Saturday, December 31, 2011

One reason 2011 didn't completely suck

All things told, 2011 was an eventful year on many fronts. One of the most notable events on this Whirled beat, of course, is that Jimmy Ray is now in a jumpsuit (for a while, anyway). It is, as the punch line in everyone's favorite attorney joke goes, a good beginning.

Who knows what 2012 will bring? For now, let's take a cue from the party hat in the "Before" pic (click on pic for enlargement). It's time to celebrate.

Happy New Year to all of you, and thank you for your support.

PS ~ Here is the fake robot's retrospective.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beautiful daze in the Aber-hood

Jerry is gone, but the show must go on.

Actually, Jerry Hicks, the George half of the George and Gracie of the imaginary-friends industry, isn't really gone, despite his having croaked* on November 18, 2011.
As I predicted (but really, it was a totally no-brainer prognostication, and I was far from the only one predicting this), Jerry is still very much with Esther and her pretend pals Abraham. After joining Abe in The Vortex, Jerry is now apparently playing pranks on Esther and her audiences at the Abe-Hicks events she has bravely chosen to continue, despite her grieving.
The ever-vigilant Kyra provided a capsule summary of Esther's recent (December 10) LIVE workshop. Dave Stone, another Abe-Hicks critic, also weighed in with lots of good information and commentary, as well as additional links.

But there's trouble in Paradise, and there has been for some time now. What's going on is not a war of good versus evil per se; it's more like a war of The Vortex versus The Torrent. (Google Abraham-Hicks torrents and you'll see what I mean.) It seems that some Abers are using AbeEsther's own words against her/them, employing Abe-Hicks' pronouncements about sharing information to support their own sharing of Abe-Hicks content.
To some degree this is a money issue. It seems that despite repeated attempts to use Abe-Hicks' teachings about the Law of Attraction to attract wealth into their lives, large numbers of Abe fans apparently can't afford to attend the workshops in person or even on the Web, to say nothing of being able to afford those lavish sea cruises. To the rescue: a few Abers who are working to help people acquire as much Abe-Hicks content as possible gratis.
Not surprisingly, the folks at Abe-Hicks don't like it.

Again we turn to Kyra's blog, as she discusses the Abe-Hicks' organization's attempts to crack down on copyright violations. She notes that the efforts to fight copyright violators seem to have been stepped up after Jerry stepped into The Vortex last month.

On one level, of course, the torrents present just another example of people wanting something for nothing, and that's a very human trait, which the Internet has in many ways nurtured. But it's something more as well, as at least some of the torrent troops seem to fervently believe they are working for that New-Wage/McSpirituality conceit known as the Greater Good, which in this case means spreading Abe's loving message to a world that is starving for it. For them as well as for other Abe-Hicks watchers, it's also morally complicated because some of the things the Hicks have said over the years could have been interpreted as carte blanche for the content sharers.
There's this recent bit from Esther/Abe, for instance, uploaded in September of 2011, before Jerry got sucked into The Vortex. And as a reminder for those who aren't familiar with the Abe-Hicks shtick, that's Esther's voice, but you'll hear "Jerry and Esther" referred to in the third person because, you see, that's Abe talking through Esther.

I listened very carefully to this rambling, but it was kind of hard to tell exactly what Esther/Abe is/are saying about copyrights. New-Wagers are so indirect. If they're not couching things in enlightened-sounding euphemisms, they're just plain babbling. However, in this recording Esther-as-Abe seems to be saying that protecting copyrights is kind of a negative thing and isn't really necessary if you're going with the flow. She/they also seems to be saying that "this thing you call the Internet" is wonderful, because it provides an earthly demonstration of how LOA really works.

Then again, that was apparently recorded before Jerry croaked. Now the heirs to the throne are redoubling efforts to protect the territory. For the most part the Abe-Hicks organization seems to be couching the copyright fights in the most altruistic terms, claiming that their desire to protect their material is just so people who need their message can easily find them, and that it has nothing to do with money. Uh-huh.

But the torrenters fight on. One dedicated activist attempts to address both the legal and the moral issues surrounding the sharing of Abe-Hicks material (I won't name him, nor will I provide a link to his sites, but I imagine you can find them by Googling). He writes that in 2006 he came across the Abe-Hicks teachings, which changed his life for the better. He downloaded some MPFree files offered by Abe-Hicks and he got hooked. The more he studied their teaching, the more he wanted it. Alas, he was unemployed and could not spend the money they were asking for their recordings. (In my many years of observing, I've noticed that New-Wage gurus seem to attract more than the average bear's share of freeloaders.) 

But our activist asked and searched, and, as he 'splains it, the Law of Attraction led him to Abraham-Hicks torrents. I would have put my money on Google rather than the LOA that led him torrentward, but whatevs, as the hipsters used to say until that phrase got worn out (yeah, I know I've used it here too, and I'm not even a hipster). In any event the torrents were his lifesaver, he noted, and he felt so blessed that he decided he wanted to share the goodies with everyone. It felt really good to spread the word and help others find what he'd found. At this point in his narrative he quoted Abe-Hicks:
You are uplifters to the core of your being. Part of your selfish nature is to share the good stuff. Part of your selfish nature is to revel in what feels good, and spread it so others may find it too. - Abraham-Hicks
He wrote that he was concerned about the legality of torrents but was reassured by no lesser beings than Abraham themselves. Here are the quotations that apparently assuaged his moral anguish:
Everything is valid and everything is truthful, because Law of Attraction lets everything be. The question is not whether it's right or wrong, whether their approach is right or wrong, or whether my approach is right or wrong. The question is: Does their approach feel good to me? And if it doesn't, then I choose a different approach. --- Abraham (Excerpted from the workshop in Los Angeles, CA on Sunday, August 2nd, 1998)
The Universe is not discriminating about the rightness or the wrongness of your request. It is here to accommodate all requests. All you have to do is be a Vibrational Match to your request, and the Universe will yield it to you. --- Abraham Excerpted from the workshop in Sacramento, CA on Saturday, May 13th, 2000
When you manage to stay connected to your Energy stream, you always win. And you know what, somebody else doesn't have to lose for you to win. There is always enough. --- Abraham
Alignment trumps everything including the supreme court. Stay true to your own desire. You don't have to convince anyone. --- Abraham
In other words, if taking and sharing other people's stuff makes you feel good, it's all right. Sorry, dude, but that probably ain't gonna hold up in court, if it comes to that. And all that stuff that Abe supposedly said about copyright being not all that important? I don't think that's going to fly either. I'm no lawyer so I really couldn't say how these things work, but I have watched a lot of law shows on TV, and I don't think there's any sort of precedent for calling imaginary buddies to the stand. I guess there's always a first time, though.
Hypocritical as the Hicks team seem to be on so many levels -- not the least of which is the ongoing masquerade that they're not in it for the money -- intellectual property rights law trumps what someone's imaginary friends supposedly said about sharing, feeling good, or what have you. 

My biases here are twofold, and at first glance they seem to be somewhat in conflict with each other. First off, I look at the Hicks enterprise, and always have, from the perspective of one who firmly believes that Esther and Jerry made the whole Abe thing up, originally inspired in large part by the success of the late Jane Roberts and her made-up mate Seth. (I know I've linked to this 2007 Independent (UK) article about the Hicks before, but I'm linking again because it really does paint a revealing portrait of Esther and Jerry.) They have been pulling this brilliant scheme off for more than twenty-five years, and I suppose you kind of have to hand it to them for that. At some point one or both Hickses may have started to believe some of their own b.s. ("Be careful what you pretend to be," warned Vonnegut in what I think was his finest novel, Mother Night), but that doesn't make it any less b.s.-y. At any rate, the result is that Hicks and their bogus buds have provided much snark chum for this Whirled and a few others -- most notably, Kyra and Dave.

But I'm also looking at the torrent issue from the viewpoint of an author. Part of my role as a book editor and ghostwriter for going on twenty years has been that of author advocate, and I know something about the creative process and the work that goes into producing and marketing content -- even if you have someone else create all or part of it for you. The law is on the Hicks' side, of course, but, legal issues aside, I don't think anyone has a moral right to consistently take and share huge chunks of commercial content unless it is freely offered by the creators of that content. (Yes, even if those creators are hammy scammers who have made millions from selling their imaginary-pals shtick to spiritually, emotionally, and financially needy people, and even if they have kind of made it sound as if it's okay to freely share their creations.) Quoting segments -- even extended segments -- for the purpose of criticism or commentary or just plain poking fun is one thing. Consistently taking entire copyrighted works and distributing them without permission is quite another.

Some might think my whole spiel about protecting content is contradictory to my passionate defense of Internet freedom, as expressed in my anti-SOPA post just the other day. Not so. In my opinion, SOPA reaches much too far in "protecting" the rights of content creators, and unfairly punishing those who share content even in the most indirect and innocent way. On the other hand, I've never been particularly sympathetic to torrenters. I will be happy to hear from those who disagree with me on any of these issues, of course.
From my perspective, however, the larger and more disturbing issues here are not the hypocrisy (or Hicks-ocrisy, as the case may be), nor the greed that fuels the Abe-Hicks empire and apparently has for years, long before The Vortex welcomed Jerry into its infinite delights. Hypocrisy and greed are certainly prominent characteristics not only of Abe-Hicks, but also of New-Wage rockstars in general.

But what concerns me even more is the fact that so many presumably educated adults are fighting passionately for free and unlimited access to what is basically a package of derivative crap. Branded derivative crap, yes, but derivative crap nonetheless. Aside from the ludicrous premise of receiving "wisdom" from a group of disembodied entities, even a casual glance at the messages that those all-knowing, all-wise entities are supposedly sharing should give pause. 

Consider, for example, this snippet about one of Esther's recent solo workshops, as reported and commented on by Dave Stone (I've mentioned it on my Facebook page and at the end of my November 28 Abrascam post, but it's worth sharing again):
Asked by a mother in the hot seat about dealing with her young child who refused to share toys, the brilliant, all-knowing Abraham responded the the child was in alignment, enjoying his toy "like Jesus not freaking out about the toylessness of his friends."

Which coldhearted Jesus was that, Abe?

Farther along in the conversation, Esther told her she should not be concerned or interfere with her son's kicking their cat. It was between the animal abuser and the cat, Esther said, and the cat would teach him. That's right, Abe, bring us one more Ted Bundy.
Kind of creepy, no? (Or perhaps the kid was just demonstrating Jerry and Esther's folksy observation that life is "a kick in the pants.") And consider "Abraham's" teachings about evolution, as noted by Kyra a few months ago. In her December 11 blog post I linked to above, Kyra also noted that at the December 10, 2011 LIVE event, Esther-as-Abe informed her audience that the human species was on Earth at the same time as the dinosaurs. Move over, Creationists!

Some Abers will probably say that I'm cherry-picking, that it's unfair to judge an entire body of work by a couple of arbitrarily chosen examples. But just go to Kyra or Dave's sites and poke around through the archives, and you'll see tons of other examples to support the basic premise that the Abe-Hicks material is a steaming pile of sh.. perhaps not the wisest choice of a guidebook for living.

Meanwhile, it seems clear to me even from my vantage point as an outsider that in the wake of Jerry's death, many people are struggling desperately to cling to their beliefs in Abe and Esther, finding ways to justify (or simply ignore) the increasingly glaring hypocrisies and inconsistencies. At this point there is a whole herd of elephants in the room -- or dinosaurs, if you prefer -- and many of the Abe defenders are still finding ways not to talk about them, at least not honestly. They choose to remain in their beautiful daze, which I'm sure is just fine with Esther and her minions. 

The only bright spot in all of this is that more of the natives really are getting restless, and perhaps for the first time are questioning not only the motives of the Abe-Hicks principals, but the validity of the stuff that spews out of Esther's mouth. And while the guardians of the Abe-Hicks empire may not find that very comforting, I think it's a very, very good thing.

PS ~ In other copyrights-and-wrongs news, the Hicks apparently also tried to trademark the phrase, "Law of Attraction" but had no luck. They have, however, cornered the market on Vortex of Attraction TM. Take that, all of you Secret stars and thousands of other other two-bit New-Wage hucksters and wannabes who are trying to capitalize on LOA. LOA ain't got nothin' on VOA.

PPS added on 28 December ~ Someone on Kyra's blog pointed out this blog post from an apparently recently disillusioned ex-Aber, who gives a very good account of her own experience in the Aber-hood. She describes the euphoria that comes from thinking one has finally found the true path, as well as the uncomfortable process of disillusionment. And I think she also nails the Hicks' true motives. Read the post here while you can:

PPPS ~ In this recent article, Dave Stone documents that Esther-as-Abe has declared for many years that yes, it IS all about the money. Even religion is all about money, according to Abe, who apparently has also said that Esther herself is on a par with Jesus and Buddha. Good to know.

PPPPS added 3 January 2012 ~ Good Goddess, the post-script section on this thing is going to be longer than the actual post if this keeps up. But I just recently became aware of another new blog by a former Aber: Mariah's fine Post-Abe blog, which documents the lies one learns in the Aber-hood (and, in Mariah's case, eventually un-learns). Of particular interest: This post, dated December 29 (which also happened to be the birthday of long-time "friend" of the Hicks, Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale). The Abe-on-parenting theme fits in with that kick-the-kitty thang. Good job, Mariah. And beyond that, read the comments to this post. In particular, a commenter named Tina brings up what appears to be another sad tale of collateral damage -- easily worthy of separate subsequent posts. Stay tuned...

* By using the word "croaked" I am not being disrespectful; that's apparently a term freely used by the Abe-Hicks gang and their followers.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

███████ your site, fight SOPA

Have you heard of SOPA, or the Stop Online Piracy Act?
Or the only marginally less loathsome Protect IP Act?

These are devious bipartisan creations of US legislation that could impose China- or Saudi Arabia-style censorship on millions of web site owners in the Land of the Free. Even including a single link to another site that didn't meet SOPA's stringent standards could result in the site that shared that link being taken down -- with no warning to the site's owner. The U.S. government would have the power to demand that the site be taken down, although the very well-funded supporters of the legislation -- namely the publishing, music, and film industries -- would actually be the watchdogs.

It seems to me that under SOPA, it could be relatively easy for anyone who was displeased by content on a Web site to get that site wiped off of the Web, provided that person had enough money and influence. Just think: my little blue Whirled could be toast. My fake robot pal Salty, whose trademark sign-off is "Bleep-Bloop," could be bleeped right off of the Internet. Your site(s) probably wouldn't be safe either.

There's still time to fight SOPA and Protect IP, though. Here are some helpful links:

And now back to our regularly scheduled ███████ .

PS ~ Thanks to Cassandra Yorgey for sharing those last two links on Facebook.

Monday, December 05, 2011

True-dough updates: bad poetry for KT, hate mail for CC

Not long ago I was nosing around one of the main sites of a favorite snarget of mine, the infamous infomercial king and compulsive flopportunity huckster Kevin True-dough. As you may know if you have been hanging around here any length of time, or even if you've just been observing KT, he has a legion of worshipful followers who look upon him as a hero, fighting the good fight on their behalf against the forces of evil. Sometimes they express their love for him by writing atrocious songs or bad poetry. And that's just fine with me because, as you may also know, I am a dedicated fan of bad poetry, whether it's intentionally awful or not.

More than likely this attempt at a limerick, and the numerous responses to same, fall into the "not intentionally awful" category. Here's the original, published on the KT site this past August:
There once was a man named Trudeau
Like a Jedi knight on the go
With Knowingness Transcendent
And his trusty e-pendant
He'll soon have all Congress in tow.
~ BB
Well, that got the inspirational juices flowing among the True-doughnuts. Here is an early response, from a poet named Stephen:
Hail! The Jedi named Trudeau,
Bring forth Siddus, Vader or Emperor.
Challenge! K.T. will with Kenobi and Yoda true,
Darth Congress that doth made America poor.

E-Pendant a swinging purifying the energies,
Flight to dark corners false rulers will.
They swarm but fall like flies,
When K.T. come to light the lying Congress Bill.

Indignant the populace shall be,
Their cause is to be free.
Kevin will raise the proud flag,
Hey, Trudeau your seat’s in the bag.
By "your seat's in the bag," I assume our poet is not referring to True-dough's buttocks being stuffed into a paper sack; rather, I believe he means that Kevin's Congressional seat, should the Great One choose to run, is secure. And those references to the E-pendant? Glad you asked.

There are several more poetic offerings on the site for your reading pleasure. Well, Dear Ones, inspiration is contagious: I was moved to write my own limerick in response, though I did not submit it to the KT Radio Show site.

You’ve heard of that huckster True-dough
And his wingnutty radio show
He’ll shamelessly spout
Lotsa nonsense about
All the stuff “they” don’t want you to know.

His followers treat him like God
Caring not that he’s served time for fraud.
They swallow the crap
That spews from his yap
Each utterance makes them applaud.

He started this scheme he calls GIN –
A thousand bucks just to get in
Thousands more to advance
It’s a desperate dance
And a dead end for all except him.
I may add more verses later if the inspiration hits me, and you're welcome to contribute some of your own. And, hey, I know that "him" doesn't rhyme with "GIN" and "in." But cut me some slack, all right?

In other True-dough news, it appears that the Jedi Knight with Knowingness Transcendent has lost his valiant battle to get his $37-plus million dollar Federal Trade Commission fine for lying to his customers thrown out. He's been fighting that thing for years. No doubt he will continue to fight it, accepting money from suckers who contribute to his KT Legal Defense Fund. For now, though, as the Infomercial Hell blogger wryly noted in response to this latest news: "It appears that Kevin’s magic genie and GIN/Illuminati buddies are letting him down on this one." Not to mention his E-pendant.

And by the way, although KT spewed some racist rants about Hispanics on his show a few months ago, grousing about the way those gosh-darned illegal Mexicans are taking over the US, he has absolutely no qualms about hustling Hispanics in their native tongue. Lately I've been noticing Spanish-dubbed versions of his Free Money infomercials playing on the Latino channels late at night. Never miss an opportunity... Oh, but of course, he is probably marketing only to legal "Mexicans." (I'll provide a link when and if I can find one. Meanwhile, if you are in the US and do some channel surfing late at night, you're bound to run into SeƱor Dinero Gratis.)

Finally, I was recently contacted by one Lynndel "Lynn" Edgington, an author and radio show host who runs a non-profit anti-fraud organization, Eagle Research Associates, Inc., Mr. Edgington, whose mission includes helping to protect the public from Internet investment fraud, is particularly concerned with Ponzi and Ponzi-like schemes, and notes that in today's desperate economic climate, so many people are grasping at straws, thinking these get-rich gimmicks will be the answer to their prayers. Among many other projects, he has worked on a TV show about a major scam that occurred in his neck of the woods, Orange County, California. The victims were all senior citizens in ill health; over half of them died before the perp ever got to trial, more died during the two-year trial, and today, out of 127 victims that came forward, only about a half dozen are still alive. Mr. Edgington, who had written an article about True-dough's G.I.N. scheme, asked my permission to re-publish one of my recent True-dough articles on the site. I granted it (here is the link).

Now, it may just be one big coinky-dink, but shortly after that re-publication I started getting some "fan mail" to one of my older True-dough posts, "First Amendment Stuporhero." Do I even have to add that both fans are named "Anonymous?"

The first one:
Wow! There's a reason why people like you remain losers your whole life and why the rest of us are making thousands of dollars a month with wait for it....Global Information Network, Juice Plus+ (NSA), Joe Vitale, Abraham, etc...the difference is we don't pertain to know it all like you do.

I've just sat and read through your entire 'blog' (I'll prefer to call it 'bog' from now on, as it's full of crap!) and a cold-shiver went through me as I recalled being just like you before making money by listening to someone who has money.
As you do NOT have money, why anyone would listen to you is beyond me. Although I suspect that your 'bog' is more of a vent for yourself than anything else.

You undoubtedly hate anyone who is successful and especially anyone who has learned to market that success for their (and others') benefits.

Do you actually believe the crap that you spout? I daresay you do and no doubt you would rebuke the retort against you as me being just another deluded individual, suckered into some MLM scam?!
Well, that's fine with me...when you're making $6,000 a month from sitting at home, not doing these MLM programs, as I am, get back to me and perhaps I'll think you've got something worthy to say. Until then, I think you're just proving yourself to be nothing more than an egotistical, self-centred, know-it-all, without the slightest clue as to how to be successful.

Good luck with being a continual loser and having loser friends with loser mentality!
Spoken like a loyal True-doughnut. Their hero is always talking about "winners" and "losers." The "losers," of course, are those who don't care enough about improving their lives to listen to Your Wish Is Your Command hundreds of times and to drink True-dough's G.I.N.-spiked Kool-Aid.
And then there was this comment, which may very well have come from the same person:
And the award for the most ignorant blogger and blog goes to YOU!!

What a scumbag you are! You dare to slander people who have been proven to help others and then you ask for 'donations' and have irrelevant google ads on your page? Pot calling the kettle black!

It's obvious to me and many others, that you haven't the first clue about most of these people you pull down. In fact, it seems to me that you enjoy bitching about successful people.

No problem're a loser, always will be.
If you follow the links you'll see my replies, including my explanation about what a huge cash cow the GoogleAds program has been for me.

It seems to me that so far, in the great scheme of things, critical bloggers and watchdog sites can't hold a candle to the twin forces of scammers' greed and scammees' gullibility (or desperation). On an August KT Radio Network show, the topic of discussion was secret societies, which, of course, are the underlying theme and main hook for the ludicrous G.I.N. Here's a direct link to the video, in which, among other things, True-dough seems to be saying that he'd recently offered a free-car giveaway mainly so he could bring the losers who actually needed a car out of the woodwork and give them a good talking-to about trying to get something for nothing.

In response to this show, there was an outpouring of gratitude from True-dough's fans.
Such as this one, from someone named Lidia:
Yanno, I feel like crying too when I read stuff like that.
PS ~ Here's the story of another criminal huckster following in True-dough's footsteps by casting himself as a noble fighter against the evil government. (And another hat-tip to Salty.)

More True-dough on this Whirled:

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Monday, November 28, 2011

Has anybody here seen my old friend Abrascam?

As some of you may be aware by now, Jerry Hicks, former Amway superstar and the person who first “inspired” his wife Esther to get in touch with that imaginary collective, Abrascam, has “transitioned to the nonphysical.” A form of leukemia, perhaps related to advanced age (he was in his eighties) took him. He shuffled off this mortal coil on November 18, which as it happens was the same day James Arthur "Death" Ray began his prison ministry tour. Esther apparently waited a few days to announce Jerry's death.

Many folks, both Abe believers and nonbelievers, have had questions about several aspects of this event. A person named Bonnie, writing in a discussion on an older post on the Salty Droid blog (comment date-stamped November 25th, 2011 at 6:04 pm), summed up the issues quite well:
What I really find amazing is that after they outright lied about his [cancer] diagnosis for the longest time, and when he got his diagnosis, he started immediately with aggressive chemotherapy treatments, something they have always claimed that modern medicine of any kind is something that you don’t need (I wonder just how many people they “killed” by people dying rather than seeking out treatment), and then he dies anyway and it takes Esther 5 whole days to notify their suckers, I mean, supporters, because she needs that much time to make up a story to convince their cult that everything is just the way it was supposed to be and Jerry is now where he was supposed to be, and everyone believes it all and is still all wrapped up in the bullsh!t! I mean, doesn’t anyone see the discrepancy between what they teach and the real facts now? Talk about brain washing! I kind of thought that when I saw clips of Esther performing with a bad cold and could barely talk, her voice was so hoarse, on one of their recent video releases, and how she “excused it away” — when what they teach is that if you are in “alignment”, or “in the vortex”, you will not get sick or attract any illness of any kind. I guess Jerry attracted his cancer the same way [James Ray] attracted his downfall. “You attract what you are”.
But no doubt Esther will go on, probably channeling Jerry now as well as Abe. I know, I know, she doesn't call it "channeling." She calls it "receiving." You say receiving, I say channeling, let's call the whole thing off? Not a chance of that; calling it off is apparently the furthest thing from Esther's mind, seeing as how she is already getting messages from Jerry in the Vortex.

And I've been getting bold anonymous messages on one of my old Abrascam blog posts, even though at the time I received them I’d only mentioned Jerry's death briefly on someone else’s post on Facebook. Here's a small sampling, unedited:
...And, they never said NOT to go to doctors and use medicine. Just whatever feels right (positive) to the person. Though of course, in hindsight, taking chemo didn't work for Jerry, overall. But then, he was 84 or so, and had a long, interesting, sucessful life, and maybe had done all he wanted to do in this lifetime?
...Just seems like the ctirics of the Hickses and Abraham are just plain jealous. And they will create a life for themselves, based on this...
Thursday, November 24, 2011 9:39:00 AM
Hmmm... if Jerry had done all he wanted to do in this lifetime, why fight the cancer at all? It seems obvious that Jerry wanted to live a little longer, and who can blame him? The comments following that one were even more loving (pardon the F-words and such):
Anonymous said...
ugly bitch. Be happy for someone when their dreams come true. Fucking follower. Go ahead live like your ancestors. Stupid old tired beliefs....why dont you go digging in the dirt for 2000yr old answers to now questions. I hate you. And i did it on purpose. I am not closer to wealth because of hating you. Bitch
Thursday, November 24, 2011 12:57:00 PM
Anonymous said...
maybe someday I will laugh at your choices in life, create a web-post about it, and use a flattering photo of you-maybe with a dick on you forehead.
Thursday, November 24, 2011 1:01:00 PM
Full of love and light to the end, those Abers! Or perhaps it should be that Aber. Frankly, most of those comments read as if they all came from the same deluded soul. By the way, that reference to a dick on my forehead is apparently an angry reaction to my crude photo-composite of Jerry with a big spider on his head. (Originally the Hicks thought Jerry might have been suffering from a spider bite, which, they speculated, he might have received while they were camping out next to a yacht marina.) I could save my critic the trouble and do a Photoshop of myself with a dick on my forehead, but I've written about so many of them on this blog over the years that it would be difficult for me to choose just one, and my forehead will only hold so much.

On that note, Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale, who has long considered himself a friend of Esther and Jerry, weighed in about Jerry's death a couple of days ago. Besides paying tribute to his friend, he attempted to address the controversies surrounding Jerry's illness and death:
Abraham taught you’d always have challenges. As soon as you resolved one issue, you’d attract another. Welcome to the human experience. This doesn’t mean the Law of Attraction doesn’t work. It means it does work. You always get what you unconsciously believe and expect. (Re-read that.) Jerry once told Esther he’d probably depart before her, which proves he had a belief in dying, and maybe a belief in a particular way of passing on.
What Joe doesn't mention is that Jerry told Esther he would probably depart before her because he was so much older than she, and the law of averages would dictate that his time would be up before hers. So Joe's remark that this comment proved Jerry had "a belief in dying" is... well, typical asinine Law of Attraction crapola, to put it most charitably. Joe continued:
I wasn’t with Jerry when he grew ill, so I can’t say what he was thinking. I don’t know why he attracted cancer, or why he chose the modern medicine path to remove it. But if he accepted conventional medicine as a treatment, than he must have felt he attracted it as a possible solution. He was probably reaching for the thought that felt best to him at the time.
But immediately afterward, Joe seemed to contradict himself:
The fact that he got ill and passed on doesn’t mean anything more than he got ill and passed on. Everything else is simply our projecting our beliefs onto his situation.
Perhaps Joe actually meant that the fact that Jerry got ill and passed on doesn't, or shouldn't, mean anything more to Abe-Hicks believers than that he got ill and passed on. After all, the two paragraphs Joe wrote before that sentence would seem to imply that there were indeed deeper reasons for and/or meanings behind Jerry's illness and death. In any case, many of the Abers -- and ex-Abers --do seem to be having problems with apparent contradictions in the Abe-Hicks teachings. As illustrated above, some who seem to be clinging desperately to their beliefs have rationalized that Abe-Hicks never actually taught that one should eschew Western medicine completely. Others contend that yes, Abe-Hicks did teach this, and therefore Jerry Hicks was being hypocritical by choosing chemo.

The larger issue, and one that Joe conveniently overlooked, is that either by accident or design (then again, there are no accidents, right?), Esther and Jerry created a "cult of personality" over the years with their Abe shtick, making themselves the stars as much as their imaginary friends, despite their faux-modest disclaimers that Abe was the real source of the wisdom they shared.

So the fact that some of their followers are upset about what they see as contradictions or hypocrisies in the Hicks' own decisions cannot be dismissed merely as the followers' own flaws or projections, although that is Mr. Fire's favorite means of dismissal. People who create and market a public persona -- and represent themselves as an example of how to live -- are setting themselves up for criticism. (Yes, I know I am setting myself up too, and I get plenty of criticism. But I'm not presenting myself as an example of how to live, and I am certainly not making millions of dollars off this snarky shtick.)
I will grant that whatever her motives might have been, it was Esther's right to choose when and how to announce her husband's death. Brilliant cons aside, Jerry was her spouse of many years, and I have no doubt that she loved him, and is grieving for him on a deeply personal level.

At any rate, as I've noted before, I'm not an expert on the Abe-Hicks material, so I'll leave it up to those with a broader and deeper knowledge of the material to argue the particulars about what Esther and Jerry and "Abe" did or didn't teach about health and illness and death. And other folks can argue all they want about whether and how the Law of Attraction "works." That doesn't interest me much. To me, the real issue here is and always has been my opinion that Jerry and Esther made the whole Abraham thing up, originally inspired by the enduring success of Jane Roberts' Seth material. (Some of the back story -- plus some insight into the Hicks' character and business practices -- can be found in this 2007 article from the (UK) Independent.) And while Jerry may have lived a long, interesting, and successful life, as one of my Anon detractors pointed out to me, for much of his life he made his living as a hustler and con artist. Before Abrascam, there was Amway...

But he did leave a legacy, and I have no doubt that even as Jerry joyfully whirls in the sweet by-and-by, the sweet buy-and-buy will go on in this dimension. Esther will be up there on stage channeling Abe, and then...oh, my... Jerry will make an "appearance," bringing tears and laughter to the crowd of gullibles. More books, more DVDs, more workshops, more cruises. And Jerry will be on every one of them. Indeed, it takes more than cancer to kill a cash cow.
* * * * *
More on Abe-Hicks:

Kyra's excellent critical Abe-Hicks blog (I may not know much about the Abe-Hicks teachings, but Kyra certainly does.)

I don't want to forget Dave Stone's Abe-Hicks Squidoo lens. Here he shows an outrageous example, from a recent Abe-Hicks workshop, of the type of amoral teachings of Esther Hicks' imaginary pals (but very real cash cow). Apparently selfishness is a divine, Christ-like attribute, and it's perfectly all right for a child to abuse a pet.

Musings about why it matters more -- or should matter more -- when New-Wage gurus screw up in their lives than when the rest of us do:

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Friday, November 18, 2011

A jumpsuit for Jimmy

But I breathe yet
And for some the sky is bright
I cannot give up hoping for a morning light
So I ask that killer, "Can you sleep at night?"
Those three are on my mind.

(Apologies to folksinger Pete Seeger)*
As everyone who has been following the story is painfully aware by now, James Arthur Ray, convicted in June of 2011 on three counts of negligent homicide for the October 2009 fake-sweat-lodge deaths of James Shore, Kirby Brown and Liz Neuman, was sentenced on Friday, November 18, 2011. For his role in ending the lives of these three fine people, he received a mere two years in prison, minus 24 days served in jail last year after he was arrested. Those two years actually represent three two-year terms -- one for each death -- but the terms will be served concurrently rather than consecutively. As was the case of the verdict on the lesser charge of negligent homicide (as opposed to reckless manslaughter), the sentence represents only a tiny victory for the victims and their loved ones. 

For the first few days after his conviction, Death Ray was officially listed as being in the Yavapai County (Arizona) Jail infirmary, leading to all sorts of speculation on Salty Droid's blog. As of this writing he is apparently in transit to somewhere else.

Though I was unable to follow the whole trial and post-trial goings-on moment by moment, and I certainly have been remiss on my blogging, I kept up with the story through Salty Droid's blog, LaVaughn's Celestial Reflection's blog, Connie Joy's Tragedy in Sedona Facebook page, and various Twitter feeds. The mainstream news media were of very little help. 

And despite my capricious satellite connections here at the Edge of Nowhere, I was able to tune in to a live CNN feed on November 18 to see the tail-end of the sentencing. At the time I tuned in, Death Ray was engaged in what was certainly the most important performance of his career, issuing a tearful, cracked-voice apology. Among other things he whimpered that if he'd had any idea whatsoever that the people in his fake sweat lodge were really in any distress, he certainly would have "stopped immediately." (This is, of course, contrary to mounds of eyewitness testimony.) He also promised to never, never, never, never run another fake sweat lodge. 

Comparing his past arrogant, in-your-face performances with that courtroom drama, I was reminded of the creature Gollum in Lord of the Rings: one moment plotting his evil deeds to wrest the Ring from the Hobbits, and then the next, when confronted and threatened (usually by Frodo's loyal pal Samwise Gamgee), cowering and whining that he was just an innocent soul who was only trying to help out, and he never meant any harm at all.
Unfortunately this was real life, not a fantasy film. Following Ray's pathetic histrionics there was a break, and then a beet-red, faltering Judge Warren Darrow came back to pronounce his judgment.

My first thought when I saw him was that this man was seriously hypertensive. It also seemed apparent as he rambled on that he was having some deep emotional conflicts about the case. I kind of felt sorry for him at first, particularly when it seemed for a moment that he wasn't going to let Ray off easily. But I was quickly dispelled of all illusions as he began nattering about “educated adults” and “responsibility” and “common sense,” the clear implication being that the people in distress in the sweat lodge should have taken more responsibility for saving themselves. It sounded to me as if he also mumbled something about suffering being one purpose of a sweat lodge. I can only imagine how Native Americans felt when listening to that.

I was also appalled when Darrow said in all seriousness that he believed Ray sincerely thought he was helping people. And when he said that Ray had committed no prior similar offenses, I found myself shouting at the computer screen. What about the previous sweat lodges where people almost died? What about Colleen Conaway, who died at a Ray event in San Diego in July 2009?

And what about all of the aggravating circumstances? 

Granted, Judge Darrow couldn't legally base his sentence on some of the things many of us found most objectionable, such as Ray's apparent lack of remorse up to the time of the croc-tear performance. But he was allowed to take into account many aggravating factors -- that was the purpose of all of those hearings following the verdict, after all -- and it seemed to many of us who were watching this that his sentence displayed either abject naivete or willful ignorance of the greater context. Or perhaps something more sleazy was going on. I don't know and, obviously, I'm not a lawyer, but I think this kind of "justice" stinks.

In Ray's camp, the attorneys immediately began the process of reversing what little justice had been done, and The Spin began as well. According to an article by Mark Duncan that was published on the site for the Prescott, Arizona Daily Courier:
Ray's family was somber but upbeat after the sentencing, making plans to return to their homes in San Diego and Kansas City. They think Ray is strong enough to endure his prison experience.
"We want to express our condolences to the victims' families again and hope they can find forgiveness in their hearts," said Ray's brother Jon. "We were fortunate enough to meet with James after the sentencing. He was in good spirits and said this would give him the opportunity to help people in prison who need it."
I can just imagine the type of "help" James could offer to his prison mates. There's been a lot of speculation about what manner of new frauducts or flopportunities he'll be able to dream up behind bars. Even though he has promised never to conduct another phony sweat lodge, there are still plenty of ways to scam people and to inflict financial and emotional, if not physical, harm on them. He proved that time and again at his other pricey, emotionally and physically abusive events. (Colleen, for example, did not die in a sweat lodge.) Moreover, being behind bars has never stopped a first-rate scammer for very long. In fact, prison is often just another incubator for scams. In many ways it is a hucksters' paradise.

An oft-cited (at least on this blog) example is infomercial king Kevin True-Dough, who served two years in prison in the early 1990s on on various felony charges, including credit card fraud. In prison he met another scammer and cooked up more scams, and when he got out he went on to bigger and better schemes. Perhaps his biggest current scam is the Global Information Network, or G.I.N., which, because the main money-making ops come from selling memberships to others, is basically a pyramid scheme — despite the protest-too-much disclaimers on various sites run by some of his minions. He apparently manages to get around the U.S. authorities by basing G.I.N. offshore, in Nevis/St. Kitts. He also retains expensive lawyers, and has a legal defense fund which he aggressively promotes — the result being that the same folks he’s screwing with his frauducts and flopportunities contribute to the great cause of keeping him out of jail. If they contribute $1,000 or more they get a chance to have dinner with him and their fellow suckers, and more opportunities to contribute yet more money to the cause. 

No doubt about it, KT has a great shtick going, and he has many people convinced that he’s a fearless consumer advocate and First Amendment champion whom the government, the medical profession, and the pharmaceutical industry are trying to squash.

But I digress. It seems that the Death Ray case was Judge Darrow's swan song. According to the Daily Courier article cited above:
Judge Darrow, who spent nearly two years refereeing a consistently contentious adjudication, has announced that he will retire early next year. In an email, he wrote a brief summation of his thoughts on a decade on the bench.

"I cannot overstate my appreciation for the opportunity I have been given to serve in this position of profound responsibility," he wrote.
While Judge Darrow recovers from his ordeal and Ray's lawyers work to further muck up the wheels of justice, James Ray's fans and defenders are also out in force. A core group of loyalists insist he doesn't deserve prison, according to this ABC News piece. One said, "Wherever James goes, he always does good." Some of the most revolting remarks can be found on the Official James Ray fan page on Facebook. If you follow that link, be prepared for some nauseating victim-blaming ("those three sheeple deserved to die") and Ray-worshiping ("those who hate James Ray aren't worth even one of his turds") remarks. I have to wonder if some of the people on that site are just being cruelly provocative, or if they really are as deluded as they sound.

My point is that although there may be more than a bit of schadenfreude in the critics' corners at the prospect of Jimmy Ray in an orange jumpsuit, we can't necessarily count him out of the selfish-help/New-Wage/McSpirituality game. Granted, as Salty Droid and others have noted, at least that two-years-minus-24-days sentence is something. And perhaps Salty is right and JAR has been crippled. Like Voldemort when Harry and gang started destroying the Horcruxes, Ray may be seriously weakened. Not only does he face scads more civil suits, there's the Colleen Conaway case, which her family is actively pursuing. Maybe Ray will never regain his full power to hurt people emotionally, physically, and financially. 


But others will surely rise in his place, so it’s up to those of us who wish to fight what Salty has often referred to as the “sick machine” in our own way to keep reminding people of the nature of the beast.

I've wondered if some of the stigma of James Ray's conviction and imprisonment will also leave a bit of a smudge on the other New-Wage gurus, particularly the stars of The Secret, who used to boast that Ray was their friend. One that comes to mind is our friend Mr. Fire, who, in happier days (that would be the heyday of The Secret), bragged that James Ray was his friend. Joe hasn't said much about his friend, at least not publicly, since Ray's troubles began. Others in the selfish-help game have been bolder. For instance, there's Scientist Bob Proctor, quoted in this article on the Arizona Republic site (this was just after Ray was convicted):
Bob Proctor, a self-help leader and longtime friend of James Arthur Ray, said although he did not support the sweat-lodge retreat, he would have liked to see Ray vindicated.

"Anybody had the right to leave there (the sweat lodge), and they didn't. Some did," Proctor said. "It was a tragic thing that happened, but I don't think (Ray) should be the one that's held responsible.

"He's not a bad guy. He's been portrayed as something that he's not. He's actually helped a lot of people."
And the aforementioned Kevin True-dough, not a star of The Secret but an even brighter star in the scamosphere, spun Ray's conviction as part of a U.S. government conspiracy against the selfish-help industry and the true innovators and entrepreneurs in society.

But I really don't think Ray's jail term will have much of an effect on the activities of the busy hucksters. Jimmy Ray Jumpsuit may be temporarily incapacitated, but the selfish-help industry is thriving -- scams, scammers, and all. There are laws in place to protect consumers, but those responsible for enforcing the laws have their hands and their plates full. The battle cries of "cages for sociopaths" and "cages for psychopaths" are heating up, and I admit that they have a certain ring to them, but I can't honestly say that I believe even now that cages are appropriate for all scammers -- and besides, as we've seen, cages have never stopped the really determined ones. And there are many more scammers outside of cages than in them.

Whatever happens in the future, it is my hope that the families of the victims will find a little comfort from the November 18 verdict, and if not from the verdict, at least from knowing that there are many of us out here who are in their corner. Even if the public in general has a short memory, we do not. And we will be mindful as we sit down to our holiday dinners that because of James Arthur Ray, several families will be facing yet another holiday without the loved ones he took from them.

* Lyrics quoted are slightly modified from "Those Three Are On My Mind," from Pete Seeger's 1967 album Waist Deep in the Big Muddy and Other Love Songs. "Those Three Are On My Mind" is actually a protest song about the 1964 shooting deaths of three Mississippi civil rights workers, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner. Of the eighteen men arrested for this crime -- a group that included law enforcement officers and Ku Klux Klan members -- only one was ever charged with murder, and that was four decades later, when the accused was 80 years old. The other killers were either acquitted of lesser crimes, were convicted but served short sentences, or their cases ended in mistrials. In the song verse I quoted, the actual lyrics are, "So I ask those killers, 'Can you sleep at night?'" You can listen to and purchase "Those Three Are On My Mind" here.

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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Mr. Fire meets an oil baroness (maybe)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then he went on to impart the obligatory Life Lesson.

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

But this woman admiring my Spyker lifted my limits.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 08, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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