Sunday, December 24, 2017

Ruining Christmas

Today, December 24, 2017, marks the 24th anniversary of the day I moved in with the person who was to become the love of my life, and eventually -- nearly 20 years later -- would become my husband as well. (Ron and I do not believe in rushing into things.) One of the things I most remember about that long-ago move, and that Ron and I still chuckle about, is my mother's pointed accusation that because I chose that particular time to move in with Ron, I was "ruining Christmas for all of us."

True, it was a disruption -- for me most of all, because I hate moving at least as much as your average cat does. (Which
I mentioned a few years back (and then mentioned again) when Ron and I were prepping for our move out to the Edge of Nowhere.) But back in 1993 my mother wasn't talking about mere disruption; she was talking about ruination. You see, she had her own ideas about acceptable parameters for the holiday season, and I was violating them on two counts.

One point of violation was that my involvement in moving prevented my observation of my longstanding tradition of spending the night at her house to help her prepare for Christmas dinner the next day. The dinners had grown smaller and less elaborate in recent years, and she no longer had the steam to do the big Christmas Eve spreads of past years, but she still tried to keep up the Christmas Day tradition. And we both enjoyed our time together, even though I probably wasn't that much practical help to her. I did a little cleaning and straightening up, to the extent that she would allow in her cluttered home, and some minor food prep. Mostly I was just company, and we were both fine with that. I miss those times.

But more importantly, and central to her complaint about a wrecked Yule, my mom was distressed that I was breaking up with my then-husband, Roger, of whom she was very fond. She wanted at least one more Christmas in which the whole family was "together." In truth, the marriage had been in trouble for some time, and the separation/divorce was proving to be amicable. Roger, with whom both Ron and I remained friends throughout and after the divorce, seemed quite accepting of my decision to move out, though I was torn because of the pressure from my mother in addition to my own nagging doubts. Like I said, I hate moving. And there were moments when I wasn't entirely sure that I was doing the right thing. At times I was on the verge of accusing Ron of ruining Christmas by being so insistent that I move in with him. It was the classic should-I-stay-or-should-I-go situation.

"If you're going to leave, leave," said Roger, when I expressed my concerns. It didn't make any difference to him that Christmas was nigh. In fact, he helped me pack, which may say more about what a pain in the butt I am than it says about what a good sport he was.

So clearly, I wasn't ruining Christmas for Roger.

I asked my brother and sister and brother-in-law if I was ruining Christmas for them by moving in with Ron, and even though they all liked Roger too, they also liked Ron and assured me that they would survive the season. And I had no reason to disbelieve them, particularly since we all had a nice Christmas Eve gathering, post-move/minus Roger/plus Ron, at my sister and brother-in-law's home, with my mother by this point grudgingly accepting the inevitable. Eventually she came to accept and even to love Ron. But Ron and I and the sibs still joked for years about how I had "ruined Christmas."

* * * * *

Precisely ten years later, on Christmas Eve, as Ron and I prepared to celebrate not only the Yuletide but also a decade of living together, it was my mom who ruined Christmas. She had been having a variety of health problems, but nothing particularly serious that we were aware of; she still lived alone and seemed to be managing okay with a little help and support, particularly from my brother, who saw her frequently. But when he stopped by her house on the morning of Christmas Eve, he discovered that she had fallen. After that, I never could laugh at the once-ubiquitous jokes about those "I've-fallen-and-I-can't-get-up" commercials. When it's your own mother who has fallen and can't get up, it's not funny any more. She wasn't in pain; she just couldn't get up, so my brother helped her up and got her into her favorite recliner, then called the paramedics. They checked her out and saw that fortunately she hadn't broken anything, and her vitals were okay, though they did detect a heart arrhythmia. They offered to transport her to a hospital, an offer that she adamantly refused.

My brother didn't push it, but he made sure she had something to eat and drink, and that she was comfortable, before leaving her and promising to check in later. He immediately called my sister and me to inform us of what was going on. When we tried to call her to check up on her, there was no answer; normally she answered her phone after two or three rings. Panicked, I had Ron take me to her house, and my sister arrived at about the same time. We found our mom unconscious, sitting on the floor, leaning up against her chair. Apparently she had gotten up to try to answer the phone, and had taken another fall, once again having the great good fortune not to have broken anything. We were able to rouse her -- she seemed flabbergasted when I told her that it was Christmas Eve -- and we called the paramedics, who were understandably a little impatient when they showed up. This time we insisted she be taken to the hospital, and though she argued about it, we prevailed.

And that was the beginning of the last chapter of our mother's life. Christmas and the New Year passed in a cloud of anxiety. You're never really prepared for the decline of a parent; I likened it to being suddenly thrust into a wilderness with no guide and no provisions. It was a very scary time.

Shortly after our mom's fall, while she was still recovering in the hospital, I had a dream that was so blatantly symbolic that if I had heard it from someone else, I'd think that person was fabricating it. I dreamed that I was at my mother's house, and she walked down the hall from her bedroom, out into the den where I was waiting. Rather than being hunched and frail, she looked the way I remembered her from my childhood: young and pretty and perky and almost radiant, and she was wearing one of her vintage-1960s cocktail dresses. "I have a date!" she said, much to my surprise, because after my father had been killed many years previously, she had never been on even one date. Then she handed me a large manila envelope.

"What's this?" I asked her.

"Just the things from my purse," she said. Knowing that she never went anywhere without her purse, I looked at her quizzically. She quickly explained, "I don't need a purse where I'm going."

Then her doorbell rang, and she almost ran to the door and flung it open. And there stood my dad, smiling broadly, looking as he had in some early photos I'd seen of him. It wasn't just that he looked much younger than he'd been when he died; he was actually a sepia tone, and looking beyond him I saw that the lawn and streets and trees and sky were all in sepia too. "I'll see you later!" my mom said to me brightly, and then she disappeared with my father into that sepia world where I couldn't follow.

Meanwhile in the real and multi-colored world, my mother's attending physician at the hospital said it was time for a "new phase" to begin, which was his way of warning that we all needed to start thinking about new arrangements for our mom, as clearly she could no longer live alone in that big house she'd occupied for nearly 40 years. We struggled with this matter in various ways for the four years and four days that remained of her life. Accompanying her on numerous doctor visits, I did end up toting around some of the contents of her purse -- Medicare card, drivers' license, insurance documents -- in a big manila envelope along with my pages of notes I took during her appointments.

That Christmas Eve, 2003, marked the beginning of a long goodbye, but at least we had the luxury of saying goodbye and learning, in our own fashion, to let go. We were profoundly saddened but not really shocked when, in 2007, she ruined the Christmas holiday once again by leaving this life on December 28.

On the last full day of her life I spent hours at her bedside, sitting with her well into the evening. By now she was refusing food and water, and was lying on her back, her eyes closed, her lips moving but her speech for the most part inaudible. To whom was she talking? Was she praying? I really couldn't tell. She responded audibly to my direct questions but never opened her eyes. So I sat there, just being with her, while she had her conversations I couldn't hear with someone I couldn't see.

At one point, though, she spoke aloud, still without opening her eyes. "Let me go," she said, and I assumed her plea was directed at me, since I was the only other person in the room at the time. "Go where?" I immediately responded. She replied, "I just need to go somewhere to rest. I'm tired. Please just let me go."

And the next morning, after a panicked trip to the emergency room that probably did little except cause her pain, including a collapsed lung no doubt sustained during resuscitation efforts, we finally did let her go. When the ER doctor came into the room to essentially tell us that only machines were keeping her alive, he seemed hesitant, his eyes full of sadness. He appeared visibly relieved that we accepted his prognosis and gave him the go-ahead to take my mother off of life support. At this point I was numb, and the doc seemed to need comforting more than I did, so I gave him a hug.

All I could think about at the moment was how grateful I was for the last exchange I'd had with my mom before I left her bedside the previous night. I had told her I loved her, and she had replied, quite audibly, "I love you too."

But gosh. Way to ruin Christmas, Mom. And I miss you fiercely. And so does Ron.

* * * * *

Ron's own mother, Maggie, managed to ruin both his birthday and Christmas 25 years ago by passing away four days after his birthday and two weeks before Christmas. She also ruined her chances of getting to meet me in this life; Ron and several others have said Maggie and I would have loved each other, and I am sure we would have.

And two weeks ago one of my Facebook friends observed the 30th anniversary of her own mother's death, and another Facebook friend just lost her mother yesterday. It's a terrible, terrible time of year to lose a mom. But then, there's really no good time.

And it isn't only parents who leave at inappropriate times. Dear friends can depart without notice too. On December 10 -- two weeks ago today -- Ron and I lost our sweet friend Alma, who was our across-the-pasture neighbor for several years after we moved out to the Edge of Nowhere. Alma was the sort of person who seemed like a Grumpy-Cat type when you first met her, but you didn't have to know her long at all to realize that beneath the gruffness was a wicked sense of humor and a huge heart.

Alma was no recluse -- she had a wide circle of friends and participated in a variety of activities -- but she cherished the silence and darkness of the country at night; she loved the darkness so much that she never even left a porch light on. She even good-naturedly groused about our own back porch light, saying its glare spoiled the peaceful darkness for her, so we stopped leaving it on. But Alma also loved Christmas, and at Christmas time she did put lights up. It always made me smile to look out my kitchen window late at night, across the great expanse of darkness, and see her lights burning.
Alma was a book lover, a rescuer of dogs, an inveterate gift giver, and an unimaginable gift herself. And although she always had other plans and other obligations on holidays, she managed to join Ron and me for our feast on nearly all of the major holidays. It got so that it didn't really feel like a holiday without Alma.

But she underwent emergency open-heart surgery earlier this month, and there were complications, and she did not survive the ordeal. Now there's going to be another empty space at our holiday table. Way to ruin Christmas, Alma. We love and miss you more than we can express.

Of course our human friends don't have a monopoly on breaking our hearts; sometimes our fur babies ruin Christmas for us too. Ron's and my big sweet boy cat, Sabu, left us on December 21, 2014. Our lovable goofy whippet, Snapper, checked out on December 23, 2000. I have loved ones and friends who lost beloved animal companions earlier this year and whose hearts are wrecked by spending the first Christmas without them.

And so on, and so forth.

I think most of us reach a point when, if we're not careful, Christmas -- or any other major holiday, for that matter -- becomes as much a time for dwelling on all that we have lost as it is a celebration of what, and whom, we still have. The so-called season of joy is incredibly difficult for those whose losses are recent or profound or extensive or any combination of the above (I'm thinking especially of all those who lost so much in the recent hurricanes). But holidays are also quite difficult at times for those whose losses are cumulative, as is inevitable in the course of a normal human life. And in a season when most of us are under such constant pressure to be merry and bright, the contrast between the outer trappings and our inner grief can seem like a cruel joke. We keep forgetting that, with the notable exception of terrorists and sadists who calculatedly wreak their havoc on cherished holidays, tragedy and calamity have an utter disregard for the calendar. Christmastime is just another opportunity for sh-t to happen. The gods may throw the dice/Their minds as cold as ice/And someone way down here/Loses someone dear. (
Thank you, Abba.)

Nevertheless it is good and useful, perhaps especially at this time of year, to try to find as many somethings and someones as you can for which to be thankful. That's why, despite my cynicism about self-help exercises in general, I'm all for gratitude exercises, and my Facebook friend Marie, the one who lost her mom 30 years ago around this time, definitely has the right idea with her daily postings about the people and things for which she is grateful.

Truly, there are so many ways that Christmas can be ruined, but with a little effort I think that most of us can pick our way among the ruins and still find something good and whole. Me? I still love the holiday, despite being
a cynic for many years. And Ron and I always find a way to celebrate the season with family, food, and friends. True, we can't have a Christmas tree due to the fact that we have cats, and they have hands, and they know how to use them, but I manage to festoon the house with garlands and wreaths and shelf elves (most of the elves being vintage 60s and 70s fellows who spread Christmas cheer at my mom's house for many years) and other accoutrements. More importantly, I can even manage to smile rather than cry when I think of the people and fur babies who have passed. After all, I am still surrounded by people I love, including a houseful of four-legged folks who are constantly clamoring for love and attention (as well as some of Alma's dogs who haven't yet found new homes). I am happy to accommodate them.

And at night, which falls so early in the dead of winter, I can walk out of my gate and past the motion-sensitive solar light that was Alma's last gift to Ron and me. Like most solar lights it automatically comes on once darkness falls, but when we walk past it, it shines a little brighter for a couple of moments.

Most of all this Christmas, I look forward to beginning year 25 with the person who helped me ruin Christmas so many years ago. Moving in with him was the best choice I ever made, next to marrying him.

May your own holidays be filled with as much joy, and as little ruin, as possible. Be kind to yourself and to those around you who are hurting. And give what you can, of your time or money or both, to help ease their pain.

* * * * *
Now more than ever, your donation is needed
to help keep this Whirled spinning.
Click here to donate via PayPal or debit/credit card.
If that link doesn't work, send PayPal payment directly to
or to
If PayPal, be sure to specify that your contribution is a gift. Thank you!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Net neutrality in the reign of Mad King Donald

Google image results for "Mad King Donald"

I'm still here, Dear Ones. It has been another busy month, full of real-life distractions, not the least of which was the gluttony that took place over Thanksgiving weekend, so, naturally, I haven't been tending my Whirled. I have some Whirled-beat stuff to catch you up on, which I'll do in the coming weeks. Really. I promise. However, in the interests of keeping up my longstanding tradition of blogging at least once each month, here's a little snippet about something that extends far beyond the beat of one little blog.

As you may know, some of America's most cherished institutions and principles have been under attack ever since
Mad King Donald became the Oaf of Office in January of this year. (If you don't know this, or you aren't concerned about it, then I respectfully suggest that you may be part of the problem.) Attacks on civil rights... threats to freedom of the press... attempts to compromise the separation of church and state... and that, of course, is a far from complete list.
One matter that should be of particular concern for just about everybody is the serious threat to net neutrality under Drumpf's Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chair, Ajit Pai. The article linked to in the first sentence of this paragraph contains several other good links about some of the major issues.

If you wish to educate yourself about the threat to net neutrality, or you just want to review some of the pertinent points, take a look at
the Net Neutrality portal on the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) site.

And then call or write to your representatives, and/or march in the streets, and/or take any other peaceful and legal means to help stop the Mad King's destruction of some of our most important freedoms.

I'll be back soon.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

#FreeKevinTrudeau sucks up to Sheriff Joe

There is an October 21 update to this story at the end of this post.
~ CC


I've written before about the efforts of serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, aka KT, aka Katie, to persuade #NotMyPresident Donald J. Trump to free Katie from Federal sleepaway camp (aka Montgomery Federal Prison Camp in Alabama) and to pardon him. F'rinstance, I mentioned it back in February and in June.

The #FreeKevinTrudeau campaign continues, and
you can track it on this site. In his most recent entreaty to Herr Drumpf, dated 15 September 2017, Katie blames Obama and Hillary for the mess he's in. And he invokes fellow faux-hero/martyr and ex-Sheriff Joe Arpaio, whom Trump did pardon back in August.

criminal contempt charges against Arpaio, which of course Katie proclaimed to be totally unfounded, Katie brought up his own conviction for criminal contempt.

My “contempt” was I dared to express my First Amendment rights of free speech on TV when talking about one of my books. The fact that my views and opinions were “conservative”, exposed special interest and political corruption, and were listened to by over 50 million people made my “free speech” even more “offensive” to the Obama administration.
Yes, Katie is quite the First Amendment stuporhero. And later on in the letter...
I have also been relentless at exposing the “Deep State”, the swamp as you call it! This means I have pulled no punches at exposing the Clintons, Obama, and all the Establishment politicians who go to Washington broke and within a few years magically become multi-millionaires.

For this, I have been on the Clinton and Obama “hit list” for decades. It has been said that Hillary Clinton, while Secretary of State called me “politically dangerous” and “must be silenced”.

This is one of the first instances I've seen where Katie overtly plays the "Help, help, I'm being repressed because I'm conservative!" card. But he has been anti-immigrant/xenophobic for years, as noted in
this June 2011 Whirled post.

And while we're on the topic of anti-immigrant xenophobes, here's a link to
a suck-up letter that Trudeau penned directly to the loathsome Sheriff Joe shortly after the Drumpf pardon.

Dear Joe,

You are an American hero.

I just heard the great news that President Trump pardoned you!

CONGRATULATIONS!! I am SO happy for you!

You should now be given a medal by the President for all your service to America:
-for fearlessly enforcing the LAWS;
-and for fearlessly upholding the Constitution.

This is Kevin Trudeau, #1 NY Times bestselling author of 6 books (almost 50 million copies sold), former radio host, TV Celebrity, natural health freedom advocate, and promoter of Free Speech.

I am also a 100% Trump supporter and I have been a fan and outspoken vocal supporter of yours for years.

I watched you on Fox talk about your ordeal with the “Obama radical left judicial system and justice department”.

I watched in amazement at how a 50 year law enforcement professional, doing all he can do to protect the legal CITIZENS of America was unjustly targeted by the Obama Justice Department simply for doing his job.

And so on, and so forth, as Katie cleaves like a remora unto Sheriff Joe's sagging whatever.

You've probably read the horror stories about Sheriff Joe, but they're worth a mention here because, of course, they lend a truer context to Kevin Trudeau's shameless sycophancy. From
a Washington Post article published shortly after the pardon:
As sheriff, Arpaio was known for a hostility toward undocumented immigrants that was functionally indistinguishable from hostility toward Latinos. He conducted sweeps of Latino neighborhoods and stops of Latino drivers in attempts to find undocumented immigrants. He held inmates in brutal and degrading conditions. He installed publicly accessible webcams so that the public could gawk at inmates, and one of those cameras showed female prisoners using the toilet. And he was a leading proponent of the racist lie that President Barack Obama was not a natural-born American citizen.

Arpaio’s entire claim to national recognition was based on his being a xenophobe, a racist and an officer of the machinery of government who relished wielding that machinery to degrade some of the most powerless members of our society.
And here's another WaPo link: a first-person account from a former inmate/victim of Arpaio.
The rules of the tent city were strict, arbitrary and brutally enforced. There are no newspapers allowed; Arpaio hated newspapers. The only food allowed for those of us in the work furlough program was the food in the vending machines, which was grossly overpriced.

During the sweltering summer, the temperature could reach 115 or 120 degrees. I was in the tents when we hit 120. It was impossible to stay cool in the oppressive heat. Everyone would strip down to their underwear. There was no cold water, only water from vending machines; and eventually, the machines would run out. People would faint; some had heatstroke. That summer, ambulances came about three times. One man died in his bed.

But the winter was even worse. During the winter, there were no heaters. Most jackets and heavily insulated pants weren’t allowed; they don’t want you to be comfortable...

...Arpaio saved worse abuse for others. Those who were in full detention had to wear pink socks, underwear and flip-flops. They ate peanut butter and bread, and the only other meal they received was baloney and bread. They also had the option of “slob,” which was an unknown, disgusting substance that looked like some kind of thick stew and tasted like cardboard. (The poor people in the work furlough program who couldn’t pay for vending-machine food had no choice but to eat it.)

And in the unintended irony department, given
Herr Twitler's repeated threats to the free press in America -- which I've mentioned here previously, there's this August 4, 2017 post on the Free Katie site.

As I've also mentioned on previous posts, Katie and fans haven't limited their entreaties to Drumpf himself. Among others contacted, according to Trudeau's September 15 missive and several earlier posts on the web site and social media, the #FreeKevinTrudeau contingent have reached out to "KellyAnne Conway; John Kelly; Ivanka; Jared; Eric; Don Jr; Melania; Rudi Giuliani; Mike Huckabee; Carl Icahn; Sean Hannity; Andrew Napolitano; Janine Pirro; Laura Ingraham; Newt Gingrich; Jay Sekulow; and many others."

But so far, it seems that all of these communications have been for naught. Katie continues to languish in Camp Cupcake, waxing spiritual about his achievement of perfect peace and happiness out of one side of his mouth, while out of the other side he desperately begs some of the most despicable political figures in the U.S. -- and indeed in the world -- to free him so he can scam at large again. The more things change...

Important update, 21 October 2017: There's bad news for Sheriff Joe, but perhaps good news for some of those who have been harmed by him and might want to pursue legal action: on October 19, U.S. District Judge Susan Richie Bolton, stating that Trump's pardon of Arpaio does not "revise historical facts" of his case, refused to vacate her ruling that deemed Arpaio guilty of criminal contempt. From the NPR piece linked to above:
On Thursday, Bolton quoted Black's Law Dictionary to say that a pardon "releases the wrongdoer from punishment and restores the offender's civil rights without qualification." But she then added a further interpretation in her own words: "It does not erase a judgment of conviction, or its underlying legal and factual findings."

Citing legal precedents, Bolton said that while a pardon removes the threat of punishment, it does not "blot out guilt." Instead, she wrote in her decision, accepting a pardon implies a confession of guilt. Bolton also suggested that the timing of President Trump's pardon — when Arpaio had not appealed her verdict — played a role in her decision to preserve it.
This situation, noted NPR, could land Arpaio in a type of Catch-22 scenario in which he would be powerless to clear his name fully in the legal record despite the fact that Trump's pardon saved him from being punished by the legal system (thanks for nothing, Donny John!). Arapio attorney Jack Wilenchik indicated that the pardon had robbed Arpaio of a chance to appeal the ruling, leaving him open to future lawsuits. Couldn't happen to a better guy, as far as I'm concerned. Natch, Wilenchik has appealed the judge's order to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, so the story isn't over yet.

No matter what happens in the Appeals Court, and regardless of whether or not Arpaio is sued again, and no matter whether or not he is ever held fully accountable by the justice system for his systemized cruelty... none of this changes what Arpaio did and who he is. And it speaks volumes about both Trump and Trudeau's character (or complete lack thereof) that they continue to support Sheriff Joe and laud him as a hero.

Related on this Whirled:

Sunday, October 08, 2017

James Arthur Ray Death Lodge Eighth Anniversary: Never Forget

Death, it seems, has dominated the news even more than usual for the past several weeks: there is the death and destruction caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria (and we're holding our collective breaths about Nate as I write this); and, of course, there is the horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas a week ago today.

I don't expect the mainstream -- or even most of the independent -- news media to remember, much less focus upon, deaths that occurred years ago on a much smaller and less dramatic scale; after all, the journos and commentators can barely keep up with all of the mass shootings in America, much less the deaths caused by the arrogance and reckless actions of a sociopathic selfish-help "leader." But here in this obscure little outpost of the blogosphere, the deaths of three people in New-Wage/selfish-help/McSpirituality guru
James Arthur Ray's phony "sweat lodge" in Sedona, Arizona will never be forgotten.

It was on this day, eight years ago, that
Kirby Brown and James Shore perished as a result of their heavily manipulated/coerced participation in Ray's torture chamber. Nine days later a third participant, Liz Neuman, passed away as well, without ever awakening from a coma.

As I've written in previous anniversary posts, I knew none of them, though some of the family members are now my Facebook friends. But I think of them every year at this time. Mostly it is with sadness but also with anger, because the man whose recklessness was responsible for these three deaths (four, if you count
Colleen Conaway's death at another Ray event in July 2009), served a prison sentence of less than two years for the Sedona deaths. (He served no time at all for Colleen's death, and wasn't even charged, to say nothing of tried or convicted, although my understanding is that there was a civil settlement.)

But James Ray goes merrily on his way, scrabbling to reclaim his elevated spot in the selfish-help pantheon while spinning Sedona as his own personal tragedy. As I wrote here
last year:
...these days, James Ray is exploiting the Sedona tragedy and his time in prison for his own purposes, still parading as a success guru but with a new hook: he uses the pain and loss of others to portray himself as the hero who has walked through fire.

He may have walked through fire, figuratively speaking, but he did not die by fire, literally, as did James Shore, Kirby Brown and Liz Neuman.

He may have lost a lot, but he is still alive and capable of writing unmitigated crap such as, "In the process of losing everything...I actually found myself."

That theme -- redemption through profound loss -- is the one that Death Ray is still flogging.

Kirby Brown's family, trying to pick up the pieces and create something good and useful from the horror that James Ray bestowed upon their family and on so many others, continues to promote their non-profit, Seek Safely, whose purpose is to educate people about how to safely participate in the self-help industry. Check it out.

Others are doing their part too. As you probably know if you've been hanging around here for any length of time, one of my favorite blogging colleagues, who wrote in great depth about the James Ray nightmare, is Salty Droid, aka Jason Jones. He is a practicing lawyer again, and as I noted here, is using the law to go after destructive and potentially dangerous Scamworld players, e.g., MLM giant Herbalife, a company that, as he explained last month, he first began thinking about in 2009...

… when Liz Neuman died in James Arthur Ray’s fake sweat lodge. Liz got her first tastes of Death Ray’s self-help poison while attending Herbalife related events.

The deadly fake sweat lodge {that killed three people and seriously injured many others} was the culmination of James Ray International’s “Spiritual Warrior” weekend :: a deeply manipulative $10,000 event … the most expensive in a never ending sequence of events that Ray dubbed the “Journey of Power.

These events are dangerous :: weaponized fraud … and they permeate the scam industry. Every wretched festering scamhole I’ve climbed down has contained one of these escalating event sequences at the heart of the harm … anchoring victims to the bottom of Lake Misery.
Here is a direct link to the extended version of the Herbalife lawsuit (Rodgers et al. v Herbalife).

(Jason is also representing, pro bono, a blogger, Christina Hinks of the MommyGyver blog, who is being targeted and harassed by billion-dollar fashion MLM LuLaRue. According to the Truth In Advertising site, LuLaRue seems most upset by the blogger and other critics calling it a cult. Well, MLMs very often are cults in a sense, and it seems to me that the more cultish they are, the more likely they are to sue you for calling them cults or even hinting that they might be (consider the example of LGAT (large group awareness training) giant Landmark, f'rinstance...). Anyway, you can read Jason's take on the LuLaRue case here.)

I have neither a nonprofit nor a law degree, but as always I will continue, as I have for the past eight years, to do my part to make sure that people never forget what happened on October 8, 2009.

For insights into the sociopathic behavior of James Ray, and how it led up to Death Lodge,
see this post, written on the first anniversary of Sedona. Also read Connie Joy's book, Tragedy in Sedona. There's also a public Facebook group, James Arthur Ray is a Felon.

* * * * *
Now more than ever, your donation is needed
to help keep this Whirled spinning.
Click here to donate via PayPal or debit/credit card.
If that link doesn't work, send PayPal payment directly to
or to
If PayPal, be sure to specify that your contribution is a gift. Thank you!

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Salty Droid (With Pants): off to a great start by suing Herbalife

I have bad news and good news.

The bad news, and it's pretty bad, is that (1) Leonard Cohen, who would have been celebrating
his 83rd birthday today, is still dead; and (2) Herr Twitler is still the #NotMyPresident.

The good news, and it is very, very good, is that my favorite scambusting blogger,
Salty Droid, aka Jason Michael Jones -- who was admitted to the Ohio bar last year and has begun practicing law again -- has, in partnership with Miami litigation firm Mark Migdal & Hayden, filed a class-action lawsuit against multi-level marketing (MLM) scam giant Herbalife, alleging civil racketeering (RICO) violations.

Here is a direct link to the 83-page complaint (1:17-cv-23429), which was filed in the United States District Court, Southern District of Florida, on September 18, 2017.

first announced the lawsuit against Herbalife on his blog the day the complaint was filed, and he posted a followup yesterday.

As for the rest of the media, which jumped on coverage of past legal actions against Herbalife, they seem to be a little behind the curve on this one. The Truth in Advertising site
reported the lawsuit yesterday, however, and did a good job of summarizing the case and the issues.

the Valuewalk investment blog mentioned the lawsuit on September 19. The writer noted that Herbalife stock was "about flat today," indicating that investors weren't too worried. He added:
Herbalife will either distance itself from those distributors or take over their defense. So they’ll either be condemning their conduct or endorsing it. Other high level distributors will have to worry about whether they will be added to the lawsuit.

The other big difference between this and Bostick
[a previous class action against Herbalife] is the new complaint alleges a RICO conspiracy – a corrupt enterprise consisting of the company and many top distributors – and it alleges that their sales-event methods violate the FTC order as well as other fraud statutes.
But the mainstream business and financial press don't seem to have paid it much heed as of now, at least if the Google search results as of today (September 21, 2017) are any indication. Oh, well, give 'em time.

The September 18 complaint focuses on Herbalife's live events, specifically, their Circle of Success gatherings across the country. While many might think that live events are rapidly becoming obsolete -- what with Skype and other technologies that are considerably cheaper and much less of a hassle -- live gatherings are still very much a part of Scamworld. Wrote Salty in his September 18 post:

These events are dangerous :: weaponized fraud … and they permeate the scam industry. Every wretched festering scamhole I’ve climbed down has contained one of these escalating event sequences at the heart of the harm … anchoring victims to the bottom of Lake Misery.
He pointed out that the fatal faux-sweat lodge that killed three of James Arthur Ray's followers was the culmination of a "deeply manipulative $10,000 event..." Moreover...
Many scams :: like the one I raged about here in 2013 {owned and operated by the now President of the United States of America} … are nothing but events.
And I can add, based upon my conversations with many ex-members, that events were what kept so many faithful followers of currently-imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau drinking the GIN (Global Information Network) Kool-Aid for so long. (Not that Trudeau is actually serving his sentence for the huge GIN fraud -- he's locked up for criminal contempt related to infomercials for his diet book -- but my point is still valid.) The live GIN events -- which included lavish cruises, weekend gatherings at fine hotels, and countless regional events that focused on aggressively manipulating attendees to upgrade to higher membership levels and teaching them to become more aggressively manipulative recruiters themselves -- were carefully and expertly crafted to foster the delusion that GIN members were part of an exclusive, elite group... but that they could only achieve true success and happiness and fulfillment by continually pouring money they didn't have into GIN's coffers, which turned out to be nothing more than a personal piggy bank for Trudeau.

Live events were also how Trudeau's former b.f.f., fake doctor/cancer quack/semi-literate conspiracy peddler
Leonard Coldwell, tried to recreate GIN (after being fired by Kevin) through his IBMS Masters Society, but Lenny and his former partner and bro-in-harms Peter Wink (another former Trudeau employee) never had the drawing power that Kevin Trudeau enjoyed. The IBMS events were pretty much a flop, with ever-dwindling attendance, and the "club" ultimately failed in the United States. (Lenny is apparently trying to recreate the magic in Germany now, but I predict it won't last, and can say with near-certainty that even now, it isn't nearly as successful as his Facebook boasts would indicate.)

And, of course, live events have been a very big part of the Herbalife fraud. A little over a year ago Herbalife agreed to a $200 million settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that required it to change its compensation system from being based on recruitment to being based on actual product sales to real customers. But, as the current RICO complaint notes, the FTC didn't address the Circle of Success events, which are described in the complaint as "the single most effective fraud in the arsenal of Herbalife and its top distributors."

The event system lures and ensnares people such as Plaintiffs with the guarantee of significant income, a better lifestyle, and even happiness – all to be easily attained through event attendance.
Yup... just like in GIN.

Meanwhile, in related Scamworld news, the family of Herr Twitler's Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, is reportedly pushing Congress to pass a rider that would limit regulatory oversight of MLMs, presumably to make life easier for her family's company, Scamway, and help them avoid some of the troubles suffered by Herbalife. The rider would curb the ability of the FTC to investigate whether MLMs like Amway are pyramid schemes.

Jason et al., y'all have your work cut out for you. But your class action against Herbalife is a great start. Keep it up.

And by the way, here again is a link to Jason's Salty-Droid-With-Pants web site, Eat your hearts out, Culbertson&Ass.

PS added 23 September, 2015: Here is a link to the extended version of the complaint against Herbalife, with all exhibits attached.

Related on this blog:
Tin Promises: How MLMs Can Tear Lives Apart
Part 1 and Part 2

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hay, that's no way to say goodbye*

I've been more than a little negligent in my blogging duties for quite some time now, but -- notwithstanding my recent and understandable preoccupation with hurricanes Harvey and Irma and such -- there truly is no excuse for my failure, thus far, to mention the passing of Louise Hay, the elder stateswoman of the New-Wage/selfish-help/McSpirituality industrial complex. She died in her sleep on August 30, 2017, at the age of 90.

Many folks just adored Louise. She was arguably a beacon of light for the gay community back in the 1980s, as she was
an early advocate for AIDS victims, providing spiritual and emotional sustenance to many egregiously stigmatized folks. Not everyone was enamored of her approach; critics complained that her message seemed to be that AIDS and every other ailment could be cured through affirmations and a positive attitude. Some accused her of a blame-the-victim approach; defenders claimed she was simply empowering people to take charge of their own health.

As the years went by her fame and influence grew, in large part because her publishing company,
Hay House, became a hugely successful model of New-Wage//McSpirituality crapitalism, or, depending upon your perspective, a purveyor of "products and services that empower and educate the individual, while helping to heal our planet." I lean towards the "crapitalism" p.o.v.

One of this blog's favorite snargets (snark targets),
Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale, is a yuuuge fan of Ms. Hay, and, in his characteristic single-sentence-paragraph blogstyle, he wrote a loving tribute to her after her death. Joe'd had a long-time goal of being published by Hay House, a goal that was apparently realized at last in 2014 when Hay's company foisted The Remembering Process on the world. Granted, that book was co-authored with Austin music producer and musician Daniel Barrett, and Joe didn't get top billing, but he still describes the publishing as "a milestone in my career."

For the most part, the commenters on Joe's tribute blog post were complimentary to Joe as well as to Louise. But then came someone named Gena:

Gena-Reply September 2, 2017 at 11:08 pm
Apparently you missed beautiful Louise Hay’s message about the joy, satisfaction and worthyness [sic] of giving.
Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Leonardo DiCaprio, Beyonce, Brene Brown, the Kardashians, sports figures, musicians and millions of people across the country are giving money, time, energy and personal resources to help those in need in wake of the devistation of Hurricane Harvey in YOUR HOME STATE.
Where are you in all of this? Writing a memoriam to Louise Hay that’s about you, as well as shamelessly promoting one of your books in the memoriam; writing blogs about yourself; promoting your products and continuing on in your tireless promotion of yourself.
Oh, and forgive me if I didnt
[sic] mention your call to “love” Houston in your promotion of an audio series that, wait for it…. promotes yourself.
Lastly, I searched online to find direction from you, or direction to your charitable foundation in an effort to help the tens of thousands of people who lost literally everything this past week. . some of whom lost loved ones too… and to my shock and dismay.. you do not have a charitable Foundation, you have offered nothing up to help “others” without direct impact to your bottomline, and you have made zero effort to make a call to action to help the people, in your State, that at this time of unimaginable loss and crisis, need help the most. (For gods sakes, no clean water, food, or safe place to live other than, thank god, a shelter).
Many people left their homes without shoes on their feet, and will return to uninhabitable structures.
Apparently the real secret is, you don’t help those who don’t directly help your bottomline and at the hour of greatest need, you are absent to the suffering of others.
My deep disappointment in how you have failed to show up for Houston can only be matched by my awe and gratitude for those who reached, stretched or simply showed up selflessly to care for one-another.
And Joe responded:
  • Joe Vitale-Reply September 6, 2017 at 12:49 pm Gena, your heart is in the right place. I have promoted relief for Houston on all social media, and I have created foundations to help, such as Operation YES, and I have written about the power of giving in many places and in my books. I could go on, but instead of judging without research, why not just help?
That response is, I must say, a bit more refined than many of Joe's past snarky and hostile responses to critics. Still, there was more than a hint of Joe-like passive-aggressiveness, not to mention an apparent misrepresentation of his "foundation," Operation Y.E.S. (Y.E.S. being an acronym for Your Economic Solution (formerly Your Economic Salvation)).

OpYES has received its share of snark
on this blog, as well as on others, such as the dormant but still relevant Mr. Fire's Pyre blog. Joe first announced the program in spring of 2008, originally billing it as a plan to end homelessness and poverty and foreclosures in the U.S. in one day, or something like that. (Here's an early blog post by Joe's buddy Peter Wink, announcing the pre-launch of the program.) For years, some of us "hater" bloggers pounded away at the issue, questioning what, if anything, Operation Y.E.S. actually did to help the homeless and the poor. Joe's not very forthcoming about that, and the site -- here's that link again -- is basically just a sign-up site to get you into yet another hustledork sales funnel.

Or maybe I'm missing something. Maybe, behind all of that shameless self-aggrandizement on the Operation Y.E.S. site, there is an actual foundation that actually does something to help the vics of Hurricane Harvey, as Joe seemed to be insinuating in his response to "Gena." Joe -- or someone else in the know about Operation Y.E.S. -- is more than welcome to drop a comment on this blog and 'splain exactly how Operation Y.E.S. has helped anyone who is truly in need, much less the victims of Hurricane Harvey.

But I digress. This post is supposed to be about the late Louise Hay. And while
the loving tributes have poured in from self-help gurus and Hay fans and followers, Hay's critics haven't been driven into silence.

For instance, there's my pal Yakaru, a long-time friend of this blog (back in 2012, he helped provide information for
my first post about the stupidest and most evil man in Scamworld, cancer quack and fraudster Leonard Coldwell). Yak writes the wonderful "Spirituality is No Excuse" blog, and after Hay's death he wrote a post titled, "Speaking ill of a dead cancer quack -- Louise Hay."
Louise Hay, unlike some other cancer quacks, probably did not die of cancer. At least there is no evidence she died of cancer…. No evidence, in fact that she ever even had cancer at any time in her life.
Louise Hay said she had cancer in 1977 or 1978 — she can’t remember which. She said her doctors thought it would kill her. And she said she cured it herself. But she can’t remember the doctors’ names, and can’t remember what stage the cancer was at when she “cured” it.
But Louise Hay had already published her first book, You Can Heal Your Life, in 1976. So she published a book listing a hundred or more diseases from leprosy to cancer, listed a “metaphysical cause” and a “healing affirmation” for each, and then a year or two later, “got cancer” herself. She promptly “cured” it — the perfect vindication of her book — but didn’t keep any documents and can’t remember even the most basic details about it.

Or none of that happened, and she was lying.

Lying, and believed by her customers because people don’t usually lie about that kind of thing. And then watched as millions of customers bought her “cancer cure” and tested it on themselves.

The husband of one such customer
left a comment here earlier this year:
Thanks to her unshakable belief in the teachings of this lady, and her refusal to follow a real treatment, which repeatedly drove a wedge into our happy married life, my beloved wife died last month, age 47. I miss her tremendously.
Yak had previously written about Louise -- here and here and here, for instance.

Yakaru is far from the only critic of Hay's (and her colleagues') brand of New-Wage pabulum;
here's a piece in The Guardian, published in 2009 during the height of the financial crisis. And the ever-dependable RationalWiki has a cynical take on Hay House.

And me? Where Louise Hay is concerned, I'm more sympathetic to the criticism than to the accolades. Even so, I have for the most part taken a more lighthearted approach to Hay's ouvre, as reflected in these bits from my 1996 BLP (book-like product), Cosmic Relief, which was a parody of those freebie New-Age rags that one can still find in many cities in the U.S. (As usual, click on pics to enlarge; you'll have to forgive the crudity of the execution; back in those days I only had access to vector clipart and wasn't yet working with photos. But I think the point gets across anyway.)

R.I.P., Louise, and rest assured that as long as gullibility remains a human trait, your legacy is safe.

* With apologies to the late, great Leonard Cohen

* * * * *
Now more than ever, your donation is needed
to help keep this Whirled spinning.
Click here to donate via PayPal or debit/credit card.
If that link doesn't work, send PayPal payment directly to
or to
If PayPal, be sure to specify that your contribution is a gift. Thank you!

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Irma, Schmirma! Hurricane Diva is back on the job

For all of y'all who have been worrying about
Hurricane Irma, your worries are over. The world's leading wind whisperer/hurricane channeler is back on the job, and she and Irma both assure us that all is well.

When I first wrote about
Hurricane Harvey on this Whirled last week -- here's that link -- I mentioned that New-Wage huckster Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale was using the disaster as yet another marketing op. He'd done that before during various hurricanes and wildfires, so it wasn't really surprising. His willingness to exploit disaster and tragedy has made for some good blog fodder here over the years.
I couldn't help noticing that there was one person apparently missing in action from the Harvey party: "Phoenix" Lynn S. Marks, aka SpiritDiva, who in the past had led numerous phone meditations to help calm and redirect hurricanes.

I've written about Phoenix SpiritDiva a few times too. In the earlier daze of this blog, I was constantly getting emails from her, announcing one or another guided meditation to help uncover the storm of the week's warm and fuzzy side. During those times, my blog posts practically wrote themselves.

The way this hurricane communication thing works, according to the Messages from the Hurricanes page on Lynn's site (
here's that link again), is that "just minutes before starting each global meditation I [commune] with each storm directly and [ask] if it [has] a message for us."

Apparently hurricanes are quite the talkative bunch, though they seem a little grammar- and spelling-challenged at times, and they are delighted to use Lynn to channel their messages of love and hope for humankind. You can read several of the channeled messages -- including not one, not two, but three messages from
the 2008 disaster Ike -- on the page linked to in the paragraph above.

And SpiritDiva boasts quite a success rate...

We have successfully participated in prayer and meditation events to transform the path and intensity of several hurricanes and typhoons the past couple of years, including Dean, Ernesto, Ivan, Jeanne, Frances, Rita, Wilma and Alberto. We've seen them shift direction and decrease their energy within minutes of completing our meditations.
You forgot to mention your great success with Ike, Lynn. On the other hand, I don't blame you for not giving him a mention. Perhaps you're still stinging from his betrayal of you. After chatting with you on three different occasions, after he urged you and your fellow humans to "Know Peace. Radiate Peace. Be Peace," and assured you and the rest of us that "All is well"... he went on to nearly destroy Galveston and surrounding areas, and he did a good job of wrecking sizeable chunks of Houston as well. I'd feel betrayed too, if I were you.

Alas, I hadn't heard from Lynn in quite a while, and certainly didn't see anything from or by her in advance of Harvey's debut. I wondered if maybe she'd retired from the wind-whispering gig. I found that I kind of missed her.

But I needn't have worried. This morning I opened my email and was delighted to see that Phoenix SpiritDiva was back, and was all ready to tackle Irma, with our help, of course. The email header announced: Hurricane Irma Prayers & Meditation -- Today 9 AM EST. Actually we're still on Daylight Time here in the US of A, so I'm not sure what the "ST" (Standard Time) bit is all about, but I suppose the point is moot because unfortunately, due to my rising rather late this morning, I didn't see the email, which came to my in-box on 09/06/17 at 02:43 AM, until a couple of hours after the great meditation was presumably over. So I missed out on an opportunity to help talk Irma into becoming the loving, playful being that the Hurricane Diva insists all storms really are.

And it must have been quite a meditation, judging from the announcement. "Together," promised the email in big red letters, "we will transform IRMA." Then it continued in big green letters: "This 20-minute telephone call will make a difference." Then it continued with a few other promises in big letters in various other colors.

As of the moment I am publishing this, the transcript of the channeled message from Irma is not yet on the Messages from the Hurricanes page on SpiritDiva's site, but I'll keep checking back, and you can too. Meanwhile you can listen to a playback by calling 712-755-7029 (Access Code 912157#).

Or if you want to do your own 'cane meditation, Lynn offers
these helpful guidelines.

On a more serious note...
I'm not trying to say that prayer and meditation aren't helpful for self-soothing or in some cases for comforting others. If you want to pray or meditate or dance or twirl or sing or play music to help get you and others through the "storms of life," be my guest. Just don't pretend that you're actually talking to hurricanes, and if you do, please stop trying to make folks believe that you think the hurricanes are messengers of peace and "the higher good."

That said, despite my years of having fun on this blog at her expense, I'm not actually placing Lynn Marks in quite the same category as cynical New-Wage crapitalists like "Mr. Fire." Sure, she's using the hurricane shtick to promote her life coaching services and products and whatnot, but she's just not on the same level of awfulness as so many others I've snarked about on this Whirled.

And she's certainly not on the same level of pure evil stupidity as those who, motivated either by religious fervor, political hyperpartisanship, or a combination thereof, declare the disaster du jour to be karma or God's punishment or poetic justice for whatever stupid reason. I'm looking at you,
Ann Coulter. And Kenneth L. Storey (yeah, I know you apologized, but it was a stupid thing to say). And Charlie Hebdo. And all of you conservative "Christian" a-holes who, over the years, have said that the California wildfires/droughts/other natural disasters are God's punishment for the state's "liberalism." Just stop it, all of you.

For those who are or might be in the path of the storm, I hope you stay safe. And for anyone who is able to do so, please
help out the vics of Harvey in any way you can. They will still be needing help long after Harvey has faded from the news cycle.

Update, 24 September 2017:
The other day I received an email from Phoenix/SpiritDiva assuring me that all those prayers and meditations had indeed had a positive effect. Clicking the first link will take you directly to one of the messages from Irma.

Hello! Namaste! Welcome!
And, Thanks From My Heart!

Surely everyone's prayers and meditations made a huge difference in the outcome of Hurricane Irma across her entire path. 

Click the link to read my blog as she began to pass over south Florida and her channeled message: 

Yes, there was damage in Florida Keys and part of the west coast; and, thankfully, it was significantly less than predicted. And, when the electrical power was restored four days later it was like the cavalry arrived. You can read more on Hurricane Irma experience at my Facebook page.
One of SpiritDiva's buddies really got into the spirit of things too. Wrote SpiritDiva:
Lori, a longtime friend and former coaching client from New Jersey, joined the call this morning. Afterwards she shared vision she had during the meditation:
"A metaphor perhaps. What came to me was an image of Irma's loneliness and sadness and that she needed/wanted our 'embrace'. It came to me as if we were taking her core into our arms to dance with her slowly back to her joy. It felt incredible for the moment it lasted. Thank you for leading us to soothe her soul. Namaste my dear friend."
So there you have it: the essential problem with hurricanes is that they feel lonely and unloved. All we need to do to tame their fury is to dance with them slowly back to their joy. Good to know.