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.)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Whirled Musings: nine years and counting


Today, believe it or not, is the ninth (9th) blogaversary of Whirled Musings. I imagine that some are either surprised or disappointed that this little outpost of the blogopshere is still whirling. Indeed, its failure to die is not from lack of effort on the part of some of the forces of evil in Scamworld. Most notably: the stupid, evil, psychopathic little prick who
unsuccessfully sued me earlier this year.

But I'm still blogging. The orbit of my Whirled has been a little wobbly of late but it's still spinning. (And the above image was brought to you courtesy of a Google Images search result for Whirled Musings.)

I will have more Kevin Trudeau court docs to share soon, as well as other news about other scammers. And I'll get to that, slowly but surely, as I work to address some of the other Matters of Consequence with which I have been concerned for the past several months.

For now, I thank you once again for your support of this blog over its nine years (and counting!) of existence. And if you're wondering what to give a nine-year-old who has everything but money, there's always that "Donate" button at the upper left hand side of the Web version of this Whirled. Every little bit helps. Thanks!

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

A moment of silence for Colleen Conaway

Six years ago today, on July 25, 2009, Colleen Conaway died at a San Diego mall during a seminar hosted by James Arthur Ray, the infamous star of The Secret and now a convicted killer (though he was convicted, and served a much-too-short prison sentence, for the deaths of three other people in Sedona, Arizona in October of 2009).

Here is
my post about Colleen from two years ago. It has some good links, including a link to a post by my pals Salty Droid and Yakaru.

Reportedly Ray, who had
a history of recklessness and arrogance where his followers are concerned, has paid civil penalties for Colleen's death, but he has never been charged, tried, or convicted on any criminal charges for same, and more than likely never will be. And since his release from prison a little over two years ago, after serving time for the Sedona "sweat lodge" deaths of James Shore, Kirby Brown, and Liz Neuman, he has been making lame attempts to become the selfish-help star he used to be. Not surprisingly he has been exploiting the deaths of his followers, and his own time in prison, as something of a hero's journey (with himself as the hero, of course).
In 2009, after rising to the top of his industry, James was involved in a terrible accident that claimed the lives of three people he cared about deeply. The anguish of that event would have been enough… but it didn’t end there.

James subsequently lost his business that took 20 years to build, his entire life savings, his home, his reputation and many so-called friends and colleagues deserted him. Simultaneously, his Mother was diagnosed with cancer, his Father with dementia…James eventually lost his freedom.

Through all of this, James states, “In the process of losing everything…I actually found myself.”

His experience proves that it’s the challenges, difficulties and austerities of life that we reset ourselves, reboot, reassess and realize once again what’s truly important. It’s our challenges and crisis that present the greatest opportunities if we’re only willing to utilize them in that way.
Of course, Colleen is not among those "three people" whose lives were claimed in the aforementioned "accident." She rates no mention at all in Death Ray's world, apparently.

Colleen may have been all but forgotten by many, but some of us will never forget. My heart goes out to her family and friends on this sad anniversary.

Related on this Whirled:


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Friday, July 10, 2015

Kevin Trudeau to be blasted on American Greed

I'm on the run right now but just wanted to pop on to the Whirled to announce, in case you haven't already heard, that serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, aka KT, aka Katie, will be the star tonight of a long awaited American Greed episode on CNBC. Here's the link to an extended preview.  

And if you want to find out more about what it was like to be a member of Katie's biggest scam of all, the Global Information Network (GIN), and to have invested a lot of money for no return, read my friend John Foster's book, Kevin Trudeau's Roadkill Victims He Doesn't Want You to Know About. John was a founding member of GIN and a member of Katie's "Inner Circle," and like virtually every other GIN member who invested anything, he got royally screwed. Here's a link to the Smashwords page for John's book.

In related news, more court docs have become available and I'll share those soon (or you can hop onto PACER and get them yourself). Included among these are various orders concerning the refunds due to the purchasers of Katie's diet book -- the book whose infomercials helped to land him in prison. The FTC wants to start doling out the dough.

But meanwhile you can read another long awaited piece of content, the receiver Robb Evans' latest "Forensic Accounting Report." No big surprises in this 400-plus page tome; clearly, Katie has been cleverly hiding his money while playing the role of the poor imprisoned pauper ("the Receiver cannot state with certainty that it has located all of Trudeau's assets and revenue generated by Trudeau and the Trudeau Entities because of numerous obstacles the Receiver faced...") ... but here's the info anyway.

More soon!

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

#LoveWins... but hate is still throwing tantrums over there in the corner


I'm very busy right now, but there is no way I am going to let an entire calendar month go by without posting at least once. So here I am, just under the wire for June. It's hard to stay focused on my little Whirled beat when there is so much going on around me. While June has been a horrendous month in the U.S. in some ways -- the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17 being one of the most newsworthy examples -- it has also been a month to celebrate. Charleston rallied, and the rest of the country united in outpourings of love and compassion -- and then there was Bree Newsome and her brave and symbolic act of climbing that flagpole and removing what is, despite "Southern pride" protests, a symbol of hatred and racism from the Charleston State House.

One of the most celebration-worthy events was the June 26 decision by the Supreme Court to
legalize same-sex marriage. Love wins!

Well, maybe. The backlash began immediately. The right-wing politicians and clergy are foaming at the mouth, and
even our own Attorney General here in Texas folded his self-righteous arms and declared that county clerks can refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

And -- bringing it back to my beat here -- one of those whose head exploded over the SCOTUS decision was none other than my least favorite little homophobe, Not-Doctor Leonard Coldwell, former b.f.f. of imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau. Since I am kind of on the run,
I will let Bernie 'splain it to you.

Apart from ranting about marriage being between a man and a woman, and about how gay parents mess up their adopted children, Lenny has also been using Facebook to promote links to writings and videos by notorious anti-Semitic Holocaust-denial types, such as the late
Eustace Mullins and the rabid End-Times lunatic Texe Marrs. He has also been promoting "Adolf Hitler: The Greatest Story Never Told" again. And yes, I have screen shots of all of it.

So the next time any of you sharp-minded legal eagles are even thinking of suing me for indicating that Lenny Coldwell is a hateful little being, or for anything else I have ever written about him, you'd better think again. You don't have a case.


My hope is that, in the end, love will win, despite those rabid little haters over there in the corner, foaming over about gay people getting married, or for that matter, ranting against the removal of historical symbols of hatred and oppression



For now, just know that I love all of you who have supported my efforts here, and I will have much more as soon as I can. See you in July!


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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

This looks like good news



So the great affair is over but whoever would have guessed
it would leave us all so vacant and so deeply unimpressed
It's like our visit to the moon or to that other star
I guess you go for nothing if you really want to go that far.
~ Leonard Cohen ("Death of a Ladies' Man," from the album of the same title, 1977)

"I will not start the fight, but I will finish it!"
~ Leonard Coldwell, everywhere on the Interwebz, constantly



I published a very abbreviated version of this post -- just the above graphic, no text -- when I first received the news on May 19, via email and supporting PDF, that
not-doctor Leonard Coldwell, ex-b.f.f. of imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, had, through his attorneys, voluntarily dismissed his civil defamation case against me (and several other defendants). [Case number 15-CVS-2791, filed in the General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division, Guilford County, North Carolina]

For more details about this suit,
see this post (under "Cosmic Connie and the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad lawsuit").

On the following day I temporarily removed the present post for a couple of reasons, though not before receiving a comment suggesting that the picture of the dismissal was fake (see comments). I assure you it is real. Okay, so I did embellish it with a picture frame and Lady Justice, but the document itself is real. I have since received a print copy of said document in the mail, unframed and un-embellished, directly from the lawyer's office. But you don't have to take my word for it, Florian (and any of you other doubters). If you want to verify its reality for yourself, feel free to contact the attorney in question, William F. May of the Greensboro, North Carolina law firm Culbertson & Associates (also known on some Google sites as May & Culbertson Attorneys at Law), whose contact information is on the Notice of Voluntary Dismissal document. Or contact Mr. Coldwell himself, if he hasn't blocked you.

Make no mistake, though: I am not gloating about this. I do not feel that I have "won," mainly because, due to my inability to afford a lawyer and my reluctance to go forth without one, I never really got into the fray. All I did was file a couple of motions on a timely basis, pro se. I first filed a motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. Ignoring that motion, the Plaintiff's attorney apparently tried to plunge ahead into discovery -- evidently not giving a flip that discovery works both ways and that his client would have shriveled under real discovery. He even subpoenaed Google for my personal account information, and I was obliged to file a motion to stay discovery pending resolution of the motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. (That second motion did manage to get Google's legal department off my back -- not that they were ever really on my back, because Google doesn't even necessarily respond to subpoenas, of which it receives thousands per year. Here is more information about that subject.)

However, my motions were never calendared (by me), and consequently were never heard or ruled on (by the Court), and the Plaintiff's voluntary dismissal makes them moot. The attorney, when I asked him for a reason for the voluntary dismissal of Leonard Coldwell's defamation suit against Schmidt et al., simply responded that a "non-waivable conflict of interest" had "developed" between the Plaintiff and the law firm, and that the firm of Culbertson & Associates will not be representing Mr. Coldwell with regard to any matter going forward. Make of that what you will. I did not and will not ask Mr. May for details.

But I am not complacent. While it may seem like good news, the truth is that I won nothing. And "without prejudice" means, of course, that Coldwell is perfectly free to turn around and file another sham lawsuit, which I will also be obligated to deal with. On the other hand, neither did Coldwell win anything, except some more legal bills and, possibly, more fodder for lies or distortions, should he foolishly choose to exploit this case the way he did
his sham suit last year against Jason Jones (Salty Droid) and Omri Shabat (Glancingweb), whom the suit mistakenly named as being one and the same person. (In fact, Coldwell was exploiting the failed Droid/Glancingweb case even in the service of bragging about this 2015 North Carolina case, falsely stating on Facebook that Jason had been hiding from service for well over a year. Nothing could be further from the truth.)

Early in this case, Coldwell boasted about it several times on Facebook. Most of the boasts were soon taken down; I speculate though do not know for sure that this was at the advice of his lawyers. But the bragging lives on, in screen shots. Here are two that were up briefly -- posted on February 6, 2015 -- but were soon taken down:





The first picture, which contains a mug of poor beat-up Bernie O'Mahony of GINtruth.com, is particularly disingenuous, not only because of the way that Coldwell had previously misappropriated and publicly lied about that picture in order to falsely and publicly portray Bernie as a child rapist, but also because Bernie was never part of this North Carolina case at all, as he explained in a recent post. In fact despite numerous threats against Bernie, Coldwell has never sued him and more than likely never will, due to a little thing called jurisdiction. When he's not setting Europe on fire with spurious "'Dr.' C. book tours", Coldwell is in the U.S. for the most part (hiding out in one or both of the Carolinas) -- while Bernie lives in Japan, happily, as he has been doing since 1999, contrary to Coldwell's claims that Bernie is "hiding out" in the Land of the Rising Sun. I am pretty certain, however, that if Bernie were in the U.S. he would find a way to sue Coldwell for those outrageous false claims about child rape.

The second picture, the one with the tiger and the threatening "RUN BITCH" watermark, was posted to Coldwell's buddy Abe Husein's page under Coldwell's former alias "Rudi Kauder." Coldwell has written other ridiculous public posts under that name and once he even sent me a personal threat via Facebook using the same alias. "Rudi's" account has since been deleted.

In addition to the general boasts about the lawsuit, Coldwell spewed several profoundly absurd posts specifically about Jason on Facebook, e.g., the usual nonsense about Jason being "in hiding," and other even wilder and crazier false claims about him. I'll leave it to Jason to share those if he wishes to do so.

While the above two Facebook posts are gone, this one, from March 13, 2015, still exists as of May 31, 2015.
You can see how Lenny's little group of sycophants is cheering him on (as always, click on pic to enlarge):

 

And lest you have any doubt that Coldwell was talking about Jason and me in the above, there's this, also from the same day and purportedly written by Coldwell's half-brother Jens Wilhelm Anskohl, whose fake name Coldwell never can seem to spell the same way consistently (Nicholas? Nicolas? Nicky? Nicki?). (Jens, or Nicholas, or Nicky, or Nicki, or whatever you want to call him, is a good-looking ladies' man (reportedly) who, I think, lives in Germany and Las Vegas. Do you really believe he spends his time writing posts on Lenny's Facebook page? Me neither.) Anyway, this post also disappeared soon after its appearance; either Abe wiped it away or Lenny did so himself.
 



On a video posted on April 1 (an appropriate day to be sure), Coldwell can be heard telling conspiracy-fringe radio host Jeff Rense about arrest warrants against un-named perps who were supposedly defaming Lenny, and he mentions having spent... well, I can't quite understand him, but it sounds like he's either saying he spent $6,000.00 or $106,000.00 on legal fees last year in order to finally make these arrests happen. It starts at about 36:00, but if you have some time to waste you really should listen to the whole hilarious thing.

Anyway, to be clear: The case that has just been dismissed was a civil case, not a criminal case. Coldwell never filed any criminal case against Salty and me and the other defendants -- not now and not in the past (even though he has been boasting for years that civil and criminal actions against Salty, me, and various other bloggers are in process). So either Coldwell was flat-out lying about that criminal litigation and those arrest warrants, or, perhaps inspired by false hope imparted to him by his "legal team," he was counting his chickens before they hatched, or even before he had a hen to lay the eggs. Granted, there were indications -- things going on in the background that I'm not going to write about yet -- that Coldwell and his lawyers were trying to trump up some sort of wacky criminal case, but that never happened. And Coldwell's lawyer Mr. May assured me that new pleadings his firm had been working on were also rendered moot by the voluntary dismissal of Case Number 15-CVS-2791.

Although I did not discuss arrest warrants with Mr. May, I can assure you that there never were any arrest warrants for any of the defendants in the case that Mr. May was involved in and that Coldwell had been boasting about on Facebook -- so, again, that clearly seems like a deliberate lie from Coldwell. But maybe you are in Lenny's inner circle and you know something I don't. Fine. If you can present me with evidence that there is or ever was a warrant out for my arrest, or for Jason Michael Jones, or for anyone involved with Rational Wiki (the other main defendant), I will be glad to publish it. For now, I think it is safe to assume that once again Leonard Coldwell was lying about arrest warrants being issued for "defaming" him. Now, that's a big surprise.


Look, I know that many of you are probably tired of reading about this. And indeed, I have so many other things to write about on this blog besides Leonard Coldwell. Heck, even Google -- the search algorithms, not their legal department -- wants to steer me away from Leonard Coldwell and towards a much more popular, much more successful, and much more frequently Googled Leonard C, Leonard Cohen. Google is always trying to complete my search term for me when I'm typing, whether I'm signed in or not, and Google apparently likes Cohen a lot better than Coldwell. Me too.

But I stand by every word I've written about Leonard Coldwell and will continue to do so until and unless I receive credible information that will lead me to modify or retract any of the content. On my numerous posts about Coldwell (as on all of my posts), I have provided abundant screen shots and/or links that you can easily follow yourself and make up your own mind about the subject.


What I am trying to say is that I don't want to bore you any more than necessary -- or any more than I already have -- with this particular subject.


But I suspect this story isn't really over, and as I said, I am not complacent. None of us should ever be complacent where potential SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) actions are concerned. Equally as important, we should never be complacent about the continual abuse of our legal system by public figures such as Leonard Coldwell who file frivolous lawsuits to bully and try to intimidate writers... just because they can. Jason Jones said it quite well in last year's memorandum in support of his motion to sanction Coldwell and his then-lawyer, Dennis J. Kellogg of Chicago:
The legal system should not be a weapon wielded by wrongdoers in the face of well-meaning whistle-blowers, stifling important discussion about matters of public concern, though too often, that is exactly how our system is used. There can be few better examples of suits interposed for improper purposes than the present frivolous and unreasonable Complaint brought by Plaintiff...

...Much judicial ink is spilled opining about the possible "chilling effect" that a given piece of legislation, or legal precedent, might have on the marketplace of ideas. But as the speech function of the fourth estate has become increasingly diffuse, with modern technologies removing most of the traditional barriers to publishing and public participation, the vanguard in the fight for the free exchange of ideas has moved from the newsroom to the living room. It is the constant threat of frivolous, and prohibitively expensive, litigation that is of principal concern for the individual citizen journalist without access to media lawyer representation.
If you haven't read Jason's entire motion, I urge you to do so. It's worthwhile not only for the arguments, backed by case law, but also for the exhibits, which clearly display Coldwell's primary objective of using litigation as a bullying tool. (Coldwell even refers to me in some of those exhibits, e.g., as Jason's "playmate" or simply "the slut.") Despite Coldwell's crowing about the case, Leonard Coldwell's attorney Dennis J. Kellogg filed a motion to withdraw from the case ("for professional reasons") less than three weeks after it was filed, and that motion was granted on March 17, 2014. Coldwell spun that on social media as his having learned that the case was actually a Federal criminal case and therefore he was hiring new lawyers to prosecute it. He also lied that Jason was scared and hiding from him because of the lawsuits, making it impossible to properly serve Jason. And as indicated above, Coldwell continued his lie about Jason being a fugitive from justice when he (Coldwell) was spinning tales about the now-dismissed North Carolina case 15-CVS-2791. His attorney for the North Carolina case apparently even bought that lie for a while, or pretended he did, as Jason wrote about on his February 19, 2015 blog post.

To my knowledge Jason did not follow up on his 2014 motion to sanction Leonard Coldwell and attorney Dennis J. Kellogg, even though legally he could have. This is probably because Judge Lynn M. Egan's dismissal of the case "for want of prosecution" rendered it moot. "For want of prosecution" basically means that nobody -- neither Coldwell the Plaintiff, nor an attorney appearing on his behalf -- even bothered to show up for the hearing that had been scheduled by the Court. And Jason, having been a resident of Ohio for more than a year by that time, didn't want to have to keep going back to Chicago to attend hearings, which he would have had to do had he pursued the sanctions motion. He has a life, after all. But he did file the motion to sanction Leonard Coldwell and Dennis J. Kellogg in the Court, and it is on public record, so Coldwell's recent claim that Jason was lying about the sanction motion is inaccurate.

At any rate, I just thought I should let you know, in case you were wondering, that yet another lawsuit that Lenny was bragging about has ended -- as another Lenny might put it -- on a deeply unimpressive note. 


PS ~ You can view the original Complaint and the Notice of Voluntary Dismissal here.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Kevin Trudeau v Robb Evans: the lies of taxes are upon you



I might as well finally break in the merry month of May on this Whirled, since the month is already almost half over. Gosh, where does the time go? Since I'm on deadline with a project and occupied with other matters of consequence, this will just be a brief update about imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, who likes to be called KT, but whom I like to call Katie. In my
previous blog post on April 20 (scroll down to "Selling GIN from the clink"), I caught you up on, among several other things, some of the civil court action (Case number 1:03-cv-03904), sharing with you that Katie has been whining to the court because the court-appointed receiver, Robb Evans, hasn't been filing taxes for all of Katie's bidness entities on a timely basis, and also hasn't filed a status report in a heck of a long time. I gave you a link to that fine whine, but here it is again in case you haven't seen it yet or want to review:
https://www.scribd.com/doc/262276155/Trudeau-Civil-Case-Document-879-and-Exhibits-Trudeau-Motion-to-Compel-Receiver-to-File-Tax-Returns-and-File-a-Status-Report-04-01-15

On May 12, following the receiver's response, the Chicago media finally decided to join the party;
this is from the Sun-Times, and this is a CBS Chicago bit that sources the Sun-Times story.

Both stories quoted Katie as saying, "I have been stripped of all ego, arrogance, defiance and pride and for this I am very thankful, as it has made me a better person."

Well, let me tell you, I was shocked and dismayed to discover that some of you people are laughing at this. Poor Katie. Don't you cynics think it is at all possible that he has truly changed? Don't you remember
that Christmastime McMiracle he experienced while still partying and whooping it up at the MCC in Chicago in 2013? Don't you think it is possible that it was a true miracle and that it changed him forever from the inside out? You don't believe such a thing happened with our Katie?

Me neither.

But really, it's okay if you laugh. Katie himself was just talking about ha-ha moments on his Facebooks the other day (thank you to my dear friend Julie Daniel for pointing this out to me).
Here you go:



And I was so inspired by Saint Katie's message about the value of laughter that
I had to hear the Monkees sing about it.

But I'm going to give you more than a Monkees' song, and more than the Chicago media gave you. I'm going to give you links to the latest court docs regarding Katie and the receiver and all of those un-filed tax returns and whatnot.

1. First, there's the RECEIVER’S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO FILE RESPONSE INSTANTER
(which is pretentious legalese for "immediately"), a motion in which the receiver also asks the court give Trudeau extra time (well, one day extra) to file his response to the response. This motion and the attached Exhibits were filed on April 29, 2015, in response to Trudeau's insistence that the receiver file the proper tax returns for the Trudeau entities. The receiver argues that it has not filed tax returns for entities over which it either has no control, or for which Trudeau or his agents have not turned over the records. In response to Trudeau's demands for a new status report, the receiver explains the reasons for decreased frequency of status reports. Here is that link:
https://www.scribd.com/doc/265231640/Trudeau-Civil-Case-Document-882-and-Exhibits-Receivers-Motion-for-Leave-to-File-04-29-15-PDF

2. Then on May 12, 2015, Trudeau's lawyers filed a reply brief -- and it is brief, relatively speaking -- in support of Trudeau's original motion to compel Robb Evans to file tax returns and to file another status report. There's some good snarking in this one. Here is that link:
https://www.scribd.com/doc/265233499/Trudeau-Civil-Case-Document-885-Defendant-Trudeau-Reply-Brief-in-Support-of-His-Motion-05-12-15

There is still nothing new on the criminal case, court doc-wise, anyway. Trudeau's appeal (regarding his conviction and ten-year prison sentence), which was heard in February, has still not been decided. At the moment I have a feeling that Katie's time in the cage will not be as prolonged as many may have hoped.

I will have more soon.

PS ~ For those of you who are wondering about the profoundly stupid defamation lawsuit filed against me (and a few other defendants;
I also wrote about that on my April 20 blog post, under "Cosmic Connie and the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad lawsuit"), there's not really any new news to report at the moment. It appears that where this suit is concerned the plaintiff is, for all practical purposes, in hiding, as is often the case with him, so things are kind of on hold for the time being. Meanwhile, I'm still responding on a timely basis to whatever is thrown my way as a result of this totally groundless case. I'm not in hiding, and I hope to have some real news soon.

Meanwhile, I suggest we all take the Monkees' advice, and... LAUGH!
And if you need any more inspiration for laughter, look no further than this. Ho, ha, ha, ha!

PPS ~ Leonard Coldwell v Connie Schmidt et al.: Case dismissed; details here. And you can view the original Complaint and the Notice of Voluntary Dismissal here.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Whirled suits, hustling from Camp Cupcake, and dates to remember


First of all, Dear Ones, following my customary apology for my laxity in blogging (I'm sorry!), I must also apologize for my April 1 fake-out. Though I embedded a link to a graphic indicating that it was an April Fool's joke, a few people were April-fooled, if but momentarily, and some were quite upset by the prospect of me hanging up my Cosmic blogging hat. I was touched by the responses. Rest assured that I am not going to willingly give up blogging any time soon. Now let's catch up on things.

Cosmic Connie and the terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad lawsuit
I do want to let you know about something that is going on in the background that I've only hinted at on a few blog posts over the past couple of months (including in my April Fool's graphic), though I'm not yet ready to write about it in detail. On January 28, 2015 I was served with a lawsuit for defamation. (By sheer coincidence this was also the birthday of the Plaintiff (I would make a joke about his "birthday suit," but fear it would bring up egregiously unpleasant visuals). Also by sheer coincidence it was the one-year anniversary of the day that
this article was published on the Jewish Journal site.)

By "served," I mean I that in response to a certified mail notice in my rural mailbox, I went to the post office (or, more accurately, sent my husband to the post office) to pick up the actual lawsuit. The thing was filed in a North Carolina court by --- I bet you've already guessed -- one Not-Doctor Leonard Coldwell, ex-b.f.f. of and former "personal physician in Europe" to now-imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau (aka K.T., aka Katie). [Case number 15 CVS 2791, filed in the General Court of Justice, Superior Court Division, Guilford County, North Carolina]

Yes. The very man who, over the past few years, has publicly, repeatedly, and without any evidence whatsoever called me, among other things...

  • an AIDS-infected ex-prostitute who gave STDs to her customers
  • a Big Pharma/medical profession shill being paid to defame, hurt and ruin Coldwell under "more than 70 fake names" and on dozens of "fake web sites"
  • a criminal conspirator who recruited "two proven child molesters in foreign countries" and a "crazy criminal wannabe lawyer" Stateside to defame "Dr." C and hack into his web sites and radio show
  • a druggie
  • a seriously mentally ill (and/or mentally retarded) person who is "a danger to herself and others"
  • a sexual harasser who has been pursuing him for years and has told his own brother on the phone that she wants to "suck Dr. C. dry like the Sahara"
  • a dog-killer
...all of which are bald-faced lies... yes, that person has sued ME for defamation. The suit is rife with misrepresentations and outright lies as well as more fundamental flaws, but it is a real "thing" and I am fighting it the best way I can. I do not yet have a lawyer because -- and I am not embarrassed to admit this -- I simply cannot afford one. The sad truth is that many people can't afford lawyers, at least not good lawyers, a reality that inconveniently clashes with the litigation fever that has been burning up our society for many years. And there seems to be a dearth of lawyers willing to help a small-time blogger fight a bat-crap crazy lawsuit pro bono.

Sometimes lawsuits are necessary to get justice for those who have been wronged. But all too often, they're simply the first and last resort of whiners and scoundrels. For some people, litigation is a sport. For people like Coldwell who often find themselves cornered by the barking (or snarking) dogs of truth, abusing the legal system is a desperate attempt to silence the barking and snarking. Witness
last year's sham lawsuit, when Coldwell sued Jason Jones, aka Salty Droid (in the wrong jurisdiction, no less), for blog posts written by Omri Shabat at Glancingweb.

And then there's the present action, where we have the man who has described himself as "the greatest therapist of our times," "a great humanitarian," and "the world's most highly paid motivational coach on earth" -- you know, the guy who has cured more than 35,000 cancer patients with a 92.3% or better cure rate -- beating up on a little hobby blogger who has no money.

Writing abusive, profane, obscene and offensive lies about me for more than two years on his and some of his buddies' public social media pages did not work to shut me up. Trying to incite his readers and fans to take violent action against me by falsely accusing me of killing his dog (and publicly posting my home address and private cell phone number while openly encouraging his fans to "get in touch with me") did not work, or hasn't worked yet (we remain on high alert here, and I have not really felt safe in my own home since last summer). When telling vicious lies about me and trying to sic his craziest fans on me didn't work, Coldwell resorted to abusing the very legal system for which he has often expressed contempt (e.g., he has preached that most laws on the books are irrelevant to "sovereign citizens" such as he, and that most lawyers are "dirt" and a waste of oxygen). Despite his contempt for the U.S. legal system, the courts serve just fine as a bullying tool when it suits him.

Way to fight the good fight, Lenny.

Coldwell has apparently taken great umbrage at numerous things I have written about him (though no specific blog posts have been cited), but in the complaint, the top-named offense is that I have accused him of hating Jewish people. Yes, of all the thousands of words I have written about him, my relatively few mentions of his apparent anti-Semitism seem to have gotten his little goat the most. Make of that what you will. He also doesn't like the fact that I have shared, in passing, much-repeated eyewitness accounts regarding his ungentlemanly-like behavior at GIN (Kevin Trudeau's Global Information Network) events. He doesn't like the fact that I've insinuated he is a scammer, and he falsely states that I have called him a cult leader. And he is really, really riled because I (and another co-defendant) wrote or insinuated that he has been sued. (Actually there is a record of a civil suit in South Carolina where he is listed as a defendant, but whatever.) And so on. There is a whole laundry list of petty whines in that complaint.

The lawsuit, for which a jury trial is demanded, asks for tens of thousands of dollars in "damages" from each of the defendants (yes, there are more than one; see below), as well as permanent injunctions to make us take down our writings about Coldwell and agree not to cause any of the content to ever be republished anywhere, and, presumably, to refrain from ever writing anything about Coldwell ever again. Way to champion free speech, Lenny.

"But, Cosmic Connie," almost none of you may be saying, "You should have thought of this before you started writing those posts! If you couldn't afford to be sued, then you should never have gone after this man who has done so much good for so many sick people, and who is driven only by a promise he made to God when he was a very little boy with a very sick mommy. If you can't stand the heat, get out of the blogging game."

To which I can only say, "Some considerations are more important than money and whether or not one can 'afford' to tell the truth." Although at this point, some money would be helpful.

If you've not done so already, you can read some more bits and pieces about this judicial travesty on Salty Droid (here and here), since Jason is also named in the lawsuit.

The other main defendant is the person who is the admin for the Rational Wiki site, the offending piece being
a single article about Coldwell that appears on the site and was originally published in May 2014. The complaint and subsequent documents betray a confusion on the part of Coldwell's mighty legal team about just who is responsible for this article, which was apparently not written by any of the people named in the complaint. (Any of you Rational Wiki contributors who might be reading this: you can take this news back to the "Talk" page: there really is a lawsuit against Rational Wiki for this piece. I tried to join in the "Talk" and 'splain as much, but frankly, I don't understand how the Rational Wiki "Talk" system works, so I can only communicate through this blog.)

And in a blatantly obvious attempt to cast as wide a net as possible, the list of "defendants" is rounded out by several irrelevant web sites and domain registry companies.


NOT on the list of defendants, despite a short-lived post on Lenny's main Facebook profile that featured the blogger's beaten-up mug (a picture Coldwell stole from the blogger's Facebook page and made up an outrageous and libelous fake story about) is Bernie O'Mahony in Japan (GINtruth). Omri Shabat at Glancingweb isn't named either. Just in case you were wondering. (Here is Bernie's post from February regarding Coldwell's early hype about the lawsuit. Coldwell has been pretty silent about it recently, though.)

Though there is more than one defendant, I am clearly the main target of this suit and the one who, for some reason, Coldwell views as the greatest threat. He apparently finds my little blog threatening despite its almost embarrassingly small readership, and notwithstanding his own greatness and the fact that he is beloved by millions, and has zillions of dollars, and his business just keeps growing and growing and growing, according to the stories he tells outside of the lawsuit. Why, on his Thanksgiving Day message on Facebook this past November, he wrote that 2014 was his best year ever, and that he will just keep getting better and better. But... better destroy that pesky little blogger, all the same. It's for the cancer sufferers, Champions!

Anyway, I will give you more deets when I can. And by the way, if you're surprised that Lenny is apparently hanging his hat in North Carolina these days instead of South Carolina, as had been commonly accepted wisdom on this Whirled and elsewhere, you're not the only one.


UPDATE:
The above case ended, not with a bang but a whimper, on May 19, 2015, when the Plaintiff's attorney filed a notice of voluntary dismissal without prejudice of all claims against all defendants.
Read more here.

You can view the original Complaint and the Notice of Voluntary Dismissal here.

Selling GIN from the clink
But let's get to more interesting and relevant topics, such as all-time Whirled favorite
Kevin Trudeau, without whom I and most of the rest of the world would never have even heard of the above-mentioned whiny little plaintiff. Earlier this year I caught you up on some of Katie's shenanigans, including the promos for his new "Nuggets of Gold" e-newsletter, and various continuing scams such as the Baccarat scam and his Infomercial Secrets info-frauduct. In the latter post I also provided the court updates, such as they were, and links to some of the appeals briefs. And I shared commentary and insights from a recent Business Insider in-prison interview with Trudeau.

Well, here it is a few months later, and Katie continues to spread his New-Wage/McSpirituality wisdumb from the confines of Camp Cupcake, aka FPC (Federal Prison Camp) Montgomery, Alabama. He's still apparently pooping those Nuggets of Gold out on a regular basis, along with something he calls the "Science of Personal Mastery Course," which he emphasizes is not to replace the famous Success Mastery Course (which you buy into when you join the Global Information Network (GIN)), but only to supplement it. Rest assured that via
his Facebook fan page, a page which I am allowed to read but on which I am not allowed to comment, Katie is still very much pushing the club that his close buddies took over last year. But one of his main agendas, particularly with the Nuggets of Gold poop machine, is to raise money for his legal defense fund to help defray his enormous legal expenses as well as, of course, to fight for "Free Speech and Civil Liberties for all." You know Katie, the First Amendment Stuporhero. Well, Katie, if you're so enamored of free speech, why am I not allowed to write on your Facebook fan page?

The posts appear fairly frequently on Katie's Facebook page, some of them just some standard New-Wage nonsense about the Law of Attraction and so forth, and
there was even a brief announcement of an estate sale that was held earlier this month to clear out his Oakbrook, Illinois McMansion (they had the Ojai, California McMansion rummage sale last year). He still generally gets hundreds of "likes" for every one of these possibly dictated-by-Katie but proxy-written posts, along with numerous fawning comments. So, even as Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead, Katie still has quite the enthusiastic fan base, and if anyone can keep a good scam going from the clink, he can. If he can get around those pesky Feds when he gets out of the clink, he'll be ready to hit the ground scamming.

But whether or not he'll get out any time soon remains an unanswered question. His appeal (re his ten-year prison sentence for criminal contempt related to infomercials for his weight-loss book) was heard on February 24, 2015, and so far no decision has been made. When I popped on to PACER the other day I saw no new documents in the appeals case.

I did see one measly little document in the original criminal case. Whenever someone sends an email or other communication to the court, pro- or anti-Trudeau, it is added to the documents in the case. The letter I saw the other day, which out of mercy for the writer I have redacted, was not pro-Trudeau, but the writer seemed a bit confused as to which Trudeau he was really slamming.



Apparently the "Southron" boy thought he had a real scoop with that discovery that Katie's infomercials are still running on TV. So scoopworthy did he deem it that he cc'd some major media, a few Congressfolk, and even selected Feds. Obviously he didn't read my explanation last year (April 28, 2014) about why Katie is still on TV. Here's that link; see under "Katie is still on TV, and here's why." Spoiler alert, Southron [sic] Boy: It can be summed up in two words: Nick Esayian. And it can much more truthfully be summed up in seven words: No neat and tidy endings in Scamworld.

Not that Southron Boy asks such a dumb question, mind you. He makes quite a valid point. But don't count on the complicit media being hauled off to Camp Cupcake any time soon just for running infomercials about frauducts and flopportunities. Not as long as there's money to be made from Katie's scampire.

While on PACER, I poked around on the civil case docs too, because that 12-year-old case (with origins even older than that) hasn't been closed yet. That's the case that generated the huge, yet-to-be-paid $37 million-plus fine to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). What I found in the new-ish docs was Trudeau's motion to compel the court-appointed receiver (Robb Evans, originally ordered by the court to assume control of the Trudeau entities on August 7, 2013), to file tax returns and file a status report. This motion and exhibits were filed April 1, 2015 and a hearing held on April 7. Response is due by April 28; a reply to that is due by May 12, and a status hearing is set for May 21, 2015.

Katie is whining that he can't file his income tax returns because he doesn't have access to all of the necessary information, and besides, he adds, it's Robb Evans' job to do that because after all, they took over his whole universe in 2013. He also demands that they file another status report, because it's been a while. For their part Robb Evans argue that they are indeed filing the proper papers for the businesses, and that Kevin and his lovely estranged Ukrainian bride Nataliya Babenko's personal income taxes are the Trudeau couple's responsibility. They also say that they will file another status report soon, when they're good and ready, so there. But here, let me let you read it for yourself.

Here is the link to the latest documents in the Kevin Trudeau civil case.

So that's it courtside for now. I'll keep you posted about responses and hearings and so on. And by the way, the much-ballyhooed CNBC American Greed episode about Kevin Trudeau (and GIN) is currently scheduled to air on July 9, according to one of the producers. I'll post more about that when the time approaches.

Dates to remember
Before I close I'll bring this post back full circle, in a way, subject-wise. Today, besides being
International Weed Day, is the birthday of Adolf Hitler. The latter date is marginally and somewhat hilariously relevant to the frivolous lawsuit I wrote about at the beginning of this post. Most of that connection is not really my story to tell, so I won't, but suffice to say that it does appear that a much-touted Holocaust-denial propaganda film called Adolf Hitler: The Greatest Story Never Told is a favorite viewing choice of one of the parties to this lawsuit. (Hint: not me and not Jason and not any of the other defendants.)
It dismays me to see the "Hitler was right" or "Hitler wasn't such a bad guy" contingent at work in various ways on the Interwebz. It floors me that, 70 years after the "work camps" were finally liberated -- far too late for millions upon millions of innocent souls -- the type of hatred that built and maintained those camps still exists all around the world.

But there is a powerful counter-force at work too. Over this past weekend, April 18 and 19,
marches and other events were held across the country as a "Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance -- 70 Years After the End of World War II." The Houston area was no exception; here's a trailer advertising one of the Houston marches:



I didn't participate in any marches, but Ron and I watched a haunting documentary that re-aired on PBS on April 19,
Memory of the Camps. I could not watch it dry-eyed. I was incredibly sad, of course, but mostly I was angry that there are so many people who continue to deny that these atrocities ever occurred. As Holocaust denial becomes more of a force -- becoming ever more sophisticated and widespread through vile instruments such as Adolf Hitler: The Greatest Story Never Told -- and as actual Holocaust survivors and liberators and other eyewitnesses continue to die off, it will, I suspect, become ever more of a challenge to foster historical accuracy.

I am not suggesting for a moment that the Holocaust deniers or even the rabid haters be censored. Censor them, ban them, and they will simply become martyrs to the cause of free expression. Moreover, I believe that the fundamental rights of freedom of expression belong to haters as well as to the rest of us -- unless, that is, they are specifically inciting and inviting violence to individuals, and doing things such as publishing those individuals' home addresses and other personal information, or otherwise blatantly attempting to endanger them. Hate speech perpetrators in those cases should be censored, as well as punished to the full extent of the law. (Coldwell should have been but wasn't punished for endangering me, for that matter, and I am not going to let this issue slide.)

Nor am I suggesting that every person who tries to give a fair listen to some of the deniers is a hater himself or herself. It is never hateful to ask questions, to question the history we were taught. But I am saying that people who cling to Holocaust denial after all of the evidence is presented to them seem to have their own agendas, and those agendas are not exactly what you would call friendly to Jewish people or to any other group who has ever suffered at the hands of haters. That's the nicest way I can say it.


Truth-seeking and accurate historical perspective become particularly challenging when you have some Holocaust deniers who seem to have a clear anti-Semitic agenda, and proudly promote it, and then sue or otherwise try to intimidate people who point out that apparent agenda. Just saying. But I also know that lawsuits are nothing compared to the suffering of millions of people who were herded into concentration camps and subjected to profound horrors from which the majority of people walking the Earth today have the luxury of time and distance. We can't let that luxury blind us.


Never forget.

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Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Goodbye, Whirled: Time to turn over a new leaf

I suppose you're wondering why I have been absent from my Whirled so often in recent months, despite numerous promises to start blogging more frequently again. I only wrote one post during the entire month of March (!). That is very unlike me, even during my busy times when I have lots of real work to occupy me.

Well, Dear Ones, after much soul-searching I have decided that the time has come for me to hang up my blogging hat, after nearly nine years of blogging. It is with some sadness that I do this, but it is time. The Universe has sent me many signs over the years, perhaps, but now there is an unmistakable sign,
the biggest sign of all, you might say. I have finally been outwitted, outgunned, and outmaneuvered, not only by the greatest therapist of our times but also by one of the greatest legal minds of our times. Together, they are a formidable force: true Champions, of the kind that I can only aspire to be. My Cosmic-ness is no match for their Championics.

I have, in short, been truly humbled. I shall snark no more. It has been a long, fun ride, but now it is time to move on. I thank you for your support for all of these years.

For details, including a formal statement and some important documents,
please see this link.

As they say, I'll see you on the flip(pant) side.

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Thursday, March 05, 2015

Death Ray: the Scumback Kid in Phoenix


James Arthur "Death" Ray, star of that infamous paean to crass materialism and narcissism
The Secret, sociopath extraordinaire, and representative of much of what I find most revolting about Scamworld and its gurus, has been on the comeback trail ever since he got out of an Arizona prison in July 2013. This was after having served less than two years for the negligent homicide of three participants in a faux sweat lodge at one of his pricey "Spiritual Warrior" events in Sedona, Arizona in October 2009. The three -- and let us never forget their names -- were Kirby Brown, James Shore, and Liz Neuman. I've written a few times about Death Ray's comeback efforts since his release (see links at the end of this post).

There really isn't much to say about Ray that I -- and a handful of other bloggers,
most notably Salty Droid -- haven't said dozens and dozens of times already in the past five-plus years. But there are always new ways to say it. On February 21, 2015, Ray held a one-day seminar on "Epic Living" in Phoenix, Arizona -- an event that I had mentioned in a November 2014 post (see under "GIN promotes killer"). I also posted a screen shot of one of Death Ray's Facebook promos for the event. Some of the GINfolk -- members of the Global Information Network, the seekrit club launched in 2009 by imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau -- were all excited about the Phoenix event, and were promoting Ray and his work at some GIN events and on social media. Which I found disgusting, but not really surprising.

Well,
Matt Stroud at Bloomberg Business actually attended the Phoenix seminar and apparently sat through the whole thing, and the end result was an article that, without editorializing, pretty much paints Ray for the sociopathic puke that he is.

Here's that link.

Good job, Matt. (Except for spelling Liz Neuman's last name wrong.)

As many of us Ray-watchers had been predicting when he was first released, and as some of us have blogged about since then, Ray is making the most of his time in the cage, working it into his new selfish-help shtick. He frames his "unfortunate" experience as a lesson about walking through fire and "taking responsibility." And he talks at length about his "losses" during and after the 2009 sweat lodge atrocity, apparently without actually mentioning the names of the wonderful human beings whose loved ones will live the rest of their lives with their losses.

Ray's events since his release from the cage have been vastly scaled down from the throngs he entertained in his glory days. There were only about thirty attendees at the Phoenix to-do, and I'm sure that chapped his a$$ a little. But clearly he is struggling to climb his way back up the same ladder from which his own recklessness had previously toppled him. Although the Phoenix event only cost a little under $500 a head, he is apparently offering six-hour private "mentoring" sessions for $15,000.

And clearly, he still has a problem with that "complete and total responsibility" concept that he blathers about in his workshops these days. The Bloomberg piece quotes him as saying to the Phoenix gathering that his was the first case in U.S. history in which "adults participated willingly in an event and then the organizer of the event was brought up on charges." Granted, he framed this around his declaration that when the tragedy first happened, he blamed everyone but himself, the implication being that he no longer blames everyone but himself. Yet it seems to me that he he still hasn't entirely rid himself of the notion that the folks who died were adults and willing participants, and therefore bore responsibility for their own deaths.

And this sentiment was echoed in the remark of one of the attendees, a marketer name Kevin, who is quoted as saying, "It [the sweat lodge incident] was just an accident. People were adults, were in adult situations, having given adult consent and signed agreements. Did anyone set out to murder three people that day? Absolutely not. So it's water under the bridge today."

Tell that to the families and friends of Kirby Brown, James Shore, and Liz Neuman. And while you're at it, tell it to the people who cherished
Colleen Conaway, who died in suspicious circumstances at a Ray event in San Diego about two and a half months before the Sedona tragedy. (Ray and his minions apparently tried to cover up her death after they found out about it, and partied on through the night.)

Matt Stroud writes that Ray declined an on-the-record interview with Bloomberg Business, but did answer a couple of questions for Matt during the event. When Matt asked him why he hadn't tried to contact the bereaved families, Ray said that Ginny Brown, Kirby's mom, had taken out a restraining order against him. Ginny denies that. And I believe her because... well, these New-Wage/selfish-help sociopaths are not known for being truthful. In fact, lying is pretty much their stock in trade.

But the most revealing Q & A came later in the day, when Matt asked Ray why he went back to the same career that had led to his downfall. Ray's answer says it all.

There is nothing else that can bring him fulfillment, he replies. There is, he says, “a power that works through” him—a faith, not in his “finite abilities,” but in his “clarity of purpose” and his power to captivate audiences.
“If you see any level or mastery in my abilities, it’s not me. It’s something that was given to me that I developed.”
To give up on that power, he says, “would destroy me.”
Never mind the people he destroyed through his callous exercise of that awesome "power."

You may have heard the old saying, "The dogs bark, but the caravan moves on." Very often that's something Scamworld gurus and their fans say as a way of thumbing their noses at critics like me. And I've come to accept that there's a lot of truth to this maxim. I even have a somewhat related saying on this Whirled that you've probably heard a few dozen times before: There are no neat and tidy endings in Scamworld. People like James Arthur Ray will continue to try to work their dark magic on the masses, and will always find willing audiences, and there's not a lot to be done about it -- but that doesn't mean there's nothing to be done.

One thing we can all do is to make sure that nobody ever forgets what James Arthur Ray did. I've said this before -- in fact I am pretty much lifting this bit from
my five-year Death Lodge anniversary post last October -- and I will no doubt say it again. Do what you can to spread awareness: through social media, through blogging, through peaceful protest at live events. And if you are in the self-help industry, consider signing the pledge offered by SeekSafely, the organization founded by Kirby Brown's family. Very few have signed the pledge so far, and to this day, no "big names" have bothered to do so. There is, as I noted back in October, a message there.

Ray and his small but possibly growing group of fans can rationalize all they want. But for those of us who refuse to forget who and what he is, the deaths of three -- no, four -- good people, and the physical and emotional harm done to who knows how many others, will never be "water under the bridge."


More about the Scumback Kid:
And in case you haven't read this yet and want to find out more about James Ray in his glory days before and immediately after he became a killer, here is my October 2010 offering, published on the one-year anniversary of Death Lodge.

PS ~ Also in the No Neat and Tidy Endings category, here's Matt Stroud on the real reasons the FTC can't really put a dent in pyramid scheme problem. And if the name Peter Vander Nat sounds familiar, it may be because you encountered him in this December 2013 post where I wrote about his assessment of the now-defunct GIN MLM as a pyramid scheme.

Update, 12 March 2015: LaVaughn at the Celestial Reflections blog has some spot-on commentary about Ray's hypocrisy and media-dodging, citing numerous indicators that the leopard has indeed failed to changed his spots. "...aside from the near media blackout, he's the same old James. He's still trying to make the universe his bitch." Here is the link.

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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.
~CC

 

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:
http://cosmicconnie.blogspot.com/2011/05/burning-question-what-happens-when-fire.html.
* * * * *
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:
http://cosmicconnie.blogspot.com/2009/11/lies-that-blind.html

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:
http://cosmicconnie.blogspot.com/2010/03/self-help-regulation-necessary.html

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:
http://cosmicconnie.blogspot.com/2009/05/all-thats-missing-is-music.html

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