Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)
Monday, January 16, 2017
NNATE: Katie beats a (legal) dead horse, while Loony Lenny rants on
I've modified some of the text in this post to clarify some points about the Court of Appeals decision. ~ CC, 18 January 2017
As you may know if you've been following this
blog for a few years, one of my favorite slogans, and a constant
theme that runs throughout many of the posts, is: "No neat and tidy endings," or NNaTE, as my friend Julie Daniel abbreviates it. In
Scamworld, as in most of real life, there are very rarely neat
endings to any story, or to any scam as the case may be. Some
stories and scams just go on and on and on.
So perhaps a group of three appellate court judges were being a
tad optimistic when they began their December 29, 2016 opinion,
regarding some business interests of imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau (aka KT, aka
Katie) with the suggestion that their decision marked the close
of a very long chapter. As the Chicago Tribune reported earlier this month:
Even getting sent to prison for a
decade in 2014 by a Chicago judge for lying didn't shut the
smooth-talking pitchman up, or put an end to his seemingly
inexhaustible legal battles.
But now — 18 years after he was first pursued by the
Federal Trade Commission for his fraudulent claims —
Trudeau's case is finally toast, U.S. Court of Appeals judges
"This decision marks the end of litigation about Kevin
Trudeau's frauds — or so we hope," Seventh Circuit
Judge Frank Easterbrook
wrote in an opinion published last week.
The decision wasn't whether or not to keep
Katie in prison, where he is serving ten years on charges of
criminal contempt related to deceptive claims in infomercials for
his diet book, Weight Loss Secrets They Don't Want You to
Know About. That conviction and sentence have already been
appealed, and he lost the appeal last year around the time of his
birthday, as reported on this blog.
Never a quitter, Katie took his fight all the way to the Supreme
Court of the United States -- or, rather, he tried to. That was a wash too. As far as
I know, SCOTUS didn't even bother with an explanation as to why
they didn't care to hear his case; they just issued this:
But the December 29 decision concerned one of Katie's
dozens of companies, Website Solutions, which along with his
other assets whose existence was known to the court, was put
under receivership in 2013. At some point Website Solutions hired
their own law firms to represent it in responding to Federal
Trade Commission (FTC) demands to turn over business records, and
those firms later demanded that they be paid from the
receivership funds. The district court determined that because
Website Solutions was, as the business records revealed, indeed
part of Trudeau's assets and therefore subject to receivership,
any and all profits from that business must be used for
restitution to the customers who'd been scammed by the
After the receiver had collected about $8 million it submitted a
plan to the district court to distribute the funds to victims. The court approved the distribution plan, and
also determined that Website Solution's law firms -- Hogan Marren
Babbo & Rose, Ltd.; and Faruki Ireland & Cox, P.L.L. --
were not entitled to compensation from the receivership
estate. All that money was slated to go to victims, not lawyers.
The law firms appealed the denial, and their appeal was in turn
denied on December 29.
I found it amusing that the appellate judges also suggested a
couple of strategies that Website Solutions' law firms might have
used to at least give themselves and their client a fighting chance. From Bloomberg BNA's January 5 article on the matter:
The court noted that neither the firms
nor Website Solutions sought court approval for the firms’
engagement or their “proposed course of conduct,” and
that ultimately their actions were more obstructive than
helpful to the receiver’s efforts.
The court also pointed out that the firms may have sought
recovery of fees related to complying with the receiver’s
discovery requests under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure,
Rule 45(d)(3)(C)(ii). That section permits a court under
certain circumstances to order reasonable fees for complying
with a subpoena request.
You can of course find links to many earlier Katie legal
documents on this very Whirled -- docs
related to his civil, criminal, appeals, and bankruptcy cases --
but if you don't feel like wading through old blog posts, try this link to find previous
documents related to Trudeau's appeals. Just search for
"Kevin Trudeau" and you'll find a few decisions that in
their own way helped pave Katie's road to Federal sleepaway camp.
I should note, as I have on previous posts, that whether it has
finally come to a close or not, the entire 18-plus years of legal
actions by the FTC (and, later, the U.S. Attorney) against Kevin
Trudeau were for various and sundry frauducts and
flopportunities, but not for the biggest scam of all,
the Global Information Network, or
GIN. As I've written before, thousands of people were bilked out
of millions of dollars during GIN's heyday, and although a
reading of some of the many court documents makes it pretty
obvious that Trudeau's actions regarding GIN had some influence
on the judges' decisions, the court actions that sent Trudeau to
prison were not directly related to GIN at all. People who were
scammed by GIN and unable to get a refund a few years ago, but
are still expecting some sort of compensation, will probably have
a long, long wait.
Of course this doesn't mean that there won't be any
lawsuits about Katie's mega-scam, so for that and other reasons
those circuit judges were justified in adding, "or so we
hope," to their speculation that their decision marked an
end to Trudeau-related litigation. For if there's one thing you
learn on this beat, it's that you just can't keep a good scammer
down, and indeed the Chicago Trib article I linked to
above noted as much:
On Facebook last week, Trudeau's
backers continued to solicit donations to his legal defense
fund from his 29,000 followers, promising them they could
"DOUBLE YOUR MONEY."
And in a pre-Christmas message presumably relayed through
supporters from his cell at the Montgomery, Alabama federal
prison camp, Trudeau told his fans he would "share 2
secrets that will give you success in every area of your
If they followed his advice, the convicted fraudster,
formerly of Oak Brook, wrote, they would "vibrate
frequencies that will allow you to create the life you
The article also mentioned Trudeau's boasts
about predicting Donald Trump's victory, a matter that I wrote about last July (back when there still seemed to be a chance that Trump
might lose). The Trib writer duly noted that Trudeau had
written that he was confident about a Trump victory because
"the overwhelming energy of the people is consistent with
Not this people, I hasten to add, and not tens of
millions of other people, but I quibble. Not surprisingly many of
Trudeau's fans are also Trump fans, and some have expressed hopes
that Trump will pardon Trudeau once he gets in office. The Trib
writer noted that one of the folks on the short list for
Trump's Supreme Court pick is none other than Diane Sykes, one of the judges
who signed off on the December 29 decision. Of course that
doesn't rule out a presidential pardon. Turds of a feather, you
Kevin has a legal right to a defense
fund. The Law firm that has been defending him is Winston and
Strawn LLP. Proceeds from the fund go directly to the LAW
As you can see either by following the link above
or looking at the screen grabs below, a few folks responded,
mostly with words of support, on the day the post was published, or shortly thereafter.
But early today (January 16), little Lenny Coldwell, cancer
quack, fraudster and bigot extraordinaire, jumped
in (under one of his phony names, "Eyn Rand") to slam
Katie and promote himself, repeatedly and semi-literately.
Very simply, if you are in the US and want to be part of the Resistance, download this
guide to activism, Indivisible. You can do it here.
Indivisible was written by former congressional staffers who have
learned, from years of experience, the most (and least) effective ways to make Congress listen.
Stay peaceful, stay safe, and maybe I'll see you on the
Snopes "scandal" has fake-news and conspiracy mongers foaming at the mouth
So 2016 has come and gone, and what a trail of
wreckage it left. Today started out stormy in my neck of the
woods -- there's a 30-foot-long tree limb, knocked down by the
wind, in our backyard -- but it turned into a brilliant and
lovely day, as if to proclaim, "Hey, it's the very first
Monday of a brand new year, and the world should look fresh and
new and bright and happy!" But in reality there is no such
thing as a clean slate just because the calendar turns over to a
new year. It doesn't work that way. In reality Leonard Cohen is still dead
(as are Princess Leia and her mom and a host of others). And even
worse, Donald J. Trump is still the
But let's get down to business. 2016 also stands out as the year
that fake news finally came into
its own (which arguably played a part propelling the Orange
Blowfish to electoral victory). And the mention of fake news
brings us to the point of this post.
On several occasions on past blog posts and on
Facebook, I have cited the fact-checking/mythbusting site Snopes.com, and have defended it against its many
critical-thinking-impaired detractors who proudly and defiantly
proclaim that (1) they never trust anything they read on Snopes;
and (2) anyone who does believe or cite Snopes is a gullible
sheeple or an idiot. I have written that although I don't
consider Snopes infallible, even as I don't consider any source
infallible, I believe it to be a reliable source and a good
starting point for doing one's own research about silly social
media memes and too-bad-to-be-true Internet rumors.
Accordingly some folks might be wondering if some recent Snopes buzz --
regarding founders David and Barbara Mikkelson's highly
contentious divorce, David Mikkelson's remarriage to a former sex
worker, and a couple of Snopes fact checkers' political
affiliations, kinky proclivities and (oh, the horror!) pot
smoking -- constitutes an elephant-in-the-room situation
for my Whirled.
Indeed, there's a whole lot of what I see as completely
unjustified schadenfreude bubbling up in the fever swamps of the
alt-right and the conspiracy industry, some of whose true
believers have jeered at me and called me an idiot (or a paid
shill of George Soros/Hillary Clinton/the New World Order) for
being a Snopes fan. It's not a stretch to imagine some of them
snickering at me -- and at other Snopes supporters -- right about
I'm sorry to disappoint any detractors, but I welcome that
elephant and am more than happy to discuss it. The reason I
haven't addressed the issue before now is that I was preoccupied
with the holidaze, work deadlines and other stuff related to my
real life. Now that I have a bit of a breather, let's talk about
the Snopes "scandal" that has so many right-wing haters
and conspiracy nutcakes foaming at the mouth (and perhaps
secretly masturbating -- admit it, Lenny).
Anyway. The headline on the Snopes story is as lurid as one might
expect from The Fail:
EXCLUSIVE: Facebook 'fact checker' who will arbitrate on
'fake news' is accused of defrauding website to pay for
prostitutes - and its staff includes an escort-porn star and
'Vice Vixen domme'
As per its usual practice, The Fail precedes
the actual article with a bulleted list, for the benefit, I
suppose, of people who are in too much of a hurry, or too
reading-challenged, to wade through the typo-ridden main article:
Facebook has announced
plans to check for 'fake news' using a series of
organizations to assess whether stories are true
One of them is a website
called Snopes.com which claims to be one of the web's
'essential resources' and 'painstaking, scholarly and
It was founded by
husband-and-wife Barbara and David Mikkelson, who used a
letterhead claiming they were a non-existent society to
start their research
Now they are divorced -
with Barbara claiming in legal documents he embezzled
$98,000 of company money and spent it on 'himself and
In a lengthy and bitter
legal dispute he is claiming to be underpaid and
demanding 'industry standard' or at least $360,000 a year
The two also dispute
what are basic facts of their case - despite Snopes.com
saying its 'ownership' is committed to 'accuracy and
Snopes.com founder David
Mikkelson's new wife Elyssa Young is employed by the
website as an administrator
She has worked as an
escort and porn actress and despite claims website is
non-political ran as a Libertarian for Congress on a
'Dump Bush' platform
Its main 'fact checker'
is Kimberly LaCapria, whose blog 'ViceVixen' says she is
in touch with her 'domme side' and has posted on
Snopes.com while smoking pot
Now let me say right off that I am not
suggesting at all that The Fail made this up from whole cloth.
I'd been wondering for some time whatever happened to Barbara
Mikkelson, whose work from past years still appears on Snopes but
who is no longer named as one of the founders. I have no problem
believing that there was an acrimonious divorce between David and
Barbara (I'd heard some vague buzz about it some time ago), nor
am I particularly shocked that David Mikkelson took up with a
former sex worker who is now a website admin at Snopes. As for
one of the fact checkers being in touch with her "domme
side" and insinuating that she has smoked pot while posting
on Snopes.com... yawn. Would anyone be scandalized by a blogger
or journalist posting while enjoying a glass of wine?
The embezzlement accusations are more serious, but that's between
the Mikkelsons and their lawyers. And frankly I don't know enough
about the details of the case to make a comment. I'm not trying
to let Dave Mikkelson off the hook for anything, and if I were
going to take sides I'd be inclined to take sides with Barbara at
this point. But if you read The Fail's report you will notice
that they did not provide a link to the actual legal documents
that were cited in the piece, although they did display what
presumably are screen shots of snippets of said documents. So I
can't really address the documents or the conflicts they
supposedly describe with any authority. And neither can you, and
neither can the writers on any of the alt-right hate sites that
picked up the story, unless any of you have actually read all of
And the alt-right/conspiracy nutter sites did indeed take this
story and run, and run, and run with it.
Prostitutes for the
Presstitutes: SNOPES fact-checkers revealed to be actual whores,
fraudsters and deviant left-wing fetish bloggers
Naturally, Mikey inserted himself into the
Facebook recently announced it would
rely on SNOPES to “fact-check” news articles to make sure
Facebook operated with high integrity standards and full
transparency. In reality, the announcement was a
thinly-veiled attempt to censor independent
journalism by labeling real news “fake
news” with the help of all the left-wing (actual) whores
and fraudsters at SNOPES.
Now, Mikey's sites are prime examples of fake news, pseudo-science, conspiracy lunacy, dirty
SEO tricks and right-wing
propaganda (regarding the latter, so
much for political neutrality, which so many of the
Snopesophobes, including Adams, claim is missing from Snopes).
His Natural News site was once described by a blogger on the
Rational Wiki site as being the Daily Mail of Alternative Medicine. So it stands to reason that he might feel threatened
by Facebook's attempts to crack down on the phonies. But hey,
Mikey, you want "deviant?" You want "fraudster?" Have
you taken a look at your pudgy little pal Lenny? For that matter,
have you delved into the personal lives and private and public
failings of the "independent journalists" whom you
claim to be the real guardians of truth and morality? No, I didn't
But I digress. Where Natural News is concerned, it
seems that Snopes can give as good as it gets. So it's perfectly understandable that Mikey would hate
them so much.
Let's look at this a little more closely. First off, the
disagreements between two people involved in a rancorous divorce
do not necessarily invalidate those people's efforts in other
aspects of their lives. So The Fail's snarky bullet point (i.e.,
"The [Mikkelsons] also dispute what are basic facts of their
case - despite Snopes.com saying its 'ownership' is committed to
'accuracy and impartiality'") is irrelevant. Even if it is
true that Barbara and David Mikkelson can't agree on the
"basic facts" about their personal affairs, this does
not invalidate the fact-checking and mythbusting work done over
the years by the Mikkelsons, Kim LaCapria, or any other Snopes
And the "whore" that the right-wingers are jeering
about -- David Mikkelson's new wife, Elyssa Young -- is not a
fact-checker on Snopes; she is just an administrative assistant.
Not that being a sex worker would render someone incapable of
being a fact checker, but I think the haters are making much too
big a deal out of Young's position (ahem) at Snopes.
In fact The Fail seems to be making much too big a deal out of a
lot of things about Mikkelson's new bride. Take this bullet point
(please): "She has worked as an escort and porn actress and
despite claims website is non-political ran as a Libertarian for
Congress on a 'Dump Bush' platform."
Elyssa Young was an unsuccessful Libertarian candidate in 2004 --
nearly 13 years ago. But again, she was
not then and is not now (to my knowledge) a Snopes fact-checker.
And even if she had been, and assuming that she allowed her
Libertarian tendencies to influence her work, that would have
actually made the common allegation that Snopes has a
"liberal bias" even sillier. Libertarians may skew
liberal on certain social issues, but they're pretty much in sync
with the right wing and the Tea Party on everything else.
Then there's the much-criticized Kim LaCapria, who is often
described as the top fact-checker on Snopes. The alt-right haters
have long accused her of leftist tendencies, though quite a few
of her stories have debunked left-wing memes and have effectively
defended people such as Donald Trump. Now the haters are drooling
over the fact that she has some sexy web sites and that she
claimed to have posted on Snopes after smoking pot. Meh. LaCapria
clearly has a life apart from Snopes, and if that offends you,
hey, don't visit her web sites. If you think her work is affected
by her pot smoking and you don't trust her because of that, keep
in mind that her pieces on Snopes, like all the articles on the
site, provide links to other sources, so you can do further
research on your own. So c'mon, put down that bottle of bourbon,
Lenny, and learn to use the Internet for something besides
reinforcing your own biases.
The big but
I did find one critical piece about the Snopes
"scandal" that made a few valid points about Snopes and
its fact-checking methods. This article by Kalev Leetaru on Forbes.com is worth reading, although I think that Leetaru, like
other critics, made too big a deal out of Elyssa Young's past
political activities. I think he also reacted too strongly to
David Mikkelson's reluctance to divulge details of his personal
But at least Leetaru made an effort to reach out to Mikkelson,
and he made some excellent suggestions about how Snopes could
improve by being more forthcoming about its assessment process.
So while I don't expect either Barbara or David Mikkelson to air
all of their personal dirty laundry to the world, I do think that
there's room for improvement on Snopes.com.
Separating real fake news from fake
fake news I don't want to veer too far off-track from the
main point of this post, but since fake
news has become such a force, and
fighting fake news has now become a thing as well, and Snopes has
been front and center in that fight since long before "fake
news" became a trending topic, here's another piece that bears sharing. It's partly about how the fake-news perps and
believers have gone all Pee-Wee Herman ("I know you are, but
what am I?") on their accusers in the mainstream media.
supporters of President-elect Donald J. Trump
have also taken up the call. As reporters were walking out of
a Trump rally this month in Orlando, Fla., a man heckled them
with shouts of “Fake news!”
Until now, that term had been widely understood to refer to
fabricated news accounts that are meant to spread virally
online. But conservative cable and radio personalities, top
Republicans and even Mr. Trump himself, incredulous about suggestions that fake
stories may have helped swing the election, have appropriated
the term and turned it against any news they see as hostile
to their agenda.
In defining “fake news” so broadly and seeking to dilute
its meaning, they are capitalizing on the declining
credibility of all purveyors of information, one product of
the country’s increasing political polarization. And
conservatives, seeing an opening to undermine the mainstream
media, a longtime foe, are more than happy to dig the hole
And that's a pretty dangerous trend. I only
hope that Snopes can survive this latest round of attacks so it
can continue to be a force in the fight against fakery. We need you now more than ever, Snopes.
Carry it on
Snopes.com started out as a hobby on the old-school newsgroup
circuit -- in those ancient days before social media and really,
even before blogs -- and over the years it grew from there. It is
possible that at some level its founders may have always
considered it a hobby, albeit a lucrative hobby. But at some
point along the way Snopes managed to also become a legitimate
and much-cited source of information about misinformation,
perhaps surprising its founders more than anyone else. Yet to my
knowledge neither Barbara nor David Mikkelson ever pretended to
be infallible or to be experts in anything.
You might also be interested in this December 2015 Washington Post interview
with David Mikkelson, in which he
discusses, among other things, Snopes' role as a political
reporter and fact-checker. (Keep in mind that even though the vast majority of the right-wing bitching and whining and griping about Snopes is based on its political content, Snopes did not start out as a political site, and it still reports
on many topics besides politics.)
As far as I'm concerned, Snopes remains a legitimate source of
information, despite the allegations about hookers and pot
smoking and yes, even despite the allegations of David
Mikkelson's embezzlement. I hope the Mikkelsons get that latter
bit worked out soon and that they can get on with their lives.
Is Snopes a perfect source? Of course not. Is there room for
improvement? You bet (see Forbes.com article linked to above).
But let's separate the salacious from the serious, the voyeur
fodder from the valid criticism about Snopes' methods. Even
though in his private life David Mikkelson may be a complete
sleazeball, and although some of the Snopes "staff" may
be involved in kinky activities on their own time, Snopes, with
all of its imperfections and juicy non-scandals, still beats the
pants off of the army of alt-right wingnutters and misinformation
mongers such as Natural News, Breitbart, Alex Jones, WorldNut
Daily, The Daily Caller, Pamela Geller, Stormfront, Jeff Rense
and, of course, anything by Leonard Coldwell.
And one more point: I find it utterly astounding that many of the
same people who are so scandalized by David Mikkelson's private
life, and those of some of the Snopes staffers, apparently aren't
scandalized at all by the garish, lurid spectacle that is Donald John Trump. Just saying.
You'll notice that the last link in the paragraph above leads to the
aforementioned Not-Doktor Stoopid's "blog," which
rarely contains original content but is mostly a curation of
misinformation from other sites. In this case, LoonyC curated a
post from Mike Adams' Natural "News" site. Both the
re-post and the original post on Adams' site were published on
In an "open letter" to His Unholy Orangeness, Adams
urges Trump to refuse to let the mainstream press corps into his
(ultra)White House at all. After all, declares Adams (repeating
by rote what every faithful Trumpian knows), the mainstream media
are Drumpf's enemy and "they will do anything and everything
to destroy you." Says he:
It's time to deprive those lying, deceptive media outlets of all the oxygen in the room. Blockade them from all White House announcements and presidential events. Bring in the real media... the independent publishers, radio hosts and bloggers who are truly the only remaining free press in America.
We all have teams of writers, video editors, bloggers and researchers ready to report the real news about the successes of your new administration. We will defend your legitimacy as President and help defend the Republic against the assaults of the Fidel Castro-worshipping lunatic fringe left.
My own network of online sites includes Trump.news, WhiteHouse.news and hundreds of others. Combined with Infowars.com, PrisonPlanet.com, DrudgeReport.com and others, we already dwarf most of the mainstream media outlets in terms of reach. We absolutely dwarf all mainstream media in terms of the public trust factor.
He forgot to mention
"in terms of the utter-disrespect-for-inconvenient-facts
factor." They've got it all over the "lying"
mainstream media on that one. Adams also uses his post as
an opportunity to boast to Trump about his own search engine,
GoodGopher, which, he writes without any apparent irony,
"excludes all the mainstream media liars and news fabrication propagandists working for CNN, WashPost, NYT, MSNBC
and so on. We already have an authoritative list of who's who in
the independent media. Compiling a contact list would only take
a day or two." "What good is a
totally censored search engine?" you may be asking. All the
good in the world, it seems, if you feel a need to lower a cone
of ignorance over yourself every time you do an Internet search. It's sort of like the cone of silence in the old Get
Smart TV series, except instead of preventing the escape
of secret information, it prevents the infiltration of facts. Or
maybe it's more like parental block,
except instead of protecting kids from online exploitation it
protects willfully stupid adults from learning real facts.
If Adams were just another
blog-fodder blowhard there wouldn't be much cause for concern.
But there are larger and more serious issues that stretch far
beyond cranky little blogs like this. For Adams is both riding
the crest of an enormous wave of disinformation and making that
wave bigger. He's part of the "alternative"
press/"independent" media that are the vanguard of the "post-truth" era. These are the media that are
tailor-made for Trump, and he for them. It's a match made in
infotainment (with the emphasis on "tainment") heaven.
Granted, the mainstream
media have made serious missteps themselves, and we shouldn't let
them off the hook. And I'm not just talking about the insane
amount of non-critical attention and free promotion the media have consistently handed to Trump on a silver
platter, or the way they embraced the "Crooked Hillary"
narrative and made a huge deal about the non-issue of her emails.
I'm also talking about the way major news outlets such as Washington
Post may have lent undeserved
legitimacy to a questionable group, PropOrNot, in their own reporting about
The conspiracy lunatics and the alt-right and the Trumpians are
all over that one, but Rolling Stone and Fortune also weighed in critically. Even so, it would be folly to
discount the possible roles
played by Russian operatives in influencing the 2016 U.S.
presidential election, and certainly foolish to dismiss the
influence of fake-news sites and the under-informed voters who
take these sites seriously. Apart from the dumbing-down
issues there are more serious matters of public safety at stake.
On Sunday, December 4, 2016, Edgar M. Welch, a 28-year-old
white gunman from North Carolina, apparently fueled by the ludicrous and debunked
"Pizzagate" conspiracy narrative, walked into Comet Ping Pong, a
pizza restaurant in northwest Washington D.C., and fired from an
AR-15 rifle. He had driven six hours from his home to "investigate"
rumors that the pizzeria was harboring young children as sex
slaves, as part of a child-abuse ring led by Hillary Clinton.
Yes, there are idiots who truly believe that; Ron and I just got
scolded by a couple of them on Facebook within the past few days. If you ask me there are far too many people who seem to be
unhealthily obsessed with pedophilia, and it's not the
Clintons and their cronies. Fortunately Welch was
arrested before anyone was hurt, but what about the next angry
nutcake who walks in? Comet Ping Pong has reported that they have
received lots of disturbing threats in the wake of Pizzagate, and
even some of the neighboring businesses have received threats as
well. Pizzagate is far from the
only blatantly false conspiracy tale making the rounds, and what
is disturbing is that Donald Trump himself seems to be a big
believer in conspiracy theories and conspiracy web sites,
and is stocking his administration
with others who have a fondness for fake news sites and
conspiracy stories. And if that doesn't worry you, just a
little bit... then what are you doing on this blog? Once again without irony,
Mike Adams concludes his December 2 post thusly:
It’s time to #TakeDownCNN
once and for all. The network doesn’t deserve to operate in any
free society (but they might feel right at home in North Korea).
And it’s time to support the rise of the new, independent media in America.
Uh-huh. Freedom of the
press is an inalienable right in America, but only freedom of
certain types of press: the fact-free, totally
self-serving-to-cynical-scammers-and-hatriarchs variety. But if you care about
actual freedom of the press, and about responsible journalism,
there's plenty you can do. Start with becoming a
fact-checker yourself. Read with a critical eye, especially if
content seems to fit too neatly into someone's preferred
narrative (even or especially your own). And hold the mainstream
media's feet to the fire, but don't dismiss them just because
they're mainstream. This isn't to say that you should automatically
dismiss a source just because it's "alternative" or
"independent," but keep your eyes open and your b.s.
detector active, always. Otherwise, Trump and his
cynical champions and surrogates may lead all of us around a
corner from which there will be no turning back.
Without comment, SCOTUS let stand a 5 February ruling by the
federal appeals court in Chicago. The appeals court had upheld
Katie's November 2013 conviction and March 2014 sentencing (as reported here in February of this year).
The conviction and sentence were not for Trudeau's
mega-scam the Global Information Network, or GIN, which in its heyday bilked thousands of folks out of
millions of dollars, because... well, the FTC is pretty slow
about getting around to these things. Instead the case was about
deceptive claims Trudeau had made in infomercials about his diet
book, The Weight Loss Cure "They" Don't Want You to
Know About, after having signed consent decrees promising
that he would stop lying in infomercials. The case had dragged
out for decades and cost millions of dollars.
I first shared the link to Trudeau's petition
to SCOTUS on this July 2016 post (under the
sub-head, "Katie and the Supremes"). A couple of months
later I shared the link again on this post (under
"Caged Katie and his fellow scammer").
After losing his appeal in February, Katie was
clearly holding out hopes that SCOTUS would set him free. The
promotions he has been running from "Camp Cupcake" via
social media all centered around donating to his legal fund to
help pay for his high-dollar attorneys to keep working on his
Sometimes, though, even money can't buy you freedom.
I didn't watch the premiere. I don't have cable so I don't get
CNN on TV, and because I live out at the Edge of Nowhere, in an
area where currently the only option for high-speed Internet is
severely bandwidth-restricted satellite Internet, I can't do
in-demand (if that's even an option right now for this film). At
some point, if I get a chance to watch Enlighten Us -- which
some have described as a James Ray infomercial -- for free or
relatively cheap (maybe on Amazon Marketplace or in the Walmart
DVD remainders bin), I will. But what I have been doing
is keeping up with the buzz around the film, and it appears that
Death Ray is milking it for all the publicity it's worth. (I
know, big surprise.)
Jean, who gave me permission to share her Facebook post here,
This morning, I got a comment on my
Oprah letter. I can only imagine this is in response to the
effort we've made to counter James Ray's infomercial.
"Darlene" wrote: "I’m curious Jean,why you
would purposely go to James Ray’s FB page ? Why do you care
what he’s doing? He served his sentence. What exactly do
you expect him to do? All the hatred towards him leads me to
believe you want him dead! Like that would be the only
solution that would make you feel better. He has a right to
move forward and live his life. So should you!"
Thank you for your question. I appreciate the opportunity to
discuss how I feel.
I would never wish anyone dead. That is not at all what I
wish for James Ray. I’ve always been a pacifist, do not
believe in the death penalty, etc. James Ray’s trial tested
those convictions and I assure you, they held up. He
absolutely has a right to move on and live his life and I
recognize that he fulfilled the conditions of the law
following his conviction.
The problem, and the reason that we continue to follow him,
is that he is not moving on. Moving on would be recognizing
his mistakes and vowing not to recommit them. Instead, he is
back in the same line of work, trying to convince people to
trust him with their desire to improve their lives.
Instead of moving on, he is using the story of what happened–my
sister’s story–to relaunch his business.
And in fact, he’s now manipulating her story. He was on CNN
yesterday saying that she was estranged from our family. This
is a gross and deeply hurtful lie. Just months before she
died, she was my maid of honour, in the wedding at my parents’
house! Kirby was seeking her own path in life, absolutely. A
path that deviated from the normal path, certainly one that
deviated from my parents’ path. But that does not at all
mean she was estranged from our family.
Do you understand why James Ray using and misrepresenting her
story would be so deeply hurtful to me and my family? And
yes, I have a right to move forward. Ray’s return to the
self-help industry makes it very difficult for me to do that.
He is using my sister’s story–and in so doing makes us
relive our pain over and over–for his own gain. Do you see
how that prevents us from moving forward?
I continue to share this story and press this case because in
order to live with my sister’s death, I need to do
everything I can to make sure someone else doesn’t die
needlessly as she did. I need to make her story mean
something. Despite saying that he takes responsibility, James
Ray continues to deflect responsibility and will not
recognize the actions he took that led to people’s deaths.
This is why I still feel he is dangerous. Honouring my sister’s
memory means I will continue to warn people of this danger,
from James Ray and others in the self-help industry who abuse
their customers’ trust.
Thank you again for your question. I wish you well!
Friends, I share this because we are
very much in the "post-truth" era, and I feel like
over and over again I'm losing the battle to proclaim the
truth. I need help. Please share whatever you can far and
wide to help us tell the truth about James Ray. My posts
about SEEK, etc, are usually public and shareable. [Seek
Safely is the Browns' nonprofit that
attempts to bring responsibility and accountability into the
self-help industry. ~CC] Thanks xo
"Post-truth" era, indeed. We're
seeing signs of that everywhere, and
I won't get into the political angle on this post, because what I
wish to stress here is that it is the height of arrogance,
ignorance and insensitivity to callously declare that the loved
ones of those who were killed as a result of James Ray's
recklessness -- as well as those who were injured or otherwise
traumatized by him in some way -- should "just move
Jean has been making a concentrated effort to counter Ray's lies,
and yesterday she posted a video imploring
him to "Please stop." It's embedded at the beginning of this post, or you can click on the link in the previous sentence.
Keep in mind that this isn’t a pathetic
attempt at journalism. This is CNN using air time on its news
shows to promote its entertainment content. It’s a fucking
commercial … and that’s how James Ray is using it as well.
So inside the commercial :: within the commercial :: within the
news show … James Arthur Ray is allowed to speak horrible
unquestioned slander against Kirby and her family.
Now the work is finally coming to a wider audience; it is
currently scheduled to premiere on CNN on Saturday, December 3, 2016 (that's tomorrow, as I write this) at 8 PM ET. There
will be several encores later in the month; they're listed in the
link above. No doubt it will be available for even wider viewing
in due time via Internet outlets, Blu-Ray/DVD and the like. I'll
Not surprisingly Salty weighed in again, ahead of the CNN
premiere; he never did publish his full review of the documentary
on his blog, but on
today's post he did include snippets
from one of his efforts. He describes meeting Ginny Brown, mother
of one of Ray's victims, Kirby Brown. It was an emotional
experience, to say the least.
This thing, The Salty Droid, is all
about computer screens. I observe and capture the world as
seen on my screens, and then I interact with that world via a
half-crazed half-fictional character. The layers of
abstraction help to keep my brain safe while I’m inhabiting
one dark mire after the next; I try to crossover as rarely as
possible. This is the first article I’ve ever published as
Ginny and George are out trying to raise awareness for SEEK
Safely [the Browns' nonprofit that
attempts to bring responsibility and accountability into the
self-help industry]. They feel like they’ve been
completely shutout by the film makers. They’ve not been
represented on camera, and their input has not been sought
off camera. They haven’t even been invited to attend the
premiere. They are visibly upset, and that makes me upset.
Jason noted that Ray was not in the theater
where Enlighten Us was screening." Too bad ::
because he missed the audience’s overwhelmingly negative
reaction to him :: which manifested via audible groans :: and
again during the Q&A with director Jenny Carchman."
Despite the seemingly uncritical lens through which the film
presented Ray, Jason wrote that he "still comes off as a
horrible disgusting monster." Not to mention a hypocritical
Ray tells the film maker’s camera …
I came out of prison in debt. My credit
is crap. I’ve got nothing tucked away.
Juxtapose Ray telling a marketer’s
I’d like to begin a conversation with
you here today… it’s about the topic of wealth,
abundance, and prosperity.
Scamworld in a James Arthur Ray
Yep. It's all about Ray "pitching himself
as a specialist in comebacks … while perpetually waiting for
his own comeback to come." Salty also took some potshots at
CNN for providing such a golden platform for Ray for years, and
he got some shots in at Ray's "old-as-dirt mentor-in-scam
Bob Proctor" (who has also been a frequent guest on my Whirled, particularly back in the heyday of The Secret).
Apart from the fact that Death Ray is trying, mostly in vain, to
regain his superstar status in the selfish-help industry, he is also trying to get his criminal convictions set
aside so he can have all of his civil
rights restored. If the motion were to be granted he would regain
voting rights, and international travel would become less of a
Back in 2013, following his release from prison in Arizona, Ray
had toyed with getting the convictions overturned, but in September of that year he moved to drop the
appeal. In an affidavit he wrote,
"I wish to ensure the prompt, complete and definitive
termination of these criminal proceedings by dismissing this
appeal and allowing the conviction and sentence to stand
undisturbed." Apparently he didn't want to risk re-trial and
possible re-sentencing. He insisted, however, that the
convictions were flawed.
And now he's trying to push that narrative through the courts.As Steve Salerno wrote in the Slate piece linked
In both the film and in life, Ray is
poorly cast as the martyr of self-help culture. He’s far
from it: Ginny Brown, mother of 38-year-old victim Kirby
Brown, recalls that when Ray finally reached out to her after
her daughter’s death, a full five days later, he kept
saying over and over, that he “couldn’t believe this had
happened ... to him.” Seven years later, Ray does not seem
to have changed—indeed, he is currently petitioning to have
his conviction set aside. The state of Arizona is countering
the motion vigorously, as are families of those killed.
Legal maneuvers like the one Ray is attempting rarely succeed
in homicide cases. But the hubris of even trying reaffirms
that far from offering a story of redemption, Ray remains the
epitomic reminder that self-help culture may be less about
bettering the self than about creating alternative realities
in which your unimproved self is just fine.
Couldn't have said it better myself. (And as I've written about
numerous times on this blog, the selfish-help culture is full of
false heroes and martyrs, imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau being one of them.)
Ray may never get his luster restored, either legally or in the minds of a the public. But the very fact that he is still trying so desperately to do so says a lot about his character, or complete lack thereof.
We’re working very hard.
We have great people coming in. I think you’ll be very
impressed with the names. We’ll be announcing some very
shortly. Everybody wanted to do this. People are giving up
tremendous careers in order to be subject to you [New York
Times] folks and subject to a lot of other folks. But they’re
giving up a lot. I mean some are giving up tremendous businesses
in order to sit for four or maybe eight or whatever the period of
time is. But I think we’re going to see some tremendous talent,
tremendous talent coming in. We have many people for every job. I
mean no matter what the job is, we have many incredible people. I
think, Reince, you can sort of just confirm that. The quality of
the people is very good.
~ Donald Trump, from his New York Times interview on 22 November, 2016
Oh, the sacrifices that Not-My-President-Elect
Donald J. Trump and his family and appointees are making for the
sake of the regime! Or so Trump wants us to believe, in much the
way that imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau once tried to
get us to believe (and he convinced many) that he was making terrible sacrifices and even endangering
his own life in order to sell us
frauducts and flopportunities and misinformation that
"they" don't want you to know about.
"I don't have to be doing this," Trudeau used to
earnestly assure his listeners and readers through, among other
forums, his long-defunct KT Radio Show and his elaborate online
promos for his huge scam, the Global Information Network (GIN).
"I could be sitting back enjoying my tremendously successful
lifestyle; I have so much money I don't ever have to lift a
finger to work again. But I'm doing this -- all of this! -- for
you." (I'm paraphrasing, but that's the basic message with
which he used to pepper his infomercials, radio shows and online
promos.) And his loyal fans faithfully repeated the narrative.
But this awful reality show we're witnessing now is, I am sorry
to say, bigger and even worse than Trudeau and his scams, though
there are certainly Scamworld connections, which I will get to
momentarily. (And I mean Scamworld connections apart from the ones for which Donald himself is notorious.) In truth it seems that Herr Drumpf et al. are
sacrificing very little that is of value to them, and as of now
it seems to be full speed ahead for the
plutocracy/kleptocracy/theocracy (not to mention the hatriarchy). It's not bad enough that Drumpf chose white
nationalist and darling of the neo-Nazi crowd Steve Bannon to be his chief
strategist. Or that his choice for Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, is an enemy of
civil rights, civil liberties, voting rights, immigration (even legal
immigration)...the list goes on. Or that his pick for the CIA
director, Mike Pompeo, could "take
the agency back to its darkest days" of brutal interrogation
and torture. Or that his national security advisor choice, Michael Flynn, never met an
anti-Islam conspiracy theory he didn't like (he even called Islam
"a cancer"). So far Herr Drumpf has made it pretty clear that
under his rule, the ship of state will list dangerously rightward.
And now it has been announced that Trump has picked elitist "education reformer" and
theocrat Betsy DeVos to be his Secretary of
"Education." This pick has
been touted by some as Trump's attempt to "diversify"
his choices by finally picking a woman to lead something. This is
supposed to be a step towards healing rifts and whatnot, but
apparently the only rifts he's concerned with are those within
the right-wing tent.
But a lot of that is about Dick DeVos. This 2011 piece on Talk To Action
has information about Betsy that may give a clue about her qualifications to run the Department
of Education (into the ground).
Who is Betsy DeVos and Why Is She
Trying to Privatize Public Schools?
Betsy DeVos is a former chair of the Michigan Republican
Party; daughter of the late Edgar Prince and Elsa
Prince-Broekhuizen; sister of Blackwater-founder Erik
Prince; and wife of Dick DeVos (son of Richard and Helen
DeVos). The Devos side of the family fortune comes from
Amway/Alticor, the controversial, multi-tiered home products
business. A Center for Public Integrity Report showed that
the DeVos family and business interests were the fifth
largest contributors in the 2003 -2004 election cycle, with
100% of the donations going to Republicans.
Dick and Betsy DeVos have been credited with helping to finance the
Citizens United case which allows Super PACs to raise
unlimited funds and conceal the donors, meaning that we will
no longer know who provides the millions of dollars for the
big media campaigns, or reveal the information that I have in
this article on the Pennsylvania campaign.
The Prince and Devos families have also funded the Family
Research Council, Focus on Family, and the ministries of the
late D. James Kennedy, all warriors against separation of
church and state. Kennedy did, however, believe in separation
of school and state. Like many others who have benefited from
Devos and Prince family largesse, he signed the proclamation
to end public schools.
Much of the research claimed to support vouchers and charter
schools comes directly from the Foundation for Education
Choice, a think tank founded by the late Milton and Rose
Friedman. Milton Friedman was the patriarch of the
"Chicago School" and radical free market economics.
In a briefing paper
for the Cato Institute (Scaife/Koch/Devos-funded) titled
"Public Schools: Make Them Private," Friedman
stated, "Vouchers are not an end in themselves; they are
a means to make a transition from a government to a market
So, goodbye public schools, if Betsy and gang
have their way. And goodbye, separation of church and state.
“Her efforts over the years have done
more to undermine public education than support students. She
has lobbied for failed schemes, like vouchers — which take
away funding and local control from our public schools — to
fund private schools at taxpayers’ expense. These schemes
do nothing to help our most-vulnerable students while they
ignore or exacerbate glaring opportunity gaps. She has
consistently pushed a corporate agenda to privatize,
de-professionalize and impose cookie-cutter solutions to
Indeed, right-wing politix and Scamworld have never been on such intimate terms. I wish they
would just get a room and leave the rest of us alone. But instead
they're forcing the whole country -- and indeed the world -- to
watch as they slobber all over each other, and we're the ones who
are going to be saddled with their vile offspring.
* * * * *
I will probably have a lot more to say about
all of this in the near future, but for now let me just make one
more point, because ultimately this too has to do with education: fake news
was arguably a significant factor in the disastrous outcome of
the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Certainly it wasn't the only factor, but it played
From Paul Horner to Jestin Comer to those Macedonian teens, some
folks who weren't even Trump supporters, and some who don't even
have any skin in the game, were making tons of money duping the "poorly educated"
voters for whom Trump himself has expressed such enthusiasm (and
vice versa). And a lot of those profoundly
critical-thinking-impaired Trumpians are now poo-pooing the very
idea that some of their most trusted content sources are fake
news sites. Instead they turn it around, Pee-Wee Herman style
("I know you are, but what am I?"), and accuse the
mainstream news outlets of being the real fake news sources.
But real journalism does still exist, though now more than ever it is an endangered species, as endangered as public education if not more so. If
you care about maintaining a line in the sand between information
and disinformation, do whatever you can to support legitimate
journalistic outlets such as Mother Jones, whether it's donating money or subscribing to their print magazine (which I've been a fan of for many years), or both. I'm
not getting paid or compensated in any way for this; it's just
something that I think needs saying.
Across the Universe with Cosmic Connie, aka Connie L. Schmidt...or maybe just through the dung-filled streets and murky swamps of pop culture -- more specifically, the New-Age/New-Wage crowd, pop spirituality & religion, pop psychology, self(ish)-help, business babble, media silliness, & related (or occasionally unrelated) matters of consequence. Hope you're wearing boots. (By the way, the "Cosmic" bit in my moniker is IRONIC.)
Flattery always works for a narcissist like me, but money works even better. Donate what you can, and help feed the Snark. Thank you!
NOTE: All web links & comments about content on those links were accurate at the time of publication. I am not responsible for links that are removed or pages that are "cleaned up" by scammers trying to cover their tracks.
Got a hot tip or idea for a Whirled Musings post? Or just want to share some intel? (I won't publish unless you give me permission.) Email me: firstname.lastname@example.org