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.)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Justice with the blindfold off

My friend Julie Daniel shared this picture on my Facebook timeline yesterday, and it seemed pretty appropriate, for reasons that I will 'splain soon.

While you're waiting...
have you read this?

More soon. Stock up on your popcorn.

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Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Back to basics: What is a scammer, and what is a scam?

Note: If you've been following this blog for a while, this post may seem superfluous. But this is for the benefit of new readers, and also for the benefit of those who sometimes find themselves fielding questions about the definition of a scam or a scammer.


So, are y’all enjoying February so far? I sure am, despite the currently dreary, wintry (for here) weather. Although I have work deadlines as usual, I’ve made a vow to start blogging more frequently again, since I have so much to write about, and especially since it appears that, as per usual, there are evil people who are fiercely determined to shut me up. (As my pal Salty Droid might say, Suck it :: evil people who want to shut me up!) Anyway, although I have more info to share about some of my favorite snargets (snark targets), such as jailed serial scammer Kevin Trudeau... his ex-b.f.f. (the stupidest man in Scamworld)... Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale... and numerous others, I thought I’d take a little detour with a long-overdue post.

I was inspired to do so because recently a couple of people wrote to me asking a question that I’ve been asked many times throughout the years that this blog has been in existence (it was born on July 27, 2006;
here's my post about its eighth birthday). Since I’ve never gotten around to doing a FAQ – though I probably should have done one years ago – I thought it might be a good thing to write a post to which I can direct people when I get asked this question again, as I inevitably will. Here’s the Big Question I’ve been fielding for years in various forms, and which I’ve been asked again recently:
"Exactly how does Cosmic Connie
define a ‘scam’ or a ‘scammer?’"
There have been times when the questioner sounded a little bit exasperated, framing the query in a more negative manner: "Is everything a scam to you?" Others didn’t even frame it as a question but simply scoffed, "Well, you think everything is a scam and everyone is a scammer." This has often been followed by some variation of the opinion that I’m not credible or worth listening to because I just don’t "get it" -- or because I’m a broke and jealous loser (or "looser," as an amazing number of critics of critics put it), who has never accomplished anything in life.

This type of conversation is played out over and over and over again, probably thousands of times a day, all over the Interwebz. It’s not just a Cosmic Connie/Whirled Musings thing. Critics of selfish-help/McSpirituality/New-Wage/alt-health gurus are often criticized for being lacking in some manner. Those who slam the industry’s critics with ad hominem attacks, egregiously defamatory lies, lawsuit threats, or death threats are all too common.

But there are some people who don’t resort to those tired old tactics, and are simply expressing a seemingly genuine concern that said critics can’t seem to find anything good to say about anyone. And I understand that perspective: sometimes it probably seems that we can’t find anything good to say about anyone. (The short rejoinder to this point is that a critical blog or other forum doesn’t exist to promote or blow smoke.)

A related question to, "How do you define a scam/scammer?" is this: "Where do you draw the line -- is the person automatically a scammer if he or she makes any money at all from his or her shtick, or do you draw the line at specific monetary amounts?"

Good questions, all, and people who ask these questions in sincerity deserve sincere answers. I’ll address the money issue at the end of this post, but for now let’s take a closer look at the first question: How do you define a scam or scammer?

Definition, schmefinition.

To begin with,
dictionary definitions of "scam" are not all that useful, except as a possible starting point for discussion. Not that this has prevented some folks from waving dictionary definitions in my face and arguing that their guru of choice isn’t a scammer, and I am unfairly categorizing him or her as such, and that by golly, I should be sued for "slander," arrested and charged, or possibly killed. I’ve heard it all.

I am thinking, though, that in the real world that exists outside of the dictionary, each person probably has his or her own definition of "scam" and "scammer." (There are specific legal definitions of fraud, no doubt, but this isn’t a legal discussion.) Some folks are more hardcore in their parameters than I am, believing that a scammer is simply someone who takes your money and runs without delivering anything. By that definition, if Guru A uses hype to promote a "breakthrough" book that costs $20.00 or $200.00, and the book turns out to be just recycled crap that you could find for free or cheap in scads of other places, Guru A is not a scammer. After all, you paid him $20.00 or $200.00 and you got a book. A crappy book, maybe, but a book. The point is that Guru A didn’t just take your money and run without delivering some tangible something. Of course if he doesn't have some sort of money-back guarantee, that takes it to a new level, scam-wise.

Some people have very stereotyped ideas of what constitutes a scammer or a scam. For instance, they may think of scammers mainly in terms of hucksters who get on the phone at dinnertime and trick vulnerable elderly people out of their life savings. Or perhaps they envision a scammer as someone such as
Bernie Madoff, who clearly cheated many people out of millions and millions of dollars with his Ponzi schemes. By these definitions, many of the people/schemes I’ve written about on this blog over the years are not scammers/scams.

For my purposes on this blog, however, scamming comes in many flavors. Granted, some of the flavors are subtler than others, and I also recognize that in many cases, one person’s scam may be another person’s satisfactory customer experience. Keep in mind, too, that despite my research and care to include sources and links whenever possible, my blog is primarily an expression of my informed opinions, which may very well differ from yours.

And that’s something you’re just going to have to deal with. You are, however, welcome to argue with me on this blog, or privately. I'm happy to publish dissenting opinions.

From my perspective, it's not the method of scamming that defines a scammer, it's not the money or the amount of money, and it's not even necessarily a conscious intention to scam. I think it's more complicated than that. In the following sections I will attempt to define scams and scammers as I see them. Maybe it will help you understand this blog better, if you don’t understand it already. And maybe you will also find the list helpful for your own purposes when trying to determine if someone is selling you a bill of goods.

To be sure, this is not a comprehensive list and isn’t intended to be. And I'm sure there are plenty of other similar red-flag checklists available online. But this one is based mainly upon my own years of observation. It is also heavily grounded in content that I wrote a few years ago for a nascent group project in which I was involved (and which may still come to fruition at some point).

Identifying Frauducts and Flopportunities
Once again I have to thank Salty Droid for coining those terms. The following are traits and techniques that characterize questionable products and opportunities – or "scams," if you will. By extension, those who use these techniques could be "scammers" by my definition.

The medium is the message.
Many the targets of critical bloggers such as Salty Droid, and to a lesser extent my blog, have focused on individuals using the Internet (web sites, social media, email blasts, and other online forums, including mobile apps) as their primary promotional means. But it is important to understand that frauducts and flopportunities are promoted across many media channels today as a means of establishing credibility – or what passes for credibility in Scamworld. Apart from an online presence, common media being utilized include (but are not limited to):

  • TV (infomercials; pay-for-play appearances on talk shows, "reality" shows, or fluff "news" segments)
  • Radio (ads; pay-for-play appearances on radio talk shows)
  • Print media (newspapers (particularly to advertise their "free" seminars); ads or advertorials in in-flight magazines (if any of those still exist – wait, I guess they do); business magazines, and other periodicals)
  • Direct mail (junk mail) – old-school, but still in wide use
Obviously, utilizing any one or more of these media does not automatically qualify a marketer as a scammer. But I think we all need to be aware that we are being bombarded with scams and potential frauds all the time, and that the gurus perpetrating these scams and potential frauds are taking their messages to as many media as they can afford.

What to watch out for
No matter where or how the promotions appear, a person/company might be a scam/scammer if they meet some of the following criteria…

  • Product or opportunity sounds "too good to be true": the copy promises or strongly implies extraordinary results with little effort and/or no prior experience. (Generally there are disclaimers, either on a separate page or in very fine print at the bottom of the sales page, but they are played down in comparison to the hype.)
  • The promotional content either blatantly or subtly appeals to various emotions, desires, or traits. Some of these are positive emotions, some are negative, and some are a combination of the two. These emotions/desires/traits may include:
  1. Fear (of poverty, loss, missed opportunities, uncertainty, future instability (apocalyptic/survivalist marketers specialize in the "scary future" scenarios))
  2. Guilt (Are you really providing for your family – or yourself – the way you should? Don’t they and you deserve better?)
  3. Greed (More is always better, especially if you’re talking about more money!)
  4. Narcissism/sense of entitlement (You are more special than those around you, and you deserve the best of everything. It is your birthright; you were born to be a Champion!) [Narcissism and a sense of entitlement are two separate things, but they often tend to be pandered to together, particularly in New-Age/motivational marketing.]
  5. Elitism/snobbery/competitiveness: (You owe it to yourself to join this group of elites or Champions who know the secrets to wealth/health/happiness. It will give you a real edge over your friends, neighbors, colleagues, and/or it will make them envy you. Even gurus who preach that "the only person you are in competition with is yourself" often resort to playing the elitism card, particularly when faced with criticism from outside forces. The guru may peg the critics as jealous losers who don’t know the secrets to being a Champion or an elite, or who are perpetual outsiders looking in and consumed with envy.)
  6. Desire for "forbidden" or "secret" knowledge (All of the information "they" don’t want you to know about. Often goes hand-in-hand with elitism. Kevin Trudeau is of course the all-time master of things "they" don't want you to know, and so was Rhonda Byrne with The Secret.)
  7. Envy (Don’t you want to be just like the guru pushing the product (or the enthusiastic, successful-looking people providing testimonials), so you too can enjoy the opulent lifestyle, the McMansions, the expensive sports cars and other toys, the privilege of lolling on the beaches of the world?)
  8. Loneliness/desire for sexual or emotional fulfillment (This is the bread and butter of relationship "experts," PUA (pick-up artist) gurus, and the like.)
  9. Sense of inferiority or feelings of failure
  10. Laziness (Not all products exploiting human laziness are bad, of course; it’s often been said that laziness, rather than necessity, is the mother of invention. However, if the seller promises that the product or opportunity will allow the purchaser to become healthy, wealthy, or otherwise miraculously transformed with virtually no effort, that should be a huge red flag.)
  11. Spiritual hunger, desire for transcendence or for a sense of magic and wonder
  12. A desire to "make a difference," help others, change the world for the better, or be a part of something larger and grander than one’s self
  13. Borderline or vague emotions or traits such as discontent, boredom, lack of direction. (Clever marketers seek to transform these into stronger emotions: fear, guilt, envy, etc. Even if you’re fairly satisfied with your life, they attempt to make you feel guilty for "settling" and/or being an underachiever.)
You can see that not all of the emotions, traits, and desires listed above are negative ones; some are actually quite commendable, even noble. The shrewdest and most skillful scammers – e.g., Kevin Trudeau through his massive scheme GIN (the Global Information Network) – have managed to appeal to both the noblest and the basest desires in the human heart. Many people joined GIN to help "change the world" and be part of something big and important. Contrary to what I used to believe before I got to know some wonderful ex-GIN members, not all who joined GIN did so out of greed (spurred by promises of great and effortless wealth through GIN’s now-defunct MLM program), or out of a desire to be part of an "elite" society that looked down on all of the sleeping sheeple.

Of course, all advertisers and marketers use emotional appeal; however, the types of gurus targeted on this blog are more in-your-face about it – actually promising, or strongly implying, that purchasing their product or opportunity will directly result in the achievement of the purchaser’s desires or goals. Apart from the fact that beer and cars are tangible products (unlike "success" or "happiness" or "wealth"), an ad for a lite beer or a car is generally more subtle than the promotional efforts of Scamworld gurus. Most emotionally appealing ads for "real" goods merely invite the viewer or reader to associate the product with a pleasant scenario or outcome; they generally do not go so far as to specifically promise that buying the product will result in the realization of one's deepest hopes and dreams.

Moreover, many of the Scamworld gurus on whom this blog focuses work very hard to influence their clients' emotional/psychological/physical state,
sometimes with deadly results. The same generally cannot be said of someone trying sell you a new mini-van.
As it happens, the above is a summary of an argument that I’ve had numerous times with self-help industry apologists who insist that self-help, motivational, or pop-spirituality marketers are no different from someone selling beer or cars or cosmetics. Well. Yes, they are different. I elaborated a bit about this in a May 2010 post based upon conversations I’d had with Trudeau’s former marketing guy, Peter Wink, who more recently allied himself with the stupidest man in Scamworld.

For that matter, cults use many of the emotional-appeal strategies listed above… but that’s a whole other subject.
Let’s get back to the list of red flags to watch out for…
  • The promotional copy cites impressive-sounding "authorities" and "experts," and/or "research" in some field of expertise, with vague or nonexistent references, thus making it difficult or nearly impossible for the prospective customer to verify the claims. The gurus themselves, or some of those whose testimonials or endorsements they list, may also claim to have professional-sounding degrees or credentials that are either commercial products of "diploma mills," or are impossible to verify. New-age marketers in particular like to utilize pseudoscientific research and claims to make the product or opportunity sound more impressive -- while at the same time they're often willing to disavow science or "reductionist"/Western thinking when it suits their marketing needs or when they're called on some of their nonsense. ("Science doesn't have all the answers!" "Doctors make mistakes!").
  • The advertiser brags about his or her own success in the field, implying that he or she is revealing the secrets to success out of a sense of altruism or a desire to "give back," or some other noble reason. While there is nothing wrong with offering products or events that teach real skills, and teaching itself is an honorable profession, one has to wonder why, particularly in highly competitive industries such as real estate or marketing, a guru who was truly successful would be spending the bulk of his or her time and energy grooming potential competitors.
  • The product or opportunity is promoted via blanket emails from several different sources, giving the impression that it has been vetted and endorsed by people who have actually had success with it – when in fact the endorsements are affiliates and the product or opportunity is of negligible value. The tighter FTC regulations that took effect in late 2009 really didn’t seem to have much effect on this practice.
  • The advertiser offers an almost too-good-to-be-true money-back guarantee, usually within a specific time frame, but the refund policy is sometimes framed as something that the buyer would have to be crazy – or at least a hopeless malcontent – to even consider.
  • An abundance of supportive hype: Often, a product is released and immediately receives many glowing testimonials, leading one to believe the launch and product was successful. However, the testimonials tend to be very slanted (positively) and with research many times can be seen to be connected in some way to the offer -- either through reciprocal support/promotions, or affiliated in cross-channel sales of some variety. Look to networks and syndicates that support each others' efforts through published testimonials, and look for heavily biased reviews (often from reviewers who only publish one review, ever) as a warning flag. A lack of problems being addressed and solved following a launch is not normal with legitimate options.
So let’s say you fall for the relentless or clever promos and you end up forking over. Here are a few signs, post-purchase, that you’ve been had…
  • Failure to even come close to living up to the hype. The product or opportunity is considerably more complex and/or much less of a sure thing than advertised. Far from being something that can be mastered in three or five or seven simple steps by anyone, no matter his or her level of experience…far from allowing the purchaser to get rich while he or she sleeps… the product comes with lots of caveats, and few real money ops. (This is true of many of the Internet Marketing scams that Salty Droid has written about.) Alternatively, the product or opportunity is basic and minimalist, lacking in substance, offering little in the way of new or useful advice.
  • Constant upselling/attempts to suck the buyer further into the marketing funnel: Rather than offer support (or a refund) for what has already been purchased, the seller continually pressures the purchaser to buy more products, tools, or training, and/or to attend expensive workshops and other events in order to achieve the results promised in the initial product/opportunity.
  • Forced continuity. Despite FTC regulations, many sellers are still sneaking these deals into seemingly simple one-time purchases, and a customer thinking that he or she is purchasing one item may actually be authorizing the seller to dip into his or her bank account or credit card every month for "membership fees" or other "benefits." Some customers find it almost impossible to extricate themselves from these deals, and end up having to cancel their credit cards. Kevin Trudeau, anyone?
  • Incompetent or nonexistent customer support/refund problems. These can vary. Sometimes the above-mentioned upselling is what passes for customer support. The product doesn’t work? Okay, no problem: here’s a more expensive one! Should the buyer decide he or she wants a refund, some sellers make it as difficult as possible by offering only a narrow window. They may refuse to issue a refund before, say, 30 days are up, even if the customer has decided he or she wants a refund after only a few days. Then after the 30 days are up and the customer asks for a refund, he or she may be told that it is too late. Other sellers are slow to issue refunds or refuse to do it, saying the customer is not eligible, or blaming the customer for not using the product correctly, not working hard enough, not wanting to be successful, etc. Alternatively, the seller offers a two-week or 30-day money-back guarantee, but the product or opportunity is so complex that it takes more time than that to determine its effectiveness (or lack thereof).
  • Untoward reactions to, or ignoring of, complaints or criticism. Some of this is related to incompetent or nonexistent customer support, but it also may apply to the bad gurus’ reactions to criticism from outside sources. Rather than attempt to clean up their business practices, the gurus instead simply ignore what the critics are saying, and/or they attempt to silence, discredit, or threaten the critics.

    (For the most part my own snargets have chosen to ignore my criticism, but as you may also know if you’ve been reading this blog (or the Salty Droid blog, or Bernie’s GINtruth blog, or Omri’s Glancingweb blog) for any length of time, a few subjects have chosen the "attempt to silence" etc. strategy.)
The money question
Before I wrap this up, I want to address the big issue that seems to come up the most frequently when people either sincerely question my motives for blogging, or accuse me outright of "hating" money. First off, while I can’t speak for any other blogger, I can say that I don’t hate money, and have even made a couple of lame attempts to "monetize" this hobby blog over the past few years. I can say that as far as I've ever been able to see, Salty Droid is not making money from his blog; he has never run ads on it and he doesn't even have a donation button. He has been very careful to keep his blog "pure" in that sense.

But the first thing I did (in utter naivete) to monetize was to sign up for the free, default, you-don’t-have-to-do-anything version of Google AdSense. But it was more like AdSenseless for me. Not only did some really objectionable ads pop up – some of them for the very things that I snark about – but from the time I signed up in May 2009, through my final payment in November 2014 (that’s four-and-a-half years, folks), I made less than $210.00. That’s right: there are no zeroes missing there. I made less than two hundred and ten bucks in four-and-a-half years.


Granted, I never made even the weakest attempt to do anything to increase the effectiveness of the program. Even so, that is an embarrassingly paltry amount of revenue, or it would be embarrassing to me if I had been driven by any sort of profit motive. But I’m not. In any case, I finally suspended the AdSense program earlier this year.

Then there was my decision to start asking for donations, which I didn’t initiate until March 2010, when I had been blogging for nearly four years. It embarrasses me to ask for money, so I tried to make light of launching my donation button by writing a silly poem, based upon Lewis Carroll’s classic nonsense poem, The Hunting of the Snark. The donations have trickled in now and then, but as is probably the case with the overwhelming majority of bloggers, if I depended upon donations to keep me going I’d be living on the streets. (However, once again I will say that donations are always appreciated, and needed now more than ever. I’ll tell you more when I can.)

My point – and my answer to that corollary question I mentioned towards the beginning of this post – is that I do not automatically deem someone/something a scammer/scam just because the potential exchange of money is involved. I believe that people should be paid for their creative content, even if I find that content snarkworthy or I simply don’t agree with it. I’m actually a big believer in capitalism (tempered by fairness); I’m just not a very effective capitalist myself, when it comes to this blog. At some point I will probably get some Amazon thing going and have book ads here. That’s much more my style.

But it’s stuff and nonsense to declare that all who criticize Scamworld gurus (or, for that matter, all those who criticize plutocracy, inequality and social injustice) hate money and the people who make it. That’s simply a straw man argument. I wrote about that topic on this May 2011 blog post:
* * * * *
As you’ve now seen, I do not have an easy, one-sentence answer to the question, "How do you define a scam/scammer?" (And truly, did you ever know me to have an easy, one-sentence answer to anything?) But I hope this helped a little.

Further reading:
Another huge red flag for a scammer/scam is a disparity between the marketer’s public and private behavior. Here’s a November 2009 post about why this matters so much:

Here’s a March 2010 post about my thoughts on whether or not there should be more regulation of the selfish-help industry. This was written before infamous "sweat lodge" killer James Ray’s trial and imprisonment and release. I still basically feel the same as I did back then about the issues under discussion:

Tin Promises: A two-part look at the dark side of MLMs, posted on this blog but written by a guest blogger:
Part 1
Part 2

I've Gotta Find Me a Scam: A lighthearted tribute to the types of scams and scammers that are the focus of this blog:

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Sunday, February 01, 2015

I am not afraid

I just felt like starting February off with a little reggae tune. Though I'm not a Rastafarian and can't claim to believe that I am being protected by some benevolent higher power, the song resonates with me for several reasons, which I'll 'splain when I can. For now I'm on the run -- work deadlines and other real-life things to tend to.

But rest assured: Evil will not win.

I am not afraid.

PS ~ I'll have some more Kevin Trudeau news too soon; I finally got a chance to go back on to PACER and grab the latest court docs. For now, those of you who are on Facebook and haven't seen these links on the public forum GIN Network Truth, check them out:. The first two links concern Katie's criminal case and the third one concerns the civil case.


PPS ~ Thank you as always for supporting this blog by reading and commenting on it. And if you feel so inclined, monetary support via the Donation button (on the upper left hand side of the current web version) is always very much appreciated as well.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Kevin Trudeau: an interview from the clink, and an attempt to take Business Insider for a ride

One of the long-awaited media stories about currently imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, aka KT, aka Katie, was finally published yesterday, January 20, 2015 on Business Insider. It's pretty lengthy for an online article, but worth the read.

When he first contacted me back in June 2014 after coming across my blog, author
Aaron Gell, who at the time was the features editor for Business Insider but has since become the editorial director for Maxim Magazine, told me that he wanted to paint a more nuanced picture of Trudeau than the usual "he's a scammer" piece. Clearly he is a scammer, Aaron acknowledged, but he wanted to dig a little deeper.

I thought that was a great idea and have even said on more than one occasion, including on this blog, that Kevin isn't all evil or all good, and that the real story about him is no doubt far more complex than is apparent in most of the content that has been produced about him for the past couple of decades -- including the stuff you read here. Aaron also told me that he'd been approved to have an in-person interview with Katie in the cage (that would be
FPC Montgomery, Alabama), so I was instructed to keep mum about it all in order to avoid scaring Katie, who apparently doesn't like it when journalists communicate with his critics. So mum I kept, though the stupidest man in Scamworld mentioned the story months later on Facebook when Aaron finally got around to talking to him. And Abe Husein, who got a mention (though not a particularly flattering one) in the piece, had dropped a few hints as well.

Now the story is out, to decidedly mixed reviews. On the one hand, as a long-time friend and observer of Kevin's told me privately, it's a good walk-through for newbies. And even I learned a couple of new things about Katie, though in some cases they were just newer versions of Katie's older lies (more about that in a moment). Aaron also provided a competent capsule summary of the complex legal cases, duly quoting the investigators and prosecutors and even the judges, and, I thought, offering as good and concise an explanation as any I've seen about how and why the longstanding civil case became a criminal one.
On the other hand, as numerous people have noted, there are factual errors, some of which Aaron has since corrected, as well as errors of omission and some notable gaps in the story. Most glaringly of all, some noted that it seemed Aaron was veering too much towards saying that Kevin isn't such a bad guy after all. The piece wrapped with what seemed like blatant rationalizations from long-time Katie cohorts Ed Foreman and Fred van Liew, who, though they pretty much said that Katie is indeed a liar (Foreman all but disavowed Kevin's silly "Brotherhood" and "GIN Council" tales), insinuated that for the most part he lies for good causes, such as inspiring people to dream big and whatnot. This all led to the concluding quotation, which was Katie saying essentially the same thing. One person commenting to the piece called it a "love letter" to Kevin.

I'll tackle the latter problem first -- the apparent soft stance about the scamming -- and then get to the errors and omissions. I admit that even though I was expecting a balanced look at Kevin Trudeau, I too was a little taken aback by that ending, though after discussing it with Aaron I understand his reasoning a little better. His aim, he said, was not to give Katie a pass but rather to raise some philosophical questions. So after mulling it over a little bit I wrote a comment myself. Here it is in part;
you can read the whole thing here (and I'm only quoting myself at length because I'm too lazy to rewrite or paraphrase):

...Yes, there were omissions and some factual errors and a few major gaps in the story. But it's tough to get a book's worth of information down in a single article, and given the short attention span of some folks, this article may have been more than long enough as it is.

And yes, if you read this article superficially, particularly the ending, it may seem that Aaron is being little more than an apologist for Trudeau. But read it more carefully. I think the incidents as reported here, along with the quotations from others (Trudeau's friends/fans and detractors alike), and the silly stories Kevin told Aaron, speak for themselves. Aaron did not say he believed all of these stories. He just let Kevin talk.

And he didn't hit us over the head with the statement that Kevin Trudeau... is a scammer. That wasn't his objective and it's not his job. That's the job of snarky bloggers like yours truly and Bernie O'Mahony at GINtruth, not regular reporters... But ultimately it's the job of readers to draw their own conclusions.

So while Aaron's piece may seem on one level to be morally ambiguous (believe me, I had a little bit of a problem with the ending myself), I think it did flesh this lifelong con artist out a little more, and Aaron managed in the process to demonstrate some of the problems that keep Scamworld going, such as people's need to believe and to be inspired.

"Hope springs infernal," as one of my blogging colleagues, Steve Salerno of SHAMblog fame, likes to say. And even if Kevin's star fades away -- don't count on it yet, though; he still has a hearty fan base -- there will always be more scammers popping up with another version of the same pie-in-the-sky promises. And people will continue to believe.
You know me: I always have to work that "no neat and tidy endings" theme in somehow -- because it's valid.

Aaron told me he had another reason for avoiding blatant accusations, beyond his desire to raise philosophical questions, and beyond the fact that this was not a blog post or op-ed piece. He felt that Katie's devoted fans might be more likely to read -- and think about what they are reading -- if he took a more subtle approach.

There may be some validity to that point, though my sense is that the true devotees are not going to see the bad in Katie at all, and aren't going to perceive the contempt that he clearly holds for them. Early on in the piece Aaron cites Fred van Liew, reminiscing about Katie's youthful shenanigans.

After high school, Trudeau found work at an auto dealership, where, Van Liew says, he soon became the No. 1 salesman by eagerly chatting up the customers whom his colleagues stereotyped as window shoppers and cheapskates. “The other guys would say, ‘This guy’s a loser,’ but Kevin didn’t do that. And he’d sell them [a] car.”
He also became adept at pushing auto loans. “He would tell people, ‘Save your credit with your bank in case you need it for something else,’” Van Liew recalls. “Was it the best advice? No. Was he doing it to get you the best deal? Hell no. He was in it for profit and money! He knew most people are idiots.” Still, like many friends and associates we spoke to, while Van Liew is up front about Trudeau’s ethical shortcomings, he nonetheless praises him as a fundamentally good-hearted person: “When Kevin found someone in genuine need or who was ready to move forward, he’d help.”
"Most people are idiots." That's it in a nutshell, according to more than one disgruntled ex-insider or ex GIN member I've corresponded with over the years, who say the belief that most folks are idiots and ripe for manipulation sums up Katie's general attitude towards his customer base. (And it's not just Trudeau; it is apparently a distressingly common attitude in Scamworld, as I wrote about years ago.)

Will Katie's most devoted followers see the subtext and realize that Katie himself actually holds them in contempt? Maybe some will, but my guess is that most won't. We all see what we want to see.

Despite any real or perceived weakness in the moral message of Aaron's piece, most of the readers who have commented so far really seem to "get it" where Kevin is concerned. They see him for the con artist he is. They're not fooled by the rationalizations of Fred van Liew or Ed Foreman or Kevin himself. One wrote:

Great sales people don't lie, cheat and steal from the customers. Kevin is a convicted crook and for good reason -- he is one. Thousands of doctors aren't withholding cures from their patients. Only a fool would believe this but then there are a lot of fools. Goebbels is laughing from his grave.
A few even connected the dots between Katie and the rest of Scamworld, recognizing that the problem is much bigger than Katie and is pretty much intractable.

Even so, nobody I've seen, on this piece or elsewhere, has ever stated the core issues in the blunt terms that
my pal Salty Droid did on his famous "Conspiracy to Destroy" blog post last year. I've quoted this before but it bears a re-quote:
After a lifetime of epic grift :: serial huckster Kevin Trudeau is finally in jail … rotting like he always was. KT got ten years for failing to comply with some government paperworks he signed ten years ago as a punishment for the bullshit he’d been pulling the ten years previous to that. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been brutally sucked from the sad in the meantime :: and basically … nobody gives a fuck.
It wouldn’t be surprising to learn that the total revenues from Trudeau’s life of scamjobery had topped a billion dollars. This book :: that book … whatever … the books don’t matter. It’s about cartels of badguys buying {preselected for sadness} people in bulk from media/info companies :: and then trading those people around until they become empty vessels … robbed of their money … and often of their sense of self.
The media :: the government :: and the courts … will all tell you a different story though. A much less complicated story :: disconnected from the hard problems of reality …
“He is a habitual liar and a fraudster,” Assistant U.S. Attorney April Perry said.
As a result of the size of the fraud and Trudeau’s two previous felony convictions, federal sentencing guidelines called for 20 to 25 years in prison, a range that Guzman said he thought was “appropriate.” However, he eventually agreed with prosecutors who said a 10-year term was sufficient since — unlike in many fraud cases — no one who bought Trudeau’s book was financially ruined.
Just a little bit :: totally …wrong.
I've often said that despite the fact that he's a lifelong scammer, I don't really believe Katie belongs in a cage -- certainly not for ten years -- and that's one area where Salty and I disagree. Even so, I'm hoping that future pieces on Kevin Trudeau will dig a little more deeply into the true harm that Scamworld hucksters inflict, though again, I understand that this wasn't what Aaron set out to do with this piece.

Errors and omissions
Although I didn't really learn much new information about Kevin in this article, since I've been obsessed with this topic for so many years, I did learn a few new things. One of the eye-openers for me was a glimpse into the nastier side of Katie's personality, if the narrative from his ex-wife Kristine Dorow is any indication. (See the content under the sub-head, "Up Close and Personal"
on Aaron's piece.) Though I don't know for sure, I have a feeling that this was one of the leads provided to Aaron by the aforementioned stupidest man in Scamworld, Not-Doctor Leonard Coldwell. I'd heard some gossipy things about this particular ex from Coldwell but knew to take them with a grain of salt until and unless I heard the same thing from other sources as well. Apparently Aaron really did interview Ms. Dorow.

One of the seeming errors of admission, however, was the lack of any mention of Trudeau's ex-wife
Christie Marie Sheldon, who is running some "psychic" schemes of her own these days. I still have a partially-finished blog post about her and another person who was reportedly a big influence on and inspiration for both Christie and Kevin: a clownish looking, Q-tip-headed "psychic" who goes by the name of Gary Spivey. Kevin and Christie reportedly perfected some of his pseudo-spiritual and manipulative shticks by hanging with Gary back in the day. Eventually I'll get around to finishing that post. But I wonder why Christie wasn't mentioned at all in Aaron's piece, which noted: "He has been married at least three times (a number he declined to confirm)." Court documents indicate he has been married at least four times, though.

As another friend of mine who worked with Katie years ago said, "He kept his private life private." But it's fairly well known that he was at one time married to Christie, so I can only speculate that Aaron didn't mention Christie for the same reason he didn't mention Kevin's older brother Bob (Robert Trudeau, Jr.): he didn't interview them.

Bob reportedly refused an interview with Aaron because Aaron wouldn't pay him, and Bob said he is tired of telling his story for free. Since 2012 he has also been saying he's working on a book about his life with his troubled younger brother. And he is one of the consultants for
a fictionalized movie that is being made about Kevin and GIN, The Platinum Bonus, although Abe Husein, another one of the consultants, told me they won't be paid for their consultancy work until the movie is in production. Knowing Hollywood, that could be... never. Bob also recently told a group of friends on Facebook that he had plans to turn his parents' house into a paid tourist attraction after she passes away (his father passed late last year), but I think he may have backed down on that. I'm sure he'll find some way to capitalize on his infamous brother. (The Dream Stealer: The Kevin Trudeau Story appears to be another movie project in which Bob is involved.)

But interview or not, it's curious that Bob wasn't even mentioned at all in Aaron's piece either. As a matter of fact, former colleagues of Katie's have told me that Katie rarely or never mentioned his brother at all. I've always cut Bob more slack than some say he deserves, simply because I still kind of feel for him, being in the shadow of his sociopathic brother.

There are other shortcomings in the article, according to several GIN members and ex-members who said that Aaron's piece told the GIN story incorrectly or incompletely. One omission I noticed was that even though he mentioned the $150 monthly fee, Aaron didn't mention the $1,000 "initiation" fee for Level 1 (which was the "product" for the now-defunct MLM). Beyond that, I'll leave it to ex-GIN members to help fill in the story for Aaron, if they wish. My friend
John Foster, an ex-Katie fan, founding member of GIN and author of a self-published book about some of the inner workings of the organization, might be a good source to help fill in some of the gaps.

Aaron also mentioned that as a major asset of Trudeau's, GIN was sold for $200,000 to some of his Katie's buddies, which I reported here last year
here and here. He didn't mention the proposed sale of the Natural Cures holdings, another major foundation of Trudeau's scampire. I reported this item in November (see under "New-ish Katie court docs"), and linked to the motion for approval of sale that had been filed in September. This is an important asset because Natural Cures, though originally launched to feed Kevin's legal defense fund, according to court documents, was the vehicle by which he became an ersatz health hero, and attracted many of the fans who were ultimately funneled into GIN. His UK crony Lee Kenny supposedly purchased Natural Cures for a mere $100k in late 2012, but there's been a bit of a custody battle since then.

But that's a minor omission compared to the total lack of mention in Aaron's piece of Mark Hamilton (aka Mark Scamilton on this Whirled) and the entire Neo-think (aka Neo-stink) scampire.
I've long speculated that the Neo-stink "Secret Society" shtick played a big role in Kevin inventing his own Secret Society scams. And Scamilton, according to court documents, earned more in the GIN MLM than virtually anyone else. It's possible that Scamilton, being the secretive sort he is, refused an interview too. Or it's possible that he was a behind-the-scenes source like me and not mentioned for that reason. But Scamilton was an actual player in the big scam that was GIN, and in the Natural Cures scampire before that, and he and Katie have been buddies and business partners for a long time.

Also missing from Aaron's narrative is Donald Barrett, Kevin's infamous infomercial partner, who actually did some jail time himself. Then there's Janine Nubani Contursi, Katie's former girlfriend, long-time business partner, and former co-defendant in earlier FTC cases. And there's Reno Rolle, who helped Kevin build his publishing scampire with the first Natural Cures book (and who joined the production team of The Platinum Bonus in December 2013). And there's the aforementioned Lee Kenny. Again, I don't know if Aaron tried to contact them and couldn't, or if he just ran out of time and space. I do think he gave too much space to ex-GIN marketing director and current Coldwell cohort Peter Wink, who laughed to Aaron that he and other insiders knew for a long time that the GIN Council was sheer fantasy, and joked about it among themselves. To me that smacks of complicity... but that, of course, is a whole other topic.

Lies and rationalizations
Reading Aaron's article and the stories Katie told him about being approached in his bedroom by sinister government operatives, it's pretty clear to me that Katie was trying to play him, and was continuing the same old cycle of lies that he has used with everyone else for years. Some criticized Aaron for not following up on some of those stories and trying to verify those that were verifiable. But it could be that Aaron just assumed they were lies and decided to let Kevin ramble, letting the absurdity of the tales speak for themselves. As I mentioned in the above-linked comment on the Business Insider site, I don't see any indication that Aaron actually believed the b.s.

In any event, as is often the case with Katie (and many other scammers I've written about), he can't even keep his lies straight,
as I noted in another comment to Aaron's piece. Kevin has often told the story that the Brotherhood first recruited him when he was 15, not in his 20s. Here is one example from an infomercial for Your Wish Is Your Command (the recruitment tool for GIN); thanks to my friend Julie Daniel for finding this.

Yet as I've noted numerous times before, on an earlier infomercial for YWIYC he told the "interviewer" that he was a member of the Brotherhood from 1975 to 1999. He was only 12 in 1975.

And now he tells Aaron that he was in his 20s when he was first approached by the Brotherhood -- in a bowling alley, of all places.

As I also wrote in my comment, I'm really a little surprised that Trudeau is still telling the Brotherhood story instead of just letting it drop, but since many people, including Abe Husein, were fooled into joining GIN because of this story and the closely related tall tale of the GIN Council, that may be one of the matters still under investigation as fraud, so perhaps Katie feels he has to keep the lie going for the sake of the GIN scam that is still going on under the leadership of Trudeau's long-time cronies. But if he's going to stick with it he should at least be consistent.

I have never been a GIN insider or member or anything remotely close to being a Trudeau fan, but even I -- along with probably millions of other people -- could tell GIN was poppycock just because of those stories, particularly taken in the context of Trudeau's long history of scamming.

* * * * *

Overall, and notwithstanding the seemingly soft ending, I think Aaron did a pretty good job with an unwieldy topic. Even Lenny Coldwell, writing on his Facebook timeline, called it an objective "summery" [sic]. I don't think that any one article, no matter how carefully crafted and fact-checked, no matter how many people are interviewed, can really capture Kevin Trudeau. The real story remains untold, which this isn't say that I'm the one to tell it, even though I have obsessively covered aspects of his story for years on this blog. To me Katie has always been a mere cog in the big sick machine of Scamworld. But his true story may never be told, in large part because his entire narrative is a hopelessly tangled web of lies and evasions, and too many people are still willing to protect him. Those who seemingly want to spill the goods on him sometimes have ulterior motives of their own and are chronic liars in their own right (e.g., Coldwell). So where Kevin Trudeau is concerned, truth remains as elusive as that GIN Council.

As someone who is in a position to know said to me privately, "He's never been who he says he is and never believed any product or service he's sold. That's the real story. He's just a 12-year-old magician looking for his next audience."

And that may sum it up better than just about anything else I've read recently.

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Kevin Trudeau: you too can be an infomercial huckster!

Though still languishing in Camp Cupcake, aka minimum-security cage FPC Montgomery (Alabama), awaiting the results of his appeal (more about that momentarily), serial scammer Kevin Trudeau (aka KT, aka Katie) and his buds are busy keeping his legacy alive. GIN, the Global Information Network, seems to still be humming along (complete with a single-level Referral Bonus Program, if the current Member Agreement is any indication), and Katie is still dictating the inspirational nonsense for his Facebook fan page.

And then there's the infamous baccarat scam, visited some time back on Omri's
Glancingweb, and mentioned a few times here as well. For nearly two weeks and possibly longer, a sponsored link has graced the Facebooks, popping up on the right-hand side of the screen on various pages, timelines, and forums with Katie's smiling face. I first noticed it on January 6. It leads to a site called Baccarat Revealed, which is owned and operated by Katie's UK cohort Lee Kenny, who remains, for the most part, out of reach of the U.S. Feds. Currently the baccarat flopportunity is going for $297 US, though the site claims that it has "sold consistently for over a year at $997."

But the thing that really made me open my eyes was something I saw on Facebook the other day: a promo for Katie's much-talked-about Infomercial Secrets course, for which, claim the promoters, many people have paid $50,000. And now it can be yours for... are you sitting down?... only $997 (there's that magickal Interwebz marketing number again!).

The promo popped up on my feed because it was shared by one of my Facebook friends via
a page called StartUpPlan UK. Oddly enough, the promo now seems to be missing from the page; maybe they got a little bit too much flak about it. StartUpPlanUK is a little cagey about some of their information; instead of sharing the URL to their web site, you have to ask for the URL.

Anyway, the original promo leads to
this web site, which is also pretty cagey about its ownership and origins. However, if you follow the "Add to Cart" link you will see that it is a UK URL. My first guess was that Lee Kenny is also behind this one. There don't seem to be any links to company-specific "legal" pages on the main promo page. But if you go to the payment page there are links at the bottom of the page to Paypal legal pages.

My other guess is that anything that benefits Lee -- whether it's the baccarat scam or the infomercial scam -- will ultimately benefit Kevin personally and will more than likely remain out of reach of the Feds.

Looking at the URL of the main site, I noticed it's a Kajabi URL, about which our pal Salty Droid has had a few things to say.

My friend Kenneth, former GIN member and Katie fan, tells me he watched a part of that course and got a glimpse into Katie's unethical marketing strategies. He said Katie shows you how to sell something by playing on people's insecurities and weaknesses, and says Katie stresses that even if you have a great product, folks aren't going to want it unless it meets some emotional need. Well, that's pretty much the way Scamworld works. (I know it's pretty much the way most consumer marketing works, and has for decades -- particularly in the cosmetics and personal-care products industries -- but it's still reprehensible.) That's prolly the crux of the Infomercial Secrets message, anyway: appeal to people's emotions, especially their negative or baser ones. The rest will no doubt just be Katie gabbing about logistics and so forth -- information that he claims is "25 years in the making," but some of which may be outdated.

What probably isn't mentioned in Infomercial Secrets is that his infomercials were what landed Katie in nearly two decades of the legal troubles that ultimately got him into Camp Cupcake, a place from which, despite his joyous screeds on Facebook, he is fighting desperately to escape.

Escape from Camp Cupcake... will it happen, and if so, when?
as noted and quoted in my previous blog post, Katie's legal defense team is furiously working on the appeal. On Katie's Facebook page yesterday (January 17, 2015) there was this:

Kevin Trudeau Appeal/Legal Updates!
Hello All. I hope everyone has had a wonderful Holiday Season. First, thank you all for the massive amounts of cards and Holiday wishes I have had the privilege and honor of receiving over the last months. I am deeply humbled and appreciative of all your love and support. I return the love and positive energy to you! As you know I have appealed my conviction of contempt of court, (because I am 100% innocent), and I appealed the 10 year sentence as being excessive for contempt of court. (10 years is one of the longest, if not THE longest sentence for contempt of court in the history of America). Contempt of Court is NOT a felony, nor even a misdemeanor.

All the briefs have been submitted. You can read our briefs by sending an email to KTlegaldefense@gmail.com and requesting a copy. [I uploaded the initial ones myself months ago. For links, see this blog post, under "Camp may be fun..." Or see the direct link (to the briefs only) here. ~CC]

Now I wait. The appeal is being heard by a panel of 3 appellate judges. They will rule and make a decision any time now, although it could take up to 18 months before they make a decision. I have a feeling I will hear the decision by the middle to end of the year, although it could be sooner than that or later.

I am asking the appeals court to overturn the verdict of guilty and issue a complete acquittal (not guilty) on the grounds that the government had the burden of proof to show that I KNEW I was violating the order when I made the infomercials and I KNEW I was committing a crime (instead of my belief that I was exercising my First Amendment Rights, which is what I 100% believed I was doing). They government provided absolutely NO evidence as to my intent or state of mind and NO evidence that I KNEW I was committing a crime. Thus I SHOULD be found not guilty, because I am innocent.

IF the appeals court does not acquit me, then we are asking that the case be dismissed because the Government violated the Speedy Trial Act by not bringing the case to trial within the time frame under the Act.

If the appeals court does not dismiss the case as requested, then we are asking them to order a new trial because Judge Guzman did not allow me to use my belief in the First Amendment as a defense. I was forbidden to even say the words First Amendment in court. He also would not allow me to show all the evidence I had proving that I am innocent. (it is all explained in the court briefs we submitted).

Thus a new trial should be ordered where I will be allowed to show ALL the evidence PROVING my innocence.

If the appeals court does not allow for a new trial, then we are asking them to reduce the sentence from 10 years to a max of 6 months because the original Judge who issued the order to show cause for contempt said this was to be "treated" as a misdemeanor with a max of 6 months incarceration if found guilty.

Whatever happens is perfect.. There are no good or bad outcomes other than OUR thinking makes it so. Remember, 99% of all is off the radar screen. What we might THINK is the best outcome, might not actually be for our highest good. Simply know that all IS perfect, as Source/God is ALL things. Everything is one. Thus, perfection at ALL times.

Will Keep you posted!
...and after that he went on a bit about his Nuggets of Gold newsletter, which, of course, I snarked about in my previous post. When you make a "contribution" of $19.95 per month ( "you must hit 'Make this payment recurring – monthly button'") or a one time "contribution" of $210.00, you receive his special, Katie-energy-infused newsletter for a whole entire year. In that newsletter, he will share never-before-shared seekrits, blah-blah-blah.

As many of you may recall, a newsletter is how he started his "Natural Cures" scampire years ago (which was actually launched to feed his legal defense, according to court documents), and consumers are still complaining about signing up, wittingly or unwittingly, for "recurring" payments, and then not being able to disentangle themselves from the scheme when they want.
Here's one of the best-known sites that has complaints about Trudeau. Presumably the current scheme, sponsored by the Legal Defense Fund that was formed some after the receiver took over, is tied in somehow to the Feds, so that proceeds will go towards his legal defense, and anything left over will go towards paying down Katie's FTC massive fine... but you never know.

Still... does anyone really believe that Katie has any new seekrit information to offer?

In an email sent over the past couple of days by one of his minions, Katie was a little more specific about the dates of the appeal.
Please forward and subscribe! Written by Kevin Trudeau

My appeal oral arguments have been set for Feb 24th in front of 3 Appellate Judges in Chicago.  It is not open to the public. But the audio recording will be up on the 7th Cir Court website within a few days of Feb 24th. (you can read all my appeal briefs online as well)I should get an answer on my appeal as early as April (although very unlikely that fast). More likely, the answer will come between June and the end of this year (although it could take longer). The outcome, and timing, no matter what is is, will be Perfect! The Universe has it  Perfect all the time! (most just don't realize it until much much later, if at all)

All IS perfect right now..so feel great NOW (like me!)Now, more exciting and very good news. (all news is just news, it is your THINKING that makes it good of bad..thus ALL news to me is GREAT!)To help pay off the legal expenses and continue to get legal representation, The Kevin Trudeau Legal Defense Fund (KTLegalDefense dot com) will be marketing a monthly emailed newsletter/training course called "Kevin Trudeau's Nuggets of Gold".

It is time for me to start sharing the revelations and breakthroughs in training/awareness/manifesting, that I have been eluding
[sic -- though "eluding" is actually unwittingly accurate ~CC] to over the last year on my face book posts! (Kevin Trudeau Community Face book page)The first newsletter (Feb Edition) will be emailed to all who subscribe, immediately. It is already written and ready to send to you RIGHT NOW!

...and after that he went on and on again about his Nuggets of Gold newsletter. He's really flogging that thing.

This is and will be a very special, and a very powerful newsletter/training course for you. The "Lessons" will be like nothing you can imagine. They will be unlike anything you have experienced in my training, or any training ever before. They WILL have a monumental impact on you and the releasing of your abilities.These lessons are no intended to "replace" any training/courses/books/clubs/seminars/events etc that you are already participating in or involved. Rather, they will  "add to" and "supplement" what you are already doing to increase your material success, happiness potential, and life experience. I believe they will make everything work better, faster..and EASIER in your life.

Each month the emailed newsletter/training course will contain:-a lesson/message with training/energy/knowledge that will help you manifest your dreams/desires, achieve inner bliss/harmony/joy, and attain complete freedom in all areas of your life on all dimensions. This material will help to "release your abilities" to a level never before attainable. The material/knowledge is coming from new downloads I have had since making it through the "wall of fire"...and many other mental/spiritual experiences that I have had the unique and rare opportunity to discover over the last year during my amazing adventure.
[I still wonder about
that McMiracle he mentioned in December 2013. ~CC]

I have eluded
[sic... again] to many of these in my posts on the Kevin Trudeau Community Face book page over the 12 months. (you can go to that page and read them if you have not already read them. I encourage you to do so, as those posts/messages are powerful)...

...Each issue will be upbeat, motivating, inspiring, positive, revolutionary in it's
[sic] material/data and method of teaching, and will simply be a groundbreaking educational/training/awakening "course" for Successful Daily Living! It will make you feel great after every reading. The messages/lessons will be embedded with "strong awakening energy" that will have a beneficial effect on all who read it.

Subscribers and I will have a special bond and connection, as I will always be so "personally" appreciative, directly, to each and every subscriber in a very intimate way.

I encourage you to consider subscribing to "Nuggets of Gold'. You will be helping me personally. (For which I will always remember)  And YOU will be benefitting tremendously from the material/training and life changing energy transfers that you will be receiving each month.

All proceeds go the the Legal Defense Fund (the law Firm of Winston and Strawn) for all my (KT's) legal expenses past, present and future, and the expenses of managing the website.Each Newsletter is written by me (KT) personally.Please share this message/email with as many people as you can. Email this to every one you know. Talk about it in Social Media. Text people...call them. Spread the word.

Post this on the internet, in as many places as possible. Really promote this. Get the word out.Those who do the lots of promotion of this will be honored and recognized at the first event for your efforts, as well as in all Newsletters.This is exciting. The best is yet to come for all of you. Please accept my humble and sincere thank you for all your love and support over the last years as this "adventure' has been unfolding. You are a part of history. You are seeing in "real time' the training in action. You are lucky. You are special. YOUR thoughts and vibration has
[sic] brought us together in this powerful  intimate way.

The next Chapter is about to begin.....be on board!With love and respect to you.....KNOW with certainty....I WILL see YOU at the TOP!


See you at the TOP... does he mean the top bunk? Oh, I guess I've already used that joke here.

Anyway. I'm still working on getting my PACER account up and running, after which I will be able to download and share more court documents and really catch up on a lot of what is going on behind the scenes. I have a feeling that despite Katie's promise to keep his minions updated on the court happenings, and his assurance that you will be able to see copies of everything by sending an email to his legal defense fund, there's a lot he's leaving out, as has always been the case. I'll try to fill you in as much as I can.

Meanwhile, thank you for the donations... keep 'em coming. I will be back with much more, very soon.

PS ~ When do you think Katie will be released from Camp Cupcake? My good friend Julie Daniel posed a question on the public Facebook forum, GIN Network Truth.
Want to play? Here's the link.

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Saturday, January 03, 2015

Kevin Trudeau: Pooping out "nuggets" for the New Year

First off: Happy New Year to all who observe the Gregorian Calendar. I hope your year-end/beginning holidaze were filled with fun, food, and friends (and family too, if you're friendly with them). After all, that's what these Special Times are for. Ron and I had a mostly delightful holiday here on The Ranch at the Edge of Nowhere, the only sadness being that we lost another fur baby, our big fat boy cat Sabu, on December 21. I really should write his eulogy at some point, as I have so far failed to do with two others who have left us over the past two and a half years: our elderly white long-haired cat Grace (May 14, 2012) and our sweet hound mix Layla (August 10, 2013). It's always hard to lose any loved one -- human or fur baby -- but especially difficult during the holidays. But as I was saying to dear friends with whom we spent New Year's Day, the crap that happens in our lives doesn't have any regard for the calendar. Loved ones die or otherwise leave, natural disasters wreak their havoc even on the holiest of holidays, and lives that were sucky don't suddenly and magically get on track to become less sucky just because the calendar says it's January 1.

Even as there are no neat and tidy endings in most of life, there are usually no clear beginnings either.

At any rate, for what it's worth, here we are at the dawn of 2015, a decade-and-a-half past the moment that the Y2K bug was supposed to slam us back into the Stone Age, and nearly eight-and-a-half years into this blog. Though largely inactive for the past few months, my Whirled is still spinning (many don't like the way it spins, but c'est la vie), and I hope to keep it spinning for years to come, or until I get totally bored with it, whichever comes first.

I feel a need to apologize again, not only for my infrequent posting, but also for the fact that so much blog space was taken up last year with
the stupidest and one of the most evil men in Scamworld. And I guess I owe you an apology as well for ending 2014 on a seemingly sad note -- announcing the end of the Salty Droid blog -- although it really isn't all sad notes there by any means. New Year, new adventures.

But in Scamworld, it's the same old stuff -- No Neat and Tidy Endings. Currently imprisoned Whirled favorite serial scammer Kevin Trudeau is still running his scams from the prison camp that he calls Camp Cupcake. Here's what he posted -- or had posted for him -- less than an hour ago as I write this:
-When you make a contribution to the Legal Defense Fund as stated below, each month between the 1st and 5th, you will receive via email the monthly newsletter "Kevin Trudeau's Nuggets of Gold" beginning the first week of February.
-Proceeds go to the Kevin Trudeau Legal Defense Fund to pay for the appeals and the ongoing contempt of court cases
-Each newsletter is written by Kevin Trudeau personally and will contain:
-Real time updates on the KT legal cases/appeals
-Kevin's personal book reviews/insights and in depth reflection on the books he suggests you read
-Answers to your questions
-Special training "nuggets of gold" to help you manifest your desires as well as achieve inner bliss/peace/joy/harmony
-Specific information on overcoming adversity in your life and well as eliminating stress, fear, worry, anxiety, and depression
-A balance of training on improving "the external conditions of your life" (manifesting your desires), and achieving inner bliss/peace/harmony/joy and oneness with the Universe/and all mankind.
-The newsletter will consist of 100% positive messages/images/words and saturated with the essence of Love/Energy/Power that by simply reading it, can awaken your own inner Power/Energy/Love and melt away energy blocks that could be holding you back!

And when you become a subscriber you will also receive a special invitation:
-When Kevin is finally vindicated/redeemed/exonerated and FREE, ALL subscribers will be invited to a Subscriber ONLY event where you will be able to get a one on one picture with Kevin, and a personal hug/handshake and thank you for your support!

The Newsletter is a gift when you make a contribution of only $19.95 per month or the BEST DEAL is $210.00 for 12 months. (That’s only $17.50 per month and you save $29.00 per year!)
Just go to the link below and make your contribution to The Kevin Trudeau Defense Fund – Proceeds go to Winston and Strawn LLP
At the link go to #3 the "donate button" put in the amount and click on the "recurring payment" button OR make a one time contribution and put "Newsletter" in the notes box. Thank you and may this be your best year ever!!
"Nuggets of Gold"... oh, my. Nuggets, nuggets, everywhere! But you only get these nuggets if you make that all-important contribution to the Katie Defense Fund.

Or... here's a better idea. You can send me some money, and I'll be glad to ship you some of the organic nuggets that I am constantly finding here around The Ranch. You can get Dog Nuggets, Cat Nuggets, even Horse Nuggets or Donkey Nuggets. All will be specially infused with something that is almost certainly more useful than the crap that Katie and his friends are pooping out.

I'll have lots more, very soon.

PS ~ But speaking of money... I hardly ever beg, and I hope this doesn't come across as begging now, even though it clearly is. And it pains me to do it. As you know if you've been reading this blog for any length of time, I had been, for quite a while, pretty scrupulous about keeping you posted regarding the developments in Katie's court cases. It's still an ongoing story because the criminal case is under appeal. As you may have noticed, though, I haven't been posting many updates for the past few months. It's certainly not from lack of desire to do so, and emphatically not because I've lost interest in the cases.

It all comes down to funding, lame as that will probably sound to the high rollers of Scamworld and the poseurs and wannabes who are raking in the imaginary wealth by putting pretty pictures on vision boards or dream boards, and then lying about their success on Facebook. But I am not ashamed to say that money is an object at times in my life. And grabbing documents from PACER costs money -- not a lot of money, but more than I can justify budgeting at this point for a project that isn't bringing in any money.

Kind fans of this blog have supported my PACER habit in the past but are not able to do so any more. So what I really need are donations, donations, donations. Every little bit helps. Thank you... and whether you send money or not, I appreciate each and every one of you. I hope the new year brings you peace and joy, and the strength and determination to kick the butts that need kicking, whether they're Scamworld butts or not.

And watch out for those nuggets. Try not to get any on your shoes.

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Monday, December 29, 2014

Salty Droid: Not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning

I’ve been little more than an observer here :: stirring a pot full of ugly turds … and making internet jokes about the bubbles. It’s not a totally useless thing to do {laughing is good … truth is good … conversation is good} :: but it’s not changing the waterline in the turd bucket :: it’s not popping holes in the side … and it’s for sure not kicking the bucket over in angsty bearded rage à la {not baby} Jesus...
...I've watched long enough.
~ Jason Jones as Salty Droid, Christmas 2014

Though I'd known for months that it was coming,
Salty Droid's "farewell" Christmas post still made me a little sad, as it did many other folks. After nearly six years of fierce, funny, and sometimes poignant blog posts, Jason Michael Jones is putting his little fake robot into semi-retirement so he can go forth into the real world wearing grownup clothes, using traditional punctuation, and embarking upon the next phase of his battle against Scamworld.

But what a run it has been. Though scammers have hated him to the point of death-threatening him and physically as well as cyber-stalking him, and even some anti-scam types either failed to take him seriously or were a little put off by his brash style, he has created an impressive body of work. His serious investigative efforts and passionate muckraking have been brought to vibrant life through a prose style that was often cryptic, sometimes a little obscene, sometimes sentimental, and almost always spot-on, enhanced by hilarious photo-comps, info-graphics, and wickedly clever videos.

And he wasn't just sending out words and pictures into the blogosphere; some of the mainstream media took notice as well, and Jason was (and continues to be) a valuable source of information for investigative journalists and reporters who are keen to shed a little light on Scamworld and its loathsome gurus. Included among these journos are those who are working on stories about
now-imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau. Professional journalists take Jason seriously because he knows what he is talking about.

Now it all seems to be coming to an end... but it's not an end in the sense that the scammers would probably prefer. It appears that even as there are no neat and tidy endings in Scamworld, there are no neat and tidy endings in anti-Scamworld.

* * * * *

Apart from the noticeable decrease in frequency of posts over the past year and a half or so, there were subtle and not-so-subtle hints that the Salty Droid blog was winding down; among the not-so-subtle was
this January 2014 effort, in which Jason summarized his gradual awakening "in watery metaphors":

Five years of The Salty Droid :: from Perry Belcher to Herbalife …

– I’m going to drain this disgustingly scummy pool :: and it’s going to be easy … and awesome!

– Wait :: this pool is kinda Olympic size … but I’m sure there’s a drain plug down here somewheres.

– Jesus … this pool is a lake!

– Holy fuckstars … this lake is Lake Michigan.

– OMG … I’m in the ocean.

I. Am. Pointless.

Hear that badguy d-bags? Post it to your private facebooks … tweet it to Kevin Smith … pay $6500 to have a local “news” program run a bullshit segment about it. I’m fucking pointless :: and now … even I know it.

I can not win.

I will not win

And that was the beginning of a year in which new Salty posts were very few and far between.

I embedded the Kevin Smith link above for the benefit of those who don't understand the reference. In a nutshell, film director/writer/actor Smith, whose work I've long admired but whose Scamworld advocacy efforts lessened my admiration for him considerably, took up on Twitter for Internet scammer Naomi Dunford, who was the subject of several scathing Salty blogs a few years ago. Smith and others made it into a misogyny/woman-bullying issue, though it was anything but misogyny, at least from Salty's end. (And I can't help but wonder: where have all those chivalrous Hollywood-celeb heroes been for the past two-and-a-half-years while I have been attacked in a truly misogynistic way by the stupidest and surely one of the most evil men in Scamworld? I'm no home-wrecking Internet marketing rockstarlet, but don't I rate?)

But this is about Salty Droid/Jason Jones, not about me. Well, okay, it's a little bit about me -- maybe a lot about me -- because of the influence that Salty has had on this blog as well as on the larger conversation about Scamworld. So let's talk about me for a while.

I confess that when I was first introduced to the Salty Droid blog in 2009 I counted myself among those who were a little put off by his... um... salty style. It wasn't so much the colorful language that gave me pause as what I felt was gratuitous taunting of some of the scammers. And he and I had some conversations about this. Don't get me wrong: I felt and still do that the scammers had more than earned the harshest derision for their scammy, scummy actions. But making fun of them for more personal things such as aspects of their physical appearance that might have been beyond their control -- e.g., their weight -- felt more like schoolyard bullying than like effective blogging.

Moreover, I hadn't heard of most of the folks Salty wrote about in the early days, such as Perry Belcher and Harlan Kilstein. Reading about them on his blog, it was clear that they were loathsome, but as so-called Internet Marketing gurus, were they really relevant to my beat? I wasn't really sure.

As time went on, and after a few conversations with Jason, I came to understand the taunting, which he explained was part of the fake-robot persona and not the real Jason (and having talked with him a few times I have every reason to believe that the real Jason is anything but a schoolyard bully and is actually a very nice guy). The taunting and teasing, Jason-as-Jason explained, were deliberate attempts -- and admittedly not always successful ones -- to get the scammers' attention and possibly shame them a little, since simply calling them out on their scamming usually didn't seem to faze them in the least. So while I never joined in the worst of the taunting, and some of it still continued to make me uncomfortable, I came to realize that there was real heart and a genuine purpose behind the Salty blog that made the name-calling seem relatively insignificant.

I also quickly came to realize that despite my unfamiliarity with the Internet Marketing scammers Jason targeted, there were many areas where my Whirled beat intersected with the Salty Droid's. In fact I was originally led to his blog by some Aussie friends with whom I'd been corresponding about one of their lesser countrymen, disgraced star of The Secret star David Schirmer,
who was a fairly frequent blight on my blog in 2007 and 2008. It seems that Schirmer came to Jason's attention because of his Stateside joint-venture shenanigans with some of Jason's blog subjects.

So you might say that I came to Salty Droid for Schirmer and stayed for the rest. And the more I read, the more I realized that many of the obscure-to-me Internet scammers Jason wrote about were actually in cahoots with many of the guys and gals on my selfish-help/New-Wage/McSpirituality/alt-health beat, and that the Salty Droid blog was adding a whole new dimension to my knowledge. Although I have years -- decades, actually -- of experience observing (and formerly participating in) the subcultures I write about, Jason was and is much more knowledgeable than I am about the sophisticated and sneaky ways that the gurus work their Internet scams. I have learned much from reading his blog, as well as from reading the articles by other journalists who have used him as a source.

* * * * *

It being Christmas and all, Salty chose to frame his goodbye around the sentimental holiday classic It's a Wonderful Life, laying out a Scamworld scenario that would have unfolded had Salty never existed.

Dave Navarro would be gone {his kids unsupported}. [Dave Navarro figures into the saga of the above-referenced Naomi Dunford. ~CC]
Vemma would be pimping out all our finest bros.
Leonard Coldwell would be :: you know … yuck and stuff … look away!
The government’s inaction would be interrupted only by their issuing of press releases extolling their own effectiveness.
Harlan Kilstein would be … scamming dogs?
Sweat lodge homicider James Arthur Ray would be out of jail already … promoting a new $30 e-book which promises to “literally set your life on fire.”
Which, of course, is precisely the Scamworld that unfolded anyway.

(James Ray's newer promos ("literally set your life on fire") are in particularly awful taste, considering that it was the deadly heat caused by firethat killed three of his victims in the phony sweat lodge inOctober 2009. But he's now out of prison and scamming away once more, exploiting the wreckage of Death Lodge to promote his new old shtick.)

So... was the Salty Droid blog all for naught?

Of course not.

Scamworld was, I think, a little shaken by Salty's efforts, or at least parts of it were shaken, here and there. His efforts were far from wasted, and he has influenced and helped many people -- not just victims, but those who want to do something about the problems he writes about. Read the comments on his farewell post and you'll get a sense of the impact he has had on others.

One of the things that his blog did for me, as well as many others, was to help us realize how serious -- and sometimes deadly serious -- the problem of Scamworld really is. I'd been playing it on the light side for so many years, my basic theme being that Scamworld was mostly silly but for the most part harmless. Of course the James Ray death lodge helped to turn the tide for me (and for this blog), making me newly aware of the dark side of Scamworld, but it was also during this time that Jason really began to hit his stride, and his compassion really started shining through. If there was any doubt prior to that, Jason's coverage of the Ray debacle showed that he really wasn't all about the anger and the taunting. It was clear that he truly cared about the people who are most egregiously hurt by scammers.
And it was the Salty Droid blog that gave me more compassion for Scamworld victims in general, as well as for fans and followers who perhaps haven't been victimized in dramatic or obvious ways but are still clearly being manipulated by someone who has an unfair advantage over them. In the past I've sometimes made unnecessary fun of these fans, choosing snark, sniping, and cleverness over compassion, when the latter would have been far more appropriate. Salty's posts made me rethink a lot of this. As crude and rude and brash and bold as the little fake robot has been, the real boy behind him has set a compassionate example that I wish many more folks would follow.

Despite the good he has done, though, I don't blame Jason for sometimes feeling frustrated by his blog's seeming failure to accomplish everything he had hoped. I can empathize. Even though I never had any particular sense of purpose with my own blog -- certainly not to the extent that Jason seemed to have with his -- I have sometimes felt frustrated, for as I've noted many times before, it seems at times that the only thing we critical bloggers have really done has been to help build a better scammer.

We would jeer, for instance, at some B-list guru's amateurish promo copy or the inconsistencies in some of their narratives, and next thing we knew, the copy would be polished and the inconsistencies wiped away or rationalized. We would write critically of scammers' extravagant promises and claims, and very soon afterward the promises would be modified to seem marginally more honest and realistic, tempered by additional disclaimers and double-talk. What it comes down to is that we've done a lot of unpaid marketing and image-consultancy work for some of the scummiest scammers in the business. That doesn't really feel good.

And then there's that whole "why am I doing this" question, which has even plagued me at times, despite my cheerfully admitted lack of purpose and what I like to call my profound shallowness. Over the years I have been, by turns, seriously questioned and childishly taunted by those who ask me exactly what I am trying to accomplish with my blog. Some have jeered that I have put so much effort into this thing for so little apparent return; after all, I'm obviously not making money from this obsessive hobby, and the scammers of Scamworld are still scamming as if I'd never existed.

And I've often conceded many of these points,
even making light of them when I finally began asking for donations, back in 2010. (Donations do come in on occasion, and are always appreciated, but they don't qualify this blog as a moneymaking venture.)

But despite my occasional feelings of frustration, my blog's insignificance has rarely caused me the angst that Jason seems to feel regarding his blog. That could be simply due to my own modest expectations (or laziness, or lack of ambition), and to my philosophy that has become a mantra that has become a brand: NNATE. © No Neat and Tidy Endings. © In this context, that's really just another way of saying I accept that there are no permanent solutions to the problem of the big sick machine.

But I applaud Jason for his ambitions and for the new direction he is taking because, given what I know of his plans, I think that he really can and will make a difference. The world isn't changed by blogs; the world is changed, or at least some of its awfulness is mitigated, by qualified and dedicated people who do real work. And some of that real work is done in the courtrooms of the United States.

* * * * *

In my comment to Jason's "Merry Christmas Goodbye" blog post, I wrote about my commitment to continue blogging, noting that it will be a little lonelier now. But I am well aware that this type of loneliness is as illusory as any sense of solidarity I may have ever had with Jason or with any other bloggers who work this beat. Of these I include not only
Bernie O'Mahony at GINtruth, and Omri Shabat at Glancingweb, and Alexandra Nouri of Aunt Alex's Army, but also some of my early influences in blogging, such as Steve Salerno at SHAMblog, Chris Locke at the latent but still relevant Mystic Bourgeoisie and Jody Radzik at Guruphiliac.

I am friendly with all of these people, though we have never met in person. We support each other by linking to and quoting each other in blog posts and on social media. But when it comes right down to it, blogging carries its own form of existential alone-ness, much like the process of entering or leaving this world (though generally with less blood, sweat, and tears). Blogging, like most writing -- even writing with a purpose -- is solitude more than it is solidarity. Contrary to the rabid rants of
the profoundly stupid and evil Leonard Coldwell, there has never been anything like a concerted effort among the small number of bloggers on the Scamworld beat. Certainly there has never been anything remotely resembling collusion or conspiracy, paid or otherwise, although Coldwell's manic insistence that Salty, Omri, Bernie and I are paid criminal conspirators who are out to destroy him and his "grounds of business" has made for some hilarious blog fodder for several of us over the past couple of years.

The truth is and always has been that we are each our own blogger, writing about what we want to write about when we want to write about it.

That said, it will still seem a little more lonely without Salty, darn it. But at least it appears that he will be leaving his blog up on the Web as a much-needed resource. And while many of us will miss the promise of regular new posts, rest assured that Jason has not given up on fighting Scamworld. He's simply taking it to a new level, about which I'm sure he'll tell us more when he is ready. I have used this analogy on his blog and on Facebook, but... remember that scene from the second Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers, where Gandalf returns? "Yes...that was what they used to call me. Gandalf the Grey. I am Gandalf the White. And I come back to you now -- at the turn of the tide..."

So if you happen to be poking around the Facebook feeds of Mocktor Coldwell and you see him boasting that he and his mighty "legal team" are responsible for shutting Salty's blog down, give him the derision he deserves. Post on his threads, if you're able (though he blocks so many people that you might not be able to even see the posts, much less participate). Know that Coldwell is still licking his wounds from the beating he took when he actually tried to sue Salty and Omri in February 2014, thinking they were the same person. The case was dismissed in April. Most of you probably already know this story, but
read it again just for grins and giggles.

And read
this post from September 2012, when Lenny offered a $600 reward for the first person who could give him info about Salty that had actually been on Salty's blog for years.

this one from December 2012, when Lenny was bragging about how he and his then-lawyer, the affable and mostly-retired-from-lawyering Bill Hanahan, were putting the finishing touches on the lawsuit that would utterly destroy Salty ("the marinated troll") and me (Salty's "playmate").

Be sure to remind Lenny and his fans of what really happened, should he actually be so stupid as to try to take credit for blasting Salty out of the blogosphere.

For that matter, if you've a mind to, write a comment
on this bogus video by "James Dyson," which was clearly made by a scammer wannabe who hates Salty. This vid pops up near the top on search results for Salty Droid, and Not-Doktor Stupid even posted it on his own Facebook page to "prove" what a loser Salty/Jason is. The video is edited so that it juxtaposes footage from a CNN expose of real cyberstalkers with footage of Salty, making it appear that CNN actually did a story about Salty. It's totally contrived.

And if you happen to be poking around the Facebook feeds or other forums of any of the other slimy scammers Jason has tackled over the past five years, and they're high-fiving each other over the demise of the Salty Droid blog, do whatever you can to inject a little truth into the conversation.

As Salty himself writes in his Xmas farewell:

Don’t be sad.

This is not the end of the story.

It’s just the end of the juvenile beginning.

I’ve watched long enough.
The little fake robot is taking a well-deserved rest. But I sense that the real boy in the suit and tie, doing un-fun but necessary things, is just getting started.

Suck it up, scammers.

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