Wednesday, March 31, 2021

El-Ron is dead. Long live Kevin Trudeau!

 March has been yet another month in which I mostly neglected my Whirled. Life sometimes gets in the way of hobby-blogging. I've had several items on the back burner for months, but let's start with a topic that's probably predictable if you're at all familiar with this blog: serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, who has been serving a ten-year(ish) federal prison sentence for criminal contempt related to hugely deceptive infomercials for a weight-loss book he perpetrated years ago.

Trudeau served most of his time in a minimum-security Federal sleepaway camp (FPC Montgomery, Alabama), but since January of 2021
he has been in home confinement in a private residence in the Chicago area, where, if he's a good boy, he'll be allowed to finish serving out his sentence. His scheduled release date is either May 2022 or July 2022, depending upon the source to which you're referring.

Now, just what he's going to be able to do once he's totally "free" is still open to question.
I wrote about that in January of 2020.

More recently, Trudeau has captured the attention of one of my favorite writers,
Tony Ortega, author of the Underground Bunker blog as well as a couple of engrossing books, all of which take a relentless look at the evil cult-religion Scientology. In January of this year, Ortega published a blog post about the similarity between Kevin Trudeau's sales pitches and those of Scientology as Trudeau's release from prison draws nearer.

Trudeau can hardly wait to get back in the saddle, and his Global Information Network (GIN) is anticipating his release by starting to book personal sessions with him after he gets out. Yes, if you book early, you can secure in-person counseling with a man who never lets government fines and prison sentences from selling himself as the best life coach you could ever want.

Thanks to a reader, it’s been brought to our attention how much his GIN program is looking more and more like Scientology. In fact, we think you’re really going to be struck by the vocabulary Trudeau uses as he offers a new “level” of counseling he’s calling “Director VIII.”

Trudeau’s own involvement in Scientology is a little mysterious. He recommends in his books that readers try out Dianetics and Scientology. And as the Business Insider profile indicates, Trudeau’s second wife, Kristine Dorow, said that their prenup “obligated her to reach a certain level in Scientology, which Trudeau has dabbled in over the years.” Some former Scientologists have also claimed to have seen Trudeau at facilities in Los Angeles. But his actual involvement in Scientology is not well known.

Actually, this stuff has been going on for a long time, and while the extent of Trudeau's involvement in Scientology may not be widely known, his long-time affinity for Scientology is well-known among those who have been obsessively following him. Moreover, while the essence of the Underground Bunker post is accurate -- particularly the point that Trudeau/GIN use Scientology-ish language -- Ortega's take on the "in-person counseling" and the "new level of counseling" is a little misleading. What is actually being promoted is a new level of GIN membership -- Level 8 (or VIII, if you prefer) -- with the initial training session to be delivered in person by Kevin himself on some date (still to be determined) after he has completed his prison sentence. (GIN's plan from the beginning was to eventually offer 12 membership levels.)

And it's not just a matter of "booking early" -- in theory, anyway, you have to join GIN, and then you have to work (and pay) your way up through Levels 1-7 by a certain date in order to qualify.
I wrote about the "Level 8" training scheme in January 2020.

That said, Ortega was spot-on about the continuing influence of Scientology on Kevin Trudeau. It goes even deeper than influence, though: judging from some of the content that has been posted on Trudeau-approved web sites, Trudeau has aspirations to be a massively influential cult leader much like the late L.
Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology. I wrote about this at length in December 2019; in particular, scroll down to the part about "Kevin's big dream..."

SeaOrg, anyone?

I first wrote about the GIN/Trudeau/Scientology connection in July 2012, focusing on the cult-like indoctrination tactics that were used on GIN members. This was back when GIN's chief revenue generator was the club's scammy multilevel marketing scheme and its progressively pricey membership levels. GIN is still selling progressive levels of membership, but for a lower price, and it's no longer an MLM, although members still get referral/affiliate fees.

The embedded links to the "questionnaires" in my 2012 post are no longer valid, but I did take the liberty back then of copying and pasting some of the questionnaires, which faithful GIN members were supposed to answer on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. They were taught that by performing all of the items on the lists, they would ensure their business -- that is, their GIN downline -- was a success. Just looking at the lists is enough to make one's head spin; someone would have to be truly OCD (or totally indoctrinated) to actually do all of that stuff. And it would leave very little time left over for an actual life.

But then, that's the whole idea: dedicate your life to the Master, and if not your life, then at least all of your money, including money you don't actually have.

Granted, Trudeau has been pretty quiet since he's been in the home-release program, and his proxies haven't exactly been churning out tons of Kevin-dictated/approved posts on
his main Facebook fan page lately, as they did in the recent past. Some of his defenders have speculated that, congruent with claims Kevin himself has made in courtrooms and on social media over the years, he really has emerged from his prison ordeal a changed and humbled man who is sincerely interested in helping others and making the world a better place.

But I'm not buying it. I seriously doubt that Trudeau's silence stems from humility, though I'd be willing to bet that it's motivated at least in part by a desire to convince certain judges that there's nothing to see here: that Kevin Trudeau is no longer even remotely interested in being a huckster and cult leader. If the judges are smart, they won't buy that.

PS ~ Here's my take on the excellent Business Insider piece, from January 2015, that Tony Ortega cited in his blog post.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Winter has come and gone (for now), but its effects linger on

Once again I've been remiss in blogging this month. I suppose I could have put the blame for my absence on the Great Texas Snow/Ice Storm, which caused much more suffering (and death) than it should have, mostly related to massive power outages. And those outages are due in no small part to Texas' long history of (mostly) republican malfeasance, characterized by fealty to the almighty oil and gas industry and the power companies, and an intractable profits-before-people philosophy.

Indeed the winter storm was one factor in my Whirled absence -- and Ron and I might have gladly escaped to Cancun or some other warmer paradise like the infinitely detestable
Senator Fled Cruz if that had been an option -- but there have been numerous other distractions as well. It's not the first time that life has gotten in the way of blogging.

Ron and I didn't have it nearly as bad as many thousands of our fellow Texans, and in large part this was because we are in one of the small slivers of the Lone Star State that isn't run by the egregiously misnamed
Electric Reliability Council Of Texas, or ERCOT. Millions of other Texans were not so lucky.

Ron and I had a couple of power outages on the first day of the storm, but they didn't last very long, and we had no more outages for the duration. But many of our friends and family are ERCOT hostages, as is over 90 percent of this humongous state. Winter may have come and gone (at least for now) in Texas, but
it left a trail of devastation.

Texas governor Greg Abbott has been hollering nonstop about investigating ERCOT -- and at his press conferences he's made
quite a big deal of expressing outrage about the suffering and deaths caused by the storm. But he has so far dodged questions about the body that, along with the Texas legislature, oversees ERCOT, the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC), members of whom were appointed by Abbott himself and who surely deserve to be in a harsh spotlight. PUC is supposedly investigating ERCOT now, but someone seriously needs to investigate the investigators.

I'm hoping that it will all be sorted out, and that the heads that deserve to roll will finally roll. But this is Texas, so I'm managing my expectations. Meanwhile, if you want to help suffering Texans, like favorite republican scapegoat
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has done, CNN's Impact Your World has published a handy and dynamic list of resources.

I'll be back soon with a more substantial post about Scamworld stuff, though there may be some politix thrown in the mix too for good measure.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Scammers, wannabes, nutcakes, and scum: snippets for a busy Tuesday

It's been a busy Tuesday here, but there has been too much going on in Scamworld (and Scumworld) to let slide, so I'm just going to serve up a few snippets today.

Ex-GIN "whistleblower" still has a crush on Kevin Trudeau after all
In the years that I've been blogging about
serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, aka KT, aka Katie (who, as I reported here on January 6, was recently released to home confinement in the Chicago area, presumably to serve out the remainder of his prison sentence), I've also mentioned a few other bit players in the saga of Trudeau and his mega-scam, the Global Information Network, aka GIN. One such is Abe Husein, a former GIN member who, beginning in early 2012, realized the should-have-been-obvious-from-the beginning truth that GIN's multi-level marketing scheme was in fact a scam, and began broadcasting his concerns on Facebook.

By his own admission later on to various news reporters (e.g.,
Ryan Kath at an NBC affiliate and various at ABC News), Abe had joined GIN with the hopes of getting mega-rich from the club's MLM. He also had hopes of getting to hobnob with the global elites on the nonexistent "GIN Council." But when Abe realized that he had in fact been screwed out of some big-bucks "bonuses" that (again, by his own admission) he had been screwing other people, and cheating the system, in order to earn, he cried foul and made a new mini-career of being a whistleblower.

Abe made a series of videos and posted numerous "updates" on Facebook about what a scam GIN was, and what a contemptible crook Trudeau was, and how Trudeau was going to end up in prison and GIN was going to go away. (Trudeau did end up in prison, of course, but GIN is still going strong,
and still very much allied with Trudeau, for that matter).

As a result of Abe's anti-KT/anti-GIN campaign he
was hailed as a hero by those who didn't really know any better, as well as by some who did, but were aligning themselves with him in order to advance their own agendas. He even became a "consultant" on a fictionalized movie based in part upon his GIN experience, The Platinum Bonus, which seems to have been stalled indefinitely, not that it's any big loss. (I have mentioned that project several times on this blog, including a post I wrote when the project was first announced back in 2014 or so, but Google is not being accommodating for some reason, so you'll just have to search through the Whirled archives yourself if you are so inclined.)

The point is that Abe made a very, very big deal out of having been screwed by Trudeau, and his schadenfreude was quite blatant every time Trudeau lost another battle in court, or more damning evidence against Trudeau was introduced, or there were other indicators that Trudeau was prison-bound. Despite this, it was always pretty apparent that Abe himself was a scammer wannabe, and he didn't let any grass grow under his feet post-GIN. He moved on to other projects, including a failed attempt to form an affiliate/MLM-like rival to Uber...a matchmaking service for "sugar babies" and "sugar daddies" (which he publicized on Facebook, and which apparently got him banned, though he came back under a new name)... and various schemes involving cryptocurrency.

So despite his hero-whistleblower shtick vis-à-vis Kevin Trudeau and GIN, it's not surprising that Abe would also have an abiding admiration for the scammer extraordinaire who took him to the cleaners.
That came out today on Facebook, where Abe is currently masquerading as "Mike Smith," but not otherwise attempting to conceal his identity. Apparently the news of Trudeau's pre-release has just now drifted into Abe's awareness. Abe writes, "I know a lot of people think that I hate the man but I have mad respect for him... I wish him well and much success in life. The past is the past..."

Abe would also love to have dinner and drinks with Katie, and "catch up on life."


In a subsequent comment, explaining that he thinks Kevin "has to stay in a half way house now," Abe adds, "I feel sorry for him at this point." Hey, no need to feel sorry for Kevin, Abe, and no need to "wish him well and much success in life." That ship has sailed, and is still sailing (and may literally be sailing someday, if Kevin has his way). The thing is, Abe, that even with his criminal conviction, prison sentence, and "half way house" situation, Kevin Trudeau is a far more successful scammer than you'll ever be. And he would probably love a chance to scam you out of some more money when and if the opportunity arises. "Fool me once..."

In context, then, Abe's seeming turnaround is totally not surprising. But I wonder what his evil buddy (or former buddy?), Not-Doctor Leonard Coldwell, another former KT admirer turned "whistleblower" -- who has actually taken credit for Trudeau's imprisonment -- would think about all of that "mad respect" that Abe has for Trudeau.

All of that whining and begging, and still no pardon?!?
Speaking of Kevin Trudeau, it's too bad he was left out of #NeverWasMyPresident Donald John Trump's
last pardon orgy. On a public Facebook group called The Global Information Network (not an official page of GIN), someone mentioned this.


As you most likely know if you've followed this blog, I've been writing for years about
the continual efforts by Trudeau and his fans and followers to get Trump's attention and persuade him to commute Kevin's sentence and pardon him. They wrote countless letters to the White House and to various members of Trump's family and the Trump administration, and they wrote blog posts and social media entreaties, but all to no avail. Apparently Trump had other things on his mind, especially in those final daze.

QAnuts and Softheaded Citizens await the Orange King's restoration
On the other hand, maybe those last-minute pardons weren't Trump's final clemency orgy after all, and perhaps Katie has another chance of being pardoned by Trump -- that is, if one is to believe a growing number of uninformed, misinformed, willfully blind, or just plain dim folk who believe that Trump only pretended to leave office and will be ascending the throne again in a new, "real" America on March 4, 2020.

I have mentioned these points in a few of my recent Facebook threads, but David Gilbert at Vice.com published a report that gives more detail about the current favored conspiranoid narrative that’s the product of the unholy marriage between QAnon and the Sovereign Citizen movement. Gilbert writes:

In the wake of Biden’s inauguration, QAnon followers initially appeared despondent, lashing out that QAnon was a sham. But within days, and at the urging of the movement’s biggest influencers, QAnon followers started to come around, and begin to believe in “the plan” once again.

Here's that link.

You have to wonder what the nutcakes are going to do when March 4 comes and goes and their Cheeto Jesus fails to rise from the dead, politically speaking. No doubt they'll find a way to rationalize, just like the "Christian" End-Timers do when specified dates come and go without their "prophecies" coming true.

Pickup artists get picked up by cops and thrown in jail for part in Capitol riots
Finally, there's some news on the Scamworld-meets-politix front... or in this case, Scumworld-meets-politix, because the PUA (pickup artist) sector of Scamworld truly is just about the scummiest of the scum.

Consider, for example, one
Philip Stedman, a Philly-area PUA scummer and ardent Trumpanzee, who was arrested for his part in the violent insurrection at the Capitol in D.C. on January 6, 2021. From The Philidelphia Inquirer, January 21, 2021:

A self-described Haddonfield sex and “relationship strategist” who hosts a social media show he calls “COVID/CABAL” was arrested Thursday in connection with the Capitol riot investigation.

Prosecutors say Patrick A. Stedman, 32, who bills himself as an expert in “female psychology,” chronicled his storming of the building with videos he posted to his nearly 26,000 Twitter followers in real time.

But even as he crowed online about being “among the first wave” of President Donald Trump’s supporters who “broke down the doors and climbed up the back part of the Capitol building,” he was also telling his followers that antifa was to blame for the incursion.

And a little later in the article....

His daily “sex and female psychology” newsletter promises to answer once and for all the question of what women “really” want from men. (Answer: “They want a man who makes them feel comfort and desire.”)

Last year, Stedman warned about a “Deep State cabal” and “satanic rituals” in an appearance on the “Masculine By Design Mancast” and more recently he warned his adherents on Twitter that “by now, you should all be prepared for what’s coming.”

In fact, FBI agents said in court documents Thursday, Stedman viewed Trump’s Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” rally as a history-making event. In the days leading up to it, he encouraged followers to join him in Washington, insisting the date would be commemorated for years to come as a national holiday, “like the 4th of July.”

“You will want to tell your grandchildren you were there,” he wrote.

A worthy member of the Trump Army, in other words.

Then there's
Samuel Fisher of NYC, aka "Brad Holiday," allegedly arrested with "an arsenal of ammunition, two machetes, and an American flag." From The Daily Beast, January 20, 2021:

The day after the attack on the Capitol, Fisher, who operates “LuxLife Dating Coach,” went on Facebook to brag about his role in the insurrection. After being asked if he went on the “frontlines” of the riot, he answered, “It was awesome. It was dangerous and violent. People died...but it was fucking great if you ask me….i got tear-gassed and pepper-sprayed.”

“Seeing cops literally run ... was the coolest thing ive ever seen in my life,” Fisher added. “Cant divulge too much here...but fuck the DC police. In all seriousness and get ready.”

Federal investigators were eventually tipped off to Fisher’s identity by an informant. The informant sent a photo of Fisher in front of a flag that reads, “Don’t Tread on Trump, Keep America Great.” The photo is captioned, “Can’t wait to bring a liberal back to this freedom palace.”

And scrolling down in the Beast piece...

On the now-defunct social media platform Parler, he signal-boosted baseless conspiracy theories about vote fraud and 2020 election theft.

But on his personal website BradHoliday.com, things take a far darker turn: In November 2020, he posted the notorious “Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion,” the infamous forgery used to justify pogroms and genocide against Jewish people.

“The following is a playbook written a long time ago about how the Cabal (Kaballah Subscribers) will gain their goal of ultimate power and control over the human race,” Fisher wrote in a brief preface. “Their father is Leucifer [sic] and they are the sons of Cain.”...

...As late as Jan. 9, three days after the riots, he wrote a post with the title “[President] Joe Biden (and his family) Are Degenerate Criminal Pedophiles.”

Yet another sterling patriot, not to mention a misogynist and a conspiranoid. Trump should be so very, very proud.

That's it for now; I'll be back soon with, I hope, more than snippets.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

A sigh of relief before more sh-t hits the fan (but still, a sigh of relief)

  

I freely confess to having been moved to tears several times today while watching the Inauguration coverage. From Lady Gaga's joyous rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," to J-Lo's mashup of "This Land Is Your Land" and "America the Beautiful," to #FinallyAPresidentICanSupportAgain Joseph R. Biden Jr.'s "unity" speech... it all added up to a powerful experience for me -- made all the more potent by the fact that it has been such a long, hard road to this moment.

Arguably, the person who stole the show today was young poet Amanda Gorman, whose poem, "The Hill We Climb" pretty much said it all (and if the embedded video above doesn't work for you, try the link).

Even so, I am not some starry-eyed idealist, a point you surely know if you're even a casual visitor to this blog or to my social media. To me, today felt not so much like the clear beginning of a bold new era of hope and healing (though I would love to believe that it is), but more like getting the news that a very serious and possibly fatal disease has gone into remission. Because I know that the crazies are still out there, and while some of them are merely silly or dim-witted, like the rank-and-file (or maybe just rank) QAnon/Trump-cult Facebook warriors...

Somebody needs more help than The Universe may be able to provide. Just saying.

...others are dangerous, like the violent insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol two weeks ago. Most of the United States -- and indeed the world -- may be celebrating, but Trumpism isn't going anywhere. While a clear majority of us may be breathing a collective sigh of relief, I think most of us are also keenly aware that more sh-t is going to hit the fan, and most likely sooner rather than later.

Still, as the late singer/songwriter/poet/novelist Leonard Cohen sang in his famous song "Democracy" (and yes, I know I've quoted this several times before on this Whirled), "...I'm still holding up this little wild bouquet." Our democracy may have been seriously trampled on for the past four years, but it hasn't been destroyed.

 

Friday, January 08, 2021

Sedition! Randy Rainbow on the Trump coup attempt

You might as well laugh... because otherwise it's too easy to sink into despair. The inimitable Randy Rainbow presents a rousing tune from the major new musical, Twiddler With No Proof.

I'm so glad Herr Twitler will be gone from the White House in less than two weeks, but I fear that Trumpism has left an indelible stain on America's blue dress. But brilliant talents like Randy R help keep me sane.

 

Wednesday, January 06, 2021

Goodbye, Camp Cupcake: Kevin Trudeau is out of prison (sort of)

He's not yet in the wild, and it remains to be seen how many restrictions there are and will be on his activities -- and how (or if) he will try to violate those restrictions -- but serial scammer Kevin Trudeau is out of prison camp, and is currently in home confinement in Chicago, under the auspices of a Bureau of Prisons RRM (Residential Reentry Management) program. [UPDATED January 7, 2021]  

On the last day of last year I dropped a broad hint about the possibility of some startling news that I was sure a lot of folks weren't going to like very much, though I noted that some would be thrilled. That was a coy reference to vague rumors that had been whirling around from a variety of sources for a while, but for which I had no first-hand information, or even second- or third-hand info. And although I still don't have an abundance of details to share at the moment, I can at least tell you this: One of this blog's favorite subjects, serial scammer Kevin Trudeau (aka KT, aka Katie on this Whirled) has apparently been released from FPC (Federal Prison Camp) Montgomery, AL, the minimum-security facility where he's been languishing since 2014, and which he fondly nicknamed, "Camp Cupcake."

For a sentimental trip down memory lane,
here's a link to a screenshot of a May 2014 Facebook post praising Kevin's ability to "manifest" that sweet home in Alabama. But all was not sweetness and light, despite FPC Montgomery's status as "the best prison camp in the Country," and its being Camp Cupcake and all that. For nearly seven long years Trudeau and his lawyers and minions spent time, energy, and (other people's) money striving to get him sprung from his lavish digs, even repeatedly/obsessively appealing to President-Reject Donald J. Trump to commute Kevin's sentence and even pardon him -- a matter covered a few times on this Whirled.

It was in January of 2020 that rumors of Trudeau's imminent release from Federal sleepaway camp began heating up,
which I first mentioned here. A little over a week later I published a post about a January 26, 2020 article by Jon Seidel at the Chicago Sun Times, reporting on an email Trudeau had written to Judge Robert Gettleman, who had presided over Trudeau's court cases for many years. Trudeau had asked Judge Gettleman for guidelines on what he would be legally allowed to do once he was released from prison. My post (here's that link again) includes screenshots of the original 2014 sentencing order outlining the terms that the sentencing judge, Ronald Guzman, originally intended for Trudeau's release. In my view, that document provided some pretty good guidelines, but perhaps Trudeau had forgotten about it or had never seen it.

In the following months there were several other rumors, some less credible than others, about Trudeau being liberated from prison well ahead of his originally scheduled release date, which is still listed as May 2022 on the Bureau of Prisons site. (By the way, you're not alone if you're confused about why the date would be 2022 instead of 2024, considering that he was sentenced in 2014 and the sentence was supposed to be 10 years, but presumably the off-and-on confinement he'd been undergoing since 2013 was considered time served. That still doesn't quite add up to a 10-year sentence, but who am I to quibble?)

In April of 2020, rumors of an imminent release suddenly seemed more plausible again due to the COVID-19 crisis;
I wrote about that here. Though nothing seemed to come of those plans either, in that April post I listed several questions that had been raised for me in light of the rumors and reports, and some of those questions are still valid. For I still don't know the exact reason for and terms of Trudeau's release, e.g., how much if anything it had to do with the COVID-19 issue; what sort of restrictions he will be under, and for how long; and so forth.

Speaking of the coronavirus, I've mentioned this before, but if it did play even a marginal part in the early release, that's a bit ironic in light of the fact that over a period of a couple of months last year, Trudeau shared an abundance of cliched conspiranoid blather about how COVID-19 was fake news and no big deal.
Here's a link to my first of two posts specifically about that; in the PS there's a link to the second post.

Another big unknown is the extent to which Trudeau and his minions will go to get him scamming on a much broader scale again. Because you know that's coming. We've been seeing hints of it for a long time -- hints that were amplified in late 2019 with the GuruKev/Nuggets of Gold shticks --
see this December 2019 Whirled post. That post is bursting with evidence that the leopard really hasn't changed his spots, even if he has donned a gaudy cloak of McSpirituality in an attempt to disguise the spots.

Moreover, the seekrit club Kevin founded years ago,
the Global Information Network (GIN) has been using Trudeau to promote their Level 8 "training." GIN is no longer the mega-scam it was back in the Katie daze, and on paper he no longer owns it (though some of his scambuddies do), but he is still GIN's biggest draw, and both the GIN leadership and Trudeau know that.

So yeah, there are still a lot of unknowns, or known unknowns.

Perhaps the biggest question is whether or not Trudeau will ever be held truly accountable for the hundreds of thousands of dollars he scammed from thousands of GIN members between 2009 and the time the court-appointed receiver shut down
GIN's big MLM pyramid. That scam made the diet-book infomercial offenses for which he actually served his prison sentence look trifling by comparison.

* * * * *

[Updated information:] I do have a fairly good idea of where Kevin Trudeau has landed for now, although I will not give any specifics that would compromise any private citizens who might be involved. What I am writing here is based on publicly available information. As of January 7, 2021, Trudeau is no longer listed as being "Not in BOP (Bureau of Prisons) Custody" (as was the case on January 6, when I first published this post); he is now listed as being in the custody of RRM Chicago. I have updated my lead blurb and graphic accordingly.

RRM stands for "Residential Reentry Management," suggesting that wherever he is currently residing -- whether in an actual "halfway house" (residential reentry center) or elsewhere (e.g., home confinement in a private residence) -- he is being overseen by a halfway-house program in the Chicago area, under the auspices of the BOP. This makes sense, as it will make it easier for the courts in which his civil and criminal cases were litigated to keep an eye on him.

I am guessing (though I don't know for sure) that since he is still under supervision, Trudeau has to wear an ankle bracelet. If so, what a comedown from those $6,380.00 cuff links that were part of the exhibits in his criminal trial a few years ago... but on the other hand, an ankle bracelet is ever so much more versatile than cuff links, and you can wear it with any outfit.

What puzzles me is why the news of Kevin Trudeau's release from prison hasn't been shouted from the rooftops by
the GIN fat cats (i.e., current GIN owners Dr. Ted Morter, Dr. Tom Morter, and Blaine Athorn) and/or others who have been clamoring for Katie's freedom for years. At least I haven't heard (or seen) any shouting. Maybe they're trying to save it as a surprise to announce at the next big GIN event -- the Global Family Reunion 2021 -- during which, as it happens, Kevin Trudeau's 58th birthday will fall (February 6). Granted, GFR 21 will have to be virtual due to COVID-19, but no worries: it'll still be barrels of fun. As the promo copy breathlessly states:

GIN is committed to delivering this unbelievable event of fun, Family and fantastic GIN Training to YOU in the comfort of your home! We will gather with our GIN Brothers and Sisters from every corner of the globe and as a Family we will make a difference this coming year! We're all in this together!

Scroll down a bit and there's another exciting promise: "We will also celebrate K.T.'s birthday on February 6th like never before!"

So I am thinking that perhaps the GINfolk are planning a totally surprise virtual appearance at the virtual Family Reunion by the newly uncaged Uncle Kevin. If that is the case, then my goodness, I'm sorry if I spoiled the surprise. I just have no manners whatsoever. That's probably why I never get invited to life-changing Family Reunions.

I will post more info as I get it.

Update, January 9, 2021:
It appears that the GIN fat cats are indeed shouting it from the rooftops now -- or at least from the GIN United web site, and via email and Facebook. Maybe they felt they had to do it because I'd already spoiled the surprise. Or maybe I'm giving myself too much credit; after all, everybody knows that nobody reads this little blog. Whatever the reason may be, one of the aforementioned fat cats -- Dr. Tom Morter, or Doctor Tom to you -- made the announcement during his weekly GIN update on January 8, 2021.
Here is the link. (And don't be fooled by the mislabeling in the URL; it really is from 2021).

Just in case you don't want to sit through all of Doctor Tom's jolly but bland faux-tivational prattle, the actual announcement about the freeing of the Great Master begins at about 7:05. During the course of his missive Tom reads a "very carefully crafted" email about the matter, which he says has been sent out to all GIN members. He says everyone is welcome to share it but warns that they absolutely, positively must not, not, NOT alter a single word of it. I speculate that this is because it was dictated by the Master Himself, and every word is carefully imbued with magickal vibrations and whatnot. Here is the message, which I copied and pasted from one of the Katie Facebook pages:

To: All Global Information Network Members
It is our pleasure to share with you that recently Kevin has been transferred from the Montgomery Federal Prison Camp to be allowed to serve the balance of his sentence in home confinement [in Chicagoland USA, the very jurisdiction where he was tried and convicted, and where a couple of judges are waiting for him].

Kevin is still in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons. This is the next step for Kevin as he gets closer to the end of his incarceration [and plans his next mega-scams]. In respect of allowing Kevin a peaceful transition this is all we can share with you at this time. Please be respectful of this as well. We will share more updates with you as we can in the future [but maybe check in now and then on the Whirled Musings blog if you want to find out anything before then].

As we enter the New Year, it is a time to be thankful, grateful and appreciative.

Important Note: Do not add, change or modify anything in this statement if you are sharing it with others.

Happy New Year 2021!

With love & support [and anticipation of finding new ways to pick your pockets],
Your GIN Team

Oh, dear. I may have modified a few things here and there, in violation of the directive. But I have faithfully conveyed the essence of the message, so that has to count for something.

 

 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Good riddance to a very bad year

There's much to write about
Believe me, I've got plenty
But all I want to say right now
Is, "F--k you, 2020!"

I'll be back next year with some actual substance, possibly including some startling news that a lot of you aren't going to like very much. (But some of you will be thrilled.)

For now, after this flustercuck of a year, words mostly fail me. Or maybe I have failed them. I know that I've broken a few promises about posting more frequently, but I'll make up for it eventually. I thank every one of you who has visited my Whirled this year, and every other year. May 2021 hold peace and comfort for those sorely in need of it, and hope and promise for all of us.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Spotify series "Fraudsters" tackles Kevin Trudeau in 3 parts

While America's Fraudster-in-Chief, president-reject Donald John Trump, continues to defraud his fans and followers with spurious claims of a "stolen" election and impassioned (and successful) pleas for the rubes' money, it's past time on this Whirled for renewed attention to another lifelong fraudster, imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, aka KT, aka Katie, whom I've been blogging about since early 2009. As you most likely know if you've been following this blog even sporadically over the past few years, I've actually written a lot about the similarities between Donald Trump and Kevin Trudeau, not the least similarity being that they share a significant fan base, which is why I lost a few readers when I started writing about the profound awfulness of Trump.

And in fact, Trump and his campaign's efforts to frame their money-raising efforts in a "legal defense fund" to protect the integrity of the election and the Constitution (or some such nonsense) reminded me more than a little of Trudeau's own efforts over the years to raise money for
his legal defense fund. Trudeau's defense fund has been promoted as a means to support unspecified legal efforts by Katie and, by extension, to somehow defend free speech, and freedom in general, for all of us. But according to the terms of both Katie's legal defense fund and the Trumpian funds, the money can pretty much be used any way the recipients want to use it, with zero accountability to those who fork over their hard-earned bucks. The difference, of course, is that Trump's efforts are on a much larger and more dangerous scale than anything Trudeau and his minions have managed so far.

That said, it would be a serious mistake to underestimate the scope and reach of Trudeau's scammery: after all, even though he continues to languish in the minimum-security FPC (Federal Prison Camp) in Montgomery, Alabama, aka "Camp Cupcake," he has still managed, with the help of various proxies and enablers, to maintain a significant following and attract new followers. I've been hammering away at this point on this blog for years. And that's why it's so gratifying to see
the Spotify series Fraudsters addressing Trudeau's long scam career: a career that has been so lengthy that it took not one, and not two, but three separate podcasts to cover it all. The producer and host I spoke to acknowledged that they could easily do a whole season on Trudeau alone.

Since I am kinda media shy, apart from ranting on this blog and on my social media of course, I declined to "appear" on the podcast, but I did provide some info for which I was acknowledged on
Part 3, the episode covering Trudeau's biggest scam of all, the Global Information Network (GIN). That episode aired on December 10, 2020.

Part 1 aired on November 26, 2020.

Part 2 made its debut on Dec. 3, 2020.

Kevin Trudeau may or may not be early-released soon (his official release date is either May or July of 2022), but one point seems painfully clear: In or out of the clink, he is a scammer for all seasons and all reasons. And his years of confinement have done nothing to change this; to this very day he is (again, through proxies and enablers) making himself out to be a hero and martyr along the lines of Jesus, Gandhi, and a host of other famous -- and infamous -- folks. Caveat emptor and all that.

Thursday, November 26, 2020

Gratitude Day, 2020

I've been distracted with numerous matters of consequence for the past few weeks, as sometimes happens, but I have not abandoned my Whirled. As the holiday most folks in the US celebrate as Thanksgiving winds down, I know I have a lot to be thankful for, not the least of which is the defeat of #NotMyPresident Donald John Trump.

This is hardly a neat and tidy ending; as I like to say on this blog, in politix, as in Scamworld, there are no neat and tidy endings. Apart from Trump's obstinate unwillingness to concede, and his ludicrous but potentially dangerous legal battles to overturn the election results, Trumpism has left a big ugly stain on America (and the world, for that matter). Even so, I have more hope than I've had in a long, long time for some promising new beginnings.
 

At any rate, I will be back soon: I haven't forgotten my commitments. I hope your holiday, if you celebrated it, was as good as a holiday could possibly have been in this horrid train wreck of a year. If you are grieving for lost loved ones, I wish you peace and strength and comfort.

May there be better times ahead.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

One way to observe 11th Anniversary of James Arthur Ray Death Lodge: buy and read THIS SWEET LIFE

October 8, 2020 is the 11th anniversary of a reckless and deadly event hosted by sociopathic New-Wage/McSpirituality guru James Arthur Ray: a fake "sweat lodge" ceremony in Sedona, Arizona that injured dozens and killed Kirby Brown, James Shore, and Liz Neuman. Kirby Brown and James Shore died that same day; Liz Neuman died nine days later in an Arizona hospital.

The families and friends of these three good people have all learned to cope with their loss in their own ways since that awful day in 2009. One of the ways that Kirby Brown's family chose was to found a nonprofit organization,
SEEK Safely, to help educate the public, hold self-help leaders accountable, and hopefully avoid more deaths and injuries at the hands of reckless gurus.

And another way they found to come to terms with Kirby's death, while helping many other people who are dealing with profound loss and pain, was through a recently published memoir,
This Sweet Life: How We Lived After Kirby Died, by Kirby's mother Ginny and her baby sister Jean.*

Back in June of this year, and then again in July when I observed the 11th anniversary of the death of another Ray follower, Colleen Conaway, at a Ray event in San Diego, I promised to post a review of This Sweet Life "soon." Anyone who has been following this blog for a while probably knows that on this Whirled, "soon" is a relative term. Multiple distractions have been whirling around me since I made my promise, but it's time to make good on my commitment.

Accordingly, I have begun to write that long-promised post. It deserves more attention than I am able to devote to it today, but rest assured that "soon" is now coming sooner rather than later. [Spoiler alert: I really, really loved this book, though more than once I had to put it aside for a few moments because it's quite difficult to read when your eyes are full of tears.]


For now, I can't think of a better day than today to highlight this lovely but heartbreaking memoir, and to urge you to buy it and read it if you've not done so already.
Here's that link again.

James Arthur Ray continues to struggle on the comeback trail (or "scumback trail," as I like to call it) years after being released from his far-too-short prison sentence for the deaths of Kirby and James S. and Liz. These days, thank goodness, his audiences are still far smaller than they used to be. But his efforts to portray himself as a hero/martyr who has walked through fire and come out strong and triumphant are an insult to the memories of those he killed, and a slap in the face to their loved ones. That's why it's important that as the years go by, we never forget who he really is, and what he has done.

* I used the Amazon link for This Sweet Life because it was the most obvious. But I must add that I HATE it that Amazon is currently also promoting Ray's book about "redemption" as an "also-viewed" title; James Arthur Ray wouldn't know redemption if it spread its legs and sat on his smirky face. But Amazon (almost) redeems itself, so to speak, by also listing Connie Joy's fine book, Tragedy in Sedona: My Life in James Arthur Ray's Inner Circle, as an "also-viewed" title.

Related on this Whirled

  • October 2010: Musings on a tragedy and its meanings.
    I published this on the one-year anniversary of the infamous "sweat lodge," framing my musings around a review of Connie Joy's Tragedy in Sedona.
  • April 2019: From drawn-and-quartered martyr to "Crisis Coach": James Arthur Ray's newest desperate gimmick
    This is just one of numerous posts about Ray's arrogant yet pathetic attempts to reestablish himself as a selfish-help superstar.
  • August 2020: Whiny babies of Scamworld
    Of the three "whiny babies" I wrote about in this post, James Arthur Ray is the worst, because even after being directly responsible for the deaths of three people in a bogus sweat lodge in Sedona (not to mention being at least indirectly responsible for the death of one person at an event in San Diego, and directly responsible for the physical and emotional injuries of countless others), he continues to paint himself as the real victim.

 

Monday, September 28, 2020

Trump's tax shenanigans are yet more evidence of his phony populism

The only “populist” shift in the Trump era regards the enabling of cultural grievance. The willingness to use the president’s bully pulpit to take those uppity athletes down a peg. Shutting the door on new immigrants and refugees. Punishing enemies. Law and order for protesters but a get-out-of-jail-free card for cronies. Wanting to use racial slurs without getting “canceled.”

This is just the same old racist, nativist nonsense wrapped in a phony soak-the-rich package.

You might even call it a “
Trojan horse” for the racists and the scam artists.

~ Tim Miller (The Bulwark), September 28, 2020

Back in June and July of 2018 I wrote a two-part post about elitism and phony populism in both American politix and Scamworld. Part 1 focused on the faux-populism of #NotMyPresident Donald J. Trump, who had clearly fooled millions of American voters into thinking that he was a "man of the people," when in fact he was and is one of the worst sorts of elitists. (Not to mention that Trump is a long-time scammer, which is why he became fodder for this blog in the first place.)

Trump's disregard and core contempt for the masses have been obvious to many of us for years, and have become more glaringly apparent in light of his dismissive rhetoric about, and
overall botched response to, the COVID-19 crisis. (Was anybody really surprised by the recent revelation from VP Pence's former coronavirus task force adviser Olivia Troye, who said that at one of the task force meetings Trump remarked that the pandemic might be a "good thing," because it prevented him from feeling obligated to shake hands with "disgusting people"?)

But if there were any lingering doubts about the utter hollowness of Trump's populist rhetoric,
a September 27, 2020 New York Times report about his income tax-avoidance shenanigans over the decades should put those doubts to rest in the minds of all except those who are most seriously infected with TTL (toxic Trump love). The Times article is a long one, the first of several promised ones to come, but very much worth your time to read.

Also worth a look is a response by writer and communications consultant
Tim Miller on the conservative (but non-Trump-infected) site The Bulwark. Titled, "Trump Tax Returns Show He's a Populist Fraud," the piece summarizes some of the most damning information in the Times article. Miller opens by citing the campaign pitches Trump made back in 2015-2016 when he was pandering to the "forgotten Americans," promising to impose a new tax plan that would compel him and his wealthy friends to pay higher taxes. He claimed that he certainly didn't mind paying a little bit more if it would help the middle class, which he said, was "getting clobbered in this country." In September 2015, he unveiled a detailed tax plan and told reporters, "It's going to cost me a fortune, which is actually true." But, as Miller notes, it wasn't actually true, and wasn't just the standard politician's broken promise. Instead...

It was part and parcel of the broader so-called “economic populism” bill of goods that Trump and “sloppy” Steve Bannon, his pit-stained, triplicate-shirted, faux-everyman muse, sold the American people. They were going to raise taxes on the wealthy, take on Jeb and Ted and Hillary’s Wall Street cronies, and finally build a wall on the border, making Mexico pay.

None of this, of course, was true.

There was no economic populist agenda.

The tax bill Trump ended up signing into law was a boon to the wealthy and did nothing to address the “carried interest” tax rate he
promised would ensnare the private equity and hedge-fund guys. Trump gave Goldman Sachs the keys to his cabinet and billed the American people for millions upon millions of their hard-earned tax dollars for copious golf holiday Doonbegdoggles at his own hotels.

Meanwhile Bannon spent most of his time in the White House leaking to Vanity Fair and making immigrants’ lives as miserable as possible, and then was dispatched to a globetrotting yacht life funded by Chinese billionaires and the forgotten MAGA man
whom he allegedly bilked for millions to crowdfund a phony wall.

The reality is that saying that you are an economic populist who cares about the forgotten man is more respectable in elite political circles than admitting you are a race hustler. You can tell it to a journalist or to your friends at the country club and not feel judged. It almost makes you sound like a good person! You are fighting for the working man and want to make things more fair. If anything you are harming your own interests! These new policies might “cost me a fortune.” Sure it will.

A face-saving ruse. That’s all it ever was. A story for the rubes.

Indeed. The big question is this: How much will the New York Times' initial report, and any related articles that may follow regarding the financial info that Trump has fought so furiously to conceal, shake his loyal base? I'm guessing probably not much; the Trumpanzees are already echoing Trump's own cry that this is yet more "fake news," just another lame attempt by Trump's enemies to oust him from the Oval Office. The Biden campaign will almost certainly take advantage of the tax revelations, but how this will all play out in November is anyone's guess. After the last disastrous US presidential election, I'm not taking anything for granted. And you shouldn't either.

Which is why it's more important than ever to
get out and vote.

Related on this Whirled:

 

 

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Hallelujah, gonna sue ya: Trumpublican misinfomercial abuses Leonard Cohen's most famous song

You took his greatest song in vain
Though we'd made our refusal plain
You think you got away with it, now do ya?
You used this song to spread Trump's blight
You violated copyright
So now it seems we just might have to sue ya
Have to sue ya
Have to sue ya
Have to sue ya
Have to sue-ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo-ya.

[Apologies to the estate of Leonard Cohen]


The Trumpublican misinfomercial, more commonly known as the 2020 Republican National Convention, has come and gone, thank goodness. The list of lies spewed, shouted, or screamed during that gaudy four-day spectacle, as well as the violations of various laws and norms, have been well covered. These are pretty big issues, to be sure. But since I am a nearly lifelong fan of the late singer/songwriter/poet/novelist Leonard Cohen, and have mentioned him numerous times on this Whirled over the years, I'm going to focus on what is, in the larger scheme of things, one of the more trivial violations. That would be the RNC's misuse -- not once, but twice -- of Cohen's most famous and most-covered song, "Hallelujah" (originally released on his 1984 album, Various Positions).

Leonard Cohen died one day before the most disastrous presidential election in modern US history, though the world didn't hear about his death until a couple of days after the election. Cohen has had a very devoted following for decades, a following that arguably has only increased and intensified since his death. So it's not surprising that fans were furious over the co-opting of "Hallelujah" by the RNC.

Yet, as anyone who is actually familiar with the lyrics knows, there is also unintentional humor in this song choice. For despite the repeated use of the word "Hallelujah," this song is not triumphant or celebratory, except perhaps in an ironic sense. Nor is it a religious or holy song, at least not in the traditional "Christian" self-righteous sense embraced by so many republicans and
fake-embraced by Caligula himself -- though it does reflect Cohen's longstanding themes of the symbiotic relationship between eroticism and holiness. The point is that "Hallelujah" is in essence a breakup song. It is all about disillusionment, cynicism, bitterness, and ultimately resignation in the wake of a failed love affair.

I have little doubt that Cohen himself would not have approved of this exploitation of his song by the RNC. When I first wrote about this
on Facebook on August 28, 2020, I mentioned that I would be interested to see if there are any responses from his estate and/or from Cohen's children, Adam and Lorca. I also expressed curiosity as to whether the Trump campaign paid applicable licensing fees for the public performances of this song (or any other copyrighted songs they've used, for that matter). After all, music copyright holders are pretty fussy about these matters. You have to pay a licensing fee for public performance of a copyrighted song, and even for quoting song lyrics in a book.

Some of my questions were subsequently answered. Representatives from the RNC had indeed approached the Cohen estate to obtain permission for a live performance of "Hallelujah." Their request was denied. But they went ahead anyway, with a recorded cover by Tori Kelly on the third night of the show, and, following Trump's
70-minute, lie-filled rant on the final night, a live performance by opera singer Christopher Macchio. The Cohen estate was not pleased.
Michelle L. Rice, the legal representative for the Cohen Estate, said the family was “surprised and dismayed that the RNC would proceed knowing that the Cohen Estate had specifically declined the RNC’s use request, and their rather brazen attempt to politicize and exploit in such an egregious manner ‘Hallelujah’, one of the most important songs in the Cohen song catalogue.” As such, the Cohen Estate is “exploring legal actions.”

Rice added that “had the RNC requested another song, ‘You Want it Darker’, for which Leonard won a posthumous Grammy in 2017, we might have considered approval of that song.”
Leonard Cohen is far from the only artist whose work has been co-opted by the Trump campaign without the permission of the artists and/or other copyright holders. From Vulture.com, here's a rundown of that growing list. (And as a bonus, also from Vulture.com, here's a list of performers who reportedly turned down an invitation to perform publicly at Trump's 2017 inauguration.)

I've never been one to advocate litigation to resolve every conflict or disagreement that comes along, but in this case, I hope Cohen's estate aggressively pursues legal action. After all, the Trump campaign
has been suing and threatening to sue a number of media outlets and individuals for years in a desperate but ultimately futile attempt to control the narrative about Trump -- even going so far as to sue a tiny TV station in Wisconsin for a political ad. Litigation seems to be their life's blood. So... fair's fair.

Related on this Whirled:
  • November 13, 2016: And even though it all went wrong...
    I wasn't the only one to view Leonard Cohen's death as darkly symbolic of the looming era of Trumpism.
  • November 10, 2016: You want it darker
    I wrote this one shortly after I found out about Cohen's passing.
  • November 9, 2016: Mourning in Amerika, and what to do next
    Written the day after the election. Even then we knew it would be bad, but our expectations have been surpassed many times over in the years since then.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

We Bilk Them All: Steve Bannon, Brian Kolfage & 2 others indicted for We Build The Wall fraud


Americans have always been famous for their can-do attitude, and for their willingness to take matters into their own hands when the Powers That Be are moving too slowly for them. Maybe that's why so many people bought into a crowdfunding project to privately build the border wall that #NotMyPresident Donald J. Trump has been promising to his xenophobic base for years. But now the leaders of that project, most recently known as We Build The Wall, are under federal indictment for defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors. The United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York has unsealed the indictments, as reported on the Department of Justice web site on August 20, 2020.

Brian Kolfage, Stephen Bannon, and Two Others Alleged to Have Funneled Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars From the Organization to Kolfage; All Four Defendants Allegedly Profited From Their Roles in the Scheme


Audrey Strauss, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and Philip R. Bartlett, Inspector-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the United States Postal Inspection Service (“USPIS”), announced the unsealing of an indictment charging BRIAN KOLFAGE, STEPHEN BANNON, ANDREW BADOLATO, and TIMOTHY SHEA for their roles in defrauding hundreds of thousands of donors in connection with an online crowdfunding campaign known as $25 million.  The defendants were arrested this morning.  “We Build the Wall” that raised more than KOLFAGE will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Hope T. Cannon in the Northern District of Florida.  BANNON will be presented today in the Southern District of New York.  BADOLATO will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Wilson in the Middle District of Florida.  SHEA will be presented today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kristen L. Mix in the District of Colorado.  The case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in the Southern District of New York.
I first saw this matter reported on Axios, but it's all over the news media now.

Here is
a link to the 24-page indictment.
A portion of page 2 of the Kolfage, Bannon et al. indictment

If you're like me, you may be tempted to declare that the folks who poured their money into this scam in good faith completely deserved to be bilked, since they were consciously donating to a cause rooted in the hateful xenophobia and bigotry that form the very foundation of toxic Trumpism. As you'll see below, that's precisely the view I had when I first heard of this scheme, but in my more charitable moments I have made a (mostly futile) effort to view at least some of these donors as merely misguided and fearful rather than hateful. In any case, from a legal as well as arguably a moral standpoint, fraud is fraud, and people who commit fraud should be held accountable. And so far, it looks like there's at least an effort in that direction.

I am as (un)shocked as you probably are that malignant nihilist Steve Bannon, who infested the White House for a while early in the Trump "administration," is among those indicted. Bannon, who was arrested by US Postal Inspection agents while lounging off the the coast of Connecticut on a $28 million yacht owned by a Chinese businessman, has pleaded not guilty. (He called his arrest "a political hit job" -- an effort to stoke fear in people who support Trump's wall -- and he says he isn't going to back down.) Bannon was released on a $5 million bond and ordered not to travel abroad, or to haul his spotty, bloated carcass aboard a private plane or a yacht (such as the one he was arrested on), sans court approval.

Given Bannon's extraordinary arrogance, his massive upopularity, and his general repulsiveness, not to mention his ongoing threat to American democracy, it's not surprising that he has been the main focus of most of the reporting and unabashed schadenfreude. I totally get that. But I was particularly interested in this story not only because I think Bannon is a loathsome toad (absolutely no offense intended to toads), but also because as it happens, the man who actually started We Build The Wall, Brian Kolfage, was the subject of a blog post that I wrote and published back on January 12, 2019 about this project and its many red flags.

Don't go looking for it in the 2019 Whirled archives, though. Out of an (over)abundance of caution I took the post down a few hours after I had published it -- something I very rarely do. I put it back in my drafts folder, even though I continued to update it even after it had been removed from public view.

Why did I remove it? Simply because of Kolfage's fiercely litigious history and the fact that he had so many well-funded backers. Not that anybody reads this blog, but again... abundance of caution.
Here's my post about that deleted post.

But in light of the current development, I feel moved to reinstate the original post here and now. You'll see a lot more about Kolfage's volatility and litigiousness in that post, as well as info about the history of his boondoggle, which began life as a GoFundMe called We The People Will Build The Wall, with a goal to raise a billion dollars, which would then be handed over to the government to help fund Trump's dream project. When that effort ran into glitches and logistical problems -- not to mention complaints -- Kolfage moved to Plan B, and the project was re-branded as We Build The Wall.

Back from the drafts folder: the original Whirled post


Although much has happened since January 2019 (boy, is that an understatement), I felt that this post nevertheless provides some pertinent background. Since the stories about his questionable fundraising first broke, Kolfage has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has offered details that he says counter some of the most damning reports. And I can't vouch for the functionality of all of the links in this post -- they were valid at the time I first published it -- but I'm keeping them intact anyway. With those disclaimers in mind, here is the original post in its entirety:

Big sale at Wall-mart: right-wing grifter gives donors another chance to squander their money

It really pains me to rag about a military veteran, particularly one who has been grievously wounded. In general I go out of my way to express compassion and support for the (mostly young) men and women who risk and all too often lose their lives in service to their country, though I have zero sympathy or empathy for the
war profiteers and politicians who continually put these young people in harm's way in order to enrich themselves.

But Brian Kolfage is a veteran who, I think, richly deserves any ragging that comes his way. Kolfage is a decorated
war hero and triple amputee who lost both legs and an arm after a rocket attack in 2004 during Operation Iraqi Freedom. So... thank you for your service and all that, Brian. Really. But being a wounded war hero -- even "the most severely wounded Airman ever to survive any war," as your promos continually remind us -- doesn't give a person moral or legal license to exploit that "war hero" persona in order to spread lies and scam people, which is what you, sir, have allegedly been doing. (I'll elaborate, with links, momentarily.)

Kolfage became part of the news cycle (again) last month when he started a GoFundMe campaign,
We The People Will Build the Wall, to pay for #NotMyPresident Donald John Trump's extravagantly expensive (and useless) xenophobic-dogwhistle vanity project. The goal was to raise a cool billion of We The People's hard-earned dollars within one month, and then to somehow spirit those moneys over to the government to help build Donnie's wall. Kolfage wasn't really clear about how the getting it to the government part would work, but he assured his marks that he and his team would work it out somehow. And he promised that if the fund didn't reach the one bil goal, or come significantly close, 100 percent of the donations would be refunded. That was Plan A.

Well, now it seems that they're on to Plan B. While significantly more than 300,000 people who apparently have more money than sense have donated to the cause, raising more than $20 million and making it one of the most successful GoFundMe campaigns ever, that's pretty far short of $1 billion. So now GoFundMe
is poised to issue refunds to donors. But wait, there's more! Instead of simply getting their money back and spending it on something useful, the suckers who donated have another chance to potentially get scammed while expressing their various fears and hatreds.

For Kolfage has announced a new 501(c)(4) nonprofit corporation,
We Build The Wall, Inc., which is gladly accepting donations, and to which he will happily re-route any donations made to the GoFundMe page. (That GoFundMe page, by the way, is still up and running as of this writing, making the whole issue a little confusing at the moment.) The nonprof is based in Florida, where Kolfage lives, though the address for old-school rubes who want to send a check is a P.O. box in Houston.

By way of 'splaining the decision to form a nonprof, Kolfage insists that he and his team are much more capable of analyzing needs and getting the job done than any dumb ol' government analysts, and certainly more capable than those horrid obstructionist unpatriotic Democrats, who, according to Kolfage, will do anything in their power to thwart this patriotic endeavor. Which brings us to the part that is even more interesting than the decision to funnel everything into a nonprof: the lineup of folks who are part of that "team."
Here's more on Gizmodo, from a writer, Rhett Jones, who minces no words.
At the moment, donations are still rolling in on the GoFundMe page (which complicates the official story of what triggered the refunds) and Kolfage is far from done. It remains to be seen just how many previous donors will choose to pass their money to the new effort, but Kolfage has assembled a rogues gallery of prominent conservative grifters to serve on his new border wall construction company’s advisory board. Some of the board members include:
  • David Clarke, the disgraced former sheriff of Milwaukee who is the subject of numerous lawsuits related to abuse of inmates. Clarke is also a big fan of wearing shiny trinkets that look like military medals, but are not.
  • Kris Kobach, the Kansas politician who spreads fantasies about voter fraud. Kobach oversaw Trump’s election integrity commission which was shut down without issuing a report after it failed to find evidence of widespread voter fraud.
  • Erik Prince, the founder of the Blackwater security group. Prince is one of the shadiest people on the planet and oversaw Blackwater when its mercenaries were indiscriminately committing war crimes in Iraq. [Erik Prince is also Trump "Education" Secretary Betsy DeVos' brother. ~ CC]
It seems the only person missing from Kolfage’s impressive board of imposters and sadists is Sebastian Gorka.
And here, straight from the grift horse's mouth, is the full lineup of Team Kolfage.

Clearly, I'm not in sync politically with Kolfage and I do not share his goal for a walled-off southern border. That said, I can disagree with someone's politics without believing that the person in question is a scammer. (Then again, as I've observed ad nauseam on this very blog, in the Trump era
the line between politics and Scamworld has been blurred almost beyond recognition.) Trump or no Trump, though, it appears that Kolfage has a history of deceptive marketing, to put it politely.

For instance, there are reports that in a 2015 GoFundMe campaign,
Kolfage apparently pocketed more than $16,000 that was supposed to go to a veteran mentorship program. Despite Kolfage's naming of specific beneficiaries of his largess, GoFundMe spokesman Bobby Whithorne said the money went directly to Kolfage.
Kolfage in Facebook posts that have been deleted said that he was working with Walter Reed, Brooke Army Medical Center and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. Representatives for the centers told BuzzFeed News that they don't have record of Kolfage working with veterans at their facilities.

“We do not have a record of Mr. Kolfage visiting Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in any official capacity after 2012,” Gia Oney, chief of public affairs at Landstuhl, told the online outlet. “We have no record of a donation made in his name to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.”
The Hill piece cited above sources a January 10, 2019 report from BuzzFeed, which not only mentions the veteran funding scheme but also Kolfage's documented history of running web sites and Facebook pages promoting right-wing conspiranoid and racist content. In other words, Kolfage pushed fake news, some of it racist, to line his own pockets.

One former employee of Kolfage's, Lindsay Lowery, aka Prissy Holly, worked for Kolfage's chief conservative news website, Freedom Daily, for about a year in 2017. But it appears that it was on Facebook rather than on the website that Kolfage really did his dirty work, according to Lowery.

"After I started challenging some of his business decisions that I felt were reckless for the company and for my career, the real Brian emerged,” she told BuzzFeed News. “Everything is only about his ‘war hero’ persona and money. If there’s a perceived slight on his part, he viciously attacks people...and, in my case, tries to destroy their life and livelihood.”

BuzzFeed News reviewed a cache of internal emails and text messages from several of Kolfage’s former employees and acquaintances that show how he pushed to sensationalize and fabricate right-wing content on Facebook to amass clicks, manipulate users, and in the process, make hundreds of thousands of dollars a month in advertising revenue. In one text, he claimed to run a “multi-million business.”

In addition to Lowery, three sources corroborated the documents and their experience with Kolfage, but were afraid to go on the record, citing his past behavior of lashing out and threatening legal action against those who have spoken against him.

Former employees told BuzzFeed News that Kolfage instructed his crew to produce Facebook content to more flagrantly convey a false narrative, in one instance photoshopping former president Obama’s head onto another body to make it appear as though he was having an affair, with the caption, “BREAKING!! OBAMA BUSTED!!! VIDEO LEAKED!!”
Another former employee, who didn't want to be identified due to fear of retaliation, said that at first her work with Kolfage was going pretty well; the pay was fair, and she was able to pitch and write stories. But as time went by her work and the company's mission changed.
“He started creating more [Facebook] pages. I think he had around 10 when I was there and I remember I would see shares and be like, ‘Where did this page come from?’” she recalled. “He was very smart in how he would do it. He never wanted the truth. It was all just for clicks, and the more inflammatory, the better. I felt dirty writing the stuff.”
Later on in the BuzzFeed piece we're told that in one email to employees, Kolfage warned them, “NEVER tell anyone who operates Freedomdaily. It’s a tightly guarded secret, and our LLC has a privacy veil set up to protect it. It allows us to operate without consequence where we can’t be sued or attacked by trolls.”

Without consequence? Sounds like fun! Alas, Facebook did eventually suspend several of his pages, along with hundreds of others, during the Great Fake Account Purge of October 2018. Kolfage claimed that the pages that were suspended
were indeed fakes but that he had nothing to do with them (see the sub-head, "Buzzfeed raises questions," in the linked article).

But the suspensions just prompted Kolfage to double down on his role as a crusader for "American values," most notably, free speech. One of the things he did to fight for free speech was to start another online fundraising venture called
Fight4FreeSpeech, which raised more than $73,000 of a $100,000 goal in two months, with the money to be used for... well, beats the heck out of me. I think it's to sue Facebook for deleting his fake accounts that he had nothing to do with, or something like that. Anyway, he apparently has moved that campaign to a new web site.

Funny thing, though. Kolfage didn't seem to be so enamored of free speech from "radical left-wing extremists" whom he claimed were defaming him and whom
he sued in 2014 in Maricopa County, Arizona superior Court. And once again he used to his crowdfunding skills, this time to pay his legal fees. (The suit was settled in 2015.) According to this earlier (December 2018) BuzzFeed article...
Ken Vanderzanden was one of [the people Kolfage sued]. In 2013, he came across one of Kolfage’s Facebook posts in which he dissected Obama’s birth certificate in an effort to prove it was fake. Amused, the 64-year-old sent him a private message pointing out some flaws in Kolfage’s analysis.

“He turned my private statement into a public statement and made a photo of me a meme, telling the world what a horrible person I was,” Vanderzanden told BuzzFeed News by phone from his home in Portland. “I was endlessly harassed on Facebook and then started getting death threats to my house and had to change my phone number and go into hiding for a while.”

Kolfage published the retiree’s name, address, and phone number on his personal page, according to court documents. Vanderzanden repeatedly reported the harassment until Facebook finally shut down the veteran’s profile, prompting Kolfage to sue for defamation.

Ultimately, they reached a settlement in which both sides agreed to end any disparagement and pay their own legal fees, which Kolfage turned to GoFundMe and other fundraising efforts to cover.
Wow. The free-speech double standards... the right-wingnuttery... the litigious m.o.... the doxxing... Sounds a little like someone else I've blogged about on this Whirled.

According to the January 2019 recent BuzzFeed piece previously cited, former Kolfage employee Lindsay Lowery said that both she and her husband were threatened and harassed by Kolfage after she quit working for him. Two other former employees confirm this story. Lowery says that she'd seen her former boss go after others, but that being on the receiving end of his harassment was terrifying. "He thinks he's untouchable," she told BuzzFeed.

So I'm thinking that maybe Brian Kolfage isn't such a hero after all. And while I am normally sympathetic to people who get taken in by scammers, I will find it immensely difficult to work up any compassion whatsoever for those who choose to throw their money at any of his schemes -- either through GoFundMe campaigns or through web sites or nonprofits -- and who might subsequently feel that they've been had. I'm especially unsympathetic to folks who participate in this latest scam. Like those who voted for Trump, these Wall-mart shoppers deserve what they get. I'm out of patience.

UPDATE: On January 16 [2019], CBS News reported that GoFundMe donors to Kolfage's wall project have so far given $7 million to his new nonprofit -- or, rather, they have allowed their donations to the GoFundMe page to be redirected to the nonprof. Donors who take no action to have their funds redirected will have their money automatically refunded by April 11, and those who specifically ask for a refund should get it back within three business days. Kolfage also says he has received 3,500 mail-in donations so far, but hasn't yet totaled them. And in an email to CBS News, Kolfage disputed the BuzzFeed report that questioned his fundraising for the veterans' mentorship program. He claimed that he used the funds to travel to the hospitals where he conducted his "award winning mentor trips" to visit wounded veterans, and called the BuzzFeed piece a "fake article."

Two days previous to the CBS News piece, an investigative reporter for The Daily Caller -- which, I should note, is a conservative site -- wrote that
Kolfage's new nonprofit org raises, in the words of Charity Watch president Daniel Borochoff, a "huge red flag." According to the article, Kolfage is refusing to answer basic questions about his new nonprofit, which was actually founded two weeks before it was announced. And though he claims that the bylaws of We Build The Wall, Inc. prevent him from taking any salary from donor funds that originate from GoFundMe, he refused to provide The Daily Caller News Foundation with a copy of the nonprof's bylaws to corroborate his claim.

The Daily Caller also noticed the interesting fact that I mentioned in my original post above: check donations are being directed to an entirely different organization with a P.O. box in Houston. Kolfage has ignored multiple inquiries from The Daily Caller asking why he is directing check donations to an org in a different state (We Fund the Wall, Inc.), and whether donations sent to that org can be used to compensate him in any manner. Another big question The Daily Caller had was why Kolfage waited over two weeks to inform his donors of his intention to transfer their contributions to his new nonprof. He has ignored multiple inquiries about this point as well.

Here's a link to info about Kolfage's Florida nonprof.

And
here's a link to the founding documents, which were signed on December 27, 2018. The stated purpose of the nonprof is "to promote social welfare within the meaning of Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code, including but not limited to funding, construction, administering, and maintaining a United States Southern Border Wall and the processes associated therewith." Seems to me that this give Kolfage a lot of leeway to do whatever he wishes with We The People's hard-earned bucks.
###
Back to the present: hold your applause
I will of course continue to follow this developing story, and I hope you will too. Politico has reported that in the wake of Bannon's arrest Trump has distanced himself from Bannon, calling private funding of The Wall "inappropriate." Actually, as ProPublica reported on an August 1, 2020 update to an article originally published on July 2 in partnership with The Texas Tribune, Trump initially distanced himself from the We Build The Wall project after it was revealed that the wall is unsound and could be in danger of falling into the Rio Grande. He said that the project was built to embarrass him.

But Trump has a habit of changing his tune and contradicting himself; he may be condemning the project today, but who knows what he'll say tomorrow? After all, as Politico also noted,
last summer The New York Times reported that Trump (according to one of the project's backers, Kris Kobach) had given the project his blessing. So there's that. As well, Donald Trump Jr. has also praised the group behind We Build The Wall, gushing that it is "what capitalism is all about." So there's that. (After the arrests were made public, however, DJTJ hastened to distance himself from Kolfage's project too.)

And even though Trump Sr. now claims that he knows nothing about Kolfage's project,
Forbes noted these interesting points:
Trump also “personally and repeatedly” lobbied for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to award a $1.28 billion wall-building contract to Fisher Industries, a politically-connected firm that was also helping We Build The Wall build a private portion of the wall, according to the Washington Post.

The company, which is not mentioned in the indictment, is run by GOP donor and frequent Fox News guest Tommy Fisher and
won the contract after it “captured Trump's attention” and was “repeatedly touted” by him, according to CNN.

The White House declined to comment on whether Trump knew of the connection between Fisher and We Build The Wall.
And I imagine that scads of Wall fans and xenophobes will dismiss this whole case either as "fake news" or as an overblown political witch hunt -- or "hit job," as Bannon put it -- and that they will support Brian Kolfage as the hero/martyr he so wants us to believe that he is. I'm guessing that they'll see this case not as an indictment of Kolfage and his project but rather as an indictment of the Southern District of New York, which has remained unafraid of going after Trump's dodgy business dealings and other related matters.

But even if those charged are tried and ultimately convicted, which at this point is far from a certainty, it's anyone's guess how this will end. You only have to think of Michael Flynn, or Roger Stone, to know that these days, anything goes. In Trumpistan, you're guilty until proven innocent if you're a critic of Trump, and innocent even after proven guilty if you're a Trump crony or sycophant.

So as delightful as the vision of Steve Bannon in handcuffs may be, maybe hold off on the celebration for now.


Update, August 21, 2020: I have added several links and other content to this post since I first uploaded it on August 20. ~ CC

Related on this Whirled:
Related off-Whirled:
  • August 20. 2020: Steve Bannon, Kris Kobach, and the 'We Build the Wall' Scandal
    Writing for investigative journalist Greg Palast's site, Zach D. Roberts sheds some much-needed light on We Build The Wall principal and founding attorney Kris Kobach, who, though as mentioned above was not named in the current indictment, is a scoundrel who's just as much of a threat to American democracy as Trump is. (Also be sure to read
    the linked excerpt about Kobach, taken from Greg Palast's new book, How Trump Stole 2020.)
  • August 20, 2020: Bannon Grifter Indictment: More Steel Bracelets for Team Trump
    Amanda Carpenter, writing for The Bulwark, is a writer after my own heart (of snark). She really nails Trump and the rogue's gallery of grifters with whom he has long surrounded himself.
  • August 20, 2020: Trump struggles to explain the 'culture of lawlessness' around him
    Spoiler alert: The best he could come up with, when cornered by a reporter, was, "There was great lawlessness in the Obama administration. They spied on our campaign illegally." But don't let the spoiler keep you from reading Steve Benen's short but link-filled piece on the utter hypocrisy of the man who claims to be "tough on crime" and "the law and order president."
  • August 21, 2020: Prosecutors Arrest 'We Build The Wall' Leaders For Convincing Donors They Weren't Taking Cash
    A good capsule summary of the whole saga, from Snopes. Includes background about specific accusations leveled against Brian Kolfage in 2019, and his denial of the accusations, and explanations about where he really got the money to buy his expensive toys.
  • August 19, 2019: Brian Kolfage; A Pattern of Cons
    From The Weird Turn Professional blog (the name of the blog is apparently derived from a quotation by the late "gonzo journalist," Hunter S. Thompson). The blog's author, whose name doesn't seem to appear on his blog (maybe I'm just overlooking it?), claims to have originally broken the story of Kolfage's scammery. Whether he did or not, his post is filled with exhibits and links that seem to reinforce the narrative of Kolfage as a serial huckster. Embedded in the post is this video, dated August 6, 2019, stating that Kolfage's project was under criminal investigation in the state of Florida. If I had seen that vid when it was first posted, I would have reinstated my back-burnered January 2019 blog post then and there.
  • Ongoing: Wikipedia entry on Brian Kolfage
  • August 23, 2020: Trump Claims He Rejected Wall Scam, But Sponsors Boasted Of His Support
    Not to belabor the point, but Trump's attempts to distance himself from this scam and these scammers are about as credible as his tan.
  • August 24, 2020: Federal Prosecutors Have Steve Bannon's Murky Nonprofit In Their Sights
    ProPublica highlights details in the 24-page indictment that seem to be describing Bannon's group, Citizens of the American Republic.
  • Ongoing: The Brian Kolfage Facebook "fan" page, which publishes whiny posts appearing to be from Kolfage himself (going on and on about "witch hunts" and whatnot). The right-wing followers and fans are just eating it up.
    Facebook's transparency info states that the confirmed page owner of the Brian Kolfage page is the above-mentioned Citizens of the American Republic in Mclean, Virginia. The page was originally created in November 2014, under the name, "Fans Of Brian Kolfage -- American Patriot." At the time this link is being posted here (on August 25, 2020), 584,065 people "like" this page, and 630,184 folks are following it. Kolfage's latest post at this time compares the SDNY action against him to the court action against the National Rifle Association (NRA). He writes:"I gave 3 limbs defending this freedom, and I'd proudly give another to fight back at this injustice to preserve the future of this nation."
    ###
    So... don't expect the hero/martyr narrative, either from Bannon or Kolfage, to let up any time soon. And as I noted in my post above, it would be a mistake to assume that any of these con artists will see a moment of jail time.