Oh, joy: new gurus

This article by Yvette d’Entremont is a bit discouraging: she gives a list of the usual dorkadonkulous fraudsters, like Joseph Marcola and Deepak Chopra and David Avocado Wolfe, but she also alerts us to the new loonies.

So now I’ve heard of Tracy Anderson, unfortunately.

The latest in a long line of bleach blond, tanned skinned, threateningly perky health revolutionaries Hollywood has spat forth is Tracy Anderson, pint-sized abomination of a trainer to the stars. In a home workout video industry rife with the physical prowess of everyone from Jane Fonda to Hugh Hefner’s ex-girlfriends, Tracy Anderson, at the very least, sweats sometimes.

She’s trained the who’s who of beautiful bodies — Gwyneth, J-Lo, Madonna — and isn’t that evidence that her method works?

And my image of Jessica Alba is permanently ruined. Jessica Alba, the actress?

Yes, indeed, Jessica Alba, who gave birth to a baby and then decided that she had also birthed a PhD in toxicology. While everyone else is trying to keep up with the Joneses by merely buying the latest trendy kale laced baby food, Alba mommed harder than anyone else by founding The Honest Company. She’s been scaring mothers sh*tless ever since with her hodgepodge of chemiphobic non-sense.

The Honest Company provides a handful of organic, non-GMO, gluten free, dragon-free, delivered-by-unicorn products that you need to keep your baby alive, in one piece, and moderately non-crispy. Baby formula, diapers, and non-toxic sunscreen are a few of their products available to the discerning parent.

I’m also learning that being a dishonest fraud is profitable, and that they are proliferating.

Tim Kaine?

I’m reading the news about Hillary Clinton’s pick for a VP.

Hillary Clinton has chosen Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine to be her running mate, turning to a steady and seasoned hand in government to fill out the Democratic ticket, she announced Friday.

I thought that was Clinton’s reputation: steady and seasoned.

It may be an anti-establishment year, but Clinton’s running mate is an insider: A senator and former governor from the critical battleground of Virginia and a former chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

After a campaign in which Bernie Sanders gave her a strong run for the nomination, she picks the establishment guy. OK.

Kaine, 58, has long been seen as a seasoned and safe choice for Clinton, who could help shore up support among white working-class voters.

Bored now.

He went to Harvard law school, but before graduating served a year as a missionary in Honduras.

It was an experience that cemented his Catholic faith and strengthened his fluency in Spanish.

There’s nothing there to get me enthused, that’s for sure.

Advisers to Clinton see Kaine as a stable force on the bottom of the ticket, foregoing the allure of a pick that could provide more star power in favor of one they are hoping will be void of drama

Oh, jebus. So bored! Even the news stories are emphasizing his lack of pizazz.

Safe safe safe safe safe safe safe safe. I guess it’s one way to run the campaign, and it might very well work…but it’s really going against the grain of the political impetus this year.

I guess she figures all the reasonable people are already planning to vote for her, having no choice in the matter, so she is going to avoid taking any risks at all.

Another factor:

Clinton’s running mate is a catholic “personally against abortion, but…” writes informed consent and parental consent restrictions against the practice. He favors deregulating banks and businesses.


Ugh. Evolution doesn’t work this way.

When I was growing up, it was quite common for pop-science to illustrate the evolutionary future of humanity: it was all big bulbous heads and spindly limbs and skinny little bodies. It was the kind of thing that probably played a role in shaping the conventional image of what extraterrestrials would look like, since obviously they would be more ‘advanced’ than humans.

It was all nonsense, of course, but that kind of thing is tough to shake off — almost as tough as ‘great chain of being’ fantasies, which seem to resonate with our naturally selfish idea of a biological destiny.

Now these pop-sci delusions have gotten moderately more sophisticated. Meet Project Graham, an awful, but very slickly produced, demo of the future of humanity if we were selected for car-crash survival.


So he’s got this massive double-walled cranium with a small brain suspended by rubbery ligaments inside it, air-bag cushions built into his ribs, a face thickly padded with fat, and knees that can bend side to side. Apparently, we’re going to have a kind of Mad Max future where the human race is going to be intensely culled by a lives of near constant collisions.

I detest this sort of thing. I can sort of see that the point is to educate people about the damage inflicted by car crashes, but it’s doing it badly — I’m not going to be terrified into driving more cautiously by the thought that my many-times-great-grandchildren will be uglified — and it’s doing it by inserting more misconceptions about how evolution works into the general public.

Also, if the selection pressure from driving were that severe, I know what the future of humankind would look like: a population of pedestrians, and people sensible enough to stay out of those death-traps on the road.

Statistics don’t matter

I read the transcript of Trump’s nomination acceptance speech. It was a grisly horror that painted a picture of an America that is a dystopian horror right now, which will be magically and instantaneously transformed on the very day he becomes president, and it was full of lies. The responses (and here’s a typical one) are all about how he twisted statistics dishonestly to make his rhetorical points.

I hate to say this, but the facts don’t matter. You can declare that unemployment rates are down, but those people who are out of work don’t care — and they’re the people Trump is yelling at. You can point out that he’s lying when he says crime is rising, but the people who have been mugged don’t care that they’re a statistic, and they’ll listen to Trump. Worse, people who haven’t been mugged will have been watching the crime stories on their local television station and Fox News, and have the perception that there is all kinds of lawlessness going on around them. Throwing national statistics at people who are counting one, two, many isn’t going to change their minds.

Furthermore, as Trump so ably demonstrates, all too often statistics are used not to identify a truth, but to justify a preconception. I was recently cooly informed that Muslims commit 98% of all terrorist attacks…never mind that the FBI has determined that 94% of all US terror attacks have been by non-Muslims. The guy is convinced that Islam is the source of all evil in the world, and he has a number that reassures him that his opinion is correct.

So here’s our terrifying problem: our little homegrown fascist is tapping into the fear and anxieties about their future of a significant number of people in the country. These fears are partly legitimate, and partly the product of a media that has been stoking them for years. You don’t reassure individuals by telling them that the average person is better off or that the trend lines are all rising — they don’t give a damn about averages when their problem is personal. In fact, waving tables of numbers and graphs at people to tell them their grievances are false is going to be more enraging than reassuring. And meanwhile, Trump will lie about the statistics and validate their gut feelings and pander to every prejudice they’ve got, and guess who they’re going to want to believe?

We’ll counter that by dumping a pile of actuarial tables on them. Yeah, that’ll work.

I’ll also point out that we’re seeing that policy doesn’t matter, either. For years, people have been voting against their own objective self-interest because demagogues have effectively whipped them into a froth of fear over religion, or guns, or abortion. See, for instance, Brownback’s Kansas. Progressive policies are almost always more appealing to the people, when presented without a label…but the media have effectively attached a lot of the hated positions to the Democrats (and rightly so — progressives should support women’s autonomy, minority rights, and oppose war and violence). Witness also Ivanka Trump’s bizarre speech at the RNC yesterday: she basically promoted the Democratic party platform and tried to attach it to her father. You can say he’ll do anything, and the disgruntled voters won’t care.

What are we to do? Data doesn’t matter, policy doesn’t matter. Politics is personal.

I see two strategies (I know there are more). The first necessary step is to recognize that the unhappy people who want Strong Man Trump to cure all their ills actually have legitimate problems — you cannot wave them away with a chart. So you can try to win them over by actually addressing their concerns, which would be ideal, except for the fact that one of their concerns is driven by raw, naked racism. Or you can simply write off that portion of the population as a regressive, deluded mess, and hope that the remainder are sufficiently numerous and motivated to vote, so you can get real political progress despite the unhappiness of that minority (which, if you’re a real progressive, you’ll then try to alleviate).

I think we should definitely be very afraid. The fascism is openly unmasked, and we’re facing a serious risk that it could be victorious in a few months. I dread waking up to newspapers that look like this.


Oh, damn. I did. That’s the front page of the Minneapolis Star Tribune this morning, featuring Great Leader surrounded by flags. And this is my nightmare.

Marked for death

We have this lovely old slippery elm in our backyard — it’s huge and thickly branched and towers over our house. This evening we noticed that sometime during the day, we had a visitor.


That is not a good sign. We’ll have to call the tree doctor tomorrow and get a diagnosis.