up to him, and (seemingly) none of them seem to believe he should tone it down.

People for the American Way have just released a ginormous profile on Bryan Fischer entitled, The GOP's Favorite Hate-Monger: How the Republican Party Came to Embrace Bryan Fischer. It's exhaustive, and it's scary.

From PFAW's Introduction:

Responsible politicians wouldn’t fawn over an unhinged activist who opposes civil rights and religious freedom for minorities, wants to make being gay a crime and decries his personal rivals as enemies of God, right? But that is exactly what is taking place today in the Republican Party, as likely and declared GOP presidential candidates line up to win the approval of Bryan Fischer...

Fischer’s unabashed bigotry is on full display throughout his writings and on-air rants. His entire career is based on leveling venomous attacks against gays and lesbians, American Muslims, Native Americans, progressives and other individuals and groups he detests. He wants to redefine the Constitution to protect only Christians, persecute and deport all American Muslims, prohibit gays and non-Christians from holding public office and impose a system of biblical law.

While Fischer’s views are undeniably shocking, what is most disturbing is his growing influence within not only the Religious Right but also the Republican Party.

Scary stuff.

Here's a partial list, pulled from PFAW's report, of why Bryan Fischer is full-on batshit and dangerous:
  1. He successfully pressured Hallmark stores in Idaho to refuse to carry greeting cards for same-sex weddings.
  2. He fought legislation that would provide workplace protections for gays and lesbians.
  3. He has likened gays to domestic terrorists, pedophiles, slave traders and murderers, and decried the adoption of children by gay parents as a “terrible, inexcusable, inhumane thing to do to children.”
  4. He espouses the view that gays were responsible for the Nazi Party and the Holocaust
  5. He believes that “homosexuals should be disqualified from public office,” banned from serving as judges and barred from working as teachers, and that “homosexual behavior should be against the law.”
  6. He claims that bullying-prevention programs will be used for the “brainwashing” of children to make them gay, arguing that “homosexuals cannot reproduce, so they have to recruit; it’s the only way to swell their numbers.” For example, Fischer believes that the television show Glee is “glamorizing homosexual behavior” and “promoting deviant sexuality,” as well as idolatry.
  7. He warned, after DADT was repealed, that the military would “now be feminized and neutered beyond repair” and insisted that “the world is now a more dangerous place for us all.” 
  8. He likened African Americans to rabbits.
  9. He said Native Americans cannot be considered full-fledged American citizens until they convert to Christianity.
  10. He said Native Americans “remain mired in poverty and alcoholism because many native Americans continue to cling to the darkness of indigenous superstition instead of coming into the light of Christianity and assimilating into Christian culture."
  11. He says American Muslims are a “toxic cancer” to American society and that Muslim Student Associations are “parasites.”
  12. He urged the U.S. to ban the construction of mosques, likened mosques to IEDs, and prayed for the destruction of the Dome of the Rock. He has repeatedly claimed that Muslims are inherently dangerous, unintelligent and mentally ill due to inbreeding.
  13. He believes that Muslims must be purged from the military and prohibited from enlisting, and that the U.S. not only ban Muslim immigration but also deport and expel all American Muslims.
  14. He maintains that only Muslims who renounce their religion and convert to Christianity should be allowed to come into and live in the U.S. 
  15. He maintains that Muslims deserve no First Amendment rights.
  16. He believes that the Founding Fathers only wanted to extend rights to different Protestant denominations.
  17. He denies the existence of the separation of church and state, and believes that states and localities should be allowed to establish official religions
  18. He wants to model the U.S. justice system on the biblical law of ancient Israel (He cites Genesis to attack Muslims and uses Leviticus to demonize gays and lesbians).  
  19. He says President Obama is tyrannical, anti-Christian and intentionally weakening the country so the U.S. can join “every other nation which has ignored God or kicked him to the curb.”
  20. He maintains that Obama “nurtures this hatred for the United States of America” and “nurtures a hatred for the white man.”
  21. He believes that progressives are “unpatriotic” and “un-American,” arguing that they want to muzzle Christians and overthrow the Constitution in order to advance their social and political agenda.
  22. He blamed Sarah Palin’s unpopularity on actual demonic forces that emerged from the political left, calling criticism of Palin “unvarnished demonic evil on full display” and “pure homicidal rage and hate.” He made clear that his charges of demonic conspiracy were not metaphorical.
  23. He urged right-wing activists to have more children in order to give conservatives a numerical advantage in the political and cultural battles of the future.
  24. He demands that the government “close down Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and welfare,” claiming that Social Security and Medicare represent an “an ungodly and unconstitutional recipe for national suicide.” 
  25. He insists that the only difference between progressives and terrorists is that “so far [progressives] haven’t taken to killing people
  26. He demanded, following the tragic news that the SeaWorld whale Tilikum had killed a trainer, that the whale be put to death. He claimed that the courts should use the “ancient civil code of Israel” in dealing with Tilikum.
  27. He blamed a deadly attack by a grizzly bear in Yellowstone Park on the fact that American “culture has jettisoned a biblical view” of animals, and called it a sign that God is punishing America.
  28. He maintains that Christians should not vote for any candidate who supports gay rights in any form because, he says, homosexuality is an “abomination in the nostrils of God” that “no rational society should ever endorse.”
  29. He said that gays should be “ashamed” and “embarrassed,” contends that the “deviancy cabal” is responsible for suicide among gay youth and that “homosexual activists are not wholly innocent in these tragedies.
  30. He says the separation of church and state is an idea straight out of Nazi Germany.
It's very easy for progressives and moderates to look at Bryan Fischer and assume that someone with these ideas would never be taken seriously, much less garner serious political clout.  Those people are forgetting that the same thing has been said about potential GOP presidential candidates Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum, who have been mocked endlessly by the left.

Ben Adler wrote of Bryan Fischer's growing influence in Newsweek:

You might think that attention in the form of mockery is not what a public-policy organization would want. But when your business is waging a culture war, there is no such thing as bad publicity for ideological or rhetorical extremism. Being criticized by liberals in the media raises the profile of a socially conservative organization, and burnishes its credibility among the base. Just ask Sarah Palin, or her fans.

Fischer's radio show is distributed on over 200 stations across the country, and reaches over 2 million listeners. While that may seem like chicken scratch compared to Limbaugh or Beck, Fischer's show attracts some of the GOP's biggest names. Guests on Fischer's show include: Herman Cain, Mike Huckabee, Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, Jim DeMint, Jim Inhofe, Roger Wicker, Lamar Smith, Steve King, Jack Kingston, etc., etc.

Many of these GOP figures have expressed support for Fischer's bigotry and extremism, even making campaign promises to Fischer to enact legislation supporting some of his views, or to repeal certain legislation he disagrees with.

Aside from the realization that more people think like Bryan Fischer than one would imagine, is the scariest realization of all: This man might actually run for president one day.

George Carlin: 'Save the Trees'

I try to keep up with the stuff that Melodysheep cranks out, but somehow I missed this one, which was uploaded for Earth Day 2011.

I like the juxtaposition of Carlin's curmudgeonly views on environmentalism with the amazing visuals of life on Earth.



6.23.2011

How Evolution Works, in Comic Form: So Easy a Caveman Could Understand It

Until my dream of an IMAX 3D evolution documentary is realized, we have accessible, educational, and imaginative works by artists like Darryl Cunningham

Evolution is probably the most misunderstood concept on the planet. I still have some misconceptions to this day, I'm sure. I was an English major who grew up in Southeastern US public schools. I have no recollection of evolution being taught, and have been playing catch-up for quite some time.

I never really doubted evolution, for some reason, but I just didn't totally 'get it.'  When it finally clicked for me, after a devouring a handful of well-written primers on the subject, it was as if I'd unlocked a whole new way of looking at everything. Which I had. When you fully understand that every living thing shares an ancestor with every other living thing, it has a profound effect on how you view those things.  And when you understand how biological complexity arises in nature, you start to see examples of more complex, and less complex, mechanisms all around you.  You begin to see that many of the concepts and mechanisms found in evolution also have applications in non-biological areas, such as technology, religion, language, art, etc.

A recent Gallup poll shows that 4 in 10 of Americans do not accept evolution.  Granted, most of those who deny evolution do so because of their literal readings of scripture.  But, I do believe that, in addition, part of the problem is that people have misconceptions and misunderstandings about evolution.  They either have been willfully given misinformation by an opponent of evolution, or they have been the victim of oversimplifications, or flat-out wrong assumptions, such as the much-repeated fallacy that humans evolved from monkeys.

I've often thought that evolution could really use a boost from CGI.  I realize that there have been some short, and minor uses of CGI to demonstrate aspects of evolution on television documentaries, but I would love to see either a full-length documentary or a mini-series that really plunges in depth, leaving no stone unturned.

I imagine this thought experiment passage from Richard Dawkins' The Greatest Show on Earth done in CGI -- IMAX 3D, even.  Picture it:

I’ll call it the hairpin thought experiment. Take a rabbit, any female rabbit (arbitrarily stick to females, for convenience: it makes no difference to the argument). Place her mother next to her. Now place the grandmother next to the mother and so on back in time, back, back, back through the mega years, a seemingly endless line of female rabbits, each one sandwiched between her daughter and her mother. We walk along the line of rabbits, backwards in time, examining them carefully like an inspecting general. As we pace the line, we’ll eventually notice that the ancient rabbits we are passing are just a little bit different from the modern rabbits we are used to. But the rate of change will be so slow that we shan’t notice the trend from generation to generation, just as we can’t see the motion of the hour hand on our watches – and just as we can’t see a child growing, we can only see later that she has become a teenager, and later still an adult. An additional reason why we don’t notice the change in rabbits from one generation to another is that, in any one century, the variation within the current population will normally be greater than the variation between mothers and daughters. So if we try to discern the movement of the ‘hour hand’ by comparing mothers with daughters, or indeed grandmothers with granddaughters, such slight differences as we may see will be swamped by the differences among the rabbits’ friends and relations gambolling in the meadows round about.

Nevertheless, steadily and imperceptibly, as we retreat through time, we shall reach ancestors that look less and less like a rabbit and more and more like a shrew (and not very like either). One of these creatures I’ll call the hairpin bend, for reasons that will become apparent. This animal is the most recent common ancestor (in the female line, but that is not important) that rabbits share with leopards. We don’t know exactly what it looked like, but it follows from the evolutionary view that it definitely had to exist.

Like all animals, it was a member of the same species as its daughters and its mother. We now continue our walk, except that we have turned the bend in the hairpin and are walking forwards in time, aiming towards the leopards (among the hairpin’s many and diverse descendants, for we shall continually meet forks in the line, where we consistently choose the fork that will eventually lead to leopards). Each shrewlike animal along our forward walk is now followed by her daughter. Slowly, by imperceptible degrees, the shrew-like animals will change, through intermediates that might not resemble any modern animal much but strongly resemble each other, perhaps passing through vaguely stoat-like intermediates, until eventually, without ever noticing an abrupt change of any kind, we arrive at a leopard.

Various things must be said about this thought experiment. First, we happen to have chosen to walk from rabbit to leopard, but I repeat that we could have chosen porcupine to dolphin, wallaby to giraffe or human to haddock. The point is that for any two animals there has to be a hairpin path linking them, for the simple reason that every species shares an ancestor with every other species: all we have to do is walk backwards from one species to the shared ancestor, then turn through a hairpin bend and walk forwards to the other species.

Fortunately, Dawkins' thought experiment is so elegantly written that we really don't need CGI to grasp it, but then again, we have the pesky problem of how to get that 40% of Americans to pick up a Dawkins book.

There are some other really wonderful (and accessible) books by less-controversial figures, such as Jerry Coyne, Sloane Wilson, and many others.

We also have a rising number of graphic artists serving up some pretty amazing works. There's Jay Hosler's Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth and Michael Keller and Nicole Rager Fuller's Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species: A Graphic Adaptation.

And then we have Darryl Cunningham's forthcoming book, Science Stories, which will feature a version of an amazing comic strip about Evolution (he says the version on his blog is a beta version).

What I love about Cunningham's comic is his approach from the perspective of two people who are discussing evolution. One doesn't understand it, or does not accept it, and the other is very comfortable addressing these questions (all very common questions that we see time and time again). Cunningham allows us to learn about evolution through doubt, which is really how it works in real life for so many Americans.

I hope that Cunningham's strip receives a lot of attention, and hopefully reaches a much wider audience. At least until we have that CGI IMAX 3D movie I've been dreaming about.

Here are a few frames to enjoy. They are excerpted from the middle of the piece, to demonstrate his approach. Please visit his blog for the evolution comic from start to finish:




Again, I urge you to check out the entire piece.

Prince: 'It's Fun Being in Islamic Countries'

The Purple One, who once sang the praises of a woman masturbating with a magazine in a hotel lobby is now singing the praises of women who are forced to wear burqas.

From his exclusive interview with The Guardian:
"It's fun being in Islamic countries, to know there's only one religion. There's order. You wear a burqa. There's no choice. People are happy with that." When asked about the fate of those unhappy with having no choice, he replied:  "There are people who are unhappy with everything. There's a dark side to everything."

Prince began embracing religion around 2001, when he became a Jehovah's Witness (a move that many fans think ruined his music).
"I was anti-authoritarian but at the same time I was a loving tyrant," he told the Guardian. "You can't be both. I had to learn what authority was. That's what the Bible teaches. The Bible is a study guide for social interaction.

"If I go to a place where I don't feel stressed and there's no car alarms and airplanes overhead, then you understand what noise pollution is. Noise is a society that has no God, that has no glue. We can't do what we want to do all the time. If you don't have boundaries, what then?"
The full interview will appear on The Guardian's Film and Music section on Friday.

6.22.2011

Miss USA - The Evolution Monologues

As you may have heard by now, the winner of the Miss USA Pageant, Alyssa Campanella (Miss California), was one of only two out of 51 contestants who fully affirmed their belief in evolution and that it should be taught in schools (Alida D’Angona, Miss Massachusetts was the other).

Via HuffPo:
The rest either confused the question with evolution of species (versus the intelligent design debate), or stated that they thought both should be taught in school, according to Scientific American.

Campanella and Alida D’Angona from Massachusetts were the only two contestants to state that they fully believed in evolution.

There had been concern, leading up to the pageant, that questions about evolution were too controversial and caused undue anxiety.

For those of you who are interested in the pre-recorded answers provided by each of the 51 delegates, the video has been released for your viewing pleasure.

You may wish to encase your skull in foam before watching. Some answers may lead to banging head on desk.



Ten Insane Things About Rick Perry

"Hi, I'm Rick Perry and I'm insane."
1. He goes jogging in the morning packing a Ruger .380 with laser sights and loaded with hollow point bullets.

2. He wears a pair of cowboy boots emblazoned with the words "Freedom" and "Liberty."

3. He believes the economic crisis is happening for a purpose; so that the nation will return to biblical principles and free us from our slavery to the government.

4. As the gulf oil spill, which Perry stated was an "act of God," entered its third month, he issued a proclamation calling on his constituents to pray to "ask [God] for his merciful intervention...in this time of crisis." Dear God, please stop the leak that you started. Amen.

5. He stated,  "Homosexuality is about sex. Do you agree?...Well, then why don’t they call it something else?" apparently forgetting that heterosexuality also contains 'sex,' and that in both cases 'sex' is referring to gender, and not 'doing it.'

6.  When asked to provide some statistics that show abstinence works, he replied, “I’m just going to tell you from my own personal life. Abstinence works,” apparently forgetting that his abstinence-focused sex-ed state ranks ranks third in the number of teen pregnancies and first in repeat teen pregnancies.

7. He stated that Intelligent Design was a "valid scientific theory."

8. In April, as Texas fought several wildfires, Perry issued a proclamation for a 3-day "Prayer For Rain." As Native American writer Sherman Alexie said, "Do you know why the Indian rain dances always worked? Because the Indians would keep dancing until it rained."

9. His 'Response' prayer rally, which he describes as "a non-denominational, apolitical Christian prayer meeting," is powered by politically active Religious Right individuals and groups who are hell-bent on injecting their extremist religious views, including degrading views of non-Christians and the LGBT population, into American politics.

10. He's a hair-petter:



6.21.2011

Ali G's 'Science Rap'

From the mind that brought us the wonderful Symphony of Science mash-ups, featuring Carl Sagan, Stephen Hawking, and many other great minds, comes Ali G's 'The Science Rap.' Not quite as wise as Hawking and Sagan, Ali G nonetheless shares their curiosity about the world around him.



Spirits and Souls

The latest Calamities of Nature comic dovetails nicely with Sean M. Carroll's recent comments on the soul and the afterlife.



Jerusalem 'Dog Stoning' Story Untrue, Says Court

Remember the story of the dog who was sentenced to death by stoning by rabbis in Jerusalem?

Untrue, according to the Beth Din financial court.

“There is no basis for stoning dogs or any other animal in the Jewish religion, not since the days of the Temple or Abraham.

“The female dog found a seat in the corner of the court. And the children were delighted by it; there were hundreds outside the court. They are used to seeing stray cats but most have never seen a dog before. The only action we took was to dial the number of the Jerusalem Municipality to get the people in charge to take it away.

“There was no talk of reincarnation, a lawyer has never been mentioned, either now or 20 years ago, and there was no stoning. Such inventions are a kind of blood libel, and we wonder why the inventor of the story did not continue to describe how we collected the blood of the dog to make our matzah.”

It's unclear how the original story came to be, but when it was picked up by news sources, it quickly enraged people around the globe, becoming one of the BBC's 'Most Read' items, and generating nearly 2,000 comments on Yahoo! News.

6.20.2011

One Nation (Under God) Indivisible

NBC sure stepped in it this weekend when they omitted the words "Under God" (twice, even!) from a pre-U.S. Open video montage.

Clip of the broadcast below:



As one would assume, the network was swamped with complaints, tweets, and social media tirades. Before the broadcast was over, NBC's Dan Hicks served up an apology:

"It was our intent to begin the coverage of this U.S. Open championship with a feature that captured the patriotism of our national championship being held in our nation's capital for the third time," Hicks said. "Regrettably, a portion of the Pledge of Allegiance that was in that feature was edited out. It was not done to upset anyone, and we'd like to apologize to those of you who were offended by it."

I am sure that among those complaining, there were many who believed this to be just one more example of America's core values disintegrating -- all part of Obama's secular, anti-American agenda.

We can't know for sure (yet) exactly why the omission occurred (it was pretty obvious), or why the final edit was approved (not that it shouldn't have been approved), but we do know that this particular edit of the Pledge was the truest version that has been broadcast by a network television network in quite some time.

I would suggest that those who complained also pick up a phone and contact Warner Brothers to decry Porky Pig's omission in 1939. Pardon me. He didn't omit it. The words hadn't been added yet.



6.19.2011

Miss USA: Some Worry Evolution Questions Cause Anxiety and Compromise

The Christian Post has a piece about the controversy over asking Miss USA pageant contestants controversial questions, including those about evolution.

Agents and pageant directors believe that forcing contestants to answer questions about controversial topics, such as evolution, causes undue anxiety and intimidation.

Past contestants, however, haven't been particularly shy about their views on evolution:
While many contestants expressed an openness to include evolution in public schools, one contestant – Miss Kentucky Kia Ben-et Hampton – said that evolution should not be taught, alluding to the differing opinions expressed in the scientific and religious communities.

Miss Mississippi Keeley Patterson discredited evolution in her answer.  "I think evolution should be taught as what it is; it's a theory, so I don't think it should be taught as fact."

A few other contestants including Miss Nebraska Haley Jo Herold, Miss Alaska Jessica Chuckran and Miss New Hampshire LacyJane Folger answered affirmatively, but expressed their desire to see the other side – such as creationism – given equal time in the classroom.

Chuckran said in her answer,  "I think it's necessary that evolution is taught in schools ... However, personally, I do not believe in evolution. I believe that each one of us were (sic) created for a purpose by God and that just gives my life so much more direction and meaning."

Miss North Carolina Brittany York responded,  "I think it's great to get both sides of the story. I'm personally a Christian so I believe the Bible's version but you can't push opinions or beliefs on children so they need to know every side that's out there. So yes, I do believe that (evolution) should be taught but so should the other side of the story."

If there were ever a perfect vehicle for showcasing the ridiculousness of evolution-denial, it's the Miss USA pageant. We learned so much about maps from Miss Teen South Carolina in 2007. Sarah Palin, with her creative interpretation of the Paul Revere ride, appears to still have quite a bit of pageant blood running through her veins.

I don't mean to be so hard on pageant contestants. I realize that many of these women are intelligent, strong, and are competing because they want to compete. But I also realize that many of them have been indoctrinated as young children.

The concept of creationism, or Intelligent Design, is also a product of indoctrination. If a child were to grow up without hearing the fantastical stories of a 7-day creation of the earth, a man and woman forged from mud and bone, and a global flood, there would be no point in their lives in which it would be necessary, or wise, to accept those stories as true.  There are no credible universities that do not teach evolution as the bedrock of modern biology. There are no credible universities that teach creationism, or Intelligent Design as a plausible theory. And after all, evolution is only a theory. Like gravity. Not that many of these creationist beauty pageant contestants are pursuing a career in the life sciences -- good luck to those who are.

So, I say, let the contestants continue to wax philosophical on the topic of evolution. It's hilarious.

"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions." - Thomas Jefferson

Bill Maher: 'Rick Perry's Solution to America's Problems: 'Yee Haw, Jesus Take the Wheel''