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

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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.