Whirled Musings

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.)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mr. Fire meets an oil baroness (maybe)

Oh, my Goddess, October is almost over and I've only posted once in the entire month. As usual, I've been distracted with work again (which is a good thing), while most of my online fun has been on Facebook and on my pal Salty Droid's blog. Salty's out there doing the real muckraking; I've just been coasting along. But don't worry, I haven't given up on this Whirled, not by a long shot.

In my online conversations, I have also tried to participate on Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale's blog again -- a thankless task for most who don't buy into his shtick. On a recent blog post Joe wrote about a newly published Napoleon Hill manuscript. I commented on the post, and though he published my comment, he edited out a part where I mentioned that the Foreword to the book was written by Mark Victor Hansen, who has been involved in outrageous infomercial/boiler-room schemes with young huckster Anthony Morrison. Morrison's boiler room has done some pretty scummy things to part people who could least afford it from their money, and shame on Hansen for being even marginally involved in that racket.

It's understandable why Joe wouldn't want to publish that little bit, since it casts aspersion on the great new-wage circle jerk of which he is a part. But since Hill's newly published book is about the Devil and how the Devil shows up even in places we don't expect, I thought it appropriate.


Joe did, however, respond to my remark, though he did it in a way that made it clear that he had misconstrued my main point (perhaps deliberately?), and he ended with a snide remark about critics who spend their time hurting others. Then he refused to publish a subsequent comment from me, a comment in which I attempted to clarify my points. Still I didn't give up, but when I tried to submit yet another comment, it simply disappeared, rather than showing on the screen as "awaiting moderation." So it appears I have been banned from his blog, either by him or perhaps by his trusty assistant Suzanne. I may have more to say about this particular matter after I read the Napoleon Hill book he wrote about, which I am actually planning to do. But I have shared the tale in bits and pieces on Facebook and on Salty's blog.


Meanwhile, Joe has gone on to publish a couple more blog posts, and even though I'd given up on participating in the Napoleon Hill conversation I decided to test whether or not I really am blocked from the party. I attempted to join in the conversation
on a more recent post in which Joe tells about an encounter at a gas station where he was re-fueling one of his expensive brag wagons. As usual, he wrote, people gathered around him, wanting to take pics of the exotic car. One woman shyly approached him and asked if the car was a dream purchase or just something he bought because he had money to burn.

The woman went on to tell Joe that oil had just been discovered on her property, and soon she and her hubby would be receiving 50 million dollars a month. She said the money felt like a curse, though. She was uncomfortable about receiving that much money. She told Joe she already had a good life that included several properties, several cars, and five kids. (Joe noticed she was driving a new car.) He tried to explain to her that the money she'll be getting is a gift, not a curse, and she can use it for good.

But you know how stubborn and resistant some unenlightened types can be, even when they're in the presence of greatness. "I’m not sure she heard me," Joe continued. "She went on and told me her name (no, I’m not going to tell you it), shook my hand, and then drove off after saying, 'Have a nice life.'"

Then he went on to impart the obligatory Life Lesson.

I’ve often challenged people to lift their issues around money by pretending they won the lottery. What would you do if you won three million dollars? Your answer helps reveal what you really want to do in your life.

But this woman admiring my Spyker lifted my limits.

What would I do if I suddenly had fifty million dollars coming in every month?

Joe seemed genuinely flabbergasted that anyone could have mixed feelings about getting a lot of money. Obviously having negative emotions around money is a problem that needs to be fixed, and naturally he has the cure.

He ended his post with a challenge to his readers, asking them what they'd do if they suddenly had boatloads of cash. A few people piped in immediately, talking about the wonderful things they'd do for the world, after lavishly appointing their own lives, of course.

Wanting to deepen or at least broaden the conversation, I tried to submit this comment:

I think most people who don’t have a lot of money daydream about what they would do if they suddenly did, and of course most of them cast themselves in some noble philanthropic, world-changing role. But I’ve noticed that even when people are merely daydreaming, the philanthropy and world changing are often afterthoughts, taking second place to the castles and grand estates and fancy cars. Money can be used for good or bad, of course, but it does seem to change people. Maybe the woman you met worries about how this windfall will change her family dynamics.

More importantly, I wonder if it is possible that she was having ambivalent feelings about that supposed $50 mil a month not because of the eye-opening amount, but because of the source of the money: Big Oil. You indicated that the woman was already affluent. You didn’t say how she got that money, and it probably doesn’t matter for the purpose of this discussion. But even if she and/or her family had achieved their current level of affluence through the oil business, she still might be uncomfortable about what the industry has done and continues to do to the natural landscape and the ecosystem -- fracking being just one of the controversial issues of late.

That said, I have to admit that I would have an awfully hard time turning away $50 million a month. I suspect the same could be said of many people who have issues with the oil industry. And I also have to say that I can't look upon Big Oil as completely evil; it provides jobs, and my own father worked for a big oil company. It was his job that allowed us to have a comfortable middle-class life when I was growing up.

My point, however, is that not everyone who has ambivalence about money is suffering from some emotional or spiritual hang-up that can or should be fixed with a miracles coach or some such thing. Sometimes there are genuine quality-of-life and moral issues at stake too. Perhaps the woman could consider pouring that windfall into projects that will help fix the environment and mend some of the damage done by our society’s hunger for fuel. Maybe she can find ways to help people whose quality of life has been compromised by the activities of the oil and gas companies. When oil companies move in, for example, people are often displaced from moderately-priced housing as real estate skyrockets.
It’s happening now in south Texas because of the Eagle Ford boom.

By the way, in the comment I attempted to send, I didn't embed the link to the article about fracking or the one about the Eagle Ford boom. I'm doing it for your benefit, so you can see what's going on in Texas and elsewhere as the new oil boom continues.

But once again, my comment did not show up as "awaiting moderation" -- it just disappeared. So I guess I really am banned.

Now, I think the comment above was respectful and raises legitimate issues about money and ambivalence and so forth. And I didn't even question Joe's basic account about the woman's claim of a $50-million-a-month income. (Unless she actually owns the oil company, that seems like an awfully lot for royalties, doesn't it? Just sayin'...)

I didn't point out Joe's penchant for exaggeration or the fact that he's kind of lousy with details, particularly those that involve numbers. I didn't suggest that perhaps the woman was pulling his leg and had an agenda of her own. [Woman encounters a middle-aged attention hound who has an exotic and obviously expensive sports car: what are the money-extraction possibilities? Oh, maybe I've been watching too many old episodes of Two and a Half Men. I'm sure the woman was legit, even as I'm sure that the God in business casual in that upscale H.E.B. grocery store was legit.]

In my comment, I didn't even point out that this blog post of Joe's appeared to be yet another transparent opportunity to boast -- once again -- about how he attracts attention every time he takes his Spyker out for a spin.

But let's assume that Joe's account of his meeting with the woman is really true, and let's further assume that she was telling the truth about her projected income. What was so wrong with the comment I tried to post? Not a thing, except for the fact that it came from me, and apparently I pose some sort of threat to the cash cow.

Meanwhile, Joe keeps pushing his Miracles Coaching boiler-room scheme, for which, as you may know, he partners with notorious Utah boiler room Prosper Inc. He repeats this promotion in virtually every one of his blog posts and emails. There's a banner on his blog for his "free" book, Attract Money Now, which exists mainly to promote Miracles Coaching. And on his post about the woman's alleged oil windfall, he embedded a link to the coaching site in a sentence where he asked, "What would you do if you had fifty million dollars coming in every month?" It is all, needless to say, a hypnotic way of trying to get you daydreaming and inspired to contact the Miracles Coaching boiler room, so they can frack your bank account for all it's worth. It's all for your own good, of course.

And indeed the Joebots do continue daydreaming aloud about their mansions and Ferraris and life-changing Reiki healing centers in the middle of a forest. But it seems clear to me that some of them can't see the forest for the trees.

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Saturday, October 08, 2011

James Arthur Ray: Two years after Sedona, still no atonement

I've had a busy month away from this Whirled; among other things, I've been catching up on work after last month's wildfire scare and evacuations. As usual, I have a dozen half-finished blog posts in the hopper. But I did not want to let the day go by without mentioning that today, October 8, 2011, is the second anniversary of James Arthur "Death" Ray's fatal faux-sweat lodge in Sedona, Arizona.


At this time last year I published a very long blog post to commemorate this anniversary, framed around my review of Connie Joy's book, Tragedy In Sedona: My Life in James Arthur Ray's Inner Circle. I recommend that you read Ms. Joy's book if you haven't already done so. Meanwhile, if you're new-ish here and don't understand all the brouhaha about James Ray, at least read the blog post I linked to at the beginning of this paragraph. And then go to Salty Droid's blog and read his numerous posts on Ray.

Today is also Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in the Jewish calendar, the Day of Atonement. (Actually it began at sundown yesterday evening.) By bringing this up in a post about Death Ray I mean no offense to my Jewish friends. However, as Ray was known to stir a schmear of Jewish spirituality and mysticism into the McSpirituality stew he served up to his followers, it seemed appropriate to point out the bitter irony of the fact that Ray himself has yet to atone for the deaths of Sedona victims James Shore, Kirby Brown, and Liz Neuman -- to say nothing of the death of Colleen Conaway, who died at a James Ray event in San Diego less than three months previously.

I realize "atonement" has several meanings, but one meaning is to own up to one's wrongdoing and try to make up for it. And from what I have seen, Ray has yet to take any responsibility at all. In addition, he has yet to be sentenced for the three counts of negligent homicide for which he was convicted months ago. His defense team keeps throwing up numerous roadblocks and delays, and there is still a chance he may never do any prison time at all. And he still hasn't even been charged in the death of Colleen Conaway.

A few years ago, in one of his numerous ezine articles, Ray wrote a piece attempting to explain why so many Hollywood A-listers are into the Kabbalah. He speculated that at least some followers were motivated by a desire for a more "practical" sort of mysticism. Ray wrote:
I, for one, am tired of so-called "spiritual gurus" who can't pay their bills! (And they certainly can't tell you how to do it either.)
This, of course, was before Ray's own reversal of fortune -- before Sedona blew up in his face, before he was arrested and it was revealed that he was unable to raise the original bond money. Yet it seemed he still wanted to have it both ways: to continue making a living as an expert on creating wealth, while convincing authorities that he just didn't have the money to spring himself from jail. The critical blogosphere was all abuzz with that set of ironies at the time, so there's no need to go into all of it again. I just thought it was worth a reminder.

Now Ray is presumably spending what money he has left on his legal battles, though he still has supporters (go figure) who no doubt are contributing to that effort.
Whatever his financial situation may be, it does seem clear that Ray is a person who is unwilling to fully pay the moral "bills" he owes -- to truly atone for the deaths of James Shore, Kirby Brown, Liz Neuman, and Colleen Conaway.

More often than not on this blog, I've taken a basically lighthearted and snarky approach to New-Wage/selfish-help/McSpirituality beliefs and practices. I've dismissed them as silly. But occasionally belief and the need to follow a guru become deadly. Obviously when this happens, the guru/leader responsible for those deaths should be held accountable. Even if no deaths are involved, if people's lives and finances are wrecked by the deceptive actions of New-Wage gurus, those gurus should have to pay.

Some pay by offing themselves, as infomercial huckster Don Lapre did after his recent arrest. I'm certainly not implying that suicide is any type of solution or justice, nor am I implying that I wish Ray would do the same. That's not the case at all. For the sake of those who lost their loved ones at his hands, however, I do wish Ray would display a little bit of conscience and remorse for anything but the fact that he got caught -- and so far he has yet to do so.


Nor, for that matter, have we seen much of a display of conscience from the other scoundrels and scalawags, grifters and greedy gurus in the world's most successful New-Wage infomercial, The Secret. In case you haven't read it, here's an April 2011 post discussing some of the woes not only of James Ray but some of his fellow Secret "stars" as well.

And so it goes. While much of the world is obsessed with the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor, some of us have not forgotten James Ray's less famous, but no less important, victims. And we are watching and keeping up with the developments in this case.

Meanwhile, the time has come once again for me to go out to the porch and take the hummingbird feeders down.* I put it off as long as possible, but the pretty birds (as Abba might have said) have flown.

* The significance of which will be more apparent if you've read last year's Sedona anniversary post.

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