Thursday, October 30, 2014

#1194: Bonnie Tarantino

Bonnie Tarantino is a faith healer whose faith healing is based on Eastern mystical beliefs rather than Christianity. Due to rampant orientalism the fact that the faith healing is Eastern rather than medieval Western somehow makes it more respectable among certain people, even though it is based on the same principles of vitalism, alchemy, and religious fluffery, and just as remote from anything resembling a foundation in reality or evidence. In Tarantino’s case, she uses the titles Melchizedek practitioner (no reliable link found – this is serious stuff), holographic sound healer (no, it doesn’t), and an Usui and Karuna Reiki Master. None of it works, and Tarantino, like the others, has no evidence whatsoever that any of it works.

As such, she is really a run-of-the mill crackpot altmed practitioner. But Tarantino’s career illustrates a really, truly insidious and scary trend: the inroads that quackery has made into academic medicine. Despite her disregard to any value associated with education, science or the search for truth Tarantino is the deranged Saruman of the University of Maryland School of Medicine Center for Integrative Medicine, and haunts the halls of the University of Maryland R. Adam Cowley Shock Trauma Center offering her services to unsuspecting patients – “preys on people in difficult situations”, as some might put it (and I wouldn’t be in a position to disagree). The Center apparently also offers e.g. acupuncture, homeopathy, craniosacral therapy, and reflexology (for instance in the form of the services of one Jean Wehner, who offers Reflexology, Life Coaching & Reiki).

Diagnosis: There is no way around the conclusion that you should be wary of a medical practitioner with an education from the University of Maryland. But the problem is a general one. The infestation is already a pandemic.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

#1193: Nancy Ann Tappe

Indigo children are children whose auras are indigo in color. That allegedly means that they are somehow aliens or part alien or something and don’t have autism spectrum disorders or attention deficit disorder or anything like those darned doctors might say because they are close-minded. The term “indigo child” was introduced by psychic and aura reader Nancy Ann Tappe, who maintained that “The Indigo label describes the energy pattern of human behavior which exists in over 95% of the children born in the last 10 years … This phenomena [sic] is happening globally and eventually the Indigos will replace all other colors.” (Note the delectable use of “energy pattern”). The concept was further spelled out by our old friend Lee Carroll and his Kryon gang, according to whom indigo children are somehow a next step in human evolution – though since the rest of us are presently unable to recognize them for their true potential, they end up getting classified as attention-deficit instead.

According to Peggy Day and Susan Gale, authors of Psychic Children: A Sign of Our Expanding Awareness (stop for a moment to really take in that title) the arrival of indigo children was foretold by Edgar Cayce, which is a claim it is in practice often hard to argue with for reasons not having to do with what Cayce actually said. Robert Gerard, who runs the Oughten House Foundation, Inc. and sells angel cards, believes – as explained in his book Emissaries from Heaven, that his daughter is an Indigo Child and that “[m]ost Indigos see angels and other beings in the etheric.” There is something almost infinitely sad about that claim.

Gerard contributed, as did Tappe, to the important collection The Indigo Children, where the connection between children diagnosed as having ADD or ADHD and the indigo auras signaling “a new kind of evolution of humanity” was explained hypothesized asserted. Emotion and wishful thinking play central roles in the arguments, and it isn’t hard to see why “my child does not have ADD; she/he has special abilities and is further evolved than the rest of the children” might seem appealing to some. That does, emphatically, not make Tappe and Gerard the good guys.

More recently, the New Age movement has introduced the idea of crystal children, who have “a crystal-colored aura”, though it has yet to offer an unequivocal definition, partially one assumes because “crystal-colored” is a bit tricky to cash out. Crystal children are even more peaceful and magical, and have greater psychic abilities, than indigo children, and they start talking late because they communicate telepathically. Jesus might have been a crystal child (the word “Christ” is afterall like the word “crystal,” sort of). There may also be rainbow children, at least according to Doreen Virtue, whom we will have a chance to revisit later.

It should be mentioned that says that “just in case you heard otherwise from other ‘indigo’ sources, the designated word ‘Indigo’ has nothing to do with the color of an aura! It is the result of scientific observations by a woman who has the brain disorder called synesthesia.” That woman would be Nancy Ann Tappe. Her scientific observations consist of aura readings, psychic readings and getting lost in metaphorical descriptions of her own imaginations.

Jenny McCarthy used to believe that she was an indigo and her son was an even more evolved crystal child (she even ran the website Indigo Moms), until she decided that her son was vaccine damaged instead. Another self-declared indigo child is Andrew Basiago who can travel in time with the dolphins.

Diagnosis: Though abysmally crazy, Tappe and her ilk also conveys a sense of deep sadness. Indeed, the whole, hysterically insance fluff carries an aura of desperate tragedy; although it is easy to see why their claims may be appealing to some, their efforts are in the long run not going to lead to anything good.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

#1192: William Tam

Hak-Shing William “Bill” Tam is Executive Director of the San Francisco-based Traditional Family Coalition. Tam was very heavily involved in the proposition 8 trial, partially because Tam believes that legalization of gay marriage would lead directly to the legalization of pedophilia because this was, as confirmed by his imagination, the next item on that infamous “gay agenda.” According to Tam, San Francisco was even in 2010 already “under the rule of homosexuals.” So who is behind this travesty? “Satan is working on our youths. If we and our churches don’t do our parts, we will certainly lose our kids. They’ll one day surrender to Satan.” But of course.

During the trials Tam made several novel claims, including alleging that homosexuals were 12 times more likely to molest children, and that if Prop 8 did not pass “one by one, other states would fall into Satan's hands.” He defended these writings primarily with the Bible, but when pressed for sources he also cited “the Internet.”

In the end Tam begged out of the trial, claiming he was afraid of retaliation, despite having spoken at innumerable public rallies and expressed his views in public and on TV hundreds of times.

Diagnosis: Numerous people like Tam out there, of course, and they can’t all get their own entries. We’ll do our best to cover a representative sample, though.

Monday, October 27, 2014

#1191: Tom Tam

The woo is everywhere and can have a strong influence on the weak-minded. The range of idiotic bullshit you can subject yourself to is almost endless, yet the Tong Ren technique, an “unholy alliance of acupuncture and voodoo”, remains among the more quaint of options. Yes. Tom Tam, its inventor, taps not on you, but on a voodoo doll representing you, and this tapping, along with “intent”, enables him to treat you of cancer, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, and other diseases, as well as emotional problems and weight loss. Actually, he even claims to be able to treat chemotherapy side effects, surgery side effects, autoimmune disorders, and thyroid disease, and you don’t even need to be present – like Pat Robertson, Tam can heal you over the telephone.

How does it work? Well, Tam claims that it is not faith healing, since he isn’t affiliated with a particular faith. It is allegedly not even mysterious. “My belief in Tong Ren healing is associated with the philosophy of the collective unconscious and the power of the mind. […] When a group comes together to form a collective unconscious, as in healing meditation, this collective mind can become healing power. […],” though that qualifies as “not mysterious” only to the extent that vapid, incoherent rubbish isn’t “mysterious”. “In Tong Ren Therapy we use a regular plastic acupuncture model to form the healing image. The acupuncture model becomes an energetic representation of the patient’s body. By placing the needles in the appropriate spots on the model and connecting the mind with our collective unconscious, the practitioner can give a patient a treatment. […] Just as light shining through a slide will display an image, the Chi directed to the patient is modified by the image of the acupuncture model with needles inserted at specific points.” In other words, it’s faith healing, pure and simple. But Eastern faith healing. And it is all about balancing the humeurs, just like medieval alchemists believed, but calling it a “means to balance the patient’s Chi,” makes it sound trendier.

And just to make sure his journey to the crackpot side is complete, he throws in the … quantum. That’s right. And no, he doesn’t understand quantum mechanics, but neither, presumably, does his audience, so to Tam, quantum energy just is an appeal to vibrating metaphysical spirits that can justify exactly what he wants to say. Then there is the claim “Western” doctors aren’t interested in Tong Ren because they can’t understand it or sell it and there’s “no economic benefit” to Tong Ren and “all medicine is political”, which should lead you to ask how Tam makes a living off of it. He also has testimonials.

But apparently the technique has gained some popularity. If you are ever in the Detroit area, for instance, you can drop by the De’Spa Elite (owned by one Carolyn Hopkins), and for just $75 for a 50 minute intervention, acupuncturist Linda Kent will give you a full Tong Ren procedure (apparently forgetting that there is “no economic benefit”). According to Kent, “energy medicine is the new medicine for this century,” which makes one wonder why it sounds like a combo of voodoo and exactly what mysticists believed and did in medieval times.

Diagnosis: Everything woo and shiny in one. And yes, it is religious fundamentalism – with a friendlier face, perhaps, but in a similar manner a threat to human well-being and civilized co-existence.  

Sunday, October 26, 2014

#1190: Stacy Swimp

Stacy Swimp is a an aggressively anti-gay fundie minister from Michigan and founder of “Revive Alive, Flint, Michigan.” Like other fundie anti-gay activists, Swimp likes to say incredibly stupid things, and appears to believe that he’s fighting for “religious freedom” (no, he hasn’t thought very seriously about it). “We need to make sure that we are doing everything we can to stop them from amending our civil rights bill to include this civil rights language, or my friends, freedom as we know it will no longer exist,” says Swimp. I think the emphasis is on freedom as we know it; that is, Swimp’s freedom to impose his views on others and be allowed to discriminate based on his hatred and bigotry under the guise of religion. He didn’t react very coherently to the Michigan marriage ruling either, claiming for instance that it ruled marriage “unconstitutional”, and joining Roland A. Caldwell and Lennel Caldwell in arguing that civil rights should not be upheld by the courts if it conflicts with the opinions of the majority (no, they aren’t very good at thinking). Also, the bill “legalizes pedophilia”, added Swimp, just in case you didn’t know, which you probably didn't.

To make sure he has inanity well covered, Swimp also claims that gay marriage – “enemies of God” are behind it – is going to bring about the end times, just like in Noah’s day. Also, gay marriage will lead to “broken families” and “escalated crime,” and homosexuality is “bondage” that “leads to destruction and death”. He doesn’t elaborate on what he thought the causal mechanisms might be, or the data gathering process that led him to draw this conclusion.

Diagnosis: It is kind of sad that people like Swimp are currently leading the fight against civil rights, but at least he makes sure that he backs up his campaign with the stupidest possible arguments. Ridiculous clod.