Monday, December 31, 2018

Twenty-Eighteen: good riddance

Is there anything good we can say about 2018? Only this: It got us out of 2017. But even that didn’t work out as we hoped.
~ Dave Barry,
Dave Barry's Year in Review 2018

I don't always make a big deal of New Year's Eve/Day on this blog, though I did make a halfhearted attempt to do so three years ago, in the service of figuratively showing 2015 the door. Sadly, I think that 2018 has easily topped 2015 in terms of general and specific suckiness, and I sincerely hope that the door hits it hard in the ass on its way out. But despite the year's suckiness and attendant distractions, and contrary to appearances, I haven't forgotten my essential blogly duties, to which I'll attend one more time before the Old Year passes.

One of numerous items I neglected to write about when it happened was the September death of one of the founding fathers of Scamworld:
Rich DeVos, who not only co-founded one of the original MLM scampires, Amway, but also helped launch the modern religious right in the US. On December 30 Politico's Zack Stanton wrote:
Not for nothing was the company named Amway. For DeVos, the “American way” meant a country that embraced the free-enterprise system, exalted God and held true to conservative Christian principles (“This country was built on a religious heritage,” he wrote in Believe!, “and we’d better get back to it.”). It meant a country where the only limit to what one could achieve was how hard one worked (“I think being poor is something many people do,” he said in a 1966 speech. “It sort of has to do with being poor by choice.”). And it meant a country where personal responsibility and belief in yourself were two sides of the same coin.
While it is true that some on the left-ish side of the street have had cozy relationships with hucksters (e.g., Bill Clinton and Tony Robbins, as mentioned in this July 2018 Whirled post (under the sub-head "Left, right, left right")), Scamworld and the religious right have long enjoyed a very special bond. Apropos of that, I paid tribute to the DeVos dynasty on this blog not long after the disastrous 2016 presidential election. In that post I noted the DeVos' Amway connection, and I brought one of this blog's favorite subjects, imprisoned serial scammer Kevin Trudeau, into the mix.
As many of you may know, the aforementioned Kevin Trudeau has a background in Amway, which I wrote about on this April 2013 post (under the subhead, "MLM fever"). In that post, I linked to this 2004 piece, "Amway, Republicans & That Old Time Religion," which has some information about the cozy relationship between Scamworld and right-wing (Republican) politics. The two have been cozying up to each other for a very long time.
Trudeau also played a starring role in an even earlier (March 2016) post about politix and Scamworld. Trump starred there too, of course, which is only appropriate, as Trudeau is such a devoted Trumpster. And as I've written about several times, ever since the Mad King ascended the throne, Trudeau has been pleading, and having minions plead on his behalf, for a presidential pardon and commuted sentence. That doesn't seem to be forthcoming. But hope springs infernal...

The Politico piece I cited above breezes through the history of the DeVos scampire and its connection to religious right-wing politics.

By the late 1990s, the family was “the largest single contributor of soft money to the Republican Party,” Betsy DeVos wrote in a 1997 op-ed. In the 2000s, the DeVos family bankrolled school-voucher campaigns and charter school efforts throughout the country. “The church,” son Dick DeVos said in 2001, “has been displaced by the public school.”

Those efforts culminated in Betsy DeVos, Rich’s daughter-in-law and Dick’s wife, being appointed secretary of education by President Donald Trump—another indefatigable salesman, but one who lacks the mooring in religious and political beliefs that defined DeVos’ life.

Ahead of the 1980 election, radio host Paul Harvey, whose show was sponsored by Amway for many years, floated Rich DeVos as a potential candidate for president. DeVos declined. A huckster as president? It was impossible.

As I noted in my own DeVos post back in November 2016, "And so it goes in Scamworld as in politix... no neat and tidy endings."

But at least there is a tidy ending to a calendar year, and I'll be glad to close the book on 2018. Here's hoping for a much, much better 2019, for all of us.

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Ruining Christmas redux

Tonight -- Christmas Eve 2018, or rather what's left of it -- my husband Ron Kaye and I celebrate 25 years of living together. (Not of being married -- that came much later -- but of living together.) Last year when we were almost but not quite at the quarter-century mark, I wrote a post that both celebrated that almost-anniversary and pondered the ways in which Christmas can be tarnished if not ruined by various factors, some born of our own unrealistic expectations, and some, such as profound personal losses, over which we have no control. I titled my screed "Ruining Christmas" as a nod to my mom's accusation, which became somewhat of a family joke, that the disruption in my personal life on that Christmas Eve in 1993 was ruining the holiday for the entire family. (Spoiler: It wasn't.) But rather than taking the time to pound out a recap, I'll just provide you with the link.

Notwithstanding my Christmas Eve 2017 meditation on losses and holiday sadness, Ron and I had a joyful Christmas and post-Christmas with friends and family, though there was an empty chair at the Christmas dinner table where our recently-departed friend Alma would have sat. (We set a place for her anyway.) But in a way our delightful holiday was the calm before the storm. I cannot say that 2018 has been nearly as joyous as Christmas was; to the contrary, we've been through hell and (mostly) back since early in the year, but here we are, still together, and still planning to celebrate the next couple of days with some of the people we love most in the world.

Our small gathering will provide a brief reprieve from the toxic red swirl of politix and worries about the state of the world. While the current occupant of the White House spends Christmas amongst his wife's garish blood-colored trees, throwing tantrums over his silly wall and bitching about the "war on Christmas," we'll be enjoying a scaled-down but nonetheless loving celebration of friendship and food. We're not going to let any mad king ruin our holiday, though I can't help but be concerned about the folks for whom he really has ruined the holiday by fueling the partial government shutdown. Shame on his orange ass.

And by the way, you may already know this, but just in case you don't...
there really was a war on Christmas once upon a time, but it was perpetrated by Christians.

There's no war on Christmas in this household of liberals, unless you count our
cats' determination to wreck the halls. But there's no malice in their destruction; in fact, knocking down decorations, tearing down carefully arranged displays, and eating and then projectile-vomiting Christmas trimmings is the way they celebrate the occasion.

My own love for the holiday endures, and more than that, my love for the man who helped me "ruin Christmas" 25 years ago shines on even more brightly than the solar light that our late friend Alma gave to us.

My wish for you this year is the same as it was last year. May you not be overwhelmed with what you have lost but instead be grateful for what you still have. I wish you peace and comfort and good times now and throughout the coming year, no matter which holidays you do or don't celebrate. And I'll be back in the New Year, or maybe even before, with more Whirledly topics.

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Randazzled: hail the free-screech superhero of [alleged] rapists and Nazis and trolls

You may be familiar with Marc Randazza, free-speech attorney and former hero of Jason Jones' Salty Droid blog. In this February 2016 post, I wrote about Randazza and his defense of prick-up "artist" and accused rapist Daryush Valizadeh, more commonly known as Roosh Vorek or Roosh V or simply Roosh (or Doosh, on this blog). It's a long post, but to get to the Randazza/Doosh part, scroll down to the sub-head, "There's Doosh. I mean, Roosh..." In my post I go to great lengths to acknowledge that everyone has the right to freedom of speech and that even someone who has been accused of sexual crimes deserves a good defense, and that, furthermore, wrongfully accusing someone of sexual assault (had that been what was going on) is a very bad thing. But I also acknowledged that there seemed to be an abundance of evidence that Roosh really is a Doosh, and that it appeared that Randazza was unfairly going after a blogger who simply wrote about the rape accusations against his client, and that... well, you can follow the link and read it yourself. Point is, I did try to be more than fair to the less than savory.

I'd initially heard of Randazza because, as indicated above, he was an apparent friend and champion of Jason Jones, whose muckraking Salty Droid blog has, since its inception, been a frequent target of legal action, both real and threatened. In fact I thought of Randazza as sort of a free-speech hero, especially given his boasts that he does a lot of pro bono work to defend unpopular speech. Granted, when
I got sued by the loathsome fake doctor and cancer fraud Leonard Coldwell, Randazza seemed indifferent to my own plight (as did another noteworthy free-speech attorney who shall remain nameless here but whose name is mud to me), but Randazza was helping my pal Jason, and that was good enough for me.

But, to put it charitably, he turned out not to be the champion of Jason's work that Jason had hoped -- as Jason explained, not so charitably, in
this April 2016 blog post.

If you already knew this background stuff, I apologize for the redundancy. In any case, Marc Randazza has been in the news more recently for some of his other stellar clientele who belong in the Squall of Shame along with Doosh. For example, there's the publisher of the Neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin. In spring of 2017 Anglin was sued for coordinating a terror campaign of online harassment against a Jewish real estate agent, Tanya Gersh. Randazza had filed a motion to dismiss the suit based, of course, on his client's First Amendment rights. But last week Dana L. Christensen, chief judge for the U.S. District Court in Missoula, Montana,
denied the motion, saying that the real estate agent was a private citizen and that Anglin had incited his followers to harass her as part of a personal campaign.

The civil case (there have been no criminal charges) is now expected to go to trial. From the New York Times article linked to in the above paragraph:

...It has taken a long time because it proved impossible to serve Mr. Anglin with legal papers, Mr. Dinielli said. Mr. Anglin’s last known address was in Ohio, but his whereabouts have been unknown for nearly two years. He is still running the site, possibly from overseas.

His lawyer, Marc Randazza, said that Judge Christensen’s decision was dangerous for free speech.

“The rule we lay down for the Nazi applies equally to the civil rights activist,” Mr. Randazza said in a statement. “And that ruling, if it stands, is not going to be good for anyone who engages in common outrage culture. Maybe that’s a good thing, but I think not.”
Well, Mr. Randazza, notwithstanding your histrionics, in light of the fact that Ms. Gersh has faced truly frightening harassment and death threats as a result of Anglin's blatant incitement, I would say that defending this form of "free speech" is not a good thing. From the "Background" section in Judge Christenson's November 14 order:
The messages received by Gersh and her family, including her son, were filled with ethnic slurs and misogynistic rants. Many messages referenced the Holocaust, and some threatened violence. When Gersh filed her Complaint in the spring of 2017, she and her family had received more than 700 disparaging and/or threatening messages over phone calls, voicemails, text messages, emails, letters, social media comments, and Christmas cards.
In case you missed it, which I apparently did back in July of this year, Randazza also chose to defend conspiracy-porn peddler Alex Jones in some but not all of the numerous legal actions that families of the Sandy Hook victims have filed against Jones. Randazza is involved in a couple of cases in Connecticut. From the July 2, 2018 New York Times article linked to in the previous sentence:
Mr. Randazza has appeared on Mr. Jones’s radio show and in InfoWars videos. In a brief telephone interview, he acknowledged opinions by First Amendment lawyers not involved in the cases that the Sandy Hook families have a strong claim against Mr. Jones. “I think if you look at the allegations in the complaint, that’s an easy conclusion to make,” Mr. Randazza said. “But as these cases progress sometimes things turn in the other direction.”

“We are going to be mounting a strong First Amendment defense and look forward to this being resolved in a civil and collegial manner,” he said, asserting that Mr. Jones has “a great deal of compassion for these parents.”
Randazza, not surprisingly, has vigorously defended his choice to represent Alex Jones as well as the Neo-Nazi Anglin, even as he vigorously defended his choice to represent RooshV back in 2016. In an interview with the Connecticut Law Tribune in July, as reported on the site, Randazza said that when choosing clients he has no social litmus test or political litmus test; the First Amendment is his only litmus test. He 'splained that he has also represented left-leaning clients -- even some who are Muslims, for goodness sake! -- and that he leans leftward himself. He also says he took pains to make sure that representing the Neo-Nazi guy, Anglin, was okay with his Jewish partner, Jay Wolman.

But others have taken issue with his claim about being a First Amendment purist. F'rinstance, there's Elie Mystal at the Above The Law site. He has considered himself to be an ally if not actually a friend of Randazza, but regarding the Jones representation, even he felt compelled
to point out, in this July 3, 2018 post, that Randazza's moral compass appears to be broken. can defend deplorable people without adopting and promoting their deplorable logic. There’s a difference. The legal community does not talk about that difference very much: lawyers shun deplorable lawyers, and deplorable lawyers put their heads so far up their own ass that they think any suggestion of restraint smells bad. But we can draw a line of demarcation around zealous legal defense and ridiculous alt-white dogma.

For me, that line is right here:

“We are going to be mounting a strong First Amendment defense and look forward to this being resolved in a civil and collegial manner,” [Randazza] said, asserting that Mr. Jones has “a great deal of compassion for these parents.”
No, Alex Jones does not have “compassion” for the families of Sandy Hook victims. Saying he does is a lie. Alex Jones has argued that the parents of Sandy Hook victims are FAKING the death of their own children. That means he has no compassion for their suffering. That’s not a difference of opinion, that’s not a certain point of view, that’s a straight lie designed by the alt-right so that the assholes who support Alex Jones can tell themselves that they aren’t going to end up in Hell for their terrible beliefs.

It’s a lie that all lawyers, no matter how steeped they are in Nazi appeasement, have no duty to repeat. If you are going to make your career along the lawyerly duty to give the most disgusting among us a competent legal defense, then stick to the law. If you have a First Amendment argument, MAKE IT, and leave the rehabilitation of Alex Jones’s character to Donald Trump. If you want to argue that Jones’s didn’t have “actual malice” when flinging his wild conspiracies, fine, make that case IN COURT where you can be held to a standard of EVIDENCE for your ridiculous assertions.
The bottom line? Mystal continues:
If you want to represent detestable clients, fine. But when you go out into the media and don’t just defend them but actually adopt their logic and moral arguments, that’s different. Then, it looks like you agree with them. And if you agree with them, you can no longer avail yourself of the lawyerly presumption that you are just doing your job. Instead of being a mere part of the process, you become part of the problem.

I imagine that Salty Droid has some choice words about Randazza and his choice of clients. I'll leave that to him to address (again) on his own blog, should he choose to do so.

As someone who has had her own speech threatened by ill-intentioned scoundrels, I'm a pretty big fan of free speech. I took some time to explain my views, which are more nuanced than some might imagine, in a post I wrote back in August re Alex Jones' whining about being "censored" by several major social media platforms.
Here is that link. Even the vilest and most loathsome folks have a right to have their say. They most certainly have the right to legal representation when sued for civil offenses or charged with crimes. And even the hallowed ACLU has defended Neo-Nazis. But when Nazis and trolls having their say crosses the line to harassment and incitement, the First Amendment doesn't -- or at least shouldn't -- protect them. I'm no highly-paid First Amendment attorney, but even I can figure that one out.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

O Trumpistan!

A new national anthem has been proposed for the Divided States of America. This one is far easier to sing than "The Star-Mangled Banner" -- so easy that even the Oaf of Office can probably learn it. At least it'll be easier to hum along to, since it's the same tune as "America the Beautiful." Not so many tricky high notes. He can hum along while he's (allegedly) mis-coloring the American flag. So put on your red cap and your brown shirt, open your mouth, and sing out. Don't forget to keep that right arm fully outstretched in a perfect salute throughout the anthem. #MAGA, baby!

Trumpistan the Beautiful
by Cosmic Connie

O beautiful for specious words
At rallies and in tweets,
And for our Orange King’s vows to crush
The mobs out in the streets

O Trumpistan! O Trumpistan!
We’ve finally heard God’s call
Restore the good white brotherhood
And build that splendid Wall!

O beautiful for corporate feats,
With regulations overturned,
And public lands destroyed.
O Trumpistan! O Trumpistan!
May oligarchs march on
Till all progressive fantasies
Are finally dead and gone.

O beautiful for courage to
the Muslim bans,
And for his
pledge to save us from
The migrant caravans

O Trumpistan! O Trumpistan!
borders shall be sealed
And all Amendments we don't like

Effectively repealed

O beautiful for glorious guns
high-cap magazines;
And for our right to arm ourselves,
toddlers, and our teens
O Trumpistan! O Trumpistan!
fight each "safety" law
And when
mass shootings happen, we
just blame "Antifa."

 O beautiful for legislators
Kneeling to their King

Who more than country love their jobs,
And to his robe do cling
O Trumpistan! O Trumpistan!
Whose King
inspires such awe:
He has no soul,
no self control,
He lives
above the law.

O beautiful for
High Court rulings
Favoring the King

And for a hand-picked Justice boss
Who lives to kiss his ring

O Trumpistan! O Trumpistan!
All hail the Orange Crowned Head
We won't need three whole branches when
Democracy is dead

O beautiful for playing down
That irksome new disease

blaming Dems and media
And all those damned Chinese.
O Trumpistan! O Trumpistan!
Let's stop this nonsense now
So what
if loads of old folks croak?
At least we’ll save the Dow!

O beautiful for hatriot dream,

steeped in white men’s fears
Thine crumbling towns and cities gleam,
Awash in liberals' tears
O Trumpistan! O Trumpistan!
We’re answering God’s call
Restore the good white brotherhood,
And build that splendid Wall!

Copyright © 2018, 2019, 2020 by Connie L. Schmidt

[Note: a few links and lyrics have been revised
since original publication,
and as the atrocities continue I can't guarantee that there
won't be additional verses or other revisions.]

PS ~ Please, if you're a US citizen and are eligible and registered, get out and vote in all of your local races as well as federal elections. If you're not registered, make it a priority. You can check your eligibility and get instructions for registering here. Given the volatile political environment and all of the irregularities, voter suppression, and attempted interference in our democratic process by hostile parties (both foreign and domestic), it's logical to wonder if your vote will really be counted... but I always try my best, and I think you should too. I am still hopeful, or perhaps naive, enough to believe that it isn't too late to save our country from actually becoming Trumpistan. (Or Trumpica, if you prefer a variation that is not based on a Persian word... and, given Trump's hatred for any Middle Easterners who are not his business partners or political allies, maybe Trumpica would be more appropriate. So feel free to substitute. Trumplandia could work too, if you delete the "O" from the refrain.)

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Monday, October 15, 2018

Trumpscendental meditation

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I've blogged a few times in the past about TM (transcendental meditation) and the so-called "Maharishi Effect" -- f'rinstance, this 2007 post about TM's grip on celebs and the popular culture, and this 2009 post about Joe "Mr. Fire" Vitale's TM-itation scheme. Well, TM is still going strong, and in yet another example of politix meeting Scamworld -- marginally, anyway -- The Daily Beast has published a piece mentioning that #NotMyPresident Donald Trump's surrogate wife Ivanka and her pet boy Jared are involved in TM.

Granted, despite Ivanka and Jared attending a TM gala last year, it appears that Ivanka's day-to-day involvement is limited simply to meditating 20 minutes or so twice a day as a means of "calming the mind, eliminating distractions, and boosting my productivity." At least that's what she wrote in her selfish-help book, Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success,
which was published last year. On the other hand, at least in the recent past, she has had her staff TM-ing too, according to the above screen grab of a link to which I am forbidden access when I try to follow it. (But here's a Wayback link. And here's a link to a June 2015 article on My Morning Routine, which seems to be the article to which the screen-grabbed link refers.)

At any rate Ivanka's involvement, no matter how peripheral, gives an air of legitimacy to the TM scampire, as does every other celebrity who's involved in TM, given the fact that we live in such a shallow, celebrity-obsessed culture. Also, of course, Daddy's little lap sitter has publicly participated in events that promote TM, and she's good friends with the head of a high-profile TM advocacy foundation, making her more than just a garden-variety meditator. So perhaps those who are
bashing The Beast for "using Ivanka as clickbait" (as reported by the right-wing propaganda and conspiracy outlet RT) need to get off of their high horse and look around at what's really going on.

It's not as if The Daily Beast is breaking any new ground. There have been numerous truly groundbreaking exposés of the TM cult/scampire over the decades, and I don't even include my own contributions in this lot, because I certainly wasn't breaking any new ground either. But The Beast article does provide an important and arguably a timely reminder that the con is still on.

Which brings us to the point that what makes this matter Whirled-class blogworthy is that it is not just a meditation thing (and I should reiterate, as I have in previous TM-critical posts, that I have nothing against meditation). As has always been the case with TM -- and virtually every other branded scheme or cult -- there's a huge and pricey con going on too. From The Beast piece:

“You may have people looking at people doing yogic flying and say, ‘That’s strange,’” [Bob] Roth [CEO of the pro-TM David Lynch Foundation, who is Ivanka's friend that I mentioned above] added. “I happen to think seeing people playing football, or boxing and beating each other up, is strange.”

It couldn’t be more different from the TM introduced to most casual meditators. But it shows there are essentially two TM movements: a “retail” version for the general public with an anodyne message about ridding yourself of stress, and another, more spiritually oriented movement for a small but devoted cadre of true believers—a virtually unknown “secret society” of sorts—that promises to unlock supernatural abilities and provide all manner of
magical outcomes, some of which can allegedly be attained by paying teams of Indian monks thousands of dollars to chant for you half a world away.

TM is also a behemoth of a business. When the founder of TM died, he left an estate valued at $3 billion. TM has its own set of scientists, viewed with skepticism by the mainstream scientific community; its own universities and lavish properties around the world; and dubious claims to world government.
By the way, here's RationalWiki on "yogic flying." Also known as yogic bouncing up and down.

It's that whole
Maharishi Effect narrative that really draws in the suckers, though. The claim is that if a sufficient number of folks do the proper type of TM-ing, they can change the world for the better, affecting everything from crime rates to the economy to politics to war to climate change. It's all due to a shift in the quantum mechanical properties that make up the invisible fabric of our interconnected consciousness, according to the above-mentioned David Lynch Foundation CEO Bob Roth. And of course TM's own team of researchers has the scientifical proof to back up their claims. Those spoilsport mainstream scientists aren't so sure, though. Lots of other folks are skeptical as well.
“The style of research they use is what I call ‘painting the bullseye around the arrow,’” says ex-TMer Patrick Ryan, who attended Maharishi International University, the progenitor to MUM, against his Navy master chief father’s advice, and spent 10 years in the movement as a “spiritual warrior” before quitting in the 1980s. “If a bunch of TM meditators get together and the stock market goes up, TM made it happen. If there’s another course and crime rates go down, or if accidents go down, TM created that. Find a positive thing that’s happened and take credit for it.”
Yep, that's pretty much the Scamworld/McSpirituality M.O.

And then there's this...

One of the most expensive programs in all of TM, according to their most recent tax filings, is the so-called “pandit program,” which gathers hundreds of young Indian men in trailer homes on a special campus in Iowa to chant yagyas—Hindu rites—nonstop for two years at a stretch in an effort to bring about peace on earth.

The program began in 2007, and reactions among locals were mixed. Residents
reported being approached by pandits on rural roads, asking for money and begging not to be sent back to the compound. In 2014, a mini-riot by some 60 pandits resulted in a sheriff’s deputy allegedly being attacked by members of the group.

Bob Roth said the domestic pandit program has now been all but shut down, maintaining that they have “like, four” pandits left in Iowa. According to its
most recent tax filings, the TM affiliate which fundraises for pandit expenses reported spending $2,164,960 on pandit support in Iowa in 2016. However, the cost of fully implementing the pandit program’s Global Peace Initiative, according to the organization, is $45.5 million a year.

If you want a team of pandits to
chant for you personally, the costs of which vary “depending on the size of the desired effect and the magnitude of the problem being averted or defused—for example a natural disaster, violent outbreak, or severe economic downturn,” that’s also available.

For a minimum donation
of $1,500, you can get wedding anniversary prayers from a team of pandits. For $1,000, the pandits will chant for your newborn child. And for $1,250, the pandits will recite the necessary prayers to “resolve the pressing problems confronting the United States, including joblessness and economic recession, and government gridlock, obstructionism, and extreme partisan infighting.”

Hey, if they could just yagya Herr Twitler out of office, I would become a true believer. 

I seem to recall that Mr. Fire was also a fan of those remote prayer rituals called yagyas (also known as yagnas), and was pushing them in conjunction with his own McMiracles schemes. (By the way, that linked story about his "best friend" being miracle-healed by a yagya...take it with a grain of salt. The book from which the excerpt was taken was published several years after the death of the person in question. She was still alive when he first started spreading the story, but in subsequent publications he didn't mention, at least in the context of that story, that she died a sad death. Some more insight about this can be found in the discussion section of this October 2007 Whirled post.)

I buried the lede. So shoot me.
Notwithstanding all of the above, I am always open to learning new things. And it turns out that I may have been totally wrong about Donnie John. According to at least one passionate TM fan, Trump is a highly creatively intelligent human person.
Here's a site that is not an official TM site but that is apparently operated by someone who is a fan of both TM and the Trump family.

And lest I be accused of burying the lede, I have no defense except for poor planning. For this matter is actually far more significant in possibly every way that matters on this blog than the mere fact of Daddy's girl being a Transcendental Meditator. One of the pages on the site linked to in the previous paragraph reveals
"The Qualities of Creative Intelligence That Helped Donald Trump." I give you...
Click to enlarge

SCI points, in case you're wondering, refer to the Science of Creative Intelligence. You guessed it: it's a Maharishi thing. On that same page, we get a glimpse of Donnie John's Vedic ass-trology specs.
For the past eighteen years, Donald Trump has been in his worst dasha -- Rahu. Rahu acts like an eclipse, a cloud darkening the mind, insanity, the material world, obsession (in this case with his tenth house of power in the world), cruelty, and darkness in general. But on October 14, just before the election, he entered the best dasha of his life -- Jupiter. During his acceptance speech, he talked about unity and working together. Jupiter, a very good planet in his chart, rules his fifth house of purva punya, return of good deeds from the past. It also rules his eighth house of transformation. So these two areas expand during his 16-year Jupiter dasha. Jupiter represents The Guru, good fortune, wisdom, kindness, giving, forgiving, teaching, healing and helping others. So he has moved from the worst time of life to his best time of life, and just a month before the election. Jupiter dashs, the Guru, made him president. We should see a completely different Donald Trump in the next few years. This event coincides with rising world consciousness. Everyone should forget his past and look to the planets to see what he is about to accomplish. His family is the first in the White House to practice the Transcendental Meditation technique. That's a First Family! ---Gerard Owmby

Yeah... the best time of his life, and the worst time of ours. This shameless orange-nosing makes former Trump buddy Oprah's egregiously misplaced optimism in the wake of the 2016 US presidential election look almost rational by comparison. I think it's very interesting because it shows that "spiritual" sycophancy of the Drumpf dynasty, and willful blindness to their awfulness, are not restricted to hypoChristian nutcakes such as the folks behind the silly new-ish movie, The Trump Prophecy (which the base loves, of course, and which had most other folks with any taste or discretion rolling in the aisles), or any of the other T-vangelicals who litter the landscape with their mighty declarations that Herr Twitler is God's Chosen One. In other words, you don't have to be a Bible thumper to misuse religion in the service of Trumpboosting.
According to the article in The Daily Beast, there are those who suggest that the TM organization is slowly dying, particularly since the current leader of the org, Tony Nader, lacks the cult-like devotion associated with the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. But that really doesn't matter, because there will always be derivatives, as well as newer cults and scams arising to take the place of the old, particularly as long as there are celebrities and reality show stars and starlets to embrace and endorse the schemes. And if those celebs are part of a powerful political family, all bets are off. As we also like to say on this blog, in Scamworld (and politics), there are no neat and tidy endings.

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Monday, October 08, 2018

James Arthur Ray Death Lodge 9th Anniversary: Never Forget

It has been nine years since James Arthur Ray, selfish-help/McSpirituality guru and star of the New-Wage moviemercial The Secret, held his infamous faux-sweat lodge in Sedona, Arizona, that resulted in the deaths of three people: James Shore, Kirby Brown, and Liz Neuman. And as I mentioned just last month, Death Ray is still trying to make his comeback in the industry after having served less than two years in an Arizona state prison (for negligent homicide) for the deaths of these people. 

And he never served a moment of prison time for another death for which he was responsible, that of Colleen Conaway in San Diego in July 2009.

Since Blogger seems to be malfunctioning at the moment, I'm just going to post this as a "stub" for now. There is more information, as well as several relevant links, in my Death Lodge anniversary post last year. And of course, a quick Google search will yield much more

For now, I just want to say that my heart goes out to the family and friends of those who lost their lives, and to the many other survivors who were injured -- either physically, emotionally or both -- as a result of Ray's arrogance and recklessness. I wish all of you peace and comfort as you continue to come to terms, each in your own way, with your losses and your pain. And for what it's worth, there are still many of us who, though not directly affected by Ray, will...
Never Forget.
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Friday, October 05, 2018

Trump fires up the conspiranoids again

As the near-certain confirmation of chubby-cheeked faux-choirboy Brett Kavanaugh pushes the Supreme Court ever more dangerously to the right (and so much for conservative outrage over "judicial activism," ya know?), Kavanaugh's defenders and fans of #NotMyPresident Donald J. Trump continue to find ways to trivialize and vilify the opposition. Trump himself has been openly mocking Kavanaugh's accusers at his near-nightly Nazi rallies, and just ahead of the cloture vote on Friday morning, he fired up the base against every conspiranoid's favorite scapegoat, George Soros. Wrote Herr Twitler:
The very rude elevator screamers are paid professionals only looking to make Senators look bad. Don't fall for it! Also, look at all of the professionally made identical signs. Paid for by Soros and others. These are not signs made in the basement from love! #Troublemakers.
Yep, it wouldn't be a right wingnut party without a rousing game of Pin the Tale on Soros. Trump really should know better, but he'll tweet or say anything to keep the ignoranti happy.

And Trump has a lot of room to talk about grass-roots or organic political expression, given that his Nazi rallies are carefully orchestrated and staged, with audience members -- especially those on camera behind Trump -- being coached on how to react and even what to wear.
Remember the tale of "Plaid Shirt Guy" at the rally in Montana last month? He got escorted out and "replaced" -- either because he made silly faces in response to some of Trump's spewing, or because he simply wasn't "excited enough."
The question I have to ask once again, as I've asked numerous times before, is this: why is it so difficult for some folks to believe that thousands, if not millions, of Americans are genuinely and sincerely displeased with Trump, and that they are protesting or otherwise politically expressing themselves of their own accord -- and not being paid for it? So what if some of them carry professionally designed/printed signs? Does anyone honestly think that all of those bright red MAGA caps and T-shirts and "Women for Trump" signs at the Trumpian pep rallies were "made in the basement from love?"

I have several dear friends who have actively participated in numerous anti-Trump, pro-progressive demonstrations -- sometimes making their own signs, and sometimes carrying signs that were printed in a print shop -- and they joke that they are "still waiting for that big paycheck from George Soros." Even as I am still waiting for that big paycheck from Big Pharma for writing all of those blog posts about cancer quack, fake doctor and neo-Nazi Leonard Coldwell.

Some truths about "paid protest"
None of the above is an attempt to deny that paid protesters exist. They do, of course, and that's not necessarily a bad thing.
But they're just as likely to be paid-protesting for a right-wing cause as for a leftist one, and some would argue that the right is more likely to use paid protesters. Below are a few links that offer some perspective.

From, March 2017:
I Know Paid Protesters Are Real (Because I'm One Of Them)
As the author explains, not all grass-roots activism is completely spontaneous, and even the Civil Rights movement back in Rosa Parks' day had some behind-the-scenes handling.

A lot of people hold to the idea that grassroots activism has to be spontaneous. That thousands of people become so angry and so motivated by the same issue that they all simply happen to gather at the same place at the same time with thematically consistent signs to make their voice heard. But in reality, "spontaneous" protests are usually called riots. An actual protest needs organizers...

...Of course, there are real "paid protesters" (said with that hateful inflection). It's enthusiasm and faith that makes the difference between someone like Matt
[a paid protester whose story is told in this article] (who accepted the $20 stipend to make his activism possible) and the paid actors who attended Trump's
campaign announcement as his supporters. We spoke to Angelo Carusone, the journalist who broke that story, and he said that his first big clue that the event was (at least partially) staged was that "nobody was posting any selfies." Turns out $50 (the rate those actors were supposed to have been paid) isn't enough to motivate someone to get on social media. Only narcissism and video games can do that...

...The very same problems that call for protests also make it super hard for those most affected to protest, since protesting requires the kind of energy and time that the downtrodden don't have. Hence, the protesting.
From, June 2017: There are real paid protesters, but they're all right wingers
Well, in all fairness, they're not all right-wingers, but a lot of 'em are, and that's something that the right doesn't seem any too keen to acknowledge. The author cites, as an example, an incident in New York City in mid-June 2017...

...when the right wing decided to aim its selective outrage at a free staging of Shakespeare’s play "Julius Caesar" held in New York City’s Central Park. Mike Cernovich, a self-described member of the alt-right who thinks the U.S. should give immigrants IQ tests, put up a YouTube video in which he offered cash to any protesters willing to disrupt the play for pay.

“I’ll give up to 10 people $1,000,” Cernovich says in the 
footage. “I need you to get up with either a ‘CNN is ISIS’ or ‘Bill Clinton’s a rapist’ or ‘The media is terrorism’ [sign]. And if you’re able to get up and be escorted out by security, then I will give you $1,000.”

In other words, Cernovich was actively and openly looking to recruit paid protesters. You know how conservatives made up that ridiculous myth about George Soros sending checks to liberals who march in protests? This is the real version of that, only sponsored by Cernovich.
And finally, bringing it back to the present...

From the Washington Post, October 2018: The irony of Trump's debasing allegation that Kavanaugh protesters are paid
The author makes some of the same points that the writer of the piece made, regarding the fact that protests require organization.

Large-scale protests on both sides require organizers to get permits, arrange timing and plan tactics. They often make signs to coordinate a central message. None of this suggests that the protesters themselves are not sincere. The Center for Popular Democracy has done a lot of organizing around Kavanaugh. (The group’s executive director was one of the women who confronted Flake, but there’s no evidence that the “elevator screamer” who confronted Hatch was linked to the organization.) Most stories about the group in the conservative media, though, include a pointed mention of Soros, highlighting an obvious subtext.

Trump’s inclusion of the billionaire in his sweeping indictment of the protesters who confronted Hatch is meant to stoke conservative anger and to dismiss his opponents as opportunists who don’t really oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination. Kavanaugh, meanwhile, has so far benefited from
$12 million in broadcast ads supporting his nomination, paid for by a group called the Judicial Crisis Network — and whose donors are shielded from the public.
But there are sharp ironies to Trump's criticisms of those who protested Kavanaugh's nomination.
The first is that Trump himself faces allegations of assault. In a news conference last month, he suggested that those women who had come forward to allege that he’d assaulted them had been discredited by having been paid to make the claims. This isn’t true.

Then there’s this: On June 16, 2015, he announced his candidacy for the presidency from the lower lobby of Trump Tower. As he began, he celebrated the people arrayed around the balconies above him showing their support.

Some — not all — of those people were there because they were paid to be, $50 a head. They had professionally printed signs and shirts, not signs crafted with love in their basements. Several of the actors posted photos of themselves online; the firm that organized their attendance created a video highlighting its work on the event.

The kicker? Trump’s campaign didn’t pay that firm, Gotham Government Relations, for months, leading to an FEC complaint. That was reported on
the day of Trump’s inauguration.
If you want more information on paid protest, that info is only a quick Google search away (just be sure to consider the source, of course). I'm not holding out much hope that any amount of facts will make much difference to those who are rabidly attached to the tired old narrative about the evils of Soros and lib'ruls and the left... but at least you'll be better informed.

If you are eligible to vote in the US midterm elections, and you're tired of this crap, please
make sure you're registered, and then please, please get out and vote on November 6. There may not be a blue tsunami or even a blue wave, but every little bit of blue will help in combating the toxic red tide that is threatening the very foundations of the republic.

Elsewhere on the conspiranoia front: martial law is okay as long as it's alt-right martial law
I'd intended to blog about this after Facebooking about it last month, but got sidetracked as I so often do. On a September 23, 2018 "Emergency Report," conspiracy-porn peddler, rabble-rouser and dedicated Trumpster Mike Adams of Natural News
continued to expand on his fascist wet dream of his idol Trump imposing martial law. Of course it will only be temporary martial law, because we Muricans would never consent to such a setup permanently. And it will only be imposed long enough to give Trump time to lock up all of his "deep-state" enemies. Mike assures us that Trump will only impose martial law long enough to really "drain the swamp," and then he'll step aside and go down in history as the Greatest US President of All Time, who saved Murica from communists and traitors. And besides, we're already under martial law, thanks to Obummer:
What most people fail to realize is that we’ve been living under many forms of “martial law” put in place by Obama that are still damaging America and its citizens to this very day. For example:
  • The tech giants’ deplatforming of InfoWars, Natural News and other pro-Trump channels is an extremely dangerous form of digital martial law, where citizens who say certain things are not allowed to exist in the online ecosystem.
  • The left-wing media, now fully complicit in deep state treason against America, is handed daily marching orders by Obama’s CIA factions that determine what “news” is allowed to be broadcast across America. The “media” is not the media. It is the anti-America propaganda arm of Obama’s CIA, which is still in power and still working to destroy this nation.
  • Deranged left-wing activists have placed all prominent conservatives under a form of de facto martial law where no prominent conservative can venture out in public without being harassed, threatened or violently attacked by hysterical anti-Trump lunatics.
  • The economic sabotage now being committed against InfoWars and other pro-Trump platforms (by PayPal, Citibank and others) is a form of financial martial law, where deep state-driven financial institutions commit selective economic sabotage against targets identified to them by Obama’s CIA.
  • Close associates of Trump now routinely find themselves indicted and prosecuted by Robert Mueller under a kind of prosecutorial martial law where only selected political targets are subjected to legal scrutiny while pro-Clinton operatives are granted universal immunity from all crimes (including those crimes committed by Hillary Clinton herself).
  • The Obama administration weaponized government agencies against targeted citizens’ groups, deploying the IRS to enforce a selective “taxation martial law” policy of denying tax exempt status against conservative non-profits.
And so on, and so forth... you've heard it all before.

Now go and cheer yourself up, and do
a Google image search for "idiot."

Related on this Whirled:

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

James Arthur Ray: Convicted killer wants to teach you to be Superhuman

Judging by the photos that litter his web site and social media pages, convicted killer James Arthur "Death" Ray has lost none of his swagger as he continues his difficult uphill battle to return to the Scamworld A-list. Take this September 15, 2018 Facebook post (please):

As usual, click on pic to enlarge.

The screen grab doesn't show all of the text (yes, there's much more), but -- spoiler alert -- it's a promo for an upcoming Death Ray event called Mental Mastery and Power, which takes place in Vegas October 27-28. On the actual hype-and-signup page, to which I refuse to link here in much the same way that Gandalf refused, while under Bilbo and Frodo's roof, to utter the language of Mordor, Ray goes on and on and on about how this big event will help you take back your power and have a completely fulfilling life and actually become Superhuman. No doubt you've heard it all before...
...You already KNOW you're capable of owning the world.

Now you can do something about it.

Why am I the one to teach you to grow yourself and become Superhuman?

Because before the stage, I cut my eye teeth at AT&T School of Business coaching and consulting their C-Suite Executives on things like leadership communication, team performance and a whole host of business strategies and tools that helped push their leaders to be greater leaders. In other words, I taught C-Suites to do what I'm teaching you through this experience event.

And since leaving AT&T, I built a $10 million dollar Inc. 500 company, as well as had the opportunity to coach and consult hundreds of thousands of entrepreneurs and leaders in both their personal and professional lives to greatness. I even got to kill some of them.*

This is your time.

You want to become Superhuman? This is where you start...

...No matter what it is that you want to do, you can ABSOLUTELY do it. As soon as you become...Superhuman and Take Your Power Back with the Mental Mastery Program.

And all for the low, low price of only $997, which we are assured is a full one thousand bucks off of the "regular price." Or if you want to play full-on, the VIP package will only cost $1,297 -- regular price $13,997! -- for which you get all of the following:
  • VIP Seating
  • 12 Monthly online coaching sessions with James
  • Monthly exercises, workbooks and strategic planners
  • Monthly LIVE Q&A Sessions with James
  • Access to an extensive online resource library
  • Exclusive membership to a Growth-Minded Global Mastermind Group
  • All LIVE Q&A sessions with James audio and video recorded and stored in your private membership for future reference.
Wow... that's a $12,700 discount. Clearly Death Ray is desperate, and still feverishly longing for those days when he could draw in an actual crowd. But given his history and (total lack of) character, even a sprinkling of fans, followers, or even attendees are too many.

Meanwhile, the people he killed are still dead.

* Okay, maybe the last sentence in that paragraph wasn't in the original. ~ CC

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Friday, August 17, 2018

Collusion confusion: the free press v. Donald Trump

As you may know, on August 16, 2018, newspapers all over the United States -- about 350 in all -- published editorials in favor of freedom of the press and against #NotMyPresident Donald Trump's attacks on same. Apart from my surprise that there are even that many newspapers remaining in the U.S., I am painfully aware that I'm a day late participating in this nationwide event -- but then again, I'm not a major newspaper (or really any newspaper at all), and besides, I've always done things on my own schedule.
Why, just the other day I went on about freedom of expression and whatnot. (Spoiler alert: I'm generally in favor of it.)
It has been said that the pen is mightier than the sword, but so far that doesn't seem to be holding up very well under the Trump administration. The more the "pen" exercises its might where Trump is concerned, the more fiercely he doubles down on his claims that the "fake news" (which by his definition is almost every mainstream news outlet) is "the enemy of the American people." And each journophobic declaration from him
further incites the cheering mobs of redcaps at his Nazi-like rallies, who echo his disdain, hatred, and thinly veiled threats of violence against members of the press.

On the same day that the newspapers spoke out as one, the U.S. Senate, stepping bravely to the front lines of the battle,
adopted a resolution declaring that "the press is not the enemy of the people." Talk about doing basically nothing and framing it as Something... Hey, guys, why not put your votes where it counts, and really stand up to the Mad King?

As one Reddit user, "Yodabird 19,"
wrote yesterday in a discussion about the Senate resolution:
A congressional rebuke against Trump at this stage is like pouring a glass of water into the Pacific Ocean - completely useless, and very quickly washed away and forgotten.
To say the least.

At least one major newspaper,
The San Francisco Chronicle, refused to participate in the editorial coup, explaining that its decision was both a declaration of complete independence (as in, we have and will continue to criticize Trump, but it will be because we want to, not 'cos everyone else is doing it), and a refusal to play into Trump's narrative that the media are aligned against him. Of course, by 'splainin' why they didn't participate in the big event, they actually were participating, but I quibble.

It didn't take any great gift of prognostication to guess what Trump's response would be to Pressapalooza.
He immediately took to Twitter and screamed, "COLLUSION!"
It remains unclear what he meant by, "PROVE IT!" As Stephen Colbert noted in his August 16 monologue, that call to "prove it," in the context of the collusion accusation, is somewhat like accusing someone of murder and then asking that person to prove that your accusation is correct. But then, Trump has never been known for his stellar logic.

In any case,
Trump himself has said that "collusion" isn't a crime, and isn't really even bad, so I don't think that the colluders in the press have anything to worry about in regard to that specific accusation. But as long as the Mad King sits on his golden throne a-tweetin', the journos may have plenty of other things to worry about.

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