As the Whirled churns...
It's been way too long since I've blogged, but I wanted to throw out a few meaty snippets before I settle back and relax after a very busy Monday.
Are things looking up for Melbourne's Mini-Madoff?
It appears that "controversial" (his description) Australian Secret star David Schirmer, currently on tour in the good old US of A, has caught a bit of a lucky break. Ben Fordham, the reporter from the Aussie tabloid show A Current Affair (ACA) who has been on Schirmer's case, is now facing legal troubles of his own. These are not related to Ben's numerous stories about Schirmer, but rather to another story he did about a politician who allegedly ordered the contract killing of a male prostitute. In pursuit of this story Ben and another ACA reporter, Andy Byrne, allegedly used a hidden camera and published the resulting footage; they are charged with violation of Australian laws concerning the use of listening devices. The two are also charged with concealing a serious offense (i.e., the alleged ordering of the contract killing). The person who allegedly ordered the killing, a 71-year-old former mayor, has also been charged. The alleged murder for hire did not take place, so arguably the ACA guys saved a man's life. Here's a link to the story.
As you might expect, David Schirmer has publicly commented about this, writing: "...ACA is the most stupid show on TV … as well as totally inaccurate, deceptive and slanderous. Ben Fordham has sought to ruin many good Australians over the years with lies and deception. I don’t wish anyone to go to prison, I do hope though that justice is done to Fordham for the evil he has done to many people." This was a comment to a February 25 piece on the Aussie TV site, "What's On The Tube."
As I noted in a comment to the discussion around my post of 18 February, I do not, and never have, condoned illegal or unethical tactics by journalists. From both a legal and ethical standpoint, the end does not necessarily justify the means. Journalists shouldn't play police detective; that's a sure way to get into trouble. And yes, I am and always have been aware that A Current Affair is concerned more about ratings than anything else. Frankly, this is also the case with many of the more "legitimate" news outlets, including those in the US – but tabloid shows are notoriously less concerned than the more mainstream outlets with journalistic ethics, and more interested in sensationalism. But this doesn't mean that they never hit upon the truth; I think they do. Still, you have to consider the source; this is tabloid TV, after all.
Even so, I don't believe that ACA just made up everything about David Schirmer out of whole cloth; where there's smoke there's fire, and all that. (Furthermore, I have never believed that the evidence for Schirmer's misdeeds is based solely on the information in the ACA exposes.) Moreover, this latest turn of events is not proof, or even very good evidence, that Schirmer is innocent of any of the accusations against him. Ben Fordham's troubles, however, do seem to give Schirmer a little boost in his campaign to convince the world of his own innocence. This is what I think we might call one of those "unintended consequences." Even if Ben, in his relentless pursuit of stories, was motivated by something higher than his own self-interest, and even if he actually intended for his scandal-mongering to do some good for other people, all of that good work could potentially be undone by one foolish act. Too bad.
However, Ben and Andy have said they will vigorously defend themselves, and although as I said I don't condone dodgy journo tactics, I find myself rooting for them, hoping at the very least that they can avoid prison. Matter of fact, I've never advocated prison for the David Schirmers of the world either. I think prison should be reserved for violent criminals who pose a real physical danger to society. I can't speak for the people who were allegedly wronged by Schirmer, but I don't think they're necessarily interested in seeing him go to prison either. Heck, they probably just want their money back. And I'm guessing that a few sincere apologies would be a nice touch too.
But none of this seems likely to happen as David Schirmer prepares to expand his brand in the US, while sweeping all of his problems in Oz under the proverbial rug. There's even speculation that the Schirmers may decide to relocate to America. Meanwhile David is continuing his whirlwind tour of the US. During his stop in Chicago he reportedly "had an awesome meeting with Vic Conant." That would be Vic Conant of Nightingale-Conant, the famous publishers of self-help and motivational audio products from some of the biggest "names" in the biz.
Now, I have no idea whether Vic was as awed by David as David apparently was by Vic, or if Vic was just being the nice polite guy he is reputed to be, and figured that everyone deserves a listen. Nor do I have any idea what the meeting was about, although I have a feeling David was there to pitch his products and perhaps suggest ideas for new ones. I'd be very careful if I were Nightingale-Conant, though. I would make sure that what David Schirmer is offering isn't based on the work of his former joint-venture bud Bob Proctor, a long-time Nightingale-Conant staple. I have a feeling that Proctor's legal team wouldn't be very happy about that, particularly in light of the legal actions Proctor took against Schirmer last year. I may be wrong, but it looks to me as if Schirmer is still actively promoting some material that is based on Proctor's work, e.g., the "Australian Born Rich Program," which Schirmer says is a live seminar based around the book, You Were Born Rich (a Proctor classic). In happier times, Schirmer and Proctor did some live seminars together in Australia, and for a while Schirmer was selling DVDs and other material based on those seminars. Even if he has since repackaged them and had the Bob parts edited out, I'm not so sure that Bob would be happy about the prospect of the person he successfully sued for deceptive practices making money off of his, Bob's, name and work. And I'm pretty sure that Nightingale-Conant wouldn't want their own good name besmirched by copyright infringement issues.
Then again, Nightingale-Conant can probably take care of themselves. They've been in business a long time and, as I've said, they've published the works of many of the world's most famous motivators and self-improvement experts (so far they've published three audio packages by Joe Vitale). At one time they even offered a version of the Mega-Memory Course by the infamous Kevin Trudeau. Kevin has certainly had his share of troubles, but I'm sure that even though he no longer seems to be in their active catalog, he made a lot of money for Nightingale-Conant. And maybe that's all that really counts.
In any case, I have a feeling that if Nightingale-Conant liked Kevin Trudeau, they are absolutely going to love David Schirmer.
That's Sir Hustledork to you
Speaking of cons, the star of the latest US financial scandal, Texas tycoon "Sir" R. Allen Stanford (who, come to think of it, sort of bears a resemblance to the aforementioned Kevin Trudeau), still has not been arrested, although one of his fall gals, the Chief Investment Officer at Stanford Financial Group, was taken into custody by the FBI February 26 on charges of obstructing an investigation.
So are you thinking what I'm thinking? What I'm thinking is that Sir Allen would fit just perfectly in the New-Wage/selfish-help industry, especially if he can manage to stay out of prison. As we know, however, even a prison record cannot significantly damage the earning power of a true master.
In some ways Sir Allen stands head and shoulders above some of the New-Wage industry's leading hustledorks, who have only their phony doctorate degrees, whereas Sir Allen has that whole phony knighthood thing going. Still, I imagine the New-Wagers would gladly welcome him into their fold, and their followers would give him standing ovations at any magical money-attracting seminar where he appeared.
At the very least, once Sir Allen gets past those little setbacks he's currently facing, he should seriously consider writing a motivational bestseller and putting on a bunch of hugely expensive seminars. (He probably already has a book deal or two, but he really needs to cram some New-Wage spiritual concepts and probably some quantum physics into his book, just to have all of his bases covered.) He is, if nothing else, a master at self-reinvention, and could probably teach even some of the most seasoned selfish-help spruikers a thing or two by example. This is from a recent piece by Houston Chronicle columnist Loren Steffy:
Claims that strain credulity were the foundation of Stanford’s business.
On its Web site, the firm claimed it traced its roots to the Great Depression, when the grandfather of founder R. Allen Stanford started an insurance company in Mexia.
Stanford’s father, though, told the Chronicle last week that he sold the insurance business and that his son had nothing to do with it.
Nor was Sir Allen related to the founder of Stanford University, as the firm claimed until the school sued for trademark infringement.
Instead, the future Sir Allen reportedly started a fitness club in Waco that soon went bust. Then he and his father began in the late 1980s buying up distressed real estate in the wake of the savings and loan crisis.
In 2000, Sir Allen told the Chronicle he founded his Caribbean bank on Montserrat with money left over from funds he’d raised for a real estate deal.
That’s no way to start a bank. In the U.S., it’s a violation of securities laws to collect money for one purpose and use it for another.
Later, after he’d become wealthy and his operations were ensconced in Antigua, Sir Allen began claiming he’d been knighted by England’s Prince Phillip but stopped after Buckingham Palace refuted it. He continues to use the knightly title, though, which was bestowed by Antigua’s prime minister.
The little lies are designed to build up credibility among unsuspecting investors, to paint over the cracks of suspicion that might otherwise cause the scheme to crumble.
Ironically enough, Sir Allen lost a bit of money to the infamous Bernie Madoff, proving that even the conman isn't too smart to get conned. As for the people who got conned by Sir Allen, well... it's not that I don't have sympathy for them (as I do for Madoff's victims), but then again, I have to think that at least some of them have to bear some responsibility. Liars can't profit much without people who are willing to suspend all judgment and believe the lies. As the self-described "non-award-winning political satirist" David Bourgeois wrote recently in the Huffington Post:
The poor saps were lured into this Ponzi scheme with the elixir of unrealistic riches; their thirst for off-the-charts financial gains blinded them to the obvious scam going on right under their noses.
If we really want to weep for victims of financial chicanery, how about we start with the thousands of workers losing their jobs due to extreme financial mismanagement?
Anyway, I'm thinking that Sir Allen could really find his niche teaching the hopeful but desperate masses how to excavate splendid new moneymaking ops from the rubble of this shaken economy. After all, that's what he did back in the 1980s, taking advantage of the wreckage left by the savings and loan crisis, which fueled his meteoric rise to wealth beyond belief. Today's distressed economic climate seems to be an excellent breeding ground for future Sir Roberts. They just need a really good teacher.
Con artist or not, there are many in Antigua who claim they don't care what their knight did wrong, because Sir Allen did right by them. This is from another Houston Chronicle story:
“In America, I’m afraid his goose is cooked, but we will always respect him here for what he brought to the country,” said a merchant who asked not to be named discussing a man who casts such a huge shadow.
“I will tell you, what he has done for this country is remarkable — legal or illegal — and nobody can dispute that,” he continued.
There, you see? It's all good. So... welcome to the New Wage, Sir Allen! I have no doubt that the hustlers will save you a place at the head of their table, where they sit and continue to stuff themselves, occasionally tossing out crumbs to the starving commoners who are simply trying to get into the banquet room. I am sure that you will be an inspiration to many in the years to come.
Whither the SGR club?
While we're on the topic of New-Wagers and shady schemes... remember that "Three Amigos" Science of Getting Rich (SGR) scheme with Secret stars Bob Proctor, Jack Canfield and Michael Beckwith? You know, the one that played on the fame of The Secret, even though Rhonda Byrne and T.S. Productions took pains to inform people that SGR was not in any way affiliated with The Secret or T.S. Productions? This was the scheme where people paid nearly two thousand good U.S. dollars to get a briefcase filled with papers and CDs and stuff. And then they had a chance to sucker other people into buying briefcases, which would earn the sellers handsome commissions and enable them to buy expensive cars or houses or lovers or vacations or whatever they desired for building the life of their dreams.
Well, it seems that deal has completely disappeared from the main SGR site. Go there now and all you get are some tips on copywriting. Hmmm.
But for those who are nostalgically inclined, the scheme lives on in some old affiliate videos, such as this one. I have to wonder: Did the SGR operation get shut down because the number of people who realized what a scam it was finally reached critical mass? I remember that early on there was some suspicion that the plan wasn't exactly legal and bordered on being a pyramid scheme; Oprah reportedly even strongly criticized it, and Michael Beckwith apparently dropped out of the scheme for a while, though he later returned. I've blogged about this on several occasions besides the post I linked to in the "Three Amigos" paragraph above. For example, there's this post; scroll down to the subhead, "Riding The Secret gravy train." (By the way, if you try to follow any of the links I listed in that snippet, you'll find that most have disappeared.)
At any rate, I'm sure that SGR's demise is no skin off the backs of any of the Three Amigos. Scientist Bob, after all, is now busily involved in a scheme with Mary Manin Morrissey, selling people advice on how to reposition their boners by using the eleven Universal Laws that were left out of The Secret. Jack "Chicken Soup" Canfield also is involved in dozens of schemes, and Reverend Beckwith is busy as well (and I have to say that of the three, he seems the most sincerely interested in changing the world for the better. But maybe that's just my own projection (and predilection for dreadlocks) speaking). As for all of the poor suckers who got stuck with those two-thousand dollar briefcases and some seriously downscaled dreams, too bad for them, huh? But hey, there's always the next earth-shattering, rip-roaring, life-changing, thunderously exciting affiliate scheme. And there will be many more such schemes, and many more such suckers, some of whom will probably be the very same ones who got hosed in the briefcase deal. There might even be some Madoff and Stanford victims in the mix.
Contrary to popular belief, PT Barnum apparently never said, "There's a sucker born every minute." But someone said it, and that someone was right. An endless supply of suckers is the one thing that all hustledorks, New-Wage or not, can count on, no matter how crappy the economy gets. It's all a matter of finding creative new ways to separate people from their money.
NEWS FLASH added on Wednesday, 4 March: Boys and girls, if you missed your chance to get screwed out of $2,000 for an SGR briefcase, here's your chance to get screwed out of only $297 for the same thing, although I don't think you get a chance to screw other people out of $297 (but I could be wrong). Yes, Bob is selling off his stock right here. Get 'em while they last! (If you watch the video, notice how slick Bob is with his implication that the SGR program he's selling was the basis of The Secret. In reality, Rhonda Byrne was originally inspired by the classic book, The Science of Getting Rich, by Wallace Wattles, which is now in the public domain and easily available for free or cheap.)
Might as well notify the Nobel Prize Committee right now
Finally, speaking of creative money-making ideas, I am thrilled to announce that a brand new branch of science has been created by "Dr." Joe Vitale: neurometaphysics. He announced his discovery in his March 2 blog post:
I’m a neurometaphysician. I created the new science of neurometaphysics.
I’m a neurometaphysician. I created the field of neurometaphysics. This goes beyond neuroscience, which is the study of how your nervous system affects your life. Neurometaphysics is the science of how your thoughts create your life...
...Note: If you want to hear more about the science of neurometaphysics, leave a comment and tell me so. Meanwhile, please Digg this post and share it with others. Thank you.
And the Joebots are lining up to praise him and find out more about this fascinating new branch of science.
Come to think of it, it might be kind of cool to have a Ph.D. in neurometaphysics. Since it is such a new branch of science, though, I fear that the diploma mills...I mean, online universities...might not have a program in place yet that allows one to buy...I mean earn...a degree in that particular discipline. Joe himself already has a doctorate in metaphysics, but what if he wants to buy a doctorate in neurometaphysics? I guess he'll have to create his own online university with an advanced degree program, and sell the Ph.D. to himself. Maybe he could call his new institution of higher earning the Vitale American Institute of Neurometaphysics, or VAIN. And he could sell "life experience" Bachelors and Masters and Doctoral degrees to tons of other people. Hey, it's another income stream. You don't even have to thank me, Joe.
By the way, there's a guy named Anoop Gupta in Canada who just might take issue with Joe's claim to have invented neurometaphysics. No worries, though; maybe Joe and Anoop can share the Nobel Prize.
Well, that's it for now, Dear Ones. More soon.