Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Vaxxed: Robert De Hero v. the conspiracy loons

Note: There is an update to this story; see below.
~CC, 13 April 2016

Even as this isn't normally a political blog (except when it is), it's also not your average skeptical/pro-science blog, though I pretty much lean towards those camps on most issues. Clearly I am not a scientist, professional researcher or medical practitioner of any type, so when I snark about scammers who claim expertise in these areas, my focus is generally on the Scamworld aspect of their shenanigans rather than on a deconstruction of the claims they make regarding health and science issues. Write what you know, in other words, and even though I don't have the deep knowledge of how Scamworld works that, say, Salty Droid does, I can pretty much tell a scam or scammer in the New-Wage/selfish-help/McSpirituality/alt-health areas when I see one.

That said, one current story with a strong scientific/health angle has grabbed my attention:
the anti-vaccination or anti-vax movement's attacks on actor Robert De Niro. De Niro is being lauded as a hero by some for making the decision not to air the discredited anti-vax flick Vaxxed at his Tribeca Film Festival, apparently making that decision based upon some rational input. Or maybe he was kinda shamed into his decision (which is not the same as intimidation)... but he should be ashamed for pushing the film before he did any research. Regardless of his motivation, I'm pretty much leaning towards the "hero" p.o.v. where he's concerned. [NOTE: I have since changed my mind. ~CC, May 2016]
As per usual in cases like this, some very stupid and/or irresponsible people are slamming De Niro for his decision. Not surprisingly the incident has added new fuel to the already raging anti-vax conspiracy fires... or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that it has given a shot in the arm to the conspiracy theorists, giving rise to a whole Internet full of whining about "censorship" and even more dastardly deeds.

this, for instance, in which the writer speculates that De Niro was "threatened."

And this bit from the ill-named "Truth Kings" blog,
speculating about an elaborate conspiracy that even includes Hillary Clinton.

There are dozens more examples on the Interwebz; you can easily find them.

I find it endlessly amusing, though also annoying, that whenever someone says or does something that the fanatics don't agree with, they automatically assume that the person is either being paid off or that he or she was intimidated/threatened.
The facts don't matter if the story is good.

I also find it amusing that
Loony Leonard Coldwell has accused De Niro of being a "coward," when Coldwell has displayed nothing but cowardice in his efforts to silence his critics -- suing them, lying about them, and doxing them in an attempt to get others to harm them on his behalf, while remaining in hiding himself. Or, as UK blogger Longdog so aptly put it in a recent post, "...Lenny YOU are the spineless coward." 

Not surprisingly Coldwell is a virulent anti-vaxxer, just like his current political idol Donald Drumpf, who has said some truly idiotic things about vaccinations and autism. Coldwell himself has frequently claimed that there is no such thing as a safe or effective vaccine, and has even suggested that doctors and parents who insist on vaccinating kids should be tried for attempted murder. 

Coldwell has no medical or scientific credentials at all, but that has never stopped him from making the most outrageously stupid declarations about health and science matters.

On the other hand,
here's a truly qualified professional's view about the Tribeca/Vaxxed drama. The author is Orac, aka Dr. David Gorski, who has been patiently reporting and debunking the anti-vaxxers for years.

here's an earlier post from Orac, focusing on the hysterical coverage of the De Niro drama by Mike "The Health Ranger" Adams, who is bigger on sensationalism than he is on nuanced truth.

But I don't expect the conspiracy fires around this one to go out any time soon. Because, you know...the facts don't matter...

PS ~ Have I mentioned lately
how great it is to have Salty Droid back in operation?

Related reading:

Update 13 April 2016: Maybe he's just bowing to pressure from nutcakes and trying to play both sides, but Robert De Niro went on NBC's Today show this morning and seemed to try to score a point or two for the nutty side. Even though he stated that he is not anti-vaccine (he's just "pro-safe vaccine"), he says he now sort of regrets pulling Vaxxed from the Tribeca Film Festival, and he thinks people should see it and make up their own minds. The father of an autistic son, DeNiro cited tales of parents of autistic kids who seemed all right until getting vaccinated, and then "something just changed overnight."

When one of the interviewers asked him if that had been the experience with his son (who is now eighteen), De Niro hedged and said he didn't really remember, but that his wife sure noticed something. In essence he said he pulled the film from the festival because he didn't have time or energy to deal with the controversy, but will revisit it when he has time. Overall, despite the interviewers pointing out that the anti-vax p.o.v. -- and the film, as well as Andrew Wakefield -- had been discredited, De Niro seemed to be leaning in favor of the anti-vaxxers, mentioning "hysteria" and "knee jerk reactions" from the scientific community, without saying anything about the hysteria and knee jerk reactions of the anti-vax contingent. But at least maybe he'll win the praise of idiots like LoonyC. Nice work, Bob. Here's
a link to a vid of the interview. The Vaxxed part begins at about 2:15.

Update 25 May 2016: It appears that my wordplay with De Niro's name in this post's title is increasingly inaccurate. Here's Orac at Respectful Insolence.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Robot reboot

But I'm stubborn as those garbage bags
that time cannot decay,
I'm junk but I'm still holding up
this little wild bouquet
~ Leonard Cohen, "Democracy" (1992)

free speech on the internet is a lie. the possibilities are limitless and intoxicating to imagine :: but the actualities are primitive and trampled upon by the forces that be … the same boring ass forces that always have been.
~ Salty Droid, "reboot revolution" (2016)

He has risen.

After too many months of silence, Jason M. Jones'
"tiny piece of the Internet," the Salty Droid blog, has been revamped and re-launched. Here is the first post from the "new" SD. It was actually published on March 24, but due to some files still being switched around and other technical stuff I can't claim to understand, I wasn't able to actually read it until yesterday, March 26.

So today is as good a day as any to celebrate the resurrected Salty Droid.

One major difference between the old SD and the new SD is that the new blog is a static site, and comments (all 50,000 or so of which were carefully preserved in the changeover) are now handled through Disqus, thus closing the database gateway for the hacks that Jason had been fighting since his blog's inception in 2009. And indeed, it was an almost constant battle for more than six years. In contrast to paranoid lunatic drama queens such as
Not-Doktor Leonard "Loony" Coldwell, who has been claiming for years that his web sites and Facebook pages are constantly being hacked, it appears that Salty Droid -- who actually is a force to be feared by bad guys -- was being hacked, attacked, phished and otherwise compromised.

my content has been removed :: destroyed … and banished from an unlistably wide array of internet platforms. hackers :: attackers :: malware :: lawyers :: lawsuits :: smear tactics :: irl harassment … every kind and sort of smelly shenanigan deployed to silence me.
Some of those smear tactics include a couple of asinine "documentary" videos about Jason, cobbled together from various news stories about other folks who are real scammers and hackers, but made to look as if Jason were the perpetrator of the reported crimes. And the lawsuits against him have been even stupider -- particularly those initiated by the aforementioned Loony Coldwell. In February 2014, as many may recall and as I've recounted numerous times here, Coldwell unsuccessfully sued Jason for blog posts written by another blogger, Omri Shabat (the case was ultimately dismissed on April 17, 2014, for "want of prosecution"). And in January 2015 he unsuccessfully sued Jason in a hilariously wrongheaded defamation case in which I was also named as a defendant. There have been numerous other lawsuits too, including a comical trillion-dollar joke by a crazed wordslinger named Crystal Cox.

But you can't keep a good fake robot down.

* * * * *

Free speech on the Internet is a volatile issue, and it is the issue at the heart of Jason's struggle, and to a less dramatic degree (since almost nobody reads my blog) to mine as well. Scammers fight fiercely for their right to utilize every online resource available to prey upon the vulnerable; they battle for their right to make the most outrageous claims about their accomplishments and their overpriced frauducts and flopportunities -- and they fight with equal or greater passion to silence their critics. They will stop at nothing to quash any speech that threatens to disrupt their income stream by exposing the scammers and their scams for what they really are. The
Church of Scientology's "Fair Game" strategies represent an extreme, but hundreds of lesser organizations and individual scammers use similar tactics. And when you have a front-runner in the 2016 US presidential race threatening to "open up libel laws" in the US to make it easier to silence critics of scams and scammers, that's truly cause for concern.

Krispen Culbertson, the North Carolina lawyer who headed the two-man "legal team" that sued Jason and me on behalf of Coldwell, wrote a blog post in April 2015 in which he referenced that case without naming any names except that of his heroic partner, Bill May. There's no permalink to the individual post, but you can find it if you
follow this link and scroll down to April 6, 2015. The profoundly self-important Mr. Culbertson wrote:

 I have been a lawyer for more than 20 years.  I've seen my clients wearing London tailored suits and I've seen them with tear-drop tattoos ​at the corners of their eyes ​ on their faces.  I've represented every kind of person, from State ​S​enators to alleged senior members of ​Mexican ​drug cartels in federal court.  I have seen the angel in the human race, and I have seen the scariest of the devils.  But now there is a new kind of devil evolving in the law.  And I'm not sure if this type isn't ultimately more dishonest than the type with tear-drop tattoos.

I'm almost honored to be categorized, along with Jason, as "a new kind of devil." Mr. Culbertson went on and on about online defamation, claiming that he as well as his clients have been the victim of same. Said he:

We mustn't accept this as the new reality. Europe has taken steps in the right direction with its "Right to Be Forgotten" laws, which require search engines to remove outdated and inaccurate information about individuals.  As much as we Americans hate following Europe's lead on anything, it isn't a bad idea at all.  It puts the human element back into the machine...
But you see, bad guys don't have a moral "right to be forgotten" -- and they shouldn't have a legal right either -- if they continue doing their bad-guy things to the present day, like Mr. Culbertson's former client Coldwell does. In any case it is worthy of note that Culbertson & Associates no longer lists Internet defamation as one of their areas of practice. I rather think that Jason shamed them out of it.

But there are plenty of others who continue to fight on the wrong side of this war, defending the indefensible and seeking to destroy the wrong people. (By the way,
this March 2012 Salty Droid post has some good stuff about protecting freedom of speech and going after scammers who would destroy it.)

* * * * *

Hobby blogging is for the most part a thankless task; it has to be its own reward. Some people make tidy little incomes from their hobby, and I've nothing against that at all, but so far haven't managed to do so. If you're not making money from your blog (as Jason isn't, and as I'm currently not, apart from the occasional donation), it's inevitable that at some point you'll ask yourself why you keep doing it. I most certainly have, as I mentioned in my belated New Year's post in January of this year.

I ruminated at greater length about these matters in late December 2014, following Jason's "Merry Christmas Goodbye" post, in which he announced that he was putting his blog on hold for an indefinite period to attend to other things. (Some of us feared it might really be goodbye, but as it turned out it was neither goodbye nor even a true hiatus, as Loony Coldwell's Culbertson-fueled flawsuit actually gave the Salty Droid blog a little bit of a shot in the arm during those fallow months.)

And author and journalist Steve Salerno, whose SHAMblog initially inspired me to tread into the blogosphere,
recently questioned his own blog's purpose as well. This is in response to a comment I made on his March 16, 2016 post, where I wrote that I missed the conversations many of us used to have on SHAMblog.

Yeah Connie, there are days when I miss the sizzle of the old thriving SHAMblog. And I certainly miss the mix of personalities, both individually and in the way we all played off each other. ...But then there are other days when I think of all the time and energy I put into the blog, and I what end? How might I have better served myself and my family if, instead of coasting along on the reasonably solid workload I had going then (and running back to SHAMblog at every opportunity), I put out the kind of single-minded effort I've been forced to expend over the past few years?

And I also ask myself: What was changed? What was the upshot of all that banter? Did we really make a difference? I do get appreciative notes now and then from people who say I "helped save" them from this or that, but it all seems so disproportionately small compared to the investment. I dunno. I guess every writer who isn't Grisham or whoever asks himself at some point, why am I doing this? Maybe even Grisham asks himself.

I can't count the times I've asked myself those questions too, but these days I keep coming back to the concluding paragraphs of
the Jennifer Garam blog post that I cited on my own New Year's post, linked to above. Someone, somewhere, does give a sh-t about what I'm writing. This despite my pathetic stats, which I check every once in a while. Here's a shot I took on March 15, 2016. The number in column 2 following the blog post title indicates number of comments, and the one in the next column indicates number of visitors. I'm really raking 'em in. 

But I still care enough to keep on writing because of the possibility that somehow it matters. As well, I know that a lot of folks still care about what Steve writes on SHAMblog, and -- more importantly for the purpose of this post -- they care about what Jason writes as well. I can't wait to see what's next.

So on this day when millions are celebrating what many believe to be the Greatest Miracle of All, I'm celebrating a lesser one: the persistence of one little wild bouquet that blooms on, despite the most toxic campaigns of who knows how many scoundrels. Writes Salty, "it’s not supposed to be some big fu----g triumph that i continue to exist … but i guess it is. much of my energy :: and most of my frustrations … flow to and from this battle for basic existence."

Bleep on, little robot.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go in the house and bite the head off of the chocolate bunny that my friend Joan gave me. I'll be back soon.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The devils at the crossroads of politix and Scamworld

“Trump told us, ‘I’m going to get in and all the polls are going to go crazy. I’m going to suck all the oxygen out of the room. I know how to work the media in a way that they will never take the lights off of me.’”
~ A long-time New York political consultant, talking to
Politico, February 2016

[Note: I've added a few points and links since I published this post on March 20. ~CC, March 21 2016]

So. This still isn't a political blog; truly it isn't... except when it has to be. And these days it sort of has to be, at least part time. I've already dumped on Trump a few times, such as here and here (towards the end) and here and here and here. But more dumping is called for, especially after I listened to Mein Drumpf whining again to George Stephanopoulos over the phone this AM, regarding the horrible vicious protesters in Arizona and how they are trampling the First Amendment Rights of The Donald and his hateful, frothing throngs of supporters.*

notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, who provided security for the Phoenix rally, ended up arresting three protesters, and Drumpf praised him as a hero during the interview with Stephanopoulos, while criticizing the efforts of other law enforcement personnel. It's hardly surprising that Drumpf would give him a mention, since he and Sheriff Joe have their own little mutual masturbation society. The Sanders campaign isn't so enamored of the "viciously tough" lawman, especially after Sheriff Joe bullied Sanders' wife Jane.

I keep circling back to the fact that Trump is a Scamworld player extraordinaire, which is precisely why he belongs on this blog. (
Salty Droid discovered and wrote about the connection years ago, as I've noted before.)

For a short while it had almost seemed that Trump's blatant Scamworld efforts -- most notably Trump University and the Trump Network -- had faded from the news cycle. But then another story resurfaced a few days ago,
regarding a seemingly cozy arrangement between Donald Trump and Florida's Attorney General, Pam Bondi. (Here's another link with yet more links.) Bondi is the first big-name Republican official in Florida to endorse Trump for president, and some of the news media have picked up on the fact that in 2013 she decided not to sue Trump for fleecing Floridians in his Trump U scam.

A few days after Bondi had announced she might look into the matter, Trump donated $25,000 to a committee associated with her election campaign. And shortly after that, Bondi decided that Trump U didn't merit an investigation by the Florida AG at that time. This seemed like a conflict of interest and was called out as such in the Florida press, but a spokesman for Bondi suggested that no action was necessary because Florida consumers would be compensated if New York won its case against Chump U.


Pam Bondi previously endorsed Jeb Bush, who dropped out of the race a while back.
Her reason for supporting Drumpf? “You are speaking loud and clear, and Americans are speaking loud and clear,” and, “I always listen to my mom, and my mom is with Donald Trump, and so am I.” Okay, that linked source is the Washington Times, which is owned by the Moonies, so take it for what it's worth.

But still. Pam Bondi is the woman
whose role and function is to "serve as the chief legal officer for the State of Florida," and who is responsible for "protecting Florida consumers from various types of fraud." I will say this: she's a good person to have on your side in Florida if you're a scammer.

The long con and the infotainment-addled marks
Although some of the pundits have written as if Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign just popped up out of the blue, he has been toying with presidential aspirations for years. But his whole campaign has been more about being an attention whore than anything else, and
even he has been pretty honest about that, at least behind closed doors. This is from a February 2016 piece in, which references the Politico article linked to at the beginning of this post:
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign feels whimsical, like a practical joke or publicity tour gone awry. But it turns out the Donald is running a long con. A new report in Politico suggests Trump has been plotting this stunt for years, and he knew exactly what he had to do to succeed.
Further on in the article:
Trump knew all along that his celebrity and media savvy were sufficient to support his campaign. Although they didn’t believe him, Trump told the Republicans in that room in 2013 that he would dominate the race without spending much on paid advertising. From the report:
"'You can’t run for president on earned media,’ one attendee recalled telling Trump. The billionaire looked up, and paused for a long moment. 'I think you’re wrong,' Trump said. 'Are you going to do all those little events at the Pizza Ranches?' another person asked, referring to the Iowa fast food franchises that are a staple of presidential campaign stops. 'Maybe a little,' Trump replied. ‘But it’s really about the power of the mass audience.'"
Trump was right. The ability to control the narrative, to dominate the coverage, is all it takes. Trump’s amorality coupled with his gift for self-promotion has turned the Republican presidential race on its head. He’s made the race about him, and anytime he isn’t the main story, he lurches back into the headlines with an outrageous comment about women or Muslims or Mexicans or disabled people – anything to win the news cycle.

Quite. Lately Drumpf has kept the news cycle focused on him not so much by spewing his "politically incorrect" hatements, but by griping and whining about the protesters at his rally. (Why, some of them even use profanity! What a shocker, says Donald, who of course has never uttered a public profanity himself.)

But shame, shame, shame on the "news" media for their complicity.
They would rather run a story showing an empty stage that's part of the Drumpf shampaign news cycle than air a speech by Bernie Sanders.

[Amy] Goodman pointed out that on another election night [Tuesday, March 8 ~CC], CNN had recorded Hillary Clinton’s victory speech and broadcast it later so that the network could air Trump’s election night press conference where “he sold his steaks and his magazines and his water and everything else.”
And while Bernie Sanders was drawing massive crowds in Seattle March 20, most of the mainstream media were still focused on Trump's latest stunts. The Seattle rally only got decent coverage in Seattle area media and on Sanders' own sites. Sucking all of the oxygen out, indeed -- along with every ounce of journalistic objectivity. And yet Trump continues to vilify the very media that have kept him disproportionately in the public spotlight, while not really confronting him on his most ridiculous and loathsome statements.

* * * * *
Earlier this month I was thinking about Neil Postman's 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, which I mentioned in passing in an essay I wrote back in the 1990s, in quite a different context than I am citing it here. I thought about how the theme of the book relates to the current Trump phenomenon, and I wondered if there had been any commentary about that. A quick Google search revealed this piece, which highlights Postman's prescience.

And on a lighter note, there's this.
If you follow the link to my own essay you will see that I made some negative remarks about political correctness; grousing about PC was quite new back in the early 1990s and I thought I was on the cutting edge, even as many people who were still in diapers in the early 1990s now think THEY are on the cutting edge when they gripe about PC. But as the years went by, I saw, along with what I thought were legitimate complaints about PC, the many ways in which these complaints were simply a way of rationalizing boorish behavior and hate speech. I still don't have any fondness for "thought police" in any form, but a lot of people who decry bigotry are being unjustly accused of thought-policing.


In any case, it seems clear that millions of Americans, their brains fried on reality TV and the "alternative" infotainment media and exciting conspiracy theories, have bought into Drumpf's presidential campaign con.** But many millions more have been unwittingly subsidizing his scampire for years, thanks to his skills at gaming the IRS. Here's how. Nice work if you can get it.

Although many of Donald Trump's followers may be stupid , and some are both stupid and hateful, and some are merely poorly educated (and Drumpf adores the "poorly educated"), he is probably neither stupid nor poorly educated (some may argue with that), though I'll grant that he is hateful. And he was spot-on about his prediction that he would "suck all of the oxygen out of the room." But he has replaced that oxygen with a vile and gaseous hatred that even he will not be able to control.
Katie and Merrick and the FTC
Another devil has popped up at the crossroads of politics and Scamworld: imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, aka KT, aka Katie on this blog.
As Business Insider pointed out in this March 18, 2016 piece, the most-cited opinion of President Barack Obama's nominee to the the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, is a 2006 opinion striking down Katie's lawsuit against the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), over a press release the FTC had issued.

Here is a direct link to Judge Garland's opinion. From the summary:

This case raises a host of complicated questions regarding the jurisdiction and authority of federal courts. In the end, however, it comes down to whether Trudeau has the right to take a red pencil to the language of the FTC's press release. He does not. Consequently, although we disagree with the district court's jurisdictional holding, we affirm its dismissal for failure to state a claim.
Of course, Trudeau's spin on the lawsuit painted Trudeau as the First Amendment Stuporhero as usual. Here's a 2005 "press release" from the Trudeau camp. Katie claimed that the FTC's press release was false and misleading and that it violated his First Amendment rights.

As noted in Judge Garland's opinion, the case did raise questions about jurisdiction and the authority of federal courts. But in the end Katie lost his battle with the FTC, and his fan base, who are as addled as Trump's fan base, have been crying foul ever since.

And so it goes in Scamworld as in politix... no neat and tidy endings.

PS ~ From my husband Ron Kaye:  a perfect counter to the haters -- Trump supporters, Obamaphobes, et al. -- who are whining that they are being unfairly accused of hating

PPS added April 4, 2016: My blogging colleague Steve Salerno at SHAMblog has written a post about another important (and little-discussed) aspect of Trump's Scamworldly ways. [Note: See April 5 addendum below. ~CC] Trump's appeal -- his mystique, if you will -- is, Steve argues, the same type of mystique that has made Tony Robbins, The Secret, and irrational positive thinking/magical thinking so popular. Among other valid points, Steve explains why Trump's supporters seem to care so little for the details about how Trump will actually keep his grandiose campaign promises.

...criticism of Trump's lack of specificity misses the point. The Belief is the thing. Calls for more specifics are regarded as diverting (if not destructive) minutiae that cast a pall over the celebratory mood of certitude. To demand specifics is tantamount to doubting the legitimacy of the promise, and is thus a form of nay-saying. The “how” doesn't matter: It will happen as long as we don't allow negative energy in...

...In Trump-mania one also sees the irrational rage against non-believers that's diagnostic for motivational toxicity. Belief in the Cult of Can-Do is quasi-religious. Skepticism of the program is not just a difference of opinion but an offense against the deity, if you will—self-help's version of drawing satirical cartoons of Muhammad...
But perhaps the most important line in the post is the last one: "Here -- as elsewhere in the land of positive thinking -- if you're not careful, your belief can get you burned badly."

Unfortunately, if Trump wins the White House it won't just be the fervently believing Trumpsters who get burned badly.

Addendum, April 5, 2016: Steve took down the post I linked to above because he's reworking it for possible use in a commercial publication. I'll be sure to link to the new article as soon as it's up.

Update April 19, 2016: Here is Steve's post, just in time for the New York Primary.

* In fairness, Brandon Tatum, an African American cop from Tucson who attended the Tucson rally, said that at this rally it was the protesters rather than the Trump supporters who were violent -- and of course the right-wing media jumped on that. I don't support any violence from either side, but on the other hand, Trump and his supporters set the tone at the beginning of the campaign, so there's that.

** I am not underestimating the disillusionment with politics-as-usual that also fuels Trump's support base. But Trump is playing on this disillusionment in a very cynical way. It could be argued that Bernie Sanders is also exploiting people's disillusionment and anti-establishment sentiments. The difference, in my opinion, is that Trump is only pretending that he actually cares for the welfare of the masses, while Sanders, as unrealistic as his promises may be, is coming from a place of genuine concern and a desire to make things better for the 99 percent.

Friday, March 18, 2016

GIN head Troy McClain takes the (fake) moral high road

While cooling my heels in between posts about the awfulness that is Mein Drumpf, I saw a post from my pal Kenneth Reimer on the public Facebook forum GIN Network Truth. Kenneth, and as it turns out several others I know, recently received a rambling email from Troy McClain, the current patriarch of the Global Information Network (GIN), a "success club" and surrogate family originally created as a personal piggy bank for now imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau. In the missive Troy is very long on boasts about his fierce desire to protect his "family members," and painfully short on actual substance regarding the threat he says he has removed from the club. Here ya go:

Violation Of Code of Conduct Announcement Members Beware

To our Family:

Re: Mr. Shawn Kesling, Former AXS employee, has been removed from our Club. Any further interaction is at your own discretion

Allow me to declare that I am a fallible man and a practitioner toward greatness. I have been so overwhelmed with love, graciousness, and respect from all members – so much that while I continue to practice our principles, I like you, continue to learn my lessons each day. One lesson I am practicing is forgiveness, however this practice tends to be overshadowed by my strongest and greatest gift that I can give to others – Fiercely loyal and protective!

I have made a declaration to our entire membership, staff, and family that I would fiercely protect, report, and stand against any one person or group that would prey on or otherwise hurt our membership – if I in fact found them to be doing so. I will investigate, look into, and hold off on position until such time facts prevail. Then I will uphold what I hold dear to me – my word. I will do so in all situations, actions, and climates.

We are on honest, moral, and ethical movement that will stand together. However, I have also declared to others I would lead from the front to set the example. When I ask others to give back, I in fact give back. When I ask others to practice our principles I do the same. When I ask others to report and stand up when they see or experience potential wrong doing, I myself MUST do the same.

This movement must be dedicated to conducting our business consistent with the highest standards of ethics. We have an obligation to our co-workers, contractors, partners, community representatives, and family to do so each and every day without fail.

The security, safety, and stability of this movement and its members is vitally important to me and one I take extremely serious. I will not tolerate any action whatsoever that threatens any one persons future or related careers in our amazing environment. That said, recently, upon his own omission
[sic], I have learned that one of our own has been less than becoming to our standards and has threatened our positive light and standard of being Honest, Moral, and Ethical.

This type of behavior will not be tolerated. And while it saddens me on so many levels to have had this happen under my watch, it also inspires me to do the right thing for the betterment of our team and family. I want to make it beyond clear to all that read this – any action against this club or those within it can be considered an action against all of us. YOU WILL BE CALLED OUT and I will back my family up. I trust this example sets a new tone in a new unit of time that, while a student at some things, I am great at standing up and speaking up for those I love and those who have brought love in my life. This club no longer will turn a blind eye to those whose intentions are bad. The standard must be "See Something – Say Something!"

I will act swiftly to remove the negative element from our positive environment and report publicly when found to be true. You, our staff, our members, and our family have worked too hard and too long building up and creating a positive, honest, and moral platform for us not to say something when actions against us happen. Again, I will not tolerate my family being subjected to this type of business nor will this ever be allowed.

My top priority is to create a safe and friendly environment for our entire membership; one where we can grow as family in a positive direction. Anything that threatens this will be considered as such and removed. I will act swiftly and report this publicly when conduct by others is found factually to jeopardize our futures. GIN, be assured we all must do this; and those hiding among us, be assured this leader will call it out!

What unifies us is trust and belief in a system of success and team that operates the system. When I find this type of practice happening it hurts and disappoints me greatly, however knowing that we have a team that will protect each other from bad apples, gives me a sense of honor and pride.

We have addressed and removed the negative. Now I have reported it as such, and as I committed to do.

Troy McClain

For those of you who are wondering what the GIN Code of Conduct says -- and I assume for now that Troy is indeed referencing that "code" -- it's item number 11 on this document.

I set out to find out what Shawn, whom I'd never heard of before Troy broadcast his name and shame far and wide, supposedly did to violate the Code. I reached out to some people who might be able to give me some insight, including Shawn himself. Via private Facebook message, Shawn did not give details but simply told me that he harbors no hard feelings for Troy and wishes Troy et al. nothing but success. He said that the decisions made had to do with "life choices" he had made and that he completely respects the decisions of the GIN leadership. When I told him that it sounds as if he's taking the high road, he said there is really no low road.

Well, I'm thinking that maybe there is a low road -- it's just that some of the low roads are lower than others. I'm thinking that Troy McClain calling out a former employee carries about as much moral weight as
Leonard Coldwell and Peter Wink calling out Kevin Trudeau and GIN.

A little background
Based upon my general knowledge of Troy --
who has been a subject on my blog several times since 2014, because, as I mentioned above, he is the person currently at the helm of Trudeau's big brainchild GIN -- I am willing to bet that we have a good case of Scamworld pot-and-kettle here. Troy, a "business consultant" and bloativational speaker (who seems to get more bloated every year -- check out page 4 of the November 2015 GIN Report), originally emerged into the spotlight for being on Donald Trump's "reality" show, "The Apprentice." Drumpf said that Troy is one of those guys who makes America great.

Currently Troy has several companies under the umbrella of his
AXS Group. It seems clear to me that he has been steadily working to absorb GIN into AXS. To see the writing on the wall, all you have to do is look on the official GIN web site and you will see this:

And then click on to this up-and-coming site, which contains more Scamworld bidness babble per square paragraph (square-agraph?) than I've seen in a while. Troy is definitely marking his territory. It's the Scamworld equivalent of dominant male canine urination, but infinitely more foul than the latter. There's a word for this phenomenon, but "evolution" is not it.
Several credible sources have indicated that Troy intensely dislikes Kevin Trudeau, even though
Kevin gave Troy a big platform in GIN. Ingrate. Though Troy is at the helm, other members of the AXS Investment Group that purchased GIN in 2014, when the court-appointed receiver put it up for sale, include Chris "Voldemort" McGarahan (a real a$$hole and MLM scammer); Blaine Athorn (very long time buddy and bidness partner of Trudeau, also a MLM veteran -- see MLM fever" in this post); and Greg Kramer (involved with a frauduct boutique called the GIN Store). Jeff Devine (another bidness partner and buddy of Trudeau) was originally involved too but no longer is. (A guy named David Cohen, a principal in AXS Consulting, may be an owner as well.) But Troy is at the head of it all and definitely seems to be marking his territory.

All of the above is general background that most of you know already, the sole purpose being to illustrate my points about pots and kettles and about turds of a feather bilking together. As anyone who has observed Scamworld at all knows, the bilking together doesn't necessarily prevent the bilkers from occasionally trying to peck each other's eyes out. No honor among thieves and all that.

Google provides some more background information
As noted above, I had never heard of Shawn Kesling till Kenneth shared Troy's letter. When I first started researching I immediately found a Facebook page for a Shawn Kesling, but it doesn't really reveal much. So I did a little bit of rudimentary research, and a simple search for "Shawn Kesling Idaho" (Idaho is Troy's home state and also the home of AXS headquarters), revealed this December 2013 court document referencing the several felonies of a certain Shawn Michael Kesling.

So there's that. My first thought upon finding the initial information about Shawn was that this might not be the same Shawn Kesling; there are a few folks in the US with that name (I did not mention the court docs to Shawn in my brief conversation with him). But a person in a position to know confirmed that it is indeed the same guy.

I couldn't help but wonder if Troy knew about Shawn's criminal background before he hired him for AXS but thought it was no biggie until Shawn did something to displease Troy. Or, I surmised, maybe Shawn did something so blatantly unethical and/or illegal that Troy knew he couldn't sweep it under the rug. I just don't see Troy as a model of integrity, is what I'm saying.

Though Shawn isn't telling any tales about Troy, Google is telling plenty of tales about Shawn. In addition to the court opinion linked to above, there is
this January 2013 document regarding a complaint by Shawn that he was infected with Hepatitis C due to inadequate sanitation at the Ada County (Idaho) Jail. (On the GINtruth discussion I shared this link to the PDF of the document, but I am having trouble getting it to load now. Maybe it will work for you.)

I also found
this May 2008 article from a Boise alt-weekly. It is mostly about one of Shawn's ex "business partners" (a man who just couldn't stay away from meth and hot women but still sued the state of Idaho for treating him unfairly), but there are a couple of paragraphs about their mutual ventures. Seems they had some vaguely Trump-ish aspirations, and there's something about an escort service involving strippers.

Some of my friends on the above-mentioned GIN Network Truth forum shared some pretty plausible explanations of the ways in which Shawn may have pissed in Troy's corn flakes. One wrote, "Maybe GIN still has a 'Do as I say, not as I do' policy like they use to, and Shawn was leaning more to the 'do' side." Another speculated, "He stole money that Troy was trying to steal. He probably used a short con to fleece an idiot who Troy had pegged as long con material. After he stole his bank account, Troy was unable to clean out his retirement fund and the equity in his house. You can't have that sort of scammer immorality in your club."

And Kenneth, the person who initiated the thread, said that people to whom he'd put out feelers indicated that Shawn's departure was related to the theft of money. Some rumors from several other sources indicated that the theft was in the mid-five-figure range.

Someone who knows the parties involved speculated on another forum that AXS/GIN either didn't do a background check or that Shawn was another "rescue" of Troy's. Troy reportedly likes to say that he "saves people," but speculation is that he also likes to have something to hold over their heads. In that respect, Troy would seem to have something in common with the Church of Scientology, which promises people a chance to clean their lives up and help "clear" the world -- but at the same time makes sure it has something to hold over the head of every member.

There are other whispers in the wind from other sources that Troy did indeed know that Shawn was a convicted felon but failed to inform anyone else, and that the long rambling letter he sent out after jettisoning Shawn was the first notice anyone had that anything was amiss. There are also whispers that at least one other convicted felon is still on staff AXS/GIN. In that regard GIN has something in common with GIN ripoff
WIN (the World Information Network), whose principal Perry Kiraly has a pretty long criminal history himself, which includes robbery and safecracking and other wholesome activities (see this post for some links).

And let's not forget that many of the GIN membership still adore Kevin Trudeau, who has been a convicted felon since the early 1990s and is, of course, currently an imprisoned one. Being a convicted felon is not a deal-killer if you want to play in Scamworld.

I'm not just pointing fingers for the sake of pointing fingers.

When I referenced "moral weight" in my comment above, that was not just a throwaway point. No matter what Shawn did or did not do, no matter how Troy spins the firing incident, no matter how he tries to paint himself as the great protector of his cherished GIN/AXS "family," and no matter how hard he tries to convince the world (and himself) that his feet have trod on high ground all along, fighting like a knight of old for honor and integrity... remember this:

James Arthur "Death" Ray was a keynoter at a major GIN event, and was glorified before, during and after the event, and it was all under Troy McClain's watch -- so his lofty declarations about his integrity have zero credibility as far as I am concerned.

Pardon me for shouting in a larger font. I just get riled up sometimes.

I will continue in my efforts to get the details about the alleged violation of the GIN Code of Conduct that has Troy's panties in a wad. Meanwhile there is plenty of stuff about Troy on this blog, and for that matter Salty Droid (whose revamped site is set to launch soon)
did a drive-by snark about Troy a few years ago. This was in relation to another scam; it was before Troy was handed the keys to GIN. Point is, Troy is on Jason's radar too. And I look forward to the day that the little fake robot is back on the job.

One more important point: In general I believe in giving people -- including convicted felons -- second chances if they can demonstrate that they are really trying to turn their lives around. This is particularly true of nonviolent drug offenders but I think even grifters, and even some violent offenders, may deserve a second chance in some cases. That's why I'm sympathetic to
the "Ban the Box" movement, and to organizations and individuals who are working so hard to make life easier for deserving ex-cons.

But some leopards really do not change their spots. As my friend Julie noted, "The problem I have with the 2nd chances is that kt [Kevin Trudeau] overused it. It was always about a second chance, he wore his illegal moves (mostly stealing credit card numbers) like they made him more valuable. He said he'd learned and a 2nd chance to steal more credit card monies was what he needed."

Yes, there is that.

And it appears that
even as Shawn Kesling was publicly preaching about GIN being the "Movement of Second Chances" (the link is to a December 2015 talk), he was privately doing everything he could to blow his own "second chance." But don't worry, Shawn, it's a big world, with plenty of other opportunities to grift. And for that very same reason, Troy has little cause to worry either. It's the remaining GIN members I'm concerned about, but then again, the writing is on the wall, and it has been for years -- so at least some of those who continue to support GIN and Trudeau, even after knowing the complete back story, must at some point shoulder some of the blame for their own losses.

Stay tuned; more to come.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Donald Trump and Kevin Trudeau: Turds of a Feather?

Yesterday I had too many other things going on to be able to do a real blog post -- most notably we had bad thunderstorms and near-flash-flood conditions, and Internet was spotty at best -- so I settled for a brief sharing of the fake news that Grand Obstructionist Party front-runner Donald Trump has finally named a running mate: none other than imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, aka KT, aka Katie on this blog. Though it was, as far as I know, bogus breaking news for the time being, is it really that much of a stretch? I can think of a few folks -- such as one Trump idolator who is also a loyal longtime Katie buddy -- who would probably love to see a Trump-Trudeau ticket. And even though the prospect of a Trumpdeau ticket made a few other people blanch, think about this: it still wouldn't be as scary as Trump naming loathsome wackadoodle theocrat Ted Cruz for his running mate. Eeesh.

But this post is really more about Scamworld than politics, though with Donald Trump the two are inextricably merged. The media -- at least the parts of the media that don't have their noses up Trump's bloated a$$ -- have been having an absolute field day with reports about The Donald's failed Scamworld venture, Trump University. Their focus is on several lawsuits pending against this institution of liar learning. 

Not surprisingly Trump is biting back. He's protesting too much, as he usually does, despite the fact that even he has pretty much admitted that Trump U was not all it was advertised to be. He acknowledged under oath, for instance, that despite the promos where he claimed that all of the "instructors" were "hand picked" by him, he actually had no role in selecting those instructors. If you're interested, here is a direct link to some court documents that include a deposition taken in December 2015.

Perhaps the most newsworthy point about this whole story hasn't made the news at all, though. And that is the fact that Trump U, though it has tongues wagging now that campaign season is in full swing, was just another day in Scamworld.

* * * * *

Meanwhile Trump's popularity continues to swell as he pulls off win after win after win during the icky foreplay to the Repugnican Convention. So far I have only listened to about half of his rambling, blustering, hubris-filled victory speech/press conference/infomercial at Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida, which he made following his big wins in Mississippi and Michigan on March 8. But I heard enough to understand that apart from his main objective, which was of course to rub everyone's nose in his victory and get in a few jabs at his remaining opponents, he was using the pep rally to polish the Trump brand. Most amusingly he took yet another opportunity to try to demonstrate that, contrary to the claims of his detractors, he is a Successful Businessman. (It seems that he is even more sensitive about public perception of his business success and the size of his bank account than he is about the size of his little hands and naughty bits.)

To prove his claims that he is not a bidness failure, Trump fake-showcased a few of his failed brands that he insisted are not a failure (Trump steaks, wine, water, etc.),
pretending that the steaks and wine he was serving at the gathering were actually his products.

More importantly to the theme of this post, he once again validated his place in Scamworld, declaring in no uncertain terms that he has every intention of starting up Trump University again once he wins the lawsuits. And he says he has every intention of winning those suits, adding that he never settles lawsuits (I guess he forgot this one), and driving home the point that he always, always wins his legal battles (I guess he forgot this one).

In any case, the scam that was Trump U has been burning up the news cycle, and earlier this week,
Mother Jones published a piece about yet another "penny-ante" scam for which The Donald shilled, The Trump Network. The author of the piece, Kevin Drum, concluded:

But here's what I don't get: how is it that we're hearing about this for the first time? It only happened seven years ago. It was announced with all the usual Trump fanfare. But it seems to have escaped everyone's notice. How many more of these things are out there just waiting to be discovered?
Well, as it happens, the scheme didn't escape everyone's notice. Salty Droid, who was covering Trump's Scamworld connections before it was cool, wrote about the Trump Network too a few years ago. This post is from September 2013.
If Donald Trump had to start over :: he’d find himself a good pyramid scheme … and get to work. Clawing his way up from the bottom of the bottom :: to the middle of the bottom … where bankruptcy lurks for all who spend significant time sucked into the MLM fraud vortex of doom...

...It’s a recipe for suckcess :: or something :: and I guess it’s why Don Trump is on TV … while Bank of America is foreclosing on your house.

If anyone would know about starting from scratch :: it’d be The Donald … because his family was stuffed full of scratch … and he never had to achieve a single goddamn thing on his own {total fucking lack of} merit...

And Wonkette gave a nod to Trump's "network" scamminess too, back in August 2015. That blog post referenced another August 2015 post on the very fine Naturopathic Diaries blog.

So no, the scam didn't escape everybody's notice. But I forgive you, Mother Jones and Kevin Drum, because you have worked so tirelessly and with such integrity over the decades to bring us the investigative reporting on issues that "they" truly don't want us to know about. Eat your heart out, Katie. (And Mother Jones has also prevailed in stupid vexatious defamation litigation against them (litigation initiated by a New-Wage scammer and major Republican political donor), so they're real champions as far as I'm concerned.)

And don't get me wrong: it is good to see that the rest of the world is finally awakening to these scams -- better late than never. But, as was the case with Trump U, and as I've mentioned here before, the sudden interest is there only because the failed scams were perpetrated by the front runner in the Make America Hate Again campaign for the White House. What the world has apparently not quite realized is that although these schemes may seem "penny-ante" (in the words of the Mother Jones piece) by comparison to, say, Bernie Madoff or Wall Street shenanigans -- or for that matter the trillions spent on various doomed-to-failure "wars on terror" and "wars on drugs" -- the effect of Scamworld schemes on ordinary individuals can be devastating. And most media don't even address the cumulative impact of all of these scams and scammers.

But at least there was some levity surrounding the MoJo piece. My friend Julie Daniel screen-capped this:

Another friend, former GIN member Paul Wilson, wrote, "Wow! if that happens, maybe they'll offer a '
Lazy Mans' Way to Poverty Program' on a National Level."

And the other day on one of Fred van Liew's threads about Trump (Fred, as I've mentioned more than once, is a YOOGE supporter of Trump, as well as a persistent defender of Trudeau), one commenter expressed the hope that one of the first things Trump does as president is to pardon Kevin Trudeau and set him free. That got a few "likes."

The thing is -- and I think most folks in the critical-to-Trump press have figured this out by now -- no matter how many "new" revelations emerge about Trump's scams and lies, no matter how many potential bombshells are dropped about his alleged Mafia ties and shady business dealings, and certainly no matter how hateful his rhetoric becomes or how many acts of violence are carried out at his big rallies, his starry-eyed followers just won't care. They will simply continue to cast blame upon the protesters, or Bernie Sanders, or Barack Obama... anybody but the bloated orange blowfish whom they have come to see as the new Messiah.

And in the big scheme of things, the Scamworld adventures of Donald have scarcely raised an eyebrow in some circles. If anything, they've made some people admire him all the more. It's just business, they say, if they even acknowledge that Trump U and the Trump Network were failures. They certainly don't care that people lost money. Even folks such as fake doctor and cancer quack Lenny Coldwell and his buddy Abe Husein, who have made such a very big deal over being scammed and screwed over by Kevin Trudeau and GIN, are using their Facebook pages to stump for Trump. They either don't understand or they simply don't care that Donald Trump has pulled off some of the same types of scams that Kevin Trudeau did. "If it didn't directly affect me, it's not a scam."

So really, from a business philosophy perspective (and after all, The Donald is all about business, which, apart from the racism, seems to be why so many people worship him), a Trump/Trudeau ticket makes a lot of sense.
And, after all, Katie did defend Trump on his radio show back in 2011. (Embedding is disabled by request, so you'll just have to follow that link.)

Indeed, Trump and Trudeau are a match made in marketing hell, especially considering that Kevin has had political ambitions for years. Perhaps Trump can finally make Katie's dream come true. And it would surely be a wonderful chance for The Donald to pick up an outsider whose feelings about issues such as "Mexicans" and American exceptionalism are right in line with Trump's. USA! USA! USA! Sieg Heil! Tomorrow belongs to those who love it the most! Long live der "furor!" And long live the hatriarchy!

It's a small Scamworld after all, full of scary stories in which, as usual, there are No Neat and Tidy Endings. The real tragedy is that con artist Donald Trump's scams have now reached way beyond Scamworld. Trump, the great gaslighter, is at the top of his game, and he has a huge following that most Scamworld gurus, including Kevin Trudeau, must surely envy. His run for the presidency is arguably the biggest scheme of his career, and even if he loses it is a scam that all of America could very well be forced to buy into, with no opting out.